A Writer with ADHD

Back at the end of March, I experienced my first bout of burnout as a result of ADHD hyper-focus. I only recently became aware of my ADHD. For three weeks I struggled to maintain my energy as I met with clients, worked on my book, and tried to simply function. Never in my life had I experienced so much fatigue.

At the onset of April, feelings resurfaced around the three year anniversary of a traumatic event that happened in 2021. Anniversaries tend to bring up a lot of emotions for me. This was no exception.

I’d written a first draft of a memoir detailing this traumatic event and had put it aside to work on the final book in the Sentient trilogy. But when the anniversary came around, I began to hyper-focus on the memoir. There were emotions in my body that needed somewhere to go. So here I was, working on a rather consuming revision of my third novel, working part-time as a therapist, PLUS I added on the memoir, because why not, right?

It didn’t take long for the exhaustion to kick in. I’d wake up after a full night’s sleep feeling exhausted. Meeting with clients only added to the feeling of burnout. I talked about it with my writing mentor and she advised me to take a break from all the writing and give myself some time.

So I did.

I took a break from everything but my therapy practice (thanks for paying the bills). In that time, I educated myself on ADHD burnout. Turns out, even though I’d been well versed in my own self-care practices, such as meditation, yoga, taking walks, exercise, etc, I was missing something very important.

Throughout my day, whenever I took breaks between clients or writing sessions, I would just sit and stare out the window. At night before bed, I’d sit and stare at the wall. This sitting, without some form of stimulating activity, led to overthinking. To thought after thought about this writing project or that writing project, and I was WEARING MYSELF OUT!

It finally dawned on me: I needed one thing in my life: MINDFULNESS.

The way that I was meditating or walking or doing yoga, was not necessarily keeping me focused on the present moment. I often allow my mind to wander freely during meditation. But because I have ADHD, I realized I needed stimulating activity, something that I could focus on so my mind could rest.

I began using my breaks to practice mindfulness meditation. I got some of those mindfulness coloring books and started coloring again. Now, I no longer sit and stare out the windows like I used to. I use that time intentionally, to either be creative, to do something physical such as going on a walk or doing yoga.

After about two days of doing this, my fatigue lifted. I’ve since resumed my writing. I reduced my social media to twice weekly rather than five days a week. This helped tremendously. I did not realize that each time I was checking social media, it was a like a dopamine hit for my brain, and so much of that was wearing me thin.

I had to face certain realities: that because I have ADHD, I can’t do things the way other people do them. I have to set limits, most of them on myself. I have to parent myself and set boundaries if I want to maintain these two incredible careers, a social life, etc, etc. I’ve come to see that even the most joyful and exciting things in my life (which are most things these days), also drain my energy. Even the things I love and enjoy cause stress, and that stress can lead to burnout.

This has led to other humbling realities. As much as I’d love to publish a book a year, until I become a full-time author, I’ll be publishing novels less frequently than I’d like. That I can’t use social media to promote myself as much as others may be able to.

I have fully embraced that mental health is a top priority in my life. I suppose it has been for a long time, but ADHD brings the necessity for self-care to the forefront, regardless of any outcome in my careers. Nowadays, success is determined by how calm and serene I feel. Not how many books I publish.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you can relate to any of this. Even if you don’t, I’d still love to hear from you!

*Me…post ADHD burnout. (Photo credit: Tara Winstead)

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