Using ADHD to combat anxiety, anger and everything else

Sometimes I find that documenting thoughts can really help for later on in life when you’ve forgotten certain workflows. As you are well aware, I document pretty much everything here. However, some things sometimes get left out, and the problem with not documenting those things is that you end up forgetting what you had made.

In some way, it’s like the Guy Pearce character in Memento – who has extreme memory loss to the extent that he needs to take polaroid photos and make tattoos on his body as notes for himself. It’s not that bad for me, but I find that when I don’t document stuff adequately, I tend to forget thoughts. And even when I forget thoughts and ideas (that happens all the time), having documented them somewhere means that I stumble upon it sometime (yes, I randomly read my old blog posts from time to time), and that surely helps.

For example, I know that when I go through a prolonged period of depression (most recently happened last December), reading the first chapter of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life helps.

Anyway, this is one thing I’ve followed from time to time since 2013, but have never really documented it. As long-time readers of my blog might know, I was under medication for both anxiety-depression and ADHD for the large part of 2012. I discontinued most of it in early 2013, but have occasionally gone back to taking ADHD medication (it’s a pain to get that medication – being highly controlled, you need doctor’s prescription in triplicate, etc. to get it. In the UK, the entire process through the NHS took a year and a quarter!).

Part of the reason why I’d been able to discontinue the medication was the realisation that it was in some way my ADHD that had contributed to anxiety and depression (making lots of small mistakes -> some of these mistakes proving costly -> fretting endlessly about these -> random pattern recognition based on small samples).

The other reason I was able to step down on all the medications was that I could actually “use my ADHD” to combat anxiety. The thing with ADHD is that while you can sometimes be incredibly distracted and unable to focus, you are also able to go into “hyperfocus” when you are doing something you are interested in. This thing you are hyperfocussed on could be work, or watching certain kinds of TV, or even getting lost in old cricket scorecards (or reading my own old blogposts!).

So the method I developed to combat times when I was anxious about something was to find something quickly that I could get hyperfocussed about (there are plenty of those) and use that to fully distract myself from whatever my thought process was at the time. Having ADHD also means you ┬ácan let go of whatever thoughts you have in your head rather easily. And so once you’re done with your hypefocussed task, you don’t usually return to the earlier state of high anxiety, and you can get on to normal life.

It’s a simple enough process, but ADHD also means that you very often forget simple solutions you’ve found to problems earlier, and keep reinventing the wheel. And hence the need for this documentation.

Recently I discovered that this method works for other forms of mental instability as well. For example, the common advice given to deal with anger is to “walk away from the scene” or “take a break”. This has largely worked really badly for me. I get angry. I walk away. Obsess over what just happened. Come back angrier.

But I have a secret weapon to deal with this – ADHD! Just walking away doesn’t help. I just end up hyperfocussing on what just happened. Instead the trick is to find something I can get absorbed in. A rabbit hole I can get into and get out of without remembering what had happened just before I got in. And there’s no way the anger can survive this kind of an experience.

The only problem is that when you’re angry with something, and that’s resulted in a “live fight”, walking away to do something totally unrelated can get the counterparty even angrier. I didn’t say I have solutions for all the problems in the world, did I?