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Heidi learns how to thrive with ADD.
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Heidi learns how to thrive with ADD.

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Focusing on the positives when you have ADD.

This is the story of Heidi Speaker, personal trainer and coach.

When I first met my husband, we were finishing up our bachelor’s degrees - both in Exercise Science. We actually met in a cadaver lab! After we had started dating, I remember him telling me that I had ADD.  I laughed it off and said “that’s just a cop out for people who don’t want to work hard!”

Learning is much harder with ADD.

In school, I worked harder than most people to get average scores...literally. I was in the math room every day during lunch during senior year of high school. I was also putting in extra time in science labs. My reading comprehension was extremely bad and I barely had a passing score on my SAT.  

Relationships suffer when you have ADD.

My family constantly complained that I was a space cadet and couldn’t focus, although I never tied this to ADD because I wasn’t the typical hyperactive personality.  

Because it was so hard for me to focus and listen and comprehend what people were saying, I had very few friends. This led me to always feeling disconnected and unable to make friends. I even hated sitting through an entire movie.

I had very poor memory and was always asking what had just happened or what was just said in a conversation or in class.

Learning about ADD and how to cope.

As my husband and mine’s relationship progressed, he educated me more and more about ADD.  He was diagnosed with ADD several years prior and had done tons of research to educate himself.  A big part of the recovery or coping process of ADD is simply that—educationUnderstanding what part of you is the “ADD” and what part of you is actually YOU!

I’ve noticed habits in myself that I’ve always struggled with, but understanding that that’s part of how my brain works when it’s low in dopamine, I can separate my self-worth from those “bad” habits that I could never overcome.  I am not a bad person because I can’t focus. I am not a bad person because I zone out when someone is talking to me.

When trying hard gets you nowhere.

I’ve “tried so hard!” on my own to listen and focus...but unfortunately that’s not how ADD works. It seems like the harder you try the more you fail...and this gets pretty discouraging after years and years of being criticized and failing.  

A big part of my coping is educating my friends and those close to me about ADD. I have to warn them “Please don’t get offended if I ask you what you just said over again!  I have very little control over when my brain decides to zone out. I care about you. I care about what you are saying, and that is why I will ask you to repeat yourself if I missed it.”  

I have also learned to be okay with taking medication.  I always thought ADD medicine was a crutch because using it meant I wasn’t doing enough on my own. As I understand more about brain chemistry and the roles certain chemicals play in our thought patterns and feelings, I realize a deficiency isn’t always something you can just work harder to compensate for—we don't always have control.

That deficiency of dopamine is something I might always have and it’s okay to use medicine as that tool to help me have a more productive and fulfilling life.  

At low times in my life where my symptoms have gotten the best of me, I have taken medication as a means of helping me instill positive habits that will help me cope with the symptoms of ADD.

What I've learned from living with ADD.

  • I have learned to organize my life in the areas that make the most difference—not striving for perfection, but for structure and consistent habits.
  • I have learned I need to make exercise and nutrition a high priority.
  • And I have learned the importance of focusing on my health as a whole—not just the physical—but the mental, emotional, and spiritual as well.

Did you know people who have ADD are more likely to develop depression and anxiety.  I hadn’t experience depression to an extreme until after giving birth to my second child. If you want to hear that story, check out the video below.

Meditation helps me manage my ADD. 

Meditation and breathing exercises have been a complete life saver when these mental challenges becomes crippling. In these moments of weakness is extremely difficult unless meditation is a habit. I have learned to make meditation a regular practice in my day—no matter how good, energetic, or happy I am. 

Meditation is literally is a super power I can draw on in times of threat and difficulty!

This has allowed meditation to become my go-to in hard times, so that I can be resilient and bounce back more quickly and stronger than before. I've even incorporated a 10 minute meditation practice at the end of every bootcamp class I teach and have had amazing reviews from my clients.

Mental struggles do not have to define who we are.  By educating ourselves, loving ourselves, and gaining tools, knowledge, and skills—we can live happy and productive lives and bless the people around us!  No matter our struggles, the more we open up to others and find common ground, we can learn and grow together.

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