The times I’ve told someone with ADHD, “have you considered taking a course, studying something?”, they looked at me as if I had told them, “have you considered going to the dentist?” It’s as if they’d sensed I’ve seen a crooked tooth or something and fixing it is going to hurt.
Studying with ADHD can be a challenge for many of us, and even something that feels impossible to achieve; for me, it has been a recovery place, a training strategy.
And this is what I did after practicing gratitude had re started my engines; this is the second step I took to gain control of my life and purpose.
Let’s Get Something Clear
Question! When you think about getting an education, what do you think of? Do you think about a structured and boring thing that’s going to take a long time? It doesn’t have to be like that…
Example! In case you feel I’m telling you that have you a crooked tooth: I found a free tutorial on Web Design (for our Instagram Posts!) that’s super cool: it’s split in like eight videos of 2 minutes or so. 🤗
After having watched it, the outcome was a quick, fun and effective boost of dopamine, and… knowledge!
When I invite someone to consider “taking a course”, I am not preaching “go to school.” All I am saying is,“take your brain for a run, with a goal.” It’s exercise!
If we think about education, outside the box and in a very brief way, it is simply a clear and rewarding path towards a goal; that goal can be a cool Instagram post or the neuroscience behind ADHD.
How Education Can Be a Training Place for Our ADHD Brain
You know…, people treat me as if I was a nerd/weirdo when I say that studying saved my life, more than once; and even though I am a nerd and a cool weirdo 🤷🏻♀️, there’s much more behind that.
Quick story! When I began recovering emotionally from my brain collapse (when I couldn’t even remember my own signature), I took a few and short online courses on Web Development.
Besides being useful for me, I was interested in the abstract knowledge, in a place where I would hyperfocus on semicolons and brackets instead of words. Coding, in my case, leaves no room for bad or futile thoughts.
During the first weeks I was able to pay attention to the videos for 15 minutes or so; then 30, an hour, two, three… After three months, I was happier and willing to write again, … and I recalled how to sign a document with my name 🥴.
I also say very often “this or that helped me saving my life”, which may lead one to believe that I am underestimating the concept of saving one’s life; but I am not. I have lived for decades surviving traumas with an untreated ADHD, and studying played a huge role in my survival.
Getting an education is for me like a skateboard I jump in to move forward, to leave a bad state of mind quickly and to feel “rewarded.”
From Practicing Gratitude to Exercising Consistency
By August of 2021, I was sort of achieving a masters on practicing gratitude, but I was also a tiny bit afraid of failing again and letting the wakeup call boost fade away. And it was August! That’s when I get the “August rush”, remember?
I was on the right path, but I wasn’t at my best yet. I wanted to come back to this blog and I couldn’t write for more than two hours per week; hence, I needed to practice “consistency, commitment.”
So! I chose to resume a career I had to put on hold in 2007 because, well, back then I was an adult with an undiagnosed ADHD and studying wasn’t as easy as it had been when I was in my twenties; the undesired symptoms, they do get worse with age.
One may think why I didn’t choose something simpler and short-termed; but in this case, for me it was. I came back to the same University, thus they recognized me half of the semester I had passed in 2007.
And, above all, I had a very clear vision of what I was going to do and why.
Setting Our Own Goals
When I signed up, I did something that I consider very important for us with ADHD: I set for myself my own goals, regardless of what was expected of me. I thought,
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to study this much again, at this age, while I’m working. So, I’m just going to focus on attending the classes and passing the mid-term tests; if I can take the finals too, awesome; if not, I’ll take them on March.”
Furthermore, since I still work for my dream of moving to NYC for good, the world is such a mess and I didn’t know what would happen this year, I also said to myself,
“Right now it’s not my goal to finish this career; I just wanna study this semester. And I am going to take it as test for myself; if I can do it, awesome; if I can’t, I’ll see what else I’d need to do.”
It was freaking painful 🤦🏻♀️.
But I did it! And I passed two classes with a 100% and one with a 90%. How-about-that!
Doing that semester helped me with the following, for instance:
- I remembered I used to use “weekly planners” (instead of “daily planners”) to cope more efficiently with my time-blindness;
- I had to work in groups (ugh, righ?) and bit by bit I re gained more control over my hyperactive brain and my emotions, and I was able to be forgiven and patient with those humans thinking inside the boxes (#sorrynotsorry)
Studying is not only about the degrees but also about what it can do for us.
An ADHD Training Place
When we search for tools to cope with our ADHD, we look for ADHD coaches, apps for ADHD, fidgeting toys… “Ugh.” Why would we rely on things to get better, when we can train our brains, by ourselves, to rely on it? Wouldn’t you like to rely on your brain, and nothing but your brain?
We struggle a lot with our executive functions and the lack of dopamine, and what they do to us; a learning process, no matter how short, can help us with all of that.
“But Laly, I don’t know how study!” Let me tell you, with all my years in college, I didn’t know how to study web development… I had no idea where to start, and I figured it out. Because we are creative; we think outside the box; we can find our own ways. Furthermore, we don’t need to know “study techniques” for quick webinars or tutorials; c’mon!
Taking a course allows us to (beyond the knowledge we’d be gaining of course):
- have a clear goal to hold on to. Purpose, check!
- have small challenges (the tests!). Dopamine boost, check!
- work on our executive functions to manage the time, the tasks, etc;
- and if the classes need our presence, we get to meet new people and work on our social skills;
Bottom Line Is…
Whenever I feel stuck, I do this: I take my brain for a run and I set my own rules; if I sign up for something that may take a long time, I split it and set short term goals for myself. This is what I did with college last year. And about those coding courses I took (in 2017), the first one was 6 weeks long, the second one was 8 weeks long, and so on.
One last story: when I was living in Vegas, with like 40 bucks left on my bank account (I shit you not), I watched a free webinar on photography that was probably an hour and a half long. I learned so much, that I put it in practice for my photos, and then someone saw my Instagram grid and hired me!
Therefore, my dearest hyper neurodivergent, I’ll leave you with one humble advice: If you’re feeling stuck and with lack of purpose, think about what you truly enjoy doing; then search for course at put that brain in motion! No matter how small. This is about what it can do for you… and you never know where new knowledge can lead you 😉
Laly York. B.Ed. Lawyer. Writer / Researcher. ADHD advocate
Developer and author of the blogs "Neurodivergent", "NKOTB" and "Laly's."