It’s your chemicals

So, I have an ADHD diagnosis. This was my day yesterday:

  • Phase 1: adhd-medicine kicks in.
    I want to collect my scattered writings so people can read them.
  • Phase 2: medicine at full strength.
    Wow, who wrote all this, it’s brilliant!
  • Phase 3: medicine starts to wear off.
    How ambitious and creative I used to be…
  • Phase 4: medicine drops really low.
    Existential crisis! Who am I? Why do I even write?
  • Phase 5: medicine depleted.
    I can not take it, I’m too tired, I’ll never write again.
  • Phase 6: recovered after medicine.
    Okay, I have to update my website right now! I must enhance how to filter and find genres and topics in my writing to enhance readability and enjoyment. I’ll work with this until it’s after 2 am though I have to get up early tomorrow for work.

I was quite amused earlier today when I wrote down this summary of yesterdays wild, and maybe just a bit exaggerated, mood swing.

But then, upon reflection, I had an important insight. The up-like-a-sun-and-down-like-a-pancake of this journey is exactly how my life has always been, though usually extended over days, weeks or months.

Now I could, thanks to my medication, correlate these well known feelings with the exact timing of the ups and downs in my dopamine levels. This made me realize the full extent of how much our feelings are caused by and dependent on our body chemicals – in this case dopamine.

This is a bit simplified, but: High levels of dopamine makes you want to do things, while low levels tells you that something is bad and not worth doing. Having ADHD is to be in a constant battle with the ebb and flow of dopamine. This is what the medication tries to alleviate.

I try to remember this when I’m hit by the occasional feeling that: “I’m a bad writer and I should stop writing.” Understanding that this feeling is not connected to my actual self-esteem makes it somewhat easier to endure. The experience yesterday made it even more clear to me.

It’s all caused by dysregulated dopamine levels being lower than they normally should be. These incorrectly low levels create a false feeling of negativity and rejection in the brain. This is of course very hard to distinguish from a normal response to something actually bad.

Recognizing patterns in ones own changing mood, combined with trying to observe the circumstances of the present situation, might make it a bit easier to discern the difference. Is there is an actual reason for negative feelings or is it just a chemical imbalance?

To anyone with an ADHD diagnosis I would dare to say that dysregulation of dopamine is probably almost always the reason for all your excessive self-doubt, self-loathing, anxiety and depression.

So whenever you feel bad for something you shouldn’t be feeling that bad for, or at least not for that long, it might very well be your chemicals sending the wrong signals.

It’s not you, it’s your chemicals.