like a lightbulb

How is an ADHD’er Like a Lightbulb?

How is an ADHD’er like a light bulb?

Not a joke, I have a point, just hang on with me here.

As some of you know, I have gone through DBT therapy, individually and in a group class. What is DBT? Glad you asked because I copied this off Google for ya!

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP. It emphasizes individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to help people learn and use new skills and strategies to develop a life that they experience as worth living. DBT skills include skills for mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Mouthful huh?

It also doesn’t answer the question about how we’re like a light bulb. That’s not in this definition.

DBT was originally developed, as it says, by Marsha Linehan, in almost every definition I’ve seen. The definitions also say it was developed in the 1980’s for people with Borderline Personality Disorder. This otter mascot does not have that issue, BPD. (Not to out her, but my eldest daughter, Mayhem, has been diagnosed with BPD and has been treated with DBT) I’m not ashamed to tell you that I had attempted to end my life April 13, 2015. Due to this crisis, the psychiatrists in the hospital and my own psych agreed that DBT was for me.

Like a Light bulb

“But wait, Alyssa! You just said DBT was created for BPD!” I hear you. They have found that it works for other things as well. So, how are we like a light bulb? (and understand that everyone is different and this may not apply to all, but may apply to those of you with ADHD)

Think of emotions like light bulbs. For NT’s (Neuro-Typical), say the brightest they get in light intensity for any emotion is 40 or 60 watts. For me (remember, this is typical of ADHD, but there are exceptions of course), the highest intensity on any given emotion might be 100 watts. I don’t typically have a “meh” mode. A “mild” feeling on anything. I’m 0-60 is less time than it can take to blink. I also have no poker face (thanks to the dad of the Otter for that one). I also don’t lie because it’s wrong (duh), and I have ADHD memory, so chances of me remembering a lie are not good. And then the poker face/heart on sleeve thing. Did I mention the heart on sleeve thing ???


Here’s where it ties together. Here’s why I was referred for DBT. It helps with the “Intense Emotions=Impulsive Actions” aspects of our brains. When I am practicing DBT, or rather Mindfulness  methods specifically, that mix of rational mind (My Inner Spock) & emotional mind (which I was in all the time, feeling like I was backed into a corner with claws out) is my Wise mind. It’s using logic and emotion together.

More importantly, (raise your hand if have foot-in-mouth disease! I still do on occasion!) it gives me that beat or two to process what just happened, observe my emotional response without judgement, & respond in a more appropriate way. Before, I lashed out at everything. I did this out of anxiety or suppressed anger & fear. When I can get in the right mindset, my reactions are not as intense. I’m not snapping or attacking.

The Rub? The hardest thing about DBT is continuing practicing it when you are done with the classes.

“But Otter …

… I can’t afford specialized therapy, I don’t have time, I’m supposed to go all Buddhist Monk and clear MY brain???”

Mindfulness & Meditation

Ok, no. But here’s a place to start. Mindfulness Meditation. Go through iTunes or Google Play, search Mindfulness Mediation. There are many free apps out there, or free with in app purchasing. I don’t know what will work for you, but I recommend checking out how the app is rated. Download one and try it out. What works for me may not work for you.

I had to watch a video in class, one of Marsha Linehan explaining Mindfulness & DBT. Her imaging for meditation was real easy for me to understand. I refer to it as “flowing”.

Picture yourself sitting on a hill. Aware of all around you. Directly in front of you, at a good distance & down the hill, a train is going by. Think of each train car as a feeling, thought or impression going by. Just look at it. Don’t judge it as good or bad. It just is. Then let it pass out of sight.

The trick is as the train passes, don’t jump onto any of the cars. i.e. don’t hang onto one thought or feeling.

If a feeling is too intense, try this, one of the things from DBT I hung onto is “Thoughts & feelings are NOT FACTS”. So when my own insecurities start whispering to me, I remember that the things they say are not facts.

You can find a way to be at peace

It’s not easy being me. It’s not easy being you. But you can find a way to be at peace. It takes some structuring and time. I have mindfulness meditation as part of my nightly routine. I can say I feel so much better when I’m taking even 10 minutes a day to do a guided meditation.

Remember as a kid running so fast you start tripping over your own feet? That’s how my brain usually is & it’s exhausting!

I leave you with this. My psychiatrist and I have been together since Mayhem (now 18) was an infant. When I was finally diagnosed with ADHD, I asked him where was all that hyper activity? I’m tired ALL THE TIME! In his wisdom he said “Think of the “h” as hyperactive. You expend so much energy just trying to focus in a world that is not friendly to those with ADHD, you are wiped out.”

Thank you for sticking with me. I hope this gives hope and help.

**Disclaimer: The Otter mascot is a 42 year old FT working single mom to 2 beautiful daughters, Mayhem and Chaos, and her “baby” Aeon the “neurotic dog” (just like her mama). I am not a doctor or therapist. Nor do I play one on TV. I’m just a woman, hoping to spare others some of the pain of life, and learning the hard way. Be Otterly, awesomely you.



Alyssa ‘Otter’ Sheldon

See in ADHD Mascot and goddess mother to Mayhem and Chaos

“Well, I was odd & I met your dad & he was odd, and we had you, an Otter, because you are otter (odder) than anyone I know!”
~ Her mom, when the Otter nickname was bestowed.





Alex Iby

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