My mental health story: living with ADHD: Interview with Amanda Mataija
Prague Integration is working on a project ”My story, my mental health” where we are interviewing on a weekly basis locals and expats in the Czech Republic who are diagnosed and living with different mental health conditions.
Our intern Alexa, a Psychology and Brain Science student from California is conducting interviews with our dear expats and getting interesting and educational content, where we are trying to share awareness about mental health.
We had the pleasure of hosting Amanda, our CEO and founder of Prague Integration. She spoke about her experience with ADHD.
Read Amanda’s story and share awareness about mental health!
Hello Amanda, welcome! How are you doing?
I am doing well, thank you! I am happy to be here today to talk with you.
To you, what is ADHD?
It is a state of mind that is disorganized and chaotic; however, with the right focus, you can function quite well. I was diagnosed a year and a half ago with ADHD officially, and it has now become more and more common for adults to be diagnosed later on in life. I don’t like to describe ADHD with a negative connotation, but I have learned I can’t run away from it. It is just the constant state of my disorganized mind. Those with ADHD can function quite well when set up with the right strategies, support, and medication.
How did you know you had ADHD? What were your first symptoms?
It started from a young age. I was always very energetic, but I realized that I would easily lose concentration. I couldn’t sit still, I would forget my homework, have a messy table, and always be thinking about other things. Later on, it caused me to have trouble sleeping because my mind was always so active. It was difficult for me to follow instructions because I would start thinking about other things and then lose track of what I was supposed to do, especially when I was not that interested in the subject. When I was in high school, I would always be in my little world. I would sit in the last row, and write or draw while class was going on. I would always be daydreaming and imagining. The main struggle was executing tasks until the very end. Even the littlest of tasks would be a nightmare for me to complete.
When I got to university, I was able to work on subjects that were more interesting to me. Therefore, it was a little easier for me to concentrate. My interest is in helping people. Originally this was in social care, and now it is in mental health. Luckily, I was able to be diagnosed a year and a half ago so that I could get the support I needed.
From your perspective, can you tell us about how mental health plays a role in living with ADHD?
For me, this is very important. Without maintaining good mental health, it would be impossible for me to function. I take a lot of time for myself and to slow down. When you are under a high level of stress or excitement, ADHD effects become worse. I make sure that I sleep enough, eat well, exercise, and plan. Planning plays a key role in maintaining my mental health. If I don’t have a list, I find myself in chaos. This also helps me prioritize what I need to do since saying no is oftentimes hard. Since I was a child, I have gone to a psychologist and now I am going to a therapist every week. I have my ADHD support group that I organized at Prague Integration. Living with good mental health is completely mandatory for me because without it I could not function. I also have an anxiety diagnosis, and I need to think about maintaining my mental health for that as well.
Do you have any advice for expats in Prague dealing with ADHD?
Yeah, it is really important to not let yourself get overwhelmed with many different things. Nowadays, there are so many gadgets and technologies that people use, and it may be better to stick to simplicity. It is important to learn how to say no to things when you need to. Also, there are a lot more recent diagnoses of ADHD so there are psychologists to discuss it and psychiatrists to provide medication. I also think it is important to talk about it. There are a lot of expat support groups in Prague, and we have an ADHD support group at Prague Integration.
When you have ADHD, people often think that you are just anxious or depressed. However, it is worth it to get your real ADHD diagnosis even though it may take a lot of time to do. This way you can have access to more helpful resources. With the right medication and therapy, you can have a normal functioning lifestyle.
From your perspective, what are the benefits of living with ADHD?
I think there are benefits. For me, I think it gives me a fun personality. I am always talking to other people, and also always trying to find a solution. I am also very creative and have a lot of new ideas. Sometimes, I actually have too many projects I want to do so I have learned how to prioritize them. I like that I am so bubbly, and have made friendships based on that I think. Also, having so many ideas in my head allowed me to open my own company. ADHD helped me to realize how important good mental health is in living a successful life, and now I am able to help people do that.
From your perspective, how can others support the mental health of someone with ADHD?
I always need helpers, and people to structure stuff for me. My strength is in creating new ideas, but not necessarily organizing them in the right way. This can either be my colleagues for work-related projects or my friends for other ideas. I have learned that my mind is a powerful machine, but sometimes I just need someone to cool me down.
I also think it is important for other people in your life to know about ADHD, and what it means for you. For example, if I forget an appointment or a birthday, my friends are understanding. My friends and family are becoming more and more patient with me as they continue to learn. So I think communication about your mental health is very important, even though it is not always easy. The more we can educate others, the more we can work together to be a better functioning society.
Thank you for talking today Amanda, we really appreciate your time!