Oct | 7

Running Through ADHD: How I struggled and emerged

The below is a guest blog from our friend Tara Campbell.

From fence to fence, I fled across the freshly harvested field, each step landing gently upon the stiff, spiky bumps of coarsely cut hay – and I was free.

Running has always been the place, the movement, the calmness in which I have felt most connected to myself, the world, and all that may lie beyond it. Having struggled with undiagnosed ADHD for the majority of my life, much of what came naturally for others was foreign to me; as if an extra dash of difficulty was being sprinkled onto the plentiful platter life’s experiences. Whether it was a cerebral endeavour such as school work, or a more spirited one, like sorting through my intense emotions, I was often overwhelmed and lost in the chaos and confusion of my mind.

As I grew, the restlessness within me continued to stir and I became increasingly aware of my inability to keep up with much of the societal expectations placed upon children as they develop. I was quiet and shy; my scattered, distracted thoughts craved a single focus, which I found in sport. My athleticism was my saving grace. The ever-so natural motion of running soothed my young soul and proved to me I was capable and strong.

Throughout my childhood, I continued to dash along the farm fields of Ladner, British Columbia, before moving onto boarding school to pursue my hockey dreams at Athol Murray College of Notre in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. Running remained my reprieve, as I flew across the rugged prairies roads, cast under the dimly lit, wide-open morning skies. From there I skated my way to the height of women’s hockey in Montreal, Quebec, where I won the first-ever women’s collegiate national championship with Concordia University in 1998.

As an athlete, I found solid ground to land on, but life beyond sport was often a confusing mess, mostly played out in my hyperactive mind. By my second year of university, my battle with ADHD was taking a toll, and I was facing academic probation. Scared, unsure and exhausted, I reached out for help to figure out why I couldn’t keep up with my classes, or follow complex drills in practices. This attempt at finding answers only resulted in more confusion when I didn’t receive a diagnosis. Eventually I left university, my hockey career and my identity in sport behind –  including my love of running.

After spending a few years trying out different jobs I went back to university. There I started to discover my ability to write and went on to forge a career in journalism. As I continued to shield myself from all-things athletic I sought out, often destructive, coping mechanisms in an attempt quell the intensity of my racing mind. Whether it was the distraction of jumping from one job to the next, or relying too much on evening drinks to slow it all down, I was constantly on the run – from my mind; and long removed from the blissful freedom I had once had associated the with word “run”.

As the years passed I became increasingly caught up in a mad scramble to make life work. I dug into my career and kept coping in whichever ways I could. Until, eventually, the exhaustion of the hustle caught up to me and made the decision to surrender. At the age of 35 I once again reach out for help to sort through the clutter in my mind – and this time I got the diagnoses I needed.

It’s been a year and half since being diagnosed with ADHD and a year and half of subsequent hard work. There have been numerous psychiatrist appointments, weekly meetings with my ADHD coach, multiple tinkerings with medication, and countless hours spent reading about the disorder, and reflecting on my own experiences with it in order to best understand how to embrace my uniquely intense mind, and harness the best within myself.

Through it all running has returned to my life, in a major way. The freedom, connection and capability I felt when I was younger is back – and more powerful than ever. I now have a more in-depth understanding of the way my mind works and the importance of movement in helping it to function optimally. There is plenty of research out there showing the benefits of physical activity for people with ADHD, and I’m most definitely one of those people.

Allowing sport back into my life has moved me in a direction I didn’t anticipate years ago, but then again, I didn’t anticipate enjoying life as much as I am today. I no longer work in the daily news business. Instead, as a freelance writer, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to share my story with others. The combination of running and writing has helped revive my spirit, calm my mind, and provide the peace I was in search of for so long. I now wake up every morning, early enough to see the sun rise, and so very grateful for the ability and opportunity to “Run Happy.”

About Guest Blogger
The Brooks Blog regularly features stories from our athletes, running partners and friends who exemplify Run Happy.