Mental health in focus: Meet Penny Belle
Meet Penny Belle, a passionate and engaging young lady who we met at our first of many events this year. Penny’s energy and enthusiasm struck us immediately: she is magnetic. Her story is a powerful one. After living 30 years of her life struggling with undiagnosed ADHD, the discovery led her to become a powerful voice for those seeking to learn more about the condition. She now blogs and interviews others struggling with similar challenges, creating a community for those seeking to share their experience with ADHD.
Today - World Mental Health Day - we are honored to feature Penny’s story through her own words.
1. Can you tell our readers what ADHD is?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A lot of people think it’s a behavioral disorder which causes ‘hard to handle’ children who are ‘not disciplined correctly’ to seek attention by being hyperactive and destructive. This is a misconception that has caused a lot of problems for ADHDers. ADHD is in fact a brain disorder that impacts the executive functions needed in all of us to motivate, plan, evaluate and execute through life. This manifests itself differently in different people. The attention part is not referring to a ‘need for attention’ like a lot of people assume, it highlights the fact that people with ADHD may not be able to pay attention for long periods of time and may need to be focused into either something they are passionate about or several things at once for them to be stimulated enough to take anything in.
2. How has ADHD affected your life?
ADHD has affected almost every area of my life if I’m honest. I started university 3 times but couldn’t get past the 2nd year. I couldn’t hold information and would drift off if unengaged. I also have really bad anxiety which is a symptom of ADHD. Day to day it’s maaad! I forget things, I misplace things, I am either terrifyingly impulsive or so indecisive that I can stare at a playlist for 10 minutes and not be able to decide what song to play (lol). I put things off, I start 56 things at once and finish none of them, I get drained by my hyperactive brain activity and often get home feeling like a tonne of bricks is on my back. I forget to check up on people, I am hypersensitive and have emotional disregulation. I could go on for ages but in a nut shell, my brain works differently and is always hyperactive and seeking stimulation. If I am not surrounded by or engaging in something that stimulates my mind fully, I can let a lot of things go over my head. Opening post, paying bills, calling people, cleaning (lol). if I am not engaged in several of these tasks at once, my mind may never be able to get stimulated enough to prioritise and start them. Now I know it’s my ADHD making me like this. I’ve found a way to combat it: I time box my days to make sure I get things done. I wrote a blog post about it here.
3. When did you find out you have ADHD?
Last year (2017) in July, I was 30.
4. What has been the relationship between food and your ADHD?
Because I am trying to manage my ADHD naturally, without medication, and I know that our guts are connected to our brains, I have done a lot of research into what kinds of food feed the brain the most effectively. I am now mindful of what I eat as I want to ensure I am not triggering the harder-to-deal-with symptoms of ADHD. I Wrote a blog post about it here.
5. You have a special relationship with colours, can you tell us more about that?
I Love colours. They make my eyes happy and they make me calm. colours stimulate my brain, so if I am surrounded by or focused on colours I am then able to focus better on other things like conversations, writing, executing ideas and planning. I wrote a blog post about how colours help with inattention here.
6. At BOL we often refer to “eating colours” or “eating the rainbow.” Do you think colours play a big part in your diet? If so, how?
Of course! I try to eat as many colours as possible because I associate them with raw, whole foods because of the obvious fact that fruit and veg are full of colour. This is going to sound so weird, but I went through a stage when I had a really low appetite and found I was feeling drained and down a lot because I was missing out on a lot of nutrients. As a result, I bought loads of beetroot to include into my meals because I looked forward to cutting it and getting the pink everywhere (lol).
7. What are the little things you do on a daily basis to make you feel better?
I pray every day and thank God for at least 10 things I am grateful for, I drink a litre of water before I leave in the mornings, I read and declare positive affirmations over myself, I do something to help or uplift someone else.
8. What advice can you give those seeking ways of alleviating ADHD without medication?
Cut animal products and sugar out of your diet, learn about your brain and how it works and be patient and caring towards yourself. This may include being selfish at times and mindful of where and who you spend your time with. Take vitamins to help with focus and memory (B6) and eat more natural products like fruit and veg.
9. You post about your experience with ADHD on your blog, instagram and youtube channel. What have been the pros and cos of documenting your condition?
The pros are that I get to hear myself say things that I didn’t actually realise I was feeling or experiencing. Venting is important. I also get to hear from amazing people who write to me because they relate to what I am speaking about but they too, like me, had no idea they were strugging with a mental health disorder. I get to raise awareness which is what prevents people from struggling in the ways I have.
The cons are that I get so caught up in helping others and so stimulated by knowing other people are being set free that I forget I have ADHD. This also makes me forget that I still don’t know everything there is to know, so I need to be making sure I am filling myself up daily. I do this by praying, researching, reading blogs and journaling.
10. Are there any projects or other special things in store that you can share with us?
I have been developing ‘Little bags of Love’ which are mental wellness bags full of positive affirmations and declarations written on cards and stickers, all very beautifully and colourfully designed by myself to keep the eyes happy and the mind calm whilst also reminding us of the goodness around and in us. You can see the bags here.
I have also got lots of cool videos coming up to share on my youtube channel. I have been speaking to different pope who struggle with mental health conditions that we do not know enough about and also conversations with all different types of people with ADHD. Parents of children with ADHD, parents dealing with their own ADHD, undiagnosed people who feel they have ADHD and more. I also have a podcast coming up and will be doing ADHD Coaching too so I’m really excited about that.