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  • Writer's pictureEmily Breeden

ADHD & The Enneagram

I love how random ideas will pop up in my brain while taking a shower, not really thinking about anything at all.  There is science behind this… but I will hold off on nerding out on that too much right now.

The random neural-pathway-connection my brain made today was between my personal experience with getting diagnosed with ADHD, and something I’ve recently been learning about called the Enneagram.  The Enneagram is… “a model of the human psyche which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types.”  Basically, determining where you fall on this and learning more about it, can help you understand a lot about yourself… and why you do the things you do, and think the way you do.

“When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), scattered Sevens suddenly become perfectionistic and critical at One. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), gluttonous, scattered Sevens become more focused and fascinated by life, like healthy Fives.”

I heard about the Enneagram from a couple of friends about a year ago, and then again from two other friends (three separate, unrelated instances!) so I decided to finally look into it.  After taking the tests and nerding out on it for a few weeks now, I’ve learned that I am definitely a hard seven.  My second highest numbers were two and nine (hence why I hate conflict.) 🙂

Here is a description:

Sevens are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. At their Best: they focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.

That is me, to a T.

Now, let’s talk about ADHD.  Looking back, I was never really sure if I “truly” had it or not, until I got diagnosed in 2014.  But.. after learning about the Enneagram, I am 99.99% sure I never should have been diagnosed in the first place.  Hindsight is 20/20.

This was how it all went down…

In college (Marquette, whattup!), I had a VERY hard time focusing and retaining new information, especially when working with groups.  This is something I never told ANYONE… until now… but any time I had a group project meeting, I would plan to go to the library 2+ hours beforehand, just to try and get a basic understanding of what we were about to be doing, so as to not to look dumb in front of the other students.

“When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), scattered Sevens suddenly become perfectionistic and critical at One.” …That could also explain why I had to get there hours before my classmates… I needed to look/feel perfect, because group projects and the thought of looking dumb in front of the other students, stressed me the F out.  Also…. #ImposterSyndrome4Lyfe.

Anywayyy.  Back to my issues with focusing (…on this blog post? Ha!)  So I started hearing about ADHD and thinking maybe that was why it was so hard for me to focus.  I tried out the prescription drug, adderall, from a friend (who actually has ADHD), to see if it would help me study for some exams.  Lo and behold, it DID seem to help me focus.  I was suddenly able to read a million words a minute (because… it’s speed…) AND I could even pull all-nighters with it!  That was when I started telling myself the story that I probably actually did have ADHD, and probably needed meds.  However, I opted to just keep buying it on and off (from friends) and only using it when I would get overwhelmed.

Fast forward a couple years, to when I lived in Minneapolis.  I decided that working, volunteering, organizing fundraisers, and my very active social/dating life etc. wasn’t enough for me to feel fulfilled (which can now be explained by my “seven” qualities), and decided to go back to school part-time to get my MBA.  This is when my “ADHD” came back in full force.  Group projects… studying… plus the pressure of my mentally challenging day-job… wellllll, my scattered brain couldn’t handle it all.

This wasn’t like college when I could go to the library 2+ hours beforehand to try and get a grasp of what I was doing before the other students got there.  This was real life, and I did not have time for that.

This time, I really went for it.  I decided I didn’t want to buy it from others anymore; if I wanted to get my MBA, then I needed my own prescription.  I needed to be “properly” diagnosed with the ADHD that I was convinced I was suffering from.

I went to the doctor, was referred to a psychiatrist, went through a 3 hour interview talking about my issues/life… plus had to make 2 people close to me complete a survey about my scatter-brain and inability to focus… and voilà, I was told that I was a “slam dunk case of ADHD” by the doc, and prescribed adderall.

And just like that, I was addicted.  I’ve truly never experienced this feeling with anything else in my life.  The feeling of addiction to me, is waking up and feeling like you cannot possibly function without taking (insert pill/substance here).  It is ALL you can think about.  Your thoughts go like this:  When can I take some next?  How much do I have left?  How much should I take today? When am I going to run out?  How can I make sure to get more in time?  (Obviously, you don’t say any of this out loud, so no one knows you’re going through it.  On that note, I would guess that anything you have to hide is probably an addiction…)

The more overwhelming the day felt, the more I would take.  The more I would take, the more I wanted to drink, to calm myself down, since it’s a stimulant and makes your mind race really fast.  My sleep sucked, my eating and drinking habits sucked, basically everything sucked… BUT, I felt like I was a “productive” person who could actually focus enough to sit behind a computer and get through work emails and school projects.  Yeahhh… This was NOT a way to live life. 

After reaching a point of complete overwhelm, let’s call it my “rock bottom” of that era, a friend who went through a similar experience told me “You need to quit cold turkey… that shit’s not good for you,” and I decided to listen to her.  I decided to try and make some positive changes to my lifestyle.  I joined a yoga studio, then started eating healthy for the first time ever.  I finally quit taking adderall… soon after, I quit grad school, and then… I quit my job, started this blog ( 🙂 ), went to Peru for 2 months, and moved to Colorado.


Talk about being impulsive. 

Looking back on the whole experience, it’s pretty wild.  Since 2014 (5 years ago) I had been wondering if the doc was right about me having ADHD.  I had wondered if I should be on meds or not.  And why I had such an issue controlling myself with the meds.  I even fell back into bad habits of buying adderall over the last couple of years, when I lived in Colorado (a.k.a. the 2-year gap where I did not write a blog post!) after work/life got overwhelming.  Luckily – I am managing my life via a HEALTHY lifestyle again, and this time for good.

Disclaimer:  I am 100% certain that NOT everyone gets this way with ADHD meds, but this is the way I got with them.  Enneagram seven’s are the most prone to addiction, I’ve learned, so if you’re a seven… be careful!! 

So by learning about the Enneagram, I now believe that I was misdiagnosed back in 2014.  How many other “scatter-brained”, impulsive sevens are out there, addicted to ADHD meds (or other substances) trying to get through life, that just need to learn how to manage things with a friggin’ healthy lifestyle?  

The more self-aware we all are, the better we can understand ourselves, and can communicate and interact with others on this crazy planet.

If you are going through something like this, don’t hesitate to reach out… I’m an open book, and would be happy to talk about my experiences.  I am also about to start a health coaching program through the Kresser Institute (just 10 hours/week, all online) to learn to help others live their best lives also.  I encourage you to take the test and start learning more about yourself! ❤

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