With a childhood diagnosis, Cameron Sterling has found things that don’t work (traditional school, Ritalin) and things that do (kinesthetic learning, Adderall, freelancing) and it’s inspiring to hear that journey.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:11):
Welcome back to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel. What you’re listening to today, it’s a little bit different than the podcast episodes we’ve shared with you before. This episode, this person’s story, is a part of Refocus Together, a special series, the team at ADHD Online and I have been working on for ADHD awareness Month. Every day, throughout the month of October, we’ll be sharing a different person’s ADHD story, which is fitting because the theme for ADHD awareness month this year is understanding a shared experience. I can’t think of a better way to really get a sense of that shared experience than by telling a different story every single day. To be clear, yes, that’s 31 stories in 31 days.
My name is Lindsay Guentzel. Along with a team at ADHD Online, I’m so excited to present, Refocused, Together a collection of stories aimed at raising awareness on just how complex ADHD is and the different ways it shows up in people’s lives. When we share stories, it’s easier to find the perspective, ideas and tips that help us live our best lives. I’m interviewing people with varying backgrounds, diagnoses, experiences, and perspectives. We’ll hear from working parents, advocates, engineers, writers, PhD candidates and more to learn that while we may be different, we are all united by our own ADHD journeys.
This special project is very near and dear to my heart. Although talking to 31 different people has been a lot of talking, I am so grateful for each person who shared their story with me. I cannot wait for you to meet my guests and get to know them. Be sure to subscribe to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel so that you don’t miss a single story this month. With that, let’s get on to today’s episode.
There’s a very, the stars aligned story that explains how I met today’s guest. Back in June, just a month after we launched Refocused, I went out to Grand Rapids to meet the team at ADHD Online in person for the first time. We had a long list of things we needed to do, including our first day-long studio shoot together. Here I am, an extrovert who has a lot of introvert moments and who gets real awkward around new people, walking into the studios at 8:00 in the morning and I know no one. Now, keep in mind, I know these people from the internet, meaning virtual meetings. There’s a part of me that is very nervous no one is going to like me in person.
The first item on my to-do list is hopping into hair and makeup. That’s where I met Cameron Sterling and Candace Lefke. If you’ve ever had your hair and makeup done by strangers, it’s a fine balance of being upfront about what you want and also giving them the freedom to do what they’re good at, making you look and feel your best. It was very clear very early during my time in their chair that I was in good hands. Capable and talented, yes, but also kind and empathetic. Fast forward to …
Cameron Sterling (03:34):
Quiet on the set.
Lindsay Guentzel (03:37):
There I was, in a sense, performing in probably one of the most high stakes moments of my life. What if I’m horrible? What if I’m not what they expected? As an ambitious people pleaser, if you’ve ever been there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There were moments of hiccups for sure. Trying to figure out language, how I would say something, versus what the script said. What else I wanted to focus on. In between takes the room turned into a giant creative session. Everyone jumped in with ideas, including Cameron and Candace who were sitting in the back of the room. The team, who hours earlier had done my hair and makeup, were now offering up really insightful ideas about how to explain certain things about ADHD.
That’s because somehow when the team at Deksia reached out to the Pretty Committee, the team Cameron and Candace work for and booked two artists for our shoot, we somehow ended up with two people who throughout the entire shoot knew exactly what we were talking about because both Cameron and Candace have ADHD. Like the other stories you’ve heard this month, both Cameron and Candace have incredibly different ADHD stories. That’s some straight the universe is looking out for you energy.
We wrapped that day and I was exhausted, but on a high. After years of hiding myself and making myself smaller to appease other people, I was exactly who I wanted to be that day. I know that a major part of that was because I started my day with Cameron and Candace. By the time I stepped foot in front of those cameras, I truly had been lifted up by two people who knew me, without really knowing anything about me. It was a gift. One that I’m not sure I’ve ever properly explained or thanked them for.
When we started planning Refocused, Together, interviewing Cameron and Candace was at the top of my list. While I had hoped to interview both of them together, while I was in Michigan in September, I am still so excited I was able to connect with them both virtually. Today, I am so excited to introduce you to Cameron Sterling.
Cameron was diagnosed with ADHD as a fifth grader. Some of those ADHD stereotypes fit for him. He had trouble paying attention in class, sitting still and found himself getting in trouble for talking to his classmates too much. Then the medication, meant to alleviate his hyperactivity, actually caused him to develop a facial twitch, which made him anxious and depressed and quiet. His parents recognized they needed to go a different route to help their son, and found another psychologist who encouraged the family to dive into kinesthetic learning to see how that might help him. Soon, Cameron became immersed in alternative education classrooms with teachers and tutors who understood how to connect with him.
As an adult, he sees that change as the catalyst for him finding environments in life where he could thrive and be successful. That includes his career as a stylist and a content creator. Cameron also co-founded the Green Ribbon Project, a blog and podcast dedicated to destigmatizing conversations about mental health issues. I am so excited to welcome Cameron Sterling to Refocused, Together.
I am so excited that this worked out. Obviously, my desired outcome would’ve been for us to have been able to have this conversation in person, but busy schedules and life got in the way. I’m just grateful that we get to have it now. Cameron, thank you so much for joining me on Refocused, Together and for coming on to share your own ADHD story.
Cameron Sterling (07:36):
Thank you so much for having me. I’m glad we can finally make this work. Everything that we’re doing, to be able to fit it in is really exciting.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:45):
Very much exciting. Yes. There’s always an awkward pause. Normally, it’s not this early. I ask every guest to kind of take me back to life before your diagnosis and what led to some of the things that maybe pushed you to start asking questions.
Cameron Sterling (08:07):
Yeah. Mine goes way back to when I was in fifth grade. Probably even before then, but that’s when it was officially diagnosed. I always had problems paying attention in class, sitting in a desk for how many hours a day, and just being forced to listen to somebody drone on and on. Being expected to pay attention when I wasn’t being mentally stimulated was always difficult. I was always kind of a theatrical kid, so I was known for distracting myself and others in class. Had a lot of friends, but wasn’t doing so well in school.
It was kind of suggested by some of my teachers that I just go in for a diagnosis, maybe get on some medication. My mother was very anti medicating her children, because in her mind she wasn’t going to do that just to make teachers lives easier. But she said, “Okay. Let’s just go in and at least talk to a psychiatrist and see what we can do.” I did end up being diagnosed with ADHD along with a couple other things, but mostly depression, anxiety related. I did end up going on Ritalin, when I was in fifth grade. I was on that until, I believe seventh grade. Did eventually end up going off of it because it made me just totally bland, as a person, took away all of the fun parts of Cam. Yes, I was able to focus better, but I wasn’t happy and actually ended up developing a weird facial tick during that time too from the medication. While the focus part was taken care of, my mental health and everything else kind of suffered as a result, so it wasn’t really worth it to be medicated for that.
What we found was that I just needed a different learning environment. When I started high school, we found a boarding school that specialized in performing arts and kinesthetic learning. Getting outside of the classroom, to where I’d be able to just be ambulatory and walking around and learning that way. For example, my science class, we would just go out into the woods or to the beach on my school property and learn about science that way. Then for English class, same thing, we would take trips. Drama class, we would go see improv in Chicago. Just getting me out and moving helped immensely. I was able to learn better, focus better, because I was being engaged in the ways that I needed to be engaged without medication, which was great.That was the beginning of when that all started. I was lucky enough to know what was going on at a young age. I think that helps me to understand my brain and know that I’m not crazy. There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s just I need a little bit of a different setup in order to learn and retain information.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:17):
I’m fascinated by your story, because one of the things that’s come up a few times throughout the month of October is kind of this one size fits all education plan we have here in the United States. I’m wondering if you can describe some of the immediate changes you saw once you were in an environment where you could really thrive.
Cameron Sterling (11:39):
Yeah. The biggest thing for me was just not feeling antsy all the time. My ADHD causes a lot of anxiety if I’m just not feeling it, if I’m bored. If I’m feeling like I’m stuck, it just really does a number on me, mentally, especially back then when I was a kid, not fully knowing what I needed to be able to thrive.
Once I was in an environment, at my new school, where that was being met, I just was really happy and excited about learning for the first time and did really well in school. My grades were boosted as a result, and I just was a happier person. That was noticed by my parents and certainly by me. When I felt like I was being heard and listened to and met other kids with ADHD and different learning styles, it was very validating, first of all. Then it just was like, “Okay. This is how it can be. This is how it should be.” Even maybe if you don’t have ADHD, it’s just when you’re listened to as a student, as a young student and your teachers are taking the time to really figure out what’s going to work best for you, it’s hugely impactful.
Other than just being happy, I was excited about life and then able to take what I was learning and start applying that towards other things and get involved in theater and forensics and things that I used to love, but had kind of fallen away from. Yeah. Just overall huge boost for my mental health.
Lindsay Guentzel (13:27):
I’m curious what it has been like for you in adulthood, because getting a diagnosis in fifth grade and everything that came along with that, and then getting that transition time to a learning environment where you just got to flourish and be yourself and go back to … You mentioned you lost all the amazing things that made you Cam, because of the Ritalin. You leave adolescence on a high, feeling great about yourself. What has adulthood been like with your ADHD and everything you know?
Cameron Sterling (14:08):
Yeah. Interestingly enough, when I left high school and started attending college, no surprise, it was nothing like my boarding school where they specialized in teaching people like me. College, not so much. You kind of just have to fall into it. I struggled a lot my freshman year of college, because I wasn’t obviously able to have that sort of flexibility or attention from my instructors. I mean, they cared, but they didn’t really care. It’s college, you’re an adult now, so you kind of have to just fall in line and deal with it and get things done. I’m allergic to deadlines, I still am. That was really hard starting college where the workload doubled and you’re cramming for exams and all these different things, and then also trying to have a social life.
I ended up going back on medication, but not Ritalin. I had started taking Adderall. That worked quite well for me. I still kind of had to go back to being medicated, but that at least didn’t take away my personality. It just helped me to focus. It would still allow me to be myself, but just a little bit more streamlined, in terms of when I had to get things done. It’s still a tool that I use today, not all the time, but if I have a million and one things to do and I just have to kind of buckle down, it does help me. I am still currently taking medication on and off, as needed.
I was able to apply those tools from when I was in high school to figure out how to still deal with things on my own and be able to focus and pay attention, finding a different way to make something exciting. For example, even if there’s five things that I don’t really want to do, I just make sure that whatever mini goals I’m setting are leading to something that I am excited about. Future thinking has kind of helped me to mitigate some of the distractions that come up.
Once I was able to get through that first year of college and realize, “Okay. I got this, I can do this. I can adjust to new environments, even if it’s maybe not something that is exactly what I need it to be, because that’s just not life.” Kind of had to have that moment of clarity and realizing that it’s up to me and I can do it, and whatever I need to get done, I will get it done. Just kind of me snapping into that mindset has helped a lot and goal setting and planning. I write lists all day long because it might be gone, if I don’t write it down. There’s little things that I do that are kind of quirky, maybe to some people, but it helps me stay on track and get things done.
Lindsay Guentzel (17:16):
How does ADHD fit into the life you’re living right now and what you’re passionate about? When you look at what you’re doing and what you’re creating, what do you see as far as the connections to something that has been with you your entire life and you know a lot about, but you also know that there are ebbs and flows and it can be a constant, changing battle?
Cameron Sterling (17:45):
Yeah. Well, thankfully, I figured out in my mid twenties what I needed to be doing was hair styling and writing and have kind of multifaceted components to what I do and give me the ability to be moving around and active and not in a traditional environment. It’s funny how quickly I forgot those things when I was early on in my career and then wondered, “Okay, well this wasn’t working.” Well, I wonder why, because I’m stuck in an office or I’m stuck in one spot all day, and of course that’s going to be a problem for me. I should have seen that one coming. You try things.
Since I’ve been able to find those different pieces of my career where I now work, basically, freelance, so I’m an independent contractor in a lot of different industries and different places that I get to work in. Every day is different for the most part. That keeps me able to be focused, engaged, and excited because it’s not routine. While I have to set up routine for myself and my own life, I don’t necessarily want that every day in my job.
It’s just kind of one of those things where a lot of people that are creative types do have ADHD. I work with several stylists that also have ADHD. It is kind of an industry that enables you to work with that and enables you to set up your life so that you’re going to be able to still function and not only function, but thrive with your ADHD, celebrated for it even, because of the way that our brains work. It’s a little bit of a different sort of rhythm and flow, or lack thereof, but it’s a place that you can be in and still be encouraged to be creative and be yourself and come up with a lot of different ideas of what to bring to the table in whatever field you’re working in. That’s what was really important for me, and still is, is I just have to make sure that I’m cognizant of environments that I’m going to be working in, where I know that it will fit how my brain works.
Lindsay Guentzel (20:11):
You have a much bigger timeline than most of the people I’ve spoken to, when it comes to their own ADHD story. I’m curious, when you look at, again, this entire chunk of your life, and most probably you remember all of it, for the most part, how do you view ADHD when we’re looking at some of the negative ways it can affect a person’s life and how it’s affected you?
Cameron Sterling (20:39):
Sure. I think, for me, and I’ve heard this from a lot of other people too, it does sometimes create problems when you’re working with teams of people. It’s hard to get on the same page sometimes as other people and being able to make yourself understood and known when you’re pitching an idea or just kind of word vomiting the stream of consciousness that I have going on in my own head. It makes a lot of sense to me, but maybe not to other people. I had to learn how to take everything that I was thinking and just narrow it down a little bit so that I could pitch myself to somebody who’s asking me for an idea or my opinion or on something that we needed to do for work. It does make it difficult sometimes with communication, I have found is my biggest stumbling block.
I also feel like, for me, personally, I get burned out very quickly, mentally. I’m prone to brain fog at the end of the day, if I’ve been working really long hours, or on a really big project because my brain is going 6,000 miles a minute. It’s exhausting sometimes, and I get tired. That kind of gets the best of me when it manifests itself in anxiety. While I do a good job of internalizing everything, most people would never know that I had all of those things going on, but by internalizing it, that also adds to the burnout. For me, I’ve noticed that’s something that I just have to be really aware of. The best way that I can kind of counteract that is just to give myself some time throughout the day, or just take one day a week where I just will go out into the woods and go hiking and just kind of unwind and just be by myself and kind of download everything from the week and go over it when I have time to do that. It’s something that you have to be careful of, that you’re not over exhausting yourself.
You can really try your best to explain how that works, maybe to somebody else that doesn’t have ADHD, but just being aware that maybe they’re not always going to totally get it, but at least you can get ahead of that and just make them aware of, this is why my brain works the way that it does, so I’m going to tell you to it this way. Let’s just try a different mode of communication and see if that makes sense to everybody.
Those two things are difficult. Then just hyperactive thoughts, kind of making little mini assumptions or thinking that the worst is going to happen, when it hasn’t even happened yet. There’s just weird little things that I’ve noticed that I do, that seem to be common for people with ADHD. A lot of racing thoughts. The more that you can just quiet your mind, as best as you can, throughout the day and just be like, “Okay. I know this pattern. It’s not really like that, it’s actually like this,” and you kind of just check yourself, if that makes sense. That’s helped me a lot. Those are legitimate struggles that I think a lot of people face with ADHD.
Lindsay Guentzel (24:06):
I couldn’t agree more. You said, “It’s hard sometimes to explain what is going on or why I’m reacting the way I am or why my brain is going down that path,” but it’s also equally as hard to explain, I think, the magnitude that these unexplainable things can have on a person who has ADHD, the effect they can have.
Cameron Sterling (24:34):
Yeah, definitely. I would agree with that for sure. When you said unexplainable thoughts, it’s definitely how it feels most of the time. It’s like, “Well, I can’t even explain it to myself, so how am I going to explain it to this person?” I think you just have to do your best. You have to meet yourself where you’re at for that day too, because it’s going to be different. That can be said of everybody, but there’s kind of just a special case that that’s like with ADHD, because some days I’m really on the ball, I’m really focused and I’m able to get a ton of stuff done. Then there’s some days where it’s just like, this is locked up and I have a really hard time getting the things done that I need to, because I’m distracted by so many other things. Working from home has been great, but also challenging, but a really good practice and me having to prioritize what needs to be done for my tasks that day and just kind of buckling down and getting to things one at a time.
I’m patient with myself, and as somebody who’s an overachiever, I just have to kind of know that, today if I’m having a rough day, I’m going to get as much done as I can, and I’m not going to beat myself up if it doesn’t all get done, because that’s just how it goes sometimes. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just in my mind, that’s a catastrophe if not everything gets done. I have to be patient with myself. I have to listen to myself. I have to just try to slow it down sometimes. I go for a lot of little mini breaks throughout the day. I’ll just go for a walk around the block. I call it taking myself for a walk, like I’m a dog, because you have to kind of stop the wheels from spending sometimes. Taking little breaks and just giving yourself some leniency, especially when you know that you’re working really hard. It’s okay to do that.
Lindsay Guentzel (26:37):
I think it’s also hard too, because for us who we’re building our own careers, there’s no path to follow, you’re constantly hustling for the next thing. I think sometimes we forget how much work we do outside of normal work hours. When it’s a Monday afternoon and you are like, “Oh. I’m going to sit down and read a book,” and then those negative thoughts creep in. No, a person who’s hustling wouldn’t sit down and read a book. You’re like, “Oh. You’re right.” It’s like, no, you just worked all weekend or you worked a 16 hour day the day before. It’s hard, because again, going back to school and a one size fits all education plan, we also were not told or taught that people are going to thrive in different work environments. We constantly are just like, “Yeah. No. We aren’t doing enough,” but it’s never the case. We’re always doing way more than we think we are.
Cameron Sterling (27:34):
Totally. When did anybody in the school ever say it’s okay to take a break? Pretty much never. I don’t think that was ever mentioned. Nobody ever mentioned burnout, especially for people that are entrepreneurs or running their own businesses or just working in a decentralized sort of environment. When I’m doing emails at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, because I can’t sleep, if I want to read a book on a Monday afternoon, it’s okay. It’s okay to do that. I think that’s, especially to people that have ADHD that are always overworking their brains, just double down on that exhaustion. It’s okay to take some time for yourself.
Lindsay Guentzel (28:20):
Let’s talk about the Green Ribbon Project, because it’s something that I know you’re incredibly passionate about. I’d love to, one, learn a little bit more about it and two, hear kind of the motivation that pushed you to get really vulnerable in the beginning.
Cameron Sterling (28:39):
One of my best friends had started the Green Ribbon Project as just an idea for having this space for people that are struggling with mental health to be able to read content and participate in interviews, but she didn’t really know how to get it kind of off the ground. She is a good writer, just to say, but she would tell you that she’s not. She wanted me to come in and help with the writing, so of course I was more than happy to. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the world, is to write. Of course, I said yes.
We just started having more and more ideas of how we could really make those, not only approachable for people, but have it be helpful for us too. The biggest thing that it’s taught me is to be vulnerable with other people about what I’ve struggled with, which does not come naturally to me, at all. My friends jokingly used to call me Ice Queen, because I just don’t like talking about my feelings. I just would always be like, “I’m fine. I’m totally fine. It’s all good.” It wasn’t, but just didn’t want to get into it though. It’s really helped me open up with talking about my emotions.
The concept that we had when starting Green Ribbon Project was just to make the conversation about mental health a little bit more casual. It’s definitely serious and it’s dealing with a lot of trauma and a lot of really painful stuff, but it’s okay to talk about it. It doesn’t need to be this secretive conversation that you have with your therapist, and then don’t share with anybody else because that’s not helping you, it’s helping other people that are struggling. What I’ve noticed about when we first started posting content, there was a lot of people that were struggling with the same things that we were and didn’t feel like they had been comfortable enough to even admit that, before we started sharing our stories.
We learned a lot about each other, my friend Jess and I. There was stuff that we would write and that we would start dialoguing about, and I was like, “I didn’t know that that happened to you.”Se would say the same thing to me. It’s crazy. We had been friends for eight years and we were still finding the stuff out about each other. It’s a way that you can bond with people and be in a space where you feel like you’re comfortable enough to share that. Hopefully that translates to the rest of your life that you’re able to be open with people and be open with yourself too.
What we like to do, we’d wanted us to be on the first couple podcasts just to get it started, but we want it to be a space where people can either do a self taped interview or we can have more guest on our podcast and be able to have it spotlight other people too. I have been doing a lot of the writing, and then I said, “Well, I want to get some other people to write some stuff too.” We had some guest speakers or guest writers, if you will, submit some things to us, and we were able to post their story. There’s a couple people that wanted it anonymous, and then other people want to sign their name to it. However, people want to do it is fine, as long as it’s helping them to share that, that’s really what it’s about.
We have admittedly not been working on it super hard this year. We’ve gotten really busy with our own businesses. As people with ADHD, sometimes we just have to circle back to things. She also has ADHD, so it’s been a big push for us to get back into it this year. The good news is it still exists and we’re still keeping in touch with people, and it’s not going anywhere. We will come back to it in a more major way, but it’s something that’s been really beneficial for both of us and for other people. That’s been great.
Lindsay Guentzel (32:42):
That’s awesome. You’re right, it’s not going anywhere. It’s living on, it’s helping people. I think we are so quick to get down on ourselves about not sticking to the plan and life happens. It’s like we’re our own worst enemies, but at the same time, I love how positive you are about it and how good it makes you feel, because that’s the bottom line. You should be doing stuff every single day that makes you feel that way.
Cameron Sterling (33:16):
Absolutely. I think being positive has been a huge help in my life with mental health. There’s a difference between optimism and then that toxic positivity mindset that people get themselves into. Me being positive about everything that I’m going through, I think, definitely was a survival mechanism, but it’s also just like why would I think any other way? Because I’m not going to help myself if I start catastrophizing everything and then that’s just going to be a spiral. It’s not going to kill me to be a positive. That’s helped me to keep going forward and just find the humor in everything too. There’s just stuff that will happen, that’s maybe not the best thing in the world, but you kind of just have to show good off and do the best that you can. Staying positive, for myself and other people, has helped a lot with staying on track.
Lindsay Guentzel (34:21):
I want to ask, when you look at life right now, and with everything that you know about yourself and about ADHD, where do you see yourself thriving?
Cameron Sterling (34:30):
Yeah. I think, with having my ADHD, I’m glad that I’ve been able to set up a life for myself where it doesn’t hinder me like it used to. I’m glad that I was able to set up a life where I have different careers, multiple careers, which I always thought that that’s what I would want, I just didn’t think that it was possible, because that’s not really something that gets talked about in school, or your parents might not tell you that that’s the way to do things because, God love them, but they’re just from a different generation. You would focus on one thing, one career, one industry, and you can always make adjustments as you go, but the whole idea of doing a bunch of different things, people would always try to talk me out of that, because they would see me getting stressed, which is just going to happen anyways. I was always like, “No. I need to be doing 10 different things at once. There’s just no other way that I can live if I’m not able to do that.”
I’m glad that I’ve set up a life for myself where I can thrive and where I am working with the way that my brain needs to operate, which is doing a lot of different things, everything, everywhere, all at once. Being able to have a schedule where I get everything done, it’s just kind of all in different timelines, which if some people saw it, they would think I’m crazy. I mean, my notebook looks like some insane, mad scientist blueprint for God knows what, but that’s just what works for me.
I thrive in the ways that I’ve allowed myself to thrive. I don’t care anymore if it doesn’t make sense to other people, it makes sense to me. I’m delivering on everything I need to get done, so it works out.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:20):
I love it.
Cameron Sterling (36:22):
Being able to have that new setup and then being able to talk to people and get more involved in this community has made me immensely happy. I would say about a year ago is when Jess and I, Green Ribbon Project, we started getting interviewed by people and people wanted to talk to us more so that we could get that word out there. That’s been absolutely incredible and totally unexpected. I didn’t really think anybody would care, at first. I was like, “I think we’re just going to be screaming into the void here, but let’s try it anyways.” Now, I’m talking to you today and I’ve got some other people that are interested in just hearing more about it. That’s been really exciting to see that something that I’m doing, to help people, is working and it’s catching on. I think there’s a lot of people that need that sort of platform to realize that they’re not alone in this journey. You’ve done the same thing with your podcast. I just think that’s the coolest thing.
Lindsay Guentzel (37:24):
I think there’s something really special about being vulnerable and putting it out into the world. When you realize how appreciative people are, who maybe aren’t at that point in their life yet … That’s kind of what you’re seeing right now. You’re seeing this need for what you are willing to put out into the world. Does that make sense?
Cameron Sterling (37:51):
Lindsay Guentzel (37:52):
When you look ahead at the future, and I know that there is probably a long list of things that you want to do, which is why we just connect so well. We’re both big dreamers.
Cameron Sterling (38:04):
Lindsay Guentzel (38:06):
What is getting you out of bed in the morning? What is just getting you up and is fueling this grind that you’re putting yourself through, for something you’re really passionate about?
Cameron Sterling (38:21):
That’s a great question. Some days what gets me out of bed is just I have things early in the morning that I have scheduled for myself. Part of it’s just the motivation of commitment. On days where I don’t have anything necessarily scheduled, but I have a lot to do, it’s just an internal drive that I think I’ve always had. I don’t try to question it too much, I guess.
If there’s one thing that I think motivates me, it’s that there’s something that I can do throughout the day that’s going to make me smile or that’s going to incorporate itself into, I call it like, well, a lot of people call it this, but I always say the tapestry of your life. You never know what’s going to happen in a day that could just make some really cool changes for you. You might meet somebody that you just really connect with. That’s just really awesome to see, especially when the world is chaotic like it is. Or you might hear from a friend that needs you and wants to hang out with you and go do something fun, or you might get a new opportunity that comes along, just by being present and out in the world.
Other than having something that I have to get out of bed for an appointment or whatever it is, or a work thing, I generally always wake up excited because I like the unknown of what your day can bring. There’s just been a lot of random things that have happened in my life that have changed it for the better. I don’t know if it’s just the energy that I’m putting out, but I just will have really fun, awesome opportunities come out of totally left field that wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t in that exact place, at that time that I was. I love those little synchronicities. I think I get excited about what could be, if that makes any sense at all.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:24):
It totally makes sense. It’s not something that comes easy to me. How do I bottle that up? The alarm goes off. The way you described it kind of reminds me of the excitement you feel when you’re going on vacation and that morning you wake up and you’re like, “Oh, yes,” but you have that every day and I would like that.
Cameron Sterling (40:46):
It’s not always as joyful though, as it sounds. That’s what I come back to, but there’s days that I wake up and I’m just like, “No. Not today.” I have to shake myself out of it. If that’s the case, if I have a little bit of time, I make my coffee, I take my coffee back to bed, and I’ll just journal for a little bit. That unlocks some of that for me. Even if I have to do that for an hour to get myself going, I will do it. I’m not like a morning person per se. I don’t wake up grumpy, but I definitely need a second to let my coffee kick in. Then a little bit more of that excitement comes in. Even if you don’t wake up in that mood, I feel like it’s possible to get yourself there. On days when it’s really, really difficult, I’ll let myself feel what I need to feel, but I’ll be able to get to that place eventually.
Lindsay Guentzel (41:46):
I’ve been asking everybody as I wrap up our conversations to think about ADHD Awareness Month and what the general population knows about ADHD, whether it’s true or a misconception. I’m curious, for you, when you look at that very … I envision this very big bulletin board with all of these truths and lies stapled to it of what people think ADHD is and how it affects people. When you’re looking at that bulletin board, what is it, for you, that you wish people just understood better?
Cameron Sterling (42:27):
Oh. So many things. I would say the biggest ones for me are that we’re not really that different from anybody else. We’re not a separate society or a group of people. We’re just like everybody else. Our brains just work in a little bit of a different way, and that’s all it is. I think people make it a big deal early on in life. For me, when I was a student in school, they made ADHD sound like I was the only one, or it was this bad thing that I needed to go to a doctor for and possibly get medicated for, because they just weren’t equipped to deal with it or didn’t know how to deal with it. I kind of had some of that shame associated with being ADHD, because I felt like, “Okay. Well, I’m a problematic kid. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to do anything disruptive. It’s just you’re not keeping me engaged.”
I wish people weren’t as hard on kids with ADHD. If they see kids struggling with paying attention, it doesn’t need to be this conversation that sort of shames them and then makes them feel bad, because that can stick with you for a long time. It definitely did for me. I’m glad that I was diagnosed young, but I wish that people were a little bit kinder when they were making those assessments. I think that’s changed a lot now, which is great. The world is different than it was 15 years ago, and we’re more open about things, so I’m happy for that.
In the workplace as an adult, something that I wish that that more people understood is just that it might take us a little bit longer to arrive at an idea, or we might kind of be looked at, sometimes, still as disruptive. I know, for me personally, sometimes I’ll accidentally cut people off because I have an idea that I have to get out right now, or I’m going to forget, or I get too excited about a conversation and I’ll end up kind of rambling on, but I just have a lot to relate to that person. I’m excited about that, and then people will kind of look at me weird like why are you still talking about this? It’s not because I’m trying to be disruptive or difficult. It’s just have a lot to say, and I don’t want it to get lost in the ether that is my brain.
I wish that people were just more, I guess, patient with that, because I’m very patient with non ADHD people and listening to how they process things or trying my best to listen to how they process things, because sometimes it’s too linear and I just will tune it out. Coming to a place of mutual understanding I think is important. A lot of people that are artists and creatives are ADHD. I wish that more people understood that they might actually have ADHD, they might not know that they do, but I’m hoping that it’s something that just gets talked about more and is something that’s just a general part of conversation. It doesn’t have to be, again, the separate world. Those are kind of my takeaways from what I’ve dealt with as an adult and as a kid, and merging those worlds together.
Lindsay Guentzel (45:54):
Well, I’m so appreciative of you sharing all of that here with us on Refocused, Together. Then of course, all of the love and energy you’re putting into the Green Ribbon Project, it really does matter. I think it’s so important to just, as you said, make these conversations more casual, make it destigmatized. Oh gosh, we’ve all been there when someone tries to talk about something and they’re so uncomfortable about it, and that just adds to it. You’re like, “It doesn’t have to be this way, but okay, we’ll go down this path anyway, because that’s just what we do.” I’m so appreciative of all that you’re doing. Keep putting it out into the world, and I’m really grateful that I get to be on the receiving end of some of it. Thank you.
Cameron Sterling (46:49):
Well, thank you. I’m so glad that we met and were able to bring those worlds together. It was really amazing to meet somebody else that was on that same mission. It got me excited again about what I’m doing. I really appreciate you and for letting me have this time to talk and share a little bit about my life.
Lindsay Guentzel (47:19):
I’m so grateful to Cameron for sharing his story with us on Refocused, Together. To find out more about him and the work he’s doing, both as a stylist and through the Green Ribbon Project, you can find both of them on Instagram at cameron.sterling92 and at the Green Ribbon Project. I’ve also included those links in the show notes.
There are so many people to thank for making Refocused, Together happen. The entire team at ADHD Online; Zach Booker, Dr. Randall Duthler, Tim Gutwald, Keith Brophy. My teammates; Keith Boswell, Susanne Spruit, Claudia Gatti, Melanie Meyrl, Paul Owen, Kirsten Pipp, Sissy Yee, Trisha Mirchandani, Lauren Bradley, Kory Kearney, and Mason Nelle and the team at Deksia, Hector and Kenneth, and the team at SMACK Media. Cameron Sterling and Candace Lefke, Camilla Eden, Lauren Terry, Sarah Galbard, Phil Roderman, Jake Beaver, and Sarah Platanitis. Our theme music was created by Louis Inglas, a songwriter and composer based in Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020, at the age of 39.
To find out more about Refocused, Together or to share your story with me, head over to adhdonline.com and check out the ADHD Awareness Month page, which highlights this project as well as each day’s episode after they’ve been released. You can also find out more by following along on social at @lindsayguentzel and @refocusedpod.