Growing up, Emily Chen didn’t know that Asian Americans could suffer anxiety or depression. Now that she’s older, and diagnosed with ADHD, she’s speaking out.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:19):
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 Refocused Together, a special series the team at ADHD Online and I have been working on for ADHD Awareness Month.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:40):
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 is 31 stories in 31 days. Did I mention I’m a bit of an overachiever?
Lindsay Guentzel (01:15):
My name is Lindsay Guentzel and along with the team at ADHD Online, I am 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.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:31):
When we share stories, it’s easier to find the perspective ideas and tips that help us live our best lives. I am 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’re all united by our own ADHD journeys.
Lindsay Guentzel (02:06):
After college, Emily Chen struggled to adjust to life without the structure of school. She was dealing with newfound anxiety and a mildly annoying habit of only wanting to watch YouTube videos on her couch. She started seeing a therapist, who mentioned that people with ADHD often struggle with sleep and daily tasks and, at some point, Emily reluctantly looked into the symptoms and there it was, the root cause of all the stress and chaos she had been dealing with for years came to light.
Lindsay Guentzel (02:38):
As she learned more about her diagnosis, Emily discovered significant awareness gaps, in the Asian American communities, understanding that ADHD even existed and in the ADHD communities, understanding that Asian American identity and values can create barriers to getting proper support.
Lindsay Guentzel (02:58):
Emily has made it her goal to speak up about her experience as an Asian American with ADHD to bridge the gaps and help others like herself. She hosts a YouTube series called Disorient on Asian American mental health and neurodiversity and writes and speaks on these topics as well.
Lindsay Guentzel (03:16):
I am so excited to introduce you to Emily Chen. I am so excited to bring Emily into the conversation. Emily, thank you so much for sharing your time and your story with us as we work to increase awareness for ADHD Awareness Month.
Emily Chen (03:36):
Yeah. I’m super excited.
Lindsay Guentzel (03:38):
Let’s start at the beginning and go back to your own ADHD diagnosis story and where it started and what kind of put the little inklings in your brain that maybe this was something that was going on with you.
Emily Chen (03:52):
Yeah. I’ll start with where it did not start. My friend in college, as a sophomore, she was on her own ADHD journey and sent me I think this New York Times article about ADHD in women and I looked at them like, “Oh, that must really suck. Wow, I can’t imagine” and just completely went over my head, did not register. Went through all of college not even … Nothing. Just did not register at all. College was a mess. Very disorganized, running around super frazzled, all that stuff. Not a cool time. Was not on my radar.
Emily Chen (04:37):
Then I graduated college in 2018, and I think losing the structure of school and having a schedule where I had to be places, that didn’t work out so well. I ended up watching YouTube videos on the sofa, like it was really hard for me to do anything. You know, even just grocery shopping and making food for myself and leaving the house.
Emily Chen (05:06):
That was not cool, and so I was taking singing lessons and there was one lesson where I just showed up and I was teaching piano lessons at the time and I just started crying in my lesson. My voice teacher was just like, “Oh, goodness gracious. You think maybe you should go to therapy?” I’m like, “Yes, I will go to therapy.”
Emily Chen (05:29):
I found a therapist and I’m very lucky in that my therapist really quickly caught onto the fact that I had some executive dysfunction going on, and so a couple of sessions in, she also discovered that my sleep hygiene was abysmal. I spent that session being like, “Wait, so you’re not supposed to read in bed for long periods of time and bedtimes are real? Really? They’re not fake?”
Emily Chen (06:00):
That was a shocker. But during this session, just in passing, she said, “You know, people with ADHD often have sleep problems” and I just completely ignored that, it didn’t even register in my brain. I got in the car to go home, because this is pre-COVID and was just like, “Wait, why did my therapist say that?”
Emily Chen (06:23):
I get home, Google search ADHD on my phone, probably landed on Attitude magazine’s symptom list or something and went down the list and just like, “Nah, no, nah, no, nope, not me.” Nope. Didn’t register then either.
Emily Chen (06:45):
Then later that week, I had another voice lesson and during this voice lesson, my voice teacher was like, “I know you understand what I am telling you to do. I know you’re understanding it but you seem to be having a lot of trouble actually doing it.” Then that just clicked. I’m like, “Oh my gosh.” Knowing what you’re supposed to do and not being able to do it, which is classic ADHD, which I didn’t know back then but I know but I’m having trouble doing, that clicked, because that was the exact same thing my piano professor told me in college.
Emily Chen (07:24):
Then I was like, “Oh my gosh. It’s not the instrument. It’s me.” The same thing was happening on two different instruments, voice and piano, and, oh God, it’s me. Then I got home, went back to the ADHD symptom list, and I’m like, “Okay, Emily. Be honest with yourself. Even if it’s embarrassing, whatever.” I went down like, “Oh my gosh. Is that why I lost my planner in my backpack for like a whole month in college? Is that why I lost my earphones?” Blah, blah, blah. “Is this why I was always late to class or why I forgot this?” Blah, blah, blah. I was like, “Oh my gosh.”
Emily Chen (08:06):
Just all these moments I think I just really tried so hard to leave behind me and ignore and just work harder to not do, so that was like, “Oh gosh. Is this the cause of the general chaos in my life?” That was when it registered and I was like, “Okay, I need to figure out if I have ADHD” and then I started the process of finding a clinician to diagnose me.
Lindsay Guentzel (08:35):
How was the process to find a clinician? I know you mentioned it was pre-COVID.
Emily Chen (08:40):
Lindsay Guentzel (08:40):
We were living normal lives.
Emily Chen (08:42):
Lindsay Guentzel (08:43):
What was that like for you?
Emily Chen (08:44):
Oh gosh. I think in the grand scheme of things, it was fairly smooth but the first nurse I called, just that my therapist recommended, was this white dude and I think I had just been so overwhelmed growing up, just in school and general and stuff, that I just couldn’t remember anything about my past.
Emily Chen (09:16):
That kind of went horribly, because for that initial appointment, it basically ended up as, “I don’t think you have ADHD. I think you just have executive dysfunction” and that just left me complete wreck, because I was identifying with all the symptoms and stuff and I just really needed to know. “Oh, I don’t think so”, so I was devastated. I did not continue seeing that clinician, because that just left me a huge wreck. I was like, “I need to see at least a woman.”
Emily Chen (09:53):
My therapist recommended another neuropsychologist … Well, a place and so I did get to see a female neuropsychologist and I was really, really nervous. I was just like, “Oh God. Do I have ADHD or not?” Because I really just … I’m like, “Oh my God. If I don’t have it, what is wrong with me?”
Emily Chen (10:15):
I was really nervous through that whole thing. She did diagnose me with ADHD and went through the neuro psych testing process. At that point, that was much better than being told … Also, because what helped was I had kept journals as a child and as a teenager, and I still do journal but I had looked at those after I had saw the first neuropsych that I went to see, and so then I pulled out my literal documented written history, and so I had more proof now as opposed to literally not being able to remember. It’s like, “Look, guys. I can’t remember what happened yesterday. What do you expect me to remember from elementary school?”
Emily Chen (10:56):
That was helpful, because I think growing up, I did hide a lot of my inner experience.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:04):
It’s really interesting that you got the redo, like you didn’t know you needed to bring your journals or that it would have been helpful. You just went in, because there’s really no guidance. I do want to go back to the experience you had and just how important it is for everyone who is seeking help, whether it’s mental health related or not, that you feel comfortable with the person you’re working with, so you can advocate for yourself.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:32):
I want to touch on that and bring that around to your experiences as an Asian American and building this level of comfort with talking about it. I want to talk first about what you’ve been doing treatment-wise. It’s been a couple of years. What did you start right away? You get your diagnosis, you go home. Was there anything immediate that jumps out or what have you added in or taken out that’s worked?
Emily Chen (12:01):
Yeah. I would say that my general comprehensive support system really started when it registered that, “Oh God, I might have ADHD.” I went into a many months long hyper-focus on devouring anything and everything I could about ADHD and executive function and emotional dysregulation and all that stuff just because I wanted to figure out how I could help myself and also I just find that stuff really interesting.
Emily Chen (12:39):
I was just consuming all of this information and finding all the strategies I could and I actually … I think I went with the mindset of, “No, I don’t have a formal diagnosis” but let me operate by I think it is very likely I have ADHD, if I use these strategies … The worst thing that could happen is the strategy doesn’t work and I don’t use it.
Emily Chen (13:07):
I was playing around with strategies, even in the months before I got my diagnosis, because that process can take a couple of months, at least. What I started off with, in addition to being in therapy and seeing my therapist who does understand ADHD, was just actually … In my most immediate surroundings, like my room … I would say I did a major overhaul of my room. Everything is open, so I can see it, because if I don’t see it, I’ll forget and it basically doesn’t exist in my mind. I don’t have any of your typical chairs … I’m sitting on a piano bench right now. I use sticky tack, like the blue sticky tack to just anchor things, that way I don’t knock things over as much because …
Emily Chen (13:54):
Just those environmental and how I organize things, just so that I can feel more comfortable in my own space and I don’t have to worry about knocking things over or losing things … I mean, I’ll lose things but, at least, it’ll be somewhere in here and I’ll probably see it as opposed to it’s in a drawer, hidden away somewhere, I’ll find it in five years.
Emily Chen (14:21):
I think that really helped just establishing that sense of my space is good for me. Then once I did get my diagnosis, I started on medication. I’m on Concerta right now. At that point, actually, I had already made a lot of changes in my room, I had tightened up my sleep hygiene. I do have a bedtime now. They do exist. Like, “Wow. Amazing. Miracle.” Yeah. Wow, they exist and melatonin works for me.
Emily Chen (14:56):
Actually I had things … I had a lot of strategies in place even before I started on medication, and so that first time I took Concerta, it was just like the static just quieted and I’m like, “Oh my God. There is peace in this world.” I was like, “Oh my gosh. I thought peace was fake. I thought calm was fake.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh. No. It’s just my brain is super ADHD.”
Emily Chen (15:26):
I don’t remember what the actual original question was, so I’m starting school and school had been so stressful for me and this time around, I have accommodations in place, and so that is just … The level of relief that that gives me, I mean, I never would have imagined that, oh my gosh, it’s possible to feel okay maybe in school settings.
Emily Chen (15:53):
Yeah. There’s so much worth in if you can find medications that work, wow, they can really make a difference but also just non-medication strategies for your environment or, oh my gosh, accountability buddies, body doubles work like a charm. I just like testing and seeing what works and what sticks.
Lindsay Guentzel (16:17):
I love the fact that before you were even diagnosed, you were like, “I am changing everything.” I love that, I am working on that. It is a slow, slow process, mostly because of emotional attachment. I have to get out of my own way, but I do like the fact that you’re just like, “Yup. No. Going home.”
Emily Chen (16:38):
Lindsay Guentzel (16:38):
“Going to reset this.”
Emily Chen (16:40):
Lindsay Guentzel (16:41):
Let’s talk about the relationship that you have with being an Asian American, you mentioned you’re second-generation, and one of the reasons why I was so excited about doing so many different conversations for the month of October, I mean, it’s 31 days, it gives us the opportunity to talk to people outside of our own bubbles and there are lots of white men and white women in this space, and I imagine when you started looking online, when your therapist had dangled the ADHD worm in front of you, I have to imagine that there weren’t a lot of people who looked like you or who live a life like you who were talking about it.
Emily Chen (17:28):
Nope. Nope. I mean, I’m really good at finding stuff via Google searches and even with my very intense Google dives, I couldn’t find anybody really. Maybe there’s a not that detailed article here or there but there’s no one with … It just didn’t exist. It didn’t exist. Even on something as basic as anxiety and depression, in just basic mental health knowledge, that wasn’t really out there either.
Emily Chen (18:08):
All of this information I was taking in, I had to filter through, okay, here’s the information but does this change, do I need to tweak it given my Asian American identity and the cultural values and stuff?
Emily Chen (18:25):
I mean, I think that was part of why it was so difficult even when I was learning about ADHD and mentally, I wasn’t in a great space but it wasn’t helped by the fact that I didn’t see anybody who looked like me, and so actually one of the reasons why I have written the articles I’ve written, why I have my Disorient YouTube series on Asian American mental health and neurodiversity is because, gosh, I think I could have learned about my ADHD and anxiety and depression so much earlier and connected to it more and maybe registered that Asian Americans can have ADHD, anxiety, and depression if in college or maybe even in high school, I had Google searched it and then found something like what I’ve been making, and I think that would have made a huge difference.
Emily Chen (19:30):
What I don’t want is to have other … It’s like, okay, I have this idea, I have the tech and I had the time to do it, I think the next generation or just people now can maybe be a little better off in my community, now that this is available online, because, yeah, it’s something that is very apparent to me, is that in the ADHD and neurodivergent communities, it is very white dominated.
Emily Chen (20:09):
I think it’s hard if you’re not a part of a marginalized community to see how those identities might impact the process of getting diagnosed and treated and getting support and stuff. In that area, it’s hard but that’s literally for Asian Americans … For us, it’s compounded by the fact that in many Asian cultures, even just talking about your emotions … Don’t even talk about mental illness, just talking about your emotions is like, “No.”
Emily Chen (20:46):
In Chinese culture, saving face is huge. Basically, you don’t want to bring dishonor on your family, you don’t want to disrespect elders and stuff … I mean, the way I took it was just don’t show my feelings and talk about them ever. They still did show, because I have big feelings, right? I just suppressed as much as I possibly could and just didn’t talk about it. We don’t really talk about emotions and in the Asian American communities that I’ve experienced, even talking about basic mental illness things like anxiety and depression, I know that it’s getting better in the pandemic just because it is so critical in this crazy time to talk about it but before the pandemic, whoo.
Emily Chen (21:48):
All through high school, I didn’t know that Asian Americans could have anxiety or depression. In college, when I crashed, I had to wrestle a lot with is how I’m feeling legit? Do I even deserve help? I felt so much shame in even going to the counseling center for my counseling sessions. It was this huge weight of just nobody was looking … It was like 9 A.M. on a Tuesday in the middle of nowhere Indiana. No one is looking.
Emily Chen (22:21):
But it’s just that … Such a big stigma against mental illness in the Asian American community. Then on top of that, at least, for my parents, my parents are immigrants, I think what often happens is that they’re just not aware that things like therapy and school accommodations and medication and just care for mental struggles exist.
Emily Chen (22:53):
It makes seeking help hugely, hugely difficult.
Lindsay Guentzel (22:59):
But you did it.
Emily Chen (23:00):
But I did it. I mean, I think I got pushed to the point where it’s just like, okay, either I seek help or … I mean, I was in the throes of depression. It was not good. I think this happens pretty often where things get to a crisis point and things are much more severe when Asian Americans are finally pushed to the point of seeking help.
Emily Chen (23:28):
What I would love to do is to help people become more aware and educated about what the situation is, so that they will seek help earlier and maybe find it more okay because it’s so much harder to heal and get well again when things have just majorly crashed in your life.
Lindsay Guentzel (23:55):
I want to ask about the moment you decided to make your story public in a way that you saw as your attempt at changing what you saw and what you went through and working through those feelings of putting something out there that you know there are people in your bubble who are going to not be supportive. They might not tell you but you know that they’re out there. What was it like working through some of those feelings?
Emily Chen (24:33):
I mean, I don’t think … It actually wasn’t terribly hard. First of all, the pandemic had started, so it’s like if you guys want to give me a hard time, good luck because it’s a lot easier to ignore you via technology. You can’t just show up at my door, because, hey, do you want COVID?
Emily Chen (24:55):
There’s that. I think I do find it easier to do all of this work online … I think I was really lucky in that at the beginning ish of the pandemic, I had connected to some mostly Boston-based Asian American women who are very passionate about mental health advocacy and so they were the ones who encouraged me, who brought up the need for our community really needs basic mental health information and encouraged me to do this. I’m like, “Oh my gosh”, I had this idea that had been brewing in my mind for many months, I was like I don’t … It was just a dream. I didn’t think I could do it but I got that encouragement from my community, which I think just gave me that sense of support and that really warm push to be like, “Hey, I think I can do it. I’ve been reading about this stuff forever and I think I do know what’s going on, I have lived experience with it.”
Emily Chen (26:01):
Yeah. I think also I do a lot of thinking about this stuff, it’s like I understand why many Asian Americans stigmatize mental illness and want to save face and are so reluctant to seek help, I understand because I was there. I have lived it myself. I have had to work through it. It is so hard.
Emily Chen (26:27):
I don’t really have too many hard feelings … I completely understand where it comes from and why it exists and how strong it is, so, yeah, I think it’s that … I understand where they’re coming from but I have a wonderful community that supports what I’m doing and I think that is what made the difference for me to feel like, “Hey, I feel like I can contribute in this way. I have …”
Emily Chen (26:58):
And I had the time, and I had the time to emotionally and logistically work out the kinks of that, I could make these YouTube videos, right? COVID paused everything. I had plenty of time on my hands.
Lindsay Guentzel (27:11):
Don’t discount the fact that, one, you’re a performer and, two, you’re brave because anyone who puts something out there, that has any vulnerability to it, you’re working through something. I just don’t want you to discount the fact that you just had time because of COVID, because you’re very strong and you’re very selfless in the sense of you saw what wasn’t out there and you knew that something needed to be done and there are a lot of people who would just go, “Okay, I’ll just wait until somebody else comes around and changes that.”
Emily Chen (27:45):
Lindsay Guentzel (27:45):
I just want to make sure that you know …
Emily Chen (27:49):
I think I did it out of necessity too, right? I guess maybe ADHD impatience. I just really don’t want others in my community and especially that next generation to … Hopefully, they don’t have to go through what I went through. I think it can absolutely be … At least, the suffering I went through, if they are in a similar situation, I think something … Their suffering might be reduced if they know that someone else has gone through similar things, if they have that knowledge and know that they’re not alone.
Emily Chen (28:27):
It really did feel like necessity. It’s like, okay, I didn’t get that but if I can help not have other people go through that, that’s a huge relief to me. I think making it also as a part of my healing journey, to be like, okay …
Lindsay Guentzel (28:46):
It’s kind of like your journals. It’s just you journaled but in a very public space.
Emily Chen (28:51):
Yeah. I mean, to be fair, the Disorient stuff is scripted. Otherwise, oh my gosh, how many tangents would I go off on? It’s very scripted to give the information in as I think concise and accessible a way as possible, because my other videos on YouTube, I have one where … Also, COVID, I made a DIY bagpipe out of a trash bag.
Lindsay Guentzel (29:15):
That is incredible and that is very ADHD in the middle of COVID. I have a lot of questions but I’m going to stay on the path that we’re on. I want to ask when you look back at everything and you can kind of see where ADHD was coming out at different points in life or where you’re struggling with it now, what are some of those negatives? You know, we hear so many people talk about all the positives to grasp onto and I love that, I do.
Lindsay Guentzel (29:46):
I also think sometimes it can diminish how hard it is some days to live day to day when everything is working against you.
Emily Chen (29:55):
Yup. Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s one of my big issues with ADHD. I think people, in general, don’t understand what it actually is. It is extremely complex. Look, it took me like four months to really feel like I grasp what it is. You know, executive function is really hard to understand.
Emily Chen (30:18):
I think my biggest issue is that, A, people don’t understand the bigness of ADHD, in general, and then, therefore, they trivialize its impact on daily life. I mean, Russell Barclay’s research on how untreated ADHD can literally reduce life expectancy. This is serious stuff and what I wish people could understand more is how serious ADHD is.
Emily Chen (30:52):
For me, my biggest struggles are emotional dysregulation, just big emotions, intense emotions, sudden emotions and just managing that, especially once the medication wears off and at night when I’m tired, and also hyper-focus … I get really hyper-focused on reading and writing, which is great until I am not going to the bathroom in a timely manner, I’m not feeding myself in a timely manner and I have a headache and I’m just generally not taking care of myself and I’m just so exhausted, so that stopping a task and taking care of myself. That is very difficult.
Emily Chen (31:44):
I am learning now that I just literally did not know how to prioritize things. Yeah. I don’t know how people do that automatically. I’m just learning now, so I couldn’t even necessarily describe to you what it actually is.
Lindsay Guentzel (32:03):
It’s okay. I have over a decade on you in age and I am still, to this day, I wake up every morning and I’m like, “Well, what is the most important thing on my list? What is actually the most important thing on my list? Not the one I want to do …” There’s always two lists to go through.
Emily Chen (32:22):
Yeah. I am learning that I don’t know how to prioritize. I didn’t really see it before but now I’m starting to see it. I’m like, oh gosh, what is it and also I think time blindness … I don’t know what time it is, so it’s kind of hard to manage your time if you don’t even know how much time is passing or what time it is, so I think, yeah, for me, those are my main things and I think the hard thing is that all of those things were very possible for me to hide growing up. I think I just took a bunch of notes and wrote things in my planner and then it looked to other people like I was organizing my stuff but actually I was just really frantically writing anything and everything.
Emily Chen (33:14):
I have been told that I looked like a headless chicken running around in college. That clearly didn’t work out too well. I think the hard thing was that it’s … Especially growing up as a girl, who had the brains to show people that she understood what was going on, it was very possible to hide it, and so I did and people believed me. Then, again, executive function things are ultimately invisible. It’s behavior.
Emily Chen (33:48):
Yeah. I wish people could recognize how serious ADHD struggles are. Yes, yes, there’s so many moments where it is funny but I think that has to … The amusement of it all has to be held with the weight of the seriousness, because for many people, it is a legitimate disability and I think that’s something that people skirt around because of ableism and because it’s an invisible disability and because people trivialize ADHD but it is a legitimate disability and that’s something that I have really had to wrestle with, especially this past year in the process of seeking accommodations. It’s like is this a disability? Do I deserve these accommodations?
Lindsay Guentzel (34:39):
That word. I know. It’s so hard, though, isn’t it?
Emily Chen (34:41):
Yeah. It’s like, okay, no, for me, it is a disability and I am in the process of starting to own that and it’s been really hard, right? Because it is something that our society is … We just stay hush hush about. You don’t talk about those sort of things and it just stigmatizes it even more.
Lindsay Guentzel (35:04):
Well, it’s also this idea that we live in a one-size-fits-all environment for everything, for work, for school, for relationships, for eating habits. It’s just like these are the rules, this is what was set, doesn’t matter that the people who set them no longer live, live on earth, they’re not alive.
Emily Chen (35:24):
Lindsay Guentzel (35:24):
They’re long gone but we’re sticking to it. It’s frustrating.
Emily Chen (35:29):
Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know. I’ve also done a lot of learning from the disabled community, in general, and I just find it really cool all the different possible ways there are to do things, and universal design, and so I find it really cool. I don’t see why we have to stick to this one way that doesn’t work for so many people. Guys, come on, have some fun.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:00):
Kudos to you for walking yourself through that process and finding yourself at the place where you felt comfortable asking for something that you so deserve. Everyone deserves to learn, everyone deserves to find a way that works for them and I think that that’s probably really hard for a lot of people.
Emily Chen (36:24):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if you want to talk about ableism and institutional one-size-fits-all, just talk about academics and school and stuff. Oh my gosh. I could go on for days.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:40):
Our next conversation will be about that and then this makeshift DIY bagpipe. It’ll just be a hodgepodge.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:49):
I always like to end with positive because it’s exhausting living with ADHD every single day. I also struggle with emotional dysregulation and you’re kind of like can I do this my entire life? I always like to switch things around to the positive. When you look at your life and what you love about it and what you’re passionate about, where does the ADHD fit in?
Emily Chen (37:16):
Oh gosh. You don’t even have to know me, you can just look at my YouTube. I love doing so many different things and I think that’s pretty classic ADHD. I think my zest for wanting to write cool stuff and write songs and sing and learn about mental health and neurodiversity and communication, the disability community and Asian American identity and teach and perform and all this stuff, I think having these multiple interests and just being really enthusiastic and excited about it, it’s just really cool to know that, hey, I can do all these things, I can put them together in different ways and it’s also many different ways I can connect to people …
Emily Chen (38:15):
It’s nice that I have all of these different skills that maybe I don’t use, maybe I do use it, maybe I will use it down the road. I think it’s given me so many rich opportunities in my life that I’m really grateful that I had and it’s also nice, I’m meeting all these people in grad school and it’s really cool to have so many different ways to connect to people.
Emily Chen (38:43):
I hate being bored. “Oh gosh …” I feel like I’m going to explode when I’m bored. Luckily, I have lots of different interests that can prevent me from getting too bored.
Lindsay Guentzel (39:00):
Looking down the line, obviously, grad school top of mind but what is pushing you forward right now? What is on the horizon that you’re excited about or that you’re considering … What’s down the path that is really getting you out of bed every day?
Emily Chen (39:22):
Yeah. I think it really is that intersection between Asian Americans and the neurodivergent community. I’ve met some neurodivergent Asian Americans already and it is so nice to just learn time and time again that I’m not alone. I actually never was alone. We don’t have to be alone if we talk about it and connect.
Emily Chen (39:54):
You know, whether it’s in my speech language pathology realm or beyond, like I’ve been doing this stuff, apart from SLP land, as a person with this lived experience, as a fellow community member, I think just helping people like me just kind of find their voices and come into ourselves and help us learn that we can be proud of our Asian American identity and our neurodivergence and learn that we have … Like these things contribute to how we can give to the world, because I think just having those things to draw on as life experience and wisdom and just unique experiences, I think it does offer stuff to the world and it’s just really cool to see how things combine and make beautiful, powerful, and just really valuable things.
Emily Chen (41:03):
Yeah. I’m just really excited to continue sharing my own story but seeing how my fellow neurodivergent Asian American peers come into ourselves, because I think … Across the board, people of all marginalized identities and combinations and stuff are starting to speak out more, and so it’s really cool to see how their presence, our presence, can help shift the narrative in really wonderful ways.
Lindsay Guentzel (41:39):
You mentioned accommodations for school but I’m curious, when you think of grad school, are there any things you know already you’re going to do differently from college now that you know about your ADHD?
Emily Chen (41:52):
Yes. Yeah. I mean, it’s cool because I’m literally in the process of this, right? I think my main thing isn’t actually even a formal accommodation. It’s just letting people know that I have ADHD, that I care about ADHD and what it entails and I’m willing to talk about it.
Emily Chen (42:12):
I really want to be more open about this and let you know how I’m doing, and I’m happy to talk more, because I think in college, I was so overburdened by the executive dysfunction, like chaos everywhere, got to get to class on time, got to do my homework, homework, homework, homework, homework, at the expense of everything else, that I didn’t even have the bandwidth to let people know that I was feeling like completely frazzled all day, all the time, which doesn’t really help. How is anybody supposed to give you help if they don’t even know that you’re not doing great?
Emily Chen (42:53):
I think it’s just being open and honest about how I’m doing, so that they can help me and support me and giving them that opportunity to do that. Otherwise, I’ll just land in the same place of feeling alone with everything and that didn’t go well.
Lindsay Guentzel (43:12):
Well, Emily, it was such a pleasure chatting with you. I got to go back to the bagpipes because it’s just like if I were to paint a picture of the ADHD brain and the pandemic, now I know that there will be bagpipes involved, because it’s a little glimpse into sometimes the humorous chaos that our brains [inaudible 00:43:33].
Emily Chen (43:34):
Yeah. I have a YouTube video of it on my YouTube channel, so if you want to check it out.
Lindsay Guentzel (43:38):
Oh, I am going to. I am going to [inaudible 00:43:40] for everybody.
Emily Chen (43:41):
Yeah. Please do. It’s pretty fun. I mean, I think we all … Hopefully, you kept your recorders from elementary school, because if you have a trash bag and a recorder or two, fun project, guys.
Lindsay Guentzel (43:54):
Every parent is going to be very concerned when they listen to this. Emily, thank you so much. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for putting yourself out there to help people who you didn’t want them to be in the same situation that you were in, those few years ago and so I just thank you, because it does matter and increasing the number of people who come forward, it just helps our neurotypical friends understand how complex this is and also how overwhelming it can be, and so I applaud you for putting yourself out there and then, of course, thank you for sharing it with us for ADHD Awareness Month.
Emily Chen (44:45):
Yeah. Thank you for doing this. I’m so excited. So cool, this project.
Lindsay Guentzel (44:49):
Yeah. If the bagpipe is your ADHD moment, planning 31 interviews is definitely mine. It tracks. Okay? If we’re going to go back.
Emily Chen (45:00):
Yeah. It’ll go great. I’m so excited.
Lindsay Guentzel (45:02):
Thank you. Best of luck getting started. You’re going to do great.
Emily Chen (45:06):
Lindsay Guentzel (45:06):
A big thanks to Emily Chen for sharing her story with us on Refocused Together. You can find all of the work Emily is putting out by visiting EmilyChenStudio.com. I also have the link shared in the show notes.
Lindsay Guentzel (45:44):
This project wouldn’t be possible without the entire team at ADHDOnline, including Zach Booker, Dr. Randall Dutler, Tim Gutwald, Keith Brophy, my teammates Keith Boswell, Susanne Spruitt, Claudia Gotti, Melanie Mile, Paul Owen, Kirstin Pip, Sissy Yi, Trisha Merchant Dunny, Lauren Radley, Corey Kearney and Mason Nelly and the team at Dexia, Camerson Sterling and Candice Lefke, Camilla Eden, Lauren Terry, Sarah Gelbar, Phil Rodamen, and Sarah Platenitus. Our theme music was created by Louis Inglass, a songwrite and composer based in Perth, Australia who was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 39.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:27):
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 Lindsay Guentzel and at Refocused Pod.