Emily Howarth’s later-in-life ADHD diagnosis came with a lot to unpack and in today’s episode, she bravely walks us through life before, life after and the life still to come.
In today’s episode, Emily shares openly about surviving a suicide attempt and how it led to her finding out about her ADHD.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is help. Call or text the number 988 to connect directly to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. If you do not live in the United States, here is a list of resources for help and support in other countries around the world.
Learn more about the language guidelines to follow when talking about suicide, set by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:00:02):
Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel is produced in partnership with ADHD Online, a telemedicine mental healthcare company based in Grand Rapids, Michigan that cares for ADHDers of all ages in towns, cities, and rural communities across the country. Are you self-diagnosed but curious about seeking out an official diagnosis? They can help with that too. ADHD Online provides comprehensive online assessments that are both affordable and easily accessible.
And even better, you can take it in the comfort of your own home, at your own pace, in your own companies, and even get a personalized treatment plan back in around seven days. To find out how the team at ADHD Online can help you on your journey and to see what services are available where you live, head over to ADHDOnline.com.
Emily Howarth (00:00:57):
I registered for public speaking first. That was a class I had taken and dropped five times previously and needed a permission slip to get into this time. And I did it. Not only did I do it, but I got a hundred in the class. I owe that to, yes, my tenacity and my resiliency, but I owe that to ADHD Online. Man, I wish I could remember that prescriber’s name, that first practitioner from way back when, but I couldn’t have gotten through that class without the help that I got in those first few months.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:01:40):
That’s Emily Howarth. And on today’s episode of Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel, she is sharing her ADHD story with us. I’ve thought a lot about how I wanted to open up today’s episode because Emily being here to share her story is a gift. Prior to being diagnosed with ADHD, Emily survived a suicide attempt. Right now as we are in the midst of this busy holiday season that can come with a lot of hard, overwhelming feelings and just days after the world was once again reminded of how hard it can be to see someone’s pain, I am so proud and grateful to Emily for sharing her strength and vulnerability with the Refocused community. Because it matters.
It matters because it’s a massively scary, overwhelming problem that seems to paralyze us as people. Even though it affects every single one of us, we don’t quite know how to talk about it. Talking about it is so important because we know that talking to someone about suicide won’t cause or increase suicidal thoughts and it won’t cause the person to act on them. It can actually help them feel less isolated and scared. And that comes from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, a psychiatric teaching hospital located in Toronto. They’ve put together an incredible resource on why the words we use when talking about suicide matter.
I’ve included the link in the show notes, but wanted to run through a few points that I hope will help you feel more comfortable approaching the subject with the people in your life. These are general rules they suggest we follow when addressing the topic of suicide. Avoid anything that reinforces stereotypes, prejudice, or discrimination against people with mental illness and suicidal ideation. Avoid anything that implies mental illness, makes people more creative, fragile, or violent, and avoid anything that refers to or defines people by their diagnosis, that includes ADHD.
Their guidelines also emphasize that choosing the right words is just as important as avoiding the wrong ones, because the language we use can have a positive effect. Be direct. Don’t shy away from talking about it. Encourage the people in your life to reach out for help and be hopeful. Remember, people can and do get better. You’ll hear that today from Emily. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is help. Call or text the number 988 to connect directly to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
If you don’t live in the United States, I’ve included a link in the show notes that highlights resources for help and support in other countries around the world. Let’s start. Where are we talking to each other from? Is that a question? Is that an actual way to ask it?
Emily Howarth (00:05:17):
That’s a question. Yeah, absolutely. Where are we speaking to each other from? I am currently sitting in my desk chair in Durham, North Carolina. I just wrapped up my workday, and I am excited to be talking to you from?
Lindsay Guentzel (00:05:33):
Minnesota. Very cold Minnesota. Yes, yes. I have started every one of these conversations by just asking my guests to introduce themselves to me. I leave it very open-ended because that’s kind of the whole point. If we were to meet outside of the world we have met in, which we’ll get to, how would you introduce yourself to me?
Emily Howarth (00:05:59):
Hi, I’m Emily Howarth. I am from just outside Philadelphia, born and raised for 38 years, and was just recently imported to Durham, North Carolina. I’m a lifelong learner, and my current subject I’m very interested in hyper focusing on and going down a research rabbit hole is ADHD because I was newly diagnosed and I’m finding out that that is a huge part of who I am and how I show up in the world. I’m ready to tap into those superpowers. I’m also an advocate. I’m standing up as a neurodivergent and mental health advocate. That’s who I am.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:06:51):
I love that. I so relate to that. I want to just take a step back. Right now we’re recording, it’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. This will come out in early December. I like to just be as transparent as possible, especially because I come from a background where I do a lot of interviews that go out that day or get turned and burned for the next day. It’s always strange interview people and be like, “Yeah, this is going to come in a couple of weeks,” but we both just got back two days ago from our first international conference on ADHD and that’s where you and I met.
Emily Howarth (00:07:29):
This was your first too?
Lindsay Guentzel (00:07:33):
Yes, it was. I think you and I actually are probably within the same timeframe of being diagnosed. It was about a year and a half ago. It’ll be two years in January for me. We met in Dallas at the conference, and you walked up to a colleague of mine. This podcast is produced in partnership with ADHD Online. I don’t know the exact line, but you said something along to the effect of, “You guys saved my life,” referencing ADHD Online. It was so powerful to me because I think we have a really hard time as people who were diagnosed later in life with describing the magnitude of it, and to hear you say that.
I know that there’s so much more to that, but I just want to say, you mentioned you’re an advocate, and I have to tell you that the energy you put out and the positivity and the just light, you’re one of those people that you meet and you immediately feel like, “Oh, this is someone I could get coffee with, or I could grab a drink with, or I could have an immense heart to heart with and feel very supported.” I come from a background of having been bullied by women and having female friendships is so hard because it is just such a messy playing field. It was just very refreshing.
I just want to start by sharing that with you because I think it’s so important for us to really be lifting each other up because sometimes that’s the only place it’s coming from.
Emily Howarth (00:09:19):
Lift as we climb. That is not an Emily quote. That is from my company, Women’s Leadership Summit, a few years ago, but I wholeheartedly believe in it. Thank you, new best friend. I feel the same way about you. I walked up to the ADHD Online table and said thank you and told a little bit of my story. We got introduced and I am so excited to have met you and for you to be giving me an opportunity to have a platform to tell my story. I’m going to be cheesy again and leverage another catchphrase that’s not my own. I really believe in the strength in connection, right?
That was the theme of this year’s ADHD 2022 International Conference. The strength in human connection that I feel when I opened my mouth and people relate and we share commonalities and we realize we’re not alone, I see it changing the world. I have ADHD and that means I talk excessively and I am not going to stop.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:10:32):
I love it. I will just lead the conversation then.
Emily Howarth (00:10:36):
Lindsay Guentzel (00:10:39):
I want to go back. I say I want to go back to what led you to seek out an ADHD diagnosis. I think that like many people who are diagnosed later in life, there’s a lot that comes before that. You start your story and I’ll give you a little signal when I’m about to jump in.
Emily Howarth (00:11:01):
Lindsay Guentzel (00:11:02):
Love it. Let’s go.
Emily Howarth (00:11:04):
All right. It was a Wednesday morning, October 10th, 1984. No, that’s for another day. My story, it did start from the beginning, right? I struggled throughout my whole life just academically. I didn’t always have support. One thing that I learned about ADHD and about myself and how I show up is with girls and women, there’s the internalization of problems and there’s the internal problem solver in us. I’m looking back now and thinking about that little girl sitting in that classroom having all these issues and not speaking up to the teachers, not going home and asking for help from my parents.
Just feeling like I have to fix it all on my own. That lasted for 37 years. I bopped around a lot during that time, either academically or professionally or geographically within a few counties of just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I never found a place in the world, never found a place in the world, but I kept trying. I went through some of my own traumatic experiences. It wasn’t until 2012 when we lost someone very near and dear to me to suicide that I sought out therapy for myself for the first time. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t work, because I didn’t know how to talk about my emotions. I didn’t continue, even though I had gone through a really, really hard time.
I started and stopped therapy. I don’t even know how many times from 2012 through today. I’m still trying to find a therapist. If you’re out there, hit me up. I was on medication for a little bit after everything that happened in 2012. Met with just my general practitioner and got on something for depression. That was my treatment. I was on 10 milligrams of Celexa and just out living my life trying to do the best I can, but it was hard. I have a lot of strength and I have a lot of resiliency. I kept trying and trying and hitting roadblocks. Finally, one day I’m sitting there and I’m trying to point to all the things that are my anxiety triggers, trying to figure it out.
I just want to unlock what that answer is because knowledge is power. If I know, then I can do something about it. That particular day I pointed to my wife and said, “Maybe it’s you. I don’t know. I’ve tried everything else. Maybe it’s you. Let me take a little breather here. Let me go check into an Airbnb and just get some time for me to think without any distractions.” It was a really lovely day, honestly. Just listening to music and taking in the nature all around me and just decompressing. I was getting ready for bed and I was taking my belt off and just the flood of hopelessness took over me and impulsivity took over me.
Even though I have lost several very important people in my life to suicide, I found myself in that position. I found myself so hopeless, because I didn’t fit in, and I wasn’t good enough, and I wasn’t all these things. I attempted to end my own life. And that was June 16th, 2021. Thankfully, it didn’t work. I got out of it and I reached out for help. I called the suicide hotline. I got put on hold. I called a friend and they weren’t available. I reached out to my sister, she wasn’t available. I kept going. Finally, I got ahold of my wife and she took me to the emergency room. I went and got some psychiatric care after that. I went and got residential treatment, and I still didn’t get diagnosed with ADHD.
I’m talking to a lot of really smart professionals. I don’t know what’s in me and they’re still not noticing it. It wasn’t until I saw a meme or something, an infographic on, I don’t know, Facebook, Instagram, I’m not sure. I have it saved. It was Misdiagnosis Monday is the title, and it breaks down… Help me out here. ADHD, attentive, hyperactive. It’s a Venn diagram, and then in the middle you’ve got combined. I’m looking at this infographic and I am seeing myself and my struggles and the reason I ended up in that scary place on June 16th, and the reason it was taking me 18 years to finish an undergrad degree and I almost failed out of high school.
All the things. Like you said, it was the answer you didn’t know you needed. I went into a research rabbit hole trying to figure out the, I work in finance, the most cost effective, quality, reliable care I could find to try and get help. Because again, my quality of care up until that point had led me to a dark place. After a ton of research, a month of research in August, I came to ADHD Online. Man was it easy. The website’s great. Super user-friendly. It probably took me a few times to get through the assessment. I don’t remember. I think within a week, maybe not even, I had a diagnosis. And then very shortly after that, I had treatment. I lost my train of thought.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:18:10):
It’s okay. I was going to joke and say, “Oh gosh, we haven’t been recording this whole time. Can we start over?”
Emily Howarth (00:18:19):
Take it from the top.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:18:23):
I was like, how do I break this amazing moment and make you feel safe, because that’s something that’s really important to me, but also acknowledge how special I feel to be on the receiving end of your story, to feel this connection and to feel this trust and to know that we met and you’re entrusting me and this podcast and my relationship with ADHD Online to share your story. I’m blown away by your resiliency. I want you to really on those tough days, because we all have them.
It doesn’t matter how good things are going. Emotional dysregulation just will knock you on your butt. In that dark moment when you felt so hopeless, you also knew what was at stake and you did not back down. And that’s not to say that people who follow through with a plan… I don’t quite know the right language to use when we’re talking about suicide, but.
Emily Howarth (00:19:28):
That’s okay. We’re doing our best here. We’re all learning.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:19:35):
We’re doing our best. Exactly. It makes me think of the story that you read when you go across the Golden Gate Bridge where they talk about the few people who have survived jumping, who the ones who have survived have said, “I immediately regretted it.” But there is that impulsivity that comes with this condition and hopelessness. I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about what it felt like when you received your diagnosis, because I think you knew. You saw that infographic and you knew, and I felt the same way. Getting the diagnosis was really just like, okay, I have the steps to move forward now.
Emily Howarth (00:20:29):
Everyone I’ve been talking to, everything I’ve been reading about folks who have been diagnosed late in life, especially I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on ADHD in girls and women and women diagnosed late in life, and everything I’m hearing is akin to… It’s like I got a manual for my brain. I just finished a LinkedIn Learning about ADHD in the workplace and other people are just articulating it so much better than I can right now. It changed my life. It started my life. For me, what I need to do is know and understand myself in order to be able to confidently move forward and show up in a way that feels like Emily and not masking.
It was absolutely life starting and a switch flipped in me. A lot of really crazy things have happened since I got diagnosed and since I started treatment. But one of the things that I’m really excited to share, which was a huge, huge moment in my life, was how quickly the shift in my academic success happened. Like I said, I was working on an undergrad degree for 18 years. It was four or five different schools. Can’t count how many different majors. Never knowing where I wanted to be when I grew up. All the classes are just too hard and I can’t do it. I’m not built for school, but I have this hunger for learning.
I want to use my brain. I started getting treatment, and I grew the confidence to register for classes. I met with an advisor at Penn State Abington, who saw these pockets in my Motley Crew of classes that fit into a degree, a letters arts and sciences degree. He saw psychology. He saw health. He saw business. And that opened a door for me to study more about myself. I registered for public speaking first. That was a class I had taken and dropped five times previously and needed a permission slip to get into this time. And I did it. Not only did I do it, but I got a hundred in the class. I owe that to yes, my tenacity and my resiliency, but I owe that to ADHD Online.
Man, I wish I could remember that prescriber’s name, that first practitioner from way back when, but I couldn’t have gotten through that class without the help that I got in those first few months. And then I scheduled all my other classes around what I wanted to learn about me and how I wanted to change the world. I was really close to finishing with honors, but then you ask for a divorce and you got to finish your undergrad all in a couple of months. It’s really hard. I did reach the finish line. I’m so, so proud of myself. I did it in what, eight months, all my 400 level classes. All the stuff I’ve been putting off, the writing intensive.
I found joy in what I was doing for the first time. My life has changed in many, many ways, and that’s one that I’m most excited about.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:24:33):
You should be. You should be so proud of yourself. You mentioned you did this LinkedIn workshop, and you mentioned that people are articulating it better than you are, but I see you practicing it and I want you to know that there are people who learn that way, who see people and are looking at them as an example. Your story will come. You’ll learn how to tell it more comfortably. You’ll feel more comfortable doing it, but you’re living it right now. Truly that is such a powerful message. I’m so happy that you have found this rebirth. In the best and worst ways, it feels like a rebirth.
I say this, you mentioned going through a divorce and there are times where you have this monumental eye-opening experience. For you and I, it was a later in life ADHD diagnosis that put all of our comorbidities into focus and really made us understand what was behind it. It is a hard journey to go on by yourself. It is even harder to do it and bring people along with you. And that is such an important thing to acknowledge because I think sometimes we go, “Oh, everything is supposed to stay the same and I’ll just be the one that changes,” and that’s not always the case.
Emily Howarth (00:26:14):
No. After the conference, I just sent my ex a text. We’re still working through the divorce. It’s very amicable. She’s a beautiful human. It just didn’t work. I’m realizing it didn’t work because of ADHD, because of undiagnosed ADHD and the struggles that brought to my life. It’s tough to see a seven-year marriage end because of something I didn’t even know. But Lindsay, you said something like second life, right? And that’s exactly what I’m living. I am stepping out into the world and I’m learning more about myself every single day, and I’m standing taller, and I’m confident in the decisions that I’m making. Look at me, I’m sitting up straighter.
The more I talk about it, I know that divorce was right for me because it wouldn’t have gotten me to where I am today. I know that I am making all the right steps in my life right now, but it’s hard. Yeah, it’s hard. I think the more I talk about it, the more other people come out of the woodwork. Again, strength and connection. I’m getting so much support from so many people just in finding my emotions and being vulnerable for the first time. This is a practice. I’m not well seasoned in this at all, so thank you for your patience, kindness, and guidance.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:27:52):
Oh my goodness, you are incredible. You’re doing incredible.
Emily Howarth (00:27:57):
But to my second life, I did a lot of selfies with a lot of people at the ADHD Conference because it’s my thing, name, face, recognition. I’ll throw this out there for all of our listeners. Hot tip. When you make new connections and you’re saving that contact information in your phone, grab a selfie. Save it as their contact photo. Send it to them. They can have that as your contact photo as well, and then you’re remembering these humans, not just for the wonderful connection, but for their faces too.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:28:28):
I love that. I’m in the phase of seeing people I haven’t seen in 20 years now that things are opening back up and we’re being more social. I am just acknowledging that it will take me too long to dig through the boxes in my brain to get to the name. I can tell you everything we’ve ever done together, how we know each other, our mutual friends, probably your cocktail of choice when we were 22 years old.
Emily Howarth (00:28:53):
Okay, I’m jealous of your working memory.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:28:57):
Well, I can’t remember your name, so I just roll up real confident, “Hey, it’s Lindsay.” Just break the ice, because honestly being a human is so hard, that taking the embarrassment or the shame out of it and just cutting that whole awkward part. I don’t want to say we wasted time because that makes it feel like everything that we did to get here was wasted. Would I have liked it to have been easier? Absolutely. I feel like we are more aware of what holds us back and why we feel certain ways. I think you touched on this a little bit with school when you were younger and not opening up about what was happening.
It’s the people pleasing side. We don’t want to ruffle feathers. I feel like you get this later in life diagnosis and you start realizing that the only person who will put you first is you, and we have spent our whole lives not doing that.
Emily Howarth (00:30:06):
Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I was launched into a parental role at 12 years old. The people pleasing, that resonates really hard with me. I’ve never put myself first. I didn’t know I needed to. I thought that by helping others I was doing good, and I didn’t see how much that was tearing me down. Sorry, lost it again. ADHD brain.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:31:01):
Every podcast about ADHD should just come with a disclaimer at the beginning that if you are neurotypical, come into this with patience because it’ll be a wild ride. But I promise you, at the end you’ll be happy you came on it.
Emily Howarth (00:31:18):
Can I share one more little tidbit?
Lindsay Guentzel (00:31:20):
Emily Howarth (00:31:20):
Okay. First of all, it’s one, two, three, four right now is the time on 11/22/22. All that feels very good.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:31:29):
I love that.
Emily Howarth (00:31:29):
Good number vibes right now. A second ago, I apologized for something unnecessarily and I would like to share.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:31:38):
Retract that? Do you want to rewind?
Emily Howarth (00:31:45):
No, I don’t want to rewind. I want to use it as an opportunity to share something. When I was in residential treatment as a method to try to help the beautiful community of women around us break that habit of apologizing for everything so unnecessarily, when we would hear it, we would say quack. I’m going to quack myself and I’m going to ask that we ripple the quack and hold each other accountable. I’m not sorry for my existence. I’m proud to be here. I’m awkward. The words aren’t always going to come out in the right order or the right way. I might offend you, but I’m here to learn.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:32:37):
You used the quack on me. I said I was sorry about something and you quacked me. I was like, “Oh, The Mighty Ducks? Do you want to talk about The Mighty Ducks?” Because that is where my ADHD brain goes. Because being from Minnesota, you have a favorite Mighty Ducks movie and you are very, very committed to that. Anyway, it made me laugh because then you shared that and I think it’s great.
I do think we’re so quick to use that, especially when people ask us to do something, or even things like, “Hey, do you want to get dinner tonight,” and you’re busy or you don’t want to go and we apologize. It is so ingrained and breaking it can be so hard, but it is very liberating when you start changing the language.
Emily Howarth (00:33:34):
Because think about it, it’s not just an apology, it’s the guilt you carry around with you too, right? We’ve got to release that. I just started reading a book. I read a couple select chapters for my health psychology class and just loved the writing style and the information. It’s Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Now I got excited talking about the book and forgot why I was bringing it up. Can you bring me back, Lindsay, or we’ll just move forward?
Lindsay Guentzel (00:34:10):
We were talking about apologizing and using the language and saying the words I’m sorry. When we start to stop, we let go of the guilt and the shame that comes with it.
Emily Howarth (00:34:21):
Guilt, yeah, the guilt. In Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, it talks about stress and the load that that takes on your body in a really plain talk way. I feel that. I don’t know if you do, but I feel the stress and burden of 37 years of people pleasing and not putting myself first. I feel the rest that my body needs. If we can break the cycle of apologizing unnecessarily and let go of that guilt and let our bodies just come back to homeostasis, man, life is big and beautiful and long. I’m excited. I’m just excited.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:35:15):
Love that. I love that energy that you’re putting out there, and I think it’s so important to remind people that it’s never too late. It’s never too late to live a better life. It’s really easy to sit in the puddle of grief and sadness and the what ifs, but it’s pretty amazing to know what’s possible moving forward. I would rather take that than continue on the path I was on. I’m wondering, when you look back and you’re examining how ADHD was coming up in your life, and I think the thing that is so interesting is the more I talk to people, the more I realize some of the things that I didn’t even realize were connected to ADHD are actually connected to ADHD.
I’m curious if there’s been something that stands out as maybe one of those that doesn’t just jump to the top of the ADHD symptoms list.
Emily Howarth (00:36:14):
First thought was my memory. I have been so hard on myself about my memory and I’ve had no hope. It’s like, that’s it. If I don’t do this right now, I’ll never remember to and it’ll never get done. Oh, my mom’s calling me. I should have told her that I’m recording this podcast right now. Excuse me. Sorry about that.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:36:41):
Emily Howarth (00:36:45):
My memory. Yes. It’s not me, it’s ADHD and I can work with it.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:36:54):
But it’s hilarious that this happened as your mom was calling because it’s just this reminder of it’s not necessarily our brains, it’s how many things our brains are focusing on at one time.
Emily Howarth (00:37:06):
Yes, yes. I just learned at the conference, because again, I have a baby brain. I just got diagnosed in January. I put my head down. I finished school. I relocated to a different state, and now my head’s above water, sorry, that was masking. I’m from Delaware County, Pennsylvania and I say water. I’m learning about myself. One of the things that I learned is inattentive doesn’t mean we don’t pay attention. Inattentive means we’re paying attention to so much. Our brains are interested in so much. It’s a pinball machine and it’s exhausting.
The knowing, not just the knowledge… It takes everything. It takes pills and skills, right? Combination of treatment and my own jumping in and educating myself and trying to find practitioners who specialize in my areas, it’s just been so eye-opening. I just want to keep learning more and sharing my knowledge with the world.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:38:16):
I’m so excited that you are, because the more we talk about it, the less there will be of us in 30 years. You know what I mean?
Emily Howarth (00:38:25):
I know, I know. Don’t you just want to go into schools right now and just chat with some kids and pick their brains and see who that little Lindsay is and who that little Emily is and just give them resources?
Lindsay Guentzel (00:38:44):
Yes, so much so. So much so, you have no idea. I think the one thing we don’t talk about with this is it’s not just us being affected. You get diagnosed later in life and there are people around you who feel guilt for not getting it. And then you’re carrying that and you’re like, “No, please, please, you didn’t know.” It’s this game. It’s like if we can actually address it when it’s happening, think of what that’s going to do for families.
You think of all of the issues that happen in a family that are caused by stress and then you think of how undiagnosed ADHD contributes to stress, and it’s this really awful cycle. We’re letting down everyone by not doing a better job of educating people, of having the resources in place, and of making it okay.
Emily Howarth (00:39:47):
One of the speakers from the conference was very vulnerable. She’s a doctor who specializes in these things and has a family member who suffered for a long time silently with ADHD. This person just shared the guilt that they felt because they didn’t notice. It made me think of my own family and the people in my life who might be feeling that guilt right now. I’ve got people coming in with messages, because I’m pretty vocal online about my adventure with ADHD, and I’ve got people apologizing, saying they’re sorry they didn’t notice it. I just want to say, can we please all throw guilt out the window? I am not blaming anyone for anything. Yes. Could it have been noticed sooner?
Were there signs? Absolutely. Is it genetic? Could this have occurred because of things with my parents or the environment or whatever? Yes. But I’m not looking back and pointing fingers. I’ve got no ill will towards anyone. I’m looking forward for solutions and I want us to all come together and learn, see how this is affecting all of us and just step up and do something about it, because we are losing lives to this. We’re losing lives because this is a silent disability and people don’t know what’s in them because we don’t know enough about it. All that to say, mom, when you’re listening, I hope you don’t have any guilt because I’ve got no blame. Let’s just keep learning together.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:41:43):
Oh man. Damn you, Emily. No, no.
Emily Howarth (00:41:48):
Lindsay Guentzel (00:41:50):
Yes. Quack. I love it. Yes, yes.
Emily Howarth (00:41:52):
Quack, quack, quack, quack.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:41:54):
Let’s move to the positive because moving forward into the future is exciting and energizing. I want to know when you look ahead, what is getting you up in the morning?
Emily Howarth (00:42:10):
Changing the world.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:42:11):
I know you mean that genuinely and it’s so refreshing to hear.
Emily Howarth (00:42:18):
I say such big things, but I do mean it. Knowledge is power and I know more about this thing now. I found a brave space and I’m comfortable coming up and telling my story. I’m excited about that. I’m excited to learn more. I’m getting up in the morning because I want to use my ADHD superpowers to dive into a research rabbit hole on ADHD and mental health and find a way to prevent any more suicides from happening because of any of this, neurodiversity, behavioral health, physical health. I get up in the morning every day excited to learn more and use all these things I’m learning about myself.
I just shared a poem with you earlier today, and that’s something I’m excited about because it’s new. ADHD unlocked creativity in me and my poetry is a form of therapy for me. I write about my experience and then I share it with people. Again, I can’t stress enough how new that is for me. Emily, she didn’t emote. She kept it all in. I’ve got all these walls. I have to be perfect and no one needs to know all the struggles I’m going through. Creativity came out and allowed me to express myself and share it with other people. That’s just been so, so cathartic. We need an entire episode on things I’m excited about because of ADHD.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:44:20):
I actually have thought about doing a spinoff each week where it’s just you bring someone on to talk about their latest hyperfocus. 10 minutes, what are you really into right now and tell me everything you know about it?
Emily Howarth (00:44:32):
Lindsay Guentzel (00:44:35):
It’s just to feed the 10-year-old in us who just wanted to talk to people all the time and we were told, “You talk too much. You’re too loud. You need to be quiet,” and we just were like, okay, we won’t talk ever. Now we’re like, oh my God, we can talk and we can talk about things and be excited about them. Every time I see a woman who’s younger than me who is themselves, I’m just going to say that, I thank the lucky stars that someone didn’t get to them. Because I think about how many times I could seem… I can look back and it’s kind of like I see my confidence building and I see myself finding my footing, and then I see someone coming in and push me back down.
I would get back up again because I have really big goals. My life, and I feel like you will get this, it’s illusions of grandeur with everything, with dinner, with a home renovation project, with my career. It is literally like what is the most intense, highest accomplishment I can do, and then I am going to do everything I can to get there. I would get back up and I’d get going, and then I can see exactly who it was and where they would come back in. I’m not spiteful. I mean, sometimes yes, sometimes in a joking manner. But I will say I had this idea when we were in Dallas where I was like, oh, this would be a great Kill Bill inspired TV series where you just sought revenge on the people who shit on you in life.
Emily Howarth (00:46:10):
Lindsay Guentzel (00:46:12):
But not in a Kill Bill style. I’m not going to be like a sword wielding vigilante, but just in a like I’m going to come in and check out to make sure you’re a good human now as an adult, because we all have mistakes. I think we’ve all played the villain in someone’s life at one point or another. It doesn’t matter if it was intentional or not. That’s how life happens. But I joke that I’m like, oh, there could be a good series about helpful vigilantes. I don’t know. You just joke.
Emily Howarth (00:46:43):
No. I am 100% on board with you and I want to share two things and we’ll see if I remember both of them. I’m the complete opposite to you when it comes to goals. I don’t know how to set them. I don’t know how to follow through with them either. I never had that big, lofty, “This is what I want to do. This is what I want to be when I grow up.” I never had that beacon of light until now, until after I got diagnosed and after I started getting treated and finding better tools to make life work for me and how I show up. Like I said, I struggled a lot academically. One of the episodes that needs to be on this show… Netflix, are you listening? We’ve got great ideas.
Please reach out. You’re in high school. It’s junior year. You’re thinking about college. I don’t know what I want to go to college for. I just know I want to get out of Delaware County and be a first generation graduate and set that example for my little sisters and for the rest of my family. It’s time to go and get your college recommendations and all that. I go up to my science teacher. I don’t remember what kind of science it was, but that was always a subject I was curious about. I think I had a C in the class, and that was good for me. I asked her if she would write me a college recommendation and she said no. She said, “Honestly, I’m surprised you’re even still here.”
I would love an episode around that so I could go back, not in a Kill Bill way, but in an education way just to say, “Hey, here’s how I was showing up. I just found out about it now myself. I think sharing this knowledge with you will help us both and create a ripple. It’s okay you didn’t give me the recommendation then. It’s okay. That gave me fire in my… No, those words hurt. I’m working on that in therapy.”
Lindsay Guentzel (00:49:00):
You’re okay. You will be okay, but it’s not okay.
Emily Howarth (00:49:03):
Lindsay Guentzel (00:49:06):
This mentality of how adults treat children. We are children. We were children. Even when we turned 18 and we were graduating, we were children. I have very similar, very similar moments with adults in my life who I trusted. Because you were enjoying the class and you were showing up in a way that I’m sure you were engaged during class, but for whatever reason, schoolwork was difficult. You weren’t on paper what they were looking for.
You made yourself vulnerable and put yourself out there, and to have someone squash it in that way. There’s so many other ways it could have been handled. I am genuinely so sorry that you had to pick the pieces up from that, because I would bet you didn’t tell anyone about that at the time.
Emily Howarth (00:50:00):
No, no. Who am I going to tell? That’s embarrassing.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:50:06):
Yeah, it is. At the time, you would say it to other people and be embarrassed for yourself and they would be embarrassed for you. We are at a point now where we hear that and we’re embarrassed for the teacher, because we know better and we would not behave that way.
Emily Howarth (00:50:23):
No. We need to keep speaking up and we need to be the voices that the Lindsay’s and the Emily’s and everybody needs to hear because it’s not just us.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:50:40):
Empathy and understanding go a very long way. I think the one thing that is so important is really just busting down this idea that there is one way to learn, that there’s one way to live a life, that there’s one way to have a relationship, all of these rules that were set by people who are no longer on this earth. We need to have the confidence to make our time on this planet what we want without worrying at all about what anyone thinks. It is so hard. It’s so easy to say it, but it is so hard.
Emily Howarth (00:51:19):
It’s impossible. How do you even figure out what you want?
Lindsay Guentzel (00:51:22):
Oh God, it changes every day.
Emily Howarth (00:51:24):
Exclusive of what everyone’s telling you you’re supposed to be doing. There’s so much noise. With ADHD, how do I figure out what I want to do when I want to do everything?
Lindsay Guentzel (00:51:39):
Literally everything. That’s the problem. You mentioned some of the tools that you have added into your life to make living with ADHD a better experience. What are some of those things?
Emily Howarth (00:51:57):
Pills and skills. It started with the skills, because the diagnosis came later. In treating my comorbidities, I learned a lot about CBT therap… I don’t want to use jargon. Let me back up. I learned a lot about cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy and all these $10 words that really mean self-compassion and understanding yourself and finding tools to make life work for you. Remind me the question again?
Lindsay Guentzel (00:52:44):
The tools that you’ve added in.
Emily Howarth (00:52:46):
Yeah, the tools I’ve added in.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:52:49):
I want to ask really quick because you mentioned self-acceptance, do you feel like what you are learning is helping quiet that negative voice in your head when something goes wrong, you used to immediately sped self-talk? Do you feel like just even acknowledging that it happens changes things?
Emily Howarth (00:53:10):
Absolutely. One of the practices that I’ve been trying really hard is noting. Noting when I am practicing negative self-talk, because it takes a lot to unpack 37 years of that. Now I try to note it and acknowledge it ain’t me, it ADHD, and it can be a superpower. How can we reframe this? Just learning to coach myself has been a tool. Building self-awareness has been a tool. Talking to other people about how I show up in the world has been a tool. And then medication, Adderall and medical marijuana. I could not get through school, work, life since January. I could not have accomplished what I’ve accomplished.
I could not show up here today this articulate and vulnerable without medication and all the skills that I’ve built. It comes back to going back to the psychiatric hospital after the emergency room. That was my first sense of I’m a part of a community that’s been othered and I’ve even othered this community. I was scared to go to a psychiatric hospital. You see it on TV and in movies. And boy, I don’t want to be strapped down and all the things, right? I’m scared. Man, was it good to be around the community of people who are struggling right alongside of you and just want to feel better. I wasn’t going to go to any other group therapies.
I was going to isolate in my room because I’m not going to talk. I’m too shy. I’m going to sound dumb. But I went. I showed up and I was a fly on the wall at first. All the people around me sharing their brave stories and all of their coping skills, I learned so much. I learned inspiration to find my own voice. Community has been huge for me. Going back to the conference, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen to me right now, that conference changed my life, that conference, that community, the knowledge I gained. For the first time in my life, I know and feel that I belong on this earth and I have a purpose.
I see and feel my own intelligence. That’s never happened before. I couldn’t have had it if I didn’t take a bet on myself. Take some PTO. Put this conference on credit and say, “We’ll figure it out. I need this. I need this for me right now.” I just want to thank you, and I want to thank ADHD Online, and I want to thank every single human I interacted with and who listened to me and who hugged me and just showed up. We should all be proud of ourselves for showing up and paying it forward.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:57:05):
It really highlighted the importance of community. I didn’t attend any of the actual workshops or sessions or keynotes, but that’s not why I was there.
Emily Howarth (00:57:18):
Well, you got two weeks to do them online because it was a hybrid conference. Let’s go accessibility.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:57:26):
I do love that part of it. I just felt like every time I saw someone or interacted with someone new, there was just an immediate connection. I think leading up to the conference, I was stuck in middle school and I was like, “No one’s going to talk to me.” Finally, my partner, who’s very neurotypical, said to me, “Do you really think those people would show up there?” I’ve just had that experience in life that it hasn’t mattered where I’ve been. I have run into those people and I said, “You know what? If they are, they shouldn’t be.” I, for the most part, had such a lovely experience.
I am so thankful for being in that safe space and getting to feel like I could be myself. That also included setting boundaries and knowing when I was at capacity and taking care of myself and for the first time not worrying about FOMO and being like, “Yeah, I am really wanting to be here, but I’m also exhausted and I know that I’ve got a lot on the plate tomorrow. And that felt good too.
Emily Howarth (00:58:37):
And then knowing that the people around you understood that and you’re not being judged for not showing up and there’s no ill will. Everybody understood.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:58:49):
There was a point where I was like, “So-and-so hasn’t texted me about what they’re doing tonight,” and then I was like, “Oh yeah, they all have ADHD”.
Emily Howarth (00:58:53):
Lindsay Guentzel (00:58:56):
You’re like, “It’s not me. It’s not me.”
Emily Howarth (00:58:57):
It’s not me. It’s ADHD.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:59:00):
And then of course, the text did come in and I was like, “Oh, thank God.” But you just revert back to that little insecure person who was just… It typically isn’t just one time. It typically happens a lot through life, and I think working through that is really powerful.
Emily Howarth (00:59:21):
We have a lot of work to do. It’s not easy getting diagnosed late in life. We’re starting over. We’re learning who we are, we’re learning what we need, and we’re learning how important it is to speak up and open your mind and your heart and share your story, share your experience. The support will come. We saw it. How full is your cup right now?
Lindsay Guentzel (00:59:59):
So full, but I’m in the early stages of feeling like how do I replicate that at home, which has happened before. This is not new. I knew it was going to happen. It’s the post-vacation blues and you’re like, how do I wake up every day and feel the way I felt unstoppable? It’s working on acknowledging that because I know it happens, I know it happens frequently, and just taking it step by step.
Emily Howarth (01:00:28):
What are you doing to maintain that community?
Lindsay Guentzel (01:00:32):
I’m working on cutting out some of the things in life that have been holding me back. I knew this before the conference, but I also knew I didn’t have time before the conference to really do that. I’m looking at this week as an opportunity to clear out some of the things that there’s attachment to for whatever reason. When people ask for help and I have the ability to take it, actually doing that. What about you?
Emily Howarth (01:01:07):
I joined ADA. I’m a member of ADA now, and I went hard on enrolling in support groups. I went to my first one last night. It was Healthy Habits. Are you surprised if I say what a lovely community? I learned so much. I can’t wait to go back next week. There’s so much support out there. I joined a community for queer and non-binary people with ADHD. I joined a community for beginners with ADHD. I’m just going to keep going. Oh, real prideful moment real quick, how was your flight home?
Lindsay Guentzel (01:01:53):
It was fine.
Emily Howarth (01:01:55):
I’m really happy with my flight home. Are you ready for this?
Lindsay Guentzel (01:01:58):
Emily Howarth (01:01:59):
I said I’m going to be productive. I just met so many people. I have all these random phone numbers in my phone, all these pictures of people. I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to spend $9 on the wifi and I’m going to spend this flight reaching out to all the people in my phone, saving their contact information and strengthening these connections. I didn’t even notice we took off. I was hyper-focused.
I had looked to the right of me at one point, I don’t know, and it’s like, oh, we’re in the air, okay. But I did it. I reached out to every single person whose phone number I had and was so proud of myself for getting it done. We’re continuing lovely conversations and still supporting each other.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:02:48):
I’m so proud of you for getting it done. I had a mini win for myself was getting home and immediately on Monday morning when I didn’t have a plan in place and started to feel anxious about, oh my gosh, what is the most productive way to spend my day, which of course is how we all get started, and I said, “You know, you don’t have a plan right now, so have some coffee, eat some food, make a to-do list, and get your laundry going.” The laundry was done and put away. I was like, God, that felt good. How do you bottle that up for next Monday? You know what I mean?
Emily Howarth (01:03:22):
Yeah, exactly. Proud of you because that conference took a lot out of us.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:03:25):
Emily Howarth (01:03:26):
To be that productive on a Monday? Hello.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:03:29):
Thank you. I appreciate that. I want to end with the question that I’ve asked everyone as we’ve been doing these Refocused, Together conversations, which is, if there was one thing that you really wish we could change around the narrative with ADHD, big, small, not known about, whatever it is for you, what is that moving forward?
Emily Howarth (01:03:51):
It’s different for everyone, and we won’t know what works unless we talk about it. I think to change the narrative, we have to do exactly what you’re doing. We have to continue these conversations. We have to educate ourselves. We have to encourage the people in our lives to educate themselves as well so that we’re not the sole source of their knowledge. Information is power.
The only way things are going to change is if we get to know how this is impacting the individual and curate care, support tailored to them, because this is not something that we can just do a broad sweeping brush stroke and “fix.” This is I’m living with ADHD for the rest of my life. Let’s get to know it and make it work, because I know it’s a superpower.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:05:08):
I’m laughing at everyone is different because I had a very funny moment at the conference where I realized that there are people who have ADHD who are always early. I happen to be someone with ADHD who is always late.
Emily Howarth (01:05:21):
I pride myself on my punctuality.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:05:24):
I love that for you. It was very noticeable in the fact that the gym was very busy, very early in the morning. I was not going to work out. I was trying to find a foam roller. That’s all I wanted. I realized, oh, the gym is full. There are people who love this. And then when I set up interviews with people, the people who would be waiting at the booth 10 minutes before they were supposed to be, and then all of a sudden I would, “Am I late? I’m not even late yet and I’m feeling anxious,” but it was just very funny because I was like…
Emily Howarth (01:06:01):
Don’t y’all know you have ADHD and you’re supposed to be late? You’re supposed to have forgotten about this?
Lindsay Guentzel (01:06:06):
Yes. I didn’t know you all existed. No, I’m teasing. But it is. It really is…
Emily Howarth (01:06:10):
I’m here. I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m organized, but not my thoughts or my notes.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:06:21):
I love it. I love it. Well, no, but organization is different for everyone. Emily, it was a delight to hear more about your story. It was even better to meet you in person. I’m so glad that we waited and waited until the conference had ended so we could actually sit down and talk. I feel like we would’ve both just been like, “What else is happening outside the rooms?”
Emily Howarth (01:06:46):
Yeah, you’re right.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:06:49):
I truly am so grateful for your vulnerability and your strength, and I want you to walk away and be really proud of yourself because I know it’s super hard sometimes to feel it because we like to just not lift ourselves up.
Emily Howarth (01:07:06):
I’m feeling proud. You know I’m feeling proud. I’m sharing my pride poem with anyone who will listen. You got to show up and be proud of yourself for all the hard work you’re doing. Lindsay, big love to you. Can’t wait until the next time. I can give you a great big hug.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:07:21):
I can’t wait as well.
Emily Howarth (01:07:24):
Thank you for being a trailblazer. I couldn’t do this. I wouldn’t have this platform if you didn’t stand up first. Thank you for sharing a story that I saw so much of myself in, and thank you for bringing me in and giving me a space to hopefully reach someone.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:07:49):
You will. You have. You already have.
Emily Howarth (01:07:52):
Let’s save lives.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:07:56):
Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel is a collaboration between me, Lindsay Guentzel, and ADHD Online, a telemedicine mental healthcare leader offering affordable and accessible ADHD assessments, medication management and teletherapy. You can find out more about the work they’re doing by visiting ADHDOnline.com. Our show’s music was created by Louis Inglis, a songwriter and composer based out of Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39.
To work with Louis and to create your own music, I’ve shared all of his links in the show notes. And to connect with the show or with me, you can find us online @RefocusedPod, @LindsayGuentzel, or you can email us directly at email@example.com.