Mother, photographer, and business owner Kristina Bird has struggled with symptoms for longer than she’s known ADHD is the root cause. In this episode of Refocused, Together, she opens up about her ADHD hobbies, how she uses anxiety, and how this journey has made her a better mother.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:02):
Welcome to Refocused, Together. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and this is a special ADHD Awareness Month series of my podcast Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel. If you’re a regular listener, you know that the Refocused Podcast is where we change the narrative around ADHD and share the tips and tools we need to refocus and live our best lives. If you’re new here and found us because of ADHD Awareness Month, welcome. We are so glad to have you. Now, there are parts of this ADHD journey that some of us have figured out and there are parts that we all still need help cracking. For ADHD Awareness Month, I’m collaborating as always with my partner, ADHD Online to interview 31 people. That’s one interview for every day of the month about their own ADHD experience. We’ll hear from people who were diagnosed as kids and those diagnosed well into adulthood.
We’ll talk about hyperfocus and distraction, stigma and shame, grief and acceptance, and so much more. And we’ll see that ADHD can affect anyone, all genders, orientations, backgrounds, nationalities and cultures. And while there are differences in how we live this truth, there are also so many similarities that bring us together in community. This special project is very near and dear to my heart. And although talking to 31 different people has been a lot of talking, I am so grateful for each person who shared their story and I am forever changed by these conversations. And of course, 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. And with that, let’s get on to today’s episode.
Kristina Bird was 34 when she found out she had ADHD. She didn’t know that it was possible for her life to be any different, but now it is in a good way. A self-proclaimed weird kid who constantly talked, interrupted people and lived in her head, Kristina’s diagnosis was surprising to pretty much no one, except maybe Kristina. She navigated her way through college, changing her major three times before going down the path towards undeclared. Things like getting out of bed in the mornings were a major ordeal and finding the motivation to start things was microscopic. And then, there were so many other things Kristina was dealing with. Things she now knows were tied to her undiagnosed ADHD. Anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, and a slew of emotions that constructed a complex maze around her ADHD. And then, there was the deja vu she felt when she hyperfocused on her pandemic hobby. Combined with the conversations she was having with friends who were also starting off on their own ADHD journeys, it’s what pushed Kristina to get an assessment of her own. Now with the help of treatment and medication, the photography studio owner and mom is finding it easier to get up, get to work, and stay focused while setting the added boundaries she needs to thrive in her busy life. I’m so excited to introduce you all to Kristina Bird. Our conversation recorded inside Bird + Bird Studios in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Thank you for sharing your story with us for our Refocused Together, which is kind of this crazy idea I had to share as many stories as possible during ADHD Awareness Month, because all of our journeys with ADHD are different. And I think if the pandemic has any silver lining, it’s that a lot of us learned a little bit more about ourselves. Thank you so much for being here today and welcoming us in.
Kristina Bird (04:22):
You’re welcome and welcome.
Lindsay Guentzel (04:23):
Kristina Bird (04:24):
Happy to share the space and use it.
Lindsay Guentzel (04:25):
Good, good. And I want to start with everybody at the beginning of the journey. You were diagnosed with ADHD, but what led up to that? What were some of the things that made you curious or what was the initial push?
Kristina Bird (04:41):
Funny enough, like you were saying, pandemic, we discovered a lot about ourselves. A lot of soul searching was done during that time. And for a lot of us, a lot of time was spent on social media killing time. Especially with photography, there really wasn’t a lot going on. I tried to pivot the business, but when I needed to clear my mind, I was just on socials. And during that time, I kept having a lot of different social programs telling me or showing me, “Hey, do you feel da da da da da? Do you ever like blah blah, blah?” And it was all things that I was doing or have done or just like, “Yeah, that’s me all the time.” “You’re one of the neuro divergents. You probably have ADHD. ADHD life, be like.” And I’m like, “Oh my God. Oh my God, that sounds like me.” And then at the same time, a lot of my friends were actually going on to ADHD Online and getting diagnosed, getting their confirmation of their thoughts and their theories on it. Like, “Oh my God, yes, that is me.” And so, you should probably try this too. If you really relate to a lot of those posts, you might be. And I’m like, “Why not? Let’s give it a whirl. Let’s find out.” And within two hours they’re like, “You have ADHD.” I’m like, “Well, okay.”
I don’t know about cursing on this, if cursing is allowed, because otherwise I’d say, “Well, fuck or well, damn.” But yeah, so I started through that and started getting medicated with it. And that was between medication and some therapies and just recognition of what things I do that are ADHD related and what things are not and just me. It’s really interesting to know that, “Hey, I can be a better person or a better version of me or just me without anxiety.” Because, “Oh hey, anxiety is a side effect of ADHD and women know a lot.” No wonder the anxiety meds aren’t doing anything.
Lindsay Guentzel (06:36):
Kristina Bird (06:38):
It’s an interesting discovery later in life. I was 34 when I found out. And so, it’s interesting having lived so long without even a thought that my life could be different, and it is.
Lindsay Guentzel (06:57):
It’s really interesting that you mentioned the pandemic and being online and being served all of these things that were things you resonated with, but you couldn’t quite figure out why. And I feel very similarly, I can go back into my phone and find screenshots from June 2020, well before I even went in for an assessment, that I had saved because I read them and saw them this moment of like, “Oh, I do that.” But I don’t ever feel like there was a moment where I was like, “Maybe I have ADHD,” until the one day I was just like, “I’m going to make an appointment.” It was that immediate manic impulsivity that…
Kristina Bird (07:31):
“I’m going to do it and I’m going to do it now”, because I have this thought and if I don’t do it now, it’s not going to happen ever.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:37):
Yes. Right. And I think that that is something that I struggled with prior to being diagnosed. It’s something I still struggle with, but in the moment it was a great thing.
Kristina Bird (07:45):
Mine also, during the pandemic, a lot of people started up new projects, new hobbies. They started getting plants or what have you. And my pandemic hobby was, or new craft, whatever, was embroidery. And I realized during that time that I was going so far into this new hobby, I was hyperfixating with this new hobby where you go and you buy all of the things. So I’m buying all of these different embroidery hoops and all of these threads and all the stuff to organize it and to keep it all nice and cute and together and everything. And just spending hours just sitting there embroidering while watching YouTube or Netflix or whatever. And then I’m starting to get served other things on socials. Hey, I go from… “Do you go from hobby to hobby where you seriously focus for a long time and then you change your mind and you go completely into a whole other thing. And then that hobby is just left in the dust and you have all these great things for it and you never touch it again.” Like, “Oh my God, that’s me.”
Lindsay Guentzel (08:47):
And then the lovely part of when you do realize what you’re doing and you’re like, “I have to clean this up. I have to get rid of some of the stuff,” then it’s the shame and the anguish over that you’ve spent time and energy and money on it. “Well, I can’t get rid of it now.”
Kristina Bird (08:59):
No. Because it’s all the investment.
Lindsay Guentzel (09:01):
Exactly. Exactly. It’s this vicious spiral.
Kristina Bird (09:04):
Lindsay Guentzel (09:05):
I’m wondering, no thoughts of ADHD, but what were you like growing up? Are there things now that you can look back and go, “Oh, maybe that was the ADHD coming to the surface.”
Kristina Bird (09:17):
Lindsay Guentzel (09:18):
You mentioned anxiety. It’s a big one.
Kristina Bird (09:20):
Definitely, yeah. The anxiety for sure. And that I had a little bit when I was younger, but it was funny because it’s more of a motivator. The anxiety is actually what motivates me to do the things. Otherwise I would just be stuck and never do the things. But when I was a kid, I was super chatty. My dad always said, “I could never shut you up. All I had to do was look at you a certain way and you would just tell me everything. Never had to ask you a question because you would just offer everything.” And I was like, “Oh, okay.” That changed when I got older and then I became, relationships are hard because I’m not around the same people all the time like I was in high school, elementary, middle, what have you, growing up. As a grownup now it’s like, “I don’t know people, people meeting are hard. I actually have to put work in relationships. No, I’m going to be an introvert now. Thank you.”
Lindsay Guentzel (10:09):
Kristina Bird (10:10):
It all just kind of feeds in to it. And then of course you have the anxiety with it. “I don’t know how to people anymore. Who am I? Because I used to people really well when I was forced into social situations.”
Lindsay Guentzel (10:23):
And it’s interesting how even now as an adult, I’ll have days where I am incredibly social and I thrive in it. And then I have other days where I’m like, “If one more person talks to me.”
Kristina Bird (10:33):
Leave me alone, just want my headphones in and I can’t people today.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:36):
Exactly. And there’s no rhyme or reason to it. I’m sure if I tracked it, I’d probably see some trends.
Kristina Bird (10:42):
Probably some hormonal reason to it.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:44):
The other added benefit of being a woman.
Kristina Bird (10:46):
Lindsay Guentzel (10:48):
It’s like, let’s take the ADHD and let’s throw a ton of hormones at them.
Kristina Bird (10:51):
Because women already have the short end of the stick.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:53):
Kristina Bird (10:55):
Our lives are just hard.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:57):
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur and a business owner?
Kristina Bird (11:02):
No, no. I bounced around a lot. My freshman year of college, I changed my major three times and on the last time I just put it to undeclared. So I’m like, I’m not going to decide anything until I have a more sense of idea of what I’m interested in. Because my interest always jumped. I was like, I could be interested in writing one day and then the next day be like, “No, that’s too much work. I’m going to go into social services. No, that’s too much work. I’m going to go into event coordinating,” which is actually what I did get my degree in. And I did that for a long time and marketing and stuff. And it wasn’t until my husband actually owned the studio originally and he needed some more help in the studio and he did some marketing help and I’m like, “You know what? I know how to do this and I’m available and you can pay me really cheap.” So that’s great for a business owner. So yeah, I’ll just like quit my jobby job and come on over and work in the family business.
And then that just kind of erupted, continued, snowballed, whatever kind of climate situation that you want to relate it to. I just got really interested in it and the way that my brain was working I see a lot of systems in organization and I’m very, we call it lawful good. So I really like the systems in the organizations in everything being in its place and done a certain way because then there is rhyme and reason to it. And if something doesn’t work, we can point on it and say we need to fix this and change this aspect of control. But anyway, so I started doing that and then my husband got head hunted during pandemic and I’m like, “Great, you go make the money, I’ll stay here in the studio.” It gives me the lifestyle that I like where I can make my own schedule and do what I want, but still get to do all these fun things because it’s a small business. So I get to be everybody. And just worked out well. “Go, I got this.”
Lindsay Guentzel (12:58):
It’s interesting because it does provide you with so many opportunities to wear different hats and I think that probably is a part of the reason why you thrive in it.
Kristina Bird (13:07):
Because I can bounce and it’s fine, but there’s also a struggle with that because there’ll be days where I have to run a business. I have to sit down for a day and make a whole bunch of phone calls to clients or potential clients and try to do sales and do the things that I don’t want to do. And I need to focus on the time and the energy to do it. And those days were just hard. Then you combine anxiety and depression as side effects of the ADHD, which I’m trying to treat as it’s own thing, not realizing that it’s a side effect. So of course nothing’s working for that. So you add all of that in combined with the social situation of I don’t know how to do social situations. It just made it really difficult for a bit.
Lindsay Guentzel (13:52):
I can think of the, oh gosh, so many days that I sat in doctor’s offices and filled out all of the forms for depression and anxiety and got put on different medications and…
Kristina Bird (14:04):
Why is this not working? Or it does, but only a little bit.
Lindsay Guentzel (14:08):
I also feel like it’s one of those scenarios where you’re like, maybe this is working, maybe I don’t feel any different. Maybe that’s a part of it. And I felt so different the first day I took medication, like stimulant medication for ADHD. It was mind boggling.
Kristina Bird (14:23):
The anxiety and depression, gone.
Lindsay Guentzel (14:25):
Kristina Bird (14:26):
Just gone. Not even, oh, it’s a low anxiety day where it’s there, but it’s just in the back of your head and it’s low enough that you can ignore it. No, just gone completely. It’s like, this is how people feel? This is living? What? I’ve been robbed my childhood.
Lindsay Guentzel (14:45):
There is a lot of grief that comes with it, but I feel exactly the same. It’s like, “oh, I can get through the day without being exhausted every second of the day.” I joke, I was like, I always thought, “Oh, I’m a night owl. I’m a night owl.” It’s when creative people stay up. I get my best work done at nights. And then I actually started following a routine once I was medicated and going to therapy and getting a bedtime routine. And now, “I’m a morning person. Who is this? She is cheerful in the morning.” Most days. I have my moments.
Kristina Bird (15:18):
As do we all. But we get up, we take our stimulant, you have a nice cup of coffee, you enjoy the sunrise, It’s nice. And then you get to have that medication work in your system. It’s like, all right, I’m ready. Let’s go and focus. And you can actually do things. I wonder what my tests and my grades would’ve been like if I could’ve actually sat down to study. Because I couldn’t study. I got by taking tests and guesstimating my answers or completely BSing the quizzes, the verbal essays or whatever. It’s like, “No, I got this. I know enough about enough of things that I could do this.” If I would’ve actually studied, straight As, I’m sure, if I would’ve been able to.
Lindsay Guentzel (15:56):
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s hard to look back at that. There’s so much self acceptance that has to come with that.
Kristina Bird (16:02):
Oh yeah, I just gave it up. It’s like, I may not have studied, but I got to go to movies, so I’m cool. It’s fine. It’s what was important to me as a teenager. I’m still here. I made it through. I’m in a good spot. So whether I would’ve gotten straight As and gotten into a different school, well then I wouldn’t have met my husband. I wouldn’t have had my kid. I wouldn’t have had the studio. It all worked out. I’m fine, I’m good.
Lindsay Guentzel (16:27):
It’s a great outlook to have. It feels like a very healthy outlook to have. You acknowledge what it could have been and you’re like, Yeah, but this is life. This is where I’m at and this is how I got here.
Kristina Bird (16:38):
I can’t change the past. I can react to it, I can acknowledge it, I can mourn it if I need to. But otherwise, in the end in the grand scheme of things, the universe handed me a really good situation and now I am being treated for this. So now as an adult in my thirties as a parent, I can actually focus and raise my child the way I want to raise him and also pay attention for symptoms of ADD and ADHD, which now I am aware of. So that’s fabulous as a mom to look at, which he more than likely has it.
Lindsay Guentzel (17:08):
Well, and you’re setting yourself up to be an amazing advocate. That’s bottom line, right?
Kristina Bird (17:12):
Oh yeah. Because all people are people and we mind our own business, but we help others if they need it.
Lindsay Guentzel (17:17):
Yes. Oh gosh. I will send your food back if it’s wrong, but I’ll eat the wrong meal versus ever… right? Isn’t it true?
Kristina Bird (17:23):
Yes. But we have to also stand up for ourselves in a polite way. And it’s hard doing that personally. I don’t know. Is that an ADHD thing?
Lindsay Guentzel (17:30):
I actually think that there is a part of it that is connected. It’s…
Kristina Bird (17:33):
Like a self sacrificing.
Lindsay Guentzel (17:34):
Self sacrificing and not wanting to disappoint people or be a bother.
Kristina Bird (17:40):
Not wanting to be a burden because everything’s already… we think about so many different things that… Okay, we think about so many other things. We automatically assume that other people think that way too. Because that’s been our whole lives.
Lindsay Guentzel (17:53):
Oh gosh, yes. And then you realize, you’re like, “Oh, you haven’t been thinking about that moment for 20 years? Okay, so I can let that one go?”
Kristina Bird (17:58):
Yeah. Oh that. Yeah. Let’s not have to reevaluate everything that we say every night. It’s good times.
Lindsay Guentzel (18:06):
Oh, I have to write that one down to stick next to the bed for that moment. Yes. You mentioned medication and therapy and how those are helping. Are there any other things that you either added into your life or tried to take away routines or workarounds or things? You mentioned you love order, you love…
Kristina Bird (18:26):
I do love order.
Lindsay Guentzel (18:26):
…Having a process. Have you changed anything in life that has made the way ADHD shows up in your life easier or more manageable?
Kristina Bird (18:36):
Well, bed times. I try to at least… I set an alarm on my phone. It gives me at least a heads up. So, I don’t always go to bed at the same time because, that’s for some reason one of my things that I can’t stick to in my systems in order, but it at least gives me a heads up like, “Hey, it’s 9:30. Do you have something going on tomorrow morning that you might need to be well rested for? Might want to think about winding down and going to bed.” Or just, “Hey, it’s 9:30, just so you know. Do with this information as you will.”
Lindsay Guentzel (19:05):
Well, because we have time blindness.
Kristina Bird (19:07):
Lindsay Guentzel (19:07):
10 minutes and two hours to me can be the same amount of time.
Kristina Bird (19:10):
Oh my God. I was doing a sewing project again, one of my random hobbies.
Lindsay Guentzel (19:13):
Kristina Bird (19:14):
And I was frustrated because I didn’t have enough time being a mom. All this stuff kept getting interrupted and I’m like, All I need,” I was telling my husband, “All I need is two hours uninterrupted time and I can finish making this.” I think I was building a dress at that point, sewing a dress. I’m like, “I can just finish it. I just need two hours of uninterrupted time.” So cue the SpongeBob, “10 hours later,” all I need are two hours. And at that point that was true. I didn’t realize the first time that I really needed 12 hours of uninterrupted time to finish this one project.
Lindsay Guentzel (19:46):
Kristina Bird (19:49):
Yeah. Time blindness is a thing. Also the whole, if you schedule something in the afternoon, your whole morning is shot.
Lindsay Guentzel (19:56):
Kristina Bird (19:57):
Because you can’t do anything because you’re just frozen because you’re like, “Well I can’t be late for that and I have to be ready for that so I might as well just sit here and do nothing.”
Lindsay Guentzel (20:05):
It’s really interesting. The first time somebody explained that to me and I was sitting there going, “I don’t know that that’s me.” And then I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s definitely…”
Kristina Bird (20:13):
Definitely. That’s why I schedule most of my meetings for… Drop my son off at school, start work at 10:00 AM. First thing that gets scheduled. If you need a meeting with me or something like that, something needs to be scheduled, 10:00 AM. I’m right there. Because then that just starts my day and then I can get into anything else that needs to be done. But if I schedule it for 3 in the afternoon, my whole day is shot and I won’t want to schedule anything before it because, “Oh my God, it’s going to happen five hours before then. What if I’m late?” I’m not going to be late.
Lindsay Guentzel (20:41):
I know. It’s like you have thought through every possible scenario in your brain and the answer is, schedule it at 10:00 AM.
Kristina Bird (20:47):
Yes. Yes. It is the easiest thing to cause me to not go into that time freeze of not being able to do anything.
Lindsay Guentzel (20:55):
And it’s also so great for you to set those boundaries. This is how I work best and if you want to work with me, this is what I need.
Kristina Bird (21:02):
You just don’t give anybody else any options. Like, “Oh, I’m available at 10:00 AM any day this week at 10:00 AM. Pick a day.
Lindsay Guentzel (21:09):
I need to work on that. I’m like, “I’m open all the time. When would you like to meet?”
Kristina Bird (21:13):
Oh no, that’s still hard.
Lindsay Guentzel (21:14):
Kristina Bird (21:15):
That’s still hard because people like, “Oh well, are you available to do xyz?” And if I look on the calendar, I’m like, well the answer to this question is yes, I am available.
Lindsay Guentzel (21:26):
So what does available mean?
Kristina Bird (21:27):
But is this eating into other times where I should be doing other things? Including doing things for myself? Because that’s a hard thing to do.
Lindsay Guentzel (21:38):
Yes it is. It ends up being the bottom of the list every single time.
Kristina Bird (21:43):
But if you don’t take care of yourself then you can’t take care of everybody else.
Lindsay Guentzel (21:45):
Right. And we can hear that. We can hear it all the time.
Kristina Bird (21:48):
But it doesn’t make sense.
Lindsay Guentzel (21:49):
No, not at all.
Kristina Bird (21:50):
It doesn’t affect me. No, not at all. I don’t get affected by needing… If I can continue to give people stuff, even if my cup is empty, it’s fine.
Lindsay Guentzel (22:01):
Kristina Bird (22:01):
Burnout’s not a thing.
Lindsay Guentzel (22:02):
No, not at all. We’re learning all of that really quickly. The pandemic was a crash course in what happens when every organizational thing we’ve set up in our life just goes out the window.
Kristina Bird (22:20):
It’s just gone.
Lindsay Guentzel (22:20):
Kristina Bird (22:20):
Yeah. It’s like nothing matters anymore. Time doesn’t exist, nothing matters. We’re all just stuck inside for months on end.
Lindsay Guentzel (22:28):
Months on end. And again, going back, I did a lot of things, but I can’t tell you what I did.
Kristina Bird (22:33):
I did three years of gardening in one summer. I was actually very, very happy that it happened when it did, because I’m like, I got this great beautiful garden. We had just moved into our house and I have all these plans and I have no time to do it because I work so much during the summer. And then this pandemic was handed to me. I’m like, “I’m going to be outside all summer.” So my garden looks great.
Lindsay Guentzel (22:55):
That’s a very positive way to look at it.
Kristina Bird (22:59):
You got to find the goods, you got to find the silver linings. Pandemic was a crapshoot for everybody. No one was exempt from it. Everyone felt it in some way, shape or form. So I just take the good from it. So good thing, I got to work on my garden and got a lot of stuff done in one year. Learn new hobbies, reorganize my house, whatever. My son was two at the time. And as anyone who is a parent who has had a two year old or has a two year old knows, there’s a lot of growth and development that happens in the two to three to four age group. And I got to see that every day. Not just for a couple hours in the evenings during the weekday and then on the weekends when I’m in between doing housework. I got to see my kid learn his whole lexicon of words and vocabulary and do more running and jumping and all of that and just see him change every day. If it wasn’t for pandemic, I wouldn’t have had that.
Lindsay Guentzel (24:01):
Kristina Bird (24:02):
I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have another kid. Because I’m not going to have another pandemic. Hopefully. Please don’t.
Lindsay Guentzel (24:06):
Yeah, knock on wood, whoever.
Kristina Bird (24:10):
I don’t want another pandemic just so I can watch future kids continue to go through this. But it was still very nice thing to good to have. So you know, take the good when you can. And I mean, bringing this all back around, it’s really good with the ADD too, or ADHD. Take the good with the bad. So the bad, I had anxiety and depression for a long time. The good, I can work really well under stress. Because I’ve had a lot of years of practice. The bouncing around from thing to thing. Not always great, but really good when you’re a business owner and you have a lot of hats that you have to wear.
Lindsay Guentzel (24:49):
And I imagine you’ve been on a wedding shoot at least once where it’s gone to hell in a hand basket real fast and you have to respond.
Kristina Bird (24:58):
Oh, something always goes wrong.
Lindsay Guentzel (24:59):
Kristina Bird (24:59):
There is no… even my own. There is no wedding that I have ever been to where everything goes completely right according to plan. And the funny thing is, with the photographers, at least the way that we do things, we end up kind of becoming event coordinators in the same way, or wedding planners in the same way. And we just help everything move along and keep the timeline and everything. So if something goes wrong, we’re there to, “What can we do to help fix it? Because we’re here and we’re additional hands and many hands make for light work, so let’s fix this thing.” Plus we’ve been to a lot of weddings. We kind of know all varieties of things that can be done. We got this. It’s really not as big a deal as you think it is. It is. It’s a big deal. It’s a big day. But this is a small situation on a big day.
Lindsay Guentzel (25:39):
Kristina Bird (25:40):
We got this. So yeah.
Lindsay Guentzel (25:42):
I’m curious on the assessment side. Was that your first experience with telemedicine?
Kristina Bird (25:49):
Good question. Trying to think about that. I had done some video therapies with my therapist prior to that and video calls and stuff. I wasn’t one of those person who walked into pandemic and didn’t know how to make a video call, very familiar with it. But in terms of telemedicine with meeting a doctor over the telehealth and stuff, yes. First time filling out an assessment online for a diagnosis, yes. For a pre-check in, no.
Lindsay Guentzel (26:13):
Kristina Bird (26:13):
But again, it blended very well with the things that I had already experienced. So it was a very easy thing to go through and to try. And I’ve recommended it to a whole bunch of people and they’ve always come back saying, “Oh my God, this is fabulous and it’s so easy.” I’m like, “Yeah, right. It’s great.”
Lindsay Guentzel (26:29):
What I have found so fascinating about telemedicine and telehealth in general is once you think outside your bubble, for example, one of the providers for ADHD Online who I’ve interviewed a few times, works in South Dakota, which is right next to Minnesota, which makes me think I should have thought about this a little bit sooner. Because Minnesota’s one of those places, Michigan’s probably very similarly, where outside of the major cities, it’s pretty rural. And she was telling me about patients who were driving hours on end to find a provider to go to their monthly appointments. And I was like, who would do it? At some point you would just throw in the towel. Because what I’ve learned about myself is if you tell me what I need to do, I can do it. I can follow the path. But the second you make it more difficult for me or you set me up for failure, it’s going to be a failure.
Kristina Bird (27:15):
The universe is telling me no. So I must not have to do this.
Lindsay Guentzel (27:18):
Kristina Bird (27:19):
I must not do this.
Lindsay Guentzel (27:21):
And so I’m so glad that you found it to be such an easy addition into what you were looking for.
Kristina Bird (27:25):
Oh yeah. And I mean, just the fact, it’s almost like it was designed for people who have ADD and ADHD. You can set it up whenever you have a spare moment. It doesn’t take very long to do. You can do some of it and come back to it and it’s okay. It’s like, “Gee, it’s like they know who they’re doing this for. God, this is so great.” But it was amazing to do it. Because of course I thought about it for weeks on end. I’m like, “I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it.” And then I finally set aside the time on my calendar. I’m like, “Focus, do it.” And I sat down and I closed the door and I got through it and I’m like, “Okay, I’m in it.” And then I was like, “Oh, this is done. Great. Fabulous. Onto the next thing.”
Lindsay Guentzel (28:04):
Kristina Bird (28:07):
There is something else I was going to say, but I don’t remember what it was. But there’s also the timeline of being able to get in that was so beneficial too. Because going through my standard healthcare provider is at least nine months waiting to meet with someone to get an assessment.
Lindsay Guentzel (28:24):
It’s not even just the assessment, it’s literally you meet with your provider who then tells you if you can see somebody who can give you a diagnosis.
Kristina Bird (28:33):
And then you have to wait all that time. Plus on top of that time you have the two to three weeks for the referral to come in, if it comes in. Because healthcare systems. And this was all just like, “I can just do this on my evening after my kid goes to bed and sit here and just get it out on my time.” Whenever that is. 2:00 AM on a Sunday.
Lindsay Guentzel (28:54):
Sometimes as a mom, I’m sure that’s the only time you get.
Kristina Bird (28:56):
I’m hopefully sleeping at 2:00 AM on the Sunday. Ideally. I don’t like to be up that late.
Lindsay Guentzel (29:02):
I Want to talk about the negative side of things. As you have learned more about yourself and your ADHD, are there things that you look back or you look at now that you’re like, “That’s me seeing the ADHD come out in a way that I really would like it not to.”?
Kristina Bird (29:19):
Oh, tough question because there’s so much. Because diagnosis late in life, there’s so much that I’m still figuring out what is a personality trait and what is a symptom of this nerve imbalance that I have. And some of it would be interrupting or not being able to… It’s kind of a combination. Not being able to focus on a conversation because I am so focused on what I am going to say in response to something. Trying to hold back. Okay, “Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. You don’t want to interrupt, you don’t want to interrupt.” And then I end up interrupting and word vomiting. Or I’m able to hold it in, but then I have no idea what you were saying.
Lindsay Guentzel (29:58):
And then you just sit here at the end and you’re like, “I was going to say something, but I am lost.” And then you feel even more, they think you weren’t paying attention.
Kristina Bird (30:07):
Or you story jump and you’re trying to tell one story and then all of a sudden you’re 10 different stories in and you’re like, “Wait a minute, what were we talking about?” And two days later you’re like, “Oh my God, I never finished telling you the original story and why I started telling you this was because it was a really interesting thing that I thought you would enjoy.” Conversations in relationships are hard.
Lindsay Guentzel (30:27):
Kristina Bird (30:28):
This is what I mean. That’s hard to do.
Lindsay Guentzel (30:30):
It is hard. My two best friends and I, we have a running list. So I just send them, “Add this to the list for the next time we’re together.” Because I need to be reminded.
Kristina Bird (30:41):
Give me the checklist.
Lindsay Guentzel (30:42):
We’ll be sitting at a table and one pulls out their phone and they’re like, “Okay, you said this on this date and this on this date and then you said this.” And I’ll be like, “I don’t know what that means. I don’t know.” And then I’m like, “Let me look back.” And I’ll go back and figure it out. And it’s like, “Oh yes. But it…
Kristina Bird (30:55):
That’s a great idea. I might steal that.
Lindsay Guentzel (30:56):
You should. But it’s our version of writing things down. And if I don’t say it or get it on paper, it’s just never going to come out.
Kristina Bird (31:05):
Oh yeah. Until five years from now when you’re like, “Didn’t I tell you about this amazing, huge thing that happened to me?” “No you didn’t.” “Oh, I must have gotten distracted. I forgot about it. I got hooked into something else.” Who knows?
Lindsay Guentzel (31:19):
Have you seen anything change as a parent?
Kristina Bird (31:24):
Probably a little more patience and understanding. Definitely recognize that in just seeing my son and knowing that where his attention is focused, if he’s really zoned into his show or whatever activity he is doing, the hyper fixation, super focused, blinders on. I know I need to, “Okay, interrupt your eyes. Hey, eyes on me. Give me your hand for a second. I need your direct attention.” Or just at least acknowledge me. Just say, “Got it.” “Do you got what I say? Did I… Dinner time in five minutes. Got it?” “Got it.” “Okay, cool.” Now I know it got into your brain. And some of that is just, if he does have ADHD, attention, being able to break away from one thing to another and actually remember the thing, the call and response is an easier way for him to remember and actually acknowledge that he heard what I said. And I’m not just talking to a brick wall. And there’s just patience in general.
Lindsay Guentzel (32:23):
I was going to ask about that. Because you’ve talked about dealing with anxiety and depression before your diagnosis and then being diagnosed and being treated for, I call it my mothership, like the ADHD is the mothership that was controlling these other little ships that were coming off and destroying things. It’s really like the plot to the movie Independence Day. It’s something I came up with one night and it actually works.
Kristina Bird (32:41):
Oh, Will Smith.
Lindsay Guentzel (32:42):
Yeah. Right. Jeff Goldblume, Will Smith. But it works when I explain my diagnosis to people of how the second I started attacking the mothership, all the other ships go down. Have you noticed a more balance in your emotions? Because I think…
Kristina Bird (33:00):
When I am medicated. Yes. There have been days where it’s like, oh, I forgot to take it in the morning. And then all of a sudden it’s the afternoon. I’m like, “Okay, it’s going to be too late to take it now. So I’ve been all right all day, it’ll be fine.” And then by the end of the day, I am drained, I am frustrated. My emotions are just bigger than my child’s in comparison. And I am just done and have nothing. And I’m a crying, depressed, anxious ridden mess.
Lindsay Guentzel (33:27):
And nothing can help.
Kristina Bird (33:28):
Not at all. No, no. My life is just horrible and I’m stuck in this and I’m a failure and I am a blah, blah, blah. Those bad things that we say to ourselves, which aren’t true.
Lindsay Guentzel (33:36):
No. I say those are the stories we tell ourselves, which are very true in our heads.
Kristina Bird (33:42):
And then I just have to remind myself like, “No, this is your brain being bad. You didn’t take your happy meds to actually get your brain on straight. Wait till tomorrow. Things will be better tomorrow. Go to bed. Eat something, drink something, go to bed. You’ll be fine.”
Lindsay Guentzel (33:59):
It’s funny how just taking care of yourself plays such an important role. One day I was like, “I just feel so great and I wonder what it is. It’s probably all these things I’ve been doing.” And I was like, “Or it’s maybe that you’ve made exercise a priority for the last three years.”
Kristina Bird (34:14):
Oh, I need to do that.
Lindsay Guentzel (34:15):
But it’s the idea. If we can’t quantify it, if there’s not an actual way to quantify it, we just throw it out the window.
Kristina Bird (34:21):
Oh yeah. No, it must be like, “It’s the good weather. I got a lot of vitamin D today. I was outside. It’s great. Fabulous day.” It has nothing to do with me actually taking an afternoon and enjoying my day and going to a park and breathing.
Lindsay Guentzel (34:36):
Right. You talked about your dad and how he said you just talked a lot as a kid. I talked a lot as a kid. I still talk a lot, but I’m curious, when you were diagnosed and you started telling people, what was the response?
Kristina Bird (34:49):
A handful of them are like, “Yeah…”
Lindsay Guentzel (34:52):
Kristina Bird (34:53):
“You didn’t know this? Wait a minute, you weren’t actually being treated?” I’m like, “No, I just have really good coping mechanisms, guys. Come on.” Yeah. So it’s a big handful of people were like, “Yeah, this is you coming out of the closet. And we all already know.” Other people were like, “Oh, you know, me too. I’ve been struggling with this for a while. I’ve been thinking about doing all these things, but I haven’t done anything yet.” I’m like, “Dude, get on ADHD Online.” I was actually just with a friend last night and talking with them and he’s just like, “I’m so glad that everybody else is on this. They’re actually getting treated for their ADD and ADHD. Because I was over here, the weird kid by myself for so long being treated with it. And now I have all of my friends are getting proper treatment. It’s like we’re all in a club together.” Yeah. I wonder what happened in our childhoods.
Lindsay Guentzel (35:41):
Yes, it is.
Kristina Bird (35:44):
Because it’s our generation.
Lindsay Guentzel (35:45):
It is our generation.
Kristina Bird (35:46):
But is it something that happened or is it now that we have the proper treatment and diagnosis techniques, because again, especially with women, with girls, it shows up differently than it does with boys. And of course society, we brush things off with girls a lot. So what is to say, is it something that is new that is coming up? Or is it something that’s always been here that we’re now just able to properly diagnose and treat?
Lindsay Guentzel (36:11):
Yeah, I mean I think it’s just going to constantly keep changing. I don’t know that we’ll ever have this concrete answer as to what we missed. Because the same thing could be said. I’ve talked to so many people who are being diagnosed in their 60s and a lot of them are men.
Kristina Bird (36:24):
Lindsay Guentzel (36:25):
A lot of them are men who it didn’t come out till they retired and then all the structures were gone. And then you think about it and you go, Okay, well you didn’t present in the traditional form, which is very hyperactive. You are the inattentive type. So you were more quiet, it was more on the inside. And you went to college, which there was a routine.
Kristina Bird (36:42):
There’s routine, there’s structure.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:43):
And there’s people pleasing. And then you likely got married and then you had a partner who for the most part in that generation, there was a chance, did the things. I think about my own family. And then you got a job and if you were high enough up, you had a secretary who was likely a woman who came in and scheduled…
Kristina Bird (37:01):
Scheduled all your stuff for you.
Lindsay Guentzel (37:02):
Kristina Bird (37:02):
Told you what you need to do when you need to it.
Lindsay Guentzel (37:04):
And then you retired and that’s all gone. And all of a sudden you are stuck with figuring out your own day. And that’s when the wheels come off. It’s so interesting to see in life where we’re all figuring out what were our own coping mechanisms.
Kristina Bird (37:17):
Oh yeah. Keeping busy is definitely one of them for most of us, I’m sure. Because when you don’t have anything, it’s just like, I’m bored. I have all these hobbies, I have all these things that I can do, but I’m just, I’m bored, I’m frozen, I’m stuck. It’s the same thing. You’re just indecisive about whatever. You can’t move forward because no one’s telling you, you need to do XYZ today. But it’s my day off. I shouldn’t have to do these things. You don’t have people helping you. How are you going to know?
Lindsay Guentzel (37:45):
I’m glad that you said that because I’m curious, do you think you know how to relax?
Kristina Bird (37:48):
Oh God no.
Lindsay Guentzel (37:51):
I know the answer, but I want to hear it.
Kristina Bird (37:52):
No, I do not at all. I’d still try. This is been a goal of mine for many years, is teaching myself how to relax. Also teaching myself or recognizing myself. Who am I as a person? My introduction was nothing about me. My introduction was about what I do for people. I make pictures for people. I run a business so that other people can also pay their mortgages. Now granted, they’re my friends and my family and I love them, but it’s a service. I am a people pleaser. I am doing a service. I am a mom that is ultimate caregiver role. I am a wife that is also a caregiver role historically. It’s a partnership, but still, and yeah, no, on my own I have a hammock that I try to go into. But how do you shut up your brain with the 10,000 other things? Like, “Oh, I should be making sure that the house is clean. I should be going and going grocery shopping to make sure that we have food in the house so that my kid has food and laundry and all of that. I should be processing images or making more sales calls because I need to run my business so that we can still do all these things.” Should, should, should, should, should. And the time when I really ought to be, I refuse saying should in this part, caring for myself, doing something for me, whatever that is. But again, how do you relax when you don’t know what that is?
Lindsay Guentzel (39:12):
Exactly. Our brains are always moving. I think that’s a part of it. And there’s I’m sure, as a business owner, there’s this gray area because you don’t leave your work at home. You’re probably always working.
Kristina Bird (39:21):
My work comes home with me all the time.
Lindsay Guentzel (39:22):
Kristina Bird (39:24):
No, my work comes home with me and I usually do it in the evening when my son is asleep and I have Netflix on and I can do my computer work because my brain has to have all the interaction so that I can actually focus on the thing. Again, the ADHD.
Lindsay Guentzel (39:40):
We have a rule in our house, if we’re going to watch a movie that I just get my phone taken away. It’s just like, “Oh, here you just have this, please put it away. I don’t want to hear it.” Most of the time I leave the watch upstairs because…
Kristina Bird (39:53):
Oh, the watch is such a distraction.
Lindsay Guentzel (39:55):
It’s very beneficial for setting timers and all of those things. But at the same time, you’ll…
Kristina Bird (39:59):
Anytime you get a notification alert, you have to look.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:01):
Yeah. You’ll be having a conversation that’s really important and it’s buzzing and you’re like, “No, I’m going to work really hard at not acknowledging.”
Kristina Bird (40:07):
I’m paying attention to you. Not my phone, not my watch. Which is right on me. Which is tapping. So it’s like a, “Hey, hey, I’m interrupting your thought process, which you already have problems with.”
Lindsay Guentzel (40:17):
Kristina Bird (40:18):
Why do we have these things?
Lindsay Guentzel (40:21):
I mean, I’m sure there are ways we can turn them off, but that actually would take more work.
Kristina Bird (40:26):
We could just take them off.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:27):
Yeah, that’s true.
Kristina Bird (40:28):
There is that.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:30):
I want to talk about where you see ADHD in your life in a positive way. Whether it’s something in your personality or the way you take care of other people. All of those things that come out for people who are neuro divergent. But what is it about you that you’re like, “Yes, this is very much connected to my ADHD and I love it.”
Kristina Bird (40:52):
It’s a love hate, but the thinking every case scenario. What do I need to worry about right now? Not worry about, this is why I hate it because it has the worry in it as well. But what do I need to think about in order to make sure that tomorrow, tonight, next week goes well, goes smoothly? Especially as a mom. “Okay, I need to make sure that my kid’s laundry is done tonight and then he gets a bath tomorrow. So then he’ll be fresh for school because he probably won’t be able to get a bath in the next couple of days because we have these kinds of activities going on in the evenings and oh yeah, he’s been asking to hang out with these people, so I should probably reach out to the parents ahead of time so that I can do that and make sure that that happens. So he gets his social relationship met.” All this time I’m doing laundry, I’m doing dishes, I am picking up the house, I am just bouncing around and my brain is just going. But you know what? I have a pretty smooth running house and my kid is happy and clothed and clean and fed and that’s pretty good.
Lindsay Guentzel (41:48):
That’s very good. It’s something to very much celebrate.
Kristina Bird (41:53):
So if I didn’t have that, my day would be very slow and I’d probably run into a lot more problems probably. Because all of a sudden I’ll be getting my kid dressed and I didn’t know that he was out of pants because I didn’t check his laundry while I was in there grabbing trash or whatever. I don’t know. Is that just a mom thing? Is that an ADHD thing? I don’t know. Again, I don’t know because diagnosed later.
Lindsay Guentzel (42:17):
You’re figuring it out still.
Kristina Bird (42:18):
I never had kids before.
Lindsay Guentzel (42:20):
But if it’s working for you and you’re thriving in it, then that’s really all that matters.
Kristina Bird (42:23):
That’s all that matters. I’m thriving. My kid is thriving. My husband, hopefully is thriving. Seems like he is.
Lindsay Guentzel (42:29):
If not, he’s on his own. Right. No, I’m just teasing. I’m totally kidding. I was going to say, as somebody with ADHD that’s just like, no, we would never let that happen.
Kristina Bird (42:37):
He has it too.
Lindsay Guentzel (42:37):
Oh, well there you go. There you go. When you think about ADHD and what you know about it now and kind of what we’ve learned in even just the last couple of years with the pandemic, is there anything that stands out for you about the message that society has or the thought process they have about neuro divergent people that you wish was wiped out?
Kristina Bird (43:00):
I don’t know. I haven’t really experienced any negative stigmas or anything like that personally. I’ve always been the type of person where health, mental health, kind of annoyed that they’re separated because mental health affects your whole body health and all of that. Stupid male doctor who separated them many, many, many years ago. Don’t remember his name, doesn’t matter. So I’ve always been very open about my physical health, my mental health. Hey, it’s good to talk about things. Going to bring up sensitive topic, miscarriage. Had one. Told people that I was pregnant very early on in case I had a miscarriage. So then I would have my support crew.
Lindsay Guentzel (43:39):
That’s a really interesting way to look at it. But I also would say, I’m so sorry that you went through that.
Kristina Bird (43:42):
Thank you. But the thing is, so many people don’t talk about it. And I find out about that after I have one because I talked about it. Half the women I talked to came out of the woodwork. “Oh yeah, I’ve had them. I’ve had this one. I’ve had this one.” I had the aunts and relatives, good friends who I had no idea that they were even pregnant at any point and they just suffered alone. No, we have a community. That’s why you have a community. The whole village to raise a child thing. Village to raise a human. We are still growing. I don’t know any adult who doesn’t say, millennial adult, who doesn’t say, “I need a more adulter adult.” “I’m not a grownup. You’re giving me control of this life? What?”
Lindsay Guentzel (44:24):
Yeah. When did that happen?
Kristina Bird (44:25):
You think I’m responsible?
Lindsay Guentzel (44:27):
Yeah. I missed the ceremony or whatever it was.
Kristina Bird (44:30):
Yeah. When was this?
Lindsay Guentzel (44:31):
I don’t know.
Kristina Bird (44:32):
I slept through it.
Lindsay Guentzel (44:33):
Yeah, exactly. We probably forgot about it.
Kristina Bird (44:36):
It wasn’t in the calendar. I didn’t have 10 notes about it.
Lindsay Guentzel (44:39):
Kristina Bird (44:40):
And a sticky note on the outside of the door. So I’m open about it and I share and I’m just very kind of a no nonsense, take me as I am. If you can’t deal with it, then do I really want to be around you? So people that I’m around doesn’t really seem to be a negative thing all that much. And most of them kind of figured. Okay, cool. But I mean, I think just in terms of mental health in general, just being more open about it will then lead to more understanding. I don’t even want to say acceptance, I just want understanding. If you understand it, be understanding and have compassion. Just be a human. We’re all humans trying to figure this out. So I guess just that, but that’s like a whole bigger life issue in general. Not really.
Lindsay Guentzel (45:27):
It’s not isolated to ADHD by any means. But it definitely fits in with that.
Kristina Bird (45:32):
It definitely is affected by it, with it. I mean, neuro divergent automatically means, Well, I am divergent, I am different. I’ve always claimed to be different. I’ve been called weird since first grade in elementary school and I’ve been taking as a compliment because as I said, my first grade self, if I wasn’t weird, then we would all be the same and that would just be boring. So thank you. I like being weird. Take it as a compliment. I’m different. I’m not a sheep. But a lot of people don’t view that.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:01):
Kristina Bird (46:02):
We want to blend in. We want to be like everybody else.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:06):
Well, I also think too, there’s an added pressure as women.
Kristina Bird (46:09):
Oh, God yeah. Yeah.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:10):
I had an interview with a young woman who was very loud and very chatty and very over the top. And my first reaction was, “I am so glad someone didn’t get to you.” Because I look back at me and I think all the times that I was coming into my own and then someone came and just squashed her. And we didn’t realize how affected we were by some of those moments.
Kristina Bird (46:35):
Oh yeah. There’s definitely some of them that hit. But I again just kind of channel into that one or that first grader and you’re like, No, I didn’t care about shit then, why should I care about it now? I didn’t care about anyone’s opinion when I was in first grade. I’m going to tap into that inner child’s self and be like, “Dude, come on up. I’m feeling guilty. Come on up. I don’t want to be shunned right now. I don’t want to feel these feels. I need you to have that first grader confidence.” Be like, “No, I don’t care what you think. This is me. Take it. If you don’t like it, I don’t care. That’s your problem.”
Lindsay Guentzel (47:10):
I’m going to have to get your phone number so that when I need your first grade inner child to come up…
Kristina Bird (47:14):
I’ll give you a pep talk.
Lindsay Guentzel (47:15):
I love it. I love it.
Kristina Bird (47:16):
I got you.
Lindsay Guentzel (47:17):
Kristina, thank you so much for sharing so much about your life and the level of self-acceptance that you have. And I love the no shits to give attitude. And I think it’s such an important message for people who have ADHD who are just learning about it because we’re so used to worrying about other people. So I just thank you.
Kristina Bird (47:40):
Yeah. You got to take care of yourself and you got to not care what other people think or say about you because at the end of the day, you live with you. And if you’re not okay with you, you’re not going to live a good life and you’re not going to live a good life while you’re here. We’re put on this earth. Let’s live it. Let’s have good.
Lindsay Guentzel (47:58):
Thank you for sharing that.
Kristina Bird (48:00):
Thank you for coming.
Lindsay Guentzel (48:00):
Thank you for sharing that message here. But thank you even more so for putting that out into the world because we need more of that. So thank you.
Kristina Bird (48:05):
You’re welcome. Thank you for joining me in my studio.
Lindsay Guentzel (48:18):
A huge thanks to Kristina Bird for sharing her story with us on Refocused Together. To find out more about the work Kristina is doing and the stuff going on at Bird + Bird Studios, you can check out all of the links shared in the show notes.
There are so many people to thank for making Refocused Together happen. The entire team ADHD online, Zach Booker, Dr. Randall Detler, Tim Gutwald, Keith Brophy; my teammates, Keith Boswell, Suzanne Sprued, Claudia Gotti, Melanie Mile, Paul Owen, Kirsten Pip, Sissy Yee, Trisha Merchandunny, Lauren Radley, Corey Kearney, and Mason Nelly; and the team at Dexia, Hector and Kenneth; and the team at Snack Media, Cameron Sterling and Candace Lepke, Camilla Eden, Lauren Terry, Sarah Galbard, Phil Rodaman, Jake Bieber, and Sarah Platenitis. Our theme music was created by Lewis Englais, a songwriter and composer based in Perth, Australia, who is 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 Lindsay Guentzel and at Refocused Pod.