In this episode of Refocused, Together with Lindsay Guentzel and ADHD Online, Laura Hoyos shows us how you can take a diagnosis and unite a community.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:00):
Welcome to Refocused Together.
Laura Hoyos (00:21):
My name is Laura Hoyos. I have she, her pronouns, and I am the creator of Latina with ADHD.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:31):
I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and this is a special ADHD awareness month series of my podcast Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:41):
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 it’s ADHD Awareness Month, welcome. We are so glad you’re here and I truly hope you’ll stick around long after October ends. Now, there are parts of this ADHD journey that some of us have figured out and there are parts that we still need help cracking. And so, 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. Well talk about hyper-focus and distraction, stigma and shame, grief and acceptance, and so much more.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:42):
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’m so grateful for each person who shared their story and I’m truly forever changed by these conversations, and I cannot wait for you to meet my guests and get to know them. Be sure to subscribe to Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel so that you don’t miss a single story this month.
Lindsay Guentzel (02:33):
After learning, she had ADHD in September of 2021, Laura Hoyos remembers asking how to say the words in Spanish so she could explain the diagnosis to her Columbian family. After learning she had ADHD in September of 2021, Laura Hoyos remembers asking how to say the words in Spanish so she could explain the diagnosis to her Columbia family. Laura came to the US when she was eight, the daughter of immigrants and the first in her family to go to college. She understood the pressure of not getting things wrong, and at the same time she didn’t realize how much guilt and shame she’d been carrying around for her entire life, for all of the things she couldn’t get right. But then there was an answer and having a genuine reason for why everything felt so hard for her, it felt like she’d won the lottery. As she started to navigate life with this new diagnosis, Laura became frustrated with the lack of representation of Latinas in the ADHD community.
Lindsay Guentzel (03:35):
She thought about all of the other girls and women like her struggling in college, in their jobs, in their relationships, having no idea that what they were dealing with, it wasn’t their fault. So she created Latina with ADHD, a blog that has grown with her as she’s documented her experience with brain hacking, navigating emotions, and being successful despite the challenges that come with having ADHD. Now, Latinas from all over the world have a safe space where they can share their ADHD stories and keep the conversation going while bringing together mental health resources for the Latinx community.
Lindsay Guentzel (04:20):
I want to start at the beginning as I have been doing with every guest. Let’s talk about your actual diagnosis. What led up to it, what made you start to question and what the entire process was like for you?
Laura Hoyos (04:35):
Definitely. So I have an adult diagnosis that was actually diagnosed last year. In September, 12 it will be my one year anniversary of my diagnosis.
Lindsay Guentzel (04:46):
Laura Hoyos (04:47):
Thank you so much. It feels like a rebirth so I feel like I’m turning one. I have struggled all of my life feeling like I am very different from everybody else and I have struggles that no one else is having. So I just always told myself that it was a little bit weird. I just have a lot of quirks, that’s what I would call them. And some of those things were not as difficult to deal with, but other things were challenging. College was difficult. I am a first generation immigrant. I am a first generation college graduate, and navigating the educational system in this country and navigating being the first person of my family to go to college while having undiagnosed ADHD was very difficult because I struggled in different ways. I struggled with getting good grades, but it wasn’t because I didn’t understand the material or it wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in the material.
Laura Hoyos (05:50):
Now that I have my ADHD diagnosis, I understand everything that goes into being able to do college and be successful at it. But at the time I just felt like, why can’t I just get it together? And it was building up a lot of resentment towards myself, frustration with myself. I say, I want to do all these things and I think I’m capable, but I also doubt myself so much and I’m dealing with imposter syndrome and do I belong here? This mixture of all of the immigrant experiences, the first gen experiences, and now that I know the ADHD experiences. I was due to explode at any point. When the pandemic began and everything changed for me, the systems I had in place, so things that were keeping me afloat and functioning, everything switched. I got sent to work from home and the change in environment and the control that I had to focus or not focus, because my manager’s not watching me work. That really threw me off and I decided that I needed to go to therapy.
Laura Hoyos (06:52):
I felt that I was struggling a lot with my emotions and I was just spiraling. So after a year and a half of therapy is when one day I was just talking to my therapist and I just said, because I was really messy as a kid, that’s my reputation, I’m just a messy person. And she was like, oh, you’ve never talked about you being messy. And I’m like, no, yes, it’s a problem. And then she said, I think that you would benefit from an ADHD evaluation. That was the first time she mentioned it. And at the time I didn’t know what ADHD was. I had never read about it, heard about it. The only thing that came to mind was hyperactivity in kids, and I thought it was perhaps a learning disability, so I really didn’t know. But the thought that there could be something that explains me, I was like, yes, let’s go for it, let’s do the evaluation, maybe all of my life can be explained.
Laura Hoyos (07:46):
And I think at the time I was like, if there is an explanation as to why I’m so messy, which is a characteristic that I’ve been bullied about by my family and my strict Hispanic parents, if I could just be explained with a medical condition, that would just make me feel so good about myself. So I did the evaluation September 12th of last year, and it came out that I have ADHD and that was my diagnosis story and I guess the beginning of a new chapter for me.
Lindsay Guentzel (08:17):
So it’s a very new diagnosis as you mentioned, one year ago. What were some of the initial moments for you after getting the diagnosis? What did you start to change right away? What did you add to your routine or take out of your routine? What was that very early time like?
Laura Hoyos (08:36):
To be honest, and I know it’s very different for many people, but for me I was ecstatic. I felt I had won the lottery. It was just a lot of enthusiasm around it just because everything made sense to me for the first time ever. And it felt good. I think the initial thing for me was I didn’t realize how much guilt and shame I’d been carrying my entire life for all the things I couldn’t get right. And the ability to have a reason and explanation for that and say, it’s not me. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s not that I’m weird. I’ve been labeling myself this way and not even watching how I talk to myself and how that affects me. It’s not that, my brain is going through this and it’s difficult to do these things and now I had this explanations.
Laura Hoyos (09:25):
So I just felt very happy and I felt very eager to understand ADHD. Because I went from not knowing anything at all, so I did a lot of research, I watched a lot of videos, listened to a lot of podcasts, I read a lot. And I began journaling immediately because I wanted to capture all this information I was absorbing. But also I was beginning to identify, oh, yes, this behavior that I have is because of ADHD. This is how my ADHD shows up for me. I don’t struggle as much with this, but this is a big issue. I wanted to understand myself deeper. So I definitely began that journaling journey. And then within a month of having my diagnosis, I had this big moment of, wait a second, I feel college was traumatic for me because of how difficult it was.
Laura Hoyos (10:17):
And I always blamed it on the fact that I was a first generation college student and I didn’t know what I was doing and it was difficult for all of those reasons and identities. But then I realized how much having ADHD and not knowing, not being medicated, not being aware of it, really affected my educational experience. And then I thought, how many Latinas are out there struggling in college right now, struggling at their first job, struggling in their relationships, and they have no idea that it’s not them? We carry this guilt that’s like, daughters of immigrants and there’s this whole narrative that makes it really difficult to navigate different things in our lives. And I thought, do they know they have ADHD? Because I didn’t know and I want them to know. And how many of us are just going through life struggling so much? Because we don’t talk about this at home, we don’t have these conversations.
Laura Hoyos (11:11):
Within my community I’ve never heard the mention of ADHD. I had to Google how you say it in Spanish. I had to do some research of my own, of how do I explain ADHD in Spanish to my family. So I decided to create Latina with ADHD. Within a month of my diagnosis, obviously I was very new at the whole thing, but that’s, I think in the beginning stages, the best thing I could have done because the page has grown with me. And it became a journaling experience in itself where I was documenting everything new that I was learning. And the main goal with that was, if I could just have one Latina who also has ADHD and doesn’t know it, run across my page and say, oh my God, I go through that, I struggle with this, maybe it’s not me, maybe there’s an explanation, I am happy. That’s all I want.
Laura Hoyos (12:05):
I want us to live a life where we’re not feeling this guilt and shame and having this negative talk to ourselves about how we’re not capable of doing things and it’s all our fault. So that was the beginning stage, it was a lot of high emotions and for the most part, very positive. I did go through days of feeling like, wait a sec, what would my life have been if I had known all along, in childhood, at the early stages of college, all the headaches I could have avoided, all the things I could have accomplished. So I had to mourn that other version of me that would’ve known. But going to therapy really helped me navigate those emotions at the beginning.
Lindsay Guentzel (12:51):
I have so many things I want to say, but first off, I just want to, one, thank you for not only sharing your story here, but for the work you’re putting in with your community. And what I love about the fact that you were like, I didn’t know anything and I just started, is I think for so many of us with ADHD, we are afraid to start things because it’s not going to be perfect and it’s not where we want it to be and we hyper-focus on that. And the vulnerability that it took for you to just put yourself out there. And I’m sure that was a growing experience for you too, healing as well.
Laura Hoyos (13:24):
Definitely. I had a week of just like, should I? Shouldn’t I? Should I? Am I the right person? I am not an expert in ADHD. Will I be able to get the message across? Am I going to offend some people? I was asking all the questions, definitely very hyper-focused and this is going to fail. But then I thought, no, I could have benefited from this and I’m not finding it. The reason why it started was because I saw a lot of content made by white women, which made me excited because as we know, women are misdiagnosed or not as diagnosed as often as men. And so I was really excited to see women share their journey. But then I was like, okay, let’s take a step further. I want to see Latinas talking about ADHD because now I’m thinking of all the way identities intersect with each other.
Laura Hoyos (14:19):
And I just didn’t find anything. I didn’t find any YouTube videos about it. I was just like, where are we? I know we have ADHD. I can’t be the only Latina with ADHD. Where are we and what’s happening? And so that frustration, what’s what ignited that fire of, I’m just going to do it and it doesn’t have to be perfect. I’ll learn along the way and I’m sure people will correct me and teach me on the internet, but I’m just going to get started. And what was really awesome about that is that since the beginning I started getting feedback from other Latinas. Immediately I started getting comments and mostly Dms, private conversations where other Latinas were sharing with me their ADHD struggle in their Latinx community, with their families, the conversation about how those identities intersect. And so right off the bat, I knew this is a good idea, this is necessary, we need more of this. And I’ve just kept it going since then.
Lindsay Guentzel (15:20):
I’m really glad that you touched on the idea there are a lot of white women who have the privilege of the time and the opportunity to put all of these things out there. And I fall into that category, which is why doing 31 stories in the month of October made so much sense because it’s a new story every single day. And it gives us the opportunity to tell different stories outside of my own. I talk a lot about my own life in the podcast because it is my podcast. And so this is an opportunity to open that door. And I am so curious about the cultural differences because I can tell my story from growing up and going to the doctor and sitting in my college counselor’s office, and how many of the depression and anxiety exams I had filled out prior to being diagnosed, and it was actually a woman of color on Twitter who was the final push I needed.
Lindsay Guentzel (16:14):
And I was like, how was I missed? How was this never talked about? And it was just going back to what you said, I was just the messy kid and no one thought that there was anything off with it. But I’m curious because you’ve touched on it a little bit, being a first generation college student, a strict Hispanic household, not talking about mental health, and of course the mental health conversations and the trouble as a society that we have with being open about them definitely crosses over into so many different cultures and ebbs and flows. And it’s one of those things I hope we are the next generation to break to make it less taboo. And so I would really love it if you could touch a little bit on some of the things that culturally stood in your way before you were diagnosed to get you to that answer.
Laura Hoyos (17:06):
Yes, definitely. This is my favorite topic to talk about because it’s a never ending cycle of having aha moments and identifying those that crossover. I think for me, my parents migrated here when I was pretty young and I arrived to the United States when I was eight years old. And they had a very challenging experience as most immigrants do navigating the system here and how things work. From how to rent an apartment, how to sign up my kids for school, our educational systems are different. And they had very valid reasons for migrating here in the first place and very difficult lives and very difficult challenges. So as I grew up, I fit right into that category of the immigrant child that just wants to make their parents proud, that wants to do everything right and that wants to make sure that their parents sacrifices were worth it because I saw how hard they worked.
Laura Hoyos (18:12):
My mom is a housekeeper, my dad owns a cleaning business, and so they work very hard physically, and they would tell me and my siblings, we want you to do better, to have better, to have more, to have that success. And I understood every time I saw them work and their hardships, they’re doing this for me because they want a better life for me. And so I can’t get it wrong. I can’t mess this up. And so that in itself adds a lot of pressure, especially navigating those emotions as a child and as a teenager, it’s hard to balance that out with the need to have your own identity and have fun and not take life so seriously because you’re on this mission of I have to get this right for everybody. My ancestors are watching kind of thing. And so that part of ADHD makes you super curious and super interested in everything and hyper and everywhere that worked out for me.
Laura Hoyos (19:12):
In high school, I signed up for all the clubs, I was in all the community service, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I was involved in all the things, and it just worked because I had the ability to focus on so many different things because they brought me dopamine and they were interesting and fascinating. And so it looked like I was going in the right direction and everybody had so much hope for me like, you got this. The little things were still there. So the mess was a very big issue. Culturally, we take a lot of pride, especially… I don’t want to generalize all the Latin American countries, but in Columbia or growing up in Columbia, being raised in Columbia, the intensity with being clean and organized and on top of your things, it’s on another level. And so I just didn’t fit that part of that identity as a Columbian.
Laura Hoyos (20:10):
Growing up, my aunt washed the bathroom, deep cleaned the bathroom every single day. It happens every single day. I’m looking back and I’m like, why can’t it be done once a week, maybe twice a week if you really wanted to be perfect? But it was this extreme cleanliness and this extreme organization, nothing was ever out of place. Everything was so organized all the time, and I just couldn’t do it. I was always messy. I was always disorganized no matter how much I tried to get it together. And so I had this reputation at home of you’re the messy one and it’s a big issue. And conversations like, I don’t know if you’re going to get married one day because how is a husband going to accept her? How are you going to keep a house? And that stereotype as well of you’re being raised to be a good mother and a good wife and then that’s it.
Laura Hoyos (21:03):
It’s like, how are you going to take care of your children? You’re so inattentive, your head’s in space, one day you’re just going to leave your kid at the park and forget about them. These comments that were meant to poke fun at how quirky I was as a kid. But you do internalize those things. And then you do ask yourself, why am I so forgetful? Why do I mess up so much? Why do I have so many little accidents? I drop things very easily. I break things very easily because I’m rushing to do everything. And so it was, everything about who I was expected to be as a young Colombian woman, I wasn’t fitting that. We also take, culturally, a lot of pride in being extremely well put together. And so you don’t leave your house without showering, doing your makeup and your hair, and you’re wearing a nice outfit and you’re just showing your best self to the world.
Laura Hoyos (21:57):
And I had that interesting life experience where I’m being raised this way up until I’m nine and then I come to United States and I’m going to school with kids that wear sweatpants and baggy sweaters. I was all about it. Now I know sensory wise, that’s just what works for me. I love all the comfy stuff. And so I was like, I choose this cultural stuff better, this works for me. The thought that people here, I grew up in New Jersey, so we had pretty intense winters and so in the winters it was a common thing where you shower at night, get up to go to school in the morning and it’s fine. But this idea of not showering in the morning, culturally, for my Columbian family was like, no, what? And so I had to pick and choose, but also felt I couldn’t find myself in the mixture of those two identities and those two cultural things.
Laura Hoyos (22:53):
And so that added, I think, another layer of confusion for me. When I started college that’s where everything went downhill. That transition was really hard for me to deal with. Being away from my family and being away from all the systems that worked and had kept me afloat and misdiagnosed, really everything just crashed. I struggled with the pressure of I can’t fail, of my parents can’t afford this, so we have loans and so I really can’t fail. I can’t make this not work. And I felt, looking back now, I think it was my first experience with depression. It’s very clear to me now on the symptoms, but at the time I didn’t know what depression was or how it showed up. So I experienced even more guilt. I get to go to my dream college. I’m in this beautiful city. I’m studying my passion, my major. I’m free. I live in a dorm. My parents are not watching me at what time I come home and what time I go to sleep.
Laura Hoyos (23:57):
I get to just live my life and be fun and young. And it was the opposite. I was very, very depressed. I didn’t want to leave my dorm, I didn’t want to get dressed up. I didn’t want to try any of the activities that were offered for us. And I felt extremely ungrateful, how can I have not have gratitude for this? And when I went to my parents to vent and say, I’m not doing well, it was like, you have all of this. This is what we worked for, for you to have of this, and why is it not working? Why are you not enjoying it? So I guess the story, it’s never ending, as I said at the beginning of seeing how this culture stuff really impacted that identity and those symptoms of ADHD that I’m able to pick up on now. But at the time it made the shame and the guilt that much worse because I wasn’t checking off the boxes that I was supposed to as the young immigrant daughter.
Lindsay Guentzel (25:00):
You’ve touched on a few things I want to go back to. The first being you mentioned some of the things that were said to you growing up about how are you going to get married or who’s going to want to marry you, how are you going to take care of a family? And yes, anyone would cling to that, would go back to that. But we also know people with ADHD, we’re incredibly sensitive. We love to ruminate. I’m curious if you’ve had time to go back and look at that time and the cultural acceptance of that narrative for women and how that affected you in those formative years.
Laura Hoyos (25:38):
Definitely. A lot of the work that I have been doing since my diagnosis, it’s realizing all of these things. And I created truths that were not really truth, but were true for me about myself based on these comments.
Lindsay Guentzel (25:55):
The stories we tell ourselves.
Laura Hoyos (25:57):
Exactly. The stories we tell ourselves. And so it’s about identifying those stories and teaching myself and working through the ability to undo them and not believe them anymore and tell myself that those things are not true. But for a very long time I did, I think. I experienced two things. The first one was agreeing to those comments that were made. Yes, I will probably never get married. I don’t think I should be a mom because I would probably be a really bad mom. I’ll forget to feed my children, or something like that. Just believing that there were so many things I wouldn’t get to do because I was just all over the place, is the best way to describe myself. Emotionally wise, I was extremely sensitive. And I see why I really internalized those comments. And I think that difficult part too is that I have an amazing family. And most of the time those comments came from just wanting to poke around, wanting to just joke or make fun of whatever the situation was.
Laura Hoyos (27:03):
But obviously with our sensitivity to rejection, I didn’t take it as a joke and I really believed all of those things. And then the next part of it, I think as I got a little bit older, was wanting to reject those things by rebelling, I guess, against the system. So it wasn’t so much like, oh, I’m not going to be able to get a husband or find one. Nobody’s going to want me, to saying, well, maybe I don’t want to get married. You know what? Maybe I don’t want that. And just letting the anger and the frustration take over and be like, well, I’m fine the way that I am. And I would have a lot of arguments at that time with my mom about my mess. And she would say, Laura, your mess makes me feel sick.
Laura Hoyos (27:48):
I can’t function in a mess. I can’t function in an unkept room. Doesn’t it make you feel that way? And I would just say, no, my mess is fine. I like my messing room. It works for me. It works for me. And trying to defend, I think I got very defensive with those different traits that I was displaying and just saying, it’s okay. It’s okay that I’m like this. It’s okay that I’m forgetful. It’s okay that I drop everything or have random bruises all the time because I hurt myself all the time running into things and whatnot. So I think that was one of the ways in which I dealt with that. But a lot of it has also been for me this past year, having conversations with my mom about this. Teaching her about ADHD and having the opportunity of hearing her say, I’m sorry that I didn’t know and that I couldn’t help get you diagnosed as a kid when it was my responsibility to when you were a child.
Laura Hoyos (28:57):
And having those conversations and being able to heal and remember and recall those moments and say, oh mom, I just learned something new. How I always struggled with this, well, it turns out that when you have ADHD, X, Y, and Z. It’s been good to make it about not just me, but a family thing as well, a family learning experience, an educational experience. Because I don’t think the healing could happen without that, without maybe hearing them say we apologize or also just having them understand. Because I feel I’m getting myself for the first time and it feels good to be seen by others as well.
Lindsay Guentzel (29:43):
That’s really lovely. Thank you so much for sharing that. I dealt with a similar thing and am still dealing with similar conversations with my own mother. And very quickly she just felt so horrible. How did I not know? And it was like, mom, no one knew. And so cliche for a child born in the ’80s, I was in the gifted and talented program in elementary school. They weren’t paying attention to me. It’s not all on you. It very much is this idea of this outdated stereotype of what ADHD is and who it affects. And I heard someone describe it this way very recently, and it was such a great reminder. It’s like ADHD, isn’t a mental health thing, literally our brains are different. It’s not like we are just not digesting things properly. Our brains are wired differently and we are living in a world that is not meant for us. And then you throw in the cultural differences and it is a lot. And it can be exhausting.
Laura Hoyos (30:48):
Yes, it can be very tiring. That was an interesting thing because one of the things that led me to seeking therapy in the first place is I was always very tired. And I was like, Okay, is this depression? Because I’ve seen the typical stereotypical stuff of depression, you sleep all day, and I’m like, maybe I’m depressed and I just don’t know, I need answers. I spend a lot of time going to doctors. Do I have anemia? Why am I always just so tired and things don’t interest me? And I don’t have energy, I only have energy for things that I’m really interested in. Yes, I’ll get up at three in the morning and just do a project because I think that’s the best idea I’ve ever had. But then that’s it. For all the other life things it just wasn’t working. And as I began to undo and pick apart all these things in my life and really understand how ADHD made sense, I realized that the fatigue and the tiredness came from that, from all the work that I do to fit into the neuro-typical world.
Laura Hoyos (31:53):
And it’s very challenging to force yourself to have that brain wiring when it just isn’t there and it’s your brain. You can’t do much about it if it’s just that way. I remember when I got diagnosed, my job had attempted to send us back to work at the office. COVID then got worse again and then they sent us back home. And I remember during that time that I was working at the office, I was having a horrible time because it’s a huge room and my desk was all the way at the wall. So looking at my screen and I was looking at the whole room and there was just lights, just a lot of lights and I don’t like white lights, I like yellow lights. So I would be in a bad mood all day at work because you could control the dimness of the lights.
Laura Hoyos (32:48):
And so when I got there in the office, I would get there extra early, control the lighting and be like, let’s hope nobody moves it. But then at some point in the day, people realized it’s pretty dark in here and just bring up the lights and my day was ruined. I couldn’t focus. I was in a bad mood. I wanted to complain, I wanted to be mad, but I would stop myself and say, Laura, it doesn’t make sense. You can’t get mad because the room is bright, people are working. It’s an office. At the time, I didn’t know about my ADHD, so I just felt this frustration of I’m so bothered by this. And then that frustration led to that tiredness. Everything felt exhausting because I’m like, why can’t I just sit and focus like everybody else? But no, it’s just I’m seeing the lights and that’s it.
Laura Hoyos (33:30):
I can’t get over the fact that, that’s bothering me. Then I get my diagnosis and I’m like, it all makes sense. I remember I would look at my coworker and be like, are the lights bothering you? And she’s like, oh, they’re a little… She was fine. And I’m like, is anybody else experiencing what I’m experiencing? Am I crazy? That’s something that I would ask myself a lot all the time, and now it makes sense. So yes, the whole world feels like this video game where you’re not supposed to be in it. You belong in a different world. And so you have to navigate things that just are never going to make sense, are just extremely complicated to deal with.
Lindsay Guentzel (34:12):
What treatment plans have you put in place over the last year? What is working for you? What are you interested in learning more about? What were some of the things you did initially and have maybe changed? I know it’s only been a year, and so it’s just such a massive journey, but tell us some of the things that you’ve been doing.
Laura Hoyos (34:33):
So one of the first things that I did, as I mentioned, I’ve always enjoyed writing and writing about my feelings. It was always something that has helped. But I really took it more consistently, more serious when I got diagnosed because part of having ADHD means that you just forget things. I didn’t want to forget this experience. I didn’t want to forget how I felt each part of the way and I wanted to document my progress. And writing helped me let it out, which was very important because I was going through all the different emotions. I’m happy I’m diagnosed, but this is sad. And what does it mean for my future? Am I always going to have ADHD and if I have kids, are they going to have ADHD? And how is that going to influence my role as a wife or as a mother or… All the questions. And so journaling helped.
Laura Hoyos (35:24):
Initially I said, Absolutely, I will not take medication. And that really came from the stereotype, the lack of information and how much fear is instilled in my Latinx community about these things. Anything that is internal, mental illness related and requires medication, it’s like, no, it’s not acceptable because a lot of it is misunderstood. And so the idea is you can just work harder or just be grateful. If you just are so grateful for the fact that you’re in this country and you have the opportunity to work here and your American dream, you won’t be sad, you won’t struggle. And so it’s figure it out on your own. But medication? No, that’s for people that are crazy. There is no in between. Either just get it together or you’re just crazy. And so I felt very scared of taking medication.
Laura Hoyos (36:23):
I just felt my whole life, all of my cultural… All the things told me that’s a no-no. And I was scared of maybe trying it and also having to share it with my parents. I was already a 27 year old, but I was like, what are my parents going to think? Are they going to disagree? And friends…? It’s a secret that I would have to hide. And then very quickly through conversations with my therapist, my psychiatrist, I ask questions, how does it work? What does it do? What is the medication? What is ADHD on a physiological level, brain stuff, I want to understand the medical terms and understand how medication would help. Informing myself really made a big difference. And then I made the decision to try the medication, so I’m just going to go for it. At the end of the day I can’t stop myself from trying it just because of what others will say if I’m the one that’s struggling.
Laura Hoyos (37:17):
And medication has been very helpful for me since the beginning. I noticed it right away. It helped. For me it felt all these metaphors that people use, it felt like everybody turned down the volume on a million TVs that were on all at once. It felt like a car slowing down. I felt my thoughts were lined up. And I would think about one thing at once and then I could have time to just sit with that without all the other thoughts wanting to take up space in my head. And I noticed how much it helped, the way I showed up at home, with myself, with my family, in the workplace, how much more calm I became. I didn’t realize that I was always doing things in a rush. I used to think that everybody was just very slow at everything. Why do you cook so slow? Why do you get ready so slow?
Laura Hoyos (38:10):
I can get ready in five minutes, I can make a meal in 10 minutes. I can do everything like this. And so I slowed down and matched everybody’s pace and I was like, oh, it was me. I was the problem. But it felt good to slow down because I felt I was at the verge of giving myself a heart attack of always being on the go. That was really helpful too because as I was having this conversations with my community and the page I created and was sharing this journey and I had a lot of people reach out with similar questions of like, oh, I’ve wanted to try medication, but I’ve had the same fears that you have had. So it felt really good to have those conversations within the Latinx community that has been fostering there and talk about the stigma.
Laura Hoyos (38:55):
I do know that medication doesn’t work for everybody, so I never tried to push it on people or make it like, you have to try this, but I want to make it normal and acceptable to do so. And then I think in the most recent months, what I’ve realized is I’ve been going through a period of, I guess the high of that enthusiasm that I shared where you’re like, oh my God, I have ADHD. Everything makes sense, this is awesome. These are all the things I can do with my life now because I know. And medication’s amazing and I can focus. That high is wearing down and I’m now stepping into a space where I’m realizing having ADHD is very difficult and that it adds an extra layer of hardship in anything that we do and that medication helps up to a certain extent, journaling helps up to a certain extent.
Laura Hoyos (39:53):
Therapy I would say is another part of my treatment because I can have these conversations and vent and really process all the emotions that come up with getting diagnosed as an adult. But now for me, I think the most recent feeling is that, is realizing it’s great that I know, okay, I got past that, that’s awesome. But it’s not so awesome to deal with how hard it is to have ADHD, the reality of it. And I go back and forth between, I have found a lot of systems of what works for me. I found how I can manage laundry. For me, what works best. What works best to have an organized schedule and show up to appointments and not miss things. This year has been about hacking my brain and finding things that maybe don’t make sense for others, but for me it makes sense and I can get it done this way, so I don’t experience that much guilt.
Laura Hoyos (40:55):
But regardless, I also have the times where there is no hack. There is no solution. Oops, that happened. There’s a lot of oops moments. You lose interest in things, you stop showing up. The thing with ADHD, if you don’t want to do it, you’re not going to do it. And that really gets away in the way of being an adult because being an adult means you got to do a lot of things you don’t want to do sometimes. So now I think I’m in the process where I’m navigating those emotions and accepting ADHD for what it is. And trying to be at peace with the fact that some things are just going to be harder.
Lindsay Guentzel (41:36):
I’m curious, and you touched on it a little bit, but what is pushing you forward right now? What is exciting to you or where do you see yourself thriving in this new world you’ve created for yourself, for your community, for other women, Latina or not who have ADHD and hear your story and are connecting to it? Where are you with that?
Laura Hoyos (42:06):
It’s been very interesting. I felt when I started my page, it was definitely a hyper-focused thing from me. And I had the ability to, let’s say, make 10 posts in one day because it was like go, go, go, and all this information, all these things I wanted to put out. I quickly realized as I went through the waves of accepting my diagnosis and life that I have periods where I’m extremely creative and I’m okay and I can make so many things and I want to have conversations and be social. And then I have periods where, not that I lose interest, but I’m struggling. I’m struggling with my mental health. I’m struggling to want to be present and having conversations. It’s more like a quiet time for me. And at first it was difficult because I wanted to keep up with the momentum of what I was doing with my page, but then I realized that part of the entire thing is to really show up as myself and show that side too.
Laura Hoyos (43:07):
It’s not all about, I didn’t want the page to become all about here’s how you can make life work with ADHD. I wanted it to also be about here’s how I’m struggling right now and I don’t have an answer, I don’t have a solution for that right now, but I want to share it with you in case you’re going through it, just so you know you’re not alone. And so I’ve been focusing on creating that space where it’s informational and helpful and I can share tips and things that I’m learning that are good, but I can also share the not so pretty parts of it too and just be very authentic and vulnerable in that way. It has become one of the most important things for me because I see the impact that it can have on other women like myself.
Laura Hoyos (43:53):
And I think that there is never going to be a point where I say, I’ve done the work, it’s enough because every so often I have somebody new message me, I have somebody new contacted me and saying, I just came across your page thinking of getting evaluated. How was your process? How did you get diagnosed? They ask for tips or recommendations. And when I can do that, when I can share about my story and help somebody, it’s the most amazing feeling. And so I don’t see that ever going away. I would like to become the kind of person that can inspire other people to share their own journey. When I created my page, I didn’t want it to be about, I’m the only Latina with ADHD and I own this identity. I really wanted to create it because there wasn’t enough of us. So another mission that I have is to have other Latina women who are very interested in sharing their story do so.
Laura Hoyos (44:54):
And it’s been very awesome because I’ve connected with some women and now there’s a group of us. I’ve been able to see the start and the process of another Latina saying, I want to do this as well. I want to talk about my ADHD and see their success with their pages. And so I have about five or six Latinas spread out through the United States, and we meet once a month and we talk about our pages and what we’re doing and the messages we want to share and how we can help other women. And it’s been very amazing to now have that community. Whereas when I started, it was just me trying to work it out and see what it would become. So I would love for that to continue multiplying and for one day to say there’s 100s of us. The very interesting thing about it is that for us, it feels we’re finally in a setting where we are fully understood.
Laura Hoyos (45:49):
There is a no judgment zone. We get each other, we understand each other on a deeper level, and it feels so good to be in a space like that. So I want to continue taking care of that space on the internet. Taking care of the space that we have curated and welcoming other women. And I’ve also been able to identify now after a year of knowing about my ADHD, that I am a really creative person and I can do things well when there’s a creative aspect to it. So I now know that I’m always going to be in a cycle of seeking that. What can I do to let out that creative side of me that makes me want to do things and accomplish things? So a couple of months ago I thought that it would be awesome to share some cleaning hacks and how I’m able to keep up with my organization now.
Laura Hoyos (46:50):
And I was like, let me create a manual and let me make a video where I share what works for me and maybe it’ll help somebody and I could share the manual for free. And so I did a whole thing. It wasn’t just the post. I created a six page manual and I created a video for it and I posted it. And those things are where I thrive because I’m letting my creativity flow and it’s being welcomed and accepted and it’s helping others. So I think I found the equation that works for me and I need to make sure that I’m always allowing myself to be creative so that I can continue being excited about this.
Lindsay Guentzel (47:27):
That’s an awesome realization to have and to be able to actually put it into effect and have the time and the energy and feel you’re at a place where you can do that. And I also want to acknowledge how amazing it is to hear you say one of your priorities is continuing to build this community because the internet, it’s a great place, it’s also a terrible place. And I also think it’s especially difficult for women. We are our own worst enemies and instead of lifting one another up, we tend to do the exact opposite. So to hear you say you guys get together and talk about what you’re doing on your pages in this supportive, collaborative effort, and it’s not me, me, me, me, me, I have to be at the top. It’s like, what are we doing to make it better for our community? And so I want to just praise you for that because it’s truly a gift and it changes things. And I know it’s a commitment, but it’s very evident that you are passionate about moving forward in a right way.
Laura Hoyos (48:37):
Thank you. I really appreciate that. It’s very easy to get caught up in how many likes do I have, how many followers do I have, how many followers does this person have. That at a human level, those feelings do come up. But when I started the page, I always go back to the origin story and how frustrating it felt to not see us anywhere on the map. And so I have always kept that with me. And so it’s always been about the more the merrier and how we can support each other. I have people contact me and ask me, how did you start? I want to start too. And I’m always so open and so willing to share those tips, give advice, offer help, create their posts, whatever it is, because I think that’s what it’s about. And I think when we focus on the conversation we’re having here in this community of being Latinas, being immigrants, being diagnosed at a later age, having ADHD, we all have similar stories of feeling rejected in many spaces, not quite fitting in or not being understood or not receiving the help that we need.
Laura Hoyos (49:51):
And so I think for all of us, we really want to switch that narrative and be like, okay, well, we haven’t found that space, let’s create it ourselves. Let’s support each other and let’s welcome each other’s ideas and diversity that exists within our group and just help each other grow because we see it, I think for us as more than just… We do it for fun. And I have one of my friends who has her page and she shares really fun and creative videos that are very educational as well about ADHD. And we all have different gifts and talents that we have to offer. So there’s so many ways that we can make the community itself be a fun place to be in. And it’s not just all tough and hard information to digest, but we wanted to just be welcoming, to just welcome more Latinas in and more women in and just have it be a place where you don’t have to feel that same rejection that you’ve been experiencing your entire life navigating being a Latina and having ADHD.
Lindsay Guentzel (51:00):
I want to wrap this up by asking what you wish people knew or understood about ADHD that you just don’t see people catching on to quick enough or that it’s talked about enough. What is your, everyone needs to know this and understand this topic.
Laura Hoyos (51:18):
I think one of the biggest things for me is the fact that there’s this black and white view on it that you’re either like neuro-typical and functional or you have ADHD and you can’t do things. I think that the fact that so many women go their entire lives without being diagnosed tells us that you can accomplish amazingly crazy things and be extremely on top of it and have a family, raise children, have a happy relationship, and just be so successful in whatever success means to you and still have ADHD. Those things can coexist. And the fact that they coexist is many times why women are misdiagnosed. I wish more people understood that ADHD, it’s not this very noticeable thing where you see a person that’s just struggling in every area of their lives and they don’t have friends or they don’t have a family, this idea that… And it means you can’t have nice things and you can’t get the best out of life.
Laura Hoyos (52:26):
And I think if we started understanding that, understanding ADHD for what it is and what it isn’t, we could help get rid of a lot of the stigma and the stereotypes around it. By normalizing that conversation, I think a lot more people will get their diagnosis. Not just women, but men too. And for me, I’ve always thought about the bigger end goal of making the conversation so normal and so understood in the general community that parents are thinking about, well, what are these behaviors I’m seeing in my child? Could it be ADHD and let me do something about it out before they land where we landed?
Laura Hoyos (53:10):
So sometimes I think about what if this conversation can also be about families hearing this in the Latinx community and making sure that they’re helping their children and giving them the support that they need so we can prevent everything that we are talking about now of the challenges of having ADHD and finding out as an adult and all the things we have to heal from and undo because we had the life of undiagnosed ADHD. So I see the potential of what this conversation could be if we just continue having it. And that’s what I wish that people knew, understood and wanted to partake in the conversation so we could just make it happen.
Lindsay Guentzel (53:54):
I could talk to you all day, just your energy and your positivity and the way you look back at what led up to your diagnosis, it truly is a gift. And thank you so much for your willingness and your openness to share it with us for ADHD Awareness Month. Truly, Laura, thank you.
Laura Hoyos (54:11):
It has been an awesome conversation. I thank you so much for your questions. They’ve been very insightful and thank you for having this space. You’re at the core of what I just talked about, the importance of having these conversations, and I thank you for your time, your energy as well. And please continue doing this, talking about this. There’s never ending topics that we could discuss for sure. So you’re doing an awesome job.
Lindsay Guentzel (54:38):
Well, thank you. I appreciate that. That’s very kind of you to say.
Lindsay Guentzel (54:40):
I’m so grateful to Laura Hoyos for joining me on Refocused Together. You can find all of the awesome stuff she’s creating through her platform Latina with ADHD, linked in the show description. The thanks continue in a big way to the entire ADHD Online team. Zach Booker, Dr. Randall Dutler, Tim Gutwald, Keith Brophy, my teammates, Keith Boswell, Susanne Spruit, Claudia Gatti, Melanie Mile, Paul Owen, Kirsten Pip, Sissy Ye, Trisha Merchant Dunny, Lauren Radley, Corey Kearney, and Mason Nelly, and the team at Dexia, Cameron Sterling and Candace Leke, Camilla Eden, Lauren Terry, Sarah Gelbar, Phil Rodman, and Sarah Pladamaydus. Our theme music was created by Lewis English, a songwriter and composer based in Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39. To find out more about Refocused Together or to share your story with me, head over to adhdonline.com and check out the ADHD Awareness Month page, which highlights this project as well as each day’s episode after they’ve been released. You can also find out more by following along on social @Lindsay_Guentzel and @Refocused_Pod.