Guilt and shame. Grief and depression. And, of course, hope. Mary Llewellyn shares her deeply personal journey with ADHD in this episode of Refocused, Together.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:04):
Welcome back to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel. What you’re listening to today it’s a little bit different than the podcast episodes we’ve shared with you before. This episode, this person’s story is a part of Refocused, Together, a special series the team at ADHD Online and I have been working on for ADHD awareness Month. Every day throughout the month of October, we’ll be sharing a different person’s ADHD story which is fitting because the theme for ADHD awareness month this year is Understanding a Shared Experience. And I can’t think of a better way to really get a sense of that shared experience than by telling a different story every single day. And to be clear, yes, that’s 31 stories in 31 days. My name is Lindsay Guentzel and along with the team at ADHD Online, I’m so excited to present, Refocused, Together a collection of stories aimed at raising awareness on just how complex ADHD is and the different ways it shows up in people’s lives.
When we share stories, it’s easier to find the perspective, ideas and tips that help us live our best lives. I’m interviewing people with bearing backgrounds, diagnoses, experiences and perspectives. We’ll hear from working parents, advocates, engineers, writers, PhD candidates and more to learn that while we may be different, we are all united by our own ADHD journeys. This special project is very near and dear to my heart and although talking to 31 different people has been a lot of talking, I am so grateful for each person who shared their story with me and 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.
Mary Llewellyn learned about her ADHD from the psychologist she started seeing while working through the challenges of losing her husband. She didn’t expect it and at the same time it wasn’t a surprise. And since that day, she’s given herself permission to look into it further and has even started to embrace it. Mary realized her grief was like an iceberg with the most recent events hovering above her at the top, the hidden part under the water, that was more significant than she had expected it to be. Once she started to look into it, grief looked like many things. Not finishing graduate school, which impacted her career and money making ability, feeling like a failure when she couldn’t keep up with the unattainable standards set around motherhood and running a household. And then there was the feeling of being stuck in an endless cycle of people-pleasing and never being able to explain why she just always felt bad.
Her diagnosis helped her see the actual depth of her grief, of the grief she carried with her throughout the years. Mary’s now learning not to beat herself up over things she can’t fix and is putting tools in place to handle what’s in front of her realistically. Checking things off her to-do list now feels satisfying, as does reaching out and letting loved ones know what she’s going through so she’s not dealing with these things alone. These changes have offered Mary some breathing room and a future where she can map out her course while understanding her brain. One that works in unique and wonderful ways. I am so excited to introduce you to today’s Refocused, Together guest, Mary Llewellyn.
Mary Llewellyn (03:52):
I was diagnosed with ADHD only about two months ago which was pretty, I knew it personally because two of my children were diagnosed with ADHD. And when I helped them fill out their surveys, it was pretty obvious to me. I had always been a person who was always misplacing their keys, couldn’t find things, couldn’t see things that were sitting right in front of them, those kinds of things, walk in a room and go, “Oh, what am I here for?” So it was kind of pretty obvious to me but it wasn’t a formal diagnosis. So you just kind of not sure what to think about it. And after my formal diagnosis, I started diving a little deeper into things and starting to realize, yeah, there’s things that now I really understand about myself. And in some ways it’s very sad to understand that at 58 years old, but you can always move forward so that’s what we’re looking forward to.
Lindsay Guentzel (04:55):
What were some of the things? It has only been two months and you said it’s something you’ve known, you just didn’t have a formal diagnosis. What were some of the things that have stood out to you?
Mary Llewellyn (05:07):
Some of the things that stood out for me are procrastination. Doing a simple task like, “Oh, I have to call somebody.” And you just put it off and put it off and put it off and it ends up becoming this big giant thing. And then there’s shame with that, you didn’t call them and it was so simple, why couldn’t you do that? And it just goes on and on and on and just sort of builds. That was one thing.
Another thing that I found is a people pleasing was a big one. It was huge. I never really thought of those two things as the people pleasing and because one of the things my husband and I used to always have a problem with is he would ask me a question and I just answer him immediately and I would answer the first thing that would, “Okay, I’m going to say this because this is what he wants to hear.” And it became an issue. It became a real issue. That was another real big insight for me as well. So yeah, those were two of them. There are many others but I can’t remember all of them right now.
Lindsay Guentzel (06:21):
You obviously have had a very successful life. You are a mother, you were married for a very long time. You have a career. When you look back at some of the things that maybe you can now realize were ADHD, what is it like looking back. You mentioned it’s sad to think about some of those things. So when you look back at some of the things that life has given you and how you’ve handled it because of this undiagnosed ADHD, what stands out for you?
Mary Llewellyn (06:55):
There are a couple things that stand out. One of the things is graduate school. Once I got out of my undergraduate program, there’s not as much structure as when you’re in high school, but when you get out of that, there’s still structure there. But in a graduate program, that’s not there. It’s kind of on you other than the classes you have to attend. And it was very difficult for me to concentrate and get things done and I could never finish my degree. It was really disheartening because it really impacted my career and my money making ability. And also just a lot of unfulfilled, you don’t feel like you finish something and why didn’t you finish something? And it’s always a little badge of shame. And when it comes up in professional settings, I try to avoid the conversation or just not even bring it up. That’s one thing.
The other thing is with my husband and our relationship, having ADHD, like many people with ADHD, I’m not organized. And I was a stay at home mom for a very long time and the expectation of being a woman is, “Oh, you should be able to be organized. You should be able to manage a house.” And I could manage my children and their schedules because I think it was because they’re obviously right in front of me. But when it came to those keeping the house tidy and doing those things, that was something I couldn’t do. And he was working full-time and that was my job to take care of the house and it was just something I utterly failed at. And that caused me to have some depression because I see everybody around me, other moms in the neighborhood, other moms my kids go to school with, they can do this, why can’t I? And I started to put all kinds of tags on it, but I didn’t really identify what it was like assign other causes to it, I guess is good word to put it. Yeah.
Lindsay Guentzel (08:55):
And what age were your children diagnosed?
Mary Llewellyn (08:59):
My son was diagnosed when he was 14. My daughter was only diagnosed when she was 17. And I think she was fine for a very long time but one of the things that sort of brought her problem made it worse is she had a very bad concussion. And after that it got, even her ADHD got much worse. So I don’t know if those two things are connected, but I’m not really sure but it’s there.
Lindsay Guentzel (09:33):
And you mentioned some of the things that you saw when you were going through their assessments, when you were helping them through that. Do you remember anything in those moments that stood out or what those feelings were like? I mean, because that’s more than 10 years ago. Well, for about that, maybe less than 10 years ago but the conversation around the connection with genetics wasn’t really even the thing at that point.
Mary Llewellyn (09:56):
No, it was not at all. And when I’m taking the survey, I’m like, “Oh, well, that’s just how I am because that’s how I’ve always been. So that’s who I was.” So to me it didn’t really stand out as something that I should be concerned about because I’ve just got so used to it being who I was, all those behaviors. So nothing really particularly stood out other than the organization pieces of things.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:23):
I’m wondering if we can talk about going through the assessment. What was in your head when you wanted to look into this further? You’ve mentioned that it was something you kind of always knew, there was no formal diagnosis but what was it about two months ago that was the catalyst for that? And kind of walk me through the whole process and what you discovered about yourself and what you were feeling.
Mary Llewellyn (10:50):
Sure. One of the things that happened, I ended up become through my insurance company, they started this program called Able To, it’s about be able to set goals and getting things done. And I guess I was referred to them because of my husband’s passing away. But in talking to the psychiatrist or not the psychiatrist, wasn’t… A psychologist. And going through the conversation it just was like, “Oh, wow.” She said, “Have you ever been formally diagnosed with ADHD?” And I said, “No, I haven’t.” She said, “Well, I can tell you that you are. You can now be formally diagnosed.” Because, yeah, it became very obvious in our conversations. And that’s what really sparked it, to just get the formal diagnosis rather than, it wasn’t something that I chose to do but it just sort of was there. And then just after it was there, then it was like, okay, now it was like I gave myself permission to look into it further and almost embrace it, I guess is a good way of putting it.
Lindsay Guentzel (12:01):
I hope it’s okay if I ask about your husband’s passing and how that has affected you. You mentioned issues in the relationship and feeling like a failure because your role was supposed to be the person who kept the house in order and you couldn’t do it. And then you have this part of your life, your partner, passes away. And so what was that transition like for you?
Mary Llewellyn (12:29):
That transition was really hard because he was the person that kept me grounded. He was the person that would say if we had to do something around the house, he’s like, “Okay, well, how are we going to do this? Or Why don’t we get started on this?” And just of start the process along and just sort, not lead the process, but just sort of guide me that way and just make it a group activity. But I also, just having him just with me all the time with me, he was just a stabilizing influence in my life. Just having him close by, we sort calmed each other down because he had some issues with panic attacks so it was a mutual, calming effect I guess we had on each other.
Lindsay Guentzel (13:22):
I’m wondering in the time that has passed since his passing, what you’ve realized about yourself. And the reason I asked that is that when I lost my dad, I was obviously, it’s horrific, but I also get to see my mom in this new light. She is a new person in this time. So I’m curious what you’ve learned about yourself from the time that you’ve been on your own.
Mary Llewellyn (13:52):
I’ve learned that if I manage myself better, I can accomplish things. And that’s been different just that managing myself and figuring out what needs to get done. I’ve become a great planner because it’s the only way I can get things done. I have this lovely calendar book and this has daily tasks on one page, and then there’s a monthly pad kept. So I do this whole big overview of what I’m going to do when and I’ve been pretty good about sticking to it. I would say I’ve had an 80% success rate which is about 200% better than what I would’ve done in the past. So that’s a good thing, I guess.
Lindsay Guentzel (14:48):
It’s a great thing.
Mary Llewellyn (14:54):
The other thing with my husband’s passing, I was able to gain some light into some difficulties we had in our relationship. Things that I would do, behaviors that I would do that could be attributed to my ADHD, that really caused problems in our relationship. And it made me sad, very sad actually, because had I known what was going on and had I put in place some coping skills, I think our lives could have improved somewhat and our relationship could have improved quite a bit. I mean, we had a wonderful relationship, don’t get me wrong, but it could have been better, I guess.
Lindsay Guentzel (15:42):
And how do you work through that grief? Because it doesn’t matter what age you’re diagnosed, we all have stuff in our past that we can connect to, our undiagnosed ADHD. But for you, I mean, I hate to just say it, but that’s not something you can fix because he has passed away.
Mary Llewellyn (16:02):
Right. And that’s the sad part of it. It’s not something I can fix. And I wish he were here and I could tell him about it. But one of the things that I’ve learned not to do is to beat myself up over it and understand that it wasn’t what it was and it was in the past. And I just have to move forward from that and make sure that I’m mindful of that in the relationships I have with other people in my life. So it was a hard thing to understand at first. My main grieving time and process was pretty much I was through it and then I got my diagnosis and then, wow, that just hit me like a ton of bricks and it started things all over again. And with some talk therapy, it really worked its way, it’s better now.
Lindsay Guentzel (17:06):
It’s a process for in every day, I think.
Mary Llewellyn (17:10):
Yeah, it is. It’s a matter of just being mindful of what you’re doing every day and just setting some coping skills. And one of the things I found that’s really important for me is to have, when I start getting wound up or I start getting anxious or I start getting inattentive, is to make sure that I have some, either I have some [inaudible 00:17:37] things that ground me or I just take a break and get away, go for a little walk outside. I mean, one of the other issues that I have is I work from home. So that really, the combination of working from home has also been a challenge as well.
Lindsay Guentzel (17:54):
Let’s talk about that a little bit, the challenge from working from home because I think almost every person that I’ve talked to who was diagnosed during the pandemic brought up something about the working from home. What was the transition like for you? The pandemic happens and you get moved home and what were the early days like? And I asked that keeping in mind at the same time, that’s still in this window of managing grief and then being in your house all the time, I imagine is just a lot.
Mary Llewellyn (18:29):
Yeah, it was. And unfortunately, well, fortunately I should say, I just recently changed jobs. So working from home is kind of new for the past maybe four, five months. So being in the house all the time, what I ended up doing is making my own space and moving into my own space. One of my friends laughs at me, but off my desk, an office area used to be in my laundry room and she laughs because she says, she pictures me working on top of an ironing board which is not the case but it’s just a separate built in cabinet area. But anyway, that was my husband’s office was downstairs and during the pandemic he would come up and we would meet up in the kitchen and talk in our spaces and everything.
And I knew I couldn’t stay in that space and work. So I took over our rec room that we have in our basement and just made myself an office space there. And it also helped having that space because it’s downstairs in the basement and it’s a physical moving from the upstairs in the living areas to a different space down by myself and it’s my office, so it’s my space and I know when I come here I’m working. So that’s been one way to handle it.
Lindsay Guentzel (19:57):
I’m wondering if we can go back to life when you were working in an office. This diagnosis is new for you, but I’m sure you’ve spent a lot of time looking back. And what was that like when you were working around other people and you were undiagnosed ADHD and there’s all of those things going on and then how did you manage it?
Mary Llewellyn (20:17):
Well, it’s interesting. When I used to work in a manufacturing setting and in a very dynamic environment where there were always fires to put out and as someone with ADHD that was amazing. There’s always something to do. “Oh, there’s something new, great, let’s go do this.” And it was wonderful and I excelled at it and I just always had fun time at work. But in my, not this job, but my previous job, I was in an office and there wasn’t a whole lot going on. We were a virtual company and it was just being in an office all day. And I just found that incredibly difficult to stay focused, to just keep myself engaged and interested.
And we had a period where work was very slow because we had a drug that didn’t get approved. So there was not a whole lot going on. And that was really hard, very hard thing. Now, in my present job, it’s a little better actually because we work in a very collaborative environment and we have a lot of meetings so there’s a lot of interaction with people throughout the day. My son’s working from home so he’s here and we catch up in the mornings. And so there’s always somebody around in the house so it’s not as bad. And with him having his ADHD, we always check in on each other to see, “How’s your work going today?” So make sure we stay on task.
Lindsay Guentzel (21:51):
That’s great that you can do that. And I’m curious, you mentioned some of the coping strategies that you’ve implemented and you have the calendar and if you need to take a break, but what else are you doing in life with this new understanding of how you function best? And then what have you put in place outside some of the other things that we’ve talked about already?
Mary Llewellyn (22:17):
One of the things is critical that I found is exercise. If I exercise every day, it’s like it keeps me charged, not all day, but pretty much till the middle of the afternoon. That’s one of the things that I’ve put in place. Also, putting in place some just general rules for myself. When I go to bed, the countertops need to be clear, everything needs to be put away. Just little, simple things like that make life a little better. One of the other things that I’ve put in place is a no list of the things you cannot do as opposed to the to-do list. Like, “Okay, you can’t go sit in front of the television until the dinner dishes are done.” Or that if there’s something that you need to get done that day, that you get that done before you can go sit in front of the television or go do something else. So that’s one of the other things that I’ve done as well.
Lindsay Guentzel (23:20):
I want to ask, because I had this moment last night and I tell my boyfriend who’s neurotypical and of course very organized. I was like, “John, I took the laundry out and I folded it and I put it in the basket. And as I was pushing it away, I said to myself, I’ll feel so much better tomorrow. This is all put away already.” And so would you walk me through some of the conversations that you have now because you’ve lived so long with, well, I have too, so I’ve definitely been on the same side, but walk me through what’s going on in your head as you’re working through some of these things that you hadn’t in the past?
Mary Llewellyn (24:07):
It’s freeing, actually. It’s very freeing when once you’re able to do it and it’s done, as opposed to always looking around and going, “Ugh, I need to do that. Ugh I need to do this.” And it’s always there and it never goes away. I’m working right now, I’m redoing my landscaping out at my house and one of the things I’ve been doing is we have a dry bed of river rocks and I have to get these things cleaned up and moved. And I’ve been doing that and I finished and I went, “Wow, this feels great.” I’m not used to feeling this way. And there’s that sense of it’s more freedom and more the ability to breathe. That’s the way I describe it. There’s an ability to breathe and an ability to relax that it’s a relaxing in a different way as opposed to that, “Hey, let’s do this fun kind of thing.” Relaxing, it’s just more of a peaceful, relaxing than anything else.
Lindsay Guentzel (25:13):
With what you know about ADHD and this can be from your own journey, from your journeys with both of your children. When you look at how it has affected your life, what, for you, is kind of the most prominent that stands out when you think of the negative side of things?
Mary Llewellyn (25:34):
The things that I didn’t do, the things that I didn’t finish. Those are the things, the negative things and the interactions with people. One of the things that I find is that it’s hard sometimes for me to maintain relationships with people because it takes work and I’m meant to text you, but it’s five, four days later and I didn’t, that kind of thing. And people don’t see that as positive. They just think, Oh, you’re just blowing me for the day. But yeah, that’s another one, bigger regrets I have. And just that interaction with people.
Lindsay Guentzel (26:11):
You mentioned some of the comorbidities that you now know were connected to your ADHD, the depression that came from some of the feelings that came up because of how hard it was for you to hit this probably unattainable standard. We set crazy standards for ourselves and we’re always comparing each other. What were some of those things like a lot of people with later in life diagnosis can go back and see, oh, that depression, that anxiety was really tied to the ADHD. And so what have you thought about when you look back at that time?
Mary Llewellyn (26:52):
I just look back at, it feels like part of my life was stolen away from me, is what it feels like. It really does, because that’s just becomes a cycle that, “Okay, I feel bad about this. And then because you feel bad, you can’t do more, and then it just keeps propagating itself and it’s not a great place to be, really is not. And it’s funny that people don’t recognize that, really just don’t recognize it and people, and when that happens, I think other people aren’t recognizing what is actually going on with you. They just see that you’re sad and depressed and they don’t know why and you can’t, without being diagnosed. I couldn’t really tell people why I was feeling the way I was feeling it. I just felt bad. That’s all.
Lindsay Guentzel (27:47):
Are these conversations that you have in talk therapy?
Mary Llewellyn (27:52):
Yeah, they definitely are. And I would highly recommend that to people. It’s important. It’s important to understand how you were feeling and understand, not go back and try to relive it and say, “Oh gosh, my life would’ve been so different.” And it’s almost like you just have to accept that and not, it’s sort of a way, grief for it, but understand that you have to move forward from it. There’s just no other way.
Lindsay Guentzel (28:22):
I think it’s completely and totally something you have to grieve. I think you hit an age where you realize you get one life and that brings up a lot of feelings, just saying it. It certainly does, yeah. You have one life and you go, “Wow, okay.” Things could have been different in so many ways. You think about money management, all kinds of things. So, yeah, lots of things. Yeah.
You’ve mentioned a little bit of some of the positive things. You mentioned how freeing it feels to want to get things done and want to wake up and have your counters cleaned off. So with everything we’ve talked about and the heaviness of that, when you look at life, what is bringing you optimism right now?
Mary Llewellyn (29:28):
What’s bringing me optimism is that I now have tools in place to manage things. I did recently start medication to help with my ADHD. It’s a very low dose, but it helps. And that’s what brings me optimism, that I know how to handle what’s in front of me. So I’m more hopeful about what can be accomplished. And the other thing I’ve done too is I’ve learned how to set realistic goals for what I personally am capable of accomplishing. Not some… Because one of the things that also happens in your brain is like, “Oh, wow, this is great. This is going to be this, this and this.” And then it gets so big and wonderful and it’s let’s just look at what’s going to be realistic, what’s going to be able to be done and do that piece of things. So that’s one of the things that makes me very optimistic and having to be able to design things. And then I could go, “Oh, check, I did that. That’s great. Yay.” Feels good.
Lindsay Guentzel (30:33):
I want to ask, we’ve talked a lot about the sadness that comes with the later in life diagnosis, but you also mentioned the one job you had that was in a manufacturing setting and so it was very active and there were constantly fires to put out, which means that you are somebody who works well under pressure. And so when you look at your ADHD and obviously we have to take into account the bad parts of it. It’s just, that’s a thing. But for a lot of us, there are also things that come out of us that we also can go, “Okay, yeah, that’s a really great thing about me and that also comes from the ADHD.” So what stands out for you?
Mary Llewellyn (31:14):
Well, that’s one of the things I can always like, “Okay, we have to make a decision. We have to do this.” And it’s like, “Okay, let’s go. Boom, boom, boom.” My brain starts going, is like, “Okay, we need to do this.” And everybody just thinks you’re a genius. It’s like, “No, it’s because my mind’s going a million miles an hour, so that’s why I can get this thought out as quickly as possible.” And it lets you go from task to task and be able to do a multitude of different types of things. So I ended up getting a whole lot of broad experience in my job that led me to where I am today, which was terrific. And the other thing that I think is very positive is I think the way I see things differently in my mind and how the world works, I can see pieces of things that other people don’t see sometimes.
Or I can see, when I look at something, it has to be very logical in order to work. And I’m like, okay, this is how it’s going to be. And then, you fall down when you’re trying to put it all together on paper, make execute sometimes. But it’s been great to have a brain that, I say it’s like my brain has, there’s file cabinets and a super ball, a super bouncy ball in my head that pops, the one file cabinet opens that one up and then, oh, there’s this piece of information, boom here’s another piece of information. And somehow they all manage to connect. So that’s a positive, even though it might seem like it’s not.
Lindsay Guentzel (32:51):
No, all of our positives, somebody who doesn’t know how it works. But yes, when you explain it, you’re like, “No, this is me and this is great.” I’m wondering if you’ve been opening up to people about your diagnosis and what that’s been like?
Mary Llewellyn (33:09):
I’ve definitely opened up to my children, which it’s not news to them. I guess. And a friend of mine, a very good friend of mine I opened up to about and actually mine and my sister-in-laws, I told her about it. And it’s been helpful. It’s just been helpful for people to understand me and who I am. So that’s been good.
Lindsay Guentzel (33:38):
I bet it’s also helpful to have that addition. So you have this grief that’s hanging over you. I call it my dead dad card. And my friends are always like, “Okay, we check in on Lindsay on these days and we make sure everything’s okay.” And now you have this added side to it. It’s this new layer that you are working through. But then you also have people who also know that that’s happening.
Mary Llewellyn (34:06):
Right, yeah. And the interesting thing is, I think not done [inaudible 00:34:16], there’s still days, but I’ve been able to work through a lot of my grief and that’s been very good with the help of some very good friends who just didn’t, not necessarily didn’t want me dwell on it, but just let me be a person as opposed to being a widow and someone who’s grieving. So I’ve been fortunate that way to have those people in my life. But with the ADHD diagnosis, it’s been helpful to just so people understand me a little bit better, that’s all.
Lindsay Guentzel (34:50):
When you have those little wins like with the river rock, do you ever think of what your husband would be saying?
Mary Llewellyn (34:58):
Yeah. He’s like, “Oh, that’s done. Oh, we got that done. All right. Yeah, that’s great.”
Lindsay Guentzel (35:06):
He’s very proud of you. You know that.
Mary Llewellyn (35:08):
I hope so.
Lindsay Guentzel (35:13):
I want to know what you see for the future. And that can be in any respect, it can be an adding in more to your coping mechanisms. It can be continuing therapy. When you look to the future, and that can be a month, it can be five years, whatever’s kind of in your frame of mind, what stands out for you?
Mary Llewellyn (35:38):
One of the things that stands out for me is just developing some, not additional coping skills because the ones I think that I have are doing pretty well. But it’s just a matter of now learning some things that I just never learned, ever in life about organizing things. Because one of the things that I didn’t before in the past is when I go to organize things, I’d like, it gets, “Oh, I’m going to organize things.” So everything would come out of the cabinets, everything would be… And then it’d be all over the floor. And it’d be all over the floor for half a day or a day and never get back where it should be until it absolutely needed to. So it’s just a matter of just learning some better coping skills about how to do some very basic things that I need help learning. And organization is one of them. And also some time management too.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:36):
It’s very hard so if you learn something, I would love it if you pass it along. I literally said that yesterday. I was like, “Ugh.” I had double dose of therapy yesterday, my own and then with my boyfriend. And just at the end of it, I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing in life. How did I get here?”
Mary Llewellyn (36:56):
Yeah. And then I think that happens too. It’s like, how did I get where I am? And you go away. Because you tend to live in the moment. You don’t tend to really think or really have a plan. And sometimes your life just goes on and you get ahead of you, I think, almost.
Lindsay Guentzel (37:19):
I’m wondering if you’ve thought at all about other people in your scenario who have maybe had the inkling in their head that ADHD is something that they may have been living with and they might look at life and go, “Well, what’s the point at this? What’s the point? Why would I do it now?” And so what would you say to that narrative with what you’ve gone through in the last couple of months?
Mary Llewellyn (37:51):
Yeah, one of the things I would say to them is that you still have plenty of life ahead of you. You can’t redo what happened in the past. You do have to take the time and look at it and grieve for what it was but then determine what you want your path forward to look like and what you want your life to look like. Actually, it’s kind of interesting. My best friend from high school, I know she has ADHD and she’s just starting to realize it. And I told her, I said, “Maybe you want to look into this a little bit.” And so she’s a ferocious reader, so she’s going to be start reading about everything and anything under the sun. So I can see where she’s going to end up going with that. But it’s just gently noticing it and just maybe offering it up to people if I see it.
Lindsay Guentzel (38:54):
How are you at showing yourself grace and kindness? Has that changed a bit?
Mary Llewellyn (39:00):
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve been able to show myself a lot more kindness than I had in the past. And it’s funny, I met up with someone the other day and they’re like, “Oh, my goodness, you look great, you seem so good.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I do, okay. That’s great.” And I can just see it in myself by giving myself that kindness and not beating myself up all the time. That’s a big one. That’s a real big one. Beating yourself up for the things that you didn’t do or the things that you didn’t get done or why you didn’t do something and that’s been a very positive effect on my life. And actually not beating myself up, it gives me more space to actually get more accomplished because I’m not beating myself up over everything. So, yeah.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:01):
I’m wondering if there’s anything that has surprised you that you’ve learned about ADHD.
Mary Llewellyn (40:09):
Yes, the people-pleasing part of it. That was the one thing that really surprised me. I’d had no idea about that. And that’s very eye opening. Not only in my behavior, but in behavior I see in my son which that explains a lot. So yeah, that was one thing I just really did not know. And another thing I recently found out, and I can very much relate to it, is that as women get older and start to go through menopause, the more loss of estrogen makes your ADHD a little bit worse. And I can definitely relate to that. So, yeah.
Lindsay Guentzel (41:00):
Yes, I had heard that and I was super stoked to find that one out.
Mary Llewellyn (41:04):
Yeah, that was a great thing. It was like, Oh wow, one more thing to add to the none fun part of all this stuff.
Lindsay Guentzel (41:12):
Yes, absolutely. I’m curious, just when you go back and you think about your childhood because this answer comes at a point in life when your children are grown and all of those things. And so do you look back at elementary school or middle school or school and see some of these things?
Mary Llewellyn (41:36):
It’s funny. I was always a smart kid in school. I always did really well in school. I went to college on a full scholarship, so I didn’t really even notice any problems until I started to be, I would say 16, 17 years old. That’s when it really started to have an impact on me. Because I think that’s when life starts to get a little more complex and a little more chaotic. And that’s when it really started to hit me. I didn’t really notice it prior to that.
Lindsay Guentzel (42:11):
Yes, I was the messy kid. And you just think that you’re the messy kid and you don’t really know that anything else is happening.
Mary Llewellyn (42:19):
Yes, it’s true. I was the messy kid. I have a brother and his room was always very neat. My room was, I had clothes piled up on one half of the bed and the other half of the bed I slept in.
Lindsay Guentzel (42:37):
I have definitely. That my guest bed might look exactly like that right now. Last thing I want to ask, if there was anything that you would want to share for ADHD Awareness Month that people who are listening and any age, whether they have ADHD or not, what is something that you wish people understood better or that you could pass along from your own experience?
Mary Llewellyn (43:07):
I think one of the things that I would like to pass along is that people need to understand that their brains are unique and they work in very wonderful ways and find ways or things to do with their life that embrace that chaos that’s in your brain. And also, don’t be afraid to, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or if you’re feeling like you can’t handle something or you don’t know how to handle it, don’t be afraid to reach out and say that I can’t do this. Even if it seems like it’s something that you should be able to do, that it’s a very simple thing that everyone your age should be able to handle this, don’t be afraid to ask and reach out for help.
Lindsay Guentzel (43:51):
That’s a great way to end it. I’m just so appreciative of your candor and your honesty and I’m really happy for you. I know that there’s a lot of grief that comes with it but I also think you have such an amazing mindset and I love that you are challenging yourself to get better every day. And that’s, I say, get better. And I hate using that, but to be better version of your… You have things you want to work on and they do end up bothering you. The idea of going to bed and having the counters cleaned off and it’s like, yeah, you get to a point where you’re like, “Yeah, those things do bother me, and I’ve just kind of pretended that they hadn’t or that I wasn’t capable of changing that.”
Mary Llewellyn (44:35):
Well, and the amazing thing is sometimes I know it seems like a small thing, but those small things sometimes are amazing for you, helping your attitude and your mood.
Lindsay Guentzel (45:05):
I’m so grateful to Mary for being vulnerable and opening up about her diagnosis and all of the feelings that come with that. It was truly an honor of mine to share her story with you. There are so many people to thank for making Refocused, Together happen. The entire team at ADHD Online, Zach Booker, Dr. Randall Duthler, Tim Gutwald, Keith Brophy. My teammates, Keith Boswell, Susanne Spruit, Claudia Gatti, Melanie Meyrl, Paul Owen, Kirsten Pipp, Sissy Yee, Tricia Mirchandani, Lauren Radley, Kory Kearney and Mason Nelle. And the team at Deksia, Hector and Kenneth. And the team at SMACK Media, Cameron Sterling and Candace Lefke, Camilla Eden, Lauren Terry, Sarah Gelbard, Phil Roderman, Jake Bieber and Sarah Platanitis. Our theme music was created by Luis Inglis, 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 @lindsayguetnzel and at @RefocusedPod.