Lindsay Guentzel was almost 35 years-old when she was diagnosed with ADHD. It turned out to be the answer she didn’t know she was looking for.
In this episode of Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel, the journalist and mental health advocate walks through her diagnosis and shares some of the most eye-opening connections she saw in the first few days after receiving it. Plus, a candid conversation with one of her sisters who provides a look at what Lindsay was like as a child — the years when she flew under the radar.
Finally, hear how Lindsay uses the movie Independence Day — yes, the one about aliens — to explain the effect ADHD has on her life.
Social Media Profiles
Instagram: @lindsayguentzel @adhdonline @refocusedpod
Twitter: @lindsayguentzel @adhd_online @refocusedpod
For more information on ADHD Online and ADHD assessments, medical management and teletherapy.
Why the Stigma Around ADHD Medications is so Dangerous
Tracy Otsuka’s podcast ADHD for Smartass Women, episode 19: ADHD & Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria
Read Aloud: A Text to Speech Voice Reader
Lindsay Guentzel (00:00):
My name is Lindsay Guentzel, and I have ADHD.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:11):
This is Episode 2 of Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel, and it dives into my own diagnosis, what got me there, and what I’ve learned since. My story is full of a lot of hindsight, lots of what I know now, and that’s pretty typical for women diagnosed with ADHD later in life. I mean, we were more likely to become experts at picking up coping mechanisms. Combine that with less focus on inattentive ADHD, which brings in a lot of the unseen emotional symptoms, and it’s really the perfect recipe for flying under the radar.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:44):
I failed out of college twice. Knowing more about myself now and knowing more about how ADHD has affected me, it makes complete and total sense that I went from a small high school, in a small town, where I had a set routine with expectations and accountability, not to mention a schedule that was so busy there was no time for the train to come off the tracks, to a giant university, in a major metropolitan city, where I was 1 of 50,000. Where if I didn’t show up for class, there wasn’t anyone to hold me accountable to ask where I was. I don’t think I even met my advisor until I’d failed out, and she was making me sign whatever papers saying I was no longer a student at the school. It makes total sense that the second there was freedom there, and I was supposed to set my own routine, that all hell broke loose.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:30):
There were obviously things happening before I graduated from high school, but that transition from high school to college is really where I see things start to unravel, and, of course, I had no idea what was going on, and it wasn’t like I was prepared to ask for help. I was simply too ashamed. It took a really long time for me to become comfortable talking about what happened in college. I think because of my career working as a journalist, everyone just assumes I have a college degree, so I’ve never brought it up.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:56):
I joke I was meant to be an entertainer. I just wasn’t given traditional talents for someone who becomes an entertainer. I’ve just always felt most alive when I’m behind the mic or in front of a camera or on stage in front of a crowd, even as a little kid. I can’t tell you whether I wanted to study journalism. I don’t know that I ever looked at majors or researched career paths, I was just there doing a lot of socializing and very little studying. And by the time I had gone through all of the free passes offered by the school and cut off nearly every single meaningful friendship I’d made, I walked away with a lot of debt and very little understanding of how to adult. I still don’t think I truly know how to adult, and obviously that’s just a snippet of my story.
Lindsay Guentzel (02:42):
There are two things you’ll hear referenced throughout this episode that I think deserve a brief explanation before we get started. The first is rumination. Prior to my diagnosis, I had never heard the word rumination, and once I heard it and learned what it was, so much of my anxiety throughout life made sense. Rumination is a form of hyper-focus, but it’s not the good kind, the kind we lean on when we’re trying to finish a project. Rumination is replaying negative thoughts over and over again in your head, letting them live in your brain rent free, replaying on an infinite loop. We all know you can’t change the past, but for people with ADHD, we allow the feelings we felt in that moment, whether it happened 20 years ago or just the other day, to come back in and take over.
Lindsay Guentzel (03:25):
The next definition I want to explain is rejection sensitive dysphoria. Again, something I hadn’t heard of before I was diagnosed. RSD, as it’s commonly referred to, is defined as an overwhelming emotional sensation in response to an actual or a perceived rejection or criticism. For me, that’s meant walking into a room, any room, and assuming, regardless of who is in that room, that everyone hates me, that no one wants me there, that no one wants to work with me, that I’m unworthy of being there. It’s debilitating. RSD comes with a wide variety of symptoms. They include low self-esteem, avoidance of social settings, fear of failure, high expectations of self, emotional outbursts after being hurt or rejected, feelings of hopelessness, approval-seeking behavior, and internalizing the energy around you.
Lindsay Guentzel (04:14):
Both rumination and rejection sensitive dysphoria have played huge roles in my life, obviously without me knowing it, really adding to my mantra of, we didn’t know there was a problem, so we couldn’t look for an answer. Knowing what I know now, the ADHD signs were there at a very young age, both the physical signs, having a messy room, messy desk, talking a lot, speaking when it wasn’t my turn, having trouble finishing homework and projects until the last minute and thriving on that pressure. And then the emotional signs, things I didn’t learn about until after my diagnosis. Being afraid of disappointing people, anxiety manifesting itself internally with stomach aches and chest pain, being afraid of sharing my feelings.
Lindsay Guentzel (04:52):
There are three things that stand out when looking back at the emotional side of my undiagnosed ADHD. The first, I used to feel immense sadness and guilt over inanimate objects, like if I didn’t finish all my cereal and had to throw away some of the Cheerios, or before bed, feeling terrible if I left any of my stuffed animals on the floor. Feelings that I can now say caused me actual pain as a child, but of course I never told anyone that was happening. I also, and this is TMI, I used to get violently ill before dance competitions in middle school, assuming it was something I ate. Now, obviously knowing what I know now, I know that was my anxiety coming out physically. And of course, again, I never said anything to anyone. I just continued to get sick weekend after weekend as the anxiety roared through my body.
Lindsay Guentzel (05:40):
And finally, I held onto massive amounts of shame for things that happened at incredibly young ages, moments when I did something wrong and got in trouble. The one I love to tell goes back to second grade. My next door neighbor was in a class down the hall, and I got this bright idea to hide in her locker. I was going to jump out and scare her, except someone told her teacher, and instead the teacher opened the locker, then helped me out, and told me that was really dangerous, and I shouldn’t do it again. Totally normal kid behavior, right? Except I held onto that shame of acting like a kid and getting into trouble well into my 20s. There’s also this great story about singing karaoke in Nashville that I’ll make sure to tell you another time.
Lindsay Guentzel (06:20):
As a child, my ADHD symptoms definitely showed themselves physically, but I was a good student, I was smart, I didn’t get into trouble minus my brief stint as a locker stowaway, so no one paid attention to me. And all of the emotional things swirling inside of me, I thought that was what everyone felt like. Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know, and so I never said anything.
Lindsay Guentzel (06:41):
On last week’s episode, you heard Dr. Gayle Jensen Savoie run through all of the symptoms attached to ADHD, and she also mentioned that a person must display those symptoms before the age of 12 in order to be diagnosed. So I thought it’d be beneficial to bring in someone from my own life, who knew me back when, to share a little bit about what they remember from when I was a kid. It’s my sister, Kate.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:18):
So is this your first podcast?
Lindsay Guentzel (07:21):
Are you nervous?
Lindsay Guentzel (07:23):
You’re going to do great. You’re going to do great.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:25):
So do you want to start by introducing yourself?
My name is Kate, and I am one of your sisters.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:33):
You only have older sisters.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:35):
I only have older sisters. I’m the baby.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:37):
So I wanted to bring you into the conversation because in order to be diagnosed with ADHD, you have to have shown symptoms before the age of 12. And obviously I wasn’t diagnosed before the age of 12, I wasn’t diagnosed anywhere near the age of 12. And I think sometimes we don’t really know or see everything that has happened when we are kids, especially. So you are one of my older sisters and so some of the things that I think I’ve blocked out are probably things that you actually remember. So I’m hoping that you might start by just describing what I was like as a kid.
Okay. Oh yeah. Okay. You were, actually I talked to mom about this because I was so nervous, and we both were like, she was really happy. You were really happy. You were loud. You talked a lot. Very energetic. A lot of running around. Is that good?
Lindsay Guentzel (08:34):
Yeah. Well, it’s crazy because I mean, the loud part, the talking a lot. I guess I don’t necessarily remember myself being very happy.
Well, I also talked about that with mom because I remember you as being a little kid, like before 10 years old, you seemed very happy but then I think the middle school years, but that’s pretty common.
Lindsay Guentzel (08:54):
Yes, middle school was very rough for me, and I don’t think that is something, for most women, that I think is probably very common.
It’s pretty normal.
Lindsay Guentzel (09:02):
Yes. I’m curious to know if there are moments that stand out where, now knowing about my ADHD and the lack of a diagnosis when I was a kid, where you now, as an adult look back and go, “Oh there it was.”
I’m thinking back to you having to clean out your locker at the end of the school year when you were a little kid. I don’t think I was actually there, but I remember hearing about it and seeing the bags that would come home. I remember what your backpack looked like all throughout your childhood, and it was a disaster.
Lindsay Guentzel (09:41):
I mean very similar to what my office craft room looks like right now.
Yeah, you’re always cleaning your craft room. It’s always being cleaned.
Lindsay Guentzel (09:50):
It’s always a work in progress. Yeah, no. What’s really interesting is I would hyper-focus on organizing. And do you remember I would stay up all night long and organize my room, but it wasn’t just organizing my room. I would rearrange all the furniture.
Yeah, you always do a little too much.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:07):
Always a little, I mean still now, you do little too much.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:10):
Oh yes. There’s a stopping point, and I don’t know where that is, normally. I mean, I do know where it is, I just don’t know how to actually stop at it. Yeah. There’s breaks that just don’t come in.
I remember you were so smart. You always did so well in school, up into a certain age. You understood concepts really quickly, but I remember you did your homework way too fast.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:35):
Kind of like you had to get it done so you could go outside and do whatever it else was that you were going to do that day.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:43):
Oh, I’m sure I was hyper-focused on the hobby of the moment. I mean, that’s really been my entire life.
Yeah, you were into beads for a while.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:50):
Lindsay Guentzel (10:51):
Friendship bracelets, Barbies. Then there was the computer game stretch where I’d stay up all night playing a computer game.
Yeah. I just thought honestly, and this might come across as mean, but I thought, “She’s just not trying hard enough.”
Lindsay Guentzel (11:08):
I know. And dad was very much to me undiagnosed ADHD.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:12):
I see so much of myself and my diagnosis and being able to pinpoint the connection to my anxiety and my depression and my disordered eating. All of those things were things that dad had.
The disordered eating too.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:25):
Yeah. And we just didn’t think anything about it.
No. I just thought dad had to always, yeah, he just always had to be doing projects.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:32):
Yeah. He was always busy. Yeah.
And he never finished. Remember when he would be done with the project and then he would just leave it all there? You do that.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:41):
I do do that. Absolutely. I mean, do you remember when he lost the seats to his minivan?
No, but that’s dad. That’s hilarious.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:50):
But that’s kind of me in a sense where you’re like, “How do you not know where the seats are, Linds?”
Lindsay Guentzel (11:56):
It’s a very big thing to lose. He just, he had no idea where the seats were.
Lindsay Guentzel (12:02):
I want to wrap this up by asking you, what were your initial thoughts when I was diagnosed?
Interestingly, I think my initial thoughts were like “Really?” Because I guess I didn’t know much about what that looks like in grown up women.
Lindsay Guentzel (12:17):
Have there been any changes you have seen since my diagnosis?
I think what I’ve seen a lot in the last year is a focus and like a full circle with a lot of projects, a lot of parts of your life, too. Like what you’ve done with your health and with exercising and the journalism part. You’re completing things in a way that you didn’t before. But if I can say something, I still think you do way too much. You’re always joining things. I’m just like, “Calm down and lay on the couch. Just chill.”
Lindsay Guentzel (12:56):
Yeah. That’s the next step? I think one of the things that I do know I need to work on is setting boundaries.
You do so much to make other people happy, and they haven’t even asked you.
Lindsay Guentzel (13:08):
I know, I know.
Like if the wedding says there are no gifts, why are you making a gift?
Lindsay Guentzel (13:14):
Thank you. Oh, God. Well, I appreciate you getting outside of your comfort zone. I hope that it wasn’t too terrible, and I appreciate you always being there for me and yeah, I don’t really know how to wrap up a interview with my sister.
I know, it’s strange, but it’s cool. Thank you.
Lindsay Guentzel (13:37):
Thank you for being here.
Lindsay Guentzel (13:45):
So after all of these years, what was it that finally pushed me to make an appointment? Well, it was a tweet. I joined Twitter in November of 2009. At first, mostly because of my career, it’s been really important in covering breaking news, but it’s also led to some of my most important adult friendships. I joke that if I ever get married, there’ll be so many tables full of internet friends, people I’ve connected with on Twitter who I never would’ve met without those 140 character posts. The tweets that sparked my curiosity were from Ashley Fairbanks on December 29th, 2020. She wrote, “Not to open up the can of worms that is former gifted and talented kid Twitter, but I really wonder how many of us have struggled with undiagnosed ADHD because we got good grades or passed tests, so people didn’t notice or care about how all the symptoms impacted us.”
Lindsay Guentzel (14:33):
Going back through my phone, there are ADHD related screenshots saved all the way back from July of 2020, things I saw and connected with some of my behaviors, but I don’t know if I actually thought it was something I might have. And I can’t really tell you why Ashley’s tweet resonated with me so much or why it was what pushed me to make an appointment, but it did. And since then, I’ve shared my story as much as possible in hopes it might be the random push someone else needs to start asking questions.
Lindsay Guentzel (15:02):
Motivated by Ashley’s tweet about gifted and talented kids, I then called my primary care provider’s office, and I told the scheduler I wanted to speak with somebody about ADHD. “No problem.” The woman on the phone told me. “I can get you in this afternoon. Does that work?” So let me recap.
Lindsay Guentzel (15:17):
Ashley’s tweet is timestamped at 9:30 AM. I sent my response at 10:34 AM, and my appointment was at 2:30 PM that afternoon. It feels a little bit meant to be, right? I can say that now, but at the moment I was so overwhelmed. Yeah. That appointment worked for me. I was unemployed, and I had no reason to say no, but it was quick, and there wasn’t a lot of time to mentally or emotionally prepare. But I went and after avoiding eye contact with the numbers on the scale, praying the nurse didn’t say the number out loud, I sat alone in the examination room to fill out all of the paperwork for mental health evaluations, including the generalized anxiety disorder evaluation and the patient health questionnaire.
Lindsay Guentzel (15:59):
The lovely tests that ask you a series of questions about your life like how many times in the last two weeks have you had little interest or pleasure in doing things? Have you not been able to stop or control your worrying? Have you found yourself becoming easily annoyed or irritable? And have you felt bad about yourself or felt that you’re a failure, you’ve let yourself or your family down?
Lindsay Guentzel (16:19):
The thing with those tests is it doesn’t matter what I’m feeling or what my mindset is going into the appointments, they just make me sad. The words that you are a failure, they hit so close to home considering my history, but the nurse practitioner was wonderful, and she walked me through what the ADHD diagnosis process would look like. And after going through my history, she referred me to the clinic psychologist. That psychological examination happened on January 18th, 2021. Here are some notes from the examination.
Lindsay Guentzel (16:49):
Lindsay Guentzel is a 34-year-old white female referred for assessment and screening for ADHD symptoms. She reports the following symptoms, difficulty starting and finishing tasks, easy distractions during tasks, forgetfulness, and taking on too many tasks while overestimating what she can do. She has a history of anxiety, depression, anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating, and compulsive overexercising. Failed out of college, and while her career has been stable, she has jumped around a lot. Upon interview, Lindsay described herself as disorganized, impulsive, and easily distracted. She says she was a really good student growing up because she was afraid of failing or being in trouble. She never acted out too much in class and said she has always done things at the last minute. Gets off to a really good start then loses interest. When prompted, for example, she shared she’ll be unloading the dishwasher and find herself in another room. It’s become more apparent since she’s been home so much.
Lindsay Guentzel (17:43):
When it comes to work, Lindsay says establishing routines have been hard, and she thinks that’s been one of the reasons why she struggled to stay in one role for an extended period of time. She says she’s always squeaked by on deadlines. And because she is afraid of getting in trouble or disappointing people, she’s always figured out how to get things done even if it causes her great stress.
Lindsay Guentzel (18:01):
Lindsay shared that her dad had impulsive behaviors that she sees in herself. Getting an idea and jumping right in without proper planning or research. She can get an idea and spend the whole day driving around the cities trying to find what she is looking for. She said her behavior has caused a lot of stress in her life, especially with her relationships. Her partner is very neat and orderly and most of their arguments are about her messiness and clutter. Growing up, she said she was also the messy kid in a very clean house and that was hard to accept. She seeks out support from her therapist, her mom, and her boyfriend, and lists her current stressors as COVID, politics, and grief over wasting so much time in college. Her current coping strategies are exercise and starting projects to distract herself.
Lindsay Guentzel (18:43):
Okay, I’m breaking character here. One of my coping strategies was straight up starting projects to distract myself. Is that not the most ADHD thing you’ve ever heard? Long story short, I performed very well, scoring in the 99th percentile, with the psychologist, diagnosing me as having ADHD combined type. That examination happened on a Monday, and on Wednesday I went through the results with my nurse practitioner. This was at the top of her notes. Lindsay was evaluated earlier this week and found to have clinically significant impairment and marked or severe symptoms in both inattention and hyperactivity.
Lindsay Guentzel (19:15):
I wish I could tell you more of what happened after I left the clinic that day. I imagine I called my mom and my boyfriend, probably text my best friends. I remember going to get my prescription for Vyvanse filled, and the pharmacist recommending I wait to start until the next morning to ensure I was able to sleep that night.
Lindsay Guentzel (19:30):
My first few days taking Vyvanse, the most mind blowing revelation was having spent my whole life living with brain fog. For people with ADHD, brain fog can present as moving slowly, daydreaming often, appearing disconnected from activities at school or work, working slowly, not seeming very alert, and struggling to stay awake. For me, the word foggy is the best way to describe how my brain felt and realizing that, made a lot of things make sense. Like the pure exhaustion, I would feel around three or 4:00 PM every day, how groggy I felt in the morning regardless of how much sleep I got. Brain fog is sometimes also referred to as sluggish cognitive tempo, or SCT, which can affect listening skills, how the person looks at and tackles difficult tasks, even increased daydreaming. It’s the ultimate distraction that’s nearly impossible to shake.
Lindsay Guentzel (20:18):
In looking back at all of this, I wondered when I first shared my diagnosis on social media, and of course, like everything, there’s a tweet the Monday after on January 25th. It said, “I’ve gone back and forth about sharing this. When was the right time? Would there be a right time? So here goes. Today is my first Monday living as a woman with ADHD.” This is what I shared on my website. “I share so much of my life on the internet, and I thought it was especially important to share this. Last Wednesday, I was diagnosed as having ADHD. The psychologist I worked with placed me in the 99th percentile of patients diagnosed. So like I really have it, and I’ve been living with it my entire life.”
Lindsay Guentzel (20:55):
“If you know me well, you’ve probably already thought, ‘Well, no duh, Lindsay.’ Yes, I’m high energy, and I always have a ton of things going on, and I’m very honest about my struggles with anxiety and procrastination and overwhelming myself with tasks. But my idea of someone living with ADHD goes back to elementary school, the kid who got extra help or was sent out into the hallway because they were constantly a disruption. It wasn’t me. I was put into the gifted and talented program in second grade. I went to regionals for my science fair projects. I wasn’t that kid, but I was that kid. I was just so afraid of letting anyone down that I found a lifetime of ways to cope. I failed out of college, twice actually. If you went back and told any of my teachers or classmates that I know they’d be surprised, that wasn’t the person I was supposed to be, but, and I’m only realizing this after a weekend of reading everything I can on ADHD, it all makes so much sense now. And that makes me really sad and angry.”
Lindsay Guentzel (21:52):
“I’ve always held an immense amount of shame, sadness, and guilt over the opportunities I threw away when I was a young adult. And now I at least have an answer for why I struggled. I have so much to learn about this. I have so much to learn about how to live this new life, to find the tools I need to move forward in the way I’m supposed to. I know this sounds dramatic, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I have an in depth FAQ on all the stuff I thought was weird or off, but couldn’t quite identify.”
Lindsay Guentzel (22:19):
And one of the biggest things I’ll need to work through is the grief. It’s really hard to have people that love you. It’s really hard-” I can do this. “It’s really hard to have people that love you apologize for not seeing it, for not knowing something was wrong. I didn’t know that it was a problem, so I couldn’t look for an answer. I’ll work through all of that, but I’m choosing to spend as much time looking forward. If you’re an adult living with ADHD, I’d love to hear from you. Please share everything with me. If you’re someone who thinks they have ADHD, or you love someone who you think has ADHD, I’ll happily share everything about my own testing and diagnosis.”
Lindsay Guentzel (23:16):
“We can’t go back. We can’t change what has already happened. We can only use what we know right now to change how we move forward, and I’m really hopeful. I’m really excited, that feels strange to say that I’m excited about this diagnosis. But like I said, I finally feel like I have the answers to a lifetime of questions, and there’s so much relief and peer happiness in that. I love you all so much. Thank you for being this wonderful support system for me.”
Lindsay Guentzel (23:50):
Ooh, that was a lot. When you have someone reaffirm the way you’ve been feeling, man, it’s really powerful and gives you a lot of power, but it’s also exhausting. So I am going to take a quick break, take some deep breaths, drink some water, stretch a bit, and I’m going to bring Bos into the conversation to let you know what’s happening over at adhdonline.com right now.
Keith Boswell (24:09):
Can you believe summer’s here? At least it is in Michigan. We’ve had our traditional shift from 40 degrees in spring to 80 degrees in summer it feels like in a few weeks, so before your calendar fills up, we wanted to highlight a few things that we thought our audience might enjoy. On June 1st, we’ve got a webinar about repairing your credit with Rick Webster, from RenoFi. Rick’s been a fantastic resource, sharing a lot of his knowledge about ADHD and personal finance. According to some studies, people with ADHD make more late payments and have worse credit scores overall, so Rick’s going to talk about what you can do to repair that and how you can move ahead feeling better about your credit.
Keith Boswell (25:10):
Then on June 8th, we’ve got a webinar with Lisa Woodruff. Lisa’s, again, one of our experts that we’ve been bringing in for several webinars. This will be her second in learning how to organize your home series. Lisa’s research about how much time we spend doing housework was so eye opening in the first webinar that we had with her. Lisa’s done a lot of research about understanding exactly what people are doing in the word housework, and it’s fascinating. I didn’t realize I had a part-time job outside of my full-time job until going through it all with Lisa. And so I recommend checking out the previous webinar, too, if you have a chance.
Keith Boswell (25:48):
And then one last thing I wanted to highlight, we recently published an article on our blog called Why the Stigma of ADHD Medications are so Dangerous. This personally to me felt like a really important thing to put out there. I’ve heard about this continually since I’ve been at ADHD Online, and it’s amazing how much pressure people that are in treatment with their provider are putting on themselves and feeling guilty about it because of the stigma around ADHD medications which are commonly stimulants.
Keith Boswell (26:19):
So this article really gets into why that’s dangerous, and one of our experts, Dr. Schroeder, shares his advice on how to deal with it, and it’s a really important piece. And I would encourage people to read it and share it with others, too, to help spread the word. So again, these webinars in our blog is free and following each of the webinars, we post them for people to view on our website afterwards, so you watch them whenever works best for you. To register for any of our webinars, head over to adhdonline.com/webinars, or we have the link shared in the show description below. Thanks for having me this week, Lindsay. We’ll talk soon.
Lindsay Guentzel (27:01):
This is the Mental Health Minute, and as I stated in Episode 1, it’ll never be under a minute, but I promise it’s all really great things that you can add into your routines. Here are a few things I’ve started doing following my ADHD diagnosis that help me complete tasks. I utilize Siri on my phone whenever I can, specifically for reading text messages I’ve avoided opening and responding to. Max number of unread in my inbox has been around 70, and the larger the number gets, the more I avoid it. My morning commute is typically when I ask Siri to read me my unread text messages. My phone’s connected to my car stereo, so I can hear everything clearly, and after Siri rolls through the messages, she even asks me if I’d like to respond. Getting started doing this wasn’t easy, but every time I push myself outside of my comfort zone, I find it a bit easier to get started the next time.
Lindsay Guentzel (27:50):
Another thing I’ve done is change all of the voices on my devices to voices I find more appealing. I found I respond positively to accents, South African, Australian, British, and that I lean towards female voices. It’s ASMR for me, autonomous sensory meridian response. The voices make me feel good basically. ASMR can help people relax, and a recent study from Northumbria University in England suggest that people with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, poor response to stressors, all things that are connected to ADHD, can benefit from ASMR. So give it a try. Maybe you’ll find a digital voice that works for you.
Lindsay Guentzel (28:26):
There are also accessibility settings you can change on your computers, tablets, and smartphones. Staying focused while reading emails, research for work, recipes I want to make, it’s hard for me to keep my eyes on the print and comprehend what I’m reading. So I’ve added plug-ins that will read the text to me, again, invoices I’ve selected ahead of time. Apple products have great accessibility options located under your preferences, and there’s plug-ins you can download to help with certain web browsers. I’ll make sure to link those in the show description. And that wraps up today’s Mental Health Minute.
Lindsay Guentzel (29:35):
If my ADHD were the movie Independence Day, yes, the 1996 summer blockbuster starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman about the alien invasion of Earth over 4th of July weekend. Hear me out. The film opens with a massive mothership entering Earth’s orbit, not great, right? And it’s sending out this signal that only David Levinson, an MIT-educated satellite engineer and technological expert, played by Jeff Goldblum, can decode. Obviously there are a bunch of plot lines in this film, but for my purposes here, I’m going to focus on the spaceships. The mothership has deployed all of these smaller flying saucers that have been sent out all around the world, city destroyers, that have positioned themselves over Berlin and Toronto and Singapore, and here in the United States, over New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. The U.S. military, it throws everything it has at these smaller destroyers, but nothing can break the protective shield around them. And so these space ships they’re able to move from city to city, destroying everything in their path.
Lindsay Guentzel (30:38):
Everything I battled in life, my depression, my anxiety, my disordered eating, my problems with impulsivity and procrastination and irritability and being overwhelmed by emotions and low self-esteem, they are the city destroyers. It didn’t matter what I threw at them, nothing really helped at least not long term. The things that have held me back and have caused me so much pain and frustration, they had impenetrable shields around them, and I didn’t know. Now here’s where I have to spoil the movie in order to bring this analogy full circle. Years before this alien attack, the U.S. government had recovered a spaceship that had crashed somewhere in the desert and was being held at Area 51. While examining it, Jeff Goldblum’s character figures out how to disable the shield. This sets off an adventure that sends Jeff and Will Smith up into the bowels of the mothership to infected its system with the virus. The mothership that’s my ADHD.
Lindsay Guentzel (31:34):
Getting my diagnosis made me realize I had been treating these smaller issues individually, not knowing all along they were being controlled by a much larger problem, and as soon as I started to address that big old alien mothership that had been sitting out in orbit my entire life, those protective shields started to come down. Had I never gone in for a consultation, had Jeff Goldblum’s father, played by the lovely Judd Hirsch, had he not tried to comfort his son as the world was crumbling around them, pulling him off the floor to make sure he didn’t catch a cold, had those words not connected with the dots allowing David to put all of the pieces together and figure out how to take out the mothership once and for all, well, we don’t know how that story would end because, and again, spoiler alert, David helped save the world. The shields came down on every single city destroyer, and leaders around the world joined forces to lead a simultaneous attack to end the battle for Earth.
Lindsay Guentzel (32:25):
There’s a lot of grief and sadness that comes with a later in life ADHD diagnosis. What would my life look like if I had known earlier? What pain and frustration and sadness could I have avoided? Could I have not caused for others if I had learned about that big, old nasty mothership earlier? Early on, it was easy to go down that path. My story could have been different in so many ways, but I feel very lucky to finally have an answer, to truly understand why I think and feel and behave in certain ways and to be able to find ways to actually help myself. That’s incredibly powerful, and when I start to head down that dark path, playing the comparison game of life, I remind myself, I get to spend the rest of my life with these answers, with this understanding. And it might not have turned out that way.
Lindsay Guentzel (33:10):
I was able to seek a diagnosis because I had health insurance, truly the only reason I made an appointment. Because I had been unemployed throughout most of the pandemic, I had qualified for health insurance through the state of Minnesota. Think about that. All of those things had to happen in order for me to make that initial phone call. That is such privilege. Yes, months of unemployment giving me insurance I could actually afford feels like a privilege, but it shouldn’t be that way. I don’t know if I would’ve sought out other avenues without insurance once I decided ADHD was worth looking into. That’s why the services ADHD Online is providing are so important. Healthcare should be affordable, accessible, and it should be run by medical professionals who understand the barriers set up by the traditional system. The pandemic showed us that telehealth care is a crucial addition to our day to day lives.
Lindsay Guentzel (33:59):
Do you know how many people I know who finally made therapy appointments once they could do it from the comfort of their own homes. When they could control the things that made them afraid or insecure? My life over the last 18 months, so much has changed. My severe anxiety is now mild and more controlled. I still get anxious, mostly when I take on too much and am feeling overwhelmed, so I’m working on setting boundaries and only saying yes to things I want to say yes to.
Lindsay Guentzel (34:24):
My depression, once categorized as moderate to severe, is now minimal. I still have feelings of discontent, worrying that nothing will ever feel good enough for me. Most of that relates back to my career, but I’ve been able to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I turn to my support system when those negative voices start creeping back in. My disordered eating is helped by my Vyvanse medication and being able to finally establish a workout routine I enjoy, both for the exercises and for the friends that keep me coming back to class. I no longer stress if I miss a day, and while there have been a few moments where guilt and shame from overeating has forced itself back into my life, I can’t even remember the last time I had a binging and purging episode.
Lindsay Guentzel (35:06):
I’m learning how to share my feelings without getting upset with my partner and my family and my friends and even the people I work with. So much of that growth has come from sharing my ADHD story and having people reach out to tell me that my vulnerability and strength has helped them. I’m coaching Girls on the Run right now. It’s a nonprofit that works to strengthen girls’ social, emotional, physical, and behavioral skills through running and group activities. And one of the things I repeated them, they’re in third, fourth, and fifth grade, is wouldn’t it be so wonderful if we saw ourselves the way our family and our friends and our teachers saw us? What would life be like if we could walk around with that confidence?
Lindsay Guentzel (35:46):
I still have moments where I let someone else’s negativity affect me. I still struggle accepting that not everyone is going to like me. It doesn’t matter that I acknowledge even I don’t like everyone. Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on the good, even if it’s 10 people yelling great things at you and one person hiding in the corner, sending a negative tweet. Learning about rejection sensitive dysphoria and realizing how it shows up in my life is, it’s truly been a game changer. It’s one of the first things I explored after my diagnosis.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:15):
I was driving around doing some deliveries and after quickly Googling ADHD podcast for women, I stumbled upon Tracy Otsuka’s podcast, ADHD for Smart Ass Women. And one of the first episodes I listened to was actually a recap where she shared some of the surprising things she had learned about ADHD. The second she defined rejection sensitive dysphoria, I pulled the car over to find Episode 19. So imagine me in a car that’s full of cookie deliveries. Yes, for a while, while I was unemployed, I was baking selling and delivering cookies. I’m half sobbing, half laughing as Tracy walked through RSD, crying because it’s something that has caused me so much pain and laughing because right there was my answer.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:59):
My RSD can still ruin a night. I can be at dinner with one of my favorite people and spend the whole time hyper-focusing on the couple arguing at the table next to us, trying to come up with a way to fix it. I catch myself trying to solve problems for people without them even asking me, but I’ve also learned how to advocate for myself when it comes to my RSD. I have explained to my colleagues at work that when they ask to speak to me without providing context, I assume I’ve done something wrong and that I’m about to be fired. I’ve told my best friends when they ask, if they can call me later without telling me it’s just to catch up that I spend the rest of the day running through every possible thing I could have done wrong to upset them.
Lindsay Guentzel (37:36):
I’ve made massive strides in how controlling rumination can be in my life, moments of shame and embarrassment that I’ve held onto, like that one in second grade, all of those things that felt so monumental in my life were things that so many kids did and got into trouble for, and they moved on minutes later. Hearing people say to me, “I haven’t thought about that since it happened.” That’s helped me throw away some of those painful memories. I still feel a lot of regret for things I did that I never apologized for or address because it felt easier to just avoid. I ended a lot of friendships as a young adult by completely pulling away because having those conversations, even thinking about having those conversations, made me so uncomfortable, but I’m getting better at allowing people to show me grace like I would show them.
Lindsay Guentzel (38:20):
And you guys, I have been shocked to find out, people tend to be really forgiving and kind when you give them the chance. I mean, I would like to consider myself to be forgiving and kind, so why wouldn’t I expect that from other people? I’m still late. I still have a hard time knowing what one minute or 10 minutes or even an hour is. I’m still messy. I still have a hard time starting a project and finishing a project, but because I know more about my brain, I’ve been able to add in pockets of accountability to keep me on task.
Lindsay Guentzel (38:49):
Using my time in therapy has been really beneficial for me. Some days the entire session has spent creating lists of things I need to do and setting goals for what I think I can actually accomplish between sessions and then creating plans to help me get there. I’ve also thrown money at the problem. It’s another privilege.
Lindsay Guentzel (39:05):
As my to-do list grew over the last six months, I knew I needed outside help. I hired a virtual assistant who’s taken so many small, yet tedious tasks off my plate, and we’ve even added body doubling sessions. Having her in charge of holding me accountable has taken the stress off of me, and it’s also eliminated having to put that pressure on someone I’m close to like my boyfriend or my mom. By sharing all of these wins, I’m by no mean saying things are perfect, far from it, but it’s progress, actual progress I can both see and feel, and I’ll be honest, it feels really freaking amazing when people close to me see it too.
Lindsay Guentzel (39:40):
There are days where despite having a better roadmap for working around some of these issues, I still get angry and frustrated that I have to put in so much work, days where even with my best intentions, days where I’ve eliminated as many distractions as possible, I still find myself bouncing around, unable to focus on the very simple to-do list I’ve given myself. And that’s when I turn to grace. All of that grace and consideration I show other people all the time while I’m working on treating myself the same way.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:08):
I struggled with how to share my ADHD story, how to dive into the really important stuff and be able to do it in one podcast episode. And I’ll share more as we get further into Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel. I just thought it was so important to establish a base of information for ADHD. Starting with last week’s episode, What is ADHD? The next episode will look at the science behind how ADHD brains learn and how that information can be used to create a podcast that works with the ADHD brain and not against it.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:37):
Then we’ll explore the different types of ADHD, examine how it shows up in our lives, look at what goes into diagnosing ADHD, how telemedicine is changing the conversation around it, and what you should do after getting your diagnosis. It’s going to be a busy summer of learning and creating and sharing, and I hope you’ll join us for all of it. You can subscribe to Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel wherever you get your podcasts, and if you are enjoying what you’ve heard so far, leave us a review and a comment. That boosts our reach, so more people with ADHD or ADHD questions can find us. You can also follow along on social media. All of the accounts are linked in the show description along with links to things I’ve mentioned throughout this show.
Lindsay Guentzel (41:17):
So many of you reached out after the first episode, and the fact that you took time to email or tweet or message me on Instagram, it means so much to me. If you have something you’d like to share, a question or a comment or a guest idea, you can email the show directly its [email protected] Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope my journey provides you with a little bit of hope that there are answers waiting for you, you just have to know where to look for them. Be kind to yourself, and we’ll see you next week.