Diyah Najah and Explanations, not Excuses

If not for the stigma around mental health, Diyah Najah could have gotten her ADHD diagnosis so much sooner than age 42. However if she had, she might not have become the mental health advocate she is today, lifting up her students and earning multiple masters degrees in special education that she uses to help students who are like she once was.

Listen to hear Diyah share how ADHD impacts her life, what tools she uses to regulate and reset herself, and how she stays authentically herself.

Refocused, Together is a collection of 31 stories told throughout the 31 days of October, a part of our commitment to ADHD Awareness Month. Make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts so you don’t miss a single story this month! 

More Information: “Unmasked”, a solo exhibition by Artist Diyah Najah January 5th to February 5th, 2024 at Haugabrooks on Auburn in Atlanta, GA

Watch: TEDx Cultivating Unconditional Self-Worth with Adia Gooden

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Diyah Najah (00:01):

It feels like 95% of who I am in a day is impacted by my ADHD, but you don’t want to sound like you’re explaining and making excuses or having to hide and mask it.

Lindsay Guentzel (00:17):

You’re listening to Refocused, Together, and this is episode three, Diyah Najah and Explanations, Not Excuses.


Welcome back to Refocused, a podcast all about ADHD. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and that was artist, Diyah Najah, whose story is a part of Refocused, Together, our series for ADHD Awareness Month. This is our second annual Refocused, Together with 31 brand new stories from 31 new people who have generously shared their story with us.


Diyah is a printmaker and mixed media collage artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. She was officially diagnosed with ADHD at 42, which could have happened much sooner if not for the stigma surrounding mental health.


Her teachers encouraged evaluation for special education services due to her highly sensitive, imaginative, empathetic, and intuitive nature and her challenges in social and academic settings. However, her mother believed it was in her best interest not to be evaluated. That decision negatively impacted Diyah’s quality of life and capabilities significantly, which she still endures to this day.


Diyah struggled throughout school and enrolled in college under a special program that provided remediation assistance. About to drop out of a math class for the fifth time, her professor noticed what was going on, and suggested that she get help to find out how she liked to learn best. This conversation changed her perspective and helped her get the tools and resources to complete her undergrad degree.


Despite having the full spectrum of ADHD symptoms and comorbidities, Diyah manages herself with great effort to create thriving moments in her life. After her diagnosis, she was able to look back on her life with a more educated and objective lens. She went on to a master’s program for special education to better understand her brain. Diyah graduated, earned another graduate degree in special education and became a teacher to help students who were once like her.


Although ADHD still impacts her life, Diyah has purpose and tools to help her regulate and reset. One of those tools is her art. Through it, she has learned to use her artistic gift to be authentically herself, honoring her neurodivergent brain instead of hiding behind masks, so much so that she’s created an entire solo art show on the idea. You can see her work at artistdiyahnajah.com, that’s artist, D-I-Y-A-H-N-A-J-A-H, dot com, and on Instagram, @artistdiyahnajah.


Let’s talk more with Diyah about her experience and the stigma of ADHD, how she has found strength in her art and how being a mental health advocate uplifts her students and herself. All of these Refocused episodes start with the same questions and that is when were you diagnosed and what was the diagnosis like for you and what sparked the conversation initially?

Diyah Najah (03:46):

I counted back the other day. I was diagnosed officially at 41. However, there were many, many instances of suggesting an assessment while I was in school as well as into my very long college career.


The prompting of the formal diagnosis at 41, it got worse, everything that I knew that was me got worse as I got older. And as I aged, I went into my second graduate program. I was on this mission in graduate school to figure my brain out so I could fix it. I knew there was something, so I decided to go further.


And I was failing the first two weeks, couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t just in the college experience, it was also at work. I talked to my coworker and she is the one who offered me some help, I’ll leave it at that, and then said, “Go and look into it,” and I did.


I went to an independent psychologist and did the testing and I scored very high. I passed that test with flying colors. He said, “This is one of the most extreme cases of success.” I’m being funny and facetious, but by that I mean I scored so high into the ADHD range.

Lindsay Guentzel (05:14):

You mentioned that there were points in life where the conversation around ADHD came up, but that you were never tested for it and that it was never something that was explored. Did you know at the moment that those conversations were happening or was that something you found out about later?

Diyah Najah (05:35):

So, I had inklings, but I had no idea of those conversations until I was officially diagnosed and I started to share this information with my family. The inklings were that I felt something was different, and I was very observant as to where my struggles were, I just didn’t have a name for it. And in this experience, I wasn’t aware.


People who worked in the industry, people who worked with people with disabilities, people who worked with young people with disabilities, people who worked in facilities where the young people there were on the autistic spectrum as well as certain teachers said to me, “You would be great as a special education teacher,” or, “You would be wonderful working at our facility.” And I just didn’t know why people were saying that. It didn’t register until I got my official diagnosis.


Then when I got my official diagnosis, I felt a rush of everything I’ve ever heard everyone say on this podcast, grief, which stays the longest, relief, I told you sos, anger, a lot of anger, and as well, a lot of truth that I am now learning about people who more specifically stayed out of the limelight. Even though we are excellent at particular things, I didn’t want to be known for being excellent because I didn’t know how many spoons I would have to keep up this level of work.

Lindsay Guentzel (07:25):

I connect with a lot of what you just said and I think there are a lot of people who can connect with that. And I want to dive further into it, but I’m hoping that we can go back and talk a little bit about what school was like for you when you were younger.


You came into this diagnosis later in life at 41. You had completed a master’s program. So you had found a way to figure it out and make it work, but I understand that the journey to get there was not easy for you.

Diyah Najah (07:56):

No, school was not easy. Outside of school was not easy. Social exchanges, friendships, relationships, relationship with myself, all of that was not easy. Getting a diagnosis and really being dedicated to learning more about myself and how to advocate for myself has helped me. But I think grief is the longstanding feeling that I don’t think I’ve processed well enough post diagnoses.

Lindsay Guentzel (08:36):

I know from the story that you shared with us when we asked you to be a part of Refocused, Together 2023, and you so graciously agreed, that you barely squeaked by with high school graduation and then were ushered into college on a special program to help you out, but that it still took you eight years to finish your undergrad.


Tell me a little bit about what that was like for you leaving high school and going into college and knowing that everything was stacked against you, but no one really could tell you why, and then what those eight years were like for you.

Diyah Najah (09:13):

I have a lot of colorful words, but hard is the most simple and concise way to express that. I struggle struggled, but the silver lining was I went to an amazing high school. The silver lining to a parent who doesn’t understand and allow you to have a diagnoses is that while that existed and that caused a lot of damage, the same parent knew my gifts. And so instead of me going to Science High School, which wasn’t my gift, we had another magnet school called Arts High School.


And my mother did something behind my back, again, I didn’t know, amazing thing. This is a testament to teachers. She talked to my art teacher in eighth grade and she said, “Will, you keep my daughter after school so that she can create, I think it’s called a portfolio.” I didn’t know that conversation happened.


I was walking down the halls one day, already had art class. The teacher came to me and said, “Would you like to stay after school?” I couldn’t believe that she asked me to stay after school. I did. She took me through extra classes, extra lessons, honed my skills, and then after that timeframe she gave me this big black portfolio case.


First of all, that’s super professional. It wasn’t a paper one, it wasn’t cardboard, it was black, and she gave it to me as a gift, put everything in the bag. My mom said one day, “Take this bus, be at this address by this time.” I went and there was a school, it was called Arts High School. They were doing these tests, entry tests for everyone.


They looked in my portfolio, they said, “Go upstairs.” I went upstairs and there was another girl there. I said, “Why are we up here?” Soon they started sending us up portfolios and telling us to review them. We didn’t even have to go through the process of testing and I got in Arts High School.


And if it wasn’t for Arts High School, I would not have graduated school because you get a large portion of the day was art class. And so while I struggled behaviorally, impulsively, socially, and even academically in many of the other classes, where my gifts were, I was able to shine. So that was ELA, writing, and fine art.


So talking about college was basically being out of that environment, being out of that supportive arts-based environment. And yes, when I did try to take art in college, my classes at Arts High School were so advanced that I was like, “What is this? I’m not doing this.” And I just faltered and failed and rolled through college in a quick eight years for my undergrad.

Lindsay Guentzel (12:13):

There’s a moment that you shared with us about a math class, and it stuck out to me because I actually don’t have an undergrad degree. I failed out of college twice and it was those classes, like the math class you described, that I should have been able to get by. It was the most basic math. This is the lowest level you have to pass in order to check off the box and move on, and it was always so hard for me. And I’m wondering if you can talk about that experience that you had shared with us.

Diyah Najah (12:49):

I’m going to talk about that experience, but I just want you to know that I thought about that experience. I’m trying to collect these moments of clarity. And I definitely don’t mind being who I am in regards to I’m spiritual in the sense that my spirit is very intuition-led, very self-reflective.


And then I heard voices. I heard voices many times. The voices had been, in this case, truly … My professor was teaching, I was struggling, and then all of a sudden my professor was speaking in German. And I don’t know how I knew it was German, you can hear and you think it’s German. And I started looking around at everybody else like, “Why is he doing this?” No one was reacting, responding. And I grabbed all my stuff and I ran out.


And I know that sounds really dramatic, but imagine how it feels to all of a sudden have someone speaking English, I’m an English speaker, in front of me and then switching. That’s what happened. So I left class. And here was another opportunity where again, a teacher was like, “Where’s this student and why are they not coming back?”


The professor called me and I had to tell the professor the truth and deal with whatever someone thought when they heard what I had to say. And then he started asking me more questions and then he suggested that I go to the disability center for disability services on a college campus.


Again, being raised a particular way that we have everything we need and we just don’t let people diagnose us and give us medical information that may limit us, I refused diagnoses, but I took some classes and got a lot of information on metacognition, learning styles, understanding how I learn best and utilizing my creative skills to basically retrofit information.


So if I’m receiving information in one way, I’m able to identify the struggles and the problems with the format, and then spend 45 more hours, I’m being facetious, but then spend four times more of the time retrofitting it to fit me, basically providing me accommodations. And I started doing that before I even learned what accommodations were.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:33):

It’s a great reminder that this one-size-fits-all mentality that we’ve all just been living in for so long really just fails so many of us and we don’t even know it’s happening, a lot of times, until it’s too late.

Diyah Najah (15:48):

Yes. So basically we’re rigging, rigging it, though the proper term is retrofitting it, but we’ve been rigging things. I’m so good at rigging things, anything, because you have to make it happen. It’s a survival technique, and I think a lot of us may have some really interesting survival techniques. Especially if I want to work, want to get a paycheck, and want to feed myself and house myself, I have to learn how to rig things.

Lindsay Guentzel (16:23):

You mentioned your intuition and hearing voices. After that moment in class, were there any other moments like that that stand out in your journey that helped you become who you are today?

Diyah Najah (16:38):

Yes. I had a really nice voice. Was driving in a car, and random, just driving down the street and I heard a voice call my name and she said, “You are not stupid.” And I said, “I’m not?” And she said, “No, you are not stupid.” And I never felt that I was stupid again because whatever or whoever that voice was told me I wasn’t.


And what that allowed me to do was get my teaching certification because I didn’t think that I could pass all of the tests because my self decided I wanted to go into special education and then I wanted to be what’s called highly qualified, and some people call it exceptional education. And I wanted to be highly qualified and in order to do that I had to pass a math test, I had to pass science, reading, ELA, and can’t remember the last one, social studies. How am I going to pass all these tests?


So I went and got a tutor, somebody I knew and I said, “You have to be patient with me and you have to teach me a certain way. Let me teach you how to teach me.” So my tutor taught me the math. I passed all the tests, but not after walking out of the test the first time and deciding I wasn’t going to take it. I went back and I passed all of the tests. And so, hearing that voice tell me that I wasn’t stupid and that I could pass the test to be a full-time educator in the public school system was life-changing.

Lindsay Guentzel (18:19):

You are a very resilient human being. You know that, don’t you?

Diyah Najah (18:23):


Lindsay Guentzel (18:24):

Good. I’m glad you do know that. You’ve touched on a little bit of some of the struggles that you’ve had living with ADHD, but I’m wondering if you’ve narrowed it down to a handful that are just kind of like the day-to-day ones that make it so unbelievably hard.

Diyah Najah (18:41):

Yes, hypersensitivity in a myriad of ways, not just sights, sounds, smells, touch, movement. That has been really, really difficult. Before I knew what it was, I was able to look back to when I was a kid and I was the kid that if you yelled or scream, I cried. Certain people’s voices, even if they weren’t yelling or screaming at me, caused me pain. Being in spaces with a lot of movement, overwhelming. Finding a lot of solace in nature because now I understand that that’s the only place that I can really decompress. I mean, I do it all the time.


Hypersensitivity is a challenge. I wear noise-canceling headphones. I went to a audiologist, was diagnosed with hyperacusis and phonophobia. Phonophobia is the fear of sound and hyperacusis, I’m not giving you the medical definition, but it’s an aversion, a physical aversion, a mental aversion to certain tones and pitches and things of that nature.


So I live with that, and then your family thinks something’s wrong with you because you have to step away or you’re in pain. Or everything’s too loud, and when it’s too loud, of course I can’t think so now I can’t speak. I can’t follow my thought because you all don’t know how hard it is to already follow this thought. So with all of this stimulation …


And it got so bad that last year, the school year of 2022 and 2023, I no longer worked in a school building. I couldn’t. I was on the floor, room spinning, got diagnosed with anxiety. What? Duh, of course I have it. I didn’t know because I’m not bred to have these weaknesses. I have everything within me, I have to be strong. So how can I say I have anxiety? Some of the schools stated I had seizures. Guess what they were? Anxiety attacks.


And so the other major challenges, socially, I’m very, very direct, very direct, but I also have a handle on figurative language. I also pick up on body language. But my challenge is, when I feel very clearly that something is left, and because my first knowing this is my intuition and my feeling, but then I hear people say it’s right and then I’m just left wondering why people just won’t say what it is. And I’m learning that a lot of people are not able.


So being hypersensitive in a myriad of ways, and I know people know what I’m talking about, and then being confused because the verbal information doesn’t match the knowing-ness, that is a struggle.


And then I have your run-of-the-mill my house is so beautiful, my closet is outrageous, outrageously piling up. I love the doom piles. If anyone wants to know what’s going on at home, start counting the piles that are adding up. But because clutter makes things hard for me to think, and because I’m into aesthetics, I’m always cleaning and cleaning and cleaning and also keeping things minimal. So my job is to minimize the areas that make my weaknesses and deficits overtake me.

Lindsay Guentzel (22:39):

You mentioned there a few of the things that you do to combat some of the symptoms that come alongside with your ADHD, wearing noise-canceling headphones a lot, or stepping away from the group, or trying to keep order in your house even though you’re prone to clutter, but you know how clutter makes you feel. I’m wondering what else you do to actively try and alleviate some of the things that come up in life having ADHD.

Diyah Najah (23:08):

I try to alleviate miscommunication as much as possible until I moved into this new phase that I am just beginning, which is being unmasked and not overexplaining anymore. I’m tired of that. So I go into interviews, I tell them I’m neurodivergent and I use the term neurodivergent because I like it, and we’re all neurodiverse. So I say I’m neurodivergent, and I ask them, do they want a handout to better understand how I work and how I communicate.


I don’t go into spaces that are professional to make friendships. I’m very slow. So I keep it very professional and very bullet point because I am trying to avoid having to explain myself repeatedly. So in some cases, obviously, we draw towards each other, I’ll meet the right people for a warm and interesting social environment, but that’s an extra. I have to focus on my job and I really don’t have a lot of time to use my energy on social connections that much.


And yes, I have made friends at work and we get along great, but I don’t seek out to have new social interactions. It sounds like an insecurity and it most definitely is. Same thing with my friendships. I am now at the point where I can explain the ways that I operate.


And I don’t want to say the ways that I’m different because we’re all different, but if we can work through it, give me the benefit of the doubt. If we can work through it or if we’re similar, then there’s a shared understanding, that’s great. If it is me having to explain myself over and over and over, then that’s not a healthy relationship for me and so I don’t further engage it.


Other things I do, I’m an artist and because I’m an artist, I am alive. As you know, as I stated, art is the first place that I ever felt successful in my life. And if I don’t have art, I really don’t have a quality of living. And secondary to my art is gardening or nature. If I don’t have access to either of those, then I don’t have a space to pretty much heal myself, console myself, regenerate. I don’t have anything.

Lindsay Guentzel (25:50):

When you look at life right now and everything that you’ve been through, where do you see yourself thriving?

Diyah Najah (25:57):

Artistically? And by thriving … That’s an interesting question because I started to ask myself two weeks ago, what does success look like for me, because I’ve been hearing people say, “Celebrate your successes.” My brother tells me that, “Celebrate your successes.” And he told me that, started telling me that about a year and a half, two years ago, and I don’t even know how to do that.


So then I started thinking back to what were my successes, having a hard time compiling them, but of course we have imposter syndrome a lot of times. Now I’m going to compile and take notes so that I can’t gaslight myself. I am thriving artistically and by that I know I’m thriving because I feel good when I do it. And for me, success and thriving right now is finding spaces where I feel good about my existence and I feel good about myself.


I’m thriving when I grow a garden. I share my garden on IG and everybody acts like it’s so amazing, like something that others can’t do. And I’m sitting here in my bliss knowing, wow, I get to find a place that I’m thriving and be public about it and people actually care.


And even though that’s still probably productivity based, I talk about my garden when I only grew one eggplant. My garden is a healing space. And so having access to healing spaces and making healing spaces everywhere I go is me being successful and thriving.


But then if you look at it in a capitalistic way of thriving, yeah, I can’t always equate to that. I went to college. All of us went to college in my nuclear family. I have a master’s degree that was pushed by being told that I was retarded and slow and all type of things. So I got a master’s degree in special education to study and understand what’s going on.


Then, out of capitalistic reasons, I was moving towards my doctorate. But for capitalistic reasons, I went and got what’s called a specialist degree, it’s above a master’s, below a doctorate, in education. I was trying to make more money, trying to make more money because my student loan debt was so high because I was undiagnosed person in college and it took me a really long time to get out of college and it’s very expensive.


So those successes, and I still have this voice going, “Finish your doctorate.” Why? Because I’m still talking to the remnants of hearing negative things about my capacity and what I’ll do and what I’ll never do. So I don’t mind that I’m still navigating and having conversations with myself so that I can understand my motivation for what I’m doing.


I’m successful. I’m an artist, an artist. And I teach art. I went back to teaching. Much different than it looks before, but I am a teacher again. I get to do art with students and I get to be a light for students. I didn’t have to go back, but I wanted to. That’s a success.

Lindsay Guentzel (29:29):

Something stood out to me very early in our conversation, you said that grief is the longstanding feeling that sticks around after your diagnosis. I’m wondering what that looks like in your life and how you manage those feelings.

Diyah Najah (29:45):

Well, I manage those feelings … I saw this lady do a TED Talk and I said, “Who is this lady?” Cool TED Talk, it was on self-worthiness. Unconditionally worthy, that’s what it was. Forgot about it, was on Instagram, and I saw a video and I said, “Oh, that’s the TED Talk lady.” And then I made a big major investment, very proud of it, for a 10 to 12 week program about worthiness.


And in that program I learned … A while before, I said I hear voices. I just hear voices, it’s a spiritual gift, but also, we all hear voices in our head. We have all these voices in our head, the critic, maybe we have some caring voices, the doubtful, whatever we want to name them. But in that course, I learned to identify my voices, and so I care for my grief by being compassionate towards myself and speaking kindly.


And the wonderful thing is that when you go into these opportunities to study yourself and able to be vulnerable, it’s a better use of time. So I was able to be vulnerable with myself and be very honest about my feelings around who I was and what I was good enough for and what I wasn’t.


And so now my kind voice, my compassionate voice speaks to me much nicer because I was already giving it to other people, and now I can give it better. You can’t really give something that you’re not doing for yourself that successfully. I nurture myself.


I am working on saying that I’m a bad A-S-S when I feel it. Last night I was doing something in my studio and I was like, “I’m a bad, you know what,” and celebrating myself. And it doesn’t matter if no one else understands your art, identifying and feeling the opposite of grief, which is the gift.


As far as grief goes, the hardest part about grief is not being able to talk in safe spaces one time about the ramifications of being undiagnosed early. That is hard because you don’t want to hurt people. People were doing the best they could, but you want people to understand. And I want, especially parents and people who are wondering and struggling, to understand the importance of diagnoses. Official or unofficial, study up. If you feel that it’s true, it’s probably true.


And then we can start learning to pay attention to other things like how we spend money, what do we do to cope, how do we self-medicate, and give ourselves some compassion around it to be able to say, “I have this disability and so I have to learn how to work best with this disability,” and understanding that sometimes working best doesn’t mean that we’re going to be in general populace doing things that neurotypical people do, and also being able to accept the hardships with that.


I’m not going to lie in my grief, but I do want people to understand it feels like 95% of who I am in a day is impacted by my ADHD, but you don’t want to sound like you’re explaining and making excuses or having to hide and mask it.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:27):

That was really beautiful. I just want you to know that, that there’s a lot of people who are going to hear what you just said about being able to speak about your grief in certain places and being aware that we all at every moment in our life hopefully are doing the best that we can. But I think that is something that a lot of us are struggling with and having those conversations because there’s sadness there and there’s culpability, and it’s like this feeling of having to place blame, but that’s not how it has to be.

Diyah Najah (34:02):

Right. And then knowing that, I think I heard you say, that some of the most important people to us don’t even understand. But here’s the catch, it runs in the family line. So the people that never understood end up in a situation where they have to learn to understand. That’s just how it is. And it’s not a ha-ha, it’s just I’m glad that somebody coming after me is going to have a different experience earlier on than I did with understanding and support.

Lindsay Guentzel (34:40):

That is one of the biggest purposes behind this podcast is to make it easier for those that come after us, honestly. It is what makes the stressful days always worth it is knowing that we are making it easier because we all know what it is like when you feel alone and you don’t know what’s happening.


I want to ask you, what’s giving you hope right now? What’s pushing you forward? And I feel like the answer might be those bad, you know what moments that you’re having with your art, but maybe there’s something else you want to share there as well.

Diyah Najah (35:20):

What’s giving me hope? And so I had to leave teaching and I vowed that I could never go back because the environment wasn’t conducive for my health, better health or greater health. And also, if you’re a teacher and you are under extreme duress, you’re not going to be the best teacher. And if you are still a great teacher, at the end of the day you’re done. There’s nothing for anyone else.


So it was really hard to stop teaching because I realized that in the school building, my ADHD is very pleased. I mean, I get to act, turn this way, turn that way. Too many students, but I can move. I call it zip. I have this thing where I zip, very efficient. You know how fast we work and being able to tune into each student, each personality. I loved the classroom and young people and their excitement or their moods.


I taught middle school a long time. So the moods, the changing, the supporting, the encouragement, and also the defeat. The defeat because you can only push someone so far, then you have to stop and see if they could push themselves, depending on the classroom and the circumstance.


Youth, young people and connecting with people in general gives me hope. I was able to go back to school because I said, “Ah, this isn’t working. Boo-hoo, I’m crying every month. I’m threatening to adopt children.” I needed to be around this energy and for my health, it was best that I didn’t. I said, “I’m going to try it again.”


And I’m in my trying phase because I’m four weeks into a new school. They’re high schoolers, so that’s a different age group. I only teach two classes a day and I’m done. I am teaching art and no longer teaching in the special education program, which is two jobs. For every special educator you know, give them two gifts for teacher appreciation month because they’re doing two or three jobs. And I get to interact, I get to hear them, I get to see them, I get to show humanity and vulnerability. That gives me hope.


And additionally, I was hopeful. I thought I had a … I’m dreaming up this art show for ADHD Awareness Month, and I had a venue and then the venue disappeared, but I keep working as if I’m still going to have this art exhibition, and I wanted it to be Unmasked. Because unmasked, if you’ve been masking for so long, you don’t even know who you are when it’s to be unmasked.


Where did you ever get to find a space where your quote, unquote, “condition,” or disability can be at ease and be comfortable? Why is every space a space where it’s just difficult for us to exist? And so I decided in my art never to act like I’m not ADHD again and what ADHD looks like for me.


And when I look at my art now, I’m hearing everything I’ve always told was wrong or how it should be, and I do it anyway. I don’t change it. I’m not going to be different anymore. I’m going to put what’s in here on this paper, on this canvas, and I’m no longer going to care if it’s understood, while at the same time trying to sell my art and gain new collectors.


But my art isn’t for people with ADHD, my art is a form of storytelling and my art is a form of healing. And the way it looks, it either resonates with somebody or it doesn’t, but the testament to each and every story in my art is to make space for yourself to be you unapologetically, and make space to enjoy the you that you are in this specific lifetime and existence.


This time, my ADHD is such a life struggle for me. I am not a person who’s going to tell you it’s my superpower. I got two or three superpowers because of ADHD, and then the rest. So I give myself a space to be myself in a world where you don’t really have a lot of space for that, and that makes me feel hopeful about tomorrow.

Lindsay Guentzel (40:09):

I want to ask, do you ever think about what you might say to that art teacher and that math professor if you were ever given the opportunity?

Diyah Najah (40:21):

Yes. If I knew where Ms. East was, I would say, thank you for giving me my first opportunity to feel good at something. Thank you for taking me from wherever I was, which was ennui, that you said, “Ooh, I can push her and build her up.” I would say that thank you for giving me a professional portfolio because it made me feel, what’s the word? Loved? It made me feel loved. And that’s why love is so complex because then I would thank my mother for talking to Ms. East to take me in and do that.


And ever since then, I’ve been thanking my teachers that I could find. Two of them passed away. I struggled and I had a principal who loved me at Arts High School. I literally have been saved by educators.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:28):

I want to wrap this up by asking what’s something you wish people knew or understood better about ADHD that they’re maybe just not quite getting these days?

Diyah Najah (41:39):

Aside from what will always continue to push, it’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation, I want people to understand that whatever is frustrating you is also frustrating the person with ADHD. The issues that you may be experiencing, we’re experiencing double or quadruple fold within ourselves.


And most importantly, watch your mouth because whatever you’re saying to the person diagnosed, undiagnosed, suspected, it is sticking to them, unless they have already created some sort of way to take off these labels and these sentiments and these negativities. You’re literally planting seeds of doubt, and why would you want to do that? Yes, we too are experiencing the frustration. We may mask it, we may show up in different ways, may joke it off, but a lot of times when we’re alone, we are berating ourselves.


So if you truly care about this person, let’s start getting educated. If we can get the person with ADHD involved in their own education, let’s start showing compassion and let’s push education. Let’s learn about ourselves. And if you have a young person with ADHD and you are not providing them a way to express their gifts, that is just as harmful.


We got to find ways to get young people into a space where what they are naturally gifted in … And we are gifted in a lot of things. You cook on television and you’re a journalist. You write a podcast affiliated with this organization. We do a lot of things great. Why do we not have an opportunity to exhibit that greatness?

Lindsay Guentzel (43:39):

Thank you for those lovely compliments. It’s hard. It’s hard. We do want to do so much, and we’re constantly being told that that’s not the right way to do life. Pick something. Well, I don’t know, it changes daily. Sometimes it changes hourly.


Diyah, this was such a lovely conversation. Thank you for truly opening up your heart to me and to the Refocused community. I am really, really honored to get to share your story, and I’m just so grateful that you took this time and were truly vulnerable here and made so many wonderful points that really hit home for me here directly and I know are going to be wonderful moments for all of our listeners. So thank you so much.

Diyah Najah (44:30):

Thank you. This is one of the best moments of my life. I feel like I’m doing something right and that you found me and cared enough to reach out.

Lindsay Guentzel (44:46):

It was such an honor to share that time with Diyah. It is so important that those of us who are managing feelings of grief hold space for that, but we also have to be careful that we don’t allow ourselves to get stuck in the past.


I had a favorite teacher in high school, someone who believed in me and pushed me, who was a big fan of the Glenn Turner quote, “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.” That’s how I try to think about grief and the rumination that can come along with it.


It doesn’t mean I’m able to avoid it a hundred percent of the time, but I’m working on remembering that I can’t change what has already happened. I can only use what I know and what I feel to make better choices for the future.


I really appreciate that Diyah opened up about how hard it can be to find a safe space to talk about those feelings, especially with the people in our lives who were responsible for making decisions for us. Unfortunately, it’s a very common experience for so many in our community.


It’s normal to think about the what ifs, but again, we can’t go back and change them unless you figured out time travel. Then, I’m going to need you to email me because we ride at dawn. Jokes aside, this is a conundrum so many of us are navigating, the relief of finally having answers, which is exhilarating and hopeful, and then the complete opposite, the overwhelming grief and anger, resentment and sadness caused by said answers.


We ADHDers feel emotions in big ways, but one thing the mental health community agrees on is there is power in support. Finding a community of people who can empathize with what you are going through is so important. It’s one of the reasons why we created not only this podcast, but the Refocused, Together series in the first place. There are so many opportunities for connection both in person and online, and we’ve included a detailed list of opportunities for you in the show notes.


Diyah’s story is one of determination of pursuing one’s passion even when everything feels stacked against you. Right now as we speak, she’s getting ready for her first solo art show, Unmasked, which will take place from January 5th to February 5th 2024 at the Haugabrooks on Auburn in Atlanta, Georgia. We’ll include more details about her art show in the show notes and keep everyone updated through the podcast and on social as the date of her opening approaches. Congrats to you, Diyah, for all that you’ve accomplished and overcome, and for all that’s ahead of you.


Diyah’s story is also a powerful reminder of how special a person can feel when they know someone believes in them. So let’s spread that around a little bit more. I want to invite you to be that reason someone can dream big and get through the hard things. Don’t hold that goodness in, please put it out into the world.


If you aren’t following us already, now would be a great time to check out @refocusedpod on social. We’re sharing some of our favorite highlights from these amazing guests. And of course, stay tuned for our next episode of Refocused, Together 2023 coming up tomorrow. Subscribe to Refocused wherever you listen to podcasts and learn more at adhdonline.com/refocusedtogether.


Support for Refocused comes from our partner, ADHD Online, a telemedicine mental healthcare company that provides affordable and accessible ADHD assessments and treatment plans. To learn how they can help you on your journey, head to a adhdonline.com, and remember to use the promo code REFOCUSED20 to receive $20 off your ADHD Online assessment right now.


The biggest thanks go out to our team at ADHD Online, Keith Boswell, Susanne Spruit, Melanie Meyrl, Claudia Gatti, and Trisha Mirchandani for their constant support in helping make Refocused, Together happen.


These 31 episodes were produced thanks to our managing editor, Sarah Platinitus, our production coordinator, Phil Rodemann, social media specialist and editor, Al Chaplin, and me, the host and executive producer of Refocused, Lindsay Guentzel.


To connect with the show on social media, you can find us online, @refocusedpod, and you can email the show directly [email protected]. That’s [email protected].


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