Episode 73. Misha Nicholas and Finding Your Inner Child

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Join Lindsay Guentzel as she welcomes Misha Nicholas to the podcast. In this episode she shares her ADHD story and finding her inner child. To Misha, whatever happens to you in your childhood manifests in your adulthood and if you don’t get that treated you will walk around broken. I think you will really enjoy listening to Misha’s infectious energy and passion as she shares her diagnosis, how she is more than just this diagnosis, and how we need more people who think differently in order to make this world a better place.

Misha Nicholas is a neurodivergence advocate who is passionate about climate change and gender equality. Interested in the environment, activism, and policy, she has studied in Rome and Australia, worked for NGOs, IGOs, and CGIAR. Most recently, Misha won a competition called “Journey to Hurricane Island” carried out by an NGO called United People Global (UPG). UPG is an organization that inspires others to make the world a better place! She will also be a panelist in an upcoming podcast with the Children’s Health Council called “The Problem with Overcoming: Learning to Value Your Differences,” in which she will discuss some of the ways she overcame her learning differences in a neurotypical world. She also will be a panelist in the 2023 National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference in Philadelphia in June.

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Misha Nicholas (00:01):

I think self-doubt, and particularly women. Something I’ve noticed is most of my peers at least with ADHD, they’re really afraid to be too out there, and it tends to be a seclusion of, “Oh, not only do I have ADHD and I need to fit in society, but now I need to level up and be better than my peers.”

Lindsay Guentzel (00:47):

Hey you guys, welcome back to Refocused. It’s a podcast all about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. My name is Lindsay Guentzel, and that voice you just heard, that belongs to powerhouse Misha Nicholas. And if you’ve been following Refocus Pod on social media, it’s a name you might recognize. Back in early February, Misha was a finalist for Journey to Hurricane Island. It’s a program that recognizes the future generation of sustainability leaders from around the world, and it’s organized by the NGO United People Global. And I asked you, the ADHD community, to get behind Misha and throw some votes her way, and I’m over the moon to share she won. Misha is the sole representative for North America, and even better, her project is all about neurodiversity.

(01:38):

I first met Misha back in December before this incredible opportunity was knocking at her door, and I think once you listen to our conversation, you’re going to agree the timing of bringing Misha’s energy and passion for life and helping the ADHD community, it couldn’t come at a better time considering all the stuff that’s been going on. And yes, for me personally, I’m referencing that pesky little autoimmune disease I’ve been dealing with. Going back and listening to our conversation and getting it ready for you was exactly what I needed in this moment because Misha, she is a bucket filler, and I’m talking about one of those really big two gallon buckets that you could never actually carry around if it were full.

(02:23):

It’s clear she’s a leader who understands what those around her need in order to thrive, and her excitement about helping the ADHD community, it will make you want to do whatever you can to make sure that all of the doors are opened up for her. She also shared how her own diagnosis allowed her to go back and spend some time finding her inner child and how important that was for her in identifying not only how her ADHD was showing up in her life, but sometimes even why. Misha and I talk about the importance of self-love and self-acceptance and the unfortunate other side of that coin, self-doubt, and even share our thoughts on the role social media is playing in supporting the neurodivergent community.

(03:04):

Now, there’s one hiccup with today’s episode and considering I just celebrated a birthday, it digs a little deep, but Misha unwittingly refers to 35 as old, which okay sure, sometimes I do feel very old, especially right now. But before anyone takes this as actual outrage, I think we can all agree that the outrage should be directed at what she was referring to, which is the fact that an entire generation of people, most of them women, aren’t being diagnosed until later in life simply for a variety of reasons, mostly that there’s not enough attention being paid to something that is massively underdiagnosed and under-researched. And when you’re in your twenties, 35 does feel old. But do you want to know what’s really great and makes all of those hard feelings about age go away? Knowing that the future of the ADHD community is being led by someone as intentional and focused as Misha, and that provides a whole lot of comfort, and I have a feeling you’re going to feel the same way.

(04:15):

The Science of ADHD: Nature, Nurture, Neither or Both? That’s what writer Sophia Auld is diving into over at adhdonline.com, looking at the research behind genetics, environmental factors and parenting and how they all come together to, you guessed it, affect ADHD. Find the link to Sophia’s feature in the show notes. One of the best parts of doing Refocused together was after the month was over, a bunch of people reached out and were like, “I want to share my story,” which was the whole point of planning it in the beginning, was to figure out a way to keep it going. And I am so excited to welcome Misha Nicholas to today’s show. She reached out and wants to tell her story, and I have so many questions just from looking at her LinkedIn like a little internet sleuth, so I’m just going to jump right in. And just first off, thank you so much for sending the email and for being vulnerable and being willing to share your story. It really means a lot.

Misha Nicholas (05:23):

100%. Thank you so much for having me. It’s amazing, the work that you do.

Lindsay Guentzel (05:28):

Well, I think it’s amazing the work that you do and I want to get to that, but in order to get to that, we need to start at the beginning. Everyone’s ADHD story starts at a different place, and so I’m curious what led to you seeking out a diagnosis? And you can go back as far as you want.

Misha Nicholas (05:45):

So this is actually quite not funny, but it’s like an, “I told you so,” kind of moment. So since I was around 19, I would tell people, “Hey, I’m pretty sure I have ADHD, but I’m just going to sit it out and get diagnosed eventually.” And then that turned into a year and then a year turned into two years, and then fast forward to 26, I finally got the diagnosis. So I think it’s just one of those things, it’s like a rite of passage in life where everyone tells their story. But I noticed that other people had the rites of passage and a lot of other people were diagnosed, they just didn’t know where to go. So ADHD Online was not only really affordable, it just really helped me out in terms of paying the price and I was able to really find my inner child, I really feel like, through this diagnosis.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:36):

I love that. I love that you joked about having ADHD. I think there are a lot of people who are self-diagnosed, and I honestly did not ever think that I had it, but I also don’t know that I really even knew what it was and I think that that’s such an important part of it. I’m curious, when you look back at your childhood, a lot of women are missed because we don’t fit this very small mold that people were looking for. What stands out for you?

Misha Nicholas (07:06):

To be honest, I think for me it’s the sense of perfectionism. And what I mean by perfectionism, it’s not feeling good enough but always striving to do better. And I think that can just be really dangerous, especially when you have ADHD, because it’s like this never-ending pill that you’re constantly taking and you just can’t stop. So I would say for a lot of women who as well feel like that and if you have symptoms as well, you feel like you have those symptoms, please don’t hesitate to get diagnosed because self-diagnosis is becoming a really popular trend within not only the ADHD community, but in the neurodivergent community. And I’m not sure if you felt like this, but at first when I said, “Oh, I think I might have ADHD,” I kind of felt judged because I didn’t get a formal diagnosis. But that’s becoming a thing in the past now. And as you said before, more and more women, especially older women, not 26 but 35, 45 were coming out. So it’s a kind of rite of passage, I think you could say.

Lindsay Guentzel (08:13):

I was diagnosed two months before I was 35 and actually interviewed a few women in Refocused together who are diagnosed in their fifties, and it’s never too late. I think it’s so crucial that we understand how our brains work. And self-diagnosis is a very important thing to connect with some of the things that you’re seeing, but there are benefits to having an actual diagnosis, and we need accommodations and we need to be understood in the places that we’re going. And I don’t know that when I received my diagnosis, if people in my life were like, “No, that’s not a thing.”

(08:56):

I know a few people were not surprised. I think a few people were surprised. But I also think I was so manic in doing it that I just was like, “Nope, I’m going to do this.” I want to go back to the perfectionism thing because it feels like in life, we’re constantly moving the finish line for ourselves. You get to the finish line and it’s never enough. I’m wondering how that has affected you, and I’m asking specifically before your diagnosis. Hindsight is a great tool, but in those moments, what was that like?

Misha Nicholas (09:29):

Man, I guess we’re going to go down the rabbit hole because not quoting Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror song, but low-key that’s how I felt like all throughout my childhood. I just wasn’t picking up with my peers, so I always thought maybe I just need to try hard or I just need to study harder. That’s kind of the I wouldn’t say indoctrination of American education, but it’s that standard. If you’re not getting the highest grades or the highest mark, you need to just try harder. So having that silent stigma while being a student just made my life very difficult, I could say, in particular where people don’t even really talk about even having ADHD or neurodivergence within the education system. So it was that constant I guess fight within my inner self of always trying to pick up with my peers and trying to be the best.

(10:29):

After my diagnosis, fast forward to that now, you really pick up the piece and you’re like, “Oh, wow. Is that why I tried so hard in all the sports that I did, all the work that I did, trying to stand out?” Because that’s also another layer within our community. We feel like we have to always be above non-neurodivergent people. And that’s something that we’re still in the fight to do, like you said, with accommodations. People are even afraid to speak up about that because they’re like, “What are people going to think of me if I even take this route?” So it’s kind of, I’m not sure if you felt it, like an inner conflict not with just within yourself, but the silent stigma that lingers of just not talking about learning disabilities or ADHD at all.

(11:17):

So it’s like this never-ending cycle I guess, that we’re kind of getting ourselves out in. I see a lot more neurodivergent topics being talked about, thank goodness, in schools. I was a former youth council member actually for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and one of the key things that we’ve talked about in a lot of webinar panels that we’ve done is just speaking up. How many times as an adult do you think to yourself and say, “Man, I wish I just could have spoke up in class and just said you know what? There is something that’s maybe not right. Can you go over this a little bit?” So definitely, that inner conflict I feel like growing up that I had.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:58):

The other side of it is it’s exhausting and it’s really hard to manage some of the things, and I like that you talk about we need to talk more about it, we need to be more open about it. I think sometimes I feel bad saying that that doesn’t work for me. I know what my roadblocks are, and why can’t I just tell people that? And the more people who are comfortable talking about it talk about it, the more everyone around us, whether they’re neurodivergent or not, realizes what some of the challenges are

Misha Nicholas (12:41):

100%. And it’s so hard to even conceptualize this because once again, you kind of feel like you’re fighting with the whole world trying to get your voice spoken when it’s actually in reverse. If we want to be an accepting culture, we have to accept everybody, their strengths and weaknesses. But once again, going back into the silent stigma I call it, it’s not talking about ADHD at all. Actually, that’s like the silent weapon here. Even before you were diagnosed, people who just don’t even really know what they have, so they’re just confined in these standard mentalities of just keeping silent and working hard to get what you have.

(13:25):

And once again, that intersectionality between ADHD and anxiety or depression, substance abuse unfortunately, that does affect certain communities more than most like communities of color or in particular, women that, like you said before, aren’t really being diagnosed like that due to the certain perceptions of how men have been diagnosed with ADHD. So it’s one step at a time I can say, but everyone can make a difference by just speaking up for themselves. This world has been so status quo for a really long time, we need to mix it up.

Lindsay Guentzel (14:01):

Yes, absolutely. And I would like to ask about the work that you’ve done, so set this up for me. You graduate from high school and then what did you do? And just walk me through because like I said, I did my little internet sleuthing. I almost said stalking, but that sounds dangerous and like you should be concerned.

Misha Nicholas (14:23):

I’m really not.

Lindsay Guentzel (14:24):

And you lived in some cool places and you’ve done some really cool stuff, so I’m just curious because I think everyone has a story to share and I think the more we all start to realize that we are capable of doing really hard things when we know how we are actually capable of doing them, if that makes sense. We just have to be comfortable making our own adjustments. So I’m going to just kind of hand it off to you.

Misha Nicholas (14:54):

100%. All right. So I grew up in a small town called Randolph, New Jersey. It was nice, but I was like, “Why don’t I go to Rome where the tuition’s a lot cheaper?” So that’s exactly what I did. I studied in Rome for four years and I did communication and media studies, and this is actually quite interesting. I wasn’t actually really good at writing nor reading, but I would always strive to just do the best I could. I would spend hours in the library, and then I had a certain person tell me that maybe I should consider doing another profession. I should consider doing something else than reading and writing. So I took that and I was like you know what? All right, cool. Let me just try harder. So that’s exactly what I did. And you know-

Lindsay Guentzel (15:43):

You don’t like to be told no.

Misha Nicholas (15:44):

No, exactly. We’re going to show ourselves, right? So I graduated and I was a part of an Africans in the World Cultural Club for around a year, and I thought that’s what I want to do. I want to get more into politics, international affairs and climate change. So I moved to Australia, the furthest place you can go, and said, “Why not? Why don’t I study here?” So I did that for two years and I got really interested in the environment and activism and policy, so I interned here and there for environmental NGOs and also to an IGO, and then after I did that, I decided to go back to the us. I studied for around a year and practiced being an environmental research fellow for a think tank. Then fast forward to that, I worked for CGIAR Excellence in Breeding in mainly food security research as a junior comms consultant for a year.

(16:47):

Then it hit me, I’m like, “Okay, something’s up. I need to get diagnosed,” because I couldn’t work in a functionable environment. I needed to get up, I needed to move. I couldn’t just sit in a seat all day. So that’s actually when I looked at ADHD Online, and this was actually I was in Mexico. I was going to go back to the US, I thought, I’ll take this online diagnosis and cool. So I got my results, I was a ADHD positive. I was like, “Finally. It’s about time.” And I wanted to really amplify my voice, not just in my work life, but in my personal life. So I also kind of missed this, but during the time I was a youth council member for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, I was in the US and I joined my other peers on panel discussions about how to empower people like us as well as the neurodivergent community, how to not only look for the science, but empower others.

(17:41):

Inspire others to pursue their dreams and do what they want to do and not be limited by just a diagnosis because we’re more than this diagnosis, this diagnosis is a part of our identity. I really expressed that in a lot of my panel discussions that I did. Came back to the US, I worked for the US Department of State a little while as a reader for this fellowship and I was really excited. I was a mentor for COP online that was for a youth hackathon to solve climate change challenges, so I was really excited to do that. And I discussed with the US Department of Ed ways that at least people like us in the neurodivergent community can gain more access to mental health services. So this is again where I really enforced the old conditioning of what stigma even is, right? It’s not verbal. It can be silent too. So I think from here on out, I’m really going on that path of just trying to at least get undiagnosed individuals a chance to express themselves and at least have a voice because things are changing.

(18:55):

But I kind of also feel like there’s a little bit of stigma still, once again, for undiagnosed people like you’re not really a person with ADHD, but that’s just not true, so we need to have more of that acceptance as well. And some people, more power to them, they don’t want to be diagnosed, and I perfectly understand that. But maybe just to add a layer to yourself, it’s just that mutual understanding I feel like with yourself, that coming of passes like we talked about before. I have this and that’s okay, and that’s all I’m trying to advocate for, just to be comfortable with yourselves and don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you want to do in life just because you have ADHD. I actually argue that people who are like us, we are changing the world because we think differently and we need more people who think differently in order to make the world honestly a better place.

Lindsay Guentzel (19:54):

You are a human after my own heart in so many ways. I want to check back in I was going to say 10 years, but I know it’ll be so monumental that I’m like, “Okay, in two years can we catch up? And I want to know what you’re doing.” We need more people like you. And what I love about your energy is you have so much positivity and so much passion and excitement about changing the landscape that so many of us are dealing with. And you said, “I think there’s still a stigma,” there is still a stigma. I talk to people all the time who listen to the podcast who are kind of beside themselves because the people who matter the most in their lives do not think it’s a real thing and do not want them to seek out help.

(20:43):

And here’s the thing, is medication is it’s not a magic pill. It is evening the playing field. And I get it, some people don’t want to go that route, but there are so many ways to be helping yourself just by knowing what is going on. And the big one for me, and you talked a little bit about some of the comorbidities that can come with ADHD, I joke, it’s like ADHD was the mothership that was controlling all of these things that I was trying to deal with and treat individually, and the second that I started treating this mothership, the rest of them for the most part went away. And it’s having those conversations about what it’s like, and this is something we’ll deal with forever.

Misha Nicholas (21:36):

Exactly.

Lindsay Guentzel (21:37):

It’s not we’re anxious because we’re in high school and high school is hard. Yes, that is a part of it, but looking back and knowing what was driving it is so important.

Misha Nicholas (21:50):

Once again, it’s that rite of passage, and a lot of people don’t correlate your journey to your inner child and I feel like that’s so important. Whatever happens to you in your childhood manifests in your adulthood and if you don’t get that treated, honestly, you’re just going to be a walking, broken individual. It’s just really sad, I know, but I just see it happen so many times. And for me it’s deep because it could be a generational thing.

Lindsay Guentzel (22:18):

It’s a cycle.

Misha Nicholas (22:20):

It’s a cycle, exactly. So if your parent, for example, is undiagnosed and they put that stigma on you and you don’t get treatment, in that case you’re just going to be repeating the same thing for your kids or anyone around you, for that matter, in your environment.

Lindsay Guentzel (22:37):

Well, you mentioned too, even addiction. My father was an alcoholic, I also think he was very much undiagnosed ADHD. And knowing what you are predisposed to is crucial because it makes you start to look at some of the decisions that you’re making and you go, “Oh, there’s a reason behind this. There’s an explanation. There’s not an excuse, there’s an explanation as to why I am drawn to something that makes me feel this way.” And when you know that you can start to change what that is. I can look back in times of my life where I was chasing really dangerous dopamine rushes. And that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy wine. I love wine. I love wine. Here’s the thing is it’s not even the alcohol for me, it’s I love the taste of wine. I like trying different kinds of wine. And now I seek out dopamine from running and working out, but in my twenties, whoo man, it was a lot and it’s dangerous.

Misha Nicholas (23:45):

Listen, I could give you sob stories about my times.

Lindsay Guentzel (23:51):

We’ll do that off air together.

Misha Nicholas (23:53):

Oh, that’s going to be a given. But in general, you’re 100% correct. And once again, it’s those memories you look back on, those impulses. And that’s one thing about ADHD that people don’t really cover that much, impulse control. That’s so, so important, especially with drinking and especially if you have a history of alcoholism within your family. These are the multi-dimensional layers that are really crucial to your own development, your own success. And thank you for sharing that about your father.

Lindsay Guentzel (24:27):

It’s my story and I’m an open book, and I feel like if I can be an open book, it’ll help other people. And I feel like you kind of fit into the same category. You know what your purpose is, and I think it’s so incredible that you got it at such a young age because the sky’s the limit.

Misha Nicholas (24:46):

And that’s something that also, we can learn from really young people, especially kids, because they’re not so confined by the statutes of society. They just want to be free, they just want to live their lives, and no matter if you have ADHD or not, I just think we should emulate that. We should just find our own. But like you said before, some factors of addictions or even not controlling your impulses, anxiety, different layers can really inhibit that. So once again, we’re targeting mental health and the importance of just knowing who you are is so crucial because like you said before, yes, ADHD medication is very helpful, but it’s not a huge incoming factor that’s going to just stop all of your symptoms from going away. There could be maybe post-traumatic stress disorder memories that you have, again, anxiety, depression, and then you could have ADHD and another factor like autism, for example, which ADHD can mask your autism, but then vice versa. That’s a completely different topic though for another day.

Lindsay Guentzel (25:57):

It is, and I think we’re just all learning. And in the topic of learning, I want to ask, when you look back at that decision to go to Rome, because that’s a very confident decision to make as a young adult… I got to tell you, you laugh, but that is my dream. I thought I was very brave, I thought I was very ambitious. I thought I was very independent and I look back and I’m like, “Oh, man,” and I think it’s so wonderful that you got that experience. And I’m wondering, in those moments, did anyone try to stop you? What was the whole thing?

Misha Nicholas (26:39):

This is why I’m laughing, because my dad specifically said, “You’re not going,” so you know what I said? I said, “I’ll sell all my clothes. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll go to the pawn shop and I’m going to sell whatever I need to to buy that plane ticket and get those student loans or whatever. All right? I’m going to make it happen.” But then he caved in, so that’s just a good tip of advice. If someone tells you just in general you can’t do something, try to prove it wrong by any means necessary. Because again, if I listened to what actually that teacher in Rome told me, that I should change my profession, I really wouldn’t be talking with you right now. I’m not going to lie, I would probably be unfortunately even more confined to myself and just keep to myself, be the little shy, quiet, Misha that just sits in the corner and wouldn’t take a risk. It’s deep, man.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:35):

It is.

Misha Nicholas (27:36):

It’s really about just living your life. And I’m really appreciative for that experience, but I just think more people, we’re just so confined as well by what people think about us that sometimes when you’re just so fed up with adapting to those standards, you just let go. You’re like, “You know what? Whatever. You’re going to judge me anyway. Let’s shoot for the stars.”

Lindsay Guentzel (28:02):

I want to bottle that up and I need you to ship it to me immediately. I’m not joking, honestly, in my grief cycle of managing this later in life, ADHD diagnosis, and feeling like there are a lot of opportunities that I allowed to be taken away from me. And I mean that in the sense that I would find myself in scenarios where I was around a lot of mediocre men. I let them make me smaller. I let them do the opposite of what your experience was. I let them push me down. I let them dim my light, and I’m so relieved that I didn’t let it go on longer.

(28:45):

I’m so relieved that I’m in this moment where I get to retake that energy and that light, and it’s hard to think back and go, “What if I hadn’t let that bother me?” And so I love hearing that there are people out there who have figured that out because I think for most of us, again, I’m just generalizing, I think there are a lot of us who would not have been as brave as you and would not have been as steadfast in that moment. And that’s an incredible thing that you should be really proud of, and I don’t know where it came from, I just applaud you.

Misha Nicholas (29:26):

Thank you so much. Actually, if I go back, it came from unfortunately, I was racially bullied during my middle school and high school years. I was severely bullied, so I had really low self-esteem. In high school, my GPA was actually pretty low because-

Lindsay Guentzel (29:45):

You didn’t want to be there,

Misha Nicholas (29:46):

… right, and I didn’t know I was undiagnosed. So I think sometimes when you’re in such pain that you turn it into power, that’s the kind of attitude that we’re trying to at least get for the ADHD community as well. And I know it’s really hard to tap into that pain and find that soft spot of yours, but once you unleash that, literally no one and anything can stop you. So I just urge anyone that if you ever feel rejected or torn down, just really have faith in yourself that you can just get through the day because you really can. And excuse my language, but F what, honestly, other people have to say because it’s your life. And again, sky is the limit. There are so many celebrities with ADHD as well, people paving the way in politics that are neurodivergent, and I just think that’s a beautiful thing to see nowadays.

Lindsay Guentzel (30:40):

It is, 1,000%. I’m curious, in all the work that you’ve been doing in all the different roles, when I ask you, and I’m asking you something that I didn’t prep you for, so I’m putting you on the spot-

Misha Nicholas (30:53):

Ooh. It’s okay.

Lindsay Guentzel (30:55):

… when you look at big picture with ADHD and mental health, what to you is the most urgent need that should be addressed?

Misha Nicholas (31:06):

I think self-doubt, what we just discussed, and particularly women. Something I’ve noticed on a generalized basis and pretty much all around me is most of my peers, at least with ADHD, they’re really afraid to be too superior or too out there. And it tends to be a seclusion of not only do I have ADHD and I need to fit in society, but now I need to level up and be better than my peers. So again, it’s unfortunately this mental conflict of just trying to just be the best you can be. And I just urge all women, I know again it’s really hard to be in that mentality, but you’re way more than enough.

(31:57):

And I just think especially with people with ADHD or in the neurodivergence community, we need to have more self-love for ourselves because unfortunately, due to anxiety and depression, which we fall under the spectrum of more likely having, it’s so important to hype ourselves up. It’s really depressing, to be honest with you, how many stories I’ve seen of people having depression and anxiety even when getting diagnosed in months to come, not being able to treat it because they think it’s a burden.

Lindsay Guentzel (32:32):

Another addition to that is social media has its place, there are great communities being built, but at the same time, that keeping up with the Joneses and that mentality that you’re never enough is being fed to us by carefully curated accounts where you really look at it like I need that or I’m not worthy if I don’t have that, and it’s not attainable. It’s literally a job, and we don’t address it enough. That’s what they do to make a living it. It’s kind of like the example I’ll use is you look at celebrities and they have perfect bodies or they get cast in a Marvel movie and then they have just muscles that you didn’t even know existed. That’s their job. Their job, they’re getting paid to work out at a volume that is just not accessible for the majority of us-

Misha Nicholas (33:35):

100%.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:36):

… but telling yourself that and realizing that takes a lot, and even acknowledging it doesn’t mean that you don’t want it.

Misha Nicholas (33:45):

Exactly. And that’s the sub layer of society within our community that I think the silent stigma is really dangerous in because let’s just say I’m undiagnosed and I’m looking at, I don’t know, a bikini model on Sports Illustrated or something like that and I think not only am I not good enough, wow, what can I do to be like that? And then it just creates this whole depressive anxiety effect that it’s not even real. It might be Photoshopped or like you said, people pay thousands of dollars to have their bodies. That’s their job.

(34:22):

So actually, I have a question for you. Do you find it really hard within our community for us to distinguish what we should strive to be instead of reality itself? Especially with someone who has a very perfectionist mindset, that Sports Illustrated model thing, for example, in my eyes, I would just see oh, okay, maybe I can not only be better, but be that caricature of society, even though it doesn’t exist and it’s giving me anxiety looking at her body kind of thing.

Lindsay Guentzel (35:00):

Let me think on this for just a second. My response was going to be I think what I find really difficult about ADHD and social media tends to actually come from some of the content creators who actually have ADHD who have figured out how to just do the thing, and in their mind, it should just be easy for all of us to just do the thing. And sometimes to me, it comes across almost very snake oil salesman and not very supportive. We all are attracted to different energy, and that energy to me is just very off-putting and I think it’s dangerous because I think it makes people who go, “Well, I can’t just do the thing and this isn’t easy for me,” and then all of a sudden it’s this added layer of stress and anxiety and not feeling good enough. So it’s frustrating to see some of that narrative being pushed out there.

Misha Nicholas (35:59):

Well, I’m not going to get into the details of maybe who some of the people are or anything, sips tea, but I completely agree. For example, there are so many different groups within people who have ADHD, and on top of that, it’s very generic. I just wish there was more realism. Come on. It was already hard enough to get a diagnosis or acknowledge that you even have ADHD in a world that doesn’t really understand you. So imagine on top of that, being fed the same information but in a very skewed mindset of this is just the way everything is, like you said, and there aren’t other factors that can contribute to your diagnosis at all. It’s like taking off the rose colored glasses in life and just looking at things for what they are, which I wish more people would do, but some people just unfortunately fall victim to that kind of marketing, I would argue.

Lindsay Guentzel (37:02):

Yeah. And I think women are way more susceptible to it. There’s a reason why multi-level marketing companies target women.

Misha Nicholas (37:08):

Oh, man.

Lindsay Guentzel (37:09):

It is this community building. I think that’s what we all want, especially you talked a little bit in the beginning of middle school and high school and bullying, and I didn’t realize why friendships were so hard for me until after I was diagnosed. And to constantly feel like you want to just belong, and then you have this person coming in who might have ulterior motives, who’s selling you shiny things. And to me, it’s very dangerous and I don’t think we talk about it enough. And a part of me is like we all know a woman who at one point in time sold products for a multi-level marketing company and no longer does it, and you see the engagement and why they were drawn to that and it’s not because they wanted to sell the products, it’s because they wanted to belong to something.

Misha Nicholas (38:03):

True. And I think that’s the most pressing part about it all, the fact that you look at that undiagnosed version of yourself and then you look at all the memories of even not only marketing, but just of how people approached you with sometimes ulterior motives. And you just think man… you just look back on life. And I think sometimes you just want the best for people, but I guess within the community, that’s our own journey to find. But this is just a tip for everyone. If you just experience that where you just feel like someone has ulterior motives, just feel your intuition out a little bit. I think it’s especially viable for people with ADHD because especially in the undiagnosed stage, you just don’t know.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:47):

Don’t say yes, don’t sign anything. Give yourself time.

Misha Nicholas (38:52):

Read the fine print, please, please.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:56):

I’ve had some moments with that. I want to wrap up by asking you what’s next? What is on the horizon for you? What are you excited about? What do you want to change when you look at ADHD and how it is talked about or even in your own life?

Misha Nicholas (39:20):

So I just think moving forward, I really want to get involved in national education reform for people with ADHD by not just joining panels, but I don’t know, maybe eventually more government work, question mark? We’ll see. That’s the path I really want to go on as well as climate change. That’s something that I’m really, really passionate about, and gender equality. I feel like the sky’s the limit, so I definitely want to explore more activities within all those fields, actually connecting neurodivergence even to climate change, because I just want to make it easier for people like us in the neurodivergence community to fight for the climate. So I’m just going to push all I can to make sure that that happens in the future.

Lindsay Guentzel (40:11):

Working in politics feels very scary to me, but I love that that’s the route you are thinking because we need people who are going to make change but then aren’t afraid to rock the boat because that’s kind of what it takes. You have to have a really thick skin.

Misha Nicholas (40:33):

And you know what? It’s so odd because for me, I just feel like over the years, I’ve really had a personality of not I don’t care, but I’m just going to do whatever it takes. And I already have seen within the political sphere a little bit of misogyny here and there and those demeaning comments, but that’s not going to stop me from getting changed done, so don’t you worry about that. I’m going to be right on track.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:00):

I will write your press releases, but someone else will have to read your correspondence because that’s kind of where I…

Misha Nicholas (41:08):

Oh man. Are you going into the future or what? Hope that’s my future.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:12):

Yes, absolutely. I just know my weaknesses and politics can get a little… I like to stay in my little sunshine place and not listen to bad things.

Misha Nicholas (41:27):

It can. I’m not going to lie, it does take thick skin. But something that I can learn from bullying that really helped me was to just honestly not listen to what people say. And I really feel like fast forward to now, it’s helped me in a lot of situations. So to everyone out there listening, politics or not, just don’t listen to what other people say if it’s going to inhibit you from really achieving what you want in life that’s feasible to you.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:54):

And again, it goes back to allowing someone else to dictate your future.

Misha Nicholas (41:59):

100%. Who are they? You are you. You have your own life to live, so everyone be awesome.

Lindsay Guentzel (42:07):

I feel like we are going to hear so much from you in the future and I cannot wait. And I meant what I said, however I can help writing press releases.

Misha Nicholas (42:18):

Of course, of course, of course. We’re definitely going to link up, for sure. I already know.

Lindsay Guentzel (42:23):

I want to ask one thing, and again, I’m putting you on the spot, but I also am someone who’s very passionate about climate change and I think one of the things that overwhelms me about it is it overwhelming. And you feel like one person and you try to do as much as you can, but then you see the news and it’s awful, and you feel crummy. And so I’m curious, what is one action that we can all do for people who want the Earth to be around for as long as possible? What is something simple that we can do that we can manage, that we can make a difference?

Misha Nicholas (43:02):

This is something that I learned from Albert Einstein. Always ask questions. Don’t be afraid to really question society’s motives, because who knows? One discussion could honestly trigger someone else’s mind or perception to think differently, and that’s happened to me on multiple occasions. I’ve talked with climate change deniers, I’ve talked with non climate change deniers, and we can all learn something at least from one another in the sense that no one is ever a caricature of perfection.

(43:35):

So with that comes the positive benefit of all of us just learning more and just learning off of each other and realizing that we all have something to learn. So I would just definitely say a answer as many questions as possible about climate change, even to your parents, if you’re young watching. “Hey, do we recycle? Hey, maybe we can go to the vintage shop and buy clothes instead of buying all these fast-paced fashion clothing.” So just simple stuff like that can really make things different for all of us.

Lindsay Guentzel (44:12):

I love it. Misha, thank you so much for reaching out and for coming on, and it won’t be your last appearance because we’re going to keep chatting. I can only wait for 2023 to see what’s to come, but thank you truly.

Misha Nicholas (44:27):

You’re blowing me away. I’m crying right now. It’s been such a good experience and I really hope in the near future, Lindsay, that you’re just going to be so awesome. Honestly, you know the Kelly Clarkson Show? I think you can have something like that. I’m thinking big, here. You’re an amazing, amazing podcaster.

Lindsay Guentzel (44:51):

I appreciate that. I think big too. And like I said, I finally feel like I’m at the place now where I’m not letting anyone get in the way, so you can be the first guest when I get the show. Okay?

Misha Nicholas (45:01):

Please.

Lindsay Guentzel (45:02):

We’ll make that deal,

Misha Nicholas (45:04):

Deal or no deal. We’ll make that deal.

Lindsay Guentzel (45:08):

I think it’s safe to say I’m going to be very busy keeping tabs on Misha in the coming years. Not only did she create this amazing opportunity for herself with United People Global, but she’ll also be a panelist on Children’s Health Council’s upcoming podcast, The Problem with Overcoming: Learning to Value Your Differences, where she’s going to discuss some of the ways she’s overcame her learning differences in a neurotypical world. She’s also set to be a panelist at the 2023 National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference in Philadelphia this June. And this feels like a great time to remind you if you’d like to share your story on Refocused, get in touch with us. The easiest way to do that is emailing the show [email protected]. And as I mentioned last week, Refocused Together is in the books for 2023. That’s a part of our commitment to ADHD Awareness Month, sharing a different neurodivergent story every single day throughout the month of October. That’s 31 stories in 31 days.

(46:08):

Coming up next week, we’re sharing Mental Health and the Entrepreneur. It’s the panel I hosted at South by Southwest on March 10th with the incredible team at Midwest House. If you aren’t an entrepreneur, don’t worry. The insight shared by the four panelists is without a doubt stuff any person can relate to, and maybe you’ll even start to see little inklings of entrepreneurship in your own life. That’s what’s coming up for you on March 27th, but that’s it for this week. Thank you guys so much for listening. And hey, if you’re loving Refocused, a free, easy way to support our show and the work we’re doing is to leave a rating and a review. You can do that on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify. It’s a chance to tell us what you love about the show, and it helps others discover it too. And hey, maybe we’ll start even reading some of them on the show as a little added bonus. As always, thank you guys so much for listening and please, please, this week, be extra kind to yourself.

(47:10):

Refocused is a collaboration between me, Lindsay Guentzel, and ADHD Online, a telemedicine mental healthcare company that provides affordable and accessible ADHD assessments and treatment plans, including medication management and teletherapy. To find out how they can help you on your journey, head to ADHDonline.com. My favorite time of the week, the time to thank the incredible team that helps make refocused happen week after week. To kick things off, a big thanks to our coordinating producer, Phil Roaderman. Thanks to Sarah Platonitis, who been instrumental in helping shape the stories and the topics we share with you. Our amazing social media production is coming from the wonderful Al Chaplain.

(48:06):

As always, a shout out and a high five to Keith Boswell, Claudia Gotti, Melanie Mile, Suzanne Sprue, Trisha Merchant Dunny, and the entire team at ADHD Online for all of their ongoing support. Our brand new, wonderful show art was created by Sissy Yee of Berlin Gray, and our music was created by Louie Inglis, a singer songwriter from Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39. Links to all of the partners we work with are available in the show notes. To connect with the show or with me, you can find us online at @refocusedpod as well as @lindseyguentzel. And remember, if you’d like to reach the show directly you can email us, [email protected].

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