Episode 88. ADHD at 51: How My Diagnosis Was Just The Beginning


We have an incredible lineup of brand-new episodes kicking off on July 10th that we are so excited to share with you! Today, we’re revisiting an episode from last year’s Refocused, Together that is incredibly special to us. 

Today, we’re reconnecting with the ADHD story of John Smith. 

Like many, John discovered his ADHD during the pandemic. Everything slowed down but he kept going and that was his clue. But he doesn’t let his adulthood-diagnosis keep him or his mood down. 

Today’s episode explores the power of an ADHD diagnosis, regardless of the age it happens. It’s an episode that is incredibly special to us and we hope you enjoy it too. 

[[friendly warning: this episode might make you cry.]]

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Lindsay Guentzel (00:01):

You’re listening to Refocused and ADHD at 51, How My Diagnosis Was Just The Beginning. Get started right now. My name is Lindsay Guentzel and every week on Refocused, we dive into the incredibly complex world of ADHD, exploring the topics most important to our community, by interviewing medical providers, mental health professionals, and ADHD experts. We also just talk to other Neurodiverse folks, who share what it’s like living in a world, not built for them and of course all of that brings up lots of tips, tricks and workarounds, that we can mix and match to fit in our own lives and needs. Whether you’ve been navigating ADHD your entire life or you’re just starting your journey, there’s something for everyone on Refocused and I promise that while we take this very seriously, we also have a lot of fun, because life is way better with a little laughter in it. Sit back, relax or do whatever you need to do, to get into your listening mode, because the latest episode of Refocused, Get Started Right Now.


The Refocused production team, we’ve been working what seems like around the clock, to produce so many new episodes, including a trio of series exploring three of the most common comorbidities, that people with ADHD deal with, anxiety, depression, and OCD. We’re also starting to gear up for Refocused Together 2023, putting together a roster of guests, we’ll share with you throughout ADHD Awareness month in October and as much as I hate to admit this, that all will be here before we know it too. Today, we’re revisiting a conversation I had for last year’s Refocused Together collection, that was really special to me. Today we’re sharing the story of John Smith, a real person, I promise.


Like so many of us, John never felt 100% that he fit in. He constantly felt like he needed to be someone else, anybody else, but himself. He struggled in school, was always in motion and would dive deep into things that interested him, often at the expense of the things that needed to get done. Boy does that sound familiar? All of this continued as John grew older, though he was getting better at hiding his quirks in plain sight. How? By mimicking the people around him, practicing body doubling, before he even knew what body doubling was. He thought that was just how everyone did it, going through the obstacle course of life with a mind that was a constant loop of memories and rumination. One thing helped him more than anything else. Knowing from an early age, that having someone to support him and help him keep structure in his life, that was the key to success.


A handful of years ago, John and his wife, a kindergarten teacher, started the conversation around him possibly having undiagnosed ADHD. Then the pandemic hit and John thought his life would finally sort itself out. There was nothing for him to do, except get organized. Unfortunately, even though the world slowed down, John’s brain didn’t and he finally saw that as his cue, to explore an actual diagnosis. ADHD online helped him, a veteran athletic trainer of 20 plus years and the Sports Medicine Outreach Manager at a children’s hospital in Ohio, discover that he had primarily inattentive ADHD.


On today’s episode, you’ll hear John recall the minute he knew his medication was working and all of the emotions that came after that moment of wonder, including a surprising bout of loneliness. He also shares how his ADHD diagnosis has helped his relationships, his relationship with himself, his relationship with his family, and even his relationship with food, something he would’ve defined as complicated, before his diagnosis. There are so many wonderful moments in today’s episode and it was such a joy to revisit our chat. John Smith is a very special human and it is my honor to get to share his story with you.

John Smith (05:03):

My whole life I just never felt 100% I fit in. I was always the kid that was thinking in my head, I had superpowers. I would have this superpower, so I could do this and it just never felt like I fit in, but it always felt like I could find a way to fit in and just that body doubling and it was just always an interesting time. There were times during my high school time, just one time I’m sitting in French class and I hear the teacher saying this question and all of a sudden, I see everybody just staring at me and had realized that I had just answered the question, without the teacher finishing it and nobody else had a chance to.


It’s just things like those, through all of those years and then every job I had, the thing I would think is, “Okay, if I can jump into this job and get out in five years, they won’t know who I really am and I can get out and I can do a great job and I’ll just continue to have a great reputation as an Athletic Trainer and just keep moving forward with that,” and every time, it was four or five-ish years, but things changed so, so much in the first 10 years. I was building a program, we were making great strides and changes in sports medicine and it always just felt weird, because I just always felt like I couldn’t get things done.


I just figured it was because I was doing so much and then the pandemic came and things started to change really interestingly and thinking to myself, “Okay, now everything has calmed down, everything has stopped. Now my head is going to, the first time in my life… I was an athlete, I was in all sorts of things during college and just one thing after another after another, but now I can’t do anything, so I can get my life organized,” which of course you understand. We’ve done that over and over and over and over and over again in our lives.


But this time, everything stopped. However, my brain didn’t stop and it just continued to go, and go, and go, and go, and I was like, “There’s something wrong,” and started getting on TikTok more, like a lot of other people and then at that point, I started seeing one gentleman and he just kept doing these five things, “You may have ADHD if you…” And my wife who’s a Teacher and was a Special Ed Teacher for a long time, has been a Kindergarten Teacher now for at least 15 years, we had talked about it through the years, but just never coalesced and then this happened and my brain just continued to fight me, so to speak and then started seeing the TikToks and then Lisa, my wife said, “You know what? Why don’t you just get online? There’s ADHD online. Why don’t you go ahead and try this? Just see what comes back.”


Because I also dragged my heels for about four months, because I didn’t know if I really wanted to go on meds. I didn’t know about therapy, kid of the eighties, therapy’s not a thing. You can just deal with it and the therapy, I have not gotten to yet, but diagnosis wise, I took the online assessment, great assessment. It took me about three days, because I kept saving and going back. Came back, I had ADHD, Inattentive Type, which of course wasn’t a thing when I was growing up, because ADHD was all the kids bouncing off the wall and of course, my wife had talked to her sister about it and said, “Hey, John and I are talking…” And she was like, “He can’t. There’s no way. He’s been too successful. He’s been the President of a state organization,” and so on and so on.


Diagnosis came, met with a Doctor, who was phenomenal. He and I just sat there and it just felt congenial and just felt so comfortable. Got on my meds and that’s where my diagnosis went and there’s a story I share about meds. I remember the very first day I took my meds and the reason I remember it, is I had read up on it. One of my hyper-focused moments, is I research everything to the end of everything. I had researched, what is it going to feel like, how are these things going to change, and all that.


20 minutes after taking my first half pill, I’m sitting in my office and one of our Athlete Trainers, she was standing in the doorway and I was just talking and all of sudden, I just felt this curtain and literally felt it, saw it, everything just come down, over my face and I realized that, “I’m actually listening to her now. I’m actually here,” and she and I had had conversations like that multiple times. All of a sudden, I realize, “Now, I’m actually listening to her.” The way my wife and I like to describe it now, last year she had 24 kindergartners, 24 5-year-olds, a lot to take care of.

Lindsay Guentzel (09:31):

Bless her.

John Smith (09:33):

I agree. She is amazing. There’s no doubt about that and she’s an amazing Teacher. I had all 24 of those kindergartners in my head, my whole life and until that moment, I didn’t realize that all 24 were talking constantly. They were never sitting in their desk. I had the bad ones telling me and I had a lot of bad ones telling me, “You’re not good enough.” Those types of things. All sorts of other crazy things going along with that and all of a sudden, they were all sitting in their seats, just listening to my one voice. It was… I wasn’t going to do this.

Lindsay Guentzel (10:09):

Oh. No, please do. I cry all the time, because it is. It is so powerful and it really is so special and it just goes to show for the people, who don’t understand it, really how monstrous it is in our lives.

John Smith (10:24):

It was probably one of the most amazing moments of my life, after getting married and having my kids, but then the weirdest thing, and I don’t know if you’re a Star Trek fan, I haven’t heard that from you, but on Star Trek, The Next Generation, there’s a group of humanoid ish robot being types, called the Borg and they’re all connected, right? They’re all part of the collective. The next few days, it was actually lonely. My brain got lonely, I got lonely like, “Oh my gosh, where’s everybody?” And then I realized, this is how we should think. This is how normal people think. I shouldn’t say normal. This is how non nuerodivergents…

Lindsay Guentzel (11:01):

I say normal all the time. I’m still working on it and I actually heard somebody say this just yesterday. They were describing childhood and they were like, “Oh yeah, normal childhood,” and then it was like, “Well, what is normal?” And we just throw that out there, because of what we think our bubble, we see our bubble and we see what everyone else is doing and we assume that that’s normal and yeah, that is a work in progress.

John Smith (11:24):

I agree and definitely, one of those works in progress is, I’ve grown up, because normal is really everything, like you just said.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:31):

You have that moment and then there’s that loneliness that creeps in and what were the next few days like? What were the next couple of weeks like?

John Smith (11:41):

It was amazing. It really was, just being able to have that singular focus. Now I’m still working on with a lot of things, as we all know, but that singular focus. One of the big things that I didn’t realize through my lifetime, was I knew that I had always struggled with food and weight and up, down, up, down, diet this, diet that and had done that. I realized that one of my biggest voices, the one who was probably the politician in my head kindergartner, was telling me I needed to eat. With my job, we have a whole bunch of high schools we contract with, so I go out and see our athletic trainers and I was out and generally if I’m out, I know that I’m not going to be home until 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 at night, so I would always get something to eat. I was between schools and I thought to myself, “Okay.”


Here’s how I normally thought, “I’m going to stop at Wendy’s, because I like Wendy’s the best,” and I stop and you know what? All I need, because this is what I like, I like junior bacon cheeseburger, I can get a small fry. I like unsweetened tea, so I’m just going to get large unsweetened tea and that. This is how I normally thought. I would get to where the menu is and then the 10 feet beyond that, is the speaker. I get to the menu and normally what I would think is, “Okay, this is what I’m going to get,” and between that and the speaker, I would start saying, “Okay, well I’m not going to get home until this time, so I better probably get a bigger burger and maybe a larger fry, but you know what? I like the bigger burger, but I like the bacon cheeseburger.” I would do that and I would have, “Let’s get a larger fry. Let’s just make it a… You know what? I’m going to get the bacon cheeseburger too and I’m just going to get it all,” and by the end, I had it all.


I had a huge burger, I had a bacon cheeseburger, I had a large fry and oftentimes, a second fry and a large tea and oftentimes, driving a long way, so I’ll have a second tea too. Literally about a week later, I’m sitting in my Jeep and I go to get this, I have that conversation. I’m going to get a junior bacon cheeseburger, small fry and a large tea. I pull up to the speaker and I realize I just ordered a bacon cheeseburger, a small fry and a large unsweetened tea and that was it and I was like, “Oh my God, this is so different. I can actually control me.” It was amazing and ever since then, I know being on stimulants does help the weight loss type of thing, is what I hear. I haven’t shared with anyone except my boss and my wife. I’ve lost almost 90 pounds.

Lindsay Guentzel (14:09):

Oh my gosh, John. That’s incredible.

John Smith (14:13):

Yeah, and it was real interesting, real at first, but I eat slow. I actually taste food and it’s just such an amazing thing now, to be able to think and not just all the time like this. Now, we both know, it goes crazy. Actually, there’s one more story. We have the up and down, when we’re not under stimulants and I was driving home on a Friday night. It’s a long drive, two, two and a half hours, depending on what school I’m at and I get home and my wife’s on the phone with her sister and oftentimes, I would probably get a little frustrated, because all I want to do, is I just want to talk to her. I haven’t talked to her in person in days. I come in, I go to the fridge, I get a piece of cheese, I’m a cheeseaholic, unfortunately. I get a piece of cheese and I just go sit down.


I don’t think anything of it and no stress, no feeling of anxiousness, no feeling of, “Oh my gosh, Lisa, just get off the phone please. I just want to talk with you,” and then she gets off the phone. This is almost as powerful as the meds, the first day. She says, “It was so amazing. I didn’t have that rush of energy, that energy that I know that I needed off the phone, so I could talk with you and I didn’t have that. It was like having Camp John back,” and what I mean by Camp John, is we met as Camp Counselors at Camp Ho Mita Koda, up in Newberry and that is the perfect job for me. For a neurodivergent, for someone who has ADHD, because there’s always dopamine going on. There’s always something changing.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:43):

And there’s structure.

John Smith (15:44):

Exactly. Structure within an unstructured… Oh my gosh, the Camp Director, you would’ve loved him. He’s just all over the place, but she finally saw me again, in that way and I hadn’t realized how much up and down I’d been, for 28 years of marriage and almost 30 years of being together. That was amazing. That was amazing.

Lindsay Guentzel (16:06):

It is amazing. Thank you for sharing that. So much of what you said, I can very much connect with and going back to the food and the losing the weight, is bonus.

John Smith (16:18):

Yes. Right.

Lindsay Guentzel (16:19):

The learning how food controls us. Whether you’re neurodivergent or not, food is a very powerful force in our lives and the unfortunate reality for most of us with ADHD, is that, that’s our dopamine rush a lot of the times.

John Smith (16:37):

Yes, absolutely.

Lindsay Guentzel (16:39):

For me, the realization was, “Oh, I can have leftovers? Leftovers come home?” And I know not everyone is a fan of leftovers, but even just realizing that I could take food home or that it wasn’t going to be the last time I was going to eat that food, that was big and it is so powerful. It’s very, very overwhelming.

John Smith (17:02):

Yeah. Well, I’ve always been a, “I’m going to eat only a little bit at the restaurant, so people don’t see me eat everything,” but as soon as I get home, especially if it’s steak, soon as I get home, I’m putting that on two pieces of bread with a piece of cheese. I’m eating that steak sandwich as soon as I get home. For me, it’s interesting, because for me it’s like yesterday, I went to breakfast with one of my coworkers and I didn’t eat everything and I was okay with throwing it out. It’s just so crazy. You’re right, absolutely. I never thought about it that way. That’s really cool for you.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:32):

I also think too with the throwing it away, I think there’s something in our brains, when we spend money on something, all of our hobbies, or anything that we hyperfocus on, or we go and we’re a little bit manic and all of a sudden, it’s there and we can’t return, it’s like, “Well, I can’t let it go to waste,” because that’s when the shame starts to creep in and it’s this vicious cycle of realizing, “No, I don’t need that, or no, I don’t need to order all of that,” but when you do, being okay saying that $10 or $20, whatever it is, now again, obviously there’s a limit, where we need to cap it, that is worth letting go, to avoid the shame and that’s the hard part, because the shame creeps in regardless. It’s like knowing to go, “Yeah, no, I’m not going to beat myself up.”

John Smith (18:21):

Yes, agreed. Yeah, and actually, I’ve had a Diamondback bike since I was a kid and I just would never, ever, ever get rid of it. It’s been hanging in every garage. We’ve had three houses, we’ve lived in multiple different apartments and if we were in an apartment, it was always at my parents’ house and I just finally told Lisa, “You can put this out on the curb.”

Lindsay Guentzel (18:41):

It felt good didn’t it?

John Smith (18:42):

It did.

Lindsay Guentzel (18:43):

I was going to say, I’ve done it. It feels really good.

John Smith (18:46):

It does, absolutely.

Lindsay Guentzel (18:49):

I want to go back to summer camp, because I think that this is an interesting conversation to have, because I had a very similar experience, where I went down to the US Virgin Islands and I was volunteering and it was very structured, but again, dopamine rush, constant successes throughout the day. We’d put up the roof and then we’d all celebrate and we’d take a break and then it’d be back to work and there was somebody leading. I didn’t have to be the leader. I could be the leader, in the sense of helping people along or being the first to volunteer, but I wasn’t the one keeping the structure.


Somebody else was helping me there and I think back on the last time, I felt really on fire, that anything was possible and it was that time and you don’t think about it in the moment, but then you go, “Oh, well I had to get up at this time, because I had to be at the work site at this time. There were people counting on me. All of the things I needed were set up. I just had to go and get breakfast, go and get my work clothes on, get in the car, all of those things. It was like all of the obstacles were taken out of the way,” but again, there were so many moments of new and exciting and feeling accomplished and I would love to hear a little bit, when you had that moment with your wife, where she said Camp John, what did you think about?

John Smith (20:08):

Went right back to… Honestly, the one thing I loved about camp, was also you could dress however you want and you were always in shorts, but I was always in the 1980s coaches, polyester blue shorts, because that was also the athletic training shorts that we wore. I went right back into my head of wearing my blue shorts with my hiking boots, untied of course, with the camp t-shirt of some sort, standing out by the pool, hanging out over by our ropes course. I was one of the ropes course teachers for the camp and standing out there just with the kids and just the rush of joy.


That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but just the rush of joy and feeling like that’s where I belong, that was so yeah, that was an amazing moment, feeling that whole thing and then, the year that Lisa and I found each other so to speak, we also played a lot of pranks on each other all summer. It also brought me right back to the moment, throwing dry pasta in her sleeping bag and her not knowing for another 25 years, it was me that did it. Yeah, it was just pure feeling of being a part of something that I felt like belonged and I guess I never 100% felt like that until that moment. Thanks for bringing that all back. That was great.

Lindsay Guentzel (21:32):

No, again, every time I speak to somebody, who has ADHD, it feels a little a combination between getting coffee with your best friend and therapy, because you touched on it a little bit, but I did not know or hadn’t really realized, how much emotional dysregulation is a thing with ADHD and when you described coming into the house and being irritated and wanting her off the phone and wanting her attention, that brings up a lot of feelings for me, of moments when I had one the other day, where something I purchased to help me, wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. I couldn’t get support on the phone. It was four hours in and everyone was uncomfortable, by how upset I was. They were like, “It’s no big deal,” and I was like, “It is a big deal,” and I can switch it off. I was like, “All right, I’m putting it away,” and that’s a new thing, of being able to say, “These emotions aren’t where I need to be right now,” and moving past them, but I’m working on not getting to that point.

John Smith (22:36):

Good for you. That’s great. I absolutely, am 100% feeling that, as well. It’s amazing how you are able to just change that and my parents just actually moved back up from Texas to Columbus area, so I’m living with them now. I never thought at 51, I’d be living with them, but it’s amazing. I haven’t told them and I’m not probably going to, because there’s just a lot of baggage that goes along with what’s going to come out with my parents on that, but living with my dad, it’s amazing. There are definitely stories. He’s always been a very mild-mannered, very gentle man, but I really do think he has ADHD and that is what’s really interesting, is he’ll turn on that heat, on top of a salesperson on the other side of the phone or a help person and he just can’t turn it off and it’s so interesting, to see it on that end, of my end now, how I’m going through my journey since May/June of this year. That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that, as well. It’s just like getting coffee. I love it.

Lindsay Guentzel (23:40):

Yeah, it is. Virtual coffee. I love it. I’m sure that, that is hard, thinking about all the baggage that you would have to unpack and there is this, I feel like my parents’ generation is very, “Oh, that’s nice honey, and let’s move on,” and I think for us we’re like, “No, no, no, no, no, no. We’re going to unpack this. I’m not just going to put this back in its box and put it back on the shelf,” and I know I definitely feel that, but I do want to say, you didn’t think that you at 51, would be living with your parents, but how amazing that you do get to.

John Smith (24:14):

Absolutely, yes.

Lindsay Guentzel (24:16):

Because, I lost my dad five years ago and very much undiagnosed ADHD, in so many ways and I just think, we think we’re supposed to live life a certain way and I think it’s really lovely for you, that you get this time with your parents.

John Smith (24:34):

Oh, and I agree and actually, listening to you talking about your dad through the podcasts and just hearing those different things, I’ve been very intentional with my dad. On Friday morning, last week, I made breakfast for both of us and we sat out on the deck and just ate and talked and it was amazing. It really was.

Lindsay Guentzel (24:52):

That’s super special. You mentioned medication and thinking about therapy. What else have you been doing, to work through some of the things, that when you look at your life and how ADHD affects it, that you would say, “These are negative things. These are things I want to work on.”

John Smith (25:10):

Organization, it’s definitely a problem. The person I share the office with, she’s a very organized woman and I’ve seen how she does her system and it just so happens, that Lisa and I went to dinner with her, probably a month and a half ago and we started talking about organizational systems. Now the person I share my office with, I have shared with her that was diagnosed and she’s actually been very, very supportive of everything and she’s helped me through talking through that organization. Now I’m not perfect at it. Every day, I still struggle to do it 100% of the time, especially when I get busy, but that’s one of the biggest things, that I’ve always, always had a problem with, that executive function of doing it when you need to do it.


And then Lisa, who is again amazing and very smart, says, “I know you like to get started on everything as soon as you get up. You just want to go,” which is of course a fun thing about our mind, “But, sit down and do your planning first and then go from there and then you’ll have a plan,” and I’ve been doing that and again, not 100% of the time, I’m getting to building those systems, but it works and that’s probably my biggest thing and that’s what I wanted to do, is I wanted to start working on the organization. I think therapy is going to be a part of that. I’m just not ready to unpack that yet.

Lindsay Guentzel (26:27):

And it is a lot to unpack and the unfortunate thing for us, we were missed, because no one knew and we can tell ourselves that all day long and it doesn’t make the grief and the sadness and we all have those moments we go back to, where we would’ve done things differently had we known. Mine is, not signing up for a credit card, senior year on spring break, in Cancun for the free t-shirt. Predatory, but the things you don’t know and we aren’t great at looking down the road and realizing how it’s going to affect us.

John Smith (27:06):

Absolutely. There’s no doubt about that and I will say, I’ve always been a big proponent of, every year of my life has been better. 51 has been no different than 50, except for the fact it’s just getting better and it’s really how I’ve always, when I finally made up my mind of, “This is just going to be positive,” it really has made a big difference, but fortunately, I have ingrained that into myself honestly. I blame it on family ties and those TV shows from the eighties, that I brought myself up on of, “You’ve got to be positive and you’ve got to be good,” and all of that. I blame it kind of on that, but every day is better. Every day has just been more opportunity to make ourselves better and everybody around us.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:53):

Let’s talk about where you’re thriving and you’ve been able to touch on it a little bit in the stories you shared, which I think is so wonderful. It’s great to be able to look at actual change and realize, “Oh, that is where I’m thriving,” but is there anything else that stands out, that has been really powerful for you to see, “Oh my gosh, this is something that I can manage.”

John Smith (28:13):

Absolutely. One of the things I’ve struggled with in my leadership roles, has always been either I’m too nice or I’m too harsh and I really very rarely, go to the harsh part of that. A lot of times, I’m just too nice and what I’m really thriving with right now, perfect example, I had a meeting with my boss yesterday, about a situation, not anything bad, just trying to talk through things and I was able to step back from, and I was like, “Oh, I see exactly what happened here and I see exactly how we need to move in this different way,” without going way too high positive or way too low negative and just being able to stand back and just listen to what was going on.


I think my leadership, just over the last two months, just being able to notice that, that I can step back and be pragmatic, but still have positive intent and like I said, I’ve tried always to be a very positive person. That is helping me be more positive, because I know I’m going to do better. I’m going to help my staff, the staff that I serve every day, I will help them become better, because we have a lot of young Athlete Trainers and they were trained much differently than we were when I was growing up through athletic training and we have to look at them much more diversely, instead of just saying, “This is how I’ve always done it,” now I feel like I can actually step back.

Lindsay Guentzel (29:33):

I want to ask you something, because I may be connecting dots in my own life to yours and I’m just curious. Let’s pretend that I’m an Athletic Trainer and you are working with me and you see something that I’m doing, that I could be doing better or something that I’m doing, that is not right. Do you view that conversation, if you were to say, “Okay, I’m going to go to Lindsay, and I just want to make a suggestion.” Do you view that as confrontation? And the reason I ask, is because you don’t address it, because it’s confrontation and we don’t know how to just say things in a way, that is even keeled.


There’s always perception added to it and we’re worried about that and we’re worried about the aftermath and what’s going to happen next and we lose sight of the moment of just saying like, “Hey Lindsay, this is an easy way to fix what’s happening right there,” and you can’t control how I’m going to respond to it, but I’ve done this, where I don’t have those conversations and then I’m up here. I let it sit, I let it sizzle and that’s when that what you described, the angry loud leader comes out and it’s just so interesting how we bottle things up, the emotions. We are constantly trying to figure out what’s going to happen next.

John Smith (30:52):

Well, if you don’t say anything, it will go away.

Lindsay Guentzel (30:55):


John Smith (30:56):

Eventually, right? It’ll go…

Lindsay Guentzel (30:56):

Except for it doesn’t always.

John Smith (30:56):


Lindsay Guentzel (31:02):

And then we become the person we don’t want to be.

John Smith (31:04):

Exactly. Absolutely, or it does go away and they just don’t talk to you anymore, or it does go away, because they leave.

Lindsay Guentzel (31:11):

It’s hard. It’s hard to get out of your way and I’m working on having those difficult conversations and I can feel the emotions settling in and it’s bubbling up and I’m like, “Okay, I’m just going to say it. I’m going to say it,” and I say it and I’m working on delivering it in a way, that is calm and even keeled and then it’s out and the person responds and it’s just this wave just washes out and we have to remind ourselves, “That is a much better feeling than letting it fester.”

John Smith (31:40):

Just had a conversation like that. I knew, I’d been building it up in my head, for the three, four days before and then I said it and the person was like, “Okay.” I like, “What just happened?” And that was an incredible feeling. It really, really was. Confrontation’s not easy. Knowing that our five steps ahead, is not how it’s normally going to happen, I think is going to help me. It’s just always that constant, trying to rehearse and making sure that we’re ready for it, type of thing.

Lindsay Guentzel (32:08):

Right and there’s so much that goes into everyone’s story and where that fear of confrontation comes from or rejection, all of those things add up and it’s I think, really interesting, when you start to look back and you can pinpoint the moments when. I know, I got in trouble in first grade and I carried that shame into 2017. A good old 25 year journey, of being ashamed of getting in trouble in first grade and then, you realize the people around you are getting in trouble and they’re moving on and you’re like, “What? You aren’t still thinking about that? How? I’m still thinking about mine and yours.”

John Smith (32:49):

Exactly. Exactly and that’s what I never understood. I never understood. One of my big stories on that, is early right after we moved back up to the Cleveland area, that’s where my wife grew up and we moved back to that area. We went to Chick-fil-A. It was me and our son, Jack and Grace in the back and Grace was probably five or six I think, and money was tight and this was a treat. I was taking it home and I got the drinks and I gave them to Grace in the back and I said, “Honey, whatever you do, just don’t spill those.” I pull out and I start to go onto the road and all of a sudden I stop real hard, and then the drinks just explode across the whole back of the car and it was everywhere I turned around, I just started, “Grace, what in the heck did you…”


And ever since, I have thought about that moment, and I just shared that with Grace and Jack and Lisa and they know, they also know that I’ve been diagnosed. I told her that, “To this day Grace, I have always felt bad about that,” and no one had ever heard that from me before. Even Lisa hadn’t heard that story from me before. It’s just, why do we hold onto things so hard? Because like you said, the people around us can move on and it’s just so hard for us, which is also a superpower, because we can remember those stupid little things, as well.

Lindsay Guentzel (34:16):

Yes, I have a lot of friends, who I love to bring up moments in their lives, that they probably would like to forget, but I very much remember. Yeah.

John Smith (34:26):

Yes it is.

Lindsay Guentzel (34:27):

It’s a trap Once it’s in there, it’s… Yeah. Let’s talk about what’s pushing you forward. You obviously have such lovely energy and are super positive and you’ve talked a lot about what you’re excited about, but when you look down the path, what is really exciting for you?

John Smith (34:47):

I think probably the most exciting thing, is just to continue down this journey and find out how much of a superhero I really am see, because when I was a kid, like I said, I’m a superhero, but honestly, that’s actually part of it, is just to continue to find out who I am. When I was a kid in the eighties, my parents, they would say, “People are finding themselves. What does that mean? I know who I am.”


I have never known who I am. Lindsay, I have never known to this timeframe, until I was almost 51 years old. I’ve always been body doubling someone. I’ve always felt like I just wasn’t going to be good enough for someone, even though I had this amazing woman, but there were many times, through our 30 years together, I just didn’t think I was good enough and then it would go away, relatively quickly, because I know we’re a partnership and a woman I’ve never had a fight with.


We’ve never always agreed about everything, but we don’t fight and I know that our relationship is so strong, but just that ability to figure out who I am now and really move forward and I sent a picture of me being Santa. That is one of the things I love more than anything and I’m going to be a better Santa now and it’s just such a privilege, to be able to play Santa and now going forward, I’m just going to be better for that and the next 50 years of my life, that I plan on living, figuring out who I am and how I can be better for everybody around me and really being able to play Santa, as best I can, especially when my beard is finally all white and my hair may go all white eventually.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:23):

Well, the beard’s going white.

John Smith (36:24):

Yeah, it is.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:26):

But, you lost the belly. Santa, that 90 pounds. Santa’s going to be in shape this year.

John Smith (36:36):

Well, and like we learned on Rudolph a long time ago, you have to have a chubby Santa. They can’t be skinny. Right. Although I found out, I’ve been looking at trying to get some custom-made Santa suits. They can custom make them with a belly in it, so I’m good.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:50):

I love it. I love it. Of course, they can. Of course, someone came up with that.

John Smith (36:55):

Absolutely and they have fans that you can put in, so you’re not too hot and yeah. All sorts of fun things.

Lindsay Guentzel (37:02):

That’s incredible. I love that. If you were to pick one thing, that you wish the general population understood better about ADHD, what would that be?

John Smith (37:14):

I’ve thought about that a lot. I guess what I would want them to know, is we’re everywhere, we are everyone and we’re not that much different and we’re not all just hyperactive. We’re not all just bouncing off the walls. We’re the kids who, “He’s just a boy. It’s just what boys do.” No. If I’d known then what I know now, I could have been so much better, for so many things. However, I am perfect the way I’m right now. I can not get any better, except tomorrow, I will get better.

Lindsay Guentzel (37:46):

One thing I want to end with is, I’m working on this and I’m not pushing you or challenging you. I just want to share this. Allow people to show up for you. You show up for a lot of people, at a lot of times, and I know it’s hard to be vulnerable in those moments, but I have found, when I get out of my own way and I allow that to happen, good things happen and I said it wasn’t a challenge, it was just me sharing advice.

John Smith (38:17):

Yeah, I know. I am going to take it on myself to challenge myself, because that’s hard for us. It’s hard to allow people, because we’re always the people.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:24):

John, this was… My goodness, if I could start every day with this, it would just… Thank you. In the very small amount of time, that we’ve known one another, you have accomplished so much. When you think back on what you could have done better, you’re doing a pretty good job. Give yourself some grace. It’s really hard, but look at the life you’ve created for yourself and now you get to move forward, with all these new tools and so much more understanding and it’s a great place to be.

John Smith (39:02):

Thank you and again, thank you. You have done amazing things for me, personally I know, just by listening to your voice, it’s just such a neat thing to hear your voice every week, but what you’re doing for all of us and doing this podcast, and you said, the last podcast you made, only lasted a few episodes. I think it’s 18 right now. When we get to the next, where you’re going in October, you just have had so much impact. I hope you know that and I think you do. You’ve said that, but you’ve had such impact on my life. Thank you.

Lindsay Guentzel (39:33):

Thank you. That’s really sweet of you. I’m working on accepting that. I like to help and I like to give out positivity and I’m working on accepting it myself, so I appreciate you saying that.

John Smith (39:43):

My pleasure. Thank you.

Lindsay Guentzel (39:47):

Thank you so much for listening. If you’re new here, my name is Lindsay Guentzel. I am the host and executive producer of Refocused, a podcast all about ADHD, that would not be possible without the incredible talents of the team I get to work with, including Phil Rodeman, our coordinating Producer, who leads our live production, scheduling and audio editing. Sarah [inaudible 00:40:12], our Managing Editor responsible for leading our research, as well as guest and show development, Al Chaplin our go-to for planning, creating and organizing content strategy for social media.


Lauren Terry, our Associate Producer, and Jack of all trades, who if I can add, just graduated from high school a few weeks ago. Support for this podcast comes from our partner, ADHD Online and the incredible team of people I’m honored to work with every day, including Keith Boswell, Suzanne Spruce, Melanie Meyrl, Claudia Gotti, and Tricia [inaudible 00:40:51]. Our show art was created by Sissy Yee of Berlin Gray, and our music was created by Louis Inglis, a singer-songwriter from Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020, at the age of 39.


Finally, a big thanks to Mason Nelly over at Dexia in Grand Rapids, Michigan for all of his help in getting our videos ready to share with you guys. 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 Refocused Pod as well as at Lindsay Guentzel, and you can email the show directly, [email protected]. That’s [email protected]. I say it every week and I mean it. Take care of yourselves and please, in an effort to reduce the unbelievable amount of stress we all carry around with us unnecessarily, be a little kinder to yourself this week.

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