Episode 95. Understanding ADHD & OCD – In Our Lives with Katy Collister

In last week’s episode we met Ashley Jacobs, who had never looked at ADHD and OCD as coexisting together until we chatted. This week we continue our look at ADHD and OCD, and our guest Katy Collister has a different story to tell. What happens when you have ADHD and Anxiety, you’re in middle school, AND you start having dark and frightful intrusive thoughts? Katy Collister is a listener of the show and follows us on Instagram. When Lindsay asked if anyone would be willing to share their experience with these two co-morbidities, she very kindly volunteered. She has spent her entire life under the weight of ADHD and OCD working in tandem against her, so her story is one that you don’t want to miss!

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Lindsay Guentzel (00:02):

I’m Lindsay Guentzel and you are listening to Refocused, a podcast all about ADHD. And episode 95, Understanding ADHD and OCD in our lives with Katy Collister gets started right now.

(00:23):

As you might know, we are in the midst of exploring some of the comorbidities that can come alongside ADHD most recently looking at OCD with Dr. Roberto Olivardia. On last week’s episode, we met Ashley Jacobs in ADHDer from Indiana who shared her story of having both inattentive ADHD and OCD, although she had never looked at the two of them as coexisting together until we chatted.

(00:51):

Today’s convo is with an ADHDer who has spent her entire life under the weight of ADHD and OCD working in tandem against her. Katy Collister is a listener of the show and follows us on Instagram. So when I asked if anyone would be willing to share their experience with these two comorbidities, she very kindly volunteered. In an email, Katy shared her experience with me.

(01:19):

She was diagnosed in fourth grade with ADHD for being one of those kids who was “bad at school and couldn’t sit still.” And at the same time, she was dealing with severe anxiety that made it hard to get through a school day and affected everyday necessities like eating a meal or playing with her friends. When she was around 13, she started having intrusive thoughts, dark and frightful ones that felt overwhelming and out of control and ushered in moments of panic and fear for the teenager. She was ashamed to talk about what she would later learn was OCD.

(02:01):

Now, keep in mind at this point, Katy was already dealing with ADHD and anxiety in middle school, a time in life that is already unbearable for so many, it’s no wonder her OCD was able to take the control it did. It took three years, but her parents eventually got her into therapy, which she credits for saving her life. With the help of her therapist and what she called the brutal AF treatment plan, Katy was able to get herself out of the elaborate systems she had put into place to make herself feel safe.

(02:41):

Fast forward to 15 years later, Katy found herself once again entangled with her OCD. While deep in a troubled relationship and coming to terms with a life-changing medical diagnosis, she connected with a new therapist who quickly recognized what was happening, a perfect storm of her ADHD, anxiety, and OCD, fueled by the intense stress she was under. Katy relearned how to manage her diagnoses and put in the work to get her life back into order. With the help of medications and coping strategies, she found what worked for her and was able to return to her baseline. Now Katy has a better understanding of what her life needs to be in order for her to live at peace.

(03:40):

Katy, I am so glad that you’re here today to share your experience with us in dealing with both ADHD and OCD. Thank you so much for giving us the time here on Refocused.

Katy Collister (03:50):

Yes, absolutely. Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to share my experience and hopefully be a part of helping other people feel more seen in their own experiences.

Lindsay Guentzel (03:59):

I have no doubt that you will. We have a lot to get to today, but before we get into the conversation surrounding these two comorbidities that often co-exist together, I’m wondering if you could just share a little bit about your experience with ADHD, what type you were diagnosed with, and then how it shows up in your life.

Katy Collister (04:19):

Sure, absolutely. So I was diagnosed with a combined type. So I was very noticeable when I was young and in school because I was fidgety and I wasn’t great and the classroom and all of those things that I feel like a lot of people say happen to them when they’re diagnosed young. And then on the other hand, I also have some, spontaneity isn’t the right word, but I get myself into trouble with doing things without thinking. So I always quote this scene from Malcolm in the Middle with Bryan Cranston’s character whose name is Hal, and he does this hilarious opening scene and I feel like it describes my ADHD person very well, especially with how I function day to day.

(05:04):

And he goes home and he notices that a light bulb is out and he goes to get a new light bulb and the light bulb’s on a shelf that’s broken. And so then he’s like, “Oh, I’m going to go fix the shelf.” So he goes into the drawer and finds a screwdriver and the drawer is squeaky, and so then he goes to get something to fix the squeaky drawer, and it just kind of keeps going and going and going until finally his wife gets home and he’s underneath the car fixing something and his wife is like, “Hey, I thought you were going to fix that light bulb in the kitchen.” And he’s like, “What does it look like I’m doing?”

(05:34):

And I’m like, that is 100% I feel like how primarily ADHD shows up in my life. I work from home now, and if I get up from my desk to do something and I see dishes or I see anything from my walk to the desk to the bathroom or anything like that, I could get off track for half an hour easily. So I think that’s probably the most common way that it shows up in my life. And it drives other people crazy, but I think more often than not, it drives myself a little bit crazy because I’m like, “What am I doing? Why did I stop to do that for a half an hour when I know I’m supposed to be doing this other thing?”

Lindsay Guentzel (06:11):

Been there and totally can commiserate. And it’s so hard because we get done at the end of the day and we know that we did a lot of stuff, but it was none of the stuff that was actually on our to-do list, and then the self-loathing and shame comes up.

Katy Collister (06:25):

It’s so true. And I’ve even said to my boyfriend before, I’m like… Or I’ll get 10 tasks, but they’re all partially done, which is really frustrating. I’m like, nothing actually got completely finished, but there’s 10 things that got started, or halfway through, or 75% of the way through, which is just as frustrating. And like you said, it falls right into that self-loathing and self-frustration and all that.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:51):

You shared about being diagnosed in fourth grade and that you felt in that moment that you stuck out. Can you remember some of the things that you were doing to mask so that you could blend in more with your classmates?

Katy Collister (07:05):

Yes. I actually have one very vivid memory that has stuck out from that and I was in science class. And my teacher was asking a question and he called me out, which I think for anyone, but specifically for me was always like, oh, please don’t do that. And I knew I had the answer somewhere in my notes, but my notes were all over the place. They were written in little corners and everything else, and so I just kind of panicked and just didn’t give the answer because it was less embarrassing than having people wait 10 minutes for me to locate where the answer was.

(07:42):

In moments like that, I very much started copying people. I would see how my other classmates did their notes, and I would try to copy that way, which ironically didn’t really work well for me when it came to studying for myself. But it looked better and made me feel like I wasn’t sticking out as much. I would monitor how much I was talking. And even with that note taking thing, I still do that even with work. If some of my coworkers have filled out similar documents, I’m like, “Can you send that to me?” Because I’m sure I’m going to miss something.

(08:19):

And there is some great help in that, but I’ve been functioning that way or did for a very, very long time, instead of finding maybe tools that helped me where I was as opposed to being like, I’m going to try and force myself into functioning the way that I don’t function. That also manifested in, like I said, if I was talking too much or interrupting, I definitely tend to have that gut reaction of jumping in and finishing people’s sentences and I try very hard not to do that.

(08:50):

Once I started to recognize that I was not fitting into what most of my other classmates were, it kind of started to be like, what are they doing, or what does that look like in comparison to what I’m doing, and how do I adapt and change? But like I said, it wasn’t helpful to me at all. It just made me look better on the outside, but it’s exhausting.

Lindsay Guentzel (09:13):

In the email you sent, you mentioned the shame that can come with OCD, especially with intrusive thoughts. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to share an early OCD thought or behavior that you and your therapist tackled when you began working together?

Katy Collister (09:28):

Yeah, there were definitely some darker and hard ones. I think that’s the trip wire with OCD is where you have these horrible, intrusive thoughts that are so repetitive and so intense and they take up so much energy and mental space and you’re like, “I wouldn’t be thinking about these things unless I was a horrible, horrible person.” And I remember my therapist now, when I went back to her and I had that conversation with her where I was like, “This is what’s going on…” I was in my early thirties at that point, so I was like, “This is what’s going on. I’m just going to tell you what it is.” And she just smiled at me and goes, “You know, people that are going to do horrible things don’t come into my office and tell me they’re worried about doing horrible things.” She’s like, “Just to put you at ease there.” And I was like, “Okay.”

(10:20):

It can still be hard to convince yourself of that. So when I was young and I went to my therapist, I didn’t really want to have that conversation with them about all the horrible things. But one of the ones that did come up was I had read a book that had tarantulas in it. And I am an arachnophobic, I hate spiders. Still to this day, I don’t have an OCD fear wrapped around it, but I don’t like spiders. And I had this thought that I latched onto, which was they were going to crawl out of the wall and not one or two or three of them, thousands of them and attack me.

(10:54):

And my parents’ air conditioning was kind of being gutted, so the vents in my room were open and wide, so that didn’t help with it. So when I originally had gone there, I told him that one because I was like, all right, this one’s a little bit safe, so let’s talk about this one. It’s not anything I’m afraid I’m going to hurt someone else or myself or anything like that. So that was kind of where him and I started. And at that point, my OCD was the worst it had ever been in my life. So I had three nightlights that I had to have in my room. They had to be turned on in a specific order. My bed had to be in the center of the room. My mom had to say certain phrases when she left. It was horrible.

(11:37):

It’s so weird because it’s not like it brings you more peace. In your head, it’s like it does somehow, but it doesn’t. I didn’t feel any better anytime any of those things were being done. So he kind of started with that. We started with that OCD fear, and that’s one of the ones that I vividly remember still to this day.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:58):

And do you remember what that conversation was like in regards to how to move forward from that fear you were having?

Katy Collister (12:08):

Yes. I remember I was… When I talk about this, I always think, oh, it sounds like I was maybe 8, 9, 10 years old. No, I was 14 or 15 when I was going through this, which just makes it… Like it’s embarrassing for me to say that, but at the same time, I think it shows how much of a grasp it can have on you because at 14, 15, I needed these things to feel like I could function, which is terrible. No kid, no teenager should be feeling that way, or person really in general. So when we had had that conversation, he had told me, he was like, “When you have this thought,” he was like, “Next time…” And he made me do it in his office as well, which as a teen, I was like, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever dealt with.” But he made me sit down next to the vent and say, “Come and get me spiders.”

(12:58):

And I remember thinking in my head, I hate this guy. This is so embarrassing, I’m not doing this, it’s ridiculous. And then one night I was up till 4:00 AM, I could not sleep, the intrusive thought was just all over me, it was horrific. And I was like, what do I have to lose? No one’s awake, no one’s around, I’m just going to go do it. And so I went and I sat down next to the vent and I was like, “Come and get me spiders.” And you know, it never happened, they never came. And that was the big breaking point for me where it was like… Tarantulas are a very real thing. The odds of one being in my vent in Pennsylvania is super slim, but having the opportunity, putting myself in what felt like a dangerous position, and noticing that nothing happened was the only way through that feeling. So it worked. It worked. I hated it in the moment, but it worked.

Lindsay Guentzel (13:51):

It’s incredible and it’s so powerful to hear. I mean, that’s a very young age to be that mindful. And it reminds me, whenever I meet someone who’s like, “Nah, therapy’s not for me or meditation’s not for me,” but I think a lot of times it’s just really hard for us to get out of our own way. And here you were as a teenager doing that.

Katy Collister (14:12):

Yeah. I think you’re right. I think it’s super hard to get out of our own way, especially when we’re dealing with something that maybe doesn’t feel normal. One of the benefits of 2023, modern day age is a lot of this is coming out and being more public and people are like, “Oh, I am dealing with this,” and you start to realize that there’s a larger community.

(14:32):

That’s one of the things I love about so many people now getting diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood where I’m like, yes, this is a thing. There’s a lot more tools than there were when I was a kid, et cetera. But it can be hard to be like, this is something that I need to utilize or utilize on a regular basis. But I even do that now.

(14:51):

I have a seven month old daughter right now, and somebody gifted me a bunch of pajamas, and I was going through them and I had an intrusive thought on one set that was like, oh, she’s going to die when wearing these pajamas, which is if you sit and think about it for a second, you’re like, that really makes zero sense. But I couldn’t get past it. So I was like, okay, well, I know what to do because I have these tools, so I’m going to walk through it mentally and give myself grace and be like, “Okay, yeah, she could die, but it probably doesn’t have anything to do with the pajamas.” And she wore the pajamas that night and she’s worn them multiple times since, and guess what? She’s still alive and thriving.

(15:30):

So it’s just kind of like when we talk about those things, and even when I talk about them now, it can feel embarrassing or be like, I have to do X, Y, or Z because this makes me feel better or helps me function. And ultimately, who cares? You know what I mean? There’s so much space for grace and acceptance within that. We should feel more free to be able to utilize those things if it makes us feel better.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:56):

Absolutely. And I think what I have found is the more I talk about things, especially the difficult things, the less I feel them. The more that they’re out there, they’re less weighing me down. And sure, some people might be like, “Okay, that is way too bizarre for me to understand,” but I think most of the time it triggers something in that person that’s listening where they go, “I’ve had something similar like that. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.”

Katy Collister (16:22):

Oh yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. I’m probably going to totally misquote, but I think it’s Brené Brown that says that basically silence is a Petri dish for breeding shame. So I think it’s really important that if you feel safe to speak up, you should, because most likely there’s going to be a group of people that get it and are going through it.

Lindsay Guentzel (16:46):

You talked about how it took a long time for you to get into therapy, almost like three years, and how difficult the treatment plan was for you. What was it like in those early stages as you began to kind of peel away the layers of your OCD diagnosis? And then I’m curious if there was anything that you thought that you would never be able to change, that it would just be impossible, but in the end you were able to triumph over it.

Katy Collister (17:11):

Yeah, absolutely. The beginning stages were, I have no other way of saying it than horrific. It was really, really super hard because I feel like once your OCD starts to manifest in the compulsions, it’s very hard to step away from them because the compulsions are the only thing that are giving any sort of feeling of safety, even though it’s like a falsehood of safety. So for me, my therapist would be like, “Okay, tonight we’re going to turn on the nightlights in a different order, or we’re going to turn two of them off and just not turn them on, or we’re going to put your bed back to where it was.”

(17:50):

I used to have a certain amount of times I would have to go talk to my parents, and there was a point where he had them put a lock on their door so that I couldn’t access them. And that was extremely difficult, but ultimately necessary because I had to realize that safety and security had to be somewhere else. That, and the horrible thoughts that I have with OCD, some of them are totally plausible, but you can’t live in that place of panic all the time because… I was just telling one of my friends recently who was dealing with some of those thoughts, and I said, I’m like, “Just so you have a reminder,” I was like, “OCD, all it does is steals your joy now.” I was like, it doesn’t benefit anything other than take away your peace and your joy now in this moment and that’s just not okay. Everyone deserves peace and freedom, and so it’s better to walk through it than it is to sit in that place of panic.

(18:51):

And so it’s hard work, it is really hard work, and it was really hard work at that point when I had those compulsions with so much stuff and peeling all that away and stopping doing it. It felt impossible. It did. And sometimes it felt useless because I would stay up all night sitting outside of my parents’ bedroom door like sobbing and I got no sleep and it was terrible. And I was like, “This is not working.” But it did, it did. In the long run, it worked. And so I’m very grateful for him now. I was not a fan of my therapist back then, but I love him now.

(19:24):

One of the things that was interesting that I dealt with was I had a fear of throwing up, which this is funny, my therapist never told me back then that this was a normal OCD thing. So when I heard your podcast prior, I was like, “Oh my gosh, she said that this is a thing so I actually feel a little more sane now.” So I did have that same OCD fear, and it was specifically in public, I was terrified of that. But also in general, I hated it, and I thought I was never going to get over that. It did take a little bit more time because we didn’t do any exposure therapy with that, it was just when I got sick, I got sick, and I would recognize that I was okay.

(20:06):

And this last year when I had my daughter, I had HG with her and I was hospitalization level, throwing up all the time, couldn’t keep a meal down. It was terrible for all nine months. And her and I are both okay now, it was just really rough. But one of the days I remember I was in one of those moments and I started giggling because I was like, my word 15, 20 years ago, I would’ve thought that this was impossible. And now I’m like, oh my God, if I could just throw up. I just want it to be over with so I feel better. I would’ve thought that I would’ve never said that. So that was definitely one of the things that I was like, I’m never going to beat this. And clearly I did, clearly I did. I went through nine months of getting sick all the time.

Lindsay Guentzel (20:50):

Sounds terrible.

Katy Collister (20:52):

It was miserable, but it wasn’t OCD miserable.

Lindsay Guentzel (20:56):

Well, good, good. I’m glad. I’m glad that you were able to walk yourself through that because of therapy.

Katy Collister (21:02):

For sure.

Lindsay Guentzel (21:03):

I’m sure you’ve seen this trend while scrolling on social media where a therapist offers up the question, “What would you say to your younger self?” Have you ever pondered what you might say to fourth grade Katy?

Katy Collister (21:16):

Yes. I used to always think that it would have to be months of conversation where I’m like, oh my gosh, there’s so much we have to go through because you’re going through so much. But recently, my oldest just finished fourth grade last year, and I had this moment where I was watching her because when I started originally dealing with these things, it was in fourth grade. And my go-to with a lot of things, especially back then, was just to kind of shut down, and I’m not going to tell anyone. Even though I had a supportive family, I had supportive friends, I was like, I’m not communicating this. Like I told you, I didn’t even want to communicate it with my therapist. And I just was like, I should be old enough to handle these things. Something is off and I need to be able to correct it.

(21:59):

And watching my daughter at 10, I’m like, oh no, you’re like a baby. That’s how it feels to me. I’m like, you’re still such a small child. You’re so grown up in a lot of ways, but you are still very much a child. That was a big eyeopener for me where I was like, I think if I was going to go back and talk to that fourth grade version of myself, it would literally be, you are still a child and these things are abnormal. Please, rely on your family, open up to them, talk to your therapist, because they can help. And it’s their responsibility at this stage, not yours. You’re not supposed to fix yourself. You need support and people to teach you what to do with this. And so I think ultimately that’s where I would land.

Lindsay Guentzel (22:43):

I think that’s wonderful. And how poignant that you got to experience that with your own daughter and kind of see that moment come to fruition for her wrapping up fourth grade and thinking back to what that was like for you.

Katy Collister (22:57):

Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, she’s very bright and she’s very in her head a lot, so I can relate to a lot of that. But it’s beautiful in seeing that because she has dealt with some of the same stuff, but not nearly as strongly as I ever did. And I think there’s some beauty in that because now here I am where I’m like, I get it, I understand what’s going on, and I’m not going to let you go there. This is what we’re going to do and how I’m going to help. She’s having a much better, much more free life than I ever did at that age. So I’m grateful for that.

Lindsay Guentzel (23:31):

If we can move on and talk a little bit about life as an adult for you, so adult level stressors and a life-changing medical diagnosis unfortunately caused your OCD to rear its ugly head again. Did treatment for your dual diagnosis of ADHD and OCD seem different this time around? And did you maybe talk about different things in therapy or try new techniques as an adult that you didn’t as a kid?

Katy Collister (23:59):

It was definitely different. This time around, I did catch it a lot earlier on. I did not remember that it was OCD, which was funny, but I didn’t let it get to the compulsion stage where I felt like I was… That tends to be how it is for me, where it’s the intrusive thought, and then I moved to compulsions when I kind of let that get out of control. And so I hadn’t done that this time. So when I sat down with her, and like I said before, I had told her, I was like, “I’m having these thoughts.” And she was like, “Well, people that are planning on doing these things don’t come in and confess them.” And she was like, immediately, “This is OCD.” And I was like, “Oh yeah, I have that.” And she was like, “Okay, so you have been diagnosed with this before?” And I was like, “Yes, I have.”

(24:44):

And so this time around, I feel like it was a lot more mental where she was like, okay. She always tells me that the way I need to handle it is by processing the information I’m given. Walk through the thought process without fully engaging in it. So she’ll be like, “If you have a fear that you’re going to harm your boyfriend,” she’s like, “You need to walk through, okay, so this is… Actually, think about what you would be doing as far as harming him.” And nine times out of 10, when I start walking through that, I’m like, I would never do that, I would never do that. And then it just goes away, which has been great.

(25:25):

She also really brought up masking with me with ADHD because she was like, for me at least, she’s like, “I think your OCD is more of a warning sign for you.” She goes, “I think you should use it as, Hey, I am not taking care of myself. You’re super stressed, there’s a lot going on, and figure out what those things are and start to deal with them.” And we felt like a lot of it had to do with masking. I did have a lot going on as well. I was in a relationship with an addict at that point and I had just gotten diagnosed with MS and later on it found out it was secondary progressive, so there was a lot that was happening. And then on top of it, I had been masking my ADHD for 15 years at that point.

(26:06):

And so when we started digging into things, she was like, “No wonder you’re having these issues, these massive anxiety flares and OCDs coming back in.” She goes, “Honestly, I can’t believe it didn’t happen way sooner.” And I was like, “Yeah, that makes sense.” So we did start to tackle things that way and I feel like it was a lot more body forward this time. It was learning how to meditate and focus on each part of my body, like we’re going to focus on your head and your neck and then your shoulders. We’d go through the whole thing and I still utilize that. And she’d be like, “Where do you feel stress? If you had this conversation, how did your body react around this individual?”

(26:44):

So I feel like it’s been a lot more of me focused, which can come off as selfish, but really what the benefit is instead of me masking ADHD and hiding all these things, it’s creating a safe space for not only myself, but then a better, more comfortable relationship for the people in my life ultimately. So I think that is more or less how we tackle things nowadays, which has been great. It’s been great.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:14):

Is there any crossover from the techniques you learned when you were going through it as a teenager to what you’re using now? Anything that you were able to pull back a little quicker or maybe a little easier because you had gone through it before?

Katy Collister (27:29):

Yeah. I think for me, I told that story of my daughter with the pajamas, and it was kind of a combination of both at that moment, where I was like, I want to do, the thought process, I’m going to walk through it and be like, okay, this doesn’t really make logical sense, but logic doesn’t always work with combating OCD. And the other side was I have to put her in them to prove that everything’s going to be okay. And ultimately, my daughter’s seven months old. She’s seemingly perfectly healthy, but we never know what’s going to happen any day. So I had to sit in that reality to be able to process through that.

(28:05):

So I do think a lot of times it’s kind of some of that in conjunction. It’s a little bit of utilizing that exposure therapy that I was originally taught and a little bit of utilizing just here’s how we walk through this, here’s how we reground ourselves and find peace and recognize these things. But I feel like with OCD, regardless of what you’re doing, you’re walking it out in fear regardless. You’re going to be afraid, it’s going to be rough, but you have to do it anyway because, like I said, the only way out is through. So it’s better to go through than to sit there for months and months on end.

Lindsay Guentzel (28:41):

Absolutely. I’m curious what else you’ve used besides medication to help you regain some peace in your life. Do you have any favorite go-to tools for self-regulating? And is there anything new that you’ve been wanting to try that you’re hoping to have a moment with that you can put it into your toolbox for the future?

Katy Collister (29:03):

So I have lots of little things because I’ve realized that stressors come up constantly. One of the very simple but actually monumental things is I keep specs at my desk and other fidget toys. So when I’m dealing with high stress situations with work, you’ll see me messing with things. My boss asked me one day, “What are you playing with?” And I’m like, “It’s a fidget toy.” But it kind of helps keep me centered and grounded when I’m dealing with intense things instead of getting out of control.

(29:32):

Meditation is a really big one for me. I feel like mentally with ADHD, I feel like my brain’s never quiet and I feel like that’s some of the… I was like, I’m not going to meditate because my brain’s never going to shut up, so there’s no point. But for me, it became a body thing where I was like, I’m going to focus, and it pops up where stress is resting and I can be like, oh, I’m feeling it here. I’m feeling it in my shoulders, or I feel it in my back. Yoga, if I feel healthy enough has also been really good for that because it forces you to pay attention to each section of your body and what’s going on.

(30:13):

And then there’s random things that have really helped me. I used to hate ASMR because I do have some hearing sensitivity stuff with ADHD, and so a lot of ASMR stuff I’m just like, “Ugh, go away.” But there is some that I found I really like and helps me as opposed to putting on a television show where I’ll disassociate completely. I feel like that kind of brings me focused in and kind of calms my mind down.

(30:40):

And the one that I had been wanting to try that I recently did, and I wrote it down because I’m not going to remember the name of it, I think it’s called sound boarding. It’s like when they play music and it’s hitting each ear, and I almost like that better than white noise. I’ve really been enjoying that. So that was one thing that I was kind of interested in, and I feel like that’s one of those things almost like white noise where my brain kind is like and kind of mellows out, and that feels fantastic as you know with ADHD. If you can get your brain to kind of quiet down for a minute, that feels great.

Lindsay Guentzel (31:15):

I’m really interested in that. I’m going to have to give that a look and try that out.

Katy Collister (31:20):

Yeah, I had randomly came across it on TikTok and one of my friends was like, “Yes, yes, this is so great. I knew you would love that.” And I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to have to do some more research on this.”

Lindsay Guentzel (31:32):

One of the good perks of social media.

Katy Collister (31:35):

Exactly. Exactly.

Lindsay Guentzel (31:38):

Well, you know this, and I know this, but anyone who has done masking knows that it is exhausting because you are pretending to be someone you’re not. In the email you sent, you referenced an interview with Jim Carrey from the Toronto International Film Festival, and this is back in September of 2017, and he talks about how our bodies need deep rest from the characters that we’ve been trying to play. And we’re going to play that audio right now, which is provided courtesy of TIFF.

Jim Carrey (32:11):

People talk about depression all the time. The difference between depression and sadness, sadness is just from happenstance. Whatever happened or didn’t happen for you or grief or whatever it is, and depression is your body saying, fuck you, I don’t want to be this character anymore. I don’t want to hold up this avatar that you’ve created in the world, it’s too much for me. So a friend of mine, who’s a spiritual teacher, has a really good take. His name is Jeff Foster. His take on it is that you should think of the word depressed as deep rest. Deep rest, your body needs to be depressed. It needs deep rest from the character that you’ve been trying to play.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:02):

What about those words connected with you?

Katy Collister (33:07):

I think it doesn’t only… It connected very beautifully for my neurospicy mind, as I would say, but I feel like it also works with so many people in so many different walks of life. Especially in today’s culture, burnout is glorified, and for a lot of people doing what they feel like is the right thing in society or what they feel like doing the right thing for themselves in their family or their culture or whatever it is, it usually comes at the cost of yourself, right? It comes at the cost of being able to just be free to be who you are at a baseline. And that creates a lot of burnout, a lot of exhaustion. Definitely for people with ADHD, I feel like that is really obvious. We’re constantly trying to just make things either easier on other people because we know that we can be intense or we’re told we’re too much. I have a vivid memory of clicking a pen and somebody being like, “Oh my God, please stop doing that,” and I didn’t even notice that I was doing it.

(34:12):

I just think it’s really important because I think unmasking, the way that he describes it as depression is like deep rest or your body needs deep rest from playing this character. And I feel like the world just really needs everybody for who they are at their baseline, that’s so important. That’s how you find your community, that’s how you find your purpose in this world, that’s how you find what you’re here to offer. And when we’re masking, none of that is coming out, none of that is capable. It’s not there. And so not only are you losing yourself, but the world is also losing this beautiful individual that it needs. And so I love that quote because I feel like it’s an encouragement of please be yourself.

(34:54):

There’s another quote that he has that’s similar that says, “Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world, risk being seen in all your glory.” And I feel like that’s a great follow-up to that, because for me, that’s what I want to see. That’s how I have found my community, that’s how I found people that make me feel safe, that’s how I found the things I’m passionate about, how I can give back. I would love to see more unmasked individuals with everybody, so I love that. I feel like it’s a very wide blanket statement for the world.

Lindsay Guentzel (35:25):

I think it’s great. I think it’s a wonderful message, and I think so many of us, when we realize how often we are masking, when we’re capable of being able to pull away, we realize how much energy actually goes into that.

Katy Collister (35:38):

Yeah, it is really exhausting. I was just reading something from someone that said that they had just recently been diagnosed with ASD and ADHD, and she took a month off, and I was like, “That is so important,” especially for the people that got diagnosed later in life that have been masking their entire lives. Your body has taken a toll from that. More recently it’s coming to light that that’s a thing, but for a long time it was just like, oh, well, you’re diagnosed, here’s some meds, here’s some tools, get back out there. And it’s like, you need some recovery time because that’s exhausting.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:15):

Yeah. I joke that I left the doctor’s office and I didn’t even get a pamphlet, no one called for a follow up. It was just like, here you go, here’s this life-changing diagnosis. Good luck.

Katy Collister (36:25):

Yep, yep. I feel like unfortunately a lot of people run into that.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:31):

You wrote about something in your email that I feel people are only just starting to understand, about this very emotional side of living with ADHD, and for you and many others living with OCD as well. Is there a person in your life who gets it? Like they are supportive and understanding of your experience and what difference does that make for you moving forward?

Katy Collister (36:58):

Well, it’s interesting because I tend to be a very big social butterfly. I love communing with others and sharing about experiences. And so when I got sick especially, I backed down on a lot of that. But when I started unmasking too, I started realizing that there were some people that just couldn’t handle it, which is fine, and my circle just became a lot smaller because I started being more safe and protective of what was going on.

(37:24):

And one of my friends who I’ve mentioned a couple times in this, who also has ADHD and OCD, and her husband and my boyfriend, they’re like, “When you guys get together, it’s almost painful listening to you guys talk,” but it’s because we’re entirely unmasked and we will change topics of conversation probably 15 times in a half an hour period, but it is very freeing and very relaxing for the both of us. My relationship with her has been fantastic.

(37:50):

There have been a lot of other people that I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good small community, and now I’ve started to expand that and followed podcasts like yours and people like Trina with My Lady ADHD, and so many other places like that where I realized that there’s a larger community that I can start to connect with and be in touch with, and I feel like that’s kind of where I’m headed from here. Now that I’ve found safety in unmasking, now I can kind of start to expand that and be like, okay, now I want to find more of you, and how can I be of service and help in the growth of this and understanding of it.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:30):

First off, we are big Trina fans over here. And second-

Katy Collister (38:32):

I’m so glad.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:34):

Yeah, sometimes we all joke that if we all got together, the world would not stand a chance because if all of the ADHD people put our brains together, everything would get done. It would get done in a really chaotic order, but it would get done.

Katy Collister (38:50):

It would get done, that’s for sure.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:51):

Yep. I just want to wrap this up by asking you if there’s anything that we haven’t touched on from your journey or from listening to the episodes with Dr. Roberto Olivardia that you think would be important to share with the Refocused community?

Katy Collister (39:07):

One of the things that Dr. Olivardia said that had me gut laughing was when he was talking about somebody that had ADHD that also had OCD, they had their hands in trash and he was doing that exposure therapy with them, and they got distracted at the moment because they saw a Disney pamphlet and started thinking about planning a vacation, and I was almost in tears, I was laughing so hard. Because I can definitely relate to that exact feeling.

(39:33):

For me, one of the things that I really wanted to touch on was that ADHD ended up almost kind of being a crutch for me in the process of dealing with OCD, because really all I wanted to do with OCD was ignore it. That’s it. I just wanted to get it off my plate. I don’t want to deal with that. And ADHD is great for that. It’s like my best friend when I’m dealing with OCD and don’t want to deal with the core issue. I feel like that’s one of the things with having both of those, that does get overlooked a lot, and I was so glad that he mentioned that because it was a very funny way of pointing it out, and it was also very much like sometimes I intentionally utilize it. Like, oh, what is this over there, to try and not have to deal with it.

(40:16):

But like I’ve said, the only way out of that, struggling with that for good is to walk through it. And so that battle of, no, I’m not going to get distracted, I’m going to focus in on this, I’m going to deal with it, I’m going to walk through it is so important and it’s really hard work. And I think even more so for people that have both, it’s extra hard work because it’s almost like the two illnesses are working against each other, and the other one kind of makes you a little bit more happy, and you’re like, okay, I think I’ll hang out over here with ADHD, but then OCD doesn’t actually get any better, so I love that he brought that up. I love that that was part of the conversation. I would not have been able to put that into better words I feel like. So when he explained it that way, I was like, this is perfect. I’ve always been trying to communicate this, that was a great way of saying it.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:07):

Oh, I’m so glad that you had that moment and that connection. I think what’s been so eyeopening for me in having these conversations about OCD is it’s the iceberg example. What I thought I knew about OCD is the top of the iceberg, and then all of the stuff that I had no idea was OCD because it is so complex was what you don’t see under the water, and it’s just been so eyeopening, and I’m so grateful to both you and to Ashley Jacobs for sharing your stories. The honesty that you brought today and just your willingness to share is really important, and I’m just really grateful that you are trusting us to share your story. So thank you.

Katy Collister (41:48):

Oh yeah. No, thank you again so much for letting me share it. I appreciate it.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:55):

Whether you’re looking for a second opinion, are ready to get answers for the very first time, or you just want a little extra information about your brain, ADHD Online is ready to help you on your journey. And in case you missed the great news, they are now offering our listeners $20 off their ADHD Online assessment. To get this offer, all you have to do is use the discount code Refocused20 at checkout. It’s that simple. Head over to ADHDOnline.com to get started today.

(42:31):

Support for Refocused comes from 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.

(43:00):

Refocused is produced with the help of this stellar team. Managing editor Sarah Platanitis, coordinating producer Phil Rodemann, social media extraordinaire, Al Chaplin, associate producer Lauren Terry, and sound engineer Jake Beaver. My name is Lindsay Guentzel and I’m the host and executive producer of Refocused. I’m so grateful to my production team and I love that I get to work directly with the incredible team at ADHD Online, including Keith Boswell, Claudia Gatti, Melanie Meyrl, Suzanne Spruit, and Trisha Mirchandani.

(43:49):

Sissy Yee of Berlin Grey is the talent behind our show art, and singer-songwriter and fellow ADHDer Louis Inglis out of Perth, Australia created our theme music. We’re also so grateful to the support we received from the team at Dexia, including Corey Carney and Mason Nelle. Links to all of the partners we work with are available in the show notes.

(45:13):

If you haven’t already, it would mean so much to us if you would follow and subscribe to Refocused wherever you’re listening right now. And if you’re loving what you’re hearing, send us a note or tag us on social media. Our email is [email protected] and you can find us on social at RefocusedPod. Thank you so much for being here, and until next week, make sure to take care of yourselves. And because I know we all need this reminder, 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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