Episode 5 – How ADHD shows up in my life: Shawna’s story

How does ADHD show up in your life?

For many of us, it’s complicated and it can change. This is a two-part episode. In this first half, you’ll meet Shawna — a wife, mother and business owner who sought out answers during the pandemic when it felt like nothing could go right. 

Hear the negative ways ADHD has affected her life and how she is working to change the hold it has on her, her relationships and her success as an entrepreneur. But also hear the positive ways it shows up in her life and how it has shaped the woman she is today.

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Lindsay Guentzel (00:18):

This is episode five of Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel, and we are looking at how ADHD shows up in our lives. And because it’s different for everyone for this topic, we’re putting out not one but two podcasts. My name is Lindsey Guentzel, and this podcast is produced in partnership with ADHD Online, a telemedicine healthcare company that specializes in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder by making the diagnosis process accessible and affordable. They also offer medication management in 32 states and the District of Columbia and have teletherapy services in eight states right now. As I mentioned, there will be two episode fives. Think of it as a movie so long it had to be released on two separate VHS tapes to fit everything. Gone with the Wind, the Godfather, Titanic. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. On today’s episode, you will meet Shawna. Shawna’s one of the first people who reached out to me on social media after we launched Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel. Like me, she was diagnosed later in life, motivated or I guess prompted, by the pandemic and the lifestyle shift so many of us felt.

Lindsay Guentzel (01:29):

So I was super excited when she reached out after episode four and said she would be willing to share her story. It’s because of people like Shawna who share their ADHD stories. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s because of that candor and vulnerability that so many of us start to ask questions in the first place. And this is something I’d like to do as much as possible. Okay, let’s back up there. Working on setting boundaries. This is something I would like to do to my capacity. It would be amazing to release a new conversation every week alongside that week’s episode topic. So if you’d like to share your story, shoot me an email, just like Shawna did, and let’s find a time to chat. You can reach me directly at [email protected]. If you’re enjoying Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel please take a minute, pause if you need to, and make sure to subscribe, rate, and review this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music or wherever you’re listening right now.

Lindsay Guentzel (02:31):

I did have some people reach out and say, “I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to rate and review.” Some of the podcast distributors make it easier than others. If you’re using Apple Podcasts, you can go to the show page for Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel and scroll down. You’ll see the list of episodes before making it down to the ratings and reviews. Now, it’s time to share the really wonderful conversation I had with Shawna. I so appreciate you agreeing to share your story with me and with our audience. Why don’t you start by simply introducing yourself?

Shawna (03:17):

My name is Shawna Silverson. I am 37. I live in Wisconsin, so actually not too far away from you, Lindsay. I grew up in Stevens Point, which is right in the center of Wisconsin. Pretty average family. My mom was a non-traditional college student for most of my young life that I remember. My dad was a long haul truck driver. So he was home weekends a lot, but not always during the week when we were busy with day to day. Like many other ADHD people, I was busy in all the sports, all the band classes, drama club. Anything you can think of, I probably participated in it. Every year, I probably gave my parents a heart attack by asking if I could try out for the softball team for the first time after never playing it before or dance team was probably the one that really surprised them.

Shawna (04:16):

Yeah, I did it, and I happened to be one of those kids that just naturally was good at stuff, picked up things pretty quickly, so I always made the team, always had fun, and then next year it seemed like that was not interesting anymore and needed to do something different. I was a good student, kind of skirted under the radar. I was a really good kid. I didn’t really get into trouble a whole lot, but definitely looking back on things in hindsight, a lot of stuff really stands out to me that’s really interesting as a teenager, particularly. I went to university, I went to UWSP, Stevens Point. I studied health promotion, wellness, and nutrition. Really enjoyed the aspect of figuring out the whole person and how health plays into that, and I ended up getting a job right out of college in Sheboygan.

Shawna (05:09):

So I’m still here in Sheboygan on the lake side. Absolutely love it here. But from that, many things that came up in my life that brought me to entrepreneurship. So I own my own brick and mortar bakery. It’s completely gluten free, coffee shop, super cute little space. That is my baby right now, but I do also have two daughters, 10 and six, so elementary aged girls. My husband works a million hours a week in the restaurant business as well, but we love to have fun. We like to travel, basically when it involves food, we’re there. Coffee. I love coffee, so I always like checking out new coffee shops, new trends in coffee and food. And then we love baseball, so our kids and my family, we love going to baseball games and just spending time together, doing activities. Walking, hiking, biking, all of those sorts of things. So that’s, I think, mostly us in a nutshell. That’s me in a nutshell.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:21):

So you stay as busy now as an adult as you did as a teenager.

Shawna (06:24):

100%. Yes. More so.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:28):

I think that’s actually a very common thing. I’m curious to hear a little bit about how you were diagnosed with ADHD.

Shawna (06:34):

Yeah, so like a lot of women, I was undiagnosed until COVID hit. And particularly for me, managing a business and managing family was just falling apart, it felt like. It just was not going well. Before the pandemic even hit, I couldn’t figure out why it was so hard to keep track of everything, why it felt like sometimes things were great, most of the time things were not great. I thought maybe I had anxiety or depression, so I ended up seeing a therapist in the middle of COVID when there was online support, because that seemed safer and easier to me than trying to find someone in my community. And I had a really great woman that I worked with, and she did diagnose me with anxiety. But through that journey, I happened to listen to a podcast one day, and they were talking about ADHD and every checked box was like, “Oh my goodness. That is me. That is me. That is me.”

Shawna (07:41):

So I did my research. It totally made sense. I talked to my therapist and she agreed, but she was not a psychiatrist. So she recommended I follow up with my doctor, which I did. Thankfully, my doctor that I work with, he’s really great. He’s really open to a lot of things. He’s a family physician, so not super versed in adult ADHD, but he was willing to listen. So I offered a lot of information. Of course, naturally with anxiety and depression as the initial diagnosis, I was put on Strattera and then Wellbutrin. Neither of those things worked, and everything seemed almost more difficult with those prescriptions. So I finally asked about a stimulant, so went on Vyvanse, which I don’t know, I think we all have that same… You take it, that first day, you’re just like, “Oh, wow. Is this how normal people think and actually do and be?”

Shawna (08:48):

It was just so interesting how my brain seemed to slow down a little bit, and I was able to walk through a thought process without going onto another tangent. So that was really fascinating. From there, I think a lot of things really fell into place, and I started to figure out, “Wow, that’s ADHD and not just me being…” Whatever. A lot of that stuff was really interesting. And I think honestly, I’m still kind of grappling with it and still trying to navigate and figure out where I go from here. But it’s been really quite the journey

Lindsay Guentzel (09:26):

I connect with so much that you talked about, but specifically with taking medication. I take Vyvanse and this is just an analogy that popped into my head. But on the first day of taking Vyvanse, and I don’t know how to quite explain it, but there was this moment where it was like this veil that had been between my brain and the rest of the world, it was gone. It makes me think of… I have pets, so when I wash our bedding and I have to clean out the lint trap, and the lint trap is full of dog and cat hair and stuff from around the house, like lint and whatnot. So then the lint trap is clean and it’s like, “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to feel cloudy.” I think that’s the easiest way to describe it. Feeling completely and totally cloudy all the time and not realizing that that wasn’t what I was supposed to be feeling.

Shawna (10:25):

Right. Yes. 100%.

Lindsay Guentzel (10:27):

So can I ask, was that the first time you’d ever spoken with anyone about anxiety or depression?

Shawna (10:33):

Yes, actually. I do recall when I was a teenager, I’ve always struggled with social interactions. I cannot say honestly that I have a best friend. I have a lot of acquaintances. I was always that kid that got along with everybody, but having that one friend or even couple of really close friends was always hard for me. So I do remember as a teenager seeing a therapist, mainly because I was like, “Why can’t I make friends? What is wrong with me? Everyone else seems to have it figured out, but I don’t get it. And I don’t know why.” So I do remember doing therapy briefly when I was a teenager, but after that, I didn’t really follow up with it a whole lot. Yeah, that’s the first time I really was like, “Something is really wrong. I’m dragging. I can’t keep doing this. I don’t know what it is, but something needs to change and happen.” Yeah, that was the first time I probably really fully vocalized and worked with somebody.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:42):

Since your diagnosis, I’m curious to know what stands out, and let’s start by talking about the negative side. The things that you can see that have been detrimental in your life.

Shawna (11:54):

Oh, boy. I was writing this down, and it was like, “Ah!”

Lindsay Guentzel (11:59):

It’s hard.

Shawna (12:00):

It is, because it’s so many things, and I think it’s really frustrating when people just put the ADHD into that little like, “Oh, you just can’t focus.” Well, honestly my finances are an absolute disaster. Thanks for my husband who literally is keeping our life going, because I can’t adult that way. It’s really frustrating, because I will go through bouts where I’m like, “Oh, I really want to get this figured out. I want to budget,” blah, blah, blah. We all get hyper focused on that thing, and then I don’t know. That’s the one that really drives me nuts. I cannot keep my shit together with the finances, despite my best efforts. And I don’t do credit cards on purpose, because I’ve ruined my finances that way before.

Shawna (12:56):

And I know myself, so I just don’t even go there. But it translates into my business, which really bothers me a lot. It’s something that I’m like, “I really want to be good at this. I don’t want to screw things up,” because I employ people. I want to pay them. I want to have ingredients on hand when I need them. But unfortunately, I’m an impulsive spender, I think. Whether it’s personally like, “Oh, I have to have that outfit. It’s really awesome, but I’ll wait until it’s on sale.” But then even then, I wear it a few times and then it’s done. So personally and for my business, it’s a huge struggle. I think that is probably my number one frustration and disappointment, because especially with my business, people are relying on me. So the amount of disappointment in myself, mainly. They don’t know about it, probably. Maybe they will after hearing this, but I have never not paid my staff.

Shawna (14:02):

But it does get to a point where I have to make really tough decisions on, “Do I buy these necessary ingredients for the week and let people down that way? Or do I not pay my staff their appropriate amount and let them down? Either way, I’m letting other people down, and then I feel a whole bunch of avalanche of thoughts. “Why am I so bad at this? I am a failure. I’m an adult. I should know how to do this and manage this. Why can’t I?” It’s a lot of those really tough feelings that come up for that. The other thing that really hits me hard is the friendships, like we talked about. Like I said, my kids are elementary age and getting together, play dates, that kind of stuff is fairly important for them. But I have a really hard time going up to someone and saying, “Hey, our kids are friends. You want to get them together?” It’s difficult for me to do that, and I think when another parent comes over and does offer that, I probably do all the oversharing and all the things that push people away.

Shawna (15:15):

But I think what’s really difficult about that is both my girls are ADHD as well, and they present differently. However, my oldest is probably exactly like me. We’re both inattentive, combined type, but heavier on the inattentive side, and it’s hard. She’s at that age, she’s a tween, so it’s heartbreaking, honestly, to see almost my childhood playing out through her in regards to she doesn’t get invited to things as much. But when she does, she gets super anxious that no one’s going to like her or want to talk to her and feeling left out and I’m just seeing it all. So it’s not only hard because I still struggle with it, but to see her is like, “How do I even help her walk through that and get through that?” But on a positive note, the fact that she knows she has ADHD now and I know, and I’m here to support her through that is mountains better than where I was at her age.

Shawna (16:22):

But then the last thing, I think the inconsistency, I don’t hear it talked about a lot, but I feel like that’s probably what’s really difficult for our family balance. It’s really frustrating for me. I want to be a great mom. I want to provide for my family. I want to cook good, healthy meals. I went to school for health, I know the importance, and I am fairly passionate about it. But I just don’t have energy all the time. My husband works a ton of hours, so when he comes home, I feel pretty bad putting all of that on his plate. So it’s just the inconsistency of one week, everything’s perfect, I fold all the laundry, work stuff is all handled. And then the next week, it’s a total cluster and no one knows why. I don’t want to say it’s depression, but I just don’t care. It’s it sucks, and I don’t like that.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:21):

It’s burnout.

Shawna (17:23):

It is.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:24):

I completely and totally agree with you, and we can’t get out of our own way. And there’s just something to be said about it’s not that our brains are moving faster than other people’s. It’s that there’s just always so much going on. And when you hit that point of exhaustion, that’s when you have those weeks. I feel like everything you just said, I also deal with. I have those weeks where I’m like, “Yes, everything is going great.” Then, I have this stretch where my boyfriend will be like, “Hey, you forgot to keep doing this.” And it’s like, “Yeah, I did. I’m done. I’m so over it right now.” So what have you thought about doing or tried to do in some of these situations that have come up that you see as things you don’t want to be happening, but are happening because of your ADHD?

Shawna (18:17):

Number one, I think just getting my medication in order is really important, and we all know how hard it is to be consistent with it, which is out of our hands, which is frustrating. That’s a whole nother tangent, but I am in the process of adjusting and switching medication, and it’s hard. But I do communicate with my family, like my husband particularly. I say, “Hey, I’m starting a new medication.” I’m not very good at noticing whether it’s working great or not. I notice big things, but he sees me day to day as I am. So I communicate openly and let him know like, “Here’s what’s going on.” Or with my business, I do wedding cakes and those take a lot of energy, and I know that now.

Shawna (19:10):

So knowing when I have a wedding weekend, for example, I know the next few days, I will be burnt out and exhausted regardless of how big or small the wedding is. It’s just the energy output that’s part of it. So I communicate like, “Hey, I know I usually do laundry this day and I get it done, but it’s not happening this week. And I apologize, but I’d love help if you’re willing to do that.” So I think communicating and just letting people around me know that this is what it is, but also just personally, internally accepting that and being aware of it myself. “Why are you trying to add on that extra thing right now?” It’s okay to say no if you’re feeling overdone. Your friends and family generally will appreciate and understand that, because they love you. So I think the self acceptance is another big piece of all of that, too.

Lindsay Guentzel (20:17):

Yeah. Self acceptance has been the hardest part to add in, but I also think one of the most beneficial. A colleague of mine taught me a great line to use. And I will say, I don’t know that I’ve actually used it yet, but I’m practicing saying it every so often so I’m ready. It’s, “I would love to help, but I’m actually at capacity right now,” because I think a lot of women, we tie ourselves to what we can do for people. What you were saying about your employees, it just so resonates with me. This idea of taking on things and adding things and then not wanting to let people down, so you stretch yourself so thin to the point where you can’t do it any longer.

Shawna (20:59):

Yeah, absolutely. Stuff starts falling through the cracks and that’s when I know, “Okay, I’ve taken on too much,” but it’s also been a good practice. I’m a perfectionist like many other ADHDers, and especially with a business that I’m very passionate about. But I’ve also learned delegating and training people properly from the beginning, doing it well from that end takes a lot off of my plate and helps other people grow too, which is really important.

Lindsay Guentzel (21:35):

Let’s talk about the good things, because it can be really easy to bog ourselves down with all of the things that we don’t do well. Especially because a lot of them are so invasive and prominent in our lives, like struggling with finances. Let’s talk about the positive stuff. Obviously, because of your diagnosis, you have hindsight. So you can see all the things throughout the years that benefited from the fact that you have ADHD, like getting to try all of those amazing things growing up. There are a lot of people who wouldn’t have had the confidence to jump into something they had never done before. What are some of the things that when you were looking back that stood out as, “Yes, that is something I can say is a positive of having ADHD?”

Shawna (22:20):

I actually remember at my wedding, my brother stood up and made a comment about Shawna jumping into the pool without thinking, and the rest of us were sitting on the rock, just watching her go. I think that is a really cool thing. I have jumped on opportunities that have presented themselves, not in a careless way necessarily. I know it can go in that direction, but I will go for it. And I always think life is too short to wait for some big opportunities that might come up. A really good example is in college our last semester, we had to do an internship and that was your final semester. I had the opportunity of either going to Tennessee or London, England. I have never left the country and decided, “I’m going to go to London. When else can I do that?” Plus, the school paid for room and board and that sort of a thing.

Shawna (23:21):

So it’s part of tuition, so it was a smart choice. Was it scary? Absolutely, but I got to meet so many really great people, I got to live and work in a city rather than just visit, which was really cool for my ADHD brain, because I was doing something always, it had purpose, and it wasn’t frivolous and I didn’t have to try to come up with stuff to do, which was good. So I took trips to Ireland and Spain, and I really got to get to know my coworkers, which has created some really cool friendships that I probably wouldn’t have made otherwise. So that’s really a big one that stands out to me, but I just think that, yes, you go for it. I started a business. Not many people are willing to do that. I’m solving a problem for people in a way that is really life changing for some people.

Shawna (24:18):

My bakery is 100% gluten free, so there are people that come in that said they haven’t had a cupcake in 10 years, and they can finally enjoy one because of what I offer. So that makes me feel good, that gives me purpose, and that is something that not many people can say that. The last thing I mentioned a little bit before was just relating to my children, the fact that they have ADHD, and I am so persistent in getting them the proper resources and care and support that they need so that maybe they cannot go through some of the hard stuff that I had to go through. It’ll still be hard, but at least they will have someone who knows about their ADHD, understands them in a way that not anyone does, and I think that’s a really special and unique thing that I can offer that’s really good.

Lindsay Guentzel (25:13):

What’s been the most surprising part of your ADHD story? Whether it’s something you’ve learned along the way, or just hearing about some of the symptoms and seeing how they can manifest in your life.

Shawna (25:28):

Ah, that’s a good question. I think what’s most surprising is just the community of people that I’ve discovered that have a lot of the similar struggles, but also really exciting things, too. So I think a lot of personality flaws that we all felt really awful about to be able to almost commiserate and even just talk to other people and hear through podcast stories and different things like that. It’s just so validating, and that is probably something I’ve never felt really throughout my life. I couldn’t really fully relate to somebody until I’ve discovered I have ADHD. And I know other women, particularly, I seem to really resonate the most with because we have a lot of similar struggles. But it’s validating, and that really gives me a piece of bedrock support that I’ve never had before.

Lindsay Guentzel (26:35):

Last thing, and then I’ll wrap this up. What is one thing you’d like to share? A piece of advice, a tip you’ve learned, something you’ve adopted in your own life, one last little nugget of positivity to leave the audience with.

Shawna (26:50):

Ooh. I think just particularly as women, we’re so hard on ourselves. I think it’s really great that we talked about some of the positives. I’m one of those people in the camp of I don’t really see ADHD as a gift by any means. It’s been more of a not gift for me in my life, particularly. But on the same token, it has allowed me to give myself some grace and appreciate myself in a new light, which is really unique. And I think just more importantly, not to be too hard on yourself. Recognize you for who you are and what you are, honor that, and use it as a tool to work your life in a way around your symptoms and your particular needs, knowing what you have and what you’re able to function with and not try to do too much and be too hard on yourself, ultimately.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:58):

A huge thank you to Shawna for sharing so much of herself and her story. There’s so much that I connected with, and it truly feel so honored that she trusted me was sharing her insecurities, but also her joy, what drives her, and what pushes her to learn more about herself and her ADHD. And then to hear the pain she feels as a mother, but also the optimism about being able to be there both as an advocate and an empathetic confidant. It’s really powerful, and I know there are a lot of you out there right now listening who are parents and can relate to that. I’ve also heard from so many people who don’t have ADHD, that they’ve been loving Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel, because it’s giving them a look into the lives of a loved one. It gives them a better understanding of what they’re dealing with.

Lindsay Guentzel (28:50):

So if you have someone in your life who could benefit from learning more about ADHD, I encourage you to pass this along to them. As I mentioned, this episode is a two-parter, so stay tuned for more conversations on how ADHD shows up in our lives. And there are links to all of our social media accounts, as well as our email address, [email protected] available in the Shownotes right now. If there’s something you want to hear or a resource you think would be helpful, please don’t hesitate to reach out. And I would love to share your ADHD stories, so please consider joining Shawna in changing the narrative out there. Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel is a collaboration between me, Lindsay Guentzel, and ADHD Online, a telemedicine healthcare leader, offering affordable and accessible ADHD assessments, medication management, and teletherapy. You can find out more about the great work they’re doing by visiting ADHDonline.com.

Lindsay Guentzel (29:45):

The show’s music was created by Lewis Engles, a songwriter and composer based out of Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39. Also, a massive thank you to Shawna for opening up her life to us. Remember to subscribe, rate, and review wherever you’re listening right now, and thank you so much for being here.

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