Jaclyn Paul and Writing with ADHD

Writer Jaclyn Paul shares with us what life was like before her diagnosis and how writing helps her cope in this episode of Refocused, Together with Lindsay Guentzel and ADHD Online.

Add us on Social Media!


Lindsay Guentzel (00:01):

Welcome back to Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel. What you’re listening to today, it’s a little bit different than the podcast episodes we’ve shared with you before. This episode, this person’s story is a part of Refocus Together, a special series the team at ADHD Online and I have been working on for ADHD awareness month. Every day throughout the month of October, we’ll be sharing a different person’s ADHD story, which is fitting because the theme for ADHD awareness month this year is understanding a shared experience. And I can’t think of a better way to really get a sense of that shared experience than by telling a different story every single day. And to be clear, yes, that’s 31 stories in 31 days. My name is Lindsay Guentzel and along with the team at ADHD Online, I’m so excited to present, Refocus together a collection of stories aimed at raising awareness on just how complex ADHD is and the different ways it shows up in people’s lives.


When we share stories, it’s easier to find the perspective, ideas and tips that help us live our best lives. I’m interviewing people with bearing backgrounds, diagnoses, experiences and perspectives. We’ll hear from working parents, advocates, engineers, writers, PhD candidates and more to learn that while we may be different, we are all united by our own ADHD journeys. This special project is very near and dear to my heart and although talking to 31 different people has been a lot of talking, I am so grateful for each person who shared their story with me and I cannot wait for you to meet my guests and get to know them. Be sure to subscribe to Refocus with Lindsay Guentzel so that you don’t miss a single story this month. And with that, let’s get on to today’s episode.


Jaclyn Paul first began to suspect she had ADHD in high school. She had a persistent feeling that somehow she’d fooled everyone into thinking she was a good student and a responsible kid, but she didn’t feel comfortable asking for a formal ADHD assessment. So she hid her struggles and feared opening up and she coped by internalizing the external messages of, “You’re fine. Life is hard and just suck it up.” She swept it all under the rug until work stress and running a household became too much to bear as an adult. She found a therapist through her job’s employee assistance program and began on a path of progress into self-directed adulthood.


Then she decided to share her story so others like her would feel less alone. And she started the popular blog, the ADHD homestead in 2014. Then she published the Best Selling Book Order From Chaos, The Everyday Grind of Staying Organized with Adult ADHD in 2018. Jaclyn has found a place in the ADHD community somewhere between the old academic guard and this new social media wave, helping the caretakers of the world as they manage their ADHD. I am so excited to welcome Jaclyn Paul to refocus together.


Jaclyn, I am so grateful for your time today. Thank you so much for joining us for this conversation.

Jaclyn Paul (03:51):

Oh, thank you. And now I’m like, “Oh, I need that bio.” That’s a very nice introduction.

Lindsay Guentzel (03:56):

I will pass it along that. All that credit goes to one of my amazing assistants, Sarah, she’s very good at what she does. So let’s start at the beginning when you were diagnosed. What was that process like and what do you remember from those initial conversations?

Jaclyn Paul (04:14):

So one could say in terms of my medical record or whatever, what’s officially on file, that I was diagnosed sometime in my mid 20s, when it was shortly after I had graduated from college, gotten married, bought a house and changed jobs within the span of maybe 18 months, which I think they don’t recommend you pile up that many big life changes in one small period of time, but it’s sometimes that ADHD more is more. But I got to a point then when I was really very much more than I had ever been, I didn’t have the structure of academia or my living at home with my parents there as a backdrop. I had to make up all that structure myself. And it turned out that that was just this straw that broke the camel’s back. And so I did have a job which actually most jobs, at least at the time had this as part of our benefits, we had access to the employee assistance program, which is you do just call a hotline and they match you up with the help you need, no matter what you’re asking for.


And a lot of people don’t realize that’s out there and a lot of the plans cover everyone in your household even if they’re not related to you. So even if you have a roommate who’s going through a crisis, they might be able to access urgent care services this way. Anyway, I just called them up and I was at a rock bottom point where I was like, I cannot exist in my life as it is and I need to take action on this now. And so then I did. And they sent me back to my primary care doctor and all that. But definitely the signs were there, like you said, far, far before. And I had even kind of figured it out sometime in high school and I did as much assessment as I could autonomously, but that’s not a formal diagnosis on record.

Lindsay Guentzel (06:32):

And what were the things that you were talking to your provider about at the time? Because as we know, this outdated idea of what ADHD looks like, at least from what I remember as a child in school, the people who had ADHD in it, they were predominantly boys and they were predominantly loud and bouncing off the walls. So I’m always curious what it is or those first conversations you have. And you touched on it a little bit with this doing so many massive life changes at once and it’s almost like we are just expected to be able to handle all of that. And so you just go along with it because it’s this idea that, yeah, that’s what happens. You go to high school and you graduate and you figure out your next plans and then there’s marriage and mortgages and jobs and all those things and we just aren’t prepared for it, I think with or without ADHD.

Jaclyn Paul (07:29):

Yeah, that much transition is hard for anyone. But I’ve learned because of our time perception that folks with ADHD, any kind of transition, whether it’s transitioning from sitting on the couch to taking a shower in the evening or moving two states away and starting a new job, any level of transition is more challenging for us. So that was what triggered it. And at the time, what I articulated in my journals as I’m remembering them is, I just realized, my husband and I were both doing this, but we would go to the store and have a bag of things and come home and set the bag down and the things would never get taken out of it. And there was just six months at a time worth of mail just sitting unopened around the house. I would get checks, like reimbursement checks from my job and this was before the smartphones and mobile deposit.


So I would just forget to take them to the bank until they expired. And then I either was out the money or I had to go back to the finance office and tell them to cut me a new check because I let the first one expire and then you start the whole process over again. It was just that kind of stacking up of truly basic life things that I was just floundering with all of them. And at that time that’s what I went to talk to them about. And I did come armed with everything that I had compiled over the years too, because as a writer I have written record of a lot of thinking through things that I’ve done over the years. But when I was in high school, I had written down why I suspected ADHD and different things that had been present since I started forming memories basically.

Lindsay Guentzel (09:31):

I want to ask about the writing side of things because you’ve mentioned the journals and being able to go back and read your feelings in those moments. How instrumental has that part that something you love that you do every day, how instrumental has that been in kind of documenting your ADHD but also seeing the ebbs in the flows of some of the symptoms that come with it?

Jaclyn Paul (09:55):

I would say very important. Even among people with ADHD who I know personally, I seem to have an exceptionally weak memory. And even while I’m in a conversation with someone, if it’s an important conversation, often I will jot down notes or write questions that I have so that I don’t interrupt. But I can forget even over the course of one conversation, where we started and where we are now. So it has been absolutely instrumental in looking back and there’s what we remember of our early lives and a lot of ADHD people I’ve talked to say they feel like they have fewer memories and that can be really tough when sometimes our experience is validated externally by people saying, “Well, you’re supposed to have experienced this and this throughout your life.”


And for me being on the spot and pressured in a conversation, my mind just goes blank. So it helps me to process things out in writing beforehand and even have that with me so that I can remember what my perspective is versus someone. Because I think a lot of women with ADHD have had this experience where we’re saying there’s something wrong and we know there’s something wrong and then we receive pushback that invalidates it in a way that you can lose your footing in a conversation and walk out of it being like, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll just go, I’ll try this stuff that you suggested, that’s probably right.” And then it starts the cycle over again.


So I would say that’s been incredibly instrumental for me because it’s how I process things a lot and figure things out, think things through, but also because it can be easy for us to be rattled in our perceptions and trusting ourselves. Because I think a lot of us grow up having that reinforced out of us. So it’s helpful to have that record and to be able to say, “No, I know how I was feeling when this happened because I journaled about it at the time. It’s not just that I’m remembering feeling that way. I did feel that way.” It is extremely helpful.

Lindsay Guentzel (12:20):

That’s awesome. It’s one thing that I’ve done sporadically through life and I’m always very envious of people who can fit it into a routine because I think it is so special to be able to go back and actually see some of those things unfold in a more traditional play by play essentially. You’re seeing it all unfold in the moment by going back to it. So that’s an incredible piece for you. And I’m curious, you did touch on a few of the things in that initial conversation, things around the house that were happening, mail piling up, all of which I can very much relate to. What were some of the first things you started doing to address those concerns, whether it was implementing a treatment plan or changing how you did certain things or medication or speaking to a therapist, What have you done to help with some of those things, whether they worked in the moment or not?

Jaclyn Paul (13:24):

The first thing I remember after that sort of diagnosis conversation is doing a trial on medication. And the first day I took it, I can remember it completely changed my perception of pretty much everything and illuminated for me, “Oh, this is the sensation people were expecting that I was feeling when they were asking me to do this thing.” And this is why it didn’t make sense to either of us that I didn’t get it because especially my perception of time, especially in an interaction, having a pause where I could even for a split second consider my response and choose my response, that kind of thing and being able to initiate just even the most basic stuff. Like I’ve walked into the house of the shopping bag and now I need to put the three items that are in the shopping bag away and not just put the bag on the floor. That allowed me to do the second piece, which I feel like was to continue educating myself and reading books and really learning about what living with ADHD meant for me.


So I did have a big education piece that did inform the actual how of running my life. But the first step was, for me, it was medication. And not everyone has a good experience and there’s a whole side rant about generic medications for brain based stuff. But for me, medication, I did get the right one right off the bat and I realized what a baseline should feel like and then I was able to do the education piece and then those two things together I was able to change the way I did things in the end.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:30):

I had a very similar experience on day one of medication and I totally agree with you on everything. There’s so many ways to look at medication and it’s going to work differently for everyone. And I’m hopeful, knock on wood that mine stays the way it’s been going. I’m at a year and a half and everything is great, but that first day I remember having this feeling like, this is what I’ve been supposed to be feeling like. My brain is supposed to be clear. And I love the way you phrased it in the sense of this is what everyone expected I was feeling like or I that this was the expectation and I didn’t know that that wasn’t. And you don’t know what you don’t know and so you don’t say anything. How do you explain brain fog, until it’s gone and you go, “Oh, you mean that wasn’t supposed to be there?” And so I really appreciate your honesty in that. I think it’s really important for people to realize that, most people do realize, but acknowledge everyone’s journey is going to be different and the way ADHD affects people is so different.

Jaclyn Paul (16:36):

Oh for sure. And that’s even having ADHD myself, I know that doesn’t give me a ticket to just understand what another person’s life experience is because it is so different. And I try to be careful about speaking for anybody but me because it is who you are and what your level of privilege is and what environment you grow up in. And it all comes together to manifest a certain way for one person and it can be totally different for another. And it’s very hard to make a general statement I feel like about ADHD and exactly what will help and what sequence and all that is different for absolutely everybody.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:21):

Yes, there’s a very important place in life where you learn and acknowledge the privilege that you come from in a lot of different ways. And I’ve experienced a lot of that with my own ADHD journey and just what I’ve been able to get access to, like being able to go to therapy during the day because I can set my own hours, that in itself is a privilege, to not be fighting for the after work hours that everyone else is looking for. It’s those little things that can make or break someone’s treatment plan. I’m curious to know what else you have done or tried outside of medication and educating yourself. Some people look at adding in different styles of eating or meditation or therapy and you’ve been on this journey for a long time and you’ve shared so publicly about it. So what are some of the things that stand out that you’ve either added in or eliminated from your life that you’ve found to be beneficial?

Jaclyn Paul (18:23):

So aside from what I have shared very publicly, I do feel like the mindfulness meditation is, that’s something I’ve just started doing again, because it is so helpful. It offers glimpses and no one, I don’t think can sit and just be completely present and mindful 100% percent for whatever the timed meditation is. But when I practice it every day I can get glimpses of it. And it’s that same mind emptying feeling that I think a lot of us chase in our leisure time stuff, like I do surfing and skiing, but also if you play music that things that you do that clear your mind in a way that you can’t usually access. I feel like a lot of us chase that sometimes to our detriment and sometimes to our benefit. But the meditation, it allows me to get scraps of it outside of that and really remind myself of that baseline of stillness.


Because again, I think especially if we’re in an intense situation or conversation, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and overstimulated and lose your footing in a way that, to me, has been super problematic in the past in terms of relationships. Meditation isn’t a superpower, but I do think it builds a habit muscle that is super helpful for us. And I’ve just learned I do need a certain amount of exercise every day, even if I don’t want it, it does the things they say about it. In improving cognitive function, I have found it to be true. My mood is better. Sometimes I really am not in the mood. But even just taking a little walk around the neighborhood is very… So those are two things that have been a big focus lately because I’ve been very busy and not keeping on top of a lot of intentional systems I would like to. But those have been two things that even though everything’s been in every direction lately, I’ve been trying to come back to because it’s super beneficial mental experience for me.

Lindsay Guentzel (20:51):

I’m curious in those busy moments where you’re like, I haven’t been fulfilling these needs of mine as much as I want to be because life is busy and things happen. Do you ever feel like you fall into the rut of all or nothing? I think that that is something that I’ve really struggled with ADHD where it’s like, well if I can’t be perfect, I can’t work out every day and I can’t do it the way I want to, I’m not going to do it. Or it’s easier to blow off. And it seems like you right now have a very good balance of, “Yes, this is not exactly the way I want to be doing it or at the level I want to be doing it. But I know that even just this walk around the block is going to be beneficial.”

Jaclyn Paul (21:32):

Yeah, I think it is so key because there are a lot of folks who say that ADHD predisposes us to more black and white thinking and the emotional hyper-focused time perception thing. For me it’s very easy to flip into that mode of it’s either all this or all this and it’s hard to see outside the moment and the feeling and the reaction. And that for me screws with the self-compassion piece of like, yes, this is not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. Literally anything is better than nothing. And I have for a long time done in my bullet journal, I call them habit hearts, and I originally got the idea from this book by Stephen Guise called Mini Habits. But the idea is that you have these daily goals that if it’s not embarrassing to admit how small they are, then they are too big. So in a time that’s so overwhelming, and if I say have to get a whole book drafted, and that feels huge and terrible and what if I can’t do it?


If you sit down and calculate out, “Well if I want to do in 90 days write the whole draft, then if I divide that by the number words by number of days, that means I have to write a 1000 words a day. Oh no.” And then if you feel like you can’t write a thousand words, will you sit down in the chair? So really lowering the bar for success until I can clear it and it doesn’t matter how low that is. So I have in the past just set a daily goal of opening the word document for a project and then I can color in my little heart for that day and say, “I did it. I did it.” Okay, success. Right now I have a goal of a hundred words per day, but every day I’ve met the 100 words, I’ve also written over a 1000 words.


That’s not every day for the life of drafting a book, but just if I’m regularly not meeting a goal now I do sit down and I say, “Okay, how can I make this goal even lower so I can meet it?” If I’m not meeting 100 words, maybe I just need to write one sentence. And then, because once you sit down, again transitions are really hard and we can use that to our benefit that, “Oh well, I said I could give up and just walk around the block and come back. But now that I’m out, it’s really only going to take 15 extra minutes for me to walk a mile. So why not?”


And really lower lowering the bar to entry until it feels easy to get in the door. Because then once we’re in the door, we have to expend effort to transition out of that mode and we might not want to do that so we can surprise ourselves, but it is the all or nothing thinking for me is the default. And I’ve really had to learn that mindset of just get in the door and then even your transition resistance might work for you, but just get in the door. But accepting that imperfect effort as okay, it’s like a lifelong process probably.

Lindsay Guentzel (24:48):

Yes, it is a lifelong process and I always keep reminding myself. I was diagnosed right before I turned 35 and so it’s not even been two years yet. And I keep telling myself on those days when I’m being kind to myself, and again, going back, you mentioned self-acceptance, it’s such an important part of the journey. It’s like I’ve been trying to change 35 years of habits and learned behaviors and coping mechanisms in two years. Not great at math, but I’m going to go ahead and guess that those two years, it’s just never going to happen. It’s just like you’re setting yourself up for failure. And so it’s really great to hear, one, that you are working on finding this space and that some days it’s really good for you. And two, you also acknowledge that this is going to be a lifelong thing, reminding yourself every day of this is how I function best.


And I would love to know when you look at life and all the things you’re doing and all the things you have done, where do you consider yourself to be thriving? Where is it that you feel the most alive, the most fulfilled in any given day?

Jaclyn Paul (26:01):

I spent the pandemic not doing any big writing projects because when we had the stay at home and then virtual school because I was the one who worked for myself and had the flexible life, part of our domestic agreement is that I am the one who necessarily flexes because my husband at the time had just started a new job a week before the stay at home order and he is also on the hook to give them a certain number of hours per week. And so I took on the bulk of figuring out how to do virtual school and how to get our family food and basic supplies and all those things that became very hard in 2020 and I really had to come to terms with the loss of that time. It’s not like I’m going to spend two months working extra hard right now and get it back. It’s time that a lot of us will never get back and dwelling on it is not great or productive.


So one place I’m really thriving right now is digging into writing a couple of new projects and giving myself time and space to do that because I can now. I can once again go to an out of town writing retreat and not have to take my child with me and hunker down somewhere. So I’ve really been letting myself dip my toes in a bunch of projects and choose which ones I want to do next. And I also just went through a huge process editing a book that’s coming out in a few months and doing that kind of work, the deeply engaging hyper focus work again was just really exciting for me because that deep work is what I hadn’t done for the past couple years. And so the place that I feel I’m thriving now is just using my mind in that way again and allowing myself to get into that hyper focused creative zone that I think we all have it with something, some kind of activity we do it just the activity varies by person.


But I think there are a lot of us in a caretaker role who literally did not have the space to give ourselves time to sink into that zone where we really like to be and where if we just stayed all the time, ADHD might be the superpower. So for me that is my big plus for this point in our lives that I can finally make space for that again and thinking, yes, the house also got messy, but I should make space for this because it is so restorative for me, and that’s important too.

Lindsay Guentzel (29:05):

I’m really glad you touched on the pandemic because I think sometimes where we are right now and yes COVID 19 is still very much going on, but we are not where we were in March of 2020.

Jaclyn Paul (29:18):


Lindsay Guentzel (29:19):

I think sometimes because we’ve moved past it, we forget how tumultuous and scary and quick that came. And I know we say quick, we had been talking about COVID 19 for months and I laugh, I would never do it now knowing what I know. But I went to a bachelorette party on March 14th for a dear friend and Minnesota shut down March 17th. That’s how quick it went from, “Oh, it’s uncertain things are happening,” to like, “Oh no, you’re out of a job. We don’t know when you’ll come back. We’ll touch base every week.” And again, hadn’t been diagnosed yet with ADHD, did not understand transitions. And I look back and it’s like, “Well, of course it took me a month to get off the couch.” Everything was just gone and I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t working from home. And so in your case to be the caregiver and you know have this agreement and this understanding, but it came out of nowhere.

Jaclyn Paul (30:27):

Oh yeah. We were the same in Maryland actually, that we went to a birthday party for a neighbor’s kid and I think that was March 13th and then March 14th the kids didn’t go to school because it was the next day that they announced everything would be shutting down and then we were all home. But yeah, a couple weeks before that I had gone to a huge restaurant fundraiser for the school PTO and it was all of us really packed the gills inside this pub and having a good time. And none of us knew that that would be one of the last normal things we did. And even that January that I did a interview on our local NPR station and I was planning to do a book tour and everything that I thought about what our year 2020 would look like just changed basically overnight.


And I think a lot of us forget to honor how hard transitions are and how everybody says living in the moment is so great and something we should try to do, but there’s too much of a good thing. And I remind my kid this all the time, I’m like, you are having trouble changing gears. We need to take a minute and just be in the transition space before I’m forcing you into the next and taking a month to get off the couch. That’s the transition space that I think we don’t allow ourselves to need time to transition when our brain cycles are all just going toward the transition and we’re not really able to manage a lot else. We’re supposed to just manage everything and the transition as though it’s not there. And it’s a whole thing of its own for us and for everybody.

Lindsay Guentzel (32:27):

You mentioned going to that event for your children’s school. I’m always curious how people with ADHD function in places where it’s not really talked about. And I imagine that you go to these events and there’s a lot of volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved and I know from my own experience with ADHD is like, I want to help and I want to do all these things and I take on too much or I worry I’m going to disappoint someone. And so it’s this gray area because they may know you and know about your book and know about the work you’re doing on your blog and that you’re so open about your own ADHD, but some people might not. And so I’m curious how you kind of manage those expectations in a setting where it’s like, I have this old school vision of the school PTA and there’s the one mom that’s just the alpha and she gets everything done and I’m like, I’m terrified of her, I’m going to disappoint you. How have you managed those expectations?

Jaclyn Paul (33:32):

Because she looks like she’s doing it all.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:35):

Yes, absolutely.

Jaclyn Paul (33:36):

Yeah. And someone told me once, “Well look, those people who look like they’re doing it all are probably actually paying someone to help them with things that you are doing yourself.” And I was like, “Okay, maybe.” But it does look like some people just can do more. And I have chronically historically struggled with work commitment because ADHD also shrinks our working memory, which is the part of your brain that allows you to keep more than one thing in your head at one time. And so if someone asks if I can do something, that thing is not a big deal and I’m like, “Well, I can do it, why would I say no?” But that’s because my brain literally won’t fit the other obligations I currently have in with the other things, so I can conceptualize them all together. And I think the best answer to that in my mind is not committing to anything on the spot and saying I have to take a look at my other things on my list and make sure that I’m going to be able to do this justice.


But I do have problems with over committing and also in a group like that, the mom that you’re terrified of, also throughout my young life, all of my friends were guys. And being the girl who can’t keep girlfriend in school is one thing. But when you are a 37 year old adult and most of your friends are pretty heteronormative couples and that’s just what’s expected on a larger level at your kid’s school, I think there’s a way that the in group of moms operates and that’s a social landscape I’ve never known how to parse. So that is a struggle too. And that a lot of us carry that habit of masking and trying to pretend that we belong somewhere when we either don’t think we belong or don’t think we deserve to be there and trying to make up for that with saying yes when we shouldn’t.


So it is a big struggle and it’s helped me to have some people that I’m socially close to outside of that context also involved in the volunteer leadership structure because then I know that we have a common understanding and that it’s not just a whole wild card group that I feel like I have to make a good impression. But it’s definitely a struggle. And I’ve tried lately to not say yes or no right away until I can come and write down everything else I have on my plate because I can’t bring it out of my head. And I will just be like, “Oh yeah, that sounds fun. I can do that, I’d be good at that.” And you want to show the things that you’re good at and you’re only good at it if you have time to do it.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:37):

I love that. That’s like a line, you’re only good at it if you have time to do it. I’m going to write that down on a post-it note and carry it around. And I have this group of women that I work out with at the gym and I always tell them, I’m just going to call you before I commit to something so you can tell me that I don’t have time. Because you get so stressed out and then it just becomes not enjoyable and then the self-doubt creeps in and it’s like this vicious cycle we put ourselves through over and over again. And at some point it’s like, just got to say no.

Jaclyn Paul (37:09):

And no one wants you to feel that way too. As I was just listening to podcast, I think it was Glen and Doyle’s podcast last night and it was an episode where they were talking about relationships and how sometimes we don’t want to break off a relationship because we do care for the person and we don’t want to hurt them or we don’t want to disappoint people. And the host, the guest they had on made the point that a person doesn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who’s only there because they don’t want to hurt their feelings. So you’re really not doing anyone a favor by putting yourself out in that way. And the same thing with when someone asks you to get involved with a group or you to volunteer, they need help and they’re asking because they would genuinely appreciate you there and think you might be a good fit or would it get something out of it.


But most people are not asking you to make yourself miserable. And if you do make yourself miserable and really work your butt off in a way that’s not healthy, they’re not going to be more appreciative because you’ve done that, like, “Wow, thanks for really taking one for the team.” Most people are not when they’re asking you to do something, asking you to feel that way and asking you to experience an unhealthy level of stress in your life and miss out on things that you want. That’s not what people who care and how would respect us want for us. And I think that’s something that I’m trying to remember is that, people aren’t asking me to stress this much. And if they knew that it felt like this much of a burden they wouldn’t ask. So it’s truly healthier for everyone to say no if that’s the answer that it should be. But it can be really hard because it feels not nice. And there’s that pressure too, to be nice.

Lindsay Guentzel (39:08):

Oh, the pressure to be nice it’s one I’ve fallen victim to. There’s this thing called Minnesota nice. And so we just say yes to everything. I’m working on breaking myself off of all of that. You’ve touched on a ton of stuff that you have going on and how life has changed a little bit since the lockdown was happening and the opportunities you have back now and how fulfilled you’re feeling in those situations. So what is pushing you forward? What’s on the horizon or something that the inklings are going around in your brain like that might be something I want to try out? That is just giving you hope right now. That’s just very exciting.

Jaclyn Paul (39:52):

Well, so I just did finish a novel that I had been working on for a while because-

Lindsay Guentzel (40:00):


Jaclyn Paul (40:01):

Thank you. Before I was an unfiction writer, I was a fiction writer. I’ve done that for ever and ever. But it was helpful to really finish something and okay, I still am capable of succeeding at a big project and seeing it through. And that has really helped me get over the hump of starting a new huge project because once I’ve started the new huge project, I’m like, “Oh, I can’t even imagine the end of this.” But having gotten a chance to finish and turn in a project again, has been very, very encouraging. And it does give me that reminder that yes, this is something I can do when I have space to even do it a little bit. And it’s not an active apocalypse scenario every single day. And that’s helping me move forward a lot, just knowing that I can say, “Oh yeah, I wrapped up on that and I’ve moved on and I have faith that I will also get to the end of the next project.”

Lindsay Guentzel (41:12):

That’s awesome. That’s awesome. I had a project that I saw from start to finish last year and it was following a young group of women who were running the Twin Cities marathon. I started training with them in July and then we ran the race in October and there was this moment after the story was published, it was three days later where I was just sitting there and I called my big sister and I was like, “I did it. I followed through with this and I started something and I made all my milestones.” And it is such a foreign concept in my life. I’m a great starter. The middle ground is not where I thrive, but you have to hold onto those moments because it reminds you you’re capable of doing it all the times that we have abandoned something or we can’t jump back into it and we just beat ourselves up. But I love that you have that feeling to latch onto, like, “Yes, I know what this feels like.”

Jaclyn Paul (42:08):

Yeah, I tell people really linger on that because it is a really great feeling that a lot of us late diagnosis people might not have gotten a lot of when we were young and it just really dwell on it and use it, hold on to it as a reminder later that, “Yes, I finished something, this is something I’m capable of and even if I have a setback, it’s okay, I’ll get back up again and keep going.” But it’s like not one of those experiences is to be taken for granted for me because I too am a very enthusiastic starter. But once it becomes hard and the glittery and potential is not on the main stage anymore, it’s a lot to keep going.

Lindsay Guentzel (43:07):

I want to wrap this up by asking you what is something that you wish more people knew or understood about ADHD? The whole purpose of this project is to tell 31 different stories to really highlight how different ADHD is when it shows up in people’s lives. So for you, what is that message and what is that the one thing that stands out when thinking about breaking down those stigmas?

Jaclyn Paul (43:35):

I think for me, I wrote this down in my notes before this, that that actually for me is the message because I think there’s been a real leveling of anyone can become an advocate for ADHD now, social media has made it so that people can have a voice for folks who haven’t felt seen before and there’s no gatekeepers there except your own ability to get in with the algorithm. But I think that also we can get into this assumption that, well, I have educated and enlightened myself and so I think I get it. And when someone else has ADHD, I say, “Well, I get it because I have ADHD too.” And then I think for me, what I wish more people realized is even after you think that you get it, there are still things that you don’t. There are a lot of personal experience writers out there now who feel a pressure to position themselves as an expert, like a subject area expert.


And yes, we need something beyond the old guard academic experts, but there’s a reason that there is a gate keeping process there. And I’m a personal experience writer, obviously I think it’s very, very necessary for people and it creates community and folks feel like they’re not alone and it’s great. But I don’t necessarily call myself a general ADHD expert as much as there’s a lot that I’ve learned and I’m willing to share. And I can also tell the story of how that looks in the context of my personal experience. But there are a lot of people who’ve come to me and made it clear that because while they have three children who all had ADHD or they have ADHD too, and that gives them an expertise on other people’s experience and that is just not true.


And it’s something that I wish a lot more people understood that it does show up so differently for everybody and privilege pays such a huge role. And our individual brain makeup beyond the ADHD plays such a huge role in our families. And that really we need to listen to each part of the story and really have an open mind about what ADHD actually means. And that’s something that I run into, a lot of assumptions that, “Oh well, because of my life experience, I understand your life experience and what you’re struggling with and what you shouldn’t be struggling with.”

Lindsay Guentzel (46:42):

Well, and it’s also a great reminder that anyone can put stuff out on the internet and going back, you’re talking about the cliche PTA mom who looks like she can get everything done is probably paying somebody to do some of those things. We just don’t know outside of what we see on the screen, what is actually happening and what goes into curating the stuff that’s going out there. So it is just a nice reminder to go in, I don’t want to say go in, skeptical or go in and take things with a grain of salt, but be conscious of the fact that everyone has access to put stuff on the internet. And you mentioned the algorithm plays a big role in what we’re shown. And so just being aware their experience might not be your experience, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not somebody out there who’s sharing something that you might connect with a little bit more. It’s just not-

Jaclyn Paul (47:39):

Yeah, and it’s not journalism either. I think also people don’t realize, well, when you get popular and you get pressure to start accepting money from different opportunities that people offer you, then that creates a conflict of interest and my nerdy HR manager past career. But I think people are bound to disclose that. But I think also as consumers of media, my generation and older is probably not so savvy at thinking through what that means and there’s not an expectation of journalistic integrity on social media. And people may not even be acknowledging the things that can introduce bias and it’s kind of a wild west and maybe you’ll resonate with something and that’s great, but just also keep a slightly cynical eye toward things.

Lindsay Guentzel (48:51):

Yes. I could go down this rabbit hole. The number of times I’ve answered the phone at work, at any of my jobs where I had to explain the difference between a news show and a talk show and the difference between a reporter and a host who’s paid to have an opinion. Again, a deep rabbit hole I do not want to go down because I’ve been spewing that for so many years. But Jaclyn, thank you so much for sharing so much of your own journey, but so much insight into, I think you just offered up some really, really great, easy, thoughtful ways for people to take a deep breath, separate themselves from what’s happening and realize like we’re doing the best we can and we can only improve. And a lot of that comes from educating ourselves and thank you for being a part of that message this month.

Jaclyn Paul (49:43):

Oh, sure. Thank you for this. This is fun.

Lindsay Guentzel (49:50):

A big thanks to Jaclyn Paul for sharing her story with us on Refocused, Together. You can check out all of her amazing work at adhdhomestead.net. I’ve also linked it in the show notes.


There are so many people to thank for making Refocused, Together happen. The entire team at ADHD Online, Zach Booker, Dr. Randall Duthler, Tim Gutwald, Keith Brophy, my teammates, Keith Boswell, Susanne Spruit, Claudia Gatti, Melanie Meyrl, Paul Owen, Kirsten Pipp, Sissy Yee, Trisha Mirchandani, Lauren Radley, Kory Kearney, and Mason Nelle, and the team at Deksia, Hector and Kenneth and the team at Snack Media, Cameron Sterling and Candace Lefke, Camilla Eden, Lauren Terry, Sarah Galbard, Phil Rodman, Jake Bieber, and Sarah Platinitus. Our theme music was created by Louis Inglas, a songwriter and composer based in Perth Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39. To find out more about Refocused, Together or to share your story with me, head over to adhdonline.com and check out the ADHD Awareness Month page, which highlights this project as well as each day’s episode after they’ve been released. You can also find out more by following along on social at Lindsay Guentzel, and @Refocusedpod.


Explore More


Important Notice to Our Valued Patients

At ADHD Online, your safety and well-being are our top priorities. Perhaps...
Read now

Part Two: ADHD and Time Blindness with Dr. Ari Tuckman

Today, we’re continuing our conversation with Dr. Ari Tuckman, exploring...
Listen now

Unraveling the Puzzle: ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression Explained

Do you often feel ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression overlap, making...
Watch now

Join Our ADHD Research Study

Mentavi Health is conducting ADHD research and is accepting a limited number of participants. Participants in our clinical study will get an ADHD Assessment at no cost. 

Who can join?
  • Age 19+
  • Primary language is English
  • Not previously diagnosed with ADHD
  • Not a current patient of ADHD Online or Mentavi Health
  • A resident of any of the 50 US states or DC (not including Puerto Rico or other territories)
Why participate?
Your involvement will help improve mental health care for everyone.

Provide this form to your local practitioner. You could:

  • Send this link
  • Email the pdf
  • Print it out and bring it to your appointment

Ask your practitioner
to complete the form

In this form, your practitioner will request that ADHD Online continue to provide uninterrupted care

Return the form to us

You or your practitioner can return this form to us via email or fax it to 616-210-3118