Jenn Schaal talks with Lindsay about not being able to finish things and discovering some ADHD superpowers.
Jenn Schaal talks with Lindsay about not being able to finish things and discovering some ADHD superpowers.
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Lindsay Guentzel (00:00):
Welcome to Refocused Together.
Jenn Schaal (00:21):
I had all these things that I wanted to do, but I physically could not do them, like brush my teeth or remember to feed the dog, basic daily things.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:31):
I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and this is a special ADHD Awareness Month series of my podcast Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel. If you’re a regular listener you know that the Refocused Podcast is where we change the narrative around ADHD and share the tips and tools we need to refocus and live our best lives. If you’re new here and found us because it’s ADHD Awareness Month, welcome, we are so glad you’re here and I truly hope you’ll stick around long after October ends. Now, there are parts of this ADHD journey that some of us have figured out and there are parts that we still need help cracking. And so for ADHD Awareness Month I’m collaborating, as always, with my partner, ADHD Online, to interview 31 people. That’s one interview for every day of the month about their own ADHD experience. We’ll hear from people who were diagnosed as kids and those diagnosed well into adulthood. We’ll talk about hyperfocus and distraction, stigma and shame, grief and acceptance, and so much more.
Lindsay Guentzel (01:42):
And we’ll see that ADHD can affect anyone, all genders, orientations, backgrounds, nationalities and cultures. And while there are differences in how we live this truth, there are also so many similarities that bring us together in community. The special project is very near and dear to my heart, and although talking to 31 different people has been a lot of talking, I’m so grateful for each person who shared their story and I’m truly forever changed by these conversations and I cannot wait for you to meet my guests and get to know them. Be sure to subscribe to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel so that you don’t miss a single story this month.
Lindsay Guentzel (02:32):
Jen Shaw was diagnosed with ADHD in December of 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. A comedian who works in development, being forced to isolate and not having her usual lifestyle of running from one thing to the next, allowed her to get to know herself in a way she hadn’t been able to before. And what she was seeing, well, it had her concerned. Simple things like brushing her teeth and answering emails, they were becoming more challenging and she could see it. She could feel that struggle and she knew she had to figure out what was going on. A high score on an online ADHD quiz pushed her to talk to her primary care provider. And then came the diagnosis she wasn’t too surprised to get. She had made it into her early forties, living, working, and mostly thriving, with ADHD. I hope you enjoy my hilarious and inspiring conversation with Jenn Schaal, one I was so thankful to be able to have in person earlier this fall on a rooftop in downtown Minneapolis.
Lindsay Guentzel (03:41):
I’m all about transparency, so I should tell everyone that you and I, Jenn, have known each other for a very long time. I don’t know the last time we saw each other, we can get into that, but we are friendly. We run in the same circles, we know a lot of the same people. And so when I had the very ADHD moment of going what are we going to do for ADHD awareness month, let’s tell a new story every single day, you’re actually one of the first people that came to mind because I am so familiar with your story and you are so open and I knew that it was very likely you would be comfortable sharing it. So one, thank you.
Jenn Schaal (04:17):
Oh my gosh, thank you.
Lindsay Guentzel (04:18):
Thanks for coming. It’s like a lovely little reunion. Why don’t you start by going back to your own ADHD diagnosis story and kind of what led up to seeking that out?
Jenn Schaal (04:32):
Yes. Well, I think we’re all familiar with this little thing we’ve been dealing with for the last couple years, the pandemic, and like everyone else isolated at home through the summer of 2020 into the fall. I started really noticing some really weird things that were happening. I had all these things that I wanted to do but I physically could not do them, like brush my teeth or remember to feed the dog or just basic daily things. I couldn’t get myself to respond to emails for work and so it was just building up which was causing all this anxiety. And I think I saw someone talk about ADHD online and I just sort of had this moment where I was like, “Hmm, that’s sounds a little bit like me.”
Jenn Schaal (05:23):
And I found this online quiz through an ADHD magazine, and I did it, and it was specifically for women. I just happened to… 20 questions, whatever… scored off the charts and I thought, “Oh, this is crazy.” And a couple weeks later I actually had an appointment for a physical with my primary care and I talked to her about it. And at the time I was also on antidepressants and depression and anxiety were things that have existed for me for years. And I also always had all these long term goals that I knew all the steps that I needed to take to get to them, but I could not complete those steps. And it killed me because rationally I knew what I needed to do, but I could just never quite make it to that finish line. That was kind of a theme that was throughout my life too.
Jenn Schaal (06:19):
So as I’m talking with my primary care, she’s like, “I mean, it makes sense to get tested if you’re thinking these things, you’re feeling these things.” She goes, “I’m going to up your antidepressants also because maybe that could be some of it as well.” So at that time, I felt really lucky that I got in when I did because I think psych just boomed after that. But I ended up getting a testing appointment for December and so went through the motions with all of that. A lot of it was online due to the pandemic, but I did go in and do all of those in-person diagnostics. The impulse test, which wow, that was eye-opening, pressing the space bar for the X on the screen, I think I pressed it every single time a letter appeared. I was like, “Well, no impulse control backtracks.”
Jenn Schaal (07:11):
And so a few weeks after that I got the call from psych and we talked through the results, and he didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already subconsciously know about myself, but it was really amazing to have a name to it because suddenly, and I know people have different experiences to this, but it felt to me like, okay, I’m not a garbage person. This is just how I operate. And now that I know that what am I going to do with that? And I know a lot of people have kind of those, “Oh my God, what if I would’ve known?” I mean, because I was 42, so that’s an important fact as well. I’ve managed 42 years in this life as a professional, as a human being, as a citizen. I have a pretty great career that required me to manage a bunch of things and people, and how I could do all of those things and have this, and not know it, but have been able to adapt throughout the course of my life.
Jenn Schaal (08:14):
And everything just made sense in that moment. Why I needed to leave every job after a couple of years, which I used to call an entrepreneurial mindset. And he was like, “Oh no, you just get really bored because you fixed all the things and now it’s time for you to move on to new problems.” It took me 16 years to finish my undergrad with a 12 year break, but still. You make it all the way to the end almost and then you’re like, “Hmm, I’m out.” I ran a half marathon without actually really training for it. Imagine what you could do if you trained for it? Even around eating and exercise and all of this stuff, all of these elements, it just made so much sense to me and it almost was this level of self acceptance. Like okay, it’s not me, there is a legit thing that’s happening here and now I can put a name to it. Oh, don’t even talk to me about being late for stuff. That is the biggest piece. And now I can be like, “It’s not my fault. I’m working on it.”
Lindsay Guentzel (09:17):
You’re working on it. And I also appreciate that you said I’m not a garbage person, because the unfortunate side for a lot of us with ADHD, the added unfortunate part is that it’s a lot of women, it’s the shame that comes with it. It’s the shame that comes with not being able to do things quote, unquote, right. And it’s a nice reminder when you’re told there actually is something leading to this. And to know you are a person with a brain that is neuro-divergent living in a world that is made for neuro-typical people and to just hear that and be able to go, okay, I know what I still need to work on. I almost know now what’s standing in my way and there’s a path forward.
Jenn Schaal (10:02):
Absolutely. The time management stuff you’re like, okay, there are lots of tools that exist to help me with this. My partner, Matt, is so gracious, he’s the most punctual person on earth. And so the two of us together, he gets annoyed, rightfully so, but he started telling me to be ready 20 minutes ahead of when I actually need to be ready. I know that, but also I still operate on this time scale and that works for us. You find little tricks that help with things. I have this little timer thing that I use where it’s 40 minutes of work and then take a 10 minute break so that you’re not just getting into the super hyperfocus for however long, or just surfing the internet for 40 minutes when you should be doing something work related. Certainly medications have helped and I’d love to hear your experience too, but when I started taking Adderall, that was the first drug I tried, and it worked really well and I know not everybody has that experience, but what a game changer that was.
Jenn Schaal (11:10):
Also, I just felt like this cloud had lifted for me and I’m like, okay, brush my teeth, walk the dog, feed the dog, go take a walk, let’s get these emails answered, we’re going to also clean the house and go with it. And I just am so grateful for that because it removed all of this negative self talk that I was giving to myself and could kind of really make way for how do I want to work with this? How do I want to handle this? And the superpowers that come with it too, right? Like ADHD people thrive in chaos. If there is an emergency situation, I am like, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to go this way, you’re going to take this, I got this covered. We’re good.” Most people freeze in those types of situations and I feel like we’re so used to kind of navigating a million things happening in our brain that I can spin 10 plates and it’s no big deal.
Jenn Schaal (12:12):
It’s just when those 10 plates, you don’t know why they’re spinning, that’s when things get a little hairy. And when I’m not engaged in what those plates have on them that are spinning, I’m checked out. But if I’m into it in this moment, I can make it rain so heavily and that is just the coolest thing. Or when you are in love with the subject and you just go down this deep dive of all of the information about that person or that experience or that subject, I mean, I could tell you everything you want to know about the Brady Bunch. What do you want to know? I got you. Cousin Oliver, Tiger the dog, what do you need? But that makes us really cool and fun, I think, too and really adaptable. We can adjust like nobody’s business.
Jenn Schaal (13:05):
When you have a friend who is ADHD and you’re constantly late for things and you have the friends that can’t handle that, I’m so grateful to the friends that see me for who I am and they’re like, “No big deal. Live your life. I’ll be here. I can have a drink and wait for you for 15 minutes. That’s fine.” And I’m grateful to have other friends that have ADHD too and they just get it. And that is just awesome because if you don’t text back immediately no one’s mad at you about that. There is so much validity to that and feeling seen and accepted and celebrated for those things. I never get mad at people for those things probably because I carry that empathy for that type of behavior. And it just means so much to me to have people in my life that are the same.
Lindsay Guentzel (14:02):
It’s so true. It’s so important to be able to connect with people, especially when you feel like everything you do goes wrong. And the issue is, as you mentioned. Like the 10 plates in the air, it’s like there’s just too many plates. If there were five, everything would get done and everything would be great, but it’s when there’s too many and you’ve said yes to too many things and we’ve overstretched ourselves and we’re saying yes to things… you mentioned this a little bit… that we’re not necessarily incredibly passionate about, but we like to please people. We like to be helpful. We don’t want to say no, we don’t know how to set very good boundaries so we say yes and then those two extra plates we’ve said yes to are the ones that fall. And even though we kind of know it was going to happen, there’s so much shame that comes with it.
Lindsay Guentzel (14:44):
So being able to connect with somebody who knows what it feels like… I know you’ve been so open about how long it took you to graduate college. And while you were being open about it, I was hiding the fact that I had failed out of college twice. I feel like for both of us in the line of work that we have chosen, people looked at us we had it together, we knew what we were doing, but it was behind the scenes of like, oh, I am barely holding on. When you look back at what you know now and how ADHD has played a role in your life, where do you really see it as kind of this is where it came in and this is kind of when it started highlighting some of the not great things?
Jenn Schaal (15:30):
Oh yeah, man, there have been so many times that I have double booked appointments or meetings on my calendar. I have a calendar and I use it and I live by it, but you know those one-off moments where you’re like, “Oh, let’s meet, great, face to face,” you have this conversation I forget to put it on my calendar. Then I get a text like, “Hey, are you on your way?” And it’s like, “Oh, shit. Oh my God,” and it’s like somebody really important. And how do you get out of that, that pit in your stomach?
Lindsay Guentzel (16:04):
I’m literally… you said it and I’m cringing because I have felt it so many times.
Jenn Schaal (16:08):
Yes, and those types of things have happened so many times and I’m like, “What an idiot.” Or I’m always late, always late. And so when you get into the car and you have to drive you’re like, “Oh, I can make it across the city in seven minutes during rush hour, that’s no problem.” And you know you have 20 minutes to get ready, you’re like, “I’ll watch a feature length film, shower, curl my hair, maybe make a few phone calls, it’s fine.” Like no.
Lindsay Guentzel (16:38):
I’m going to clean up my counters right now.
Jenn Schaal (16:39):
Yes, and then you get in the car and immediately your adrenaline is just rushing through your body and so you’re driving like a maniac and none of that is positive behavior. I feel like that also sets up how your day’s going to go too, so then everything just falls out of whack. Those are ways that it’s really impacted me, I think. People used to tell me I was a lot and I have a feeling maybe you got that. Also, I did comedy for a long, long time, that was a huge outlet for me to just exacerbate some of that attention seeking behavior, get it out there. But when I stopped doing that, some of that behavior became internalized again. I have a tendency to get repetitive and people are like, “Okay, just take it down a notch.” And nobody wants to be told that.
Jenn Schaal (17:40):
But I also can really tell when my meds have worn off. It’s like seven, 8:00 PM and I’m like, “Yep, here we go everybody, buckle up. You’re in for a fun ride.” Those are ways I would say sometimes the out of sight out of mind piece really affected some of my work, I would say. When you’re getting hundreds of emails over the course of the day, people asking you for things or can you do this, I’ve read all of them but I don’t necessarily respond to all of them immediately. And so some of those things would kind of fall through the cracks and that really, really bothered me as well because I’d always been kind of this person who was on top of all of it and when that started happening, your self-esteem just continues to drop. And so you just have all this negative self talk and you’re like, “What’s happening? Why can’t I do this?”
Jenn Schaal (18:36):
And those were definitely ways that I think ADHD came into play. And also just from your personality, I don’t know if this is an ADHD thing, but it feels like I’m pretty direct and you kind of take emotion out of it. I just feel like that is part of it. You’re just communicating something and I think people often misconstrue what you’re saying and how you’re saying it and put their own type of-
Lindsay Guentzel (19:11):
They’re adding context to what you said.
Jenn Schaal (19:14):
Absolutely. And I was not public about… Yes, if you were a social media friend certainly you would know, but my colleagues at work didn’t know. And I think that’s a really interesting discussion too because there’s pros and cons to both of those things. I definitely would want people to know in some ways because that might affect their reaction to me or how on top of me they are with getting information or getting responses, more understanding per se. But at the same time I think it also comes with a stigma and how people view you can change. So sort of this chicken/egg situation, because at work perhaps you could be having an issue and it becomes a performance issue and do you disclose, and if you disclose then certainly you’re a protected person, but that comes with other things.
Jenn Schaal (20:13):
So it’s a really personal thing to think about. As I’m looking and considering where I want to go next in my career that’s part of it too. I like to be a transparent person and there’s a lot of amazing things that come with ADHD too that I just think the rest of the world hasn’t necessarily come to terms with yet.
Lindsay Guentzel (20:38):
Or that they know that it’s connected to it.
Jenn Schaal (20:40):
Yes. But I was watching something, I can’t remember where it was, I think it was maybe on Instagram, but it was about someone who works with a client who’s like creative and they’re brilliant in their work and sought after from clients, et cetera, but they have an immediate kind of first email that goes out to prospective clients that’s like, “Hey, I’m going to knock this out of the park for you. This is an amazing project. I can’t wait to do this with you, but I also need you to understand some things about how I work. I might not get back to you immediately but I will always get back to you. I have ADHD,, these are the types of things that this causes me to do. Sometimes I work odd hours, sometimes I know a deadline, I’m maybe not going to be able to meet that because of X, Y, Z, but I’ll always communicate to you about that.”
Jenn Schaal (21:39):
Maybe those are the types of things that we need to do more of as we continue to move through this space because with knowledge comes power. And I don’t know, I love how more people are talking about it and normalizing it. I think about 20 years ago people didn’t want to talk about breast cancer because nobody wanted to say the word breast and now it’s like everybody talks about it and we know a lot about it and people aren’t dying as often from it because of that. And certainly people don’t die from ADHD, but just the fact of people knowing what it is, how it affects people, what you can do to support people that are working with ADHD, that’s so cool. Why wouldn’t we want to be inclusive of that? So I just want to for about a good 10 minutes.
Lindsay Guentzel (22:39):
I love it. I have a few things I do want to go back to. We call the tone in our house, and it’s directed at me but it is something we both use because my partner is also very supportive. My tone is not indicative of the way I’m feeling. And I kind of agree with you in the sense of I just need to get it out. We are having a conversation, something needs to be said, I’m just going to say it. And the adding context to it is so hard because all of a sudden you’re like, “I’m feeling nothing about the words I just said and you are adding emotion to them.” And it is, I think it’s hard. I think we just respond, we want to get things moving. Our brains are working so fast, it’s like get it out as quickly as possible. You mentioned taking medication. I know you were in therapy prior to being diagnosed with ADHD. What else have you done or added or changed that you see helping on a day to day basis?
Jenn Schaal (23:37):
Yes. So I actually found a new therapist, shout out to my old therapist, who we just kind of hit… we were at the end of what we were working on and so it was time for me to find a new one… and the therapist that I’m currently working with now is also an ADHD coach. I really liked her when we first met because she said, “Okay, we can go two tracks. We can do straight ADHD coaching, which is going to be very specific, very tangible, very here’s what you want to work on. Or, we can go the therapy route, which is also going to have aspects of ADHD coaching as well because of just the nature of what we do.” And so I opted for that second piece and it is so helpful to have a person who understands ADHD.
Jenn Schaal (24:28):
My parents, when I told them, no reaction. Still to this day, no reaction. I was in Wisconsin last week staying with my parents, brought up something about ADHD and it was like no questions, no nothing. And I was like, “Wow.” Meanwhile, I’ve just been reading everything I can get my hands on about people’s experiences as women or what are things that you can do to help yourself. And certainly medication and all the tools that we have, there is no one thing that’s going to solve it for you. You have to find the mix of those things at work. And for me, I know it’s going to be a better day if when I get up in the morning I do some type of movement. I’m grateful to have a dog that I can take out on a good couple mile walk, put in a podcast or listen to public radio in the morning, but just like a routine piece.
Jenn Schaal (25:27):
And when you get that body moving and get those fluids moving in your body, my brain really appreciates that. That’s one thing. Sleep, enough sleep, and I’m a solid eight every night and it has to be that way. That’s a huge piece. And then I think also being gentle with yourself too. We’re just trying to do it, trying to do the thing, and there’s no right way or wrong way. It’s easy to look back on the past and think, “Man, imagine if I would’ve known this in high school,” when everybody just told me everything that I was supposed to do and I did it and people made sure I got to the places I needed to go to and I really had no stake in any of that. I just was the person being moved around. But when I went to college and was suddenly on my own, that’s when everything just fell apart. And you think about those experiences and I’m grateful for those experiences because they are the reason I am who I am right now.
Jenn Schaal (26:41):
But I also think we’re humans, we think about what if, but if we can try to squash that as much as possible and think about, okay, but what now and what am I going to do with this and how am I going to work with it and use it as an advantage and not view it as a negative? I think that’s really helpful too because of the positive brain space. It takes too much energy to think about what could have been. Let’s move forward with it.
Lindsay Guentzel (27:14):
In my head I’m like, “Remember, not what if but what now?”
Jenn Schaal (27:17):
Was that my Oprah quote? I think it was my Oprah quote.
Lindsay Guentzel (27:22):
It is, and it’s so simple but it’s so true and it’s so hard to not live in the past. That has been such a struggle for me. Going back to the family thing, my sister, I interviewed her in one of the first episodes, and she had told me, “I didn’t think you had it, but I also didn’t know what it was.” And we have this outdated idea of what it is. And then once you start actually learning about the effects of an ADHD brain on day to day life, everything from executive functions and struggling with friendships, and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I could have really strong friendships with people I met one time.
Jenn Schaal (28:11):
Lindsay Guentzel (28:11):
Immediately, yes. But the upkeep, oh wait, so we met once and then I have to keep calling you?
Jenn Schaal (28:20):
Yep, it’s that out of sight out of mind thing.
Lindsay Guentzel (28:22):
Jenn Schaal (28:23):
But when you connect with somebody again it’s like no time is passed.
Lindsay Guentzel (28:27):
I mean literally, we probably haven’t seen each other in over 10 years.
Jenn Schaal (28:30):
Right, right, right. And it’s not a thing, it’s not a thing. I think, was it The New Kids on the Block? Outside? I think when we ran into you, I think it was like 2011.
Lindsay Guentzel (28:39):
Jenn Schaal (28:40):
But that’s just it, right? That’s the kind of acceptance you need from people too, that it’s not about you and it’s not about me, it’s about what’s happening here, and I don’t have any feelings about it. Like you said, I’m just saying the thing or doing the thing, there’s no emotion behind it whatsoever. That’s a really poignant thing to point out.
Lindsay Guentzel (29:03):
I think it’s just hard because I think everyone wants to add something. It’s like you send a tweet or you send a text and you’re like, “These are words, you are adding context to them.” And don’t get me wrong, I know there are words that actually have meaning, there are bad words that… I’m not going down that route, but I’m saying-
Jenn Schaal (29:19):
In the workplace or in your friendships. I’m not trying to take over the world. I just noticed this was a thing that was happening and we should probably fix it and it doesn’t have anything to do with me or my career, but it’s going to make my life easier and it’s going to make your life easier. Why don’t we just do it? There’s no motivation there, it’s just a thing.
Lindsay Guentzel (29:37):
Yes, yes. It’s gotten me into trouble though.
Jenn Schaal (29:39):
Lindsay Guentzel (29:40):
Same, yeah, it’s been brutal. I want to talk about what’s next and I know you left your job this summer and as you mentioned you’re kind of looking for what’s next, and you’re gauging what you see from other companies and how they’re working with people who work differently and where you see yourself fitting in. And so I would love to talk about the positives. Where are you seeing yourself thriving? And you mentioned you have this amazing routine, you’re having less cloudy days, those are things that are fantastic. But I also know that you probably view it a little differently. You view like you’re still this work in progress.
Jenn Schaal (30:21):
Lindsay Guentzel (30:21):
So where is the moments of positivity?
Jenn Schaal (30:29):
Well, I mean I think about what are the things you’re good at and that you like doing and being. I will say I think with ADHD also comes its innate ability to relate to people in deep and sincere ways. I think that’s a skill that I try to nourish. Maybe a muscle that you try to make stronger. But I have found that especially through the pandemic and the friendships that you’re able to keep up and stay with over this difficult time, just for everybody to stay connected, that things are deeper for me with people and I really appreciate that. I think that’s something that I want, to feel connected to people. And so as I think about what’s next for me, the culture is really important, and how do we embrace different kinds of people there and how do we celebrate and support different perspectives?
Lindsay Guentzel (31:39):
I’m laughing because you mentioned like, “Oh yeah, I leave jobs after three years.” I’m like, “Me too.” I want to work somewhere that I don’t want to leave once I get bored.
Jenn Schaal (31:47):
Yes, that’s what we all want. And most of my work has been kind of in business nonprofit too where it’s like there isn’t a next step. You just have to stay there for 30 years and hope someone retires or you also need to move out to move up. And I think for me too, when I think about what I want to do next, I love to solve problems.
Lindsay Guentzel (32:12):
You’re a helper, you always have been.
Jenn Schaal (32:13):
Lindsay Guentzel (32:13):
You really are.
Jenn Schaal (32:14):
But it’s like you come into an organization and you kind of see how things work. Nobody likes someone that’s too comfortable at the party too soon. No one wants to have that person. So you observe. You observe what’s happening. And this is also where comedy comes in handy too, because you observe. What’s the dynamic? What’s happening here? And then you start to see, okay, there’s a little hole I could plug into there or this is an interesting way of doing things. There’s some other ways we could also do it here too. And I think fresh eyes are really important, and then fresh eyes who also have ADHD who just adapt to new ideas and new things and get excited to plug those things into what’s happening also with the company and improve and make it better and efficient. And it’s never taking away from what anybody else is doing. It’s just like, “Hey, it seems like you’ve been doing it this way for a really long time, let’s try this other thing and see what happens. And if it doesn’t work, cool, we can go back to that.”
Jenn Schaal (33:23):
But just constantly trying to evolve. And I get really stuck when you are constantly bouncing up against a brick wall and nobody wants to change or do anything new and then it becomes really stagnant and that’s when I check out because it’s boring, and there’s nothing that’s like nourishing you or feeding you or you’re not learning anything new. When I jumped into this last job that I had, a lot of the technology wasn’t up to speed. And so I’m like, “We have all of this stuff why aren’t we using it?” And so I just did it. I just took it upon myself and set up our account teams and reorged the share file and everybody was like, “Oh my God, thank you, thank you.” It took me two days to do it because that’s just my thing. So that’s not someone coming in trying to change everything but it’s like, hey, I see there’s some things that are happening and we’re doing four steps for something that we could just have it be one.
Jenn Schaal (34:29):
And that’s kind of like a superpower that I think I have. But how do I translate that when I’m interviewing with people and saying this is what I can do for you? And I’ve found in this market too, it’s fascinating because, yes, Covid has certainly opened up opportunities across the country worldwide, we can work remote, but it also has opened up the candidate pool as well. And I kind of have compared it to online dating where you do the swipe and it’s like well this person’s cool but maybe there’s going to be a unicorn that comes next. So how do I take that ADHD experience and translate it into being a unicorn?
Lindsay Guentzel (35:18):
I also think there’s nothing worse than writing a resume. I would rather run a marathon without training, which is something I have done. How good could I have been at marathon running had I not-
Jenn Schaal (35:30):
But where did you finish, Lin? Because I have a feeling you did.
Lindsay Guentzel (35:33):
Well, I mean, I finished but it was not good. It was not good.
Jenn Schaal (35:39):
The marathon folks were like, “Get off the road,” and I was like, “I’m trying to finish this race.” And they’re like, “The wheelchair marathoners are coming through.” I was like, “Awesome, awesome, awesome.” So not only did I suck at this, but the wheelchair marathoners are beating me now too.
Lindsay Guentzel (35:53):
Yeah, they’re all going past you and you’re just like, “Oh okay.”
Jenn Schaal (35:55):
Lindsay Guentzel (35:56):
Yes, it is. I mean, it’s kind of like the scene from an Amy Schumer movie.
Jenn Schaal (35:59):
Lindsay Guentzel (36:00):
It’s just writing itself. I want to go back to, you mentioned you had been treated for anxiety and depression prior to your diagnosis, and I was the same. I can think of a number of times I sat in a doctor’s office and I filled out the form that makes you feel like crap. There’s the depression one, there’s the anxiety one-
Jenn Schaal (36:22):
How are you feeling in the last two weeks?
Lindsay Guentzel (36:24):
How are you feeling in the last two weeks? Do you feel hopeless? Do you feel like you’ve let everyone down? You’re like, “Yes, all the time, thank you.” And I think for so many women we’ve all been there, especially those of us who have been diagnosed with ADHD later in life. Do you think there is a point in life that you think that there was ever a miss, that someone saw it and didn’t say something?
Jenn Schaal (36:53):
That’s an interesting question. I think maybe because of my age 20 years ago when I… that’s generous of me… 26 years ago when I started college, I got a 1.56 GPA my first semester in college and I was a 4.0 student in high school. I was 10th in my class. I had a 32 on my ACTs. I came into college with 30 credits already, and what a shift that is.
Lindsay Guentzel (37:26):
And there was no red flag?
Jenn Schaal (37:29):
Lindsay Guentzel (37:30):
Literally, the exact same experience, and I don’t think I even met my advisor until I was being kicked out. I was being punished. But even in that, there was never a conversation like, “Hey, maybe you should go talk to somebody.”
Jenn Schaal (37:42):
Right. Academic probation, what?
Lindsay Guentzel (37:45):
Yeah, only the cool kids. I’m just teasing, it’s not a great thing. It’s not fun.
Jenn Schaal (37:50):
And I think about my parents and it’s like we didn’t have the language then to use for any of this, and especially for women I think, you can read all of the documentation, but we were taught to follow the rules. We were taught to behave, socialized, keep it together, emotional labor, whatever you want to call it this is what we do, we make the things happen. We do this. So I think that’s also a reason why it was hard to diagnose for us as kids. And maybe I didn’t have it as a kid, I don’t know. When did this all show up? What was the trigger? Who knows? That seems to be a very big red flag. I did definitely withdraw quite a bit at that time and that was the first time I went on to antidepressants and it did help quite a bit in that moment.
Jenn Schaal (38:49):
But I also think what else was happening? I don’t think the language yet existed in the mid-nineties for that, especially for women. We weren’t little boys bouncing off the walls. We were doing what we were supposed to do, but also no one cared what I did here at college. No one cared if I showed up to class. No one cared. So when I had someone who was organizing my life for me and getting me from point A to point B and I just had to show up and do the stuff, that’s a huge differentiation to moving to a different state, being completely responsible for yourself and not having had the training to do that or know what the tools are that you needed to do that. So, that seems to be the biggest miss for me. And then it was just a series of other things up until I took it upon myself to do that.
Jenn Schaal (39:49):
I don’t blame anybody for that. I really don’t, because like I said, I just don’t think we had… I think about when our parents were young, they didn’t have any of the stuff that we have now, mental health, processing your traumas, all of this. So I do feel really grateful to be here now and know the things I know now.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:11):
But what now?
Jenn Schaal (40:12):
But what now, yeah.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:15):
It’s your saying.
Jenn Schaal (40:17):
It’s my everyday question. I wake up, I look in the mirror, I say, “What now?”
Lindsay Guentzel (40:23):
I want to go back to the conversation we were having about your outlet in comedy, in live comedy, and you mentioned that you had been told you were a lot. I also was constantly told I was a lot by so many people. People who were not in any place to say that to me.
Jenn Schaal (40:43):
Lindsay Guentzel (40:45):
I ran across someone, a woman, the other day who was a lot. And I had this moment where I thought, “God, how wonderful that no one got to you. And I would love to hear how comedy became that outlet for you.
Jenn Schaal (41:00):
I think it was a defense mechanism for me in a lot of ways too, and for whatever I was feeling I could crack jokes and I never had to be vulnerable with people. I could just turn everything into something funny. Going through therapy also has helped identify a lot of these things too. It’s hard to explain because I have also mixed feelings about comedy too. Now it causes me a lot of anxiety to think about it because you’re writing very personal things and then getting up on stage and performing them, and depending on who the audience is it oftentimes can be a room full of comedians who give you no response to then getting that show ready for a paying audience of people who come to be made to laugh.
Jenn Schaal (42:08):
I don’t know if I really have words to describe it, but it’s an interesting path. But again, there is an element of, well, look at that, because I really started to have things happening for me kind of 2013, 2014, and I was getting calls for auditions for things and TV and festivals and stuff like that, which was really amazing. But also I had this incredible imposter syndrome that was like what do you think you’re doing? You’re so hacky, why are you doing this? You’re a garbage person, this negative self talk that exists. And again, there’s the craft part of it where you have to focus on writing new jokes and then that would cause me a lot of anxiety because I felt like I never had enough new material and everybody else was having all this new material, and that generated this self doubt in myself as well.
Jenn Schaal (43:08):
And then I really had a big emotional breakdown late 2014 and something had to give for me because I was… like we talked about, when you have too many spinning plates in the air. I always had a full-time career, day job, and then I always had this full-time night career, comedy. And you have your coworkers in the day and you have your coworkers at night and many of those people are great people and many of those people you want to spend time with them. But also, the people that you’ve chosen to have part of your life suddenly I had no time for them so I was really unhappy. I thought, “What do I want to do here? I can’t give up my day job because that’s how I’m able to live and support myself. Let’s take a break from comedy.”
Jenn Schaal (44:05):
I think that catalyst was also part of that self journey to get me to the place where I was in 2020 to be able to know myself well enough to say, “Hey, these are some weird things that are happening that didn’t always happen this way, or maybe I’m just noticing them now, but I know myself well enough to know this. Let’s look into it.” Because I had the time, I had to sit with myself, I had to get to know me during that break from comedy. I focused a lot on myself, I got a lot of myself back in those years following that. I think maybe if I hadn’t had that, who knows where I would be now. But in comedy it’s all pretty on the spot. You’re telling jokes on stage and you’re reacting to what’s happening in the audience. It’s taught me a lot to think quickly on my feet but I also think ADHD does that too. Right?
Jenn Schaal (45:05):
You have a response for everything. I also trust what’s going to come out of my mouth, for the most part, I would say for the most part. If I’ve had alcohol, maybe not. The adaptability piece of ADHD is really helpful in that you have to be able to take up space and address what’s happening and if someone says something to you, you need to react to it because you want to keep those people with you. So it all does play into it. But I think had I not gone through that experience and had the breakdown and then really just took some time to focus on myself, even though it took five years to get there, maybe I wouldn’t be in this spot right now, so I’m grateful for that.
Lindsay Guentzel (45:56):
It’s like a very high pressure, very public people pleasing scenario.
Jenn Schaal (46:01):
And when you fall off, no one hears, because it’s also like ladder rungs. Right?
Lindsay Guentzel (46:08):
Yes, it’s cutthroat. There’s someone right behind-
Jenn Schaal (46:10):
Yeah, sweet, she’s out of the way, climb up.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:11):
Exactly. I’ve felt that in my line of work too. If I don’t show up, even if it’s not something I want to do, they’re just going to put the person who is waiting behind me in that spot and I can’t let that happen.
Jenn Schaal (46:21):
And I’m not in a place to say no to anything.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:24):
Oh, it’s exhausting.
Jenn Schaal (46:25):
How many times have you said that? All the time.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:27):
All the time.
Jenn Schaal (46:27):
Sorry I can’t go to your wedding, I have to do this show because if I don’t do this show then this booker won’t book me again. But I’m going to be sad when I’m at the show because I’m going to watch your wedding on Facebook.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:37):
I’m going to have FOMO and I’m going to think about it and I’m going to internalize it and debate it for a really long time. Have a great wedding.
Jenn Schaal (46:43):
And if I was at your wedding I’d be mad that I wasn’t working.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:47):
Jenn Schaal (46:48):
Lindsay Guentzel (46:49):
I want to wrap this up by asking you, and you did touch on some of these, but when you think of where things stand right now with ADHD awareness, what is the one message you want to leave? What is the thing that stands out to you whether it’s something small that people should be more aware of or more empathetic to, or if it’s a message to somebody who has a similar story?
Jenn Schaal (47:15):
Oh, that’s a good question. I would say this. If you even have had the thought, do the test. There’s all these online resources that you can access that give you an idea. And if you think that’s even a possibility or a thing, what do you have to lose? Right? I would say there’s that. I think outside of that too, I would just say, listen people, we’ve all got things that we bring to the table. We bring different things to the table and the more that we can see and understand each other for who we are and where we’re at, and we all carry so many things that nobody sees, it’s not that hard to just treat people with respect. Check your ego. Check your own insecurities, because I think the source of all conflict is really that. And everyone should have a therapist, that’s what I also think too.
Lindsay Guentzel (48:20):
Oh yes, everyone should have a therapist, all on board for that. I could keep talking forever. The unfortunate part is that being someone with ADHD, I have literally my whole day is scheduled minute by minute, which is something I am working on. Thank you for this.
Jenn Schaal (48:37):
Lindsay Guentzel (48:37):
It was so lovely to catch up.
Jenn Schaal (48:37):
Lindsay Guentzel (48:39):
And like I said, I have been watching from afar and I’m always-
Jenn Schaal (48:43):
I’m so proud of you though, I just want you to know that.
Lindsay Guentzel (48:43):
And likewise. Honestly, I’ve always really, really respected your candor and your ability to own it.
Jenn Schaal (48:54):
Lindsay Guentzel (48:55):
And it’s not easy.
Jenn Schaal (48:55):
Lindsay Guentzel (48:56):
You put it out there, and I know that you put a lot out there with humor attached to it, but you put it out there in a way that is funny but it’s also very clear how serious it is to you.
Jenn Schaal (49:06):
Well, and truly I mean it when I remember seeing your LinkedIn post and it’s not easy to come out with that stuff. And especially when you’re viewed as someone who is a go getter and has it all together and is constantly in motion. We all need to take a minute and just recalibrate. And I’m really proud of you for also owning that too, because it’s not, like you said, it’s not easy and it’s hard to be vulnerable. But I think vulnerability is strength and the more you talk about something the easier it becomes and it becomes easier for other people to talk about it too. And this is just an amazing thing that you’re doing here with this podcast and the relationship that you have with the organizations that you’re working with. Keep doing that. We need more people like you.
Lindsay Guentzel (50:02):
Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you, thank you. I truly mean that. That’s very kind of you. I like to give compliments, I don’t like to receive them.
Jenn Schaal (50:08):
I know, I know, I know.
Lindsay Guentzel (50:10):
All right, Jenn, it was amazing, thank you.
Jenn Schaal (50:12):
Thanks, Lindsay, thank you.
Lindsay Guentzel (50:32):
The biggest of thanks to Jenn Schaal for joining me on Refocused Together. I’ve shared links to her social media in the show description for you to check out. The thanks continue in a big way to the entire ADHD online team, Zach Booker, Dr. Randall Duthler, Tim Gutwald, Keith Brophy. My teammates, Keith Boswell, Suzanne Spruit, Claudia Gotti, Melanie Mile, Paul Owen, Kirsten Pip, Sissy Yi, Tricia Merchant Dunny, Lauren Radley, Corey Kearney, and Mason Nelly and the team at Dexia. Cameron Sterling and Candace Lefke, Camilla Eden, Lauren Terry, Sarah Gelbard, Phil Roderman, and Sarah Platanitis.
Lindsay Guentzel (51:12):
Thanks to Hector and Kenneth and the team at Snack Media for managing the Minneapolis production. Our theme music was created by Luis Ingles, a songwriter and composer based in Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39.
Lindsay Guentzel (51:29):
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 @lindsayguentzel and @refocusedpod.
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