John Smith and TikTok



Like many, John discovered his ADHD during the pandemic. Everything slowed down, but he kept going, and that was his clue. But he doesn’t let his adulthood diagnosis keep him or his mood down, and he shares his joy with us in this episode of Refocused, Together.

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Lindsay Guentzel (00:01):

Welcome to Refocused Together. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and this is a special ADHD Awareness Month series of my podcast Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel.

Lindsay Guentzel (00:12):

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 of ADHD Awareness Month, welcome. We are so glad to have you.

Lindsay Guentzel (00:31):

Now, there are parts of this ADHD journey that some of us have figured out and there are parts that we all still need help cracking. 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.

Lindsay Guentzel (00:54):

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. 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.

Lindsay Guentzel (01:24):

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 and I am forever changed by these conversations. And of course, I cannot wait for you to meet my guests and get to know them.

Lindsay Guentzel (01:43):

Be sure to subscribe to Refocused 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.

John Smith (02:11):

My name is John Smith. I am by trade an athletic trainer and I work for Nationwide Children’s, which is the first children’s hospital I’ve worked with in my career. And it has been amazing to work with a children’s hospital.

Lindsay Guentzel (02:29):

John D. Smith never felt 100% that he fit in, constantly like he needed to be anyone but himself. He struggled in school, seemed to always be in motion and would dive deep into the things that interested him often at the expense of the things that actually needed to get done. All of this continued as he grew older. Though John was getting better at hiding his quirks in plain sight. He did what all great undiagnosed ADHD brains do. He mimicked those around him. He thought that was just how everyone got through, going through the obstacle course of life with a mind that was a constant loop of memories and rumination. There was one thing that did help him more than anything else. John knew from an early age that the key to success was always having someone to support him and keeping as much structure in his life as possible.

Lindsay Guentzel (03:26):

A handful of years ago, John and his wife, a kindergarten teacher, started having the conversation about him possibly having undiagnosed ADHD, and then the pandemic hit. And John took that as his cue to explore an actual diagnosis. ADHD Online helped him, a veteran athletic trainer of more than 20 years and the sports medicine outreach manager at a children’s hospital, discover that he had primarily inattentive ADHD. John can recall the minute he knew his medication had started working, how amazing it felt, how amazing he felt. And in what may sound surprising to those who have never felt it, how lonely it was after those first few days, the first he had ever experienced with a quiet mind. I am so honored to introduce you to John Smith. And yes, that is his real name.

Lindsay Guentzel (04:27):

It’s a little scary when you sign on to do 31 interviews and then you meet somebody like John Smith. And first off, you worry that it’s a fake name because it’s John Smith. But then you meet him and you realize there are people out there who are so willing to tell their story and are excited about it. And so I’m so excited to bring John into the conversation. Thank you for joining us on Refocused Together for ADHD Awareness Month.

John Smith (04:53):

My pleasure. And thank you for having me. I mean, yes, I have a lot of that. Is that fake name? Every professor I ever had at the University of Akron was, “Do you really sign your name in when you go to hotels with that?” Yes. Yes, I do.

Lindsay Guentzel (05:07):

It’s great. I appreciate it because it’s one that I know and I don’t have to work on. So kudos to your parents.

John Smith (05:15):

I understand. That’s a good thing.

Lindsay Guentzel (05:17):

I’m asking everybody to start at the beginning. And the one thing that’s so interesting about ADHD and where we are right now in 2022 is that everyone’s diagnosis story is so different. So I’m hoping you can just take us back to not only your diagnosis, but what led up to you thinking about getting a diagnosis or seeking out an assessment?

John Smith (05:40):

It is interesting because my whole life I just never felt 100% I fit in. I was always the kid that was thinking in my head, “I had superpowers. I would have this superpowers so I could do this.” And it never felt like I fit in, but it always felt like I could find a way to fit in. And just kind of that body doubling and those, as I’ve actually listened to the podcast over the last, since it started, I have a lot of the terminology now.

John Smith (06:08):

And it was just always an interesting time. I mean, there were times during my high school time, like just one time I’m sitting in French class and all of a sudden I hear the teacher saying this question, and all of a sudden I see everybody just staring at me and had realized that I had just answered the question without the teacher finishing it and nobody else had a chance to. So it’s just things like those, through all of those years.

John Smith (06:30):

And then every job I had, I felt like the thing I would think is, okay, if I can jump into this job and get out in five years, they won’t knew who I really am and I can get out and I can do a great job and I’ll just continue to have a great reputation as athletic trainer and just keep moving forward with that. And every time, it was four, five-ish years and then the last job before coming to Nationwide, it was 15, but things changed so much in the first 10 years. I was building a program, we were making great strides and changes in sports medicine, and it always just felt weird because I just always felt like I couldn’t get things done. I just figured it was because I was doing so much.

John Smith (07:12):

And then the pandemic came and things started to change really interestingly. And thinking to myself, okay, now everything is calm down, everything is stopped, now my head is going to… the first time in my life. I mean, I was an athlete, I was in all sorts of things during college and just one thing after another after another. But now I can’t do anything so I can get my life organized, which of course you understand. We’ve done that over and over and over and over and over again in our lives. But this time everything stopped. However, my brain didn’t stop and it just continued to go and go and go and go. And I was like, “There’s something wrong.” And started getting on TikTok more like a lot of other people.

John Smith (07:53):

And then at that point I started seeing one gentleman and I can’t remember his name, but he’s from Europe, somewhere in Europe. And he just kept doing these five things, you may have ADHD if you… You may have this, that, those other things. And my wife, who’s a teacher and was a special ed teacher for a long time, has been a kindergarten teacher now for I think 15, at least 15 years. We had talked about it through the years, but just never kind of coalesced. And then this happened and my brain just continued to fight me, so to speak. And then started seeing this TikToks. And then Lisa, my wife said, “You know what? Why don’t you just get online? There’s ADHD Online. Why don’t you go ahead and try this? Just see what comes back.” Because I also dragged my heels for about four months because I didn’t know if I really wanted to go on meds. I didn’t know about therapy. You know kid of the ’80s, therapy’s not a thing. You can just deal with it.

John Smith (08:53):

And so the therapy, I have not gotten to yet. But diagnosis-wise, so I took the online assessment. Great assessment. It took me about three days because I kept saving and going back. Came back, I had ADHD inattentive type, which of course wasn’t a thing when I was growing up because ADHD was all the kids bouncing off the wall. And of course my wife had talked to her sister about it and said, “Hey, John and I have been talking.” And she was like, “He can’t. There’s no way. He’s been too successful. He’s been the president of a state organization and so on and so on.” So diagnosis came, met with a doctor who was phenomenal. He and I just sat there and it just felt congenial and just felt so comfortable. Got on my meds and that’s kind of where my diagnosis went. And I do… There’s a story I share about meds, if you’d like me to share that now.

Lindsay Guentzel (09:42):

Please. Absolutely.

John Smith (09:43):

Okay. I remember the very first day I took my meds. And the reason I remember it is, so I had read up on it. One of my hyperfocused moments is I research everything to the end of everything. So I had researched what’s it going to feel like, how are these things going to change, and all that.

John Smith (10:01):

20 minutes after taking my first half pill, I’m sitting in my office, and one of our athletic trainers and I, she was standing in the doorway and I was just talking and all of a sudden I just felt this curtain just kind of… And literally felt it, saw it, everything just kind of come down over my face. And I realized that I’m actually listening to her now. I’m actually here.

John Smith (10:23):

And she and I had had conversations like that multiple times. Friday mornings are quiet. She’s in early, I’m in early, I’m doing work, she’s getting ready for patients. All of a sudden I realize now I’m actually listening to her, the way my wife and I like to describe it now. So last year she had 24 kindergartners, 24 five-year-olds, lot to take care of.

Lindsay Guentzel (10:45):

Bless her.

John Smith (10:47):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (11:22):

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

John Smith (11:37):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (12:16):

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

John Smith (12:39):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (12:46):

So you have that moment and then there’s the kind of that loneliness that creeps in. And what were the next few days like? What were the next couple of weeks like?

John Smith (12:57):

It was amazing. It really was. Just being able to have that singularly focused. Now I’m still working on with a lot of things as we all know, but that singular focus. One of the big things that I didn’t realize through my lifetime was I knew that I had always struggled with food and weight and up, down, up, down, diet this, diet that, and had done that. I realized that one of my biggest voices, the one who was probably the politician in my head kindergartner was telling me I needed to eat. So with my job, I go to a lot of different… We have a whole bunch of high schools to contract with. So I go out and see our athletic trainers.

John Smith (13:33):

And so I was out and generally if I’m out, I know that I’m not going to be home until 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 at night. So I would always get something to eat. So I was between schools and I thought to myself, “Okay, here’s how I normally thought. I’m going to stop at Wendy’s because I like Wendy’s the best and I stop. And so, you know what, all I need, because this is what I like. I like junior bacon cheeseburger. I can get a small fry. I like unsweetened tea, so I’m just going to get a large unsweetened tea in that.”

John Smith (14:00):

So this is how I normally thought. I would get to where the menu is. And then 10 feet beyond that is the speaker. I get to the menu and normally what I would think is, “Okay, this is what I’m going to get.” And between that and the speaker, I would start saying, “Okay, well, I’m not going to get home until this time, so I better probably get a bigger burger and maybe a larger fry. But you know what? I like the bigger burger, but I like the bacon cheeseburger. So I would do that and I would have… Let’s get a larger fry. Let’s just make it up… You know what? I’m going to get the bacon cheeseburger too and I’m just going to get it all.” And by the end I had it all. I had a huge burger, I had a bacon cheeseburger, I had a large fry, and oftentimes a second fry, and a large tea, and oftentimes I’m driving a long way because I still go back up. My wife still lives up in the Cleveland areas on weekend, so I’m still going home. So I’ll have a second tea too.

John Smith (14:49):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (15:32):

Oh my gosh, John, that’s incredible.

John Smith (15:35):

Yeah. And it was real interesting, real at first, but I eat slow. I actually taste food and it’s just such an amazing thing now to be able to think and not just all the time like this. Now, we both know it goes crazy. And there’s only one more… Actually there’s one more story.

John Smith (15:55):

So we have the up and down when we’re not under stimulants. And so I was driving home on a Friday night. It’s a long drive, two, two and a half hours depending on what school I’m at. And so I get home and my wife’s on the phone with her sister and oftentimes I would probably get a little frustrated because all I want to do is I just want to talk to her. I haven’t talked to her in person in days. So I come in, I go to the fridge, I get a piece of cheese. I’m a cheeseaholic, unfortunately. I get a piece of cheese and I just go sit down. I don’t think anything of it. And no stress, no feeling of anxiousness, no feeling of, “Oh my gosh, Lisa, just get off the phone please. I just want to talk with you.”

John Smith (16:33):

And then she gets off the phone. This is almost as powerful as the meds the first day. She says, “It was so amazing. I didn’t have that rush of energy that I know that I needed off the phone so I can talk with you.” And I didn’t have that. It was like having Camp John back. And what I mean by Camp John is we met as camp counselors at Camp Ho Mita Koda up in Newbury. That is the perfect job for me, for a neurodivergent, for someone who has ADHD because there’s always dopamine going on. There’s always something changing.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:06):

And there’s structure.

John Smith (17:08):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (17:31):

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

John Smith (17:43):

Yes. Right.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:44):

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

John Smith (18:03):

Yes, absolutely.

Lindsay Guentzel (18:04):

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

John Smith (18:27):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (19:02):

I also think too, with the throwing it away. I think there’s something in our brains when we spend money on something. All of our hobbies or anything that we hyper focus on or we go and we’re a little bit manic and all of a sudden it’s there and we can’t return it. It’s like, well, I can’t let it go to waste, because that’s when the shame starts to creep in.

Lindsay Guentzel (19:24):

And it’s this vicious cycle of realizing, “No, I don’t need that,” or “No, I don’t need to order all of that.” But when you do, being okay saying, “That 10 or $20, whatever it is, now again, obviously there’s a limit where we need to cap it.” That is worth letting go to avoid the shame. And that’s the hard part because the shame creeps in regardless. It’s like knowing to go, “Yeah, no, I’m not going to beat myself up about the fabric I’ve purchased that I’ve just taken kind of straight to the donation bin.” But all those things that you don’t realize are your support systems.

John Smith (20:04):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (20:24):

It felt good, didn’t it?

John Smith (20:25):

It did.

Lindsay Guentzel (20:27):

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

John Smith (20:28):

It does, absolutely.

Lindsay Guentzel (20:31):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (21:06):

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

John Smith (21:52):

Went right back to… Honestly, the one thing I loved about camp was also you could dress however you want and you were always in shorts. But I was always in the 1980s coaches polyester blue shorts because that was also the athletic training shorts that we kind of wore. So I went right back into my head of wearing my blue shorts with my hiking boots, untied of course, with the camp t-shirt of some sort, standing out by the pool, hanging out over our ropes course. I was one of the ropes course teachers for the camp. And standing out there just with the kids and just the rush of joy. I mean, that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way. But just the rush of joy and feeling like that’s where I belong, that was so… Yeah, that was an amazing moment, feeling that whole thing.

John Smith (22:42):

And then, I mean, the year that Lisa and I found each other, so to speak, we also played a lot of pranks on each other all summer. So it also brought me right back to the moment of me throwing dry pasta in her sleeping bag and her not knowing for another 25 years it was me that did it. So yeah. It was just pure feeling of being a part of something that I felt like I belonged. And I guess I never 100% felt like that until that moment. So that’s interesting. Thanks for bringing that all back. That was great.

Lindsay Guentzel (23:17):

No. Again, every time I speak to somebody who has ADHD, it feels a little like a combination between getting coffee with your best friend and therapy because… I mean, you touched it a little bit, but I did not know or hadn’t really realized, and again, I’m only a year and a half into my own journey, but how much emotional dysregulation is a thing with ADHD. And so when you described coming into the house and being irritated and wanting her off the phone and wanting her attention, that brings up a lot of feelings for me of moments when…

Lindsay Guentzel (23:51):

I had one the other day where something I purchased to help me wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. I couldn’t get support on the phone. I mean, it was like four hours in and everyone was uncomfortable by how upset I was. They were like, “It’s no big deal.” And I was like, “It’s a big deal.” And I can switch it off. I was like, “All right, I’m putting it away.” And that’s a new thing of being able to say like, “These emotions aren’t where I need to be right now,” and moving past them. But I’m working on not getting to that point.

John Smith (24:20):

Yes. Good for you. That’s great. Absolutely. I am 100% feeling that as well. It’s amazing how you are able to just change that.

John Smith (24:31):

And my parents just actually moved back up from Texas to Columbus area, so I’m living with them now. I never thought at 51 I’d be living with them. But it’s amazing. I haven’t told them and I’m not probably going to because there’s just a lot of baggage that goes along with what’s going to come out with my parents on that.

John Smith (24:51):

But living with my dad, it’s amazing. There are definitely stories. He’s always been a very mild mannered, very gentle man. But I really do think he has ADHD. And that is what’s really interesting is he will turn on that heat on top of a salesperson on the other side of the phone or a help person and he just can’t turn it off. It’s so interesting to see it on [inaudible 00:25:13] my end now, how I’m going through my journey since May, June of this year. So that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that as well. It’s just like getting coffee. I love it.

Lindsay Guentzel (25:24):

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

John Smith (26:00):

Absolutely, yes.

Lindsay Guentzel (26:02):

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

John Smith (26:20):

Oh, I agree. And I agree 100%. And actually listening to you talking about your dad through the podcasts and just hearing those different things, I’ve been very intentional with my dad on Friday mornings. So I’ll just not go… Because I like to be in at work at 7:00 or earlier so I can make sure I have enough time to get everything done that I think I can get done during the day. But on Fridays, I’m very intentional. Last week I made breakfast for both of us and we sat out on the deck and just ate and talked and it was amazing. It really was. And I agree, it’s been really nice having that time with him. Because they were back in Texas for 25 years, while Lisa and I were living our lives up here. My sister was living her life up here. And I agree. I really do.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:04):

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

John Smith (27:20):

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

John Smith (28:06):

And then Lisa, who is again amazing and very smart, says, “I know you like to get started on everything as soon as you get up. So you just want to go,” and which is of course a fun thing about our mind. But sit down and do your planning first and then go from there and then you’ll have a plan. And I’ve been doing that. And again, not 100% of the time. I’m getting to building those systems, but it works. And that’s probably my biggest thing. And that’s what I wanted to kind of do is I wanted to start working on the organization. I’m looking into getting with a coach and start working with an ADHD coach, someone who is trained for that.

John Smith (28:43):

The other thing, I just joined a gym, which I know a lot of us join gyms all the time, but it’s right around from work and I have where it’s going to fit into the system. And it’s those systems building those systems that I think that’s going to continue to help me. I think having a coach… And I think that was on this week’s podcast. That you were talking about going back to school and you had the young lady that had started the… I can’t remember it, but it was great. But that just started making me think again about I need to get these systems in place.

John Smith (29:13):

So that’s really what I’ve been working on, especially over the last two months. That first month, month and a half, two months was like, “Oh my gosh, I just have to figure out what I need to work on.” And now I’ve started going into that. I think therapy is going to be a part of that. I’m just not ready to unpack that yet.

Lindsay Guentzel (29:30):

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

John Smith (30:11):

Absolutely. There’s no doubt about that. And I will say I’ve always been a big proponent of… Every year of my life has been better. 51 has been no different than 50 except for the fact it’s just getting better. And it’s really how I’ve always… When I finally made up my mind of this is just going to be positive, it really has made a big difference. But that fortunately, that’s been… I have ingrained that into myself honestly. I honestly, I blame it on family ties and those TV shows from the ’80s that I brought myself up on, of you got to be positive and you got to be good and all of that. So I blame it kind of on that. But every day is better. Every day is just in a more opportunity to make ourselves better and everybody around us. And I think that that’s… And I lost my train of thought there too.

Lindsay Guentzel (31:07):

No, that’s also ADHD. It’s having a conversation with somebody and thinking what your next thought is and trying to listen to what they’re saying, but also remembering where you are hoping to go. And it’s a lot. It’s a lot to hold in one place.

John Smith (31:22):

Oh, credit cards, that’s what it was. Yes. So yes, there are a lot of opportunities that I wish I’d never had a credit card, unfortunately a lot of times. And they were very predatory about that. Sitting on a college campus, not a good thing for us.

Lindsay Guentzel (31:41):

No, not a good thing for us. And I also think in so many ways that just wasn’t talked about. There wasn’t a class about like, “Hey, these are the things you’re going to want to do as an adult.” I came from the generation of, “You can be whatever you want to be,” and we really clung to that. And now I’m meeting people who are like, “Oh no, I got a job so that I can retire early.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s an interesting path that hadn’t been presented to me.”

John Smith (32:08):

Yes, that would’ve been a nice one. That’s actually, it’s funny. My son just graduated from Ohio University a year and a half ago and one of his last classes he took was about finance and learning about finance. And now he’s over in South Korea serving in the army as a second lieutenant and he’s saving money. And when he gets out, if he chooses only four years or even 20 years, he’s going to have money. And I also believe that he’s probably undiagnosed right now. And I feel very bad about that. As an athletic trainer, you’re taking care of everybody all the time. And if I knew now what I knew, if I knew then what I know now, he could have been in a much different place. But he’s amazing and he’s doing so good.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:03):

I’m sorry that that makes you emotional. I know that must be really hard as a parent.

John Smith (33:06):

It’s a good thing because I know that we can’t be perfect as parents, but he and our daughter, they’re amazing. And I really think he’s going to do great things, both of them. She’s going to be a nurse, so.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:23):

I’m shocked that you have two children who are also helpers. My goodness. Coming from you and your wife who’s a kindergartner teacher.

John Smith (33:30):


Lindsay Guentzel (33:32):

Have you taken the Enneagram before?

John Smith (33:34):

I have not, no.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:36):

Okay. Well, I will just tell you, you’re a two. You don’t even have to take it. You’re a helper. I mean…

John Smith (33:40):

Oh, thank you.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:40):

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

John Smith (34:03):

Absolutely. One of the things I’ve struggled with in my leadership roles has always been either I’m too nice or I’m too harsh. And I really very rarely go to the harsh part of that. So a lot of times I’m just too nice because I can’t stand back and it’s just, I want to be helpful, I want to be there, I want to make everything. One of the personality tests I did say, as we described it, it was the kumbaya person, and that’s who I am.

John Smith (34:31):

And what I’m really thriving with right now, perfect example, I had a meeting with my boss yesterday about a situation, not anything bad, just kind of trying to talk through things. And I was able to step back from… And I was like, “Oh, I see exactly what happened here and I see exactly how we need to move in this different way without going way too high positive or way too low negative.” And just being able to stand back and just listen to what was going on. I think my leadership just over the last two months, just being able to notice that, that I can step back and be pragmatic, but still have positive intent. I think that’s really… I’m thriving very much in that.

John Smith (35:15):

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

John Smith (35:46):

I also think because I feel more healthy, right? I am thriving in the fact that I feel like I can walk better. I feel like I can… So my whole positivity is even better, which makes my leadership better. The organization is where I’m going to still continue to work. But yeah, I think that’s where I’m thriving the most. It really is, is being able to step back and actually look at the whole picture without having to dive into one spot as soon as I see that problem. I strive to be an excellent leader. I think I’m a good leader right now. And I think this is just going to continue that journey on that striving to be better.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:18):

I want to ask you something because I’m maybe connecting dots in my own life to yours. And so I’m just curious. So let’s pretend that I’m an athletic trainer and you are working with me, and you see something that I’m doing that I could be doing better or something that I’m doing that is not right. Do you view that conversation… If you were to say, “Okay, I’m going to go to Lindsay and I just want to make a suggestion,” do you view that as confrontation?

Lindsay Guentzel (36:44):

And the reason I ask is because… So you don’t address it because it’s confrontation and we don’t know how to just say things in a way that is even-keeled. There’s always perception added to it. And we’re worried about that and we’re worried about the aftermath and what’s going to happen next. And so we lose sight of the moment of just saying like, “Hey, Lindsay, this is an easy way to fix what’s happening right there. And you can’t control how I’m going to respond to it, but I’ve done this where I don’t have those conversations and then I’m up here. I let it sit, I let it sizzle.” And that’s when that, what you kind of described, the angry, loud leader comes out. And it’s just so interesting how we bottle things up, the emotions. We are constantly trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. And so I was just curious if when I say that, if that sparks anything?

John Smith (37:41):

Absolutely. Well, if you don’t say anything, it’ll go away…

Lindsay Guentzel (37:46):


John Smith (37:46):

… eventually, right? It’ll go…

Lindsay Guentzel (37:47):

Except for it doesn’t always.

John Smith (37:50):


Lindsay Guentzel (37:51):

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

John Smith (37:54):

Exactly. Absolutely. Or it does go away and they just don’t talk to you anymore. Or it does go away because they leave. I’ve actually been very fortunate in my leadership journey and I’ve had the ability to really work with people pretty well and they don’t leave a lot. But the times that people have left, I’ve felt very… it was my fault type of thing, even if it wasn’t. But I know early on in my leadership, absolutely I would just let things go away because it makes sense. I don’t want to deal with it. You’re absolutely correct, that confrontation. And we’re already five steps ahead of that knowing it’s going to happen exactly like this, even though it doesn’t usually do that. Absolutely. I agree with you 100%.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:41):

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

John Smith (39:11):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (39:40):

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

John Smith (40:22):

Exactly. Exactly. And that’s what I never understood. I never understood. I mean, one of my big stories on that is early right after we move… We moved around Ohio for a couple of times. Moved back to the Cleveland area, that’s where my wife grew up. And so we moved back to that area and it was early on in my career up north there and at the high school I was at, so money was a little tighter. Lisa had just gone back to working. We had planned that she wasn’t, but then she got a phenomenal opportunity to be a teacher again, which is phenomenal because she’s such a blessed teacher. Those kids are so blessed to have her.

John Smith (40:57):

Anyway, so we went to Chick-fil-A and we… So it’s me and our son Jack and Grace in the back. And Grace was probably five or six, I think. And so we were pulling around and money was tight and this was kind of a treat. So I was taking it home and I got the drinks and I gave them to Grace in the back. And I said, “Honey, whatever you do, just don’t spill those,” because she was sitting. It was a small little kind of sporty-ish, not expensive, but sporty-ish looking car. And so I pull out and I get to start to go onto the road and all of a sudden I have to hit… I stop real hard and then the drinks just explode across the whole back of the car and it was… I turned around, I just start, “Grace, what in the heck did you…” And ever since, I have thought about that moment.

John Smith (41:52):

And I just shared that with… We had a very neat talk, Grace and Jack and Lisa and I, before Jack went overseas. And I think it may have even been the day that he was leaving, of course, that day he had packed and we were still packing. We had to get him to the airport by 4:00 that morning, 4:00 AM the next morning. We were still packing at 3:00 because he had packed… Of course, he had all sorts of fun stuff with him and it was good, and it’s how he packs. So I told her that night that to this day… And they know. They also know that I’ve been diagnosed. “To this day, Grace, I have always felt and felt bad about that.” And no one had ever heard that from me before. Even Lisa hadn’t heard that story from me before. It’s just why do we hold onto things so hard? Because like you said, the people around us can move on and that’s just so hard for us. Which it’s also a superpower because we can remember those stupid little things as well.

Lindsay Guentzel (42:50):

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

John Smith (43:01):

Yes, yes it is.

Lindsay Guentzel (43:02):

Once it’s in there, it’s… Let’s talk about what’s pushing you forward. And you obviously have such lovely energy and are super positive and you’ve talked a lot about what you’re excited about and working on your organization and working on becoming a better leader. But when you look down the path of the next six or 12 months, what is really exciting for you?

John Smith (43:31):

I think probably the most exciting thing is just to continue down this journey and find out how much of a superhero I really am and see. Because when I was a kid, like I said, I’m a superhero. But honestly that’s actually part of it is just to continue to find out who I am. When I was a kid in the ’80s, my parents, they would say, “People are finding themselves. What does that mean? I know who I am.” I have never known who I am. Lindsay, I have never known to this timeframe until I was almost 51 years old. I’ve always been body doubling someone. I’ve always felt like I just wasn’t going to be good enough for someone, even though I had this amazing woman.

John Smith (44:14):

And I told her, we just had recently had that conversation, “There were many times through our 30 years together, I just didn’t think I was good enough.” And then it would go away relatively quickly because I know we’re a partnership and a woman I’ve never had a fight with. We’ve never always agreed about everything, but we don’t fight. And I know that our relationship is so strong, but just that ability to figure out who I am now and really move forward and really be, because I like…

John Smith (44:43):

And I send a picture of me being Santa. That is one of the things I love more than anything. And I’m going to be a better Santa now. And it’s just such a privilege to be able to play Santa. And now going forward, I’m just going to be better for that. And that’s what I’m looking forward to over the next six, 12… The rest of my life, figuring out who I really am. The next 50 years of my life that I plan on living, figuring out who I am and how I can be better for everybody around me and really being able to play Santa as best I can, especially when my beard is finally all white and my hair may go all white eventually.

Lindsay Guentzel (45:19):

Well, the beard’s going white.

John Smith (45:20):

Yeah, it is.

Lindsay Guentzel (45:22):

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

John Smith (45:33):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (45:49):

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

John Smith (45:56):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (46:01):

That’s incredible. I love that. And I will say, as a kid, we had a great town Santa, and he would make house calls or you’d see him at…

John Smith (46:12):

Oh, good.

Lindsay Guentzel (46:14):

… town festivals and stuff during winter. And it did make you feel special, especially when he remembered your name because it was a small town.

John Smith (46:21):

Oh, that’s cool.

Lindsay Guentzel (46:23):

So great. So great.

John Smith (46:26):

Yes. Long story. I started as a Santa on stage. My daughter dance from three till she was 18. The studio owner got into a bind and needed a Santa, asked me. I’ve been Santa since 2011 and I’ve always wanted to do that, so it kind of… And I mean, Mrs. [inaudible 00:46:44], she’s just an amazing woman and she got me on stage and I just feel very comfortable on stage. I think that that’s something for us as well that we’re able to do those things. But it is the most amazing thing.

John Smith (46:57):

I know the very first time that I did a gig outside of being on stage and having someone come up to me. And the kids are excited, of course. It’s Santa. But the adults, there’s just this giant smile. They have not believed in Santa for years and years and years and years and years. But yet they still love it and they still have that joy of being with Santa. It is the most amazing feeling of positive energy. I don’t know anything yet… I have never found anything better except for being with my wife. I’ve never known anything better than being that and having the privilege to be a Santa like that. So I’m so excited that you had someone like that when you were in your town and when you were young. That’s so cool. That is so cool.

Lindsay Guentzel (47:44):

Well, and I’m just going to tell you, the way you talk about Santa’s the exact way you talked about being in charge of the ropes course and getting to work with those kids. I mean, again, you don’t need to take the Enneagram test. I’m telling you, you’re a number two, you’re a helper.

John Smith (47:58):


Lindsay Guentzel (48:00):

I have to ask, do you feel when you’re on stage as Santa that you can be whoever you want to be because you aren’t trying to be yourself?

John Smith (48:11):

Yes, absolutely. That’s any time I’ve ever done. If I hadn’t been in so many athletics, if I hadn’t been an athletic trainer and had to have such crazy hours, I once told my dad I would love… He was photographer for a stage production thing down in Texas and I told him once, “Oh man, if I hadn’t been an athletic trainer and we lived down here, I would so have been on that stage because you can be whomever you ever want to be right then and there.” And it’s always been such a special place to be on stage and being in front of people and the energy that comes in and the energy you can give them. It is a very special place. It is.

Lindsay Guentzel (48:51):

It’s not too late. I’m just saying. It’s not too late. Never too late.

John Smith (48:56):

No, it’s never too late. Although, there are still some things that I could… There are some parts I couldn’t play now. But it could be Daddy Warbucks. One of the greatest movies of all time, Annie, I mean.

Lindsay Guentzel (49:07):

Okay, you play Daddy Warbucks, because my bucket list is to play Mrs. Hannigan. But here’s the problem, I want to play Miss Hannigan from the movie, not from the play version. The movie is better. Whoever put this Christmas [inaudible 00:49:25] just give me the movie.

John Smith (49:26):


Lindsay Guentzel (49:27):

All I want. That was my childhood. So I love that.

John Smith (49:30):

Yes, anytime I can see it, anytime I find it, I watch it. It’s so us. You’re such a positive force. And I think I wrote that in my first email to you. You’re just such a positive force for us, for ADHD and for our neurodivergence. Lindsay, I just so enjoyed starting to learn about myself because of you. Thank you. Thank you very much for everything you’re doing for us.

Lindsay Guentzel (49:52):

Oh, thank you. That means a lot to me. I think of you as Santa and I think of myself. And the simple example I’ll say for you is that I’ve waited tables. I’ve been a server for many, many years. It’s how I paid my bills through unpaid internships. And I’m a great server because I can go up to a table and be whoever I need to be in that moment. You read the room. But if I know somebody at the table or I know somebody who’s in the restaurant, all of a sudden it is that massive amount of insecurity that comes back. And so it’s very hard to let that go and just be yourself and not worry about those other people. But we’ve spent our entire life doing that.

John Smith (50:32):

Right, exactly. And that’s so true. That is so true. There’s just another… We could tell stories all day. I’ve got… Yeah.

Lindsay Guentzel (50:42):

I know. I was like, “You have to go to work. I have to go to work.”

John Smith (50:45):


Lindsay Guentzel (50:46):

I want to wrap this up by asking you, if you were to pick one thing that you wish the general population understood better about ADHD, what would that be?

John Smith (50:57):

I’ve thought about that a lot. I guess what I would want them to know is we’re everywhere, we are everyone, and we are not that much different. And yes, some of us are not the ones who are bouncing off the walls everywhere. I might actually use this interview to share with a lot of my family. I have told my sister because she and I have a pretty good relationship now after many, many years of not. She’s been very accepting. But there are still other people in my life, in my family that I don’t trust with this information yet because I don’t know what they’re going to say. And we’re not all just hyperactive. We’re not all just bouncing off the walls. We’re the kids [inaudible 00:51:40]… He’s just a boy. It’s just what boys do. No. If I’d known then what I know now, I could have been so much better for so many things.

John Smith (51:48):

However, I am perfect the way I am right now. I cannot get any better except tomorrow I will get better. But knowing that we are here, we’re all the same in some different way because we’re all so diverse. Just know that we’re nothing different than you are, just a little different in how we think. And just let’s move together forward and learn about us and we’ll learn about you and all that fun stuff. But really just know that we’re here and it’s not just the ones who have the old [inaudible 00:52:20], give them peanut butter, they’ll settle down, which was a thing. I don’t know if it was up around in the north Ohio or north area, but in Texas, that’s what people did.

Lindsay Guentzel (52:28):

I’ve never heard that. I don’t know where that would’ve come from. I love that. I’m going to dive into that. Adding that to the list.

John Smith (52:36):

That’s very interesting.

Lindsay Guentzel (52:41):

One thing I want to end with is I’m working on this and I’m not pushing you or challenging you. I just want to share this. Allow people to show up for you. You show up for a lot of people at a lot of times, and I know it’s hard to be vulnerable in those moments. But I have found when I get out of my own way and I allow that to happen, good things happen. And the unfortunate part is if it doesn’t and it turns out the way you expect it to, then you know and it’s hard. It’s hard to kind of come to terms with what that means, but.

John Smith (53:14):

But if I don’t talk about it, they won’t know and it’ll just go away. No, you’re right.

Lindsay Guentzel (53:19):

Exactly. And then we’ll be back where we were.

John Smith (53:21):

And that’s a good challenge for me. Lindsay, thank you.

Lindsay Guentzel (53:27):

I said it wasn’t a challenge, it was just me sharing advice.

John Smith (53:31):

Yeah, I know. I am going to take it on myself to challenge myself because that’s hard for us.

Lindsay Guentzel (53:38):


John Smith (53:39):

It’s hard to allow people, because we’re always the people.

Lindsay Guentzel (53:43):

John, this was… My goodness. If I could start every day with this, it would just… Thank you. One, thank you for your vulnerability and your candor and your honesty, and coming here with an open-heart and open-mind and just putting it out there. But two, thank you for the energy you put into the world. We need more people like you who are positive.

Lindsay Guentzel (54:12):

And I want to tell you, in the very small amount of time that we’ve known one another, you have accomplished so much. So when you think back on what you could have done better… You had done pretty damn good. You’re doing a pretty good job. So give yourself some grace. It’s really hard, but I mean, look at the life you’ve created for yourself, and now you get to move forward with all these new tools and so much more understanding, and it’s a great place to be.

John Smith (54:47):

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

Lindsay Guentzel (55:20):

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

John Smith (55:30):

My pleasure. Thank you.

Lindsay Guentzel (55:45):

I am so grateful to John Smith for sharing his story with us on Refocused Together.

Lindsay Guentzel (55:51):

This project wouldn’t be possible without the entire team at ADHD Online, including Zach Booker, Dr. Randall Duthler, Tim Gutwald, Keith Brophy, my teammates, Keith Boswell, Suzanne Spruit, Claudia Gatti, 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 (56:24):

Our theme music was created by Luis Ingles, a songwriter and composer based in Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 39. To find out more about Refocused Together or to share your story with me, head over to 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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Looking to take our Assessment? That’s available all day, every day, whenever and wherever is best for you!

ADHD Online will be closed on June 19th in observance of Juneteenth.

Live support will be unavailable while we’re closed but you can always submit a request or leave a voice message. We’ll get back to you when we return on Tuesday, June 20th.

Each of our clinicians sets their own holiday hours. Check with your doctor for availability.

Looking to take our Assessment? That’s available all day, every day, whenever and wherever is best for you!