Katie Sue and Overcoming the Stigma



Katie was labeled a daydreamer in school. Through young adulthood, she was seen as happy and funny. And yet, she was suffering. Her story is so uplifting to anyone who has felt unseen on this journey.

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Lindsay Guentzel (00:01):

Welcome back to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel. What you’re listening to today, it’s a little bit different than the podcast episodes we shared with you before. This episode, this person’s story, is a part of Refocus Together, a special series the team at ADHD Online and I have been working on for ADHD Awareness Month. Every day throughout the month of October, we’ll be sharing a different person’s ADHD story, which is fitting because the theme for ADHD Awareness Month this year is understanding a shared experience, and I can’t think of a better way to really get a sense of that shared experience than by telling a different story every single day. To be clear, yes, that is 31 stories in 31 days. Did I mention I’m a bit of an overachiever?

Lindsay Guentzel (00:52):

My name is Lindsay Guentzel, and along with the team at ADHD Online, I am so excited to present Refocus Together, a collection of stories aimed at raising awareness on just how complex ADHD is, and the different ways it shows up in people’s lives. When we share stories, it’s easier to find the perspective, ideas, and tips that help us live our best lives. I’m interviewing people with varying backgrounds, diagnoses, experiences, and perspectives. We’ll hear from working parents, advocates, engineers, writers, PhD candidates, and more to learn that while we may be different, we are all united by our own ADHD journeys. You might know Katie Sue from TikTok. Millions have viewed her short videos about recognizing the signs of ADHD. They are quick, funny, to the point videos that show the many, many different ways ADHD can show up in a person’s life. Diagnosed at 29, Katie’s goal is simple. To educate as many women as possible about the disorder so they can finally get the help and validation they need and deserve, because she knows firsthand the power of finally having an answer.

Lindsay Guentzel (02:09):

It’s what pushed her to advocate for herself, putting together an entire packet of observations tied to ADHD for her initial appointment with her doctor. That decision to advocate for herself led to her diagnosis, which became the catalyst for a whole lot of healing, growth, and passion for educating others. Katie’s podcast, The KDHD Podcast, shines a light on the importance of taking care of our mental health, and explores ADHD’s impact on a person’s education, career, relationships, and physical health. She has found a community on social, a place that doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to mental health, but has given Katie a connection she always knew was possible but couldn’t quite figure out. I am so excited to welcome Katie Sue to Refocus Together.

Lindsay Guentzel (03:05):

When we were starting to put together the plans for this project, which was a very ADHD moment for me, I wish I could go back to the actual moment where I thought about it, but I know that I had to write it down, and then the next morning I was like, “Yes, we’re doing this.” And you were one of the first people who came to mind, because you’re one of the first people that I started following in this space of somebody who’s a content creator who’s sharing about ADHD. And I’m also a later in life diagnosis, and there’s something really refreshing about your honesty and your candor and your humor with it, because it’s all of those things. It’s serious, and it’s sad, and it’s frustrating, and it’s funny, and you have this really lovely way of grasping all of it. So I appreciate you so much for putting that out there and for joining us for Refocus Together. And I want to start with your own ADHD diagnosis story. What led up to it? Where did some of the triggers come to start down that path?

Katie Sue (04:07):

Yeah, I mean, I think a big catalyst for a lot of people when it comes to being late diagnosed, or even just a conversation starting about ADHD was in 2020. We’re all in lockdown, we’re all struggling with our mental health and we didn’t know what was going on, and I think we all lost this sense of control. And so I definitely was one of those people who wasn’t really big into social media at the time. I didn’t really know a lot, but then I kept hearing about TikTok and stuff like that. And I was in school for graphic design, and so I was really big into my art and design stuff and I thought, “Ooh, I can use this platform to promote my art, and just show people, hey, I do graphic design. I can design your website or I can make your logos, or just art and just sharing that.” And I don’t know the crossover between small business art TikTok and ADHD TikTok must have a huge connection there, because within maybe a month of downloading TikTok, I kept seeing these videos of people talking about ADHD.

Katie Sue (05:12):

And I think the first one I was like, “Oh, this is a funny video I relate to, but I don’t have ADHD. Those are just some things that I’ve experienced in my life.” And then the second one I saw where related to everything, I’m like, “Maybe I should look into this, because something is obviously going on.” I’ve always struggled with anxiety. That was a huge thing. I’ve always been a sensitive child as well, and I think those are things that I was just used to being called. When you’re in your own brain, you don’t really know what it’s like to live in anybody else’s brain, and you don’t really know that something’s different about you because of the way people treat you or things that people say about you or the way that you handle certain situations. And I always knew that I was different and being called quirky and a daydreamer and hyperactive and all those things. And when I started looking into it more, I started to realize, “Oh, these are things that are commonly found with women with ADHD.” And so then I went into hyper focus mode.

Katie Sue (06:15):

I was 29 years old, too, and so it’s one of those things where it’s I would probably know if I had this, right? It’s been 29 years, you think that I would know if I had this. And I was feeling like, “Well, maybe all these things I had been struggling with are connected to something. Maybe this is the answer to what’s been going on,” because I was definitely a WebMD kid. I was definitely a kid who was like, “There’s something going on. There’s something wrong with me,” is how I felt. Something was different about me. And my mom and I are very similar, which is very common, and I think that I come to her with my concerns or my thoughts and everything and she was always super supportive, but it always came back to, “Well, that’s just how you and I are.” And so I didn’t really get those answers for her.

Katie Sue (06:59):

And so then I started really deep diving into it, and I actually sat down one day and I made a list of all these things that didn’t really have explanations in my life where it was just a bunch of random things that either are hard for me, or I thrive in, or just little things that didn’t fall into the category as I would say neurotypical is now. And so I made a long list, and after that I’d type in a word and then I’d go and ADHD, and just see how many times those things would come up, and they’d always pop up right away. I’m trying to think of the first one I did. It was insomnia, or restless legs, and anxiety, and struggling in school, and dyslexia, and all these little things that I’ve eventually realized, “Oh my gosh, all these things are connected to ADHD,” and then I started to… Sorry.

Lindsay Guentzel (07:56):

You’re okay. You’re doing great.

Katie Sue (07:57):

It’s funny because I never really thought about how it all worked out and really laid it out. But then eventually, so I put together a list of all these things that were going on in my life at the time and I just felt like I didn’t have answers for, and I found reasons why they were connected to ADHD and I started talking to my parents about how I was when I was a child and things that stood out to them and going back and doing some self-reflection and looking back and seeing things that I’ve struggled with. And I think that those were some things that really were helpful to me to show, “Hey, this is not something that has occurred because of anxiety and becoming an adult and the things that get hard as an adult. It was also something that I had been struggling with as a child,” and I think that was really validating for me to feel, okay, these are things that definitely should have been dogeared a long time ago.

Katie Sue (08:47):

It should have stood out to someone as a warning sign, or at least those things that weren’t really cries for help to anybody else, and even though I didn’t know that they were cries for help, they definitely were a form of, “Hey, this child needs support in a different way.” And so my favorite stories are my report cards that said that I was a daydreamer, I was easily distracted, or I talked too much in class, and my teacher would move me around the classroom trying to find a spot where I wouldn’t find someone I could talk to, and she wouldn’t, so they’d eventually just put me next to their desk or put me in the front. They couldn’t put me next to a window, because I’d be out looking out the window and all of a sudden the bell would ring and I’d go, “Oh, class is over. Well, I was just in a totally different world.” And I talk about counting ceiling tiles, and I just felt like I haven’t always had a very restless mind, but I didn’t know that everybody else didn’t have really restless mind. I didn’t know.

Katie Sue (09:41):

And so I have this very busy brain, and because I’m combined ADHD, I’m this perfect mixture of hyperactive and inattentive. And so I am this huge daydreamer with this huge imagination that I can get lost in so easily and sit there and I just am zoning out. And then the other half is that hyperactive side of me where I was a tomboy and I was climbing trees and I was always looking for sensory, either digging the dirt, or playing in the water, or doing something like that. I was such a hyperactive kid and I was labeled a tomboy because I could keep up with the boys or even be better at them at certain things. I think for me that was really validating to go back and look at those things as a child and go, “Okay, these are things that can definitely connect back to ADHD,” and that’s when I started making a packet.

Katie Sue (10:29):

And I know that sounds crazy, but I think I was so nervous that my doctor, because I had been going to the doctor for about six months before that because I was really struggling with my mental health and I just felt really lost, and I thought my anxiety is to a point where just deep breaths and mindfulness are not working for me, and all those tools that I use weren’t working for me anymore. And I think that I was at the point where I just wanted answers and I just wanted validation and I wanted to figure out what was the root cause of everything, what was going on. And I think I found that when I found this community of people with ADHD. And so I went to my doctor and I brought in a packet and I think that she just took my word for it, honestly. It seemed like it was one of those things where she had known me for six months. She’d known that I was really trying to do all these things. We had tried a bunch of different medications.

Katie Sue (11:18):

She diagnosed me with anxiety at first, and then a few months later I come back with his packet and I go, “I know we just diagnosed me with anxiety. I think you’re right, but I don’t think we’re all the way right. I don’t think that’s all of it. There’s definitely something else going on as well.” And so I went in there with my little green packet, and it had a ton of examples of things in my life from what’s going on in my adult life and then also things that were impacting me as a child. And I think she, honestly, I just remember her sitting there just open eyed and just listening, and at the end she’s like, “Okay. Well, let’s figure out a plan for you.” And I’m like, “Okay.” And it was one of those things where I don’t even think she said, “I’m diagnosing you with ADHD.” She took a deep breath and was like, “Okay, well let’s figure out a plan, and let’s figure out what meds are going to work for you, and let’s figure out if we’re going to take this route or this route.”

Katie Sue (12:12):

And I think I’m blacked out, honestly. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember. But I feel like I did. I just sat there and was like, and I just cried just happy tears. And I got to the car… Sorry. I get emotional just think about it now, because it was such a good… When you spend your whole life looking for answers, and…

Lindsay Guentzel (12:34):

No. I mean, it doesn’t matter how long time goes by because we all know this feeling, and I know the feeling that you had, and I know how special it is. And yeah, it’s really awesome, and it’s really sad, and it’s everything in between.

Katie Sue (12:50):

Yeah, I mean it was really good. So I got to my car, and I just cried and was so happy and felt so validated and heard for the first time, because I feel like a lot of times I come to people with my concerns and they look at me and they go, “Oh, she’s so happy, and she’s so funny, and she just lets everything roll off her shoulder. There can’t be anything wrong with her. How could this girl who’s so happy and funny and makes jokes about things and brings a light into other people’s life can actually be suffering inside?” And I think, I mean, just like you said, it’s like we all know that feeling of feeling like nobody understands what we’re experiencing on the inside and the struggles that we’ve been experiencing, because I think that we put on a brave face. And that’s one thing that I love about my content is ADHD is not easy. It is not always fun. It’s not always easy. It’s hard. It’s hard to live your whole life feeling misunderstood or like the world wasn’t built for you.

Katie Sue (13:55):

And so to get those answers and go, “Oh, that’s why this has been so hard. It’s not because there’s something wrong with me, it’s just because I’m different and I need to make adjustments because the world wasn’t made for me.” And so I think that just felt so good to have those answers and finally go, “Okay, this is it, and now I can go from here, and I can learn how to support myself.” Yeah, I mean that’s really the start of it. Gosh, it was funny because I didn’t really know how to tell my family. And I think we all have experienced that where you finally get the answer and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is the thing. This is the answer to all my problems,” and not problems, but, “This is the answer to all the things that have always been a mystery in my mind. And how do I tell the people who love me? How do I tell the people who grew up raising me and spending time with me and supporting me in all these ways?” And I didn’t want my parents to feel like they were bad parents.

Katie Sue (14:57):

I didn’t want my parents to feel like they really missed out because I was diagnosed at 29. I mean, we all didn’t know. And like I said, my mom and I are very similar, and my dad and I are very similar in another way. He’s super hyperactive. And so, like I said earlier, TikTok was really big, and so I thought, “You know what? I’m going to make a video.” So I did. I set up my camera. I leaned in the camera, and I said, “When people say you don’t have ADHD, or they say, “You don’t have ADHD, I would’ve seen the signs,”” because I knew I was going to hear that. I knew that people were going to, when I told them I had ADHD, they’d go, “Oh, you don’t have ADHD. I would’ve seen the signs.” And it’s like there were so many little signs throughout my life where it didn’t seem like big things, but all combined and all involved in my life and really impacting my life negatively or positively still meant that I had ADHD.

Katie Sue (15:56):

And I guess I just wasn’t sure how to tell my family, and so, surprise, I made a video, and not only did my family end up seeing it, but millions and millions of people. I think that video’s at 8 million or 9 million views now. And so it’s not something I really signed up for in thinking that it was going to be a big deal. It just was my way of coping with it and validating myself in a way. It’s like, “No, these aren’t just quirky things that I do or things that I experience. These are things that are connected to my brain and the way I live my life.” And so when my family ended up seeing the video… And my dad didn’t have social media at the time, so I called him and I told him, and he goes, “Yeah, that tracks.” He goes, “That makes sense.” I think a lot of people were confused and thrown off, but my dad was like, “Yeah, no. Yeah, that tracks. That makes sense.” And so yeah, I mean it’s been a wild journey.

Katie Sue (16:55):

Like I said, I’ve only been diagnosed a year and so I’m still learning about different ways ADHD impacts my life, and also what I’m comfortable sharing about as well, because social media is just a whole nother thing. But I’m so glad that you got to see that video and be a part of that, because we talked a little bit about how ADHD can be hard and I think that’s one thing that I wanted to do with my videos is that it can be hard and it can be scary and there’s a lot of shame and guilt and a lot of big feelings that come with getting diagnosed. And so I thought, “Well I’m going to make a video but I’m going to keep it light and I’m going to put some fun music in the background and I’m going to treat it like it’s a sitcom where every new symptom is a new character who’s involved somehow.”

Katie Sue (17:39):

And yeah, I mean it was a really great way for me to validate myself, and then also connect with the most incredible community as well. So yeah, I mean it’s been a wild journey and I’m so grateful to be a part of it, and yeah.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:55):

I love that you get to be that light. You are that light for the people who have known you forever who maybe were like, “What is this?” I dealt with that with one of my older sisters. At first she was like, “There’s no way you have ADHD,” and then as I started producing this podcast and episodes would come out, she’d call me the day after and she’d be like, “Oh my gosh. That is you.” And it’s like, yeah. It is. But again, going back to what you mentioned, we’re in our own heads and we think everyone is that way. And it’s sometimes so hard to even explain some of the things, like for me rejection sensitive dysphoria is such a massive player in my life. It’s literally something that I’m dealing with every single day. And when you start to say it to people who are not neurodivergent, I hate using this word, but it sounds crazy because they can’t in their mind imagine how you can tell yourself that story. The story you’re telling yourself is pretty out there and it’s pretty aggressive, but that’s what our brains are doing all the time.

Katie Sue (19:01):

Yeah. I remember always being called a very sensitive child and they called me an empath or whatever. “Oh, Katie’s just really sensitive,” or, “She cries during commercials,” or, “She feels bad that she accidentally stepped on this slug.” Those are things that I felt like, and I am, I’m a people pleaser, I want to make sure everybody in the room is having a good time, is comfortable, is funny, and I often put my feelings aside. And I think I did that for so many years and so long that I really lost my sense of identity in that way, because I had spent all this time trying to… I don’t know about mirroring, because I don’t really know how much I experienced mirroring, but maybe creating a space that is safe and good for everybody. And that is exhausting, creating conversations that people feel comfortable with, being that light. And even with social media sometimes I almost feel like I’m put on this pedestal, and then you get that imposter syndrome or that rejection sensitivity.

Katie Sue (20:06):

And it is hard to explain to people I am terrified about being rejected and I get anxiety and all those things and I feel like I’m making it up or I’m doing it for attention. And it’s like, honey, if you’re doing this in the comfort of your home when no one is around, you are not doing it for attention. If you feel these things every day, and you experience in them every day, it’s not just a little ADHD. You have ADHD, and you have to find ways to support yourself and learn how to set boundaries and be kinder to yourself, because I think we all try really hard to be kind to everyone else and create a safe space for everybody else that we forget that this is our life and we need to create a space that we feel safe in. Otherwise we’re going to be living in this world that is not only not made for us, but not where we feel comfortable and not where we feel safe.

Katie Sue (20:54):

And so this whole experience has been really eye opening to me because I get to be myself, and it can be scary at times because that rejection sensitivity is real. But on the other side of the coin, I have so many people reaching out to me where my vulnerability has helped them in some way. And so this idea of creating a safe space for everybody, I’m also creating a safe space for me as well with social media, with my platform, with everything. And it’s been really great. And I mean still have those moments. I’m definitely human and have imposter syndrome and rejection sensitivity, and all those things and I’m still learning how to cope with it and how to handle and support it in a way. But yeah, it’s good to hear somebody else say that as well because yeah, other people don’t understand it and it’s hard to explain, because they’re like, “Oh, she’s just a big baby,” or, “She’s just sensitive,” and we’re not. I mean, we are. Cut to 10 minutes ago when I was just crying my eyes out.

Lindsay Guentzel (22:03):

I cry all the time. I think back learning about emotional dysregulation, it’s my entire life. And I think what’s been so amazing for me in working on Refocus Together is every single person I talk to, I learn something new, because there’s so many different facets to it. And I think we have a really hard time separating what is “our ADHD”, and what is life, because a lot of that is this gray area where it all blends together. And so that’s been the best part of the online community and the people that I’ve met through the podcast is every single time I’m like, “Okay, I have to write that down. I haven’t heard that one yet.” Learning about restless legs and how it impacts sleep, that was something my dad dealt with all the time, and was on every medication under the sun. And it’s like, no, he was just undiagnosed ADHD, totally, fully. It’s just so complex.

Katie Sue (23:05):

Yeah. And we learn more every day, and that’s what I love about social media is because the way it spreads information and the way that we’re able to connect with each other, in a way it makes it so inclusive because these are things I would’ve never learned if I just Googled. But if I’m scrolling through an algorithm that is built for me, I’m going to come across something I’m like, “Oh, there’s another thing about ADHD,” and it is fun because we love to learn, and I love to learn about my brain. And like I said, I was a WebMD kid, so every time something happened to me I’m looking it up online to see if it was connected to something, and I probably diagnosed myself with 20 different things by the time I was 13. My parents ended up having to actually block WebMD from the family computer. This is back in the day where people had family computers. But those are things that I’m experiencing where I’m like, oh my gosh, I really just needed answers, and I was just looking for them and didn’t know. And now I do.

Lindsay Guentzel (24:08):

I want to ask, of the things that you’ve learned, and you mentioned you’re still learning, we all are, what stands out as the biggest negativities when you view how ADHD affects your life, and how are you working on them?

Katie Sue (24:25):

Gosh, the things that I struggle most with ADHD is definitely things like the stigma and the misunderstanding of it all. I think I have a really hard time, because for me it’s so real to me. It’s something I experience every single day. And so when somebody comes to me, whether it’s a comment or something like that, I think I really struggle with that because I’m like, “How could this person who doesn’t know me tell me that what I’m experiencing isn’t real?” And I know that’s not technically an ADHD thing, but it really is. I mean, I think we talked about rejection sensitivity is definitely one of the things I probably struggle with the most. And social media just adds a totally different layer to that, and I think that combined with this imposter syndrome, those two together, I mean, those are so challenging. And I think that social media, like I said, just adds a whole nother thing to it. And that’s something I’m still learning how to handle. And I’d mentioned earlier creating those boundaries, I’ve never been good at setting boundaries. I’m the person who has a full plate of something.

Katie Sue (25:32):

I have my hands tied behind my back and I’m struggling to keep track of the things I need to do, and somebody says, “Hey Katie, can you take on this one more thing? I really need help.” I go, “Yeah, sure. Don’t worry about it,” and that’s always how I’ve been. And I’m learning how to set those boundaries. I’m learning how to listen to my body and my mind to go no, you can say no to these things, and you can say, “I need to put myself first,” because everything I do under that type of pressure probably isn’t going to be good anyway. And I think that’s another thing I really struggle with too, is this concept of executive function, and being called lazy, and all those things are things I felt my whole life where it’s like, “Just do it.” We’ve all heard that. “Well, why don’t you just do it and get it over with?” And it’s still something I still struggle with, and I have to create ways to support myself or play little games.

Katie Sue (26:24):

And I think that’s another thing that’s great about the community is everybody’s sharing those little tips and tricks, and so it is helpful. They might not work forever, but they might just be a great bandaid for until they don’t work, or until you get a routine down, or you figure it out. They say, “Learn, unlearn, relearn, and then teach,” and that’s what I’ve been trying to do is unlearn all the negative stuff that I felt about myself, learn new information that I’m learning to help support myself, and then also just share those experiences with others. And I think that has helped me a little bit and combated that rejection sensitivity and that imposter syndrome. But it’s an everyday thing. It’s an everyday battle.

Katie Sue (27:08):

One day I feel like I’m doing great and I’m like, “Wow, I know everything. I have figured it out,” and the next day I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I know nothing. What am I doing? Am I doing enough to help these people? Am I sharing enough of my story? I’m not replying to enough DMs,” because I get so many really kind, incredible people reaching out to me with their own stories because they see themselves in me in some way. And so I’m like, “I got to reply to this person.” It’s such an emotional tolling thing to listen to somebody’s story and see that they relate to you and not have the answers to help them besides saying, “Yeah, I totally get you,” because sometimes there isn’t an answer. Sometimes there isn’t a fix. It’s just it is. And so it is hard for me to go, “I don’t have a trick for that. One time I tried this, I tried this and this, and it hasn’t worked, but I understand what you’re going through. And yeah, it sucks. Man, that’s a bummer.”

Katie Sue (28:05):

Those are things I’m trying to learn, being okay with just listening to people’s story and supporting them in that way, and not having to feel like I have to give them an answer, or fix them, or help support them in any way as well.

Lindsay Guentzel (28:17):

I love that, because that is something I need to work on. I love that you mentioned if I stretch myself too thin, it’s not going to be good anyway, and that’s like what I’m reminding myself. When I’m throwing so many plates up in the air and I’m not really paying attention to what’s going up or what I’m committed to or what I’m passionate about, and you’re just like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to help you. I can help you. I can help you,” and then all of a sudden you’re not helping people and then you’re feeling bad about it, and it’s this really lovely snowball that just keeps going.

Katie Sue (28:44):

Yeah. And it adds up, and then all of a sudden you feel like you’re drowning and you’re like, “Well, what happened? Why do I feel this way?” And it takes somebody from the outside to go, “Yeah, because you took on 20 different projects and you haven’t slept in three days, and all of you drank is ice coffee and a Ritz cracker. That ain’t going to support you. That’s not going to be sustainable.” And I think that’s one thing I struggle with is finding that balance and finding some way to make this sustainable. And it’s not easy. I usually don’t hear those warning signs of burnout of slow down, stop, until it’s a little bit too late.

Katie Sue (29:19):

But I think I am getting better, and I’m getting better about talking to myself in the way of, “I know you want to do this, and you want to do this for them because you care about them, and you want to show them that you are there for them, but you can schedule it two weeks out or you can give them a more realistic timeline and say, “Hey, I would love to do this for you, but I have so much on my plate right now that I need to push it out a little farther,” or, “I would love to help you but I just can’t, so here’s somebody else that can help you,” or just say no. I can’t. I don’t have it in me to do it, and I’m sorry.” And those are things… Saying no… I saw your face when I said, “Just say no.” You made a face, and I’m thinking, “I know that was hard, to say no.”

Lindsay Guentzel (29:59):

It is hard. I learned a great line from a dear friend because I was asking her, she gets asked to do all these things, and it’s like, “How do you pick and how do you say no?” And she says, “I say, “I would really like to help you right now, but I am at capacity. Let’s talk further down the line,” or, “Think of me next time.”” And I was like, oh, the word capacity. It says so much without saying anything. It’s just that’s it. I’m at capacity. You don’t have to give a reason. You don’t have to make an explanation. And that capacity, in whatever way it is, the bag is full.

Katie Sue (30:36):

Yeah. And I think that’s one thing is when you’re talking about things I struggled with, that’s definitely a huge thing for me is setting those boundaries. But also when I was talking about how when you’re doing so much, it’s not going to be good. When you’re pushing yourself past the point that you can, or you’re spreading yourself too thin it’s not going to be good. And on top of that, people with ADHD tend to be perfectionists. And that’s how I’ve been called a perfectionist my whole life, especially because I’m an artist. So I create something, and all of a sudden I’m looking at it and I’m like, “This is terrible. This is ugly.” And people are coming at me, “Oh Katie, that’s so beautiful. That’s so great.” And I’m just looking, I’m like, “Shut up. I know it’s ugly. I know there’s something wrong with it.” And I’m just like, “Thanks. Yeah.” But I do that. I do that when I cook, I do that when I do anything.

Katie Sue (31:21):

And so we nitpick at ourselves and we’re so hard on ourselves, and we accidentally put ourselves on these pedestals, and sometimes it’s better just to do a good job less. Do less and just do good instead of doing more and doing okay. Those are things I’m learning still.

Lindsay Guentzel (31:41):

It’s a tough lesson to learn, yes. If you come up with the magic solution, you could make a lot of money. I’m just telling you right now. I want to go back really quick. You mentioned the conversation you had with your doctor, and I just want to applaud you, because, gosh, it’s the perfect story of being an advocate for yourself. You went in there and you were like, “I’m not walking out of here without us figuring this out,” and I think that is just so important. And I love I’m hearing so many stories from people that their doctors are bringing up ADHD and that are talking about it with them, and that to me is like, “Yes!” Especially for women. “Oh all these things are going on, let’s look at ADHD,” because it’s just never been that way. And you mentioned medication, so what have you done treatment wise? And it doesn’t necessarily just have to be medication, it can be routine changes, therapy. What is working for you as you move into this new journey?

Katie Sue (32:33):

Yeah. So I brought that packet into my doctor because I knew I had ADHD at the time, because I had already been self-diagnosed in my heart and knew that I had ADHD. And so making that list to me was a great way for me to go in there and not lose track of my thoughts, so I could just read it point from point, make sure I didn’t miss anything. I wanted to make sure when I walked out of that appointment, I left everything on the table. That there was no question. That I wouldn’t walk out and be like, “Oh I forgot to say this,” or, “I should’ve said this or that.” And so that was a great way for me to find empowerment and be my own advocate. And I didn’t want her to tell me no. I knew what I had, and I thought if I give them examples from my childhood to being an adult, there’s no question there because this is something that’s obviously being impacting me when I was a child. And so yeah, it was a great way for me to be an advocate.

Katie Sue (33:22):

And as far as treatment plans go and ways to support myself, I did a lot of therapy but I actually had a terrible experience with one of my therapists, because after I was diagnosed… I was already been diagnosed. And I had been doing therapy for a long time, because, like I said, I’ve struggled with anxiety. And so I’ve been to a few different therapists, and I was also diagnosed with complex PTSD because of things that happened to me when I was a child, and that’s another whole nother can of worms of figuring out what is trauma and what is ADHD or is it both. So I went to a therapist and I was talking to her, and I said, “Well, I actually have ADHD.” And she’s like, “Everybody thinks that they have ADHD because of social media,” and this is right when I had just blown up on social media. And she’s like, “I just read an article about how TikTok is making ADHD a trend,” and all this stuff. And she’s like talking crap. Sorry, talking bad. I almost said the different word, but I corrected myself.

Katie Sue (34:24):

She was talking bad about this. And I’m wearing a mask, and I never show up the doctor looking like myself. I always look like I crawled out of bed. So she doesn’t recognize me. She doesn’t know that that article is actually about me, about ADHD and it blowing up on social media and it blowing up on TikTok. And so I’m smiling through my mask because I’m just crazy, not cute smile, like, “Okay, what is going…” And so I ended up not going back, but here’s the thing is I don’t want to discount therapy because therapy has helped me in so many other ways. That therapist was just not the right choice for me. You know what? I didn’t go back. I didn’t listen to her words, and her denials, and her thoughts, and her opinions about me, because old Katie would’ve went back. Old Katie wouldn’t have been able to stop going to therapy because I would’ve thought, “Oh, they just don’t know enough about ADHD.” But to protect my peace and to protect myself, I decided not to go back.

Katie Sue (35:23):

So when I talked to my primary care physician, they actually sent me to a psychiatrist to get a second opinion to talk about medications. I was prescribed Adderall, and I think that there was a part of me that was excited because I’m like, “Oh, this thing might help. This thing might actually be the answers to my problems.” And then this wave of anxiety occurred, and it could have been medication stigma, it could have been a lot of different things. Substance abuse runs in my family, and so that’s definitely something that I was aware of. And you hear all this stuff about people being addicted to Adderall, and so I was almost got, yeah, anxious or nervous about taking it. And so it took me two months to take it. I filled it and it sat on my counter and I looked at it every day for two months because I was like, “What if I take it and I’m just not myself? What if I take it and I lose my sparkle, or I’m different, or what if it scares me or it changes me?”

Katie Sue (36:24):

And I thought, “You know what? I’ve been living in this brain for so long. I don’t need it. I figured it out.” Obviously I haven’t figured it out, my life’s a freaking mess. But, in my mind, I thought, “I’m okay. I’m good. I don’t need medication, I don’t need it.” And so eventually there was something going on and I was like, “I’m just going to take it.” Maybe my impulsivity kicked in eventually, and I was just like, “Let’s just do it.” And so I ended up taking it and nothing happened. I didn’t feel any different. I was walking around the house going, “When is this going to kick in?” All of a sudden the birds are going to start singing, the clouds are going to part, my laundry’s going to get switched over. No. It didn’t. It didn’t change. So then I started feeling very insecure, like, “Oh my gosh. What if I’m wrong? What if all this research I did, all this stuff…”

Katie Sue (37:13):

I was listening to all these books about ADHD on tape, I was doing all this research, I was sharing my experiences on social media and telling people I had ADHD, and all of a sudden ADHD medication wasn’t working for me. And it sucked. It made me feel really bad, because I’m like, “Why doesn’t it work? What’s wrong with me?” It was really a tough point in my life where I was like, “Oh my gosh, the ADHD medication doesn’t even work for me. What is?” I think I heard a lot of mixed reviews about it, and people were saying, oh, they took it and they felt so great and so different that I was comparing myself to that and thinking, “What’s wrong with me?” And I ended up going back to my doctor and I told her my feelings.

Katie Sue (37:56):

She goes, “You know what? All this stuff is all happening at once. You’re learning you have ADHD, you’re sharing about it on social media, you’re trying to change the way you look at yourself and talk to yourself. Why don’t we just not do anything with medication for a little bit and just work on acceptance?” And I think that was really helpful to me, because we talk about awareness a lot with ADHD. “Oh, we need to spread awareness. We need to tell people at about ADHD. All these women are late diagnosed. There’s so many people out there who have no idea they have ADHD,” and I think that’s great, but that’s just the first step. After that is acceptance, and we think acceptance is so easy. But even me, where I am right now and the platform I have and the stuff I share and going to this conference about ADHD in November, and it seems like it’s almost a part of me. There’d be moments where I do something and I’d be like, “Could a person with ADHD go to college and take 16 credits and do well?”

Katie Sue (38:56):

Those little things started picking at me and making me questioning myself. And so that was hard. And I think that’s everybody’s journey, and everybody has a different journey when it comes to acceptance. And really just working on that was really important for me, so I took time to really accept it. And I remember talking to a different therapist and they were saying, “You have ADHD and you keep saying this and that about ADHD. Why don’t you just accept it? And so when something goes wrong, or something is hard for you, instead of forcing yourself to do it, go, “This isn’t working because I have ADHD, so how can I make this work for me?”” And that was a huge change. And it’s weird because I had already been sharing about it. I had already been talking about it. I was telling everyone I had ADHD, but I think there was still this little part of me that was scared that I didn’t.

Katie Sue (39:51):

And until I fully accepted it, that’s when the healing began, and that’s when the real journey started for me was really going, “Okay, it’s not an excuse. ADHD is not an excuse. It’s not something that’s in your head. This is real. And this is an explanation for why certain things have been harder for you, and why certain things have been easy for you.” And so when you really take that step towards acceptance, and even just do it for a day. People have come to me and been like, “I think I have ADHD and I don’t know what to do and I’m having a really hard time with acceptance.” I go, “Just do it for a day.” For one day when you’re struggling with your day and you feel like you can’t get anything done, try to use some of those tools and pretend you have ADHD and go, “Okay, this is something people with ADHD struggle with. What can I do to support myself? What tool is going to work for me?” Or go, “You know what? You have ADHD. That’s why this is so hard. So let’s do something else.”

Katie Sue (40:47):

And I think when I started talking to myself like that, things really started to really change, and that acceptance really started to kick in. And then I felt like I actually was able to help others with that as well. And I think that’s been a really big part of my journey and my healing. So yeah, therapy. I’m thinking about trying another medication eventually, but right now I’m really just working on my own personal growth and, yeah, that acceptance. And I think the more I learn about ADHD, the easier it’s for me to accept it and to understand it, because I think when we’re scared of something and we don’t understand it, we push it away and we go, “No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t happening.” Just like people who are in denial about certain things in the world. They’re like, “No, no, no, it’s not real. This is fake.” It’s not because they don’t believe in it, it’s because they’re scared.

Katie Sue (41:32):

And I think I was really scared to actually accept that being made fun of and bullied as a kid or talked down to my entire life wasn’t because I was a bad person. It was because I had adhd. And that is so healing.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:49):

And I want to also point out that in those moments when you were second guessing yourself and being worried about putting yourself out there and sharing your story, that was your imposter syndrome. I mean, it really is. It’s so interesting you say it and you’re like, yeah, no, that’s your imposter syndrome. Because you were having all of these amazing moments and there’s that thought where you go, “Oh my gosh, do I have to go back to all of these people and tell them that this isn’t me, that I don’t have ADHD, that everything I’ve said to them at this point… I’m a liar. I’m a fraud.” All of those things come back out and it’s like, “Oh hey, little voice.” I mean, I say little voice, we know it’s big and booming. And I also appreciate that you mentioned not going back to your therapist.

Lindsay Guentzel (42:31):

I was telling my boyfriend the other day about how I used to… If I went into a store, if there was a pushy salesperson, I would just buy whatever it was that they were pushing on me and go back and return it or to a different store or when they weren’t working, because saying no, that confrontation was too much. And he’s like, “Are you kidding?” And I was like, “Oh no. All the time. So many returns.” And you just couldn’t fathom… Setting boundaries and standing up for yourself is so hard, so kudos to you because how uncomfortable in that moment, and you’ll never know if she made the connection afterward, but good riddance. I hope that she becomes a little bit more enlightened for neurodivergent people.

Katie Sue (43:24):

Yeah, I do too. And I think about that moment a lot, because I was really looking forward to trying EMDR, and so that was a reason why I held onto her for so long, because she’s like, “We’re going to do an EMDR,” because, like I said, at the time I was diagnosed with complex PTSD and ADHD and anxiety. And so I was looking at all these different therapies that would help with that, and I found a therapist for EMDR and it took me six weeks to see her. So I had already put in the work, waiting, doing all that stuff. She had a bunch of homework packets she needed me to read and all this stuff I had to prepare for before I started EMDR, and so I had put in all this work. And typically, I would just go ride it out. Just do this. Don’t listen to what she has to say about ADHD, because that’s only a little part of your life. Let’s focus on this stuff.

Katie Sue (44:14):

But because she invalidated me and she didn’t listen and she didn’t believe in it just felt like, no, you’re not the right person for me. And I need to feel safe, feel supported in this therapy environment, and I’m not going to get that from this person. I’m not going to be able to let my guard down if the person that’s supposed to be listening to me and hearing me doesn’t believe me. And so it was a really good moment for me because I’m a pushover, and I said I’m a people pleaser. And so when she said that, I think I was just like, “You’re going to choose yourself today, and you’re going to walk out that door.” And she had a therapy dog, and so it was really hard to leave, because I’m thinking about that therapy dog.

Lindsay Guentzel (44:58):

That would be very hard. Yes. But you did it. And you said, “Today I’m going to pick me,” but you’ve picked yourself every single day since then for not going back, too, which is incredible.

Katie Sue (45:12):

That’s pretty cool.

Lindsay Guentzel (45:15):

I want to wrap this up by asking you what is pushing you forward right now? What are you excited about? What’s on the horizon that you are hoping to dive into when it comes to your ADHD? Where are you thriving in the big sense of the word? What’s bringing you joy?

Katie Sue (45:36):

Oh gosh. My garden is a huge thing. And so I think that’s something that… A lot of people with ADHD think that they can’t garden, and it’s like, but you don’t have to be that good. I think that’s one that I’ve been learning is that the resiliency that gardening is teaching me is that I can do something for fun and not be good at it, which I’ve talked about perfectionism. That’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life, and it’s such a struggle and I can be so hard on myself, but having something that gives me hope for the future. I don’t know who said it, but there’s a quote that says, “Planting a garden gives you hope for the future,” or something like that. It was probably Eleanor Roosevelt or something. But it really does it. And I’m food motivated. I love food. And so it’s good for me to go outside and pick a couple cherry tomatoes and be outside, and that’s really been good for me is to having moments of peace.

Katie Sue (46:32):

And then also being able to accept failure, because with gardening you could do everything and some things just don’t work out and you don’t have control. And so letting go of that control has been really good for me. And I know that sounds crazy, but when something dies, I would be so hard on myself and whatnot. And lately I’ve been like, “Oh, that’s it. It didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. That plant is dead. I got to pull it out of the ground and keep working.” And so gardening has been super healing for me. I’m really thriving in that department. It’s been really smokey. We have a lot of wildfires lately, and so I haven’t been able to spend so much time out there and it’s been hard because I’m just looking out the window like, “Miss you out there. Hope you’re doing good.” But yeah, I think that’s been really pushing me forward is just being outside, being in the garden, learning new skills, and canning, and preserving, and growing something from a seed, and it turning into something. It can be really empowering.

Katie Sue (47:32):

And I think that’s been really good for me. And then I’m really lucky to be a part of the ADHD conference coming up in November, and I think that has given me a lot of excitement and hope and joy in those moments. I also think connecting with a bunch of people has been really helpful. I’ve got such wonderful, I call them friends, but they really are my friends, these people I connect with on social media who are creating ADHD content to empower their group and their community, and we’re all connected in this. And it’s so nice to have people who actually understand how you feel and what you’re going and can say, “Yeah, I had a really rough week last week,” and, “Yeah, me too.” I have so many people who check in on me to see how I’m doing, and it’s good. It gives me something to wake up to and I know that it gives me something that I do find enjoy and making those connections, because I never felt like I made deep connections ever. I felt like there was always this…

Katie Sue (48:32):

I just told my therapist this. I don’t know if it makes sense. But there’s always felt like there’s this window pane of disconnection where I’m so close to everybody and I feel connected with them as close as I can, but they’re just on the other side of glass because they just don’t really know what’s going on on the inside. And so to connect with this community, connect with these people who either they were diagnosed early on so they have all this information on how to help with ADHD and they have all these support tools, or people who are just like me who got diagnosed later in life who get the struggle, because I think that’s just another thing. People think having ADHD is hard, and it is, and can be so challenging, but spending the majority of your life not knowing you have it is just another can of worms, and so it’s just another layer of the onion.

Katie Sue (49:22):

And so to connect with other people who understand that, understand that rejection sensitivity, understand that imposter syndrome, understand what it’s like for trolls to come at you online. It’s so good to feel, for once in my life, that people understand and that I’m not alone. It’s probably the best thing ever.

Lindsay Guentzel (49:44):

It is. I completely and totally agree. A friend of mine that I interviewed for Refocused Together, she said it so well, because we were talking about thinking about all of the things that we could have done had we been diagnosed sooner, which is a really, I’ll say it, crappy path to go down. It does us no good. And she said, “It’s not what if? It’s what now?” And it was just that, yeah, we get to move forward. I have a lot of grief about all the things that I wish I could go back and change, and it’s going to do me no good to sit and dwell on it or ruminate. But I get this next chapter of knowing how my brain works a little bit better every single day, and that is incredible.

Katie Sue (50:32):

Yeah, it is incredible. And it’s so nice to actually build those connections with people. And that window pane is a window all of a sudden, and I can open it and go, “Oh my gosh, today I had this terrible day. I’m in my head,” and they go, “Yep, you’re doing this, this. Just breathe,” or they say something that can be so comforting and it’s just good. Like I said, when other people reach out to me to just hear, “I totally get what you’re saying. Yeah, that sucks. Hold on. You are making a difference. You are helping others,” and those things go a long way. That window opening has changed so much in the past year, and I’m not only getting to know other people, but I’m getting to know myself and getting to learn how to love myself and adapt. And it is that feeling of, “I could have done this,” or, “If I would’ve known sooner,” and it’s like you didn’t, and nobody did. Not my teachers. Not my parents. The closest people in my life to me had no idea.

Katie Sue (51:37):

But now I know and what can I do now and where can I go from here, and this is just the beginning. And that is so exciting that this is just the beginning.

Lindsay Guentzel (51:50):

I feel exactly the same way. I am so looking forward to getting to meet you in Dallas in November at the ADHD conference. And I want to leave you with this, because I’m going to go out in a limb and guess that you struggle with this as well. I want you every moment when you open those DMs and there’s somebody there that you don’t know who has taken the time to tell you that what you are doing is helping them and is impacting their life, I want you to actually accept it, and I want you to take that moment and live in it because it’s so easy to just be like, “No, that’s not true. That’s not really what they’re trying to say.” And it is, and the voices in your head are trying to discount it, and that’s something that I struggle with and I say it to other people, like I said it to you when we opened this conversation and I meant it. And so they’re not doing that just to give you a pat on the back.

Lindsay Guentzel (52:49):

And I know it’s one of those things, us as perfectionists, as people pleasers, we don’t know how to accept gratitude and accept our place in life. And so I just want to leave you with that.

Katie Sue (53:01):

I appreciate it. I really do.

Lindsay Guentzel (53:03):

In your path for acceptance, grace and kindness go a long way, but also be so proud of yourself because what you’re doing is brave and vulnerable, and it is helping people.

Katie Sue (53:16):

Thank you. I really appreciate that. It means a lot, because I definitely have been in my own head a lot lately and those feelings do creep in and those thoughts creep in. And it’s hard to remember the other person on this other side of the screen, that they are a real person who experiences the same things as me. And I’ve been there. I’ve been that person. When I first found out that I had ADHD, I was panicking because I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t really know what to do. And so I reached out to people whose content impacted me and said, “Thank you so much for making this,” and I had a bunch of questions and all of that stuff. And so it is hard to remember when I get those messages that they are just like me. Those are real feelings that they experience. They’re not just trying to trick me into something.

Lindsay Guentzel (54:04):

Feed your ego.

Katie Sue (54:05):

Feed my ego. Yeah. It’s like this is a real person who your content does make a difference. The things I’m doing are helping others, and that really is the only thing that keeps me going, so I do love those Dms. But yeah, it’s like I never know how to respond or accept them in a way, and that is something I definitely need to work on. And it’s such a good reminder, and I think my heart needed that today, so I appreciate it so much. I keep talking about not feeling alone, and it is good to know that people like you, I’m making these connections with people and I have the opportunity to connect with others that felt the same exact way who’ve been on the other side of the window pane and not make those connections.

Katie Sue (54:46):

And now I’m on a Zoom with somebody across the state who is late diagnosed like me and it’s so cool to just really actually relate to somebody and have somebody go, “No, I understand that you’re struggling with this and this. You just need to accept it.” And I will work on it. I’ll take the doctor’s orders.

Lindsay Guentzel (55:08):

Good. I’ll check in in November. We will have a follow up.

Katie Sue (55:13):

Send me the bill.

Lindsay Guentzel (55:14):

Yes. Yeah. Yes. Katie, this was amazing, and I say fun, and it was fun. It was also very hard. I know that it’s hard to be vulnerable, but thank you for putting yourself out there, and I can’t wait to connect, and yeah. So thank you so much for joining us for Refocus Together. I appreciate it.

Katie Sue (55:34):

Awesome. Yeah, thank you so much for having me, and this was really wonderful. And it was good. Like I said, send me the bill because this was really good for me. It was like body doubling therapy.

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