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Kim Hicks and the Power of Representation

Refocused, Together 2023 continues with a conversation with Minnesota State Representative Kim Hicks. 

Kim is a currently serving her first term representating Minnesota’s District 25A. Beyond her political role, she’s active on TikTok, candidly sharing her experiences as both a legislator and someone with ADHD. Kim’s journey with ADHD began in fourth grade when she was initially tested for dyslexia. Despite facing challenges, she discovered the benefits of structured programs while she was working at a local group home. 

Kim doesn’t consider herself to be a typical politician but she’s working on making space for herself, driven by a desire for a more diverse and inclusive legislature that truly represents the people of Minnesota. In her current role, Kim leverages her ADHD strengths and relies on a strong support system to navigate the demanding responsibilities of her job, fueled by a deep commitment to creating inclusive communities for individuals with disabilities.

Follow Kim on TikTok here

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Kim Hicks (00:01):

Time’s a finite resource. You just don’t know how finite. Nobody does, right? And so I am committed to using my finite resource as much as I can to make the world a better place. And for me, that’s through the lens. Not exclusively, but because everybody knows somebody who has a disability. Everybody loves somebody who has a disability, and if we make the world better for people with disabilities, it makes the world better for everyone.

Lindsay Guentzel (00:33):

You are listening to Refocused, Together, and this is episode 30, Kim Hicks and The Power of Representation.

(00:49):

Welcome back to Refocused, a podcast all about ADHD. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and we’re nearing the finish line for Refocused, Together 2023, the special project we started last year as a part of our commitment to ADHD Awareness Month. We set out with a plan to share the stories of 31 people with ADHD, and today’s conversation actually took me on the road to Rochester, Minnesota, about 90 minutes southeast of the Twin Cities for a chat with state representative Kim Hicks. That was Kim you just heard. She’s currently in the midst of her first term representing the residents of District 25A and I stumbled upon Kim over on TikTok where she’s been sharing her experience both as a state representative and as a person with ADHD. It’s been a whirlwind for the “boring mom,” who is just trying to make the world a better place for her kids and everybody who comes after them.

(01:50):

Kim’s journey with ADHD started in fourth grade when she was tested for dyslexia. She remembers that while receiving her diagnosis for dyslexia, the specialist she was seeing brought up attention issues, but everyone was in agreement that if Kim received the support she needed, all of that stuff would work itself out. When Kim was 16, she started working at a local group home and quickly realized that the structured programs she was helping facilitate, she was benefiting from them as well, having a checklist for tasks and to-dos, along with a fine-tuned schedule for the day, worked wonders for her. And Kim looks back at this time as the start of her truly understanding what she needed in order to thrive in life. Graduate school brought on more moments of enlightenment for the disability advocate when she was introduced to the book, 10 Habits of Highly Effective People in a Professional Educator course at the University of St. Thomas.

(02:51):

The life-changing class helped her start to fine-tune the list of productivity tools and skills that were actually beneficial for her and separate out the ones that just weren’t a good fit. I mentioned Kim is in the midst of her first term as a state rep. She did run in 2020 up against a five-term incumbent, a campaign that also included a breast cancer diagnosis for the then thirty-seven-year-old. Despite all of that, Kim decided to run again in 2022, having figured out how to balance her fear of rejection with her growing desire to give a voice to the voiceless. Kim doesn’t fit the typical mold of a politician, but decided to put herself in that space anyway because she wants a legislature that reflects the diversity of the state she calls home, and that needs to include people who are neurodivergent.

(03:44):

During the legislative session, Kim utilizes her ADHD strengths whenever possible, relying on her hyper focus to help her with her deep-dive approach to work. Her legislative assistant helps her keep everything organized and her husband holds down the fort back home, giving Kim the power and support she needs to be fully present for her demanding job. Kim’s personal experience with ADHD and dyslexia has, without a doubt, influenced the work she’s decided to take on in life. She identifies as a person with a disability and sees the society we live in as one that is not inclusive of people like her, a massive disconnect that drives the work she’s doing every single day. For Kim, there is nothing more important than creating communities where everyone has the right and the support they need to live their best life.

(04:36):

Let’s hear more from Minnesota State representative Kim Hicks about her journey with ADHD, what she’s learned about living life in the public eye as a person who is neurodivergent and why she’s committed her life to making the world a more inclusive and accessible place for people with disabilities and what we all stand to gain with that happening. In true ADHD fashion, I have made this as easy for me as possible. I ask all of our guests the same questions and we start with the same one, which is, when were you diagnosed with ADHD and what was that process like and what, if you remember anything regarding that, sparked those initial conversations?

Kim Hicks (05:22):

I was tested for, actually, dyslexia and a learning disability in fourth grade. I was referred first for that, and I went to the reading center here in town. And then because my parents’ insurance wouldn’t cover stuff unless I had a medical diagnosis, then I was popped over to Mayo. And at the time they diagnosed me with dyslexia and said that I had some attention concerns. We didn’t really know what that meant and I had this major learning disability. And so everybody was kind of like, “Well, once she learns to read, that stuff will get better.” And so we didn’t really do anything about it. And I proceeded through school being called a squirrel because my desk always looked like it had a nest underneath of it with random papers and stuff everywhere and losing everything and really struggling to organize myself. But after I got support for my dyslexia, academically, I really started to do well.

(06:12):

And so remembering back to that testing, what I remembered was that being told I was dyslexic and being told that I was smart and I just had this other way to learn was life-shifting for me. And I think that applies both to my dyslexia and to my ADHD because I was suddenly told it’s not you, you can do this, you just need to do it differently. And that started my journey of, “Oh, I just need to do things differently.”

Lindsay Guentzel (06:40):

And when you do things differently and you did things differently, what does that look like?

Kim Hicks (06:45):

Well, I didn’t really figure out differently well, until my twenties. Prior to that, it was sort of… I guess that’s not true. In high school I started using some organizational tools that worked really well for me. And so that was really helpful. It was really helpful in college. I transferred some of those organizational tools, and so academically those were working really well for me. At work, some of those were working really well and probably this is going to sound awful, but at 16 I started working for a local group home company, and I’d tell people I grew up there because I literally grew up there. I learned all of these organization and adulting skills that I didn’t have, but suddenly there was this structured place where there was a menu and the menu led to a grocery list and a grocery list made sure you had what you needed to make the things.

(07:38):

There was a cleaning schedule and somebody else had made it, somebody else had created it, but you just had to follow it. There was a check-off sheet for everything before your shift ended. There was a check-on sheet for everything when your shift started. There were all of these tools to help us all work together, but I looked at that and went, “Oh, this is excellent.” And so I joked that when I graduated from college and started having my own home with my husband and people are like, “You run your house like a group home.” And I was like, “No, I don’t.” Yet I really did. I ran my house like a group home.

(08:13):

To some extent that’s probably still true because those tools worked really well for me, like doing the month calendar of everything we had to do and color coordinate people or by a theme. Now it’s by people, but when it was just me and my husband, it was by theme like work or fun or whatever, and it was color-coded and it was a big calendar. Sitting down and scheduling the time to do that, made my life better. Writing out our menu a month in advance so that I could just, every week, make a grocery list and put it in an order, made my life better. So I did. But I didn’t learn them by myself. It was literally because I started working at a group home at 16.

Lindsay Guentzel (08:50):

Which I love. It’s kind of like body doubling. You learned all of these amazing things that work for you essentially through body doubling with these people in the group home who had all of these essentially life SOPs planned out for them. And I think what I love about it is you were able to take what was working for them, use what worked for you. And I think where we struggle, people with ADHD, is when we have to start from scratch.

Kim Hicks (09:16):

Best class I ever took in graduate school was at St. Thomas and it was called Professional Educator. You would think it would be about collaboration and stuff. It was not. It was FranklinCovey. It was 10 Habits of Highly Effective People, turned into a master’s class. That’s what it was. And so we had to write our value statement and our vision statement and prioritize things and do all of that stuff. And I was already doing okay, but I wasn’t good at prioritizing. I’m still not great at that to be fair, but that made me better. I don’t know how to say no to anything ever. I say yes to everything. And then I took this class and it was a three-credit graduate class and it was life-changing for me in a way that I cannot… I don’t even know if the same professor’s there, I don’t know if the content’s the same, but it was life-changing for me.

(10:03):

And I remember other people in the class were annoyed. They felt like it was a waste of their time. And I learned more in that semester about what worked for me and what didn’t work for me than I had as my entire adolescence in early twenties. This was still in my early twenties, and it was phenomenal because I had to prioritize. I had to learn all of these skills and these habits and I had to write down how I would do it, and then I was forced as an assignment to do it, so I had to do it or I didn’t pass the class, and so I had to do it. I had to reflect on it, I had to do all of that. And it was that process that got me to a point where I was like, “Oh, these are the things I need to do.”

(10:42):

Now, my car still looks like a dumpster most of the time, and there’s a lot of pieces in my life that I would still like to work on. So I don’t want to make it sound like I’m perfect because I’m not at all, but I learned some great tools by being forced, like, try them, reflect on them and go again.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:00):

Absolutely. And I love that it was a class, because you mentioned it’s hard for you to say no. You say yes to everything, but we are more likely, I find, to let ourselves down than we are to let other people down. And because there was the class aspect to it and you had a grade depending on it, you’re going to do it and you’re going to do it well.

Kim Hicks (11:24):

Yeah, ’cause I still have that perfectionism in play.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:27):

For sure.

Kim Hicks (11:28):

And it went really well. It was great. And people always ask me, “What was the most valuable thing you learned in college?” And when I say Professional Educator learning, 10 Habits of Highly Successful People,” they look at me like I’ve maybe grown two heads. But I’m serious, it was the most amazing course. It was just phenomenal. I don’t know if they still do it, but it was great.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:52):

How I found you was looking on TikTok and I found your account where you talk about being a state representative and having ADHD and I was like, “We are getting her on the podcast,” and I want to talk about the decision to run for office in the first place. RSD is something that a lot of people with ADHD struggle with, which is rejection-sensitive dysphoria. You are throwing yourself out into something where people have to vote for you. What was the decision like and did you have any, I don’t want to say fears, but were there any concerns you had regarding how you handle things in life, regarding your emotions, and then jumping into the political landscape?

Kim Hicks (12:37):

To be clear, the first time I ran was before redistricting and I didn’t think I was going to win and I didn’t. And then I got breast cancer during the campaign of 2020, and so I had to have a mastectomy and a hysterectomy in the heart of campaigning during the pandemic. And so, I was like, “Well, that didn’t work.” Then when redistricting happened, I had to decide whether I was going to run again and I was afraid of the rejection piece. I wasn’t afraid before ’cause I knew the numbers weren’t looking good. It was an incumbent who’d been there for a long time, it was probably not going to be a thing. And I went into it with that mindset.

(13:24):

And the first time I ran, I went into it with the mindset of lifting the voices of the voiceless, having a platform to make sure that the conversations that were most important to me were happening and were being pushed to the front, like things for families and people with disabilities and children and making sure that those conversations were at the top, instead of being muddled behind all of the other things that the world forces us to prioritize. And so there’s a wonderful state representative here in town, Tina Liebling, Representative Liebling, Chair Liebling, and I remember we went out to coffee and I told her I was thinking about running and we were talking about whether I was going to run and I said, “I don’t know if I can win.” And she said, “The only thing you’re out when you run is time and what you gain in experience and knowledge is exceptional.” And I was like, “I don’t sleep much anyway. I can do this.” And so I didn’t win the first time and that was okay.

(14:30):

And then the second time I knew I could win. Redistricting had made me in the middle of the district instead of the edge of it, which meant I was going to be talking to my neighbors and my community more instead of trying to stretch myself into other communities where I didn’t know as many people and have as many connections or understand really what they needed in a representative. And I really had to think about it ’cause I was afraid of, not losing, I was afraid of not doing my best. I was afraid that people wouldn’t agree with what I believed and what I wanted and what I thought was best and my priorities. I was worried that wouldn’t resonate with folks. And actually I called a few friends and had conversations about whether or not this was a good fit and whether I should do it or whether I shouldn’t. And one particular conversation sticks out because the person was like, “Do you think that if you lose or win, you’ll make an impact? And if the answer is yes and you should still do it.”

(15:33):

And I thought I could, so I did. And it’s hard. It’s really hard, especially when people just say things that aren’t true. People just say stuff and it’s just not accurate. It’s not true. Sometimes it’s not even based in truth. They just say stuff and that’s really hard ’cause I don’t like that. That’s difficult for me.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:59):

It’s like the thing that I try to strive to is to never read the comments, but at the same time, even when people are saying things that are untrue, I imagine it’s hard to turn off the part of you that, as a human, still lets it bother you.

Kim Hicks (16:15):

Yes, all the time. All the time. I guess for me, I’m not some typical politician or even really successful adult, to be clear. I drive a super old minivan that has a big rust spot on the back because somebody backed into me a parking lot and took me three weeks to notice it and then I couldn’t do anything about it. And I live in a modest 1994 house that still has the bronze light fixtures from when they put them in because I have four different themes of random light fixtures in my garage ’cause I can’t decide. And I have a bunch of kids who are mostly neurodiverse and I didn’t birth them. They came to us through different ways and some of them are birthed too. All like a hot mess express all the time.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:06):

But don’t you feel like more people are a hot mess express than are the other way?

Kim Hicks (17:12):

I want that to be true, but I don’t know if it is. And I think when you’re a politician, everybody expects you to not be a hot mess express. You’re supposed to show up to work with your hair done and your makeup on and wearing a suit. I can’t stand suits. They make my arms cranky. I can’t move. I don’t like them. I don’t like it. You’re supposed to be wearing cute little dress shoes and I fall down in dress shoes and break my ankle. So I wear tennis shoes everywhere, even on the capitol floor because I can’t wear heels. I will fall and break my ankle. I have hyper mobility and I will fall down. Those pieces don’t fit what you would expect to see in a politician. And so I’m not sure that that space is made for me, but I’ve decided to put myself in it. And so then when people say things that aren’t true, I’m like, “No, there’s lots that’s true about me. You could really focus on some of that because it’s completely accurate. Focus there. Hot mess express everywhere. Don’t make it up.”

Lindsay Guentzel (18:12):

I want to touch on where you see your ADHD showing up in your life right now in a way that’s detrimental or holds you back or is frustrating. And I’m hoping we could start with your life at home and then move into the life you have now as a politician.

Kim Hicks (18:31):

I can’t separate those things. They’re all the same. For me right now it’s managing all the hats. So I have parent hat and I have my day job hat, ’cause I have a day job when we’re not in session because it’s a part-time legislature, even though there’s lots of work that happens in the interim. And then I have legislator, well because my day job, I’m a state employee, my legislator stuff can’t cross over, which also means I can’t share those calendars and my legislative stuff can’t go there and it also can’t go onto my personal calendars. I mean I can create it, but not details because that’s all public. And then I have my personal stuff for all the kids and myself and husband and home stuff. So I have these three organizational systems that I can’t merge.

(19:24):

So what I’ve done is I’ve created a Google calendar and then I don’t put details, but I’ll put Kim legislative work and I’ll put times of when I’m available to do that stuff and Kim state work and times when I’m available to do that stuff and then all the family stuff, ’cause I have to have it in one place. I can’t check three calendars before I make a dentist appointment ’cause I’m going to forget one and break it. And so that is all of those things being really hard at the same time. Like, this off session is just really, really hard to keep all of those balls in the air. There’s so many balls in the air and as anyone who’s neurodiverse knows, I can do the balls. I’m good, I can focus attention in 400 million places, but I have to be able to know where the balls are to catch them. And right now I don’t know where they are because they’re in three different calendars and I don’t like it at all. I want it in one place and I’m not allowed to merge the things.

Lindsay Guentzel (20:26):

From the little experience that I have covering politics, when I was working in a few of the newsrooms in the Twin Cities, I know that sometimes with the legislature, things are in flux a lot and they change a lot. There are things that are obviously very much set in stone, but then there are times where it felt like a constant array of emails being sent out about times being changed and events being changed and content being changed. And I’m wondering how you balance that because I know you mentioned you can manage the different hats, you can keep the balls up in the air if you know where they are, but we like to plan and we thrive on structure whether we want to admit it or not. And here you have this massive part of your life that is in flux all the time.

Kim Hicks (21:19):

Yes. So during session it’s amazing. Take somebody who’s hyper-focused, put them in one space and only make them do that one thing all the time. I’m really effective because I don’t have to do anything else. My husband’s at home dealing with all of this stuff up here because I’m up there Monday through Thursday or Friday, depending on session. So I’m there. I don’t have to do laundry, I don’t have to make dinner, I don’t have to take a kid to dance or football or basketball or cheer or hockey or whatever. I don’t have to do any of that. He does it. I don’t have to get a kid to therapy or occupational therapy or speech therapy or doctor’s appointments. He does all of it. I don’t have to do it. So it’s great. It doesn’t matter. I don’t have anything else on my calendar.

(22:06):

My calendar is there and my LA takes care of updating the changes so I don’t have to keep track of them. They just appear on my calendar and I’m at the capitol. I’m one of those ridiculous legislators who’s there early, leaves late, I’m there all the time ’cause I don’t have anything else to do and I get hyper-focused, so I’m good. But now in off-session when it’s like, “Oh, we’re going to have this event or this event,” and they’re changing or it’s like a unscheduled hearing or something like that, and I already have things scheduled, that’s really hard for me because I can’t drop everything else. I can’t drop all the other balls and catch the one ball. Obviously the legislature during session is way more than one ball, but you get the concept. They’re all the same kind of ball, so I can focus on those.

(22:46):

So actually I think it’s really a benefit during session. I can keep track of all of it because it’s all right there. All the information is at my fingertips and so I can really dive into it and I love it. It’s the balancing all the things in the off-session that is proving to just be more balls. I’m doing okay, but I wish I was better at it.

Lindsay Guentzel (23:05):

We’re always our owner’s critic, let’s be honest. You mentioned LA, which means legislative assistant. How does that play a role in helping you?

Kim Hicks (23:16):

Chelsea’s the most amazing person ever.

Lindsay Guentzel (23:18):

Chelsea is Kim’s legislative assistant, and we emailed so many times because we had to reschedule this because of all of the balls that I have up in the air and all of the things that I can’t control or are out of my control and I had to reschedule with you so many times and Chelsea is incredible. If we all could have a Chelsea.

Kim Hicks (23:40):

Right. No, she’s great and she’s so helpful in keeping track of the ever-changing things, especially during session when they’re changing so quickly. Now in off-session, she works on my legislative calendar. She can’t see the other things, so I have to communicate with her those other balls. I have to communicate with her, my home commitments, my work commitments, so that she can schedule my legislative commitments. And so I feel like I’m letting her down all the time ’cause I don’t give her all the information because I forget. Something changes on this calendar and I forget. Something changes on a kid calendar and I forget to let her know. I forgot to tell her I was going on a trip and I was going to be out of town and she knew I usually don’t work Fridays, so she scheduled a bunch of stuff and I had to be like, “Oh, I’m going to be out of town. I’m so sorry. Can you reschedule all of those things?” I felt really bad, but again, I can’t merge the things together.

(24:40):

I have to keep those parts of my life separate for legal reasons and safety concerns for my family and stuff. And so I have to keep them separate, but I have to keep Chelsea informed enough so that she schedules my legislative stuff. Saint. She’s amazing.

Lindsay Guentzel (24:58):

When you look at life right now and everything you have going on, where do you see yourself thriving? And I’m hoping you can pinpoint, in a way, where you’ve taken all of the things you’ve learned about how your ADHD shows up for you and you’ve been able to utilize that.

Kim Hicks (25:17):

Well, I think in session, in the legislature, it’s really clear. I want to know all the details. I want to understand all the pieces so I learn all the things. So I’m able to answer the questions and I’m able to gather other people together who are supportive and understand the reasons, and I know who the smart people in the room are to find and ask. And if I don’t know, I don’t just accept no as an answer, like why and who can I ask and who can we talk to and is there another solution? Is there a better way to do this? Has anybody ever talked about this before? Who has thought about this?

(25:49):

I’m not the smartest person in the room most of the time, so somebody’s thought of something similar. Who are they? And then I can go back and I can read bills from two years ago or four years ago or six years ago or eight years ago or 10 years ago and see why didn’t that work and what didn’t work about that? What could have worked about that? What were the things people were concerned about? How do we address those concerns? Who should I be talking to? All of that deep-dive four steps ahead thought process is incredibly helpful when you’re trying to draft bill language because there’s going to be people who have concerns, there’s going to be people who have questions. There’s going to be things that maybe don’t work the way you envision them in your head. And so getting into the weeds and the details and wonking out is I think a really big strength for me and I really like it. It’s super fun.

Lindsay Guentzel (26:37):

A lot of the work that you have done in your adult life has been based in working with people with disabilities, and I’m wondering how you have connected what you went through as a child, going through the testing for dyslexia, finding out you have ADHD, into the work you’re doing every day to help people? You mentioned before you decided to run for office, you wanted to give a voice to the voiceless. How have you fit in your own experience into the work you’re doing?

Kim Hicks (27:08):

I want to be really clear. I identify as a person with a disability, so I don’t see myself working for on behalf of, I see myself working with.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:20):

I’m so glad you said that, and it’s a great conversation for us to have and I think there are a lot of people who, for me, I haven’t even gone three years with my ADHD diagnosis yet. So hearing that word, disability, and of course, I’m in this new unknown right now with what I’m dealing with physically and I had to go get a disability parking pass last week.

Kim Hicks (27:42):

I have a bill to make that easier.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:43):

Well, I love that, but what I am learning is that I need to be preparing my life that every day is going to be my worst day and hope that it’s not because I can’t wait to start implementing those needs that I will have when I get sick. And I appreciate you saying that you view yourself as someone who has a disability. I think there just are a lot of people who are newer to this who are afraid of using language that might offend someone or might not be the right fit, and it’s a conversation we should be having.

Kim Hicks (28:17):

Some of that comes from the fact that we don’t currently live in an inclusive society. We haven’t created a community, a city, a state, a country that is truly inclusive, so people see being a person with a disability as othering, when in fact disability is just part of the human experience. People with disabilities have existed since the beginning of human civilization and they will exist into perpetuity. Disability is a protected class status that you can earn, gain, fall into, literally sometimes. You don’t know how able-less the world is until one day you aren’t able. Now some people grew up being different, being disabled, and so they don’t know anything different. And then there are people who become disabled, some as children, some as young adults, some not until they’re getting older, but you’re part of our community then. And there are people in our community who you know they’re disabled the moment you talk to them because they have a physical disability that’s really apparent or they have a disability that you can identify in their speech or in the way they interact.

(29:36):

And then you have other people in our community who have hidden disabilities that you wouldn’t know unless they told you or you spent a little bit of time with them. They’re all part of our community and they all have a right to an inclusive city, state, country, community, and that inclusivity starts when they’re itty bitty. It starts in preschool. It starts by not pulling our kids with disabilities out into separate classrooms. It starts by having everyone included from the beginning. It starts from having expectations that all people, regardless of their disability or their diagnosis or anything else that makes them unique, can and will and should be able to have their best life, whatever that looks like for them. So we have to start to back up for the future and in the current, we need to say it out loud.

(30:27):

One of the untrue things that people said this session that made me really frustrated was they did a great article about the adult changing table bill that I was the chief author of that I’m very, very passionate about. I’ve been passionate about it for a long time, but it wasn’t my bill alone. I had great, amazing community activists who have been fighting this fight for years. It was an issue that I was like, “This is one of the first things I’m going to do when I get in the legislature. We’re fixing this.” You should be able to change. Everyone should be able to use the restroom and get the hygiene they need in public. It needed to happen. So proud of that bill. So proud of that bill.

(31:07):

And after the news stories aired and everybody was… There was people who commented and the comment was, “I bet you that that legislator was paid off by the companies that build those changing tables.” I don’t even know who builds the changing tables. I’ve never met a single person from the changing table companies, but if we’re going to have an inclusive community, everybody needs to be able to use the bathroom when they go to the state fair. If we’re going to have an inclusive community, everybody needs to be able to use the bathroom when they go to the zoo. If we’re going to have an inclusive community everybody should be able to use the bathroom when they fly on an airplane. We can’t say we want a place that’s inclusive and then not actually do the things that make it inclusive.

Lindsay Guentzel (31:48):

I was not prepared for this conversation, obviously, the way I asked the question, and I’m so glad it went in the direction it did because you’ve given me so much to think about and even just you say that the idea of going somewhere and not being able to use the restroom. What I want people to think about is what you mentioned, we all come into our disabilities in a different way, and I’m an example right now of someone who is coming to it at thirty-seven and you just don’t know. You don’t know when it could be you, when it could be a loved one. You could be like my partner, John, and become a caregiver and he would be the one trying to figure out how to help me go to the bathroom in public. It’s so hard because it’s again, one of those things that unfortunately for a lot of people, until you are touched by it, you just want to pretend that you don’t have to deal with it.

Kim Hicks (32:44):

If we look at protected classes, people with disabilities are one of the largest minorities in the country. We just aren’t quite as good at being loud and we should be. We should be. We have an aging population that doesn’t see itself as part of our community, but I see them as, I mean, some of them do, but I see them as part of our community because they’re trying to access this community in the same way with the same barriers. People who don’t use microphones at community events, it sounds really silly and people are like, “Oh, it’s fine. Everybody can hear.” No, everybody can’t hear and they shouldn’t have to tell you they can’t for you to just use the microphone. People who are visually impaired who get jobs after getting their degrees and being highly skilled in their fields, but their employers can’t figure out how to get the right technology for them to be able to do their jobs on their work-issued devices, it’s not okay. We’re missing out on key folks. We’re missing out on talented people.

(33:47):

And there’s no reason why we can’t do it. There’s no reason why we can’t make that happen. People who don’t use verbal speech to communicate, we have the assistive technology to support them. They know how to use it. We don’t have to do it for them, but we all need to be comfortable with it. We all need to make sure that employers can use it and that they don’t discriminate because someone doesn’t use verbal speech and some of have a lot of balls and tools to help people keep track of them, know where they are, and if we drop one, responding in a way that comes from a place of mentoring and support and not judgment and shaming.

Lindsay Guentzel (34:23):

I know you mentioned that you didn’t come into politics, you’re not a traditional politician, but everything you said right there is incredible. It is so clear that you have found where you’re supposed to be and we’re really lucky that you’re there. And I love that we have someone who is neurodiverse working as a state representative because I think for a lot of people you mentioned the hot mess express, there’s so many people with ADHD who feel held back because of it, because they don’t belong in that space. The space wasn’t created for them. And so it’s so wonderful to see someone who is so forthright with their strengths and their weaknesses and their convictions showing that it is possible.

Kim Hicks (35:14):

Well, I’d welcome more help anytime. So if anybody’s interested in running, happy to chat. I think if I lived in the metro, it would be a lot harder because during session I would have all the balls. Because I’m able to focus and get a little hyper-focused during session, I think it actually works in my favor. It plays to my strengths in a different way. It’s great. And we need more representation, not just of neurodiversity, but all representation so that we look like the State of Minnesota. We need people who have different disabilities. We need people who are from different faith communities. We need people who are from different ethnic communities. We need people who are from different backgrounds and different genders and different gender identities and different sexual orientations. We need a legislature that looks like the State of Minnesota. And so I’m happy to be a part of that even if just a little bit.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:12):

When you look to the future, I’m wondering what is very motivating for you. What, right now, is pulling you forward?

Kim Hicks (36:20):

I had breast cancer at 37. I was the same age you are now, and it was 2B and it was highly aggressive. I had a mastectomy and I had a hysterectomy and I had six months chemo. I have an Onco score that tells me my recurrence rate, and it’s not super high, it’s not like a guarantee, but I was 37, and it’s not super low either. And so for me, I look to the future and I say, “How much time do I get on the planet? Do I get 15 years? Do I get 10 years? Do I get 20? Get 30? Get 40? And if I have less trips around the sun than I thought, then I better make every single one of them count. And so that’s what I’m doing, making every single one of the trips around the sun count because I don’t know how many I’ll have, and I know nobody ever knows, but my reckoning with that was right here.

(37:15):

And so I don’t know how many trips I’ll have, but I plan to do everything I can in every trip to make it better for my kids so that they can be adults in an inclusive world.

Lindsay Guentzel (37:26):

And to go back to what Chair Liebling said when you met for coffee that one time, “The only thing you lose out on when running, is time.” And I think that that’s a great thing for all of us to carry around on whatever it is that we want to try because it could… For me, I think of how often I hold myself back ’cause I’m afraid of hearing the word no, and really what am I losing out there? It’s the time it took to send the email

Kim Hicks (37:55):

And time’s a finite resource. You just don’t know how finite. Nobody does. And so I am committed to using my finite resource as much as I can to make the world a better place. And for me, that’s through the lens, not exclusively, but because everybody knows somebody who has a disability. Everybody loves somebody who has a disability, and if we make the world better for people with disabilities, it makes the world better for everyone.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:24):

I want to wrap up by asking you, through your ADHD journey, what is something that you wish people just understood better?

Kim Hicks (38:32):

I’m not doing it on purpose. I’m not trying to be annoying. I’m trying a lot and if I get it wrong, I’m going to be harder on myself than any of you are going to be, and I’ll never get that thing wrong again ’cause I will come up with 17 different things to prevent me from making that same mistake. One time. I’ll do it one time, and if I do it a second time, you better believe there’s going to be an over correction in play.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:59):

I could learn so much from you and we could keep talking all day long, and I just am so grateful for this moment. I think back to the impulsivity I had when I found you on TikTok and I sent you an email and I’m so grateful that I did this was a great lesson for me. I learn something new from every single one of the guests that we have on, but I think to be sitting here with you right now, I was supposed to have this conversation. I’m just really grateful for it, and so thank you for that, for being willing to open up about everything that you’ve gone through in life and to be able to share it with me on a day when I really needed it. So thank you.

Kim Hicks (39:42):

This is maybe not helpful, so feel free to ignore this completely, but if you ever email me from my private email, my personal email, in my signature line, it says, and it’s a quote from somebody, so I didn’t think of it. “If it’s not okay, it isn’t over because it’s either going to be okay or it’s over.” And that doesn’t mean the situation is resolved, it means you are okay with the situation. You have found what works for you, whatever that looks like. Then your journey’s not over. You’re still working through it, and I put it in my signature line because sometimes it feels like things take forever to come to resolution and I need to be okay.

Lindsay Guentzel (40:31):

We don’t hear a lot about ADHD when it comes to politics. About 4% of American adults live with the condition, so if we do the math, there are 535 voting members of Congress, which works out to 21 of the people who represent the people, probably having ADHD. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects people from all walks of life, but it’s not something commonly discussed or disclosed by politicians or public figures. We’ve been conditioned to see ADHD as a detriment, affecting a person’s ability to focus, stay organized, and follow through on tasks just to name a few symptoms, and I think we just see the big hurdle between us and being elected to office as, “Who’s going to vote for someone that we’re expecting to drop the ball?” Here’s the thing, having ADHD does not necessarily make someone incapable of holding political office.

(41:31):

As we’ve learned from Representative Hicks, some ADHDers may thrive in politics. They get to think on their feet, be creative and use their hyper-focus to actually get stuff done. Many our great communicators have strong leadership skills and work well with others. I really hope this conversation, that Kim’s story, inspires more people with ADHD to run for office. Most of the people I know who have ADHD are pretty open and aware when it comes to their strengths and weaknesses and if you’ve ever considered running for office, a great first step might be to start mapping out ways to manage your symptoms and where you might need added support. People with ADHD are completely and totally capable of doing hard things, and we deserve to have a seat at the table. It’s absolutely crucial, in fact. Advocacy and representation means more resources, more support and more good things like accommodations in the workplace or educational settings, which should be viewed as a win for everybody.

(42:36):

I’ll be honest, it was somewhat difficult for me to go back and listen to my conversation with Representative Hicks. I still have so much to learn, both on what it means to be a person with a disability and how to advocate for people with disabilities. I’m not even going to pretend to have it figured out. In fact, I’m somewhat self-conscious because I know I have a long ways to go and I’m hyper-aware that I might say something and unintentionally offend someone. I also know I need to be proactive in doing the work myself and not relying on someone else to catch me up to speed to teach me everything. That said, I’m really grateful to have people like Kim to have her walk me through it with such patience.

(43:20):

For me right now, this isn’t just about whether or not I see my ADHD as a disability. I’m working through the feelings of accepting that at points in my life I will have physical disabilities that will interrupt things, and it’s been a lot. I can’t even say I’ve come to terms with it because it’s very clear I’ve not come to terms with anything, nor do I know if I ever will or should be expected to. There’s obviously so much more for us to dive into surrounding the conversation on ADHD accessibility and disability rights, and it’s something we’re committed to exploring further, when we have the time and the resources to give it what it deserves.

(44:02):

I’m so grateful to Representative Hicks for sharing her story here with us on Refocused, Together. To see her out there doing her thing to increase awareness and create a more inclusive and accepting society, where everyone’s differences are celebrated and valued, it’s truly incredible. It’s clear it’s not an easy path to be on, and I’m sure she’d be more than okay with more people in her corner. That’s why I really hope if you’ve ever toyed with the idea of running for office, whether that be your local school board, city council, state representative, that you take a second and look into it.

(44:39):

We have just one episode left in this year’s Refocused, Together collection, and I can’t believe we’re finally here. Despite everything working against us, we did it. I hope you’ll join us for that final episode of Refocused, Together 2023. And remember, if you haven’t subscribed to Refocused yet or you’re a brand new listener who would like to hear some more, the easiest way to stay up to date with everything we’re doing is to make sure you’re subscribed. Just hop over to your favorite streaming platform. Hit follow, and you’ll get every brand new episode delivered straight to you. You can also follow along on social media @RefocusedPod and connect with our team via email [email protected].

(45:24):

Support for Refocused comes from our partner, ADHD Online, a telemedicine mental healthcare company that provides affordable and accessible ADHD assessments and treatment plans. To learn how they can help you on your journey, head to adhdonline.com and remember to use the promo code REFOCUSED20 to receive $20 off your ADHD online assessment right now. The biggest thanks. Go out to our team at ADHD Online, Keith Boswell, Susanne Spruit, Melanie Myle, Claudia Gatti and Trisha Mirchandani for their constant support in helping make Refocused, Together happen.

(46:13):

These 31 episodes were produced, thanks to our managing editor, Sarah Platonitis, our production coordinator, Phil Roaderman, social media specialist and editor Al Chaplin and me, the host and executive producer of Refocused, Lindsay Guentzel. To connect with the show on social media, you can find us online @RefocusedPod and you can email the show directly, [email protected]. That’s [email protected].

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