Peter Kiley and Embracing Your Bag of Sh*t

Today, Peter Kiley is an award-winning brewmaster at Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta where he puts his creative mind and passion for innovation to good use. But as a child, Peter grew up when there wasn’t much awareness of and treatment for ADHD, leaving him having to prove himself and repeatedly explain his conditions in different learning environments.

In this episode, Peter share his challenging journey of forgiveness and acceptance, adapting and recognizing what ADHD brings to his life.

Refocused, Together is a collection of 31 stories told throughout the 31 days of October, a part of our commitment to ADHD Awareness Month. Make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts so you don’t miss a single story this month! 

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Peter Kiley (00:00):

I’m not one of those people that’s going to be like, “It’s great having ADHD.” I feel like that’s bullshit. At times, can it be my superpower? And I hate using that term, frankly, but there’s times when it can be a great resource. It’s also a lot of times where it’s just kind of like this chain around me that I will never get rid of.

Lindsay Guentzel (00:28):

You’re listening to Refocused, Together, and this is episode six, Peter Kiley and Embracing Your Bag of Shit.


Welcome back to Refocused, a podcast all about ADHD. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel. You just heard a little from Peter Kiley, today’s Refocused, Together guest. Like all of the 31 guests we’ll have in honor of ADHD awareness month, Peter has generously shared his story to help us all see that we’re not alone. Peter has navigated a challenging journey of learning, forgiveness, and acceptance. Since being diagnosed with ADHD in sixth grade, the diagnosis provided an explanation for his struggles and marked the beginning of his journey. As part of an early generation with a lack of awareness and treatment for ADHD, Peter had to repeatedly prove himself and explain his condition in learning environments. Though he initially felt disconnected and angry, he learned to adapt and manage his condition in systems and social structures that are not ideal to folks with ADHD.


Peter has found solace in having an identity of his own and believes that people with ADHD have a unique ability to connect with others, making them feel comfortable and heard. With the help of his loved ones, he continues to learn more about himself and recognize that while ADHD might not be his superpower, it can be a great resource at times.


Today’s Peter has found his perfect job as an award-winning brewmaster at Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta, where he can put his creative mind and passion for innovation to good use. You can find out more about that on Instagram, @pbkiley, that’s P-B-K-I-L-E-Y, or over on Monday Night Brewing’s page, @mondaynight. Let’s hear more from Peter about his experience with ADHD, why he chooses to be unmedicated, and how creating structure in his life with accountability is a critical part of his survival.


We start all of the interviews the same. I want to know when were you diagnosed, and what was your diagnosis like, and what sparked that conversation for you?

Peter Kiley (03:05):

Well, I don’t know if it’s like this with everyone that has ADHD, but my memory’s not always great. But I do remember distinctly that when I was exiting sixth grade, and we had to do I guess a psych evaluation to enter a smaller private school that I was going to, and it was in that summer that I did that testing, and I learned a lot of things about myself, one of which was that I was diagnosed with ADHD, among a few other things, but that one definitely stood out.

Lindsay Guentzel (03:42):

You mentioned that you don’t have the greatest memory of that moment, but what was it that jumped out about ADHD and you as a sixth grader? What dots were people connecting that ultimately, then, came out on the exam you were taking?

Peter Kiley (03:59):

To be honest, out of all the things, I used to have a terrible stutter. I was also diagnosed with dyslexia. It was a lot of things at once. I don’t know. It felt kind of a little, I don’t know if the word is nice. It made me feel as though there was at least an explanation for all the things that I didn’t understand and how I felt like the world was speaking in English and I was speaking in Chinese, and I felt very disconnected, and I was a angry kid. And that was one of those moments where I was kind of like, “Ha. I knew there was something, and now everyone else knows there’s something.”


Because before, it was just maybe I was stubborn or I had some behavioral issues or… I don’t know. I mean, I grew up in a family where everyone seems to be a verbal genius and great at talking and great at reading, and they’re just kind of like, “Well, maybe he’s just the youngest. Maybe he’s just rebelling and doesn’t want to do this.” But I don’t remember much other than just that feeling of like, “Okay, now this is a starting point.” And I definitely didn’t have the tools to cope with any of this back then. I was so young, I just at least felt different, which I think when you’re a kid, it’s nice to have that, where you kind of have your own identity. So that was the beginning of my path.

Lindsay Guentzel (05:16):

What changed for you after getting those answers?

Peter Kiley (05:19):

I don’t really know. I think that maybe people treated me differently, and I started getting different attention in school. I think I started to, for the first time, possess some level of grace for myself, where I was like, “There’s a reason why everything’s harder for you.” It’s hard to say. It was so long ago. And I feel like it’s been this thing that’s so a part of me, I’ve never known life without it. So, it wasn’t that it was new for me then. The only thing that was new is that everyone else now knew it, and I could at least put a title, and I could at least start learning things about myself, because I had these key words that would, in theory, describe me, or at least describe what I had or who I was. I mean, it’s all the same thing, right?

Lindsay Guentzel (06:14):

What sort of treatment plan was put in place following your diagnosis, or what have you done over the years, whether it might be medication or coping strategies, but I’m curious, just like middle school, that’s such a hard time, and then you get this… Big answer lands right on your desk, and how did you guys move forward with that information, and what did you try to do to balance some of that?

Peter Kiley (06:42):

Once again, going back through time, I feel like every time I access memories, they become corrupted. But I was in this early generation where you just got really overmedicated, and that was really, really tough. That, frankly, just sucked. But no one really knew otherwise, and it seemed like it worked. I think a lot of people in my age, I’m 38 now, during this time when these terms started to get thrown around, the medication was just this thing. And I remember taking ungodly amounts of time-release Adderall. I mean, I think I was prescribed upwards of 80 milligrams a day, I mean, numbers that I now know are just completely irresponsible, and my parents didn’t know any better. And I think that also, the term was not really treated as seriously back then, to where it was kind of just like, “All right, well, you’ll grow out of this. This will go away.”


So, I don’t even know if I got a lot of coping mechanisms. I don’t know if there was a package delivered to me that was like, “Now that you have this, this is what you’re going to need to do differently.” I had a family of neurotypicals, and I was the one that was a little more neurodivergent. I mean, it’s funny to think that, looking at it now, I bet my brother and my father both have some level of ADD, but it just wasn’t really that way. I mean, I’m so proud to see how far we’ve come, and I hope that if my children have it, or with other people, there’s so much more to do with it now. There’s a shared lexicon. There’s a whole library of information.


But, frankly, it just didn’t really exist, at least in my world. And I was at a small Episcopalian private school where I had behavioral issues, so usually, it was chalked up as that. I had high aptitude, so people just thought that… They’re like, “You could do it. You just don’t want to.” It was all these classic things that you hear about now, and I think that the most consideration was actually towards my stuff and even my dyslexia. I mean, of course, I got extended time and all these things, where they put you in a room and make sure there was no stimuli, which already made you feel just kind of weird. You’re just like… I just feel like the strange kid in the class. And then, going into college, it was the same thing.


Also, you always had to prove yourself. You always had to be like, “Here’s the documentation.” It just felt kind of, not to curse in your podcast, it just felt kind of shitty. And I was just like, “Why do I have to keep explaining to people that I’m this way?” And I get it. Maybe some people abuse those rights. I don’t know.


But I feel like I have started to learn about myself and what I have and who I am more so in the past probably seven years, especially since I found my wife and we got married and she helped me to understand a lot of the things that were going on, because I didn’t really want to turn over all the rocks. I didn’t want there to be this thing that I now knew that was going to permanently hold me back or something that I couldn’t shake off. I think there was the hopeful piece of me that was listening to what I heard my whole life, that maybe this would just go away. But it hasn’t. And if anything, I’m not going to say it’s gotten worse, but if you were just to measure it, if there was something to measure, it feels like it’s become amplified the older I get, because I’ve become more comfortable with who I am. And that’s one of those things where I struggle with my ADHD.


There’s a lot of people that I work with and people that I’m close with that cope with my ADHD. I have a wife and two children. I can tell you that my wife definitely copes with the fact that I have ADHD, and there’s days when I hate that. There’s days where I hate that I’m a burden. I’m not one of those people that’s going to be like, “It’s great having ADHD.” I feel like that’s bullshit. At times, can it be my superpower? And I hate using that term, frankly, but there’s times when it can be a great resource, and it’s definitely prepared me for, whether it’s really intense situations or decisiveness or creativity. It’s all these amazing things, but there’s also a lot of times where it’s just kind of like this chain around me that I will never get rid of, and people just have to get used to that. And I do too at times. I have to reremind myself often that it’s not going away. This is just who I am.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:30):

The word burden is a very hard one to stomach, because it’s easy for us to say it, and everyone in our lives will say, “That’s not the case. You’re not a burden.” But because everything feels harder and sometimes it feels like all we do is make things harder, then that word comes out. And having a great relationship with your wife, I mean, what a gift for you, because I have to imagine that she goes out of her way to make sure that you don’t feel that way.

Peter Kiley (12:01):

I mean, at times, she’s also human. Especially when you have, I got two young kids, there’s definitely the reality where, sometimes, it’s going to really suck for her. It’s going to be really hard. And we also own a business together. We work together. We have overlapping lives in every regard. So I think that without her help to help me study it, and with all the resources that exist now, I think I probably just would’ve been… probably not as curious as I’ve become, because the more that I’ve realized that there’s out there, the more resources that I’ve found, the more people that are openly talking about it now for the first time ever, I feel like, I feel like I am not alone. I don’t feel like I’m crazy. And that’s been one of the coolest parts about this journey, is just seeing a lot of us come together and, not celebrate it, but acknowledge it.


Because I don’t think that… Maybe some people have it differently than me, that I don’t really celebrate. I think that it’s something that has been really, really taxing on me in my life, and that’s something that I overcome, I try to overcome daily. And there’s so many little things where people are just like, “Oh, you’re zoned out,” or this idea that I call analysis paralysis. I was never good at a lot of things, but science stuck out with me. Something about the dyslexic brain is like, I can look at things really well in my head, so I found chemistry. That’s what I studied at school. But I’ve got this weird good memory for the strangest things. And it’s all these things. But then there would be times when I can’t do the most simple of tasks, where I’ll just be frozen, and I’ll just be dopamine-seeking. And I’m like this arsonist at times, where I’m like, “I’m going to go burn something down so I can go put it out and rebuild it.”


I think I found the perfect line of work, because I’m constantly creating new things, and there’s always new problems, and I wear a million different hats. I can’t imagine life without that outlet that I have, running a brewery in a business. But, luckily, I have a lot of great business partners around me that are like… Maybe at times, I can be too emotional, which is something that I now know that’s really true about me and what I am and who I am. And there’s all these things where I’m like, “Can I fully run a business by myself?” I probably doubt that. Actually, I really know I couldn’t. Managing people, it can be hard at times. Sometimes, I feel like I need to be managed more than anyone else.


This idea of leadership feels so silly, because I’m like, “Who the hell would want to follow me? I’m… barely got myself together at times.” I tell this to a lot of people that I’ve talked to, and I’ve mentored younger children, younger kids that have dyslexia and ADHD, and I tell them all the same thing, that, in life, everyone gets handed a bag of shit, and it stinks, and you got to carry it around with you, but what you do with that bag of shit is up to you.


And I’m not ashamed of it. I don’t love it. Some days, it stinks worse than others, but it’s mine, and I can at least accept that, and I’m not going to ever shy away from it. I’m never going to hide it. I’m never going to try to pretend like I am… I’m not going to say normal, because that’s a terrible word. I’m just not going to pretend that I’m someone that I’m not, because this is so much a part of me that without it, I don’t think that the people that know me would recognize me.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:37):

I want to know what your biggest struggle is when you look at living with ADHD, and then what you actively do to try and help it.

Peter Kiley (15:47):

The remedial, which I think that the mundane, there’s a lot of that in life, whether it’s laundry, dishes, the things that you have to do every day. I mean, not to overshare, but there’s even days where just brushing your teeth or showering or these little things, where it’s even gross to admit it, these are all really true. And then, my sensory issues and all these other things. So, for me, I have to really create a lot of structure in my life. Without the structure, I go off the rails, because I have also chosen to remain unmedicated, and that’s something that I’ve found to be a really personal decision that’s come with a lot of pros and cons. But I can’t let the people that I care about suffer me. And also, as a person that cares about themselves, I don’t want to be a burden on the people that love me.


So, it’s been a lot of just… Well, especially with my wife and I, we just… There are assigned things that I do. And obviously, those things work, but when you have a two-year-old and a five-year-old, yesterday’s price is not today’s price. What worked last month doesn’t always work. So it’s really hard to… Once I get into good rhythm and I get it for two weeks, then there’s something new that’s thrown into it, and I feel like I’m always growing, and it’s always hard, and there’s seasons where I am a letdown, and there’s seasons where I’m like, “I might be ahead of the curve on this one.”


And, for me, it’s just creating structure, but also, it’s finding places where I can get the stimuli that I need to get the dopamine that I need, because if not, I’m going to go to weird places, whether it’s just living on my phone or sensory-seeking and dopamine-seeking in places that I just don’t need to be. I mean, earlier years, it was substance abuse, and I don’t want to do that. Finally quit smoking, don’t want to do that anymore. There’s just a lot of places that I’ve gone throughout my path that I’m like, “I now know I don’t want to do that again.”


And just being open about that is probably one of the best things that I’ve ever been able to do, because how is anyone going to learn? I didn’t have enough people around me telling me the truth, telling me like, “Watch out for this. You might really enjoy this too much. It might become unhealthy.” And no one really shared that with me. It was through to like, “Oh, he’s just young. Boys will be boys,” or whatever the hell it was, but it’s all bullshit. But we need to talk about this more and more and more, because people that don’t have the skills to get themselves out of the trouble or the resources or the support network, these sensory-seeking things and stimuli-seeking things, they can become your pitfall.


So, structure is the thing that I have to apply in my personal life and my professional life. I have calendars now. Look at me, so strange to be proud of that, because people are just like, “Yeah, of course, why wouldn’t you?” That took me like… I just adopted that a year and a half ago. And I’ve been doing this business thing for 12 years. We have almost 200 employees now. So, it’s other things, where it’s like, yeah, I mean, I now realize that without my structure, it’s not that I just let down my family, my friends, and then I let down all these people that work for us.


So, accountability’s also been another aspect of my structure, is like people holding me accountable. I ask them. I tell people very openly that I work with who I am. I have a very short list of things that I’m great at, and I have this huge, long list of things that I’m terrible at, and I’m so proud of my long list, because I’m not hiding it. I put it up for everyone to see, and I ask them to not just accept it, but I ask them to know it, because if they think that I’m not providing in places where I’ve acknowledged that I do need help, obviously, I can’t just be like, “Oh yeah, I told you I suck at that, so I’m going to continue to suck at that,” but it does at least help people to understand how to work with me. I think we all know, in this world, you have to train people how to treat you, and in the workplace and in life, I have to create the structure and be honest about who I am in order to just survive. Sometimes I thrive. Sometimes I survive.

Lindsay Guentzel (20:43):

Every day is different.

Peter Kiley (20:46):

Truthfully, it’s one of the most unknown things I feel like about this, is that there’s nothing that works every day. You just keep reaching. You end up picking out different tools to get through your day. And you’re like, “Oh, that tool worked yesterday, and it’s not going to work tomorrow.” And people don’t understand that. It feels like oftentimes, you’ll wake up, and you’re just replaying the same game, and you’re just like, “Okay, how am I going to get through this one?” Some days, it’s awesome, and you totally thrive, and you crush, and you’re just like, “I’m unstoppable.” And the next day, you feel depressed, and nothing works. And I also realize that I have hypersensitivity, so someone could even just say some benign thing to me, and it could just hit me like a ton of bricks, and then it throws me out of my creative zone, and then I’m like, “Well, what am I good for today?” It’s really hard, and I’m sure that you know this. I’m sure that people that listen to this probably get that.

Lindsay Guentzel (21:45):

There’s a reason why I’m laughing and nodding through everything, is because everything you’re saying is just like, “Yes.” It’s so relatable. And I think sometimes, it’s hard for us to see what’s happening in our own lives, but then to hear somebody else explain it who gets it, and you’re like, “Yes.” The light bulbs… I mean, that’s the one thing with this, is it doesn’t matter if you were diagnosed, like you, around sixth grade, or me, who was diagnosed before I turned 35. You learn something new every single day.

Peter Kiley (22:17):

Yeah, for better or worse. There’s some things I’m like, “I don’t know if I’m ready to know that about myself yet.” And of course, I’m really curious to know how it’s going to evolve as I evolve, how it’s going to change as I grow older. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that have had it before me, but I feel like we’re just now starting to really, at least in the past 10 years, really understand it better and share. So, maybe I’m going to be a part of the people like you that help to spread the word and to understand it.


But I also don’t know a lot of people that are older than me, like 20, 30 years older than me that could talk to me about it and tell me like, “Hey, this is where it might go. Watch out,” because I feel like it’s not like, “Oh, get excited ever. Oh, it’s going to be amazing. You’re going to love the destination.” I feel like for me, it’s like, “Just watch out for this.” And, I mean, it’s hard enough already. I want everyone to tell me, if they have the answers, of how it could be different when you’re older, because… I think I’m excited in the days when things work well and I accept myself, but I’m probably more trepidatious than anything about how it’s going to go on as I get older. I’m more nervous about it than I am anything. I think I respect it enough to know that it’s not something I should joke around with.

Lindsay Guentzel (23:47):

I want to talk about where you’re thriving. Right now, you are at your brewery. I imagine that that is a big part of, when you look at your life and you think of the good things, what you’ve built with Monday Night Brewing. So, when you look at life, what stands out for you? What’s your gold star?

Peter Kiley (24:09):

I mean, the thing I’m most proud of is my family, without a doubt. My wife’s brilliant. She’s completely different than me. And my children are awesome, and I’ve built something really beautiful that I think I’m the most protective of. That’s where I apply most of my effort. But, obviously, I think I’ve done a pretty good job in the world that I work in.


Before beer, I was a winemaker, and I found a lot of peace with being outside, actually, just connecting with my earth. That was one of those things that actually brought a lot of stillness to me. My ADHD was absolutely one of those ones where I was just… I could not stop moving. I am not a dog chasing a butterfly. I’m like a F1 race car chasing a butterfly, and I would go way past that butterfly, and I would just find a bunch of other things. So, finally finding something that slowed me down, but not in a way that held me back, but in a place where I wanted to be slow, where I wanted to stay there longer. And then, with winemaking, it turned just to beer. And I get to use my chemistry, because I wasn’t going to be one of those people that studied something at school and didn’t use it.


So, when I found these guys that were starting this brewery, I think I saw them as stability, because they’re very organized, deliberate, empathetic, caring, good people. The thing just grew so fast, and it was amazing. And every day, there was a problem. But, for me, it was like an opportunity. I like problems. I think problems are great. I am a problem. I thrive with problems. Me and problems get along beautifully. So, I loved this crazy pace, super intense, complex problem-solving environment that I had found myself in. And then, it was not just scaling it, but it was also creating products that made us relevant and engaged with the consumers. And, obviously, my stutter’s not an issue anymore, and I actually love talking to groups of people.


So I found myself being able to do all these things, whether it’s chemical engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, engaging with people, doing the marketing. I don’t just design beers and then let someone go make a label for it. I’m one of those people like, if I’m going to build a house, I’m also going to paint it. It’s like, I love being involved in everything, which now people know this about me here, but it took a while to stake my claim as being fluent in a lot of different departments, and I would not have that luxury if I didn’t have the agency of being an owner. So I think over time, I’ve carved out this place for myself here, and I’ve earned the trust of the people that I work with.


And I love what I do, but I’m also… Me, Peter Kiley, I am 99.99% me, and I’m like 0.01% what I do. And in the early years, it was probably inversed. I completely measured myself based off of the works that I wrought through my job. And if someone didn’t like a beer I released, I don’t remember the beers that people love, but I remember every time someone hated something. And that motivated me in weird ways. I think anyone that truly suffers with this, they recognize that the greatest motivators are the moments of rejection and those moments of intense sensitivities, because it’s not because you want to overcome it. It’s because you never want to go back there, because it hurt so much, and no one could even understand how badly it felt, how nerve… and things feel so raw, and everything just feels like it’s crumbling.


So, I just became really good at it. That was my motivator. So, I studied harder. I pushed the boundaries harder. I failed privately faster. And when I was ready to present, I did it with a level of… I don’t know. I definitely still suffer with imposter syndrome, but I’m also very much so a perfectionist, which is so funny to hear someone that struggles with the most basic things to say that you’re like, “I’m a perfectionist.” In some places, I absolutely am. Some places, I’m a mess. I think everyone knows the dichotomy of this world that we live in and who we are. It’s remarkable, Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde all the time.


But I’ve grown to love what I do. I’ve grown to love who I do it with. I’ve grown to love the community that we do it for. And all of that, once again, just brings structure and stability to me. I don’t know what I would’ve done in those early years without this. It probably would’ve been a lot scarier if I didn’t have this. Who knows who I would’ve been? So yeah, I mean, I’m super thankful for it. I think it’s probably… outside of my family, is the thing I’m most thankful for, is this opportunity. So, I’m sure with these podcasts, people don’t ever directly answer your questions.

Lindsay Guentzel (29:44):

You are doing such a good job. It is…

Peter Kiley (29:49):

Well, I appreciate you saying that, because, I don’t know, I think it’s like, with a lot of us, sometimes you just talk. I think a lot of ADHD is just feeling. It’s just feeling. And I can’t always quantify how I feel. I’m always so curious what other people do that have this, because I don’t have cute ADHD. I’ve got really severe, really crappy ones, and I refuse to medicate, because medication has stolen so much from me, and I am a fierce advocate for people that want to step away from it. Obviously, people are allowed to choose their own paths, but it stole so much from me. And I deal with the consequences of not taking it. There’s definitely moments when I took it when I was like, “This is working. This is great. I’m able to do all these things that normal people are able to do.”


And then also realized that I wasn’t able to do all the things that were actually special about me. Not going to call it my superpower, because it doesn’t feel super. And I’m not in control of the power. It’s just there. It’s like getting to put on a costume and be a different person. And that’s how it felt with me. Medication was just a costume, wasn’t who I was. It was me just dressing up like everyone else in the world. And after a certain point, when I started to accept myself, I was like, “That’s bullshit. That’s not who I am.”


I started to get comfortable with two versions of me. And for any human being out there, that’s a dangerous thing, when you start losing your identity, not externally, but internally. It’s really, really dangerous, because you could start going really… At least I did. I started going all kinds of places to try to figure out who I really was. And in those early years, that was super destructive behavior. But finally getting off the medication, which took a while, that emotional just breakdown, I was a mess for years, but it was also years and years and years of essentially a stimulant. And I’ve just told myself, I’m like, “I can’t do that again. I can’t.”

Lindsay Guentzel (32:03):

You mentioned some of the fears and concerns you have about the future and growing older with ADHD, but I’m wondering, what gives you hope right now? What is something that is pushing you forward?

Peter Kiley (32:17):

That’s a really good question. Might not come across this way, but I’m a really positive person. I have a lot of love for life. My hyperactivity has not gone away. I love to explore the world. This world is massive. I love exploring it. Also, I really like people a lot. I’m really good at reading people. There’s so much to look forward to. I guess what I’m trying to say is that having a positive outlook on the world and the people in it, even if I don’t always apply that to myself, is something that’s really been my saving grace. I love hanging out with my kids, watching them grow up. I love hanging out… my friends, people at work. I like meeting new people. It’s funny, people with ADHD, at least the ones that I know in my world, people are always like, “Oh, you’re so extroverted.” And I find that to be so funny, because all of my friends that have ADHD, we’re not extroverted. We’re more like ambiverts, right?

Lindsay Guentzel (33:20):

I think there is a giant misconception about people who have ADHD being extroverts, when really, it’s a limited tolerance for small talk. I don’t do small talk. We are going to become best friends in the first 10 minutes. We’ll probably never see each other again, but we will know each other’s deepest, darkest secrets, and that’s just how I communicate.

Peter Kiley (33:42):

That’s awesome. Man, you really nailed that. I suck at small talk. I would so much rather go down a dark hole with you about some trauma than talk about the weather.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:54):

Yes. Tell me your deepest, darkest secret.

Peter Kiley (33:58):

I remember when I was younger in college, I remember this one time. I’d met this girl and just really just went in, and she unpacked a lot. She felt really comfortable with me, and I remember her crying, and my friends were like, “Yo, why’d you make her cry?” And I’m like, “I don’t think that’s what I did, yo. I don’t think I was rude to her. I think I just really went somewhere super fast.”


And, like I said earlier, connecting with people, I have a really great skill of connecting with people, and I don’t think it’s because of the fact that I’m extroverted. I’m really curious, and I lack a lot of boundaries that maybe normal people have, where I’m not afraid to probe. I’m not afraid to breeze past your comfort zone and to ask you a question directly. And I’m also really good at connecting in a way that makes people feel comfortable in sharing with me, and I actually like hearing them. So, I encourage it. And I will do that 10 times out of 10. And when I have to do the small talk, I usually just act out. I usually will create something that allows for the small talk to evaporate. It’s so funny you say that. Is that a common thing? Ah, that’s awesome. What other things do you know that…? I’m like, “Tell me more.”

Lindsay Guentzel (35:20):

So much of what you said, honestly, I was like, “Peter might be the male version of me.” And what’s really interesting is to think of how different our journeys were with finding out about our ADHD and even just living with it. And it’s just, hearing some of the things you talk about, it’s really affirming for me, somebody who, same thing, I have always measured my success by my career, by what I can do for other people. And the second I started acknowledging that and realizing what was happening and that it was actually what was holding me back, it’s been a game changer. But it’s very hard to break the people-pleasing.


And I also… What you mentioned about… When you’ve been hurt and those walls go up, they are not coming down. They are there, and I am waiting, and you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And you touched on a little bit, when you feel that pain and that hurt and someone makes you feel a certain way about yourself, and we’ve all had that, whether you had it after your diagnosis or before your diagnosis, and then for me, my entire education was undiagnosed, and you sit with that shame, and you let it fester. And the more we talk about it and the more we acknowledge that we are trying to fit into a one-size-fits-all world that was not built for us and is not adapting at all to us, a lot of that shame can go away, but it only really is helpful when you are surrounded by people who understand it.

Peter Kiley (37:00):

Man, fucking preach. Wow. Yeah, I mean, at times, it feels like the world’s not built for you. But, just to push back, I think everyone feels that. I tell this to myself, and I tell this to my kids. I remember how hard it was being a kid. It’s really hard to be a kid. It’s also really hard being an adult. It’s actually just really hard being here, but it’s the best place you’re going to be, and you kind of got to fight for your days. You got to fight for your sanity. You got to fight for the things… I mean, we are so much what we dislike about ourselves just as much as what we like about ourselves. I can’t be me without the bad and the good, so I’ve even come to the point where I almost, in a way, fight for the bad parts about me that still exist, because they’re responsible for the good parts. I’m always afraid that my evolution’s going to remove a piece of my past, and I want to take it all with me.


There’s definitely a lot of truth in our school systems and a lot of the social structures that we have that it’s not ideally designed for us, but I also believe that it’s our responsibility to… whether we change it or adapt to it, but that’s up to us. It’s up to the individual, truthfully. I would never accept that in myself. I was never going to just be like, “Well, it doesn’t fit. Guess I’m not wearing shoes.” I think that’s also the beginning of our path of unlocking some of those cool things that we have.


Shame’s the hardest thing to work through, though, and shame is a really great word to describe a lot of those feelings that people have, because you might disguise it as anger. You might tell yourself it’s someone else’s fault, but it’s not. It’s just like, we have hypersensitivity. And shame can do a lot of dark, dark things. And when you start seeking stimuli to exit your shame, you go dark places really quick. I’ve been there. I’ve been to those places, I’ve visited them frequently. And these are the things that I tell the people that I can tell, especially the younger kids that are… I’ve actually sat down with classes of kids with dyslexia and ADHD, and I just talk about it. Do you just share the truth about it? Do you see these eyes light up, where someone’s like, “Wow, you said the code words. You are one of us. Tell us more.” It’s a really cool feeling.


I’ve watched a lot of the videos that you’ve done, and I’ve heard a lot of people where I’m just like… I think all of us want to be unique, but a lot of times, I don’t want to be unique. And I see these videos, and I’m like, “Oh, hell yeah, I want to meet that person.” I’m like, “Yeah, they really get it.” Shame is such a bitch. It’s the cruelest mistress. It is just so hard to work through, and shame manifests itself in so many unique places, especially when you have hypersensitivity. The most benign things to someone else, they’d be like, “Wait, you responded like that to that?” And I’m like, “You have no idea how devastating that was, and you have no idea of all of the structure that I’ve put in place to avoid that and all the places that I have grown because of that.” I’m like, “I’m going to go become great at something privately because you said something passively.”


It’s fantastic, honestly, the causality of it all, at least in my role, just with this appreciation for chemistry in the physical world, just seeing the causality of who I’ve become because of what I have suffered, I guess is the word I would use. It’s been fascinating. It’s awesome. As long as you don’t let it just kick you in the teeth and leave you on the ground, and you just got to work through it, it’s amazing what happens next.


And I tell that to all the young people. I’m like, “Just stick around for them. Hang on. It’s going to suck, but it sucks for everyone. Your suck’s different, though, and you’re not going to have a lot of people to share it with, and they’re not going to fully understand it. But, if they do, keep them around and talk as much as you can about it. And be honest with yourself with others, because if you aren’t, no one would ever begin to understand it.” So, I don’t know, that’s my battle cry for anyone out there with it. I’m like, “Just tell the truth about it. And if they don’t accept you, fuck them.”

Lindsay Guentzel (41:44):

Perfect words to go out on.

Peter Kiley (41:47):

Sorry for cursing so much.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:50):

Peter, this was such a pleasure. When I’m in Atlanta, I’m coming by Monday Night Brewing. We’ve already had our heart-to-heart, our bypassing of the small talk, so we can move on to the next phase of things. But I’m so appreciative for your time. This was so enjoyable and so eye-opening for me, and I’m just so grateful that you were willing to share your story with us. And there’s so much more good to come from you sharing your story, and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Peter Kiley (42:19):

That’s really kind of you to say, and thank you for having me be here. Thank you for giving me this outlet to just talk about it. And if you do come to Atlanta, you have to promise me there’s zero small talk. Now that I know that we can’t do that, I love this. I’m going to put a sign up just on my face that says, “No small talk.”

Lindsay Guentzel (42:41):

It makes life so much easier.

Peter Kiley (42:42):

So much more interesting too. I can only talk about the weather once a year. But thank you again and keep doing such a great job with this, and I hope people that watch this… Tell the truth. Be yourself. It’s okay. It’s cool, actually.

Lindsay Guentzel (43:05):

I had such a wonderful time getting to chat with Peter, like face hurt from smiling fun, and it reminded me of the importance of sharing our stories. Every moment of our lives, every success we achieve, every challenge we face, and every adventure we embark on form a part of our unique story. Our story has the ability to impact and maybe even inspire or bring hope and joy to others. It can feel really big and requires a lot of courage to share our story. Sometimes, we might feel like we’re oversharing, and that good, old rejection sensitivity likes to kick in. I often remind myself that it’s okay if I’m sharing with someone and what I’m sharing is in context.


Our stories are truly valuable and important. It’s okay to feel a little nervous about sharing your story with others, but don’t let that fear hold you back. Sharing our stories can lead to greater understanding and connection for everyone involved in the conversation. So, let’s embrace our stories, share them with others, and let them inspire the world. It’s something that Peter does so selflessly, and I’m so honored that he chose to share it with us here on Refocused, Together.


He also talked about a topic that can take a lot of mental energy for ADHDers, medication. It can be a highly effective way to alleviate symptoms. However, it’s important to note that some people may prefer to avoid medication for various reasons. If you’re unsure whether medication is the right choice for you, it’s important to start by talking to a healthcare professional. Tell them you want to work with them to evaluate the specific ADHD behaviors that are impacting your life so you can see how medication could fit in. You’ll want to consider how these behaviors interfere with activities and situations that are important to you. For instance, if disorganization is affecting your ability to manage paperwork, coaching and organizational tools are available to help. On the other hand, if you struggle with distractibility and need to stay focused during meetings, deadlines, and conversations at work, medication may be a viable option to help you manage your symptoms. Ultimately, the decision to use medication should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional, based on your needs and preferences.


It’s natural to have lots of questions and also to not know how to phrase them. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with some basic questions for the next conversation with your provider, like, “Is this medication a stimulant or a non-stimulant? How does it work in the brain? What are the known side effects? How will I know if it’s working for me? And finally, if I decide to stop taking it, how do I do that?” Remember, it’s essential to monitor your symptoms and speak openly with your healthcare provider so they can make appropriate adjustments. And always schedule your next appointment so you can keep the conversation going.


I’m just so grateful that I got that time with Peter. He is spot-on. We all have our bag of shit, and the really shitty part is, it’s all up to us what we do with it. I’ve included links in the show notes so you can connect with Peter on social. And if you’re in the Atlanta area, make sure to stop by Monday Night Brewing and say hi.


Thank you guys so much for listening. We have so much in store for you. To catch all of the 31 stories we’re sharing this month, subscribe to Refocused wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also learn more about Refocused, Together at adhdonline.com/refocusedtogether. And make sure to follow us on social @refocusedpod.


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 a 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 Meyrl, Claudia Gatti, and Tricia Mirchandani for their constant support in helping make Refocused, Together happen. These 31 episodes were produced thanks to our managing editor, Sarah Platanitis, our production coordinator, Phil Rodemann, 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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