Refocused, Together: Wrapping Up 31 Stories From People with ADHD

It’s the recap show! We’re looking back at the 31 episodes we shared for Refocused, Together 2023! 

Enjoy this wrap-up and join us back here on Monday, January 15th as we dive into our next topic, talking all things ADHD and time blindness with Dr. Ari Tuckman. 

Links from today’s episode:

Check out the incredible work of Diyah Najah, whose first solo exhibition is currently underway in Atlanta. 

Listen as Lindsay joins Refocused, Together guest Katy Weber on Women and ADHD — Lindsay Guentzel, Positive thinking & learning to accept help.

Add us on Social Media!

Lindsay Guentzel (00:06):

Welcome back to Refocused, a podcast all about ADHD. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and today we’re looking back at Refocused, Together 2023, the series we created as a part of our commitment to ADHD Awareness Month.

(00:20):

We started this last year in what can only be described as a very ADHD moment. It was early in July 2022 and John and I were out on the lake. I remember it was hot and sunny and we were hanging out with friends, tied up to a bunch of boats in the shallow water around this island and my brain was running a mile a minute, thinking about all the things I wanted to do with the podcast. We were in the very early stages of talking about ADHD Awareness Month coming up in October. We knew we wanted to do something, but what that something was we hadn’t quite figured out yet. And then there it was, just sitting there in my brain ready to go. All my fellow dreamers out there know that feeling, when the idea you’ve been looking for comes to you and is just so perfect, you can’t believe it’s actually real.

(01:08):

We were going to tell a different person story every day throughout the month of October, talking to 31 people with ADHD, one for every day of the month. We had no idea what we were in for. It’s without a doubt the most challenging thing I have ever done, but when we finished, it felt like I had learned everything I needed to so we could make 2023 that much better.

(01:31):

Despite my frustration that our first year wasn’t perfect, it was still an incredible undertaking and it made my insecure little heart so happy when we were recognized for the accomplishment by the Communicator Awards, bringing home three wins for the series. I went into prep mode for 2023 with so much excitement and optimism. We were so ahead of schedule, taking into account everything we’d learned the year before. We’d fine-tuned our structure, our scripting, our editing, our production team was set, and our lineup was filling in with incredible guests. Everything was set for an amazing season, and then the wheels fell off in dramatic fashion.

(02:10):

If you’ve been a listener for a while, you know the story. In March, after two months of being incredibly sick and not knowing what was happening to my body, I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis, an autoimmune disease that attacks my muscles. And when we started getting things going for Refocus Together 2023 this summer, things were going well. My CK levels, what they test to see the strength of the disease in my body, they were down to 1,300, the lowest they’d been since we started testing all the way back in February. Things felt good, and then suddenly they didn’t.

(02:43):

And in the span of two weeks, my numbers jumped up to 11,000. I found myself in the emergency room three times at the end of August and then on September 1st, when my CK levels rose above 19,000, I was admitted to the hospital. I spent 10 days there, a round of Rituxan, three rounds of plasmapheresis, a procedure where they filter out your blood to clean out the bad stuff, and two rounds of IVIG, only to go home and have my numbers continue to go up. So I was readmitted, this time for eight days where we did a muscle biopsy, a round of chemo, and so many MRIs, I can’t even remember how many there were. And then I was discharged and October started, and we thought we were in a good place.

(03:25):

We published 12 episodes before I had to take a break. None of the treatments we had done were working, and I was just sitting at home becoming more and more immobile every day. The disease was ravaging my body. In early October, I stopped driving because I was so weak, my arms grew tired holding the steering wheel and I didn’t trust my legs to make it to the brake if they needed to. Soon after that, John quit his job to stay home with me after it became clear I couldn’t be left alone.

(03:52):

I kept working when I could. My team, my managing editor, Sarah Platonitis and my coordinating producer, Phil Roaderman, picked up everything I asked them to. The team at ADHD Online, our sponsor, never asked anything other than, “What do you need from us?” We kept working to record interviews and edit the ones we’d recorded already, and because we had to cancel interviews while I was in the hospital the month before, we had to book new guests to fill those spots.

(04:18):

The day I found out I was being readmitted again, my third hospitalization since September, I actually missed a call from my doctor because I was recording the last episode we needed to get done, and because I sent him to voicemail, he called my emergency contact, John, who proceeded to tell my doctor I was upstairs recording an interview, to which my doctor responded, “Wait, she’s still working?” I was still working, because what else was I supposed to do?

(04:46):

Hindsight is a gift, and I do know now that back in September when I was hospitalized for the first time, I should have pivoted. I should have changed things up, but by then we had so many interviews recorded, we had so many guests committed, and it felt too late to turn back. It’s hard for me to say we shouldn’t have done it because I relied on those episodes to get me through the toughest days. I relied on this project as something that kept me moving forward. I became almost a spectacle in the hospital. The woman who was working, who was recording episodes in her hospital room, editing interviews while I waited to be wheeled off for a procedure, meeting with Sarah on Zoom calls, my bedside table turned into a standing desk because my butt couldn’t last one more minute in that hospital chair.

(05:31):

For all of the projects I never finished, I wanted to finish this one for me. Yes, to show everyone, myself probably the most, that I could still do this, but I also really wanted to do right by the guests who’d agreed to share their story with us, our incredible guests who were vulnerable and honest, and who shared things they’d never said out loud before. I wanted them to hear themselves and be proud, to hear their stories and be reminded of all they’ve overcome, to be able to go back to these episodes on those dark, tough days that we all have, and remember what was pushing them forward.

(06:07):

Right now, health-wise, I’m okay. My CK levels are still high, around 8,500, and while a lot of my mobility has returned, I’ve lost about 15 pounds of muscle and I’m still incredibly weak. John started helping with the podcast in addition to driving me to doctor’s appointments and trying to learn everything he can about our healthcare system. Being chronically sick and all that comes with it, it’s a full-time job for everyone involved.

(06:33):

I’m so proud of what we accomplished. I am proud of every single one of these episodes, of the work we’re creating, and what’s ahead for this podcast. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it, and it means so much to me that you all love it too because I love the work I’m doing and it feels incredible to get to say that.

(06:53):

If I can ask one thing of you, if you’ve listened to Refocused since day one or you’ve only been listening to Refocused for a few days, if you would take a minute and wherever you’re listening to us now, maybe it’s Apple Podcasts or over on Spotify, take a minute and leave us a rating and a review, like Auntie Abba, who left this for us in October.

(07:13):

“Lindsay’s podcast is neck and neck with The Moth for being my favorite. Every episode hits home. I feel seen and supported in my journey with ADHD. I learn something new, am reminded of something I forgot, or simply have an aha moment every single time I listen.” Thank you so much for those incredibly kind words, Auntie Abba. It made me so happy to see that and I can’t wait to get back on schedule. We have some incredible episodes ahead for you, so get excited.

(07:50):

Finding 31 people to talk about their ADHD doesn’t really seem like that hard of a task, but one thing that has always been really important to my team has been building as diverse of a collection of stories as we could. It’s what we aimed to do with our first series last year, and we put even more pressure on ourselves to make this year’s collection even more diverse than what we shared with you in 2022.

(08:14):

To get started, we actually reached out to our incredible guests from last year to see if they had any nominations, people that they knew from their own circles, from their own experiences as a person with ADHD that they thought would be an important addition to our lineup. Our first two guests of 2023 were actually people that we found through the nomination process. Ying Deng, nominated by Linda Yee, and Farah Jamil, nominated by Alex Hey. There’s no doubt you’ll remember Ying for this incredible little nugget.

Ying Deng (08:44):

There’s no such thing as this ideal adulthood. I don’t know where I got the idea from, but that’s one of the struggle I’m dealing with, of just the natural energy ups and downs as well. We don’t have the bandwidth to kind of handle 10 different things all at the same time that’s required being an adult.

Lindsay Guentzel (09:05):

I was actually able to meet both Ying and Farah in person at the International Conference on ADHD at the end of November last year. Ying was there presenting on ways to make meditation more ADHD-friendly, and Farah joined another Refocused, Together alum Jessie J. Anderson, sharing her experience using social media to connect with the ADHD community, something she was initially hesitant about after finding out about her diagnosis, but has since tried to embrace.

Jesse J. Anderson (09:33):

I like to say that we need to destigmatize and demystify, and I think for many people there are those stigmas because there’s so much misinformation. And so seeing more and more people talk about it, having platforms like yours, talking about it, meeting with so many people and giving others the chance to hear our voice and to see us is making a difference.

Lindsay Guentzel (10:00):

We kept the list of incredible guests going with episode three, meeting the wonderful Diyah Najah down in Atlanta, Georgia.

Diyah Najah (10:07):

I’m an artist, and because I’m an artist, I am alive. Art is the first place that I ever felt successful in my life, and if I don’t have art, I really don’t have a quality of living.

Lindsay Guentzel (10:21):

Seems like Diyah and I feel the same way about the work that we do. Her first solo exhibition is live right now. It’s called Unmasked and it runs through February 5th, exploring who we would be without societal norms, forced cultural standards, and socialization of what is considered acceptable or not, what is considered “normal.” The internal struggle of a person with ADHD, knowing what we would gain if we could just fit in, but also aware of what’s really at stake every time we conform. If you’re in the Atlanta area, make sure to go check it out. You can find more information shared in the show notes.

(10:59):

In episode four, we met furniture maker and Fargo native Steve Revland.

Steve Revland (11:04):

The students who would achieve usually sat in the front close to the teacher, and I usually sat near the window where I could look out and dream about the possibilities in life when I get out of this school situation because I hated it. I absolutely hated it.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:24):

Followed by Allie Rivera over in Hartford, Connecticut.

Allie Rivera (11:27):

Once I got that diagnosis, I was able to look back at all these moments where I thought that I had been failing and reframe it as, I wasn’t failing. It wasn’t that I was lazy or bad at being alive, it’s that my brain is wired differently that makes executive function difficult.

Lindsay Guentzel (11:51):

And then we hopped from Allie on the East Coast back down to Atlanta for episode six where we met winemaker-turned-brewmaster, Peter Kiley, and I learned my new favorite metaphor.

Peter Kiley (12:01):

In life, everyone gets handed a bag of shit and it stinks. 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 (12:44):

I interviewed Peter on September 14th, three days after I was released from my first hospital stay that month and a handful of days before I would be back in the hospital. And this moment with Peter, hearing him explain how he looks at his ADHD, I can’t tell you how special that moment was for me, how much I needed to hear that, and how many times I have repeated this, how many times I have told people about Peter’s bag of shit theory since then, because as I’ve experienced this past year, it really is the truth.

(13:20):

We wrapped up our first week of Refocused, Together over in South Carolina with the lovely Al Chaplin, one of our team members who so graciously agreed to not only help produce the project, but share their story as well.

Al Chaplin (13:32):

It’s always been struggles with kind of remembering basic things, but more like not the stereotypical, “Oh, I forgot that.” It’s, “Oh, I forgot how to take care of myself today,” or I’m sitting in bed and I know I need to do so many things and get so much done, and then I get burnt out from thinking about how much I need to get done that I don’t do it, which took me a while to learn the term executive dysfunction.

(14:00):

I always felt like I wasn’t functioning as an adult before I knew it was ADHD, and even now me and my friends will joke about functioning like an adult. But that’s really what it feels like. You’re like, “Oh, I am this age,” and I know a lot of people with mental health feel this way. “I’m 26 years old. I should know how to take care of myself.” I should instinctively get up and brush my teeth, but I don’t. I got an alarm to do that.

Lindsay Guentzel (14:27):

This idea that we are just supposed to know how to adult. I’ve got more than 10 years on Al and I feel this struggle every day. It’s something I think about. My senior year of high school, where were the classes on the transition? Where were the workshops on setting us up for success for life after high school, regardless of what path we were on? It’s why I was so overwhelmed with joy to get to share Madison’s story with you all, to get to share this glimmer of hope that maybe this next generation won’t have the same struggles we did. Maybe we are talking about it enough now. Maybe we are making enough changes that the systems put in place will have made the necessary changes by then.

(15:05):

Have you ever felt bad about having ADHD?

Madison (15:08):

No.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:09):

No. I love that.

Madison (15:10):

No, because it’s a part of me. I can’t change it. I do take a medicine, generic Adderall, extended release, five milligrams, and it just helps me control myself. Just be more in the present because although ADHD has its pros and cons, it just helps me to get rid of the cons. But yeah, I do not feel ashamed at all. I’m very proud of that part of me.

Lindsay Guentzel (15:37):

May we all have a little bit of Madison’s confidence and peacefulness as we get 2024 underway.

(15:43):

Our ninth guest for Refocused, Together 2023 has already hit the ground running in the new year. If you follow Kyrus Kennan Wescott on social media, The Vibe with Ky, you’ve no doubt seen him sharing his experience. He’s in the midst of directing Ghost The Musical at the Broadway Theater of Pitman, New Jersey, just outside his hometown of Philly.

Kyrus Kennan Wescott (16:02):

I’ve been working on lately after my diagnosis as being kind to myself, but also just understanding that I can’t control everything. Things are going to happen. There’s a lyric from the musical Hamilton that I live by, and Aaron Burr and the song Wait For It, sings, “I’m the one thing in life I can control.” And that lyric has stood out to me ever since I first heard it because it’s so freaking true that we go through our lives getting upset with ourselves because of things that are out of our control.

(16:35):

The biggest things that I’ve been trying to work on, it’s just like being kind to myself and removing myself from this expectation of perfection and this expectation of being able to control everything around me, because that’s incredibly unhealthy and it took me 35 years. It took me 35 years to come to terms with that, and it’s still a challenge, but I can proudly say that I’ve gotten better.

Lindsay Guentzel (16:59):

Trina Haynes, better known as My Lady ADHD, our 10th guest for this year’s series, is another one of the people I not only got to see at the conference in Baltimore in November, I got to spend a significant amount of time with.

Trina Haynes (17:11):

I’ve thought about the, what if I had known in high school or what if I had known in college. Would my career path look different? Would I have not made the risky choices that I made in my early 20s if I had had coaching or therapy or medication during that window where chaos is kind of happening in your early 20s. And some of those big life transitions like having my daughter, I think those are the really, really hard parts for people with ADHD is when we’re transitioning from one way of living to another, and that’s when I think it would’ve been really helpful to know that I had ADHD. I think it would’ve made a difference in the way that my life played out.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:53):

Trina and I stayed in an Airbnb together, six people with ADHD and then my partner John. And what I loved about our time together was getting to see how important connections are for Trina and how she’s used that as her way to not only build her community, but also help herself.

(18:15):

Episode 11 was a really special interview for me. Sharing the story of Matt Huovinen, another resident of Fargo, North Dakota.

Matt Huovinen (18:23):

I was diagnosed officially in my late 30s, and it really was because I was fired from another job. Most of the jobs that I’ve lost are because I couldn’t meet the deadlines, was behind the eight-ball, couldn’t stay focused, and then ultimately lose interest because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I wouldn’t be able to stay in comparison to my coworkers. I never felt like I measured up because I couldn’t stay on task. So lots of jobs, and that’s the big important thing.

(19:00):

The little stuff was always nagging in the back of my head. Locking myself out of my car, locking my keys in my car. Go to the grocery store, go through the entire grocery store, get to the checkout line and not have my wallet. I can’t tell you how many times that that happened to me. Run home, get my wallet, go back and get the cart that’s sitting there beside the checkout line. I could do nothing else in my life to overcome those three things. They were just a constant.

Lindsay Guentzel (19:29):

There was a stretch before I was diagnosed where I had the no credit card in the grocery store checkout line happened to me on a regular basis. I’m pretty sure plenty of you can relate to that one as well.

(19:40):

From North Dakota, we jumped back over the Midwest to Columbus, Ohio where we met husband, father and content creator, Julian Henderson, someone I connected with on TikTok, where he shares his experience managing ADHD as a person who is deaf.

Julian Henderson (19:55):

Sometimes getting interpreters are difficult. Now for people who don’t use hearing aids, who don’t talk, it’s rather simple. Not simple, but it’s easier for them. “Hey, I just want an interpreter. I need an interpreter.” For me, it’s like, do I need an interpreter? Maybe I do. Maybe the therapist got a big long beard and I can’t read his lips. It’s just a lot of that going on.

(20:30):

Thankfully, the guy that I had, he had a mustache thing going on, not a beard, like a little scruff, so I could read his lips fine and he had an understandable voice, is what I’m saying. So there is barriers in that and once we’re in the room together, I think there is a barrier where the person may not understand much about deafness and how much my deafness plays into the ADHD or how much it is just deafness. Maybe it’s not ADHD.

Lindsay Guentzel (21:05):

After episode 12, we took a little break before heading back to the East Coast, New York to be exact, for episode 13, to meet someone you might’ve already stumbled upon before hearing them share their story here with us on Refocused, Together.

Katy Weber (21:18):

My name is Katy Weber and I was diagnosed with ADHD three years ago, so October 2020, and like you say in the beginning of your podcast, it really just turned my entire life upside down and it was really life-changing.

Lindsay Guentzel (21:37):

Katy’s story was just so close to mine that it really took me by surprise to be talking to somebody who just got it.

Katy Weber (21:44):

I had all of my report cards from when I was a kid and I was looking through the report cards and seeing so clearly ADHD everywhere in terms of the teacher’s comments, and I just cried. I just felt so sad for that little girl because I really did not do very well in school. I was in the gifted program, like a lot of kids with ADHD, always expecting to get kicked out because just year after year it was, “She’s talking too much. She’s too distracted. She starts projects and doesn’t finish. She has so much potential and if she would only apply herself, she would be doing great things and it’s just such this shame that she’s wasting these gifts.”

Lindsay Guentzel (22:30):

Katy’s another Refocused, Together guest I was able to meet in person at the conference and shortly after her episode aired, I joined Katy on her podcast, Women in ADHD, where we flipped our roles and I got to be in the interview chair for Lindsay Guentzel: Positive Thinking and Learning to Accept Help. I’ll link the episode in the show notes for you to check out. It took a little bit of a pep talk for me to listen to it myself, and I’m so glad I did. It’s a great conversation.

(23:02):

Our 14th guest is someone who’s been publishing in the ADHD space for a long time, releasing his first book, Raised on Ritalin, in 2016, and who just so happens to live across town from me here in Minneapolis. Cartoonist Tyler Page.

Tyler Page (23:16):

When you’re an artist or a published cartoonist or whatever, people are always saying, “How did you get your start?” And that classic case of just, I don’t have any memory of not drawing. Both my parents were non-professional artists. They kind of practiced in their own way, but from a young age, one of the things that they engaged with us on was drawing, doodling, creative projects. Specifically to me as I got older in middle school and junior high, it was the doodling in the margins.

(23:47):

So even though I was on medication, it was still like I would just draw all over all of my assignments. It was a different version of instead of tapping your foot or tapping your pencil, it was sitting there and just kind of mindlessly doodling, but also being able to listen and focus completely while you were doing that. And if teachers called me out for doing that and they’d be like, “Stop drawing. Pay attention,” those are the classes with teachers that I had the hardest time with because I needed that little stimulating activity to really focus on what I was doing or listening to.

Lindsay Guentzel (24:25):

From Minneapolis, we found ourselves back in Philly to meet Britt Bronson, another woman whose later in life ADHD diagnosis had shaken up her world.

Brittany Bronson (24:33):

Sometimes there’s a feeling of, “Wow, now I really can do it because now I’m so organized that I feel competent enough to do it,” and it’s like, “No girl, go rest.” Just because you have the tools and the resources and the executive functioning doesn’t mean you still have to do all of those things.

(24:51):

A way that I was masking my ADHD was always being super available to everyone and doing all the things and never wanting to say no, when the reality was I was more afraid of people thinking that if I didn’t deliver, I was lazy, or if I didn’t deliver, I wasn’t a good friend.

Lindsay Guentzel (25:07):

And from there we jumped down to DC to meet Rach Burton, another creator I connected with on TikTok who’s been helping connect the dots for so many people in the deaf community who are also finding themselves with later in life ADHD diagnoses. We spoke to Rach through her interpreter, Megan Moore.

Rach Burton (25:24):

Growing up in elementary school at the mainstream program, my biggest symptom was my inattentiveness, my dreaming, and kind of zoning out. So for a few years on the IEP, one of the goals was that I needed to stop doodling. That was an IEP goal for me as a deaf child. And looking back at that, I felt like, no, it wasn’t because I was deaf that I did a lot of doodling, it was because of my ADHD. So I think that was another identity thing that I navigated. I always was known as a dreamer and a doodler, and that’s not an aspect of a person being deaf. It’s because of my ADHD.

Lindsay Guentzel (26:07):

From the East Coast, we went all the way across the country to Seattle, Washington, where we learned a little bit about how ADHD is viewed in Puerto Rico, the island nation where Jose Valles grew up.

Jose Valles (26:18):

Back when I was growing up, going to a psychologist, you’re crazy and we don’t do that. We don’t talk about feelings. Depression is you’re just really, really sad, that’s it, and you can just choose to be better. All those kind of things that are just, now that I look back after all the knowledge that I have, just don’t make any sense.

(26:41):

When I found out I had ADHD, I told my mom, “Hey, this happened.” She’s like, “But you are such a smart kid. You never gave us any trouble.”

Lindsay Guentzel (26:52):

Because there were some guests we were not able to reschedule with following my hospitalizations, having Jose pop into my inbox was an absolute gift. I love that he was trying to work up the courage to throw his hat in the ring, and I was over here just crossing all my fingers and toes that he would say yes.

(27:13):

Our 18th guest also happened to be 18 years old and a day away from heading 1,600 miles away from home. Christopher was heading out into a world with the expectation that he should be able to handle this new life completely on his own.

Cristopher (27:28):

Because of the limitation of what they can provide accommodation-wise, I’ve been thinking about my own ways to get around them, my own strategies. I’ve been spending a lot of time online following different accounts with study tips and learning how to get better study habits and almost researching that because I’ve never really been huge on actively learning how to study. I never really thought that’s something you had to do, but now I’m kind of invested in that. I know it’s going to help me a lot in my upcoming academic journey.

Lindsay Guentzel (27:56):

You got to love hearing someone acknowledge the issue and then immediately share their plan for addressing it. Some days I think about how different things would be for me if I went back to school now, how much better I would be at it, knowing my weaknesses and also feeling confident finding resources to help me. If you’re thinking, “Lindsay, what are you getting yourself into?” Don’t worry. This is very much just like the kittens I really wanted to get after meeting Allie. A nice thing to think about, but probably not the best path forward. At least not right now. My plate is as full as I want it.

(28:27):

Episode 19 gave you all a deeper look into someone you’ve heard from many times over this last year, our coordinating producer, Phil Roaderman. Phil and I actually caught up after I got back from Baltimore and I finally got to hear more about his trip to Italy. I did share one of his stories from his vacation in his episode. Like so many of us have done probably more than we want to admit, he left his cell phone in a cab on the way to dinner for his 25th wedding anniversary.

Phil Rodemann (28:53):

When I first started telling this story, I was a little apprehensive about it and I thought about why. And it’s because I essentially had been masking myself my whole life. And being neurodiverse and wanting to be transparent about it meant that I had to admit that this is something that happens to me. I forget things, and I had trouble admitting that, so I had to come to grips with that before we sat down to have this conversation.

Lindsay Guentzel (29:33):

For many of us ADHDers, coming to terms with what this condition means for us, that’s a big part of our coping, of our self-management, and for every person it’s different. For Jay Glazer, our 20th guest, it was admitting that there was another side to the larger-than-life personality we all see on our TVs every week.

Jay Glazer (29:53):

I call my mental health issues the gray. The gray is anxiety, depression, and a ADHD together. It’s a combination. Throw a little bipolar in too, while we’re at it. So my day is spent trying to find slivers of the blue or to make the gray not go as dark.

(30:10):

So every single morning I wake up and first thing I have to do is make that decision to get out of bed, and it’s hard because when I really have those gray days, I feel it physically. I feel it in my joints, behind my rib cage, the left side of my gut. I feel it like I just got out of a ten-round fight in the rain. It’s hard, but I make that decision to get out of bed every day, and then once I make that decision, I decide I’m going to go be relentless.

Lindsay Guentzel (30:38):

One thing that seems to stand out in every conversation I have is an acknowledgement of how hard life can be with ADHD and that it changes from person to person. And for each individual person it changes from day to day. The ebbs and flows that come with being neurodivergent can be overwhelming and daunting, but what I love about these episodes is everyone shares a story of how their hard work paid off.

(31:02):

Like for Tori Niedbalec, the first of our Michigan guests, who accepts that her ADHD makes certain areas of her life, like communicating with loved ones more difficult. But even with that struggle, she’s able to look towards the future with optimism because through a well-rounded treatment plan, she’s able to see what’s possible.

Tori Niedbalec (31:20):

I was able to go out and explore who I am, what I am, and to really get a grasp on my medications, my mental health challenges, and unfortunately during my whole life, I haven’t been in therapy because my therapist back then had said my life was too chaotic basically for them to continue treatment with me. But four years ago, I got myself a really good therapist where I was able to have that cognitive therapy and to discuss different emotions.

(31:52):

It’s self-awareness and it’s not just medication. Medication’s not going to heal you. You need to put in the effort and the work in yourself to be better, and I think that’s what a lot of people fail to think, and I am one of those people. I thought medication was just going to magically heal me. I didn’t need to put in any work. I just take this pill and I’m good to go and no, that’s not the case.

Lindsay Guentzel (32:24):

Moving from Michigan to Colorado, we welcomed associate professor of psychology at Western Colorado University, Salif Mahamane, as our 22nd guest for Refocused, Together.

Salif Mahamane (32:35):

Getting a diagnosis wasn’t just this magical thing where it all went away, but it helps you not internalize it as much, know that this is a thing that millions of people have that has some strategies for how to navigate those challenges. That part was really helpful. Interestingly, cognitive science, even within the broader field in psychology, is the study of thought processes like attention and memory, executive function, decision-making, working memory and things like that.

(33:12):

And so ADHD, most of its key symptoms are kind of in the realm of what I was learning and studying, so that was kind of serendipitous, but my research wasn’t specifically on ADHD or the ADHD population itself. But it was really easy to read the literature and learn about it, and so that was also in some ways a privilege because most people might or don’t have that training and experience and academic knowledge about the thing that they’re also personally diagnosed with. And so that in a sense was a privilege to be able to understand it like that.

Lindsay Guentzel (33:54):

Then we found ourselves in Memphis, Tennessee, meeting ADHD coach and travel expert, Stuart Cohen, another guest I connected with at the conference. Stuart held a packed brown-bag lunch-and-learn on how to create your personal ADHD travel checklist in an effort to minimize anxiety and maximize joy.

Stuart Cohen (34:13):

I am a firm believer we have this brain wiring for a reason, so how can we maximize what we’re great at give ourselves joy, bring joy to the rest of the world, and figure out how to manage through this sucky stuff? That’s the work that’s got to be done. Bubble it up to the top to keep having conversations. Whether I’m coaching, behind a mic, doing stuff from travel and hospitality, I’m out and about, ADHD rolls out of my mouth as frequently as, “Oh, you want to grab an ice cream?” I want to normalize the conversation. I want to free up everyone else who feels it’s a curse and it’s a stigma, it’s an illness. I don’t look at it as a disorder at all. I just look at it as that’s how I’m wired. I’m purpose-built, man.

Lindsay Guentzel (35:14):

If there’s one takeaway I’ve had from all of these interviews that just keeps coming up over and over again, it’s my new-found obsession with checklists. As my managing editor, Sarah, can attest, all I can talk about right now our SOPs. I want structure. I want a plan. I want a clipboard with a pen attached for every checklist I need, and I want them all hung in an orderly fashion, and I have John Grossman, our 23rd guest, the owner of Holy Oak Hummus Company in Western, Massachusetts, to thank for that.

John Grossman (35:43):

It keeps getting honed, so I’ve got the clipboard, then I’ve used my label maker and I’ve put the name of the truck on the clipboard, but then I’ve got all these random magnetic hooks and I’m like, “Oh, I need to label the magnetic hooks as well so that I know when a clipboard goes off and I’m wondering which clipboard I don’t have, I can look and see the name on the hook,” so it can just continue to get improved. Forget about the pen on the chain attached to the clipboard because that’s gone after a couple of events when I’m like, “I need a pen over here,” and I take it off, so I’m always buying boxes of pens because I know the pens just disappear.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:27):

If you’ve ever worked in the restaurant industry, the struggle to keep pens on hand. Either it’s your coworkers swiping them because they don’t have their own, or even worse, your pen writes really well and a guest at one of your tables can’t resist taking it home with them.

(36:42):

Our 24th guest, another Minnesotan, someone who lives across town from me, actually came to me to my house to record their episode.

Indy Louder (36:50):

My leg was going crazy the whole entire time. I brought in a fidget with me that I was constantly using.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:58):

That’s Indy Louder, another one of the guests that actually found us. After discovering the show following her diagnosis she sent me an email, and because we live so close to one another, we actually met for coffee once or twice before we even recorded her episode, which is so helpful as a journalist because our coffee dates were essentially pre-interviews for the real deal.

Indy Louder (37:18):

I placed a lot of my value in academics growing up because I did so well, but I always struggled with homework. I think it was somebody else that was previously on Refocused talked about how their mom called them the absent-minded professor, and that was something that stuck out to me because I was like, I was constantly reading as a kid and I did practice my violin, I just never recorded it. And it drove my mom up a wall because she’s like, “They celebrate these things.”

Lindsay Guentzel (37:51):

I also have to give a shout-out to John here because he was in producer mode the day Indy me, get the studio set up for a guest, bringing us water, keeping the dog quiet. He did so much more than just that throughout the series, but it was fun to see him get to jump into this role while we had a guest over. He’s also the one who built the studio, so I think he was stoked to see it in use.

(38:17):

Our next guest, while she lives in Michigan now, used to live in Minnesota, and that’s actually how we connected during my first trip to Grand Rapids when I spotted a Minnesota bumper sticker on her car. Jen Verhagen, our 25th guest, is one of the many team members working to support the mission at ADHD Online who also has ADHD, and while she’s now found a place where she feels supported as a person who is neurodivergent, that wasn’t always the case for her.

Jen Verhagen (38:43):

I didn’t know if I wanted to disclose that to my employer just because there is a lot of ideas surrounding ADHD or the stereotypes that come along with ADHD, but it got to the point where I just wasn’t doing well enough at work that I had to explain to my manager why I wasn’t doing well and that I wanted to do well and I needed these resources. It just never went well, I think, with her because she just wasn’t willing to listen to what I was going through and what I needed from her. It was more of, “Well, everyone has issues and they just figure it out,” type of thing.

Lindsay Guentzel (39:29):

We connected with our next guest, Emmanuel Abua, thanks to friend of the pod and all around incredible human, Jay Lin.

Emmanuel Abua (39:36):

There’s a bunch of glaring weaknesses into me figuring out my ADHD. Honestly, realizing that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, and the majority of the time it was just playing a game of catch up. But the organization that I joined, ADA, did a lot to resolve my feelings of inadequacy about it. Being able to connect with other ADHDers who are in my age group around the world, who are African-American, it did a lot, not only for my advocacy work, but my self-esteem. I just always felt invisible and I was just kind of in the way. But amongst ADHDers, it feels like I actually have a voice and people have faith in me and believe in me.

Lindsay Guentzel (40:33):

Leaning into community, into the people who understand the ups and downs that come with living life as a person with ADHD, regardless of when you were diagnosed, is something that resonates through every episode. For Dee Lyn, another one of our Michigan guests, her diagnosis came after her son’s. It’s what’s commonly referred to as a reverse diagnosis, a parent finding out about their ADHD after and because of their child’s diagnosis. But for Dee, she didn’t connect with a lot of the ways ADHD showed up in her son’s life. It wasn’t until she started working at ADHD Online, connecting with patients day in and day out, that she started to see some rumblings that there might be a connection in her own life.

Dee Lynn (41:14):

I feel like there’s an awakening within myself just now knowing that there is this diagnosis and that is a lot of those mixed emotions and feelings that I never knew why I felt that way or why I was that way. So now that I have the, “This is why,” now I just find it as empowering to now move forward knowing that I have ADHD and it’s caused me to look into different things and start to research for myself on ways I can better myself.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:48):

Our 29th guest, Magaly Sandoval, was diagnosed as a child, something that seems so uncommon right now as we’re going through this wave of women finding out about their ADHD long after they’ve left school behind. But even for her, her early diagnosis appearing as a head start of sorts, there were still challenges that came with the systems that were put in place.

Magaly Sandoval (42:09):

I went to a private school and I was very babysat through my education. So I was enabled to have teachers that would dedicate one-on-one time with me, or even just the way that classes were taught, so I was la creme de la creme of students. I was always top A, my parents were so happy, I was this student always giving speeches and stuff. And when I came to university, I went to public school and I was not babysat, and suddenly I was failing my classes. I repeated courses. I struggled so much, and even my self-esteem was destroyed because I had 18 years thinking that I was the last chip in the bag, and suddenly I come to realize, oh, I wasn’t all that smart. I was just really, really nourished and sitting down to study by myself was incredibly hard.

Lindsay Guentzel (43:10):

The last chip in the bag. I can honestly say I had never heard that one before, but I love it, and I think Magaly’s story is so relatable for me, even, because I feel similarly about my childhood. Even though I didn’t know about my ADHD, it wasn’t until all that structure, all that babysitting was gone and I was by myself that I realized I had no idea what I needed to do.

(43:39):

Our second-to-last episode of Refocused, Together 2023 took me on the road to Rochester, Minnesota, about 90 minutes southeast of the Twin Cities. It’s the home to the Mayo Clinic, a place I’m sure many of you have heard of, as well as state representative Kim Hicks.

Kim Hicks (43:54):

At 16, I started working for a local group home company, and I 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. There was a cleaning schedule and somebody else had made it, somebody else had created it, but you just had to follow it, right? There was a check off sheet for everything before your shift ended. There was a check on sheet for everything when your shift started.

(44:30):

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. I was like, “No, I don’t.” Yeah, I really did. I ran my house like a group home. I mean, to some extent that’s probably still true because those tools worked really well for me.

Lindsay Guentzel (44:58):

I interviewed Kim at KTTC TV. A big shout-out to my friend Luke Meyer for arranging it so we could use their studios, and also to my mom Karen for driving me to Rochester. This interview was during the, “I can’t dress myself, let alone drive a car” days of 2023, and not only did she drive me to the interview, she took me out for ice cream after.

(45:18):

Our final episode of Refocused, Together 2023, after we opened the 2022 series with Kim interviewing me, it felt only right that we wrap up this year by sharing the story of Keith Boswell.

Keith Boswell (45:30):

I spend a lot of time now focusing on catching myself. I didn’t realize this for a long time, but I would get so excited about something in the moment, and then feedback would start coming in. Someone doesn’t understand exactly what I’m saying, and that hurt. I mean, that hurt in a weird way that I couldn’t express, and I would get very defensive and very shut down, almost. And then 20 minutes later I could rationalize, but in the moment I’m just like, again, it’s like this emotional Hulk comes out and I just shut down and all these what ifs go through my head, and I play out 10 million scenarios.

(46:11):

And so I’m trying to catch myself in that and acknowledge it and just let it go and not feel bound to it. I think too often I just was like, “Well, that’s what I’m thinking. That’s what I’ve got to hold onto,” and I didn’t give myself that permission to let it go. Say, “Okay, that’s a thought, but it doesn’t have to rule everything right now.”

Lindsay Guentzel (46:34):

I’ve said this many times, but meeting Bos and getting to work with him, more importantly, getting to call him a friend and a confidant, someone who has become one of my biggest champions, is truly one of the best things to come out of this podcast.

(46:49):

And that right there are the 31 ADHDers who so graciously shared their stories with us on Refocused, Together 2023. Being here now and being able to look back at everything that happened these last three months, I can’t believe we were able to stay on track through October 12. Like that’s a miracle in and of itself, and what’s frustrating is that even though I know exactly what I went through these last few months, I also have a hard time celebrating what we accomplished because it wasn’t exactly what I set out to do. 31 episodes in three months is still incredible, especially when you think of our normal production schedule of four episodes a month, but because I’m my own worst enemy, just like you are, I’m still looking at what I didn’t do instead of focusing on what I did.

(47:40):

There was a moment during the hospitalization in November where I’d created a little recording studio in the back corner of my room, tucked behind the closet. I had stacked all the extra pillows along the window, and I was recording a voiceover, fairly certain it was Jen Verhagen’s episode, and my nurse came in to change my IV bag, and she felt so bad because obviously I stopped recording so she could do her job. And while I’ll always feel a mixed bag of emotions about this year’s series for a variety of reasons, I’m so glad I had it during those days because it would’ve been really hard to be sitting in those hospital rooms and feel like I was wasting time. Because I’m still dealing with the grief and frustration I have over all the time I feel like I wasted when I didn’t know what was controlling my life, my undiagnosed ADHD, and had I not had a plan, a purpose, projects to work on, I know that voice would’ve been a lot louder than the one I’m trying to quiet down now.

(48:37):

At the conference in Baltimore, I was talking with a group of ADHD coaches about the project, and someone asked me about my editing process and the amount of time I spend on each episode, and I told them, “There’s no set amount of time. Each episode gets exactly what it needs because I want that guest to hear themselves and be happy with it, to be excited and proud of what they’ve done.” And I’ll never forget one of them looking at me and saying, “That’s such a gift you’re giving them.” And that’s what has kept me going, what kept me pushing through to finish all 31 episodes when I had every opportunity over and over again to wrap it early, to pivot to a new plan.

(49:16):

For all that we’ve all lost, for all that we’re working through, I want these episodes to be that reminder of what we’ve also all overcome, because while every one of our stories is so different, it’s also very clear from the journey we went on today that we all have so much in common, so much to learn from one another, so much to celebrate about each other, and it makes me really proud that we’ve been able to build that here.

(49:41):

I asked this at the beginning, and I’m going to ask again. If you like what we’ve been creating here for you, please tell us about it. The best way for you to do that is leave us a rating and a review. Right now we have 61 ratings on Apple Podcasts. Can we add 10 more? Will you be one of them? Do you have a friend who has ADHD that you can share an episode with? While they might seem insignificant, they’re actually incredibly helpful for us in a myriad of ways.

(50:07):

To every one of you who’s reached out since all of this stuff started, please know it meant the world to me. I’m forever grateful for this little corner of the world, and like I said, there’s so much great stuff ahead, and we’re so grateful to have you along for the ride.

(50:29):

To connect with the show or with me, you can find us on Instagram @refocusedpod and @lindsayguentzel. You can also email us [email protected]. And as a part of their ongoing commitment to our community, ADHD Online is continuing to offer our listeners $20 off their smart assessment simply by using the promo code Refocused20 at checkout. Head over to adhdonline.com to get started on your journey today.

(51:02):

First and foremost, a huge thanks to my incredible team, Sarah Platonitis, Phil Roaderman, and Al Chaplin, as well as Lauren Terry, Jake Beaver, and John Bjorklund. This project and this podcast wouldn’t exist without Keith Boswell, Suzanne Spruit, Melanie Mile and Trisha Merchant Dunny. A huge thanks to Keith Brophy, Tim Gutwald, Steve Goulet, Michelle Ripper-Lewis, Charity Hayes, Crystal Lam, Kyle Doherty, Chris Callahan, and the entire team at Mentabi Health and ADHD Online for their continued support.

(51:41):

And finally, a massive shout-out to Cissy Yee of Berlin Grey for our incredible artwork, and Louis Inglis, a songwriter, composer, and fellow ADHDer from Perth, Australia, for our music. You can learn more about the entire Refocused, Together series by heading to adhdonline.com/refocusedtogether.

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