From jumping out of planes and living in the extreme structure of the military to becoming an entrepreneur, Stability’s journey is both heartbreaking, uplifting, and inspiration for anyone finding their way on this ADHD journey.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:01):
Welcome back to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel. What you’re listening to today, it’s a little bit different than the podcast episodes we’ve shared with you before. This episode, this person’s story, is a part of Refocused Together, a special series the team at ADHD Online and I have been working on for ADHD Awareness Month. Every day throughout the month of October, we’ll be sharing a different person’s ADHD story, which is fitting because the theme for ADHD Awareness Month this year is understanding a shared experience. And I can’t think of a better way to really get a sense of that shared experience than by telling a different story every single day. And to be clear, yes, that’s 31 stories in 31 days. My name is Lindsay Guentzel and along with a team at ADHD Online, I’m so excited to present, Refocused, Together, a collection of stories aimed at raising awareness on just how complex ADHD is and the different ways it shows up in people’s lives.
When we share stories, it’s easier to find the perspective, ideas, and tips that help us live our best lives. I’m interviewing people with varying backgrounds, diagnoses, experiences, and perspectives. We’ll hear from working parents, advocates, engineers, writers, PhD candidates, and more to learn that, while we may be different, we are all united by our own ADHD journeys. This special project is very near and dear to my heart, and although talking to 31 different people has been a lot of talking, I am so grateful for each person who shared their story with me and I cannot wait for you to meet my guests and get to know them. Be sure to subscribe to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel so that you don’t miss a single story this month. And with that, let’s get on to today’s episode.
Stability X (02:05):
So my name is Stability. I was in the military for nine years as a Human Resources Specialist, and then shortly after leaving that career, I decided to start my own business, and I started Innovative Supplies making stationary notebooks. And I’ve been doing that for the last six and a half years now. I think I’ve been an artist since middle school, but both my parents were in the military and very much had an idea of where to they wanted me to take my life.
And so I would tell them like, “Here’s some fashion design sketches that I’ve made. Here’s some mixed media pictures that I’ve made. Tell me your thoughts, what do you think?” And they were very much like, “Eh. But we still want you to go into the military.” And so for me, at such a young age, it just felt like my endeavors of what I wanted to pursue were never going to be good enough. So I put that to the side, listened to my parents, and went into the military. But once I left the military and I was able to be around colors again, and art, and just creation, it just, for me, it felt like home. It really did. So I picked it back up.
Lindsay Guentzel (03:25):
Stability X was diagnosed with severe ADHD in April of 2012. Family members noticed she had been zoning out while having conversations, couldn’t recall things they last spoke about, and seemed more distracted when doing tasks that required critical focus. A former military paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina, who had suffered a traumatic brain injury years before, she took the advice of those around her and secured a referral from her doctors at the VA.
Her diagnosis was a relief, despite the uphill climb to get the resources she needed to help with her inability to focus, forgetfulness, and periods of distraction. But it was her love of art and mixed media that inevitably soothed her anxiety about feeling different and out of place from the neurotypical world around her. She is a mom, a full-time college student, and the owner of two businesses, one of them the Be Kind Gallery 101 in Lynchburg, Virginia. A wearer of many hats, she hopes to become a visionary leader with ADHD who moves through life by knocking over obstacles to reduce stigmas for people with mental health challenges. I am so excited to welcome Stability X to Refocused, Together.
Stability, thank you so much for joining me for Refocused, Together. I am in the midst of telling 31 stories throughout the month of October, and I’ve asked every guest to kind of start at the beginning. So if you wouldn’t mind going back to when you were diagnosed, and what led up to that, and what were some of the things you were seeing and how you were feeling that pushed you to seek out an assessment?
Stability X (05:19):
I never analyzed myself personally. My then husband at the time, who I had been married to for about a year, was noticing that I was not attentive in our conversations with one another. He said he would ask me, “Did you hear the last thing I said?” And I’d be like, “Yeah, yeah.” He’s like, “Well, tell me.” And I couldn’t tell him. And one point in time in particular, we were in traffic and we were at a red arrow traffic light signal, meaning you cannot turn until this arrow turns green, and I had turned anyway because there was no oncoming traffic, and we were in the middle of conversation. And so he’s just like, “You can’t do that.” And it didn’t dawn on me. And so he’s like, “I think you need to get tested for ADHD.”
And I don’t know if that was the first time I had ever heard of it, but just him saying, “You need to get tested for this.” And he said specifically what it was, I was like, “Okay, I’ll do it. I’ll go get tested.” So I did the test and you know have to do… I don’t know if it’s a space bar or a mouse clicking and I think I fell asleep during that. And it was just, they told me I had severe a ADHD when I was circling the questionnaire. And they ended up giving me seven or eight pages to read and said, “You have severe ADHD. Read this pamphlet and you’ll learn everything you need to know. And if you have any questions, let us know.” But there was not an instruction video, nothing that really told me this is what I have. And it’s kind of like if you feel like you have an issue, such as maybe alcohol, you have Alcohol Anonymous, but if you have ADHD, there’s not necessarily a program that you can go to and sign up for and get all this information on what you have.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:17):
How long ago was this?
Stability X (07:19):
This was April of 2012 and I was a mother to a six month old daughter.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:26):
And how old were you at that point?
Stability X (07:28):
I want to say I was 25. 25. Or, no, no, no, because I had her at 22, so I had to have been 23. Yeah.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:39):
So I’m curious, you leave, they give you these seven pages, and do you remember reading it?
Stability X (07:48):
No. To me it just felt like it should have been more to, “Hey, you have severe ADHD.” Because it sounded severe. You’re mentioning the word severe in my diagnosis, why would you just give me seven pages to read and say, “Figure out your diagnosis that we just gave you in these seven pages.” It didn’t seem serious, so I didn’t take it seriously. And I think I still have those pages somewhere to look back on for reference, but I’ve kind of sort of just went down the rabbit hole of Google and started getting books and reading blog posts about it and just self educating the way that I felt comfortable.
Lindsay Guentzel (08:29):
And what were some of the things that you learned through your self education that stood out to you in regards to how complex ADHD is and the ways it was showing up in your life, outside of turning on the red, which I have definitely done. My favorite is pulling up to a stoplight that’s red and feeling like it’s a stop sign and I start to go and then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, what is happening?” And it is, you’re just in your own little bubble.
Stability X (09:01):
Yeah. Well, I’ll say this first. I think once that diagnosis was given to me, I really compartmentalized it and put it to the back of my mind. I was focused on raising my daughter. I do know I tried some medication, I think it was Concerta or something, for a couple of months and so I had to stop breastfeeding. And that affected me because I didn’t feel like I was being a good mom in terms of continuing to breastfeed. I felt guilty and I really just wasn’t accepting the diagnosis the way that I felt like I should have at that time. And so I would say fast forward, maybe five years from that diagnosis, I really started to look back into it and doing research. And I’ll say that when I was in the military jumping out of airplanes, I had got some traumatic brain injuries from my airborne operation jumps. And that further exacerbated my ADHD, is what I later learned. And so the already challenged executive functioning skills that I was having was further challenged by the traumatic brain injuries and then just memory and things of that nature.
Lindsay Guentzel (10:18):
I’m curious, with the traumatic brain injuries and the connection to ADHD, was that something someone pointed out to you, like a healthcare professional, or was it something that after it happened you started to go, “Okay, something isn’t the same as what it was before.”?
Stability X (10:38):
The last one. And I’ll say that prior to me even being allowed to jump out of airplanes in the military, they were aware that I had been given an ADHD diagnosis and I was told I would have to get a waiver by my medical provider who would say, “We understand she has ADHD, but we feel like under her medication regimen that she is okay to perform these types of duties.” And so once I realized that I needed a waiver to do this because I had ADHD, and then I had got the traumatic brain injury, I was like, “Maybe that waiver was there for a reason, because medically they know if you get a traumatic brain injury and you have ADHD there’s some serious complications that can come down the line.” And that’s what caused me to do further research as well.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:30):
I find it so interesting that the dichotomy of the experiences you had, you’re diagnosed, you’re told you have severe ADHD, you’re given seven pages, told that’s all you need to know, and sent on your merry way, no follow up. And yet in order to perform your job in the military, you had to have a waiver from a doctor saying you were fit to perform that job because of your ADHD. And it’s like so far opposite ends of the spectrum on acknowledging the seriousness of ADHD and the way it can show up in people’s lives.
Stability X (12:07):
Yeah, serious, it really is. At the time that I was adamantly asking to perform this duty in the military, I never thought medically this was something so serious that I’d ever have to worry about. And so I was just like, “You know what? This is what I want to do. It’s volunteer basis. I’m going to volunteer and I’m going to see where it takes me.” And my father had jumped out of airplanes in the military and so it was just kind of like a chance for me to get on par with some of the things that he had done in his career. And it was very a rewarding moment for me in my life to know that I could do this. And so I think I’m not regretful of it, but I’m also aware that this is something that more soldiers need to be aware of in their chain of command and their leadership as well.
Lindsay Guentzel (13:01):
I want to ask about your experience in the military because it is very structured, but I’ve also heard on the flip side, so there’s the structure, which people with ADHD thrive in, because we love to know what we need to do, and if someone else is telling us, that takes something off our plate. But I’ve also heard there’s a lot of downtime, there’s a lot of waiting around, there’s a lot of, “All right, we’re going to do this thing, we just don’t know when it’s happening.” And you kind of have to be ready at a moment’s notice. So what was that experience like for you with the way your brain works?
Stability X (13:34):
Well, being that I had somewhat of a inside look into it since my parents had did 20 years apiece, I would sometimes go to my mom’s job, sometimes come to my dad’s job, and just be around that environment at such a young age, that I could see it without really internalizing it in those years that this is what my life was going to be at 18 and 19 years old. And then my dad, I say he was a cook by day and a drill sergeant by night, because he would come home and sort of mess up my room a little bit if it wasn’t in the order he wanted. And that was to prepare me for what the drill sergeants would do in basic training boot camp.
And so a lot of what I experienced in the military really felt like a homey environment for me, where it’s like, all right, what you’re doing, I’ve already seen done. It’s not a scare tactic to me, it’s just like, “Oh, I remember this.” But in terms of the hurry up and wait, I will say that I feel like I’ve had a great deal of patience in my life. I don’t know where that comes from, but it’s just a resiliency that’s in me. And then also the length of time I spent in the military for nine years, you learn to internalize this hurry up and wait mentality over the years. And so the longer you have to wait, you’re like, “Oh, I remember doing this two years ago, three years ago, four years ago.” And so it’s not like the next time you have to wait, it sucks even more. It’s like, “I’ve done this. This isn’t new to me, I’ve done it.”
Lindsay Guentzel (15:12):
I’m curious, do you ever think that the structure you had as a child, because your parents were in the military, and you mentioned your dad comes home and is the drill sergeant and is helping prepare you, that that helped kind of alleviate some of the undiagnosed ADHD symptoms that a lot of us see at a younger age who were diagnosed later in life?
Stability X (15:37):
I want to say yes, but I still want to say no. That structure, I will say I appreciated it, but also at the same time it’s like, why? It just like the necessity to have your room at a certain standard, but you’re the one that’s in that room, and it’s like, if you’re comfortable with it, why does it matter? And just, I don’t know, I philosophized why my room had to be clean to a certain standard and just really internalized, well, who am I if my room’s not clean to this ideal?
And so now outside of the military, outside of structure, I’m not going to say I hoard or anything like that, but I definitely do not have order. And I’m okay with that, because I like to have everything spread out where my eyes can connect and see what’s around me, because I feel like if stuff is out of sight, it’s out of your mind. You don’t even realize you still have these things. So that’s how I’ve always liked to have things, in terms of, “What can I see? Oh, I still have this here. Oh, I still have that there.”
Lindsay Guentzel (16:48):
You’re in the military, you know kind of how long you’re going to be there, but there’s this other side of you, this creative entrepreneur who wants to build her own thing. What was that wrestle like? Because it feels like two very different people, and you’re committed to the military, but at the same time you’re like, “I have so many things that I want to be doing.”
Stability X (17:19):
Man, I think that was a daily struggle for me. I will say I really felt like I had some depressing days and months in the military because of that. I felt like two different people. There were days where I’d have the weekends to myself and I could do these things, but then I was unhappy on Monday and Tuesday because I had to go back to something that just really wasn’t tugging at me like it was in year two or year three. And then still just realizing this was my parents’ dream, this was never something I truly wanted for myself. And so I really just started to realize I didn’t have a voice for myself. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I liked in terms of what I felt capable of, and I needed to discover that. And nine years in, several brain injuries later, I decided to just leave and figure that out. And I’m so happy that I did.
Lindsay Guentzel (18:21):
And what was that initial journey like?
Stability X (18:26):
After launching the Notebook company online, we sold over 8,000 notebooks in the first 24 hours, we went viral on the internet. My first time going viral, hopefully not my last, but it was an amazing experience. I also will say that my dad was there that night and he seemed a little bit upset because I didn’t have any of the product on hand. I would have to go out and purchase all my materials, supplies, and things like that. And I think he was disappointed in me because I didn’t have it already ready.
But within two weeks I had all the orders out and I got hit with another large amount of orders because I shut the website down to process those orders. And I also just think it was him not knowing that this is something that could be a legitimate, thriving business venture. My parents are very much from the generation where you need to show up to something, you don’t do anything on computers like online. And so I had to explain this to him and he still didn’t get it, but he was still, I think he had some happiness for me that I did find something.
Lindsay Guentzel (19:41):
You launch the notebooks, they go viral, there’s this moment where you know they’re not ready to go, you have to get them all ready. What was that like? Because I find it interesting, you were so excited, you put it out there, it does better than it sounds like you expected, and then you have to play catch up, which I know from my experience with ADHD, that is when the panic sets in.
Stability X (20:05):
Well, I’ll say that when the ad went live on Instagram, literally within, I want to say 30 minutes of the ad being live, I just had this sense of something come over me like this is about to be huge, this is about to be big, this is about to be game changing, life changing. And it wasn’t ego, it wasn’t pride, it wasn’t any of those things. It was just internally I felt something coming up and speaking to me, saying these things, before the orders really started rolling in. And I do thrive in positions and situations where there are eight or seven fires that I have to put out and I have to strategize, which fire do I need to put out first, second, third, fourth, fifth?
I learned that in the military being human resources, there were fires every day that we were putting out and something was different from the next fire that was different from the next fire. And so strategizing a business location, month to month rental office space, strategizing how I was going to go to the post office and get these products delivered, the emails I would need to send out to customers that were asking how much longer this would take, it was like, “Wow, this is a lot.” But at the same time it was like, “Wow, this feels like work again.” Because having been out of the military for, I’d say about 45 days is how long I had been out before this happened, it just felt like I was back in it again. And I thrive in positions where I’m given so much to do and I get to strategize how to get it done. That’s my favorite thing to do.
Lindsay Guentzel (21:51):
That’s a very interesting superpower. And I use that word superpower, I’m not somebody who talks about my ADHD as all positive. I think I have things that my ADHD makes me good at, but it also has been incredibly destructive in my life in a lot of ways. And so it’s interesting to hear you say you are really good at something that a lot of us, because of our lack of executive function, tend to not be great at. So I’d love to hear how you see your ADHD in your life right now and kind of how you’ve built your business and where you feel like your ADHD comes out.
Stability X (22:39):
I am always subscribing to entrepreneurship ecosystem newsletters from this organization, this organization. And so I’m always getting emails about, “Here’s a grant opportunity you can apply for.” “Here is an accelerator you can be a part of to learn how to market.” “Here’s this opportunity to pitch your business for $3,000.” And so always having that knowledge at my fingertips allows me the ability to shoot my shot, to put in applications, to do podcasts. And for me, that helps me because, again, it feels like I’m putting out a fire even though it hasn’t been created. Sometimes I’m probably creating the fire. But for me, learning business has been about making sure that you not necessarily stay top of mind, but you don’t become this one hit wonder, or you don’t like, “Oh, okay, I did this.” And you start to wash your hands with everything. Every day there’s something you could be doing. And it just reminds me so much of the military where it’s like every day there’s something you could be doing.
And so my ADHD, I feel like, really thrives in that setting of knowing that, “Okay, congratulations. Now what’s next?” And I know that we live in a culture that is very much burnout culture. I’ve experienced that myself. And I give myself a lot of grace lately to sit back, to relax, to reshuffle a few things if I need to. If I miss a scheduled something, it’s okay, there could be another opportunity two weeks later. And so I just try to use my superpower to know that, just do what you can with what you have around you. And I would say my biggest thing that I would love to have going forward is an ADHD coach or a virtual assistant, somebody that can help me to really strategize my days to be more productive. I want to do more. I feel like I just don’t know how to do it more. I don’t feel like I put enough on my plate in terms of being a business owner. And so I feel like that’s something that I want to get better at.
Lindsay Guentzel (25:10):
I totally have no idea as well how to structure my day. And it’s actually something that I am constantly amazed that I’ve made it this far in life without knowing how. But I’m going to tell you what my therapist told me, is that I think we hold ourselves to unbelievable standards of what we know we are capable of accomplishing. And I’m sure at the end of the day, the list of all the things that you’ve accomplished is incredible, but in your head you’re like, “No, I could be doing more.” And I feel that too. There are days where I’m like, “I mean, I got stuff done, but I don’t know where the rest of the time went.” And it’s that feeling of sometimes I feel like I’m standing around like, “What is supposed to happen next?” And so I’m curious, when you look at your day, and you mentioned you would love to work with somebody to help you with some of that executive function, what is that like? You mentioned you want to accomplish more, but where is it that you feel like you are not taking advantage?
Stability X (26:12):
I do sign up for business accelerators where they teach you, as a business owner, what are some marketing techniques you could be thinking about? How do you present your business idea to investors? And right now, I’ll just be very honest and blunt, I feel like I’m in this accelerator purgatory where I’m signing up for these opportunities and I’m just floating in this circle of, “Take this class.” “Now, sign up for this one.” “Pay us $400 to sign up for this one.” “Well, this one’s free and we’ll teach you this, this, and this, and we’ll get you some mentors.” And I’m just circling in this circle of, “This is all I can get.” And it’s just not, I’m not sinking my teeth in enough to these accelerators. A lot of them are telling me that my ideas are so big, I need to hone it in a little bit.
I like to think of myself as a visionary. And so my ideas are going to be big. And I don’t think that’s something that needs to be ran from. I think in America we need to celebrate business owners who are thinking big because I don’t see many of us doing it right now, regardless of the cost to start it up. I feel like we need to take American entrepreneurship more serious, especially after COVID disrupted our supply chain so much. And so I just feel like there needs to be more that’s done for woman business owners, more for mom business owners, and more for disabled business owners, because we are really boxed into, “Well, we think you should just focus on this.” Or, “We think you should just do this.” Instead of just allowing them to do what they say they want to do. I think the best part about being an entrepreneur is you get to set the tone and you can have mentors and coaches say, “Well, do this, but do this.” But ultimately it’s up to you. What do you want to do?
Lindsay Guentzel (28:13):
So what do you want to do?
Stability X (28:16):
I want to disrupt the education system industry as a whole. It is heavily dated. I don’t think that my ADHD was diagnosed until… I know it wasn’t diagnosed until later in my life. And I think it started in childhood, but no one thought to test or say anything. I was in and out of the principal and the counselor’s office, so there were those signs early on, sitting out in the hallway and stuff like that, being called the class clown. But I truly thrived in entrepreneurship in high school. That was the first B I ever got in high school. And I really think that if the guidance counselors had saw that and brought it to my parents’ attention, it could have made a difference in my career, instead of going into the military. But I’m happy with the start that I have now. But I just think the education system needs a huge overhaul and I have so many ideas, and they’re big, but I really believe that I have some game changer ideas that could help the education system as a whole for our country.
Lindsay Guentzel (29:25):
I love that. I was the opposite. I was a people pleaser, so I never got in trouble and I skated by because I was safe. They didn’t have to worry about me. But I feel the exact same way. I’m like, “Where was everybody?” I’m like, “How did you not know what was going on?” And so I applaud you because it does feel like a massive undertaking, but it feels like a really important one.
Stability X (29:48):
Absolutely. I think that the children are always going to be our future. They are the next generation’s generation of responsible adults to take care of the generation that came after them. And they’re going to be the ones saying, “I want to be a property developer that builds this elderly home in my city.” And if we don’t give them those opportunities to know that this is something they can do when they reach that age, or strategize with them at a young age to push them into things that they’re really interested in, instead of learning about pie and stuff like that, and the Pythagorean theorem, or whatever the heck it’s called, it’s like we’re really limiting our generations to come forward with what they can do. And the education system has to be aware of that.
Lindsay Guentzel (30:37):
I couldn’t agree more. I’m fascinated by the fact that I took AP Calculus senior year and failed it. I mean, I failed it. It wasn’t good at it, but there were no classes on health insurance, or investments, or standard care of a home. For me it was, “You’re going to a four year university.” There was no other conversations happening. There was no conversations about what I wanted to do. And I think it’s really interesting, a lot of entrepreneurs have that bug early. And so why not be embracing that and nurturing that when it starts?
Stability X (31:19):
Absolutely. And I want to say to that comment that you made about college, that I think so many people in society have this thought that, “If I don’t have a college education attached to what I want to learn or do, that somehow I’m invalid, I’m not good enough yet, I’m not great.” And I’ve gone to college, dropped out, gone to college, dropped out, gone back to college, and now I’m in it studying studio art at Randolph College. And I will just say that it has been an adventure going into colleges and coming out of them and just learning on my own, but then going back into college and learning there. And either one is fine, but don’t get so attached to the idea that you don’t hold value without the college degree. And I think that people that have the college degrees shouldn’t hold value to those that don’t and put them at a lower state of learning because you don’t know what they’re learning without those college degrees to categorize and say, “You’re not there yet. You’re not ready. You’re too early.”
Lindsay Guentzel (32:31):
Totally. And I actually failed out of college twice, and it took me so long to be open about saying that. And I know now it was very much undiagnosed, unmanaged ADHD. And you’re right, we put these parameters on college, and going to college, and having that degree, which is a privilege, and it’s one journey in life. It’s one path, but it’s not for everyone. And it is just such an important conversation. And I will be fascinated in 20 years when they look back at our generation, which was kind of the start of, “You can be whatever you want to be, you just have to go to college.” And how that affected all of us.
Stability X (33:15):
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that we have to give everyone grace in these times, that information is coming to people in so many various ways. Our phones have done some miraculous things for a lot of people that generations before us did not have the opportunity afforded to them. And so you just don’t know what the next person knows anymore. And that can be scary, but also can be rewarding because you could really be talking about something that somebody just read up on a couple weeks ago. So you never know.
Lindsay Guentzel (33:49):
I want to go back to the traumatic brain injuries and the connection to ADHD. What was that experience like for you? And when you look back at it, and maybe even now what you’re dealing with now, what do you see and what were some of the things that stood out?
Stability X (34:09):
Difficulty with focusing was a big one for me, especially during the time when I had just got the brain injuries. I was in charge of strength management for over 30,000 soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division, and so I had an Excel spreadsheet that basically laid out where we could put soldiers in certain jobs in this company, in this company, in this company. And Excel has never been my favorite ever, but after brain injury and then the exacerbated ADHD symptoms, it was so hard to focus on it. Also, the different programs I would have to log into, you’d have to have a password to get into this program and then another password to get further into the program. And it was very difficult for me to remember what went to what that tied into this. The steps that I would have to take to pull information out of some of these programs, click on this link, to get to this link, to get to there.
The muscle memory for me was really starting to fall away quickly. And I didn’t know how to say anything to my leadership about that. I internalized it as it’s my fault, it’s all me. And so I didn’t speak up, I didn’t say I’m having difficulty. And then the fluorescent lights that were above me every day causing me to really just want to get low into the office cubicle, I was irritable a lot. And then coupled with seasonal depression when it gets into the winter months, I was just not a happy camper those last few months that I was in the military. And I had told my leadership, “Listen, I think it’s best that I stop jumping. I’ve had one too many brain injuries.” And what I learned also from that is each brain injury exacerbates the last brain injury, that exacerbates the last brain injury.
And I just felt like how Michael Jackson was saying, “I’m done with no surgeries, because if I get one more, my nose is going to deflate.” It was like if I got one more brain injury, who knows the amount of consciousness I would still have today? And I was a single mom at the time. And so I said, “I have got to stop, not just for me, but for my daughter so I can remember her name, her birthday, what her favorite color is.” Those things I wanted to have stay top of mind. And I think that a lot of male military leadership had this idea that we’re one team, one fight, you got to get the mission done at all costs. Your family is second. Yeah, I hear what you’re saying, I love America just as much as the next person sometimes, but I cannot see myself sacrificing my brain capacity to never being able to recognize my little girl anymore. And so I made that decision on my own with no male leadership supporting me. And I said, “I have to stop.”
Lindsay Guentzel (37:18):
I bet that was really difficult because you had put so much time and energy into your experience as a military, and you hope that in that moment that that support’s there and then it’s not.
Stability X (37:29):
Yeah, it’s not. And they actually tried to take the airborne wings that you get pinned on your chest, signifying that you’ve completed that course. I hadn’t completed 36 months and so they said that I should have my wings removed and stripped off my uniform. But I had done some digging in the regulations and it says, if you are terminating your jumping due to medical reasons, you are allowed to keep your wings on your chest and have it not taken off your uniform. And I included that verbatim in my form that I sent to them saying I want to stop so that they were aware that this is not something that they could do.
I didn’t have a doctor’s note telling me that I could stop, but I was conscious enough to say, “I need to stop.” And I think that’s where the conflict came because I didn’t have the backing of my doctors. And the doctors are not supportive of stopping people from jumping because this is a mission that needs to get done in the military, even though we’re practicing for if we need to do it in real life, they still want to have that practice maintained at a certain level in the military. And so the doctors are not incentivized to help lower those numbers.
Lindsay Guentzel (38:43):
That’s so frustrating.
Stability X (38:45):
Lindsay Guentzel (38:46):
I want to ask about your art and being creative. And I’ll go back to the very beginning, you mentioned growing up you were an artist from a very young age. And I think immediately you named two different types, mediums of art. And when you look at your life and what you’re creating, how does it make you feel?
Stability X (39:16):
It’s like playing basketball, in a sense, where you get to leave it all on the court, except you get to leave it all on a canvas, or a piece of paper, or whatever you’re creating on. You get to throw up or just put it out there. And it’s also, for me, a way to remember what I’ve done, because of my short term memory loss I’ll do something and then a couple days later forgot that I even did it. So if I’m able to look back at something tangible in my face and be like, “Oh, I did that, that’s really cool.” It’s a form of therapy for me also just to know that my brain is functioning to create something.
I think a lot of times, even non-artists, we don’t think that we can create because it doesn’t look like a Mona Lisa or it doesn’t look like the most perfect stick figure I’ve ever drawn in my entire life. And so we will shut ourselves down at such the earliest stages that, for me, I just like to just go and see where it takes me. I like to call it going down a rabbit hole. And so art for me is really an exploration. It’s very therapeutic. And I just love to experience mixing media, cutting up magazines and collaging. It’s considered vision boarding for some people, but for me, it’s creating pieces that have never been created before. Because you don’t know if somebody else has that magazine and if they’re going to cut out the exact same pieces that you’re cutting out and merging them with other pieces, so it’s really a one of a kind opportunity.
Lindsay Guentzel (41:00):
I want to ask, when you look at your life right now, where do you see yourself thriving and what is bringing you kind of excitement and joy?
Stability X (41:10):
I would say just going after knowledge. I thrive in that. I’m never shying away from learning. I’m always interested in different topics, very different, from politics, to art, to just different things that are happening in the world in terms of culture. And so I thrive in learning these things. I thrive in learning about some taboo things. It’s just, for me, it’s very eye opening to not be so reclused into accepting things that you knew and you’re like, “Oh, okay. I know these things.” Like no, every day things are changing and what you knew 10 years ago may not still be true today. And so just being aware of that and teaching others that what I learned today, maybe they didn’t know. And so sharing that, I think I thrive in those arenas in terms of education.
Lindsay Guentzel (42:22):
And the last thing I want to ask, and I’m very curious about this because your experience is very different from anyone’s experience that I’ve spoken to yet for Refocused, Together, when you look at your experience with ADHD, what do you wish the general public knew or understood better?
Stability X (42:41):
When someone discloses their diagnosis to you about any sort of medical condition, and I’ll just start with ADHD as the lead in example, don’t be in such a rush to say, “Do you need help with X, Y, and Z?” Or, “What can I do for you?” Because what you’re doing in that moment in time is you’re starting to box them in and assuming they can’t do, or they won’t do, or they shouldn’t do, just let them lead that conversation. Don’t try and take over it and save the day. Let them do this. And you’ll be surprised at some of the things you’ll see. I think for a long time I never accepted my diagnosis because it was going to be like this awareness of, “Oh great, here’s one more thing I have to tell somebody that’s wrong with me.”
But I don’t look at it that way anymore. Now it’s like, this is what it is and I’m not going to hide behind it. I’m not going to sugar coat it. I’m also not going to teach you a 30 hour seminar on what it is, but I’m just going to bring it to you and we can have more conversations about it because I’m going to still be learning about it. And so I just wish that anyone who has a diagnosis and wants to disclose it, let that person know like, “Please don’t ask me for help once I tell you this. Just listen to what I have to say first and foremost.”
Lindsay Guentzel (44:14):
That’s an awesome piece of advice. I can think of a few moments in my own life where some people could have used that ahead of our conversation.
Stability X (44:24):
Absolutely. I don’t lead with it hardly ever because I feel like it’s… I don’t know how to lead with that. I don’t feel like I should lead with it. I don’t know. And I’m also unmedicated. So since the timing of 2012 when I took some Concerta for the first couple months, I stopped. I haven’t taken medication since. I realized that as a kid I probably had it and I didn’t take medication then. I don’t know if I will, still something that I want to educate myself more on, but right now, I’m okay saying I’m unmedicated and I have ADHD. And I’m still waking up every day and just being who I want to be.
Lindsay Guentzel (45:11):
Well, Stability, thank you so much for sharing so much of your story and I’m really excited to see what comes. And it sounds like you are on kind of the right path to figuring it out, and I wish you just the best of luck.
Stability X (45:26):
Thank you so much. Thank you for having me once again.
Lindsay Guentzel (45:28):
I am so thankful to Stability X for sharing her story with me on Refocused, Together. To find out more about her and the work she’s creating, check out the links I’ve shared in the show notes. There are so many people to thank for Making Refocused, Together happen. The entire team ADHD Online, Zach Booker, Dr. Randall Duthler, Tim Gutwald, Keith Brophy. My teammates, Keith Boswell, Susanne Spruit, Claudia Gatti, Melanie Meyrl, Paul Owen, Kirsten Pipp, Sissy Yee, Trisha Mirchandani, Lauren Radley, Kory Kearney, and Mason Nelle and the team at Deksia. Hector and Kenneth, and the team at Smack Media, Cameron Sterling and Candace Lefke, Camilla Eden, Lauren Terry, Sarah Gelbard, Phil Roderman, Jake Beaver, and Sarah Platinits.
Our theme music was created by Louis Ingles, a songwriter and composer based in Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39. To find out more about Refocused, Together or to share your story with me, head over to adhdonline.com and check out the D ADHD Awareness Month page, which highlights this project as well as each day’s episode after they’ve been released. You can also find out more by following along social @LindsayGuentzel and at @RefocusPod.