What is life like for women who get diagnosed as adults? How does a diagnosis affect your children and family? What is it like when both mom and child have ADHD?
Katy Weber is an ADHD coach, author, speaker, and founder of Women & ADHD, LLC. She is an outspoken advocate for neurodiverse women and the host of the weekly Women & ADHD podcast, currently ranked among the top 1% of all podcasts globally.
Scroll down to read the full episode transcribed.
What You Will Learn:
- The shame comes from living with ADHD but being undiagnosed.
- Why do so many adults don’t bother to get tested for ADHD?
- How an ADHD diagnosis can change how you parent.
- What Neurodivergent means.
- The best thing you can do for a child with ADHD.
- How to be a parent with ADHD.
- Learn to embrace the superpower element of ADHD.
Where you can find Katy:
- Website: www.womenandadhd.com
- Online community: www.womenandadhd.mn.co
- Instagram: @katyweber.adhd and @womenandadhdpodcast
- Twitter: @womenandadhd
- TikTok: @womenandadhdpodcast
- Facebook: Women & ADHD and Katy Weber ADHD
Find more encouragement, wisdom, and resources:
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And here is the episode typed out!
Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you were failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone and you have come to the right place.
Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy. And I’m on a mission to equip you to love well and to raise emotionally healthy, happy tweens and teens that thrive.
I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our families and impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and becoming more of the mom and the woman that you want to be, welcome. I am Sheryl Gould. And I am so glad that you’re here.
SHERYL: Katy, welcome to the show today. I’m so happy to have you here.
KATY: Thank you for having me.
SHERYL: I am excited about our conversation today. And something that we’re going to be talking all about ADHD and digging into that. And being somebody that has struggled with that, I very much look forward to talking about it and also having kids that have ADHD. I know a lot of our listeners are navigating that themselves. I want to start with you sharing a little bit about your own story And how you started your podcast, and you got started doing what you’re doing today.
KATY: I know a lot of mothers come to their ADHD diagnoses through their children, usually, the child gets diagnosed, and then the mom was looking at how can I help my child, and then they’re looking through these symptoms, and they’re like, this is basically my childhood, maybe I should look into this.
I know that that’s how a lot of us come to our diagnosis. I actually came to my diagnosis at the age of 45, at the beginning of the pandemic. And my therapist had ADHD, and she came to her ADHD through her middle schooler son. And so she was learning about herself, what ADHD looks like in herself as an adult and as a mom. And she was sort of gently suggesting to me for a couple of years that I should really look into it, I think she was noticing a lot of this kind of manic energy about my business, and I was an entrepreneur, and I was doing all these things.
And yet, at the same time, I would also kind of come to her and talk about myself, like I was this terrible, lazy person. I always had this very poor sense of self. I think she saw that disparity between what I was actually doing and accomplishing and how I felt about myself. And that was kind of a tip-off for her. I also would talk about struggling a lot in school. So she always said, you should look into this. And of course, I said, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not hyper.
I thought it was insulting that she thought I had ADHD because I was like, I can sit here. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I had the stigma and misconception of what ADHD looks like. ADHD is for little boys who can’t sit still in class. I really didn’t understand what it was. But I took an online self-test. And it was a generic one for adults. There were some things I related to, but for the most part, I didn’t score that high and didn’t really think much about it.
And then the pandemic hit, and suddenly my kids were home, we were remote learning, and my husband was home. I decided, for some reason, that this was going to be the time that I was going to really invest in my business. But I couldn’t do anything. I just felt totally paralyzed by the fact that any minute my kids were gonna come bursting into my office and have an issue with Zoom, or the Wi-Fi was going to be out.
I felt like I was waiting for the next catastrophe in my home. I was really struggling, and I just had a lot of emotional breakdowns as a result. I was feeling a lot of rages, and it was COVID. We were struggling all day long. I think that that was during that time that my therapist was like, you really need to look into what ADHD looks like in adult women.
That’s when I started really researching specifically ADHD and women. And that’s when I started taking a self-test from attitude magazine’s website that was geared toward women, where it really talked about a lot of shame elements, the emotional elements of being disorganized, and having difficulty focusing and difficulty starting projects and difficulty finishing projects and, connecting the dots between how those attention issues and executive function issues that really affect us as women in our core, as mothers and as partners.
And once I started making those connections, it was like the train was off the tracks – it was just so overwhelming. I was looking through my whole life suddenly through this new lens. I was turning over rocks and looking underneath them and seeing that I was ADHD. Oh my goodness.
All of these moments in my life with children and babies and school and college it was just it was overwhelming – it was revelatory to think about how my sense of self was so wrapped up in this neurodivergence, and that’s when I wanted to know if there are other women who are experiencing this.
We were in lockdown, and I figured why not start a podcast where I have an excuse to reach out to other women who were diagnosed in adulthood and start talking about our experiences? I was curious, how did other women come to their diagnosis? Did they have this overwhelming mind-blowing experience when they were diagnosed? I realized, once I put it out there, I didn’t really think anybody was going to listen. It was really just sort of a cathartic experience for me.
Once I realized, as it took off, that a lot of women were listening to the stories that we were sharing about our own lives and making those connections in their life and realizing how much how healing it is to realize that we’re not alone.
There’s so much stigma and so much shame about a lot of these things that it’s so nice to hear other women talk openly about the fact that they can’t fold their laundry. How many times we used having people over as an excuse to clean our home, and then with COVID, nobody was coming over. And all of a sudden, our home was a disaster because you lost that motivation?
And so talking about those moments that we all shared, and realizing that, like you, we don’t really come to understand what ADHD looks like in adult women through reading online articles, or reading, or even learning about it. But from how to help children – then we really learn about what it looks like when we talk about our lived experience. TikTok videos, these memes, and social media have just blown the lid off of our understanding of how ADHD looks in adults.
SHERYL: Thank you for being courageous that you had this experience. Mind-blowing, I think, was how you described the experience. It was so overwhelming, and I decided to talk about it, expose it and be vulnerable to shine the light on it and help other moms that are struggling with this. To also shine the light on it and talk about it and create this safe place.
And so thank you, I really think it’s very needed, where we’re talking about this. I even noticed as I was introducing you, feeling a little shame around admitting I still have a little shame around admitting I have ADHD because I have judgments about myself, and I was one that was diagnosed through my kids. All of them actually were diagnosed. I have three. And we did brain specs. And we started with our oldest. And so it was pretty cool when we had the brain spec, and so I decided to have it done as well because my kids were like, “Mom, you have it.”
And sure enough, and it was so interesting, because a neuropsychiatrist said, you know, “your back of your brain is fried in a way because it was overworking the prefrontal cortex, it was trying to get blood flow to my prefrontal cortex.” I felt so seen. Did you feel that way? Like you made sense?
KATY: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think it’s ironic that a lot of the stigma comes from misunderstanding. I guess a lot of the shame comes from living a life undiagnosed and I think what is so revelatory about getting the diagnosis is that suddenly you have an explanation for why things are happening. A lot of the time, we go through our lives feeling like, well, it’s not because I’m not trying, it’s not because I don’t have the will to do the thing. So that’s where all of that shame comes, right? Which is like, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
We talk a lot about this idea of it feels like everybody else got the manual but me, right? You just have this kind of general sense that you’re broken. And so to have an explanation, finally, when you’ve been looking for one for so long, and so many of us are misdiagnosed with other mood disorders, depression or anxiety, and they never quite fit.
I think that’s what’s so incredible about learning about the brain-based challenges and how they relate to some of these executive function issues. I always like to use the metaphor of walking around in a foot of water, and there’s a foot of water in your house, and you have no idea why it’s there. And you’re just trudging around. And you’re like, where is this water coming from? And then somebody says, Oh, the tap is on in your kitchen.
And even though the water is still there, at least you know where it’s coming from. And that makes all the difference. And then you can start to work on it. You can turn the tap off, and you can start to get rid of it. But at least you have that explanation. For so many of us after, after living our lives, kind of making do for so long.
SHERYL: Yes, yes. I was thinking of some of my ADHD stories. I remember when my kids were little. And it felt so difficult to hold everything together. I know that moms listening to that don’t have ADHD. And they’re saying it was hard to hold it together. But I just remember feeling how you described how you felt during COVID. Because it was it’s a crazy time for all of us.
But there’s something about being able to turn my brain off. And when there’s a lot of noise, and that anxiety and that distractibility when I’m trying to get something done, there feels like there’s always distraction or something so I can hyper-focus. I went and bought these sandwiches in town at this really wonderful sandwich place. I was so excited. I had my bag and everything. And I got in the car, and I drove home, and I couldn’t find my sandwiches. And I was like, Where did my sandwiches go?
So I drove back, and I saw I had put them on the top of the car, and they had blown off in the bag. And so my sandwiches were on the side of the road. And they were scattered, but they were still packaged. So I parked my car, I got out, and I got my sandwiches, and nothing was wrecked.
But that kind of describes how it felt in a nutshell; even as a kid, I always lost my mittens. I was always losing things. My mom was not at all that way. So she had a really hard time understanding me. And I would always think, what’s wrong with me? I’m losing everything all the time. Or I don’t understand what’s going on in the classroom. Was that your experience as a kid?
KATY: I think that’s something we talk about a lot when it comes to understanding what ADHD is. I think there are a lot of people out there who think, well, doesn’t that happen to everybody? I mean, everybody’s lost their keys at some point, or everybody’s forgotten their coffee on top of their car and driven off with it. There are those experiences that I think are universal. And the difference, I think, for those of us who have ended up being diagnosed with ADHD is the degree to which they’ve repeated throughout our life.
So the degree to which these struggles affect us for the long term in terms of how we view ourselves and how the chronic nature then leads to a sense of self and a sense of shame in our identity. I think that’s what we really look at when we look at why bother getting diagnosed. Or are these little moments in life, this forgetfulness, or the inability to do certain things – do they affect you to the degree that you almost want to curl up in the fetal position every time it happens?
I think often we get to a point in adulthood where they have accumulated over time, and we haven’t had any help. And we’ve always kind of felt like we could manage and get our act together. And as a result, once we get into adulthood, our ability to cope wears away.
So when something like a pandemic hits, so many of us felt like we have this house of cards, and a gust of wind just came and blew everything over. I think it’s why so many women are getting diagnosed nowadays. It’s not because it’s trendy. And it’s not because all of a sudden, we’re all forgetful because we’re really making these connections between what has been happening over the course of our lives.
Middle school and college and motherhood, new motherhood is another big moment in time where we really struggled because a lot of our structures are blown out the window and pandemics. I think we could add that to the list now. In answer to your initial question, I struggled in middle school with a lot of attention issues, and I was the youngest of three kids. I had two older brothers.
And both my older brothers did really well in school, and I was in the gifted program. And my parents always joked about the fact that I had the highest IQ of all three kids. So like, why can’t you just get your act together? It was almost like this joke, isn’t it funny that you have this high IQ, but you get these? And nobody was like, maybe she has a learning disability? Or maybe she needs some help? It was sort of just a joke of not everybody’s good in school, and if you don’t go to college, it’s fine. You’re good at other things.
I think they were really genuinely trying to make me feel good about myself because I wasn’t doing well in school. But I don’t think at the time they understood what was happening. I didn’t know what was happening, either. I think they just thought I was lazy or unmotivated or not interested in school. And then I would get all of the negative comments from my teachers who are just like, you have to study more, and you have to try harder.
I would think I am trying hard. And then I gave up, and then I just stopped going to class. I think what we all worry about as parents are what happened to me. I just stopped going to class, and I just skipped class, and it was just like, I don’t want to go. I don’t understand what’s happening. I’m trying hard. I’m not getting good grades. So screw it.
SHERYL: You sound like my oldest. That’s exactly what happened with her. And once she was diagnosed, she said, I feel really validated. And I’m now I’m really mad. She said, because everybody has told me, she would get straight A’s. She’s a brilliant writer. And she got a perfect score on our ACT with vocabulary. And she’s very articulate, and yet, she didn’t do her homework. And she was missing all these assignments. And we would get so upset with her, and at that time, she’s 31 now.
I didn’t know what I knew today. But I did think, Ah, she’s so lazy. Why can’t she get her assignments turned in? And the psychiatrist said she was trying to hike a mountain. But she was like, cut off at the knees. She couldn’t do it. And he said the blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. It’s not wiring the way that it should be. So anyway, she was mad because she heard that same message. And yet she felt validated, but it was always the teachers saying she was living up to her full potential.
KATY: Yeah, we’d get that one a lot.
SHERYL: Yeah. And I think that’s why, as parents, I always encourage moms to say, what might really be going on that your kid is not unable to get their homework done? Because if you’re just trying to get them to do their homework and really frustrated and fighting with them all the time, they do get discouraged and they give up, and they’re like, why even try?
KATY: I feel like my diagnosis has really changed how I parent in that way, too, right where I noticed that I was kind of doing that with my kids. I had one kid who did really well in school, and I had another one who didn’t. And with my son, who wasn’t doing well in school, I just sort of was like, “Oh, well, not all of my kids can get straight A’s.”
I was kind of labeling him as the student who wasn’t doing well. And I realized I really needed to change how I viewed what he was struggling with. Which was like, what do you need to succeed at, how can we help you?
Because I think that rather than just saying, “Oh, well, that’s fine. I want you to feel good about the fact that you’re getting C’s.” Because I don’t want to be that parent who demands that all of my kids come home with straight A’s. But at the same time, I think it was really important to understand if you want to do well in this and you’re not, and we need to figure out what you need. So much of our success with ADHD is interest-driven. So we really have to figure out, Where can we find your motivation when it comes to these things?
SHERYL: Tapping into your kid’s strengths so they can feel really good about something. Rather than feeling like they’re not good enough, which was so much of my experience. For me, the traditional school was very creative. I was in all the plays, I wrote plays, and I was involved in music. And it was funny, though, because I did play the piano backward. So I play with my right hand with my left. And my left hand with my right. I’m not fully dyslexic or anything, but I have a few of those things.
Some people would say, that’s brilliant that I could do that, but it didn’t sound quite right. But there are ways that I can see that I’m gifted, and I have strengths, but I was trying to do the math, or something like that was so difficult. And I needed a lot more support, but I felt stupid. I felt like, what is wrong with me? So I relate to that, too. I was crying in the psychiatrist’s office and saying, I feel like my brain is broken. Like when brains were being doled out, I feel like I got the short end of the stick. That was really how I felt.
KATY: It’s not for lack of trying. I think that’s what people don’t understand is the one piece of advice we’re often given, which just tries harder, do this better. That’s probably the worst advice you could give somebody with ADHD who really just thinks differently, and we need to figure out how you’re thinking differently, what works for you, and lean into that.
SHERYL: I have a couple of things that I’m thinking about. What would you say to the mom that is listening? Because I do get this often, I hear moms say this: Well, kids are way over-diagnosed with ADHD. And I feel like it’s just an excuse and just giving them a pass. What would you say to that?
KATY: I think it goes back to what we were saying about motivation, right? And understanding how to communicate with the child. And, this idea that if something isn’t getting done, it’s not necessarily because they don’t want it to get done; they’re just not getting the help they need at that moment.
For instance, the one thing that we struggle with a lot in our household is my teenage daughter’s messy room is the bane of my husband’s existence; he feels like it is his job as her parent to teach her how to be tidy and organized before she leaves the house.
Otherwise, she won’t be a good adult, and she could not care less about the mess. And he says things like, “have you seen how messy Her room is?” And I’m like, “No, I don’t go in there. Why would I go in there? It’ll only upset me.” Because I sort of feel like, she’s got her system, and she’ll figure it out.
And so, a lot of the time, it’s about understanding why they aren’t doing what they’re doing. I think the tendency is as a parent to really just kind of brush off their innate knowledge of something and just be like, “Look, I have a way of doing things, and it’s my job to teach you how to do those things.” And then, when you meet resistance, you end up butting heads because then it becomes a battle of wills. And it becomes this idea of well, and they don’t want to take my advice. And my advice is sound. So you take it personally that they don’t want to listen to you.
The best thing you can do for a child with ADHD is to listen to them, and figure it out with them together, be their support system. I know, that’s easier said than done a lot of the time in the heat of the moment. But a lot of the time, it’s really about getting them to figure out how to do things on their own. It’s not about telling them how to do things. It’s really about getting them to figure it out. Okay, what’s going to work for me at this moment? What do I need?
And these are basic questions that oftentimes, especially when you have ADHD, or you’re neurodivergent, we need to understand things explicitly. Concepts don’t always happen organically for us. I think that’s another thing where we, as parents, need to make sure that kids know how to do things.
You can’t just assume your child is going to understand how to cook because they’ve been watching you cook for 12 years. You really have to sort of sit down and say, “Okay, what do you know, what don’t you know? And how can I help you get there?” It takes a lot of patience. But I think that’s really how you teach them to become adults. It’s not telling them everything I know, and you have to learn what works for me. It’s figuring out what works for them.
SHERYL: What you’re saying is so important. I just want to pause because if they’re struggling, what might be going on? And then also we tend to talk at our kids. In my example, my mom does not have ADHD, and she’s the most organized person you have ever met. All the ducks are in a row. And it was hard for her to understand me because my brain was so different. And now, finally, she understands me, and we kind of laugh about it.
But I’m just wired differently now than my mom, I wish I could be like you, and I would always kind of think something was wrong with me that I couldn’t be like her. But talking doesn’t work because our brains are different.
Tweens and teens, if you’re talking at them, especially an ADHD kid, they’re gonna resist you. For me, when my mom was talking to me, trying to be helpful, I was like a deer in headlights. And it was like Charlie Brown’s teacher, and then I would feel more overwhelmed. I’d feel more anxiety, I would get stuck in my head, and my head would be spinning. But if somebody had said to me, “what would help you with this? What kind of support do you think you need? Tell me what it feels like as you’re looking at your math homework.” And be curious. That would have helped me so much more.
It’s like what you’re saying to connect the dots. Because if we don’t understand how our kids are feeling, any amount of telling them might not work for them. My mom would say, “Where did you leave your gloves? And I would be like, I don’t know.” And she’d like, “well just think back to the last time you had them.” I mean, that just didn’t work for me because I didn’t remember the last time, and then I would try to remember, but I couldn’t. “What’s wrong with me, that I can’t remember?” I think that what you’re saying is just really important to ask our kids what they need, rather than talking to them.
KATY: Yeah, and a lot of the time, it’s really just being there. I know that can be really difficult as a parent, especially as they get older, and you want them to be more independent, and you’re finally getting yourself back after years and years of being really involved. That it can be tempting to be like, to do this yourself, you know how to do this, do this yourself, and they really are still very young. I think that can be really difficult with tweens and teens, at least for me – I want them to just go to your room and clean your room.
And to understand that’s not something a child with ADHD can do; they need you there, and maybe they just need you sitting there; you don’t necessarily have to clean the room with them. But often, they just need you there. It’s very difficult to do things alone. They require a lot of patience and a lot of togetherness. And that as a parent can be really hard because we’re always looking for a break. I think there are a lot of books out there on how to parent an ADHD child.
But there are not a lot of books out there on how to be a parent with ADHD. And to deal with a lot of your own needs, and realizing that when I’m overstimulated, and there’s a lot going on, I get thrown into a rage, and then everybody’s affected, when mom’s in a bad mood, everybody’s affected.
And so we don’t talk a lot about how to reduce stimulation as a parent and how to understand even what’s happening before you get to the rage. So I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be the perfect parent. I think we as mothers also need to give ourselves a lot more grace in terms of what we’re learning alongside our kids.
SHERYL: One of the books that I love is “Driven to Distraction.” Do you like that book?
KATY: Oh, absolutely.
SHERYL: It was one of the first ones I read. I think it’s written by two doctors who both have ADHD that are psychiatrists if I remember correctly. But I like it because it talks about the different types also. There’s such good information because I just had somebody that’s the child was diagnosed with ADHD. And I told them about that book. And I picked up the book that I had read years earlier. And it’s just so good because it really talks about how to help them. Can you think of any other good ones that you’ve really liked?
KATY: Oh, absolutely. For understanding ADHD as like a primer: ADHD 2.0, which is a more recent version of Driven to Distraction. And it’s written by the same two doctors, Hallowell and Ratey, and it came out a year ago. And it’s shorter. I listened to it as an audiobook. It’s only six hours. But it’s a great primer, really describes the experience, not only with children but also with adults. I feel like that’s always like the first book I recommend to anybody.
And then for women, especially those who were understanding their own neurodivergent experience and kind of wondering if they even have ADHD themselves, the book by Sari Solden, “Women with Attention Deficit Disorder,” which was originally written in 1994, was really the very first book that ever even explored the idea that adult women could have ADHD because, in the 90s, they still believe that people outgrew it. And they certainly didn’t believe girls had. She’s a pioneer. And it’s been updated over the years.
So even though it’s sort of the original text for what it looks like in women, it gets you in your bones when she talks about a lot of these very private personal experiences that women have gone through, especially as mothers and partners.
SHERYL: I read that: “Women with Attention Deficit Disorder.”
KATY: It’s by Sari Solden. I actually got to interview her for my podcast, and she was my dream guest. I was so excited. I felt like everything had come full circle.
And then the book I would always recommend for parents is a fantastic book by Dr. Sharon Saline. And it’s called “What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew.” One thing I really like about it is she interviews children of all different ages, and it’s really like first-person experiences from children’s point of view, woven in through the book, and she’s a psychologist who has incredible experience with families.
I love going back to that idea of how we learned by talking about our lived experiences; I just found that book really affirming as a parent, in terms of not only looking back at my own experience and kind of that grief that you had talked about earlier with your daughter of looking back and being like, how did nobody see these signs, and wondering how would my life have been different if somebody had helped me as a child, and dealing with a lot of that grief, but then at the same time, now as a mother, looking and thinking about my own children and how I can best help them. It’s just it’s a fantastic book.
SHERYL: Thank you – those are wonderful. I didn’t know about that either. My daughter wrote a blog post, and it was looking back on how she felt. And it’s really powerful. So I bet that book and the stories because if your kid is struggling with ADHD, it really helps you understand the turmoil inside and how they can feel and gives you greater compassion and empathy.
KATY: And how comments like, you’re getting good grades, you can’t possibly have ADHD, how those sorts of comments can be just as damaging when so much of the turmoil is inside. So much of that anxiety is building up of wanting to be the good kid and wanting to get everything right and perfect, and how so many times we don’t look like we’re struggling.
In fact, we look like we’re very successful people often. And that’s kind of where the breakdown and understanding of this is. There’s the stigma, and you feel like people with ADHD are supposed to be a hot mess. And often, they look like quite the opposite. It’s really about that distance between how you’re viewed versus how you feel inside.
SHERYL: I have a very close friend, and she has ADHD, but she’s totally out there with it. And her struggles, where I learned as a kid to hide it and just not show it. But when we’re together, I feel like she’s in my brain, if that makes sense. I’m always like, don’t tell people that. She’s talking about the mess on her dining room table and how she can’t clean these papers out. I just put them in a paper bag where nobody can see them. We can mask it and hide it. And it’s so good that you’re doing what you do to get it out there and to be talking about it.
One more question. What would you say to mom that might be listening that is like, I’ve always wondered about myself, and I’m not quite sure. Like the psychologist that you are working with said to you. I love how you talked about how that made so much sense.
KATY: I think a lot of the experiences for women of all ages, what I’m seeing happening is that they’re watching Tik Tok videos, and suddenly a bunch of ADHD stuff is coming on their “for you” page, or they see memes on Instagram. And they’re really relating to a lot of the stuff. And they’re like,” Wow, I never thought I had ADHD because I’m not hyper or not really understanding what it is.” And then seeing some of this stuff and being like, “Wow, I feel really deeply seen by a lot of this content online and a lot of the literature around ADHD,” and then you start to go back through your life with this fine-tooth comb, and you’re like, “oh, yeah, I did struggle here. Oh, wait a minute, this could be related.”
And so you realize, even though you don’t think of yourself as somebody who maybe had some struggles, you might think of yourself as holding it together. But then, when you look back over the course of your life, you start to connect these dots and realize that you are kind of really this house of cards, and you are just kind of holding it together.
I think so many of us have felt that way, especially now, in the last couple of years. With everything that’s happened with the lockdowns and the pandemic is that we’re really on edge. And these are those moments where it’s not like you were struggling your whole life.
But it’s these moments where because you might have ADHD, it really comes to the forefront in these times in your life. And so if you are somebody who really had difficulty with babies, and if you are somebody who maybe really struggled with exams, and you now are really struggling with a pandemic, you see these patterns, it’s coming back over and over and over again. Yes, I think if you’re really feeling seen, it’s worth it to seek out a diagnosis because that explanation can be so life-changing.
SHERYL: Yeah. So how are you feeling today since you’ve been diagnosed?
KATY: Wow, I often use the metaphor of the Phoenix because I feel like, for me, it did take an emotional breakdown for me to get this diagnosis. And now, it often feels like the sky’s the limit in terms of being able to really recognize some of these strengths that I never recognized before and being able to lean into them and really embrace the superpower element of ADHD that we talked about.
ADHD certainly does not always feel like a superpower. But there are elements to it where you can really harness some of that energy. And when you’re in hyperfocus, you can really harness that sometimes. To really kind of be able to shift my perspective of me has been transformative.
I understand how I operate what I need to, to excel and lean into those strengths. And that’s what’s been so amazing about meeting so many other women from different backgrounds and different experiences. I have yet to interview a woman who isn’t brilliant in some way. And it’s really just about like figuring out what that is and harnessing it and then going in with it.
SHERYL: Yeah, I love how you use the neurodivergent. Can you define that?
KATY: Neurodivergent is really anyone who has an atypical brain. A lot of mood disorders fall into that category as well. So you’ve got Autism Spectrum Disorder, you’ve got ADHD, but you also have OCD, depression, anxiety, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder. So a lot of these things, they’re like a soup. I had a guest talk about figuring out how these things are all interrelated is like pulling out a fishhook in a bowl of fish. It’ll take your whole life to figure out what is what.
But a lot of the time, I think it comes down to sort of having a different way of thinking and realizing that is looked at as being “wrong” by people in your life, whether it was your parents or your teachers or adults in your life who shaped your identity was shaped by this lifelong understanding that the way you were doing things was wrong.
With my children, I liken it to being left-handed. So you know, when you’re left-handed, and you’re handed a pair of scissors that are right-handed scissors, everybody else seems to be able to cut, and you’re like, “I can’t use these. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can’t use scissors, I can’t cut.”
What you needed were a pair of left-handed scissors. It’s like this idea that we believe that something’s wrong with us. And really, what we needed was, we needed the left-handed scissors, and we never got them. And so it’s a matter of trying to find them. As opposed to feeling like I’m the problem. It’s really just a matter of realizing that everybody else can do it, feeling what is wrong with me that I can’t do it, and then figuring out what you need.
SHERYL: I feel like I can cry hearing you say that. We just didn’t have the left-handed scissors. That is beautiful. That’s a beautiful way to put it. And that our brains are just different.
KATY: And it’s a beautiful thing. And it’s extraordinary what people are capable of when they’re not thought of as being wrong, but just given the ability to kind of lead into their differences.
SHERYL: Thank you for so much hope and encouragement. I feel like since I was diagnosed, it’s really helped me to lean into my strengths and know that trying to fit into that round peg or the square peg into the round hole. It’s okay. Let our listeners know where to find you, Katie, and what you’re up to.
KATY: So after I started the podcast, I realized I was meeting so many amazing women from all different backgrounds, and I kind of wanted to create a community where they could meet each other because I felt like so much of my own healing and so much of the “treatment” of ADHD is finding your people and finding community and feeling understood and realizing that you’re not alone. And sharing those experiences and being like, wait a minute, I didn’t realize road rage was part of ADHD. You get all these lightbulb moments.
And so, I created the Women in ADHD online community. It’s a Mighty Networks community, and you can get there through WomenandADHD.com. And that’s been a wonderful place for women to come together and meet. We have book clubs, we’re studying the Radical Guide for Women with ADHD Workbook right now where we come together, and we fill it out together, and we talk about it. And that’s been really wonderful. I just started that in January. I’m doing another one in March.
And hopefully, I’m just going to keep doing them because they are so nourishing, bringing everybody together. I have a background as a coach. I also do group coaching and one on one coaching. You can find out all about that at my website, WomenandADHD.com.
SHERYL: Wonderful, thank you for what you’re putting out in the world and how you’re supporting women that have ADHD and living their best life and loving themselves – really learn to love themselves and know they’re not alone and live a vibrant life. So love what you’re doing.
KATY: Thank you, and thanks for having me and having this conversation. I think anytime we can shed light on this and reduce some of the stigmas. I think it’s important for all of us.