Serendipity: My ADHD Story
I'm writing to you from BEAUTIFUL Bozeman, MT (current temperature: 23 degrees).
I'm in town for a couple of days for an in-person planning session with one of my favorite founder friends, Greg Rogers. I've been working with Greg over the last six months as we prepare to launch an amazing startup into the wild. More on that later 😉
Right now, I want to talk to you about a serendipitous moment that came from my work with Greg – a seredipitous moment that has drastically changed my life over the last six weeks.
This is always how it goes.
While on set at a video shoot for Greg's startup, I stumbled into a conversation with the costume designer, Carrie. It all started with a comment about my beloved way of working, Pomodoro.
If you're not familiar with Pomodoro (aka Tomato Timers), it's a technique that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.
When I mentioned this to Carrie, she said, "You know, that's an ADHD hack."
"Yeah? I've actually started to wonder if I have ADHD."
Carrie sat with me, sharing the story of her recent ADHD diagnosis. She shared anecdotes that hit way too hard. She gave me advice on how to figure out if I might have the disorder. She introduced me to a psychiatrist, shared the contact info for her ADHD therapist, and sent me lots of great resources to review. She changed my life.
It helps to know that you're not alone.
Honestly, I didn't know that much about ADHD leading up to this. Like most people, I always thought of it as more of a behavioral disorder, not a brain disorder.
Through my conversation with Carrie, and the research I started when I got home, I learned that ADHD isn't exactly what I thought it was.
Individuals with ADHD experience life more intensely than neurotypicals. The ADHD nervous system wants to be engaged in something interesting and challenging. Attention is never "deficit." It's always excessive, constantly occupied with internal engagements. When people with ADHD aren't in The Zone, in hyperfocus, they have many things rattling around in their minds all at once. Nothing gets sustained, undivided attention.
I also learned that it affects women differently than it does men.
One of the resources that Carrie recommended was a YouTube Channel called How to ADHD. I cried watching these videos. Why? Because I saw myself in every single one – and I realized that this is likely what I've been battling my whole life.
Meanwhile, I thought I had Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This is what I was diagnosed with in 2011. I've been on Paxil ever since. I've been treating a symptom, not the actual disorder.
Like many women, I was misdiagnosed.
After calling several psychiatrists that specialize in ADHD, only to find that none of them were accepting new patients, I turned to the internet. There had to be online solutions to diagnose and treat ADHD, right?
The process was simple. I completed a 14-page assessment and was assigned a psychiatrist. During our first call, we reviewed my assessment and talked about my mental health history.
I was diagnosed and given a treatment plan that includes therapy and medication (Adderall). Moving forward, I have monthly appointments with my doctor to assess my progress and get refills.
Finding out, at 44, that I've been suffering from an untreated mental health disorder my entire life has been way more challenging than I ever would've anticipated.
At first, I felt relief.
I always knew there was something "different" about me, but I could never explain it. Looking back, I presented so many symptoms. I just didn't know that when you smash them all together it's ADHD. Here are a few of the videos that talk about my symptoms.
I procrastinate. Or as I've always liked to put it, I do my best work under pressue.
If I'm not interested in something, it's really hard for me to get it done. And when I say something, it's usually realllllly mundane things related to my personal life: paying bills, making appointments, etc.
BUT, if I am interested, watch out. I very quickly shift into hyperfocus – the ability to zero in intensely on an interesting project or activity for hours at a time. It's the opposite of distractibility.
I have a hard time maintaining romantic relationships. A joke I always make is that I have a lot of ex-boyfriends. 👋 Hi, guys!
I'm unorganized at home. Again, a lot of these things present themselves in my personal life. Not my professional life.
I'm super impulsive. And not just on little things, on big things. For example, I LOVE to move. I've lived in 20 different houses or apartments in five different cities.
Then I went into mourning.
After gaining some relief knowing that there was a reason for some of these behaviors, I sunk into a very deep sadness. I found myself mouring the loss of the life I could've had. What would my life have been like if I knew sooner?
After that came the fear.
If I treat this, will I still be Lynsie???
Will the medication change me too much??
Will I lose my creativity and ability to hyper-focus?
And finally, I moved on to excitement.
But it wasn't easy getting here.
When I told my friend Ted about the ADHD diagnosis, his first response was, "Mourning the loss or celebrating the discovery?" This is why I love Ted.
And my response was, "And the soon-to-be different future!" I will never not be an eternal optimist.
So, that's what I'm doing. I'm celebrating the opportunity to improve.
The first thing I said after being on Adderall for a few days, "I didn't know my brain could have one thought at at time!"
I don't know how to explain it, other than to say that I've always felt like my brain was battling itself.
While I was worried the Adderall would change me too much, that hasn't been the case at all. And the changes that have occurred have been overwhelmingly positive.
My focus and attention have improved drastically (I'm not wandering during conversations or being distracted by squirrels) and my impulsive behavior has decreased (I'm being much more thoughtful about bigger decisions).
And it's felt wonderful.
Why am I sharing this with you?
I think it's super important to talk about mental health. Especially in the world in which we live – the startup world. Because, shocker, founders are far more likely to have ADHD.
Entrepreneurship and ADHD are connected in research — and the anecdotal success of businesses ranging from JetBlue to Kinko’s and beyond. Here, entrepreneurs with ADHD reflect on the ways tenacity, ingenuity, hyperfocus, and other ADD traits offer a strategic advantage.
Knowing this, I'm assuming that a bunch of you might be silently suffering from ADHD as well.
If that's the case and you want to talk, hit me up. One conversation changed my life. Maybe this can change yours.
Just remember, you're not alone.
Until next time,
Until next time,
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