How to Keep Politics from Ruining Your Relationships

How to Keep Politics from Ruining Your Relationships

Psychotherapist and author, Jeanne Safer, PhD, shares strategies and tips for maintaining relationships with your friends and loved ones in spite of political differences. Advice for handling social media and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday are addressed in this conversation that took place just before Election Day in the United States.

Jeanne’s book: I Love You But I Hate Your Politics

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Dr. H takes OmegaBrite supplements every day and that’s why he invited them to sponsor his podcast. SAVE 20% on your first order at OmegaBriteWellness.com with the promo code: Podcast2020.

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What do you think? How are you handling political disagreements with your loved ones? Send an email with your thoughts to [email protected].

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode is made possible by our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness. I’ve taken their omega-3 supplements for many years and so has my wife. And that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. I’m proud to have them. You can find all of their products online at omegabritewellness.com and brite is intentionally misspelled B-R-I-T-E, omegabritewellness.com. This episode is also sponsored by Landmark College, another institution that I have a warm personal relationship with in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently. Learn more at LCDistraction.org.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, this is Dr. Ned Hallowell and welcome to Distraction. Here we are coming hard upon election day. And I think most of us have opinions, maybe even all of us, you know the line about opinions. And I had a guest on some time ago who wrote a fascinating, wonderful, absolutely brilliant book entitled I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics. How many of us have people in our lives that that applies to? And then of course there are I hate you and I hate your politics but there’s no book on that. So my guest is Jeanne Safer. A lovely last name, Safer. And she wrote a book called I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics. And you will or may remember Jeanne because we did have her on the podcast around this time last year. Thank you for joining me again, Jeanne.

Jeanne Safer:
I’m delighted to be with you, Ned. And I think there’s no time more important than right now to deal with this issue that destroys relationships. Really [crosstalk 00:02:08] destroys relationship.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah, absolutely-

Jeanne Safer:
Because-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And you speak from personal experience because you are a liberal and your husband is a card carrying National Review friend of William F. Buckley conservative as I recall.

Jeanne Safer:
But he’s not a Trump supporter so that has made life a lot easier, I have to say.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Good.

Jeanne Safer:
We still don’t agree on anything except Trump.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What percentage of true conservatives, intelligent, true conservatives like your husband, do you think will vote for Trump and what percentage do you think will vote for Biden?

Jeanne Safer:
Now, not voting for Trump doesn’t mean voting for Biden, you have to understand in that [crosstalk 00:02:49]. I would say true conservatives are appalled by Trump because they feel that he’s destroying things that they hold dear. And a good percentage of National Review writers and editors do not agree with Trump. But Rick is not going to vote for Biden, he’s just going to not vote for Trump. So one out of two ain’t bad from what I think.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Will he vote at all?

Jeanne Safer:
Yeah. I don’t know what he’s going to do exactly. But I said to him, “I think you should vote for Biden, we’ve got to do everything we can.” But at this point, and we’ve been married 40 years, and you learn how much to say, if you’re lucky and you work at it, you learn what not to say. And I’m not going to hawk him about voting for Biden, really. As long as he doesn’t vote for Trump that’s all I can ask. It’s been very interesting to hear his point of view on these things because authentic, decent conservatives are outraged by Trump.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I cast my ballot this morning and I sat at my kitchen table and got my paper ballot that came in the mail. And I took my black pen and it brought me back to days when I took those SSATs and SATs and what not and I cast my various votes and then I had to vote on question one and question two in Massachusetts. That was the most perplexing part of the whole thing because it was really hard to figure out exactly what they were all [crosstalk 00:04:22] about.

Jeanne Safer:
Isn’t it? They never explain it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah, well they had a long explanation but I couldn’t penetrate that either. But I did cast a ballot for each of those questions. I hope I voted in the right way-

Jeanne Safer:
The right way.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But it was a very satisfying feeling and then I put it in the envelope and signed it and I was bold enough to take it to the mailbox down the street. My wife said, “How can you trust that?” I said, “Well, we have a mailman and I see him empty it and I think he’s going to take it to the town hall like it’s addressed to.” So I trusted the United States Postal Service and dropped my ballot into the blue mailbox and walked away feeling very satisfied that I had voted, exercised my opportunity as a citizen. So-

Jeanne Safer:
Without having to go to the polling place which is also important [crosstalk 00:05:17]-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah, exactly. I kept social distanced between me and the mailbox and dropped it in. So what is your advice to people who have good friends who they just, as you say, I love you, but I hate your politics? How do you reconcile that?

Jeanne Safer:
Well my advice to people is, and I know this will shock you, but self control is an awfully important thing in having relationships. Even with people who totally agree with you politically. Why pick a fight? You’re not going to win it, I guarantee you, I can swear to you, you will never win a political fight. They’re not winnable and [inaudible 00:05:59] with that like, “How could you vote for that creep? How can you… ” Hear my voice, right away you’ve lost the other person. Now, you can learn and I have a lot of recommendations about how to learn and based on a lot of my own experience of you can learn to have a political conversation but not if you want to change the other person’s mind.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Why do people not change their minds?

Jeanne Safer:
People do not change their minds because we try to make them. They may change their minds but not because of us. I think of trying to change a person’s mind is very much like trying to get somebody to fall in love with you. Have you ever tried that? I have and I haven’t had very good success. You can’t make somebody feel what they don’t feel. And it’s very hard for us to accept this, it’s really… we can’t bear it. How can this person-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I’m just going to interrupt you for a second, Jeanne. I have a friend who I’m working closely with on a big project and I’m a Biden supporter and she’s a Trump supporter and she says, “Ned, I think I could convert you.” And I said, “Well [crosstalk 00:07:12] have at it. I’m always open.” So she feels that she can convert me. She’s only got a few days left but I-

Jeanne Safer:
What’s she doing?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I tell my kids when they would say, “We want to have permission to stay up all night.” And I would say, “Well, go ahead and try and persuade me.” Learning how to talk someone into something is a life skill so I’d say, “Go ahead and try. If you can do it, congratulations.” They were never able to do it but at least I honored their attempt to try. And this friend who is very persuasive, I said, “Give it a shot.” But you say it’s an undertaking but you say it’s an undertaking you can never win.

Jeanne Safer:
I do believe that. I really do. I think that it’s possible to open a person’s mind, if they wanted to be open. But in your case, you already knew what you felt and you weren’t going to change it because somebody else was a persuasive person because you weren’t open to the arguments. And I think one of the ways to save relationships with anybody is to know the limits. We don’t agree, even with people who have exactly the same politics, we’re not on agreement about everything important. And I think that is something that people don’t want to hear because, look, Thanksgiving is coming, remember? This is a nightmare because people start all these horrible political fights.

Jeanne Safer:
And one of the pieces of advice that I want to give people is you can say no. You can say, “This is Thanksgiving, let’s talk about anything other than politics.” And everybody will kiss your feet because they feel the same way ultimately. Nobody likes these fights.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. Now, particularly, they come very close equating you’re an evil, despicable person if you hold this point of view.

Jeanne Safer:
Yes. Now, I’ve been fortunate that because I’ve had to be around people who disagree with me about a lot of things that I hold dear for many years because Rick is senior editor of National Review. I’ve been part of National Review, a mascot… I call myself the liberal mascot. I haven’t changed one opinion but I have learned that some of these people are good friends, some of them came through for me when I had cancer, where my liberal friends did not, and they’re sensible people and they have a right to their opinion. And I avoid it like the plague. They ask me all the time, “Well, what do you think about this? What did you think about the supreme court?” I said, “Let’s not.” And I feel delighted that I can say that. I don’t feel a need to convince people who aren’t convincible. And, like you, I convince people for a living, they pay me, right?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right, right.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to my friend, the founder and creator of OmegaBrite Wellness, Dr. Carol Locke, about the benefits of taking OmegaBrite’s omega-3s CBD and other supplements. Here’s a clip from one of those conversations. Could you tell us a little bit about the recent study that showed OmegaBrite reduced inflammation and anxiety in medical students?

Dr. Carol Locke:
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Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Distraction listeners, you can save 20% of your first order at omegabritewellness.com by using the promo code Podcast2020. All right, let’s get back to today’s topic.

Jeanne Safer:
So you were asking before about some tips about how to deal with these fights. So I have some specific ones as well as the basic one of recognizing it’s all based on knowing that you can’t change a person’s mind. That’s the simple logical notion, anymore than you can make a person fall in love with you, can’t be done. And once you realize that, then a lot of other things open up for you. But if you’re in a situation and somebody is goading you to have a political conversation, here’s some things you can do. The first thing is do not raise your voice. As soon as you raise your voice, it’s interpreted as shouting, rational discussion goes out the window. And you have to be conscious of this.

Jeanne Safer:
And one way to not raise your voice is to not drink alcohol before you have the political fight. Then you will raise your voice and then it’s over. I had two guys [crosstalk 00:12:58] delightful guys, who had such a fight over Trump and they were both Trump supporters. They broke each other’s cell phones over this because they had been drinking. Don’t do it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Very good advice.

Jeanne Safer:
Very, very important. And here’s another thing, I created a word which I offer to you to use. I call it article thrusting. Can you [crosstalk 00:13:25] what this is? It’s I take an article from my point of view and there I’m sitting with somebody who disagrees either my spouse at the breakfast table or some friend, and I stick it in their face and I say, “Read this. It’ll change your mind. [crosstalk 00:13:38].” Do you think that ever worked in history?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
No, no.

Jeanne Safer:
Do you think people do it every single day?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But let me ask you a little bit more less strategic and more underlying question like I’m a rabid Red Sox fan. And I know why that is, I grew up in Cape Cod, my family are Red Sox fans, I went to Fenway part with my father when I was a little boy. It’s perfectly clear to me why I’m a Red Sox fan and why someone who grows up in New York is a rabid Yankees fan and we just stick with our teams. But that’s not true with politics. I grew up in a pretty apolitical family. I think they voted for Eisenhower and Nixon. They were republican if you pushed them but we never talked about politics ever. And it wasn’t until-

Jeanne Safer:
People didn’t.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What? Yeah, it wasn’t until I got to college that politics came on the main stage and it was the height of the Vietnam War, I was in college between ’68 and ’72. And that’s where my political views got formed. And where do you think they come from and why do some people, at a certain age, declare, “I’m conservative. I’m liberal”? And do you think it comes from the background, their socioeconomic status, their being left handed or right handed? Do you have any theories to [crosstalk 00:15:13] where the… what?

Jeanne Safer:
I think it’s a very tough question. Some people identify with their parents as they get older, sometimes people change, by the way. They’ve been liberals, say, most of their lives and when they get older they get conservative because their father or mother was. I had a few couples like that. I have been pretty consistent my whole life but my parents never discussed politics. My mother was a democrat, my father was a republican, I think they both voted for Roosevelt. But political fighting just didn’t happen. But there’s a statistic that might disturb and interest you too. When Rick and I got married which was 1980, if you can imagine that, I was a child bride, when we got married, 20% of people married across party lines. Would you like to know what the figure is now?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What is it?

Jeanne Safer:
Nine and going down.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Wow.

Jeanne Safer:
So people are never around anybody that disagrees with them.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Wow, that’s why I love examples like Scalia being best friends with Ginsberg and John Kenneth Galbraith being best friends with William F. Buckley. I just think that’s such a good example that you can be absolutely diametrically opposed to someone philosophically and go out for dinner and to the opera together and be friends. I think we’re losing that ability right now.

Jeanne Safer:
Totally. One interesting thing about Bill Buckley, because I know you have some interest in him, is he was dear friends with Allard Lowenstein who was an extremely liberal congressman. He endorsed him because he thought so highly of his character.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. But now it’s character assassination. I just think that’s really too bad because not everyone who roots for Trump is a bad person and not everyone who roots for Biden is a bad person. You find people equating your worth as a human being with the candidate you’re favoring.

Jeanne Safer:
Well it’s a disaster to me because I’m married to a man who disagrees with me on pretty much everything, I’m pro-choice, he’s pro-life. That’s our biggest problem. Not anymore, I mean, we figured out how not to do it anymore. But, I mean, in every other way he backs me up, he loves me, he reads every word I write, he’s proud of me. I mean, so he’s going to vote a different way and he has a different idea about things. I’ve lived long enough to know that that’s not the only thing in life.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. One of my favorite prayers is… I happen to be a Episcopalian but one of my favorite prayers is Lord, help me always to search for the truth but spare me the company of those who have found it.

Jeanne Safer:
I love that. I wouldn’t a better prayer, Ned.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
There’s too many people out there who have found it and they’re beating each other over the head with it.

Jeanne Safer:
Oh my god. Being so self righteous is just unbearable.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Isn’t it?

Jeanne Safer:
And the right and the left are the same damn thing.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right, exactly. David [Reisman 00:18:33], years and years ago, wrote a wonderful chapter in his book, the title of the chapter, The Ethics of We Happy Few. And it’s sort of this smug self satisfaction that we know the truth and all the rest of you peons just don’t get it. And that infuriates people and rightly so. Where do you get off claiming that you know and I don’t know? I mean, that’s-

Jeanne Safer:
If you think of the number of people that you have cut out of your life or dismissed before you even know them, who could be true friends to you, who could be intellectual companions, it’s tragic. It’s just tragic.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes, it is, it is.

Jeanne Safer:
Let’s look for what we have in common. I mean, as a therapist, I have Trump supporters, I have Biden supporters, I have socialists, and I want to know who these people are. I don’t care who they vote for.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah, yeah. Me too. And you scratch the surface of any of them and you find a really decent, interesting person.

Jeanne Safer:
Often.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Not always. That’s true.

Jeanne Safer:
I think people need to know that they don’t have to discuss politics if they feel goaded into it by somebody else. You can stop the conversation, you can say, “Look, we’re at Thanksgiving, we’re out for a drink,” whatever, not these days of course, but, “Let’s talk about something else. We’re not going to change each other’s minds here.” Or, “What do you think about this?” Which is very different than saying, “You should think what I think.” So there are ways to have a political discussion but you have to really be a disciplined person to do it. So I’m all for discipline. I don’t say things to people at National Review that I know that we… I know where we stand, how differently we stand. What am I going to do with that? I look for things in common. I look for humanity.

Jeanne Safer:
And I think the last time we talked, I mentioned the test that my husband and I created for with somebody you want in your life. It’s not about politics. It’s called the chemotherapy test. And that is if somebody is standing next to you while you’re getting chemotherapy in the bed, which both of us have been through, you do not ask that person’s political affiliation. [crosstalk 00:21:03]. But when someone shows up for you when you need them, that is a real core value, that’s what counts in character.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Absolutely.

Jeanne Safer:
And one of the people who I interviewed had a family, a young woman I’m very fond of, had a family, they were all serious liberals, very, very serious, towards socialism. So when her father died, it was a terrible situation, the only person in the family who helped her was her uncle who had become an evangelical and moved to the south, he was in the military. And she used to fight with him on Facebook, another terrible thing to do. And she did something that is very rare, she wrote him an apology. “I want to tell you I apologize for being obnoxious to you because now I know who you truly are.” A really good example for all of us.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And to watch out for the hypocrisy of the self righteous. I will never forget, I was pulling into a parking spot back in the days when I drove a Suburban, so ecologically wrong, but anyway, I did. And so I needed a big place to park and so I was backing into a spot and this little car snarked in and stole it from me. And she had no right to do it, I had full claim to that spot. But she had a little car and she just stole it outright right from under me.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And I wanted to get out and scream at her but I didn’t. But I did happen to notice when I finally did park that she had a bumper sticker on her car that said, “Practice random acts of kindness.” So that was her random act of kindness for the day. And I think that’s the trap many of us liberals fall into, we claim to be so giving and generous but when it comes down to a parking spot that you both want, we’re just as nasty as the other person. And sometimes I think the conservatives are just more honest about self interest and how much it governs behavior.

Jeanne Safer:
Yeah, I think at times they can be, having spent an awful lot of time in that world as a visitor. But human nature, core values, and politics are not the same. It’s a big mistake to make because-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s a very good point, that’s a very good point. Underline that, say more about that.

Jeanne Safer:
Well because people that you agree with do not necessarily hold your values.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Exactly.

Jeanne Safer:
They don’t pass the chemotherapy test necessarily. They won’t necessarily be there when you need them. And people who disagree with you can come through for you and once you see that, it breaks the sense of self righteousness that I have the truth and I only want to be around people who have the truth.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right.

Jeanne Safer:
And I’m passionately against Trump. But I’m proud of the fact that I know Trump supporters, some of them are my patients, some of them are my colleagues, and I can have a conversation with them and I’m proud of it because it means I’m an adult and I’ve learned something.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And they’re not evil people.

Jeanne Safer:
Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You may thoroughly disagree with them but they’re not evil people.

Jeanne Safer:
Absolutely not. Now there’s some people on the right and some on the left that I think are monstrous. Anybody who… violence, right or left, is on my list.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right, exactly.

Jeanne Safer:
But most people are not like that.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah, no exactly.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
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Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Most of us would be willing to do almost anything to preserve freedom for everybody. I just love the title of your book and I love how you’ve lived it in a marriage. You love Rick and [crosstalk 00:26:31]-

Jeanne Safer:
That’s why I offered to write it because I really do love him and I hate his politics. But only on certain issues do I hate them. But you need to be able to live in the world with other people, otherwise we turn into two countries and that’s a disaster and it’s tragic how much it’s happened. I hope this next election will change that a little bit.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh it’s got to because we really need to come back together. I mean, we really need to create a culture of forgiveness, not accusation and understanding, not preempting the other person’s right to have an opinion different from ours. It’s…

Jeanne Safer:
I like the idea of forgiveness as a goal. This kind of forgiveness, I really do.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
No, absolutely. I wrote a whole book about forgiveness and one of the main points was forgiveness [crosstalk 00:27:23] is a gift… Yeah, I know, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, that you rid yourself of the hold that anger and resentment have over you. What was the title of your book about forgiveness?

Jeanne Safer:
Forgiving and Not Forgiving because I also-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Forgiving and Not Forgiving.

Jeanne Safer:
[crosstalk 00:27:39] that there are some situations in which you don’t have to forgive. You can have a resolution without forgiveness. So that’s my-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You never have to forgive. Some people go through…

Jeanne Safer:
You don’t have to forgive in order to work through something. That doesn’t mean that forgiveness is not very precious and important. I [crosstalk 00:27:58]-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But I don’t define forgiveness as condoning the deed that was done. You can abhor the deed that was doe. But you renounce the hold that anger and resentment have over you.

Jeanne Safer:
Well my position was that you could renounce anger and resentment without forgiving. I think image is based very much in a religious context and people feel terrible, they say, “I’m not angry anymore but I don’t feel forgiveness to my father who beat me every day of my life.” And I say, “Okay, you don’t hate him. You won. You don’t hate him anymore.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
How do you deal with disagreements in social media like Facebook? There are lots of nasty exchanges and unfriending happening on social media these days.

Jeanne Safer:
I counsel people to never have a fight on social media. It’s a disaster. It can ruin your relationship with your grandmother, with your children, awful, because people are uninhibited on social media and they say things that they can’t undue. Like my friend who was saying things to her uncle that she found, “Oh my god. I’ve said that this man’s horrible and he’s my only friend in the family.” Never read anything that somebody that you know disagrees with you writes on social media because you’ll be tempted to get into an argument. You have to use self control as I said before. And then you can have a relationship, otherwise you can’t.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. It’s one of those things where being right is so overrated.

Jeanne Safer:
Oh my goodness, absolutely.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
How about advice for our listeners as we head into the upcoming election and the fallout afterwards?

Jeanne Safer:
Well, things keep changing. Whoever wins, there’ll be another change later. Politics changes all the time. Try hard not to be bitter about if your side doesn’t win and try not to be too delighted around people who lost if your side wins.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right.

Jeanne Safer:
That’s my main piece of advice. Thanksgiving is coming after the election. You’re going to have to sit around the table, very likely, with people who look the other way. So one thing not do is say, “I am so glad your side lost.” What do you think [crosstalk 00:30:30].

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It’s obvious but a lot of people will be saying exactly that.

Jeanne Safer:
Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
They’ll be saying, “Na, na, na, na.”

Jeanne Safer:
Listen to me now and put it in your head to not do this because otherwise when you’re there, you’ll do it and if somebody does it to you, deflect it. Say, “Let’s not get into that.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Really, exactly.

Jeanne Safer:
Right? “Let’s pray for the president to do well, whoever he is. And bring the world a little bit more together.” And one time I was at a party where people were starting to fight and I was a guest there, I wasn’t the host. And I said, “Excuse me, could we please stop this?”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Good for you.

Jeanne Safer:
Being a therapist gives you a certain ability to do that. I said, “What are we doing here?” [crosstalk 00:31:18] at a party, what are you talking about, why are you screaming at each other?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And they just want to get along.

Jeanne Safer:
I give everybody the permission to intervene and stop it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right, absolutely. Well I’m inviting you to my Thanksgiving dinner party, that’s for sure.

Jeanne Safer:
I’ll come into New York to come to it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You’re a godsend, Jeanne Safer. And your book, one of your many books, I must say, but the book we talked about today, I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics. And Jeanne Safer, you’re a lovely lady to talk to and I can’t thank you enough. You have to promise to come back on ext election year, okay?

Jeanne Safer:
Absolutely. Delighted, and any time you want to have me, give a call.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well thanks so much. That’s going to do it for today. And as always, please reach out to us at [email protected] That’s [email protected] Write in with your show ideas, if you like Jeanne Safer, and I’m sure you did, tell us that and tell us who else you’d like us to have on, what other topics, ideas, thoughts. Please, we are guided by you 100% and we depend upon your feedback. So [email protected] And please remember to like Distraction on social media and check out my videos, I’ve just started doing videos on TikTok, can you imagine that? Only not too long I didn’t know what TikTok was. And now if you go there, you’ll see eight or nine videos that I made. The handle is @drhallowell on TikTok, @drhallowell. And let me know what you think of those too, please. I’d love to hear from you.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Okay, Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our recording engineer and editor is the amazingly talented Scott Persson, that’s with two Ss. And our producer is the also amazingly talented Sarah Guertin, rhymes with curtain but it’s spelled G-U-E-R-T-I-N. And I am Dr. Ned Hallowell which is spelled phonetically. Thank you so much for joining me. Look forward to hearing you, seeing you soon. Bye-bye.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just hear was made possible by my good friends at OmegaBrite Wellness. I take their supplements every day and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. Shop online at omegabrite and that’s B-R-I-T-E, wellness.com.

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How to Manage Racing Thoughts and Idea Overload

How to Manage Racing Thoughts and Idea Overload

The best part and the worst part about having ADHD might be all of the thoughts and ideas that are generated, according to Dr. H. Racing thoughts and/or having an abundance of ideas is common for those with ADHD. But how do you manage all of them? Ned offers several suggestions for organizing your thoughts and keeping track of all of those great ideas. But he cautions listeners to recognize that you can’t accomplish every idea you have, so it’s important to prioritize them.

Keep listening after this episode for a special segment with Dr. Carol Locke, Ned’s friend and the founder of OmegaBrite Wellness for 5 ways to help manage stress. Learn more HERE. Dr. H takes OmegaBrite supplements every day and that’s why he invited them to sponsor his podcast. SAVE 20% on your first order at OmegaBriteWellness.com with the promo code: Podcast2020.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently. Dr. H has an honorary degree from Landmark!

Do you have a question for Dr. H that you’d like him to address in a future episode? Send it to [email protected].

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode is made possible by our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness. I’ve taken their Omega-3 supplements for many years, and so has my wife, and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. I’m proud to have them. You can find all of their products online at omegabritewellness.com, and brite is intentionally misspelled B-R-I-T-E, omegabritewellness.com. This episode is also sponsored by Landmark College, another institution that I have warm personal relationship with, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently. Learn more at lcdistraction.org. Hello, and welcome to Distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. Thank you for joining me today for a mini-episode. People love the mini-episodes because they’re quick, they’re short, and that’s the world we live in, quick and short and to the point. We received a question from a listener that I think many of our listeners will be able to relate to, so I wanted to share it with you.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It goes like this. “Hi there, Distraction team.” Smile.” Wanted to get advice on having lots of ideas. I wake up and meditate most mornings. So even if I get my mind quieted, it can still get racing and come up with lots and lots of good ideas. I write them down, but there are just so many that I end up feeling bad about not pursuing most of them, or they lead to the feeling of never achieving enough. I obviously need more self-acceptance, but any advice on how to best approach tackling large amounts of ideas and things to do? I use the TickTick app, and it’s great, but still doesn’t help with the output of my brain. Love the podcast. Kiran.” Well, Kiran, thank you very much for that note, and what you describe is the blessing and the curse of ADHD. The great thing about it is we have so much going on and the curse about it is we have so much going on.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Our brains I often compare to a popcorn machine, just pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, ideas popping all the time. They come in bunches like bananas. We’re just surrounded by all these bananas and all these popped popcorns. Whatever analogy you want to use, we have an abundance of ideas, and you have to be grateful because contrast that to people who have what I call attention surplus disorder, they almost never have a new idea. They come by and see you surrounded by all these bananas and popcorn and they say, “Oh my gosh, where did all those come from? I never have any of those. I have no bananas and no popcorn.” And they just never, rarely, have a new idea. And you say to them, “Fine. Take them, please. I’ve got too many of them. I don’t know what to do with them.” So that’s one solution, is to share them with other people who need them and get a team of people to implement your ideas and share the credit for them.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
If you grow my idea, I’ll share it with you. Because often those folks, the ones who can’t come up with new ideas, are good at growing them. They’re good at taking them and developing them and turning them into a business or turning them into a piece of art or turning them into a new line of clothing, or turning them into a well tilled garden. Whatever the project might happen to be, if you can find someone who’s good sweating details with attention surplus disorder, you and that person can make an excellent team. They can take your new ideas, sort through them, and they’re good at prioritizing while you’re not, you can dump 25 ideas on them and they’ll pick out the one or two that stand the best chance of succeeding, and then they’ll get to work on it. And you can just keep up more bananas and more popcorn, and just keep feeding your good attention surplus friend, partner your ideas.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s a really good recipe for success. Most of the successful adults I know who have ADD have someone, an admin assistant, a partner, a mate, a favorite employee, somebody who’s the chief implementer, the one who makes things happen and gets things done. And so that’s a really good team. As for you yourself, you’ve hit upon a very good strategy, which is writing things down. And once they’re written down, they don’t disappear. So even if you say, “God, I had a great idea. What was it?” Well, you can say, “Well, I’ll just look at my little journal where I keep my ideas in, my idea bin, and I’ll be able to retrieve it.” Be grateful that you have this copious, fertile, fecund imagination. Be grateful, but at the same time understand that you can’t do everything. Don’t become the victim of your own enthusiasm. Nobody can do everything. Nobody is obliged to do all that they could do. Just do enough to keep yourself satisfied and in the game, as I like to say.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
A great life is staying in the game until your life is over. The victories and the defeats will happen. They’re part of the game, but the definition of a great life I think is finding a game you love to play and then playing it until you can play it no more. That’s my answer to your question, Kiran. I hope it makes sense to you. I hope the rest of you will send us your questions and ideas, because we really love to get them. Keep listening after this episode for a new paid feature from our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness. Dr. Carol Locke, the company’s founder, will share some key information about how Omega-3s, CBD, and other supplements can help with issues like anxiety, inflammation, depression, and a host of other issues.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Remember to reach out to us with your questions, thoughts, and show ideas. Send an email or a voice memo to [email protected], and check us out on social media. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We’re trying to build a new presence there, so please help us do that. Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer and editor is Scott Persson with two Ss. I am Dr. Ned Hallowell. Goodbye for now.

Dr. Carol Locke:
This is Dr. Carol Locke, and I am here with five ways to reduce stress. It’s going to be a tough week that we’re facing with the election on top of everything else. So here are five easy things that you can do to reduce stress and get through any tough time. Number one is get up and move. Moving is so important. It activates the brain and it releases BDNF, brain derived neurotrophic factor, which increases our brain’s ability to connect to new learning, to neuroplasticity, reduces depression, anxiety, and increases your resilience. Number two is compassionate mindfulness. This is an exercise where you close your eyes, and then you imagine someone that you have a very positive relationship with. And then you imagine you’re sending good will, good wishes to help them through some difficult obstacle in their life. We know from research done at University of Wisconsin that increasing our ability to have compassion, feel compassion and caring, increases our overall sense of well-being and positivity.

Dr. Carol Locke:
Number three is limit social media. How can you do that? Well, if you’re on Twitter all the time, you can take Twitter off your phone. This will make you have to go to your computer to check and you can set a time that you need to check. If you’re just checking other social media, you can set a time each day that you’ll check in with social media and the news and check out. Number four is laughter. Laughing is super important. It increases the blood flow to your brain, relaxes your body, and causes a release of oxytocin, the feel good hormone that gives you a tremendous sense of well-being. So schedule a time to laugh every day. Number five is you can take a supplement called OmegaBrite. OmegaBrite is an Omega-3, high EPA supplement that I developed while I was on the faculty at Harvard Medical School. OmegaBrite has been shown to reduce anxiety by 20% in healthy adults in a double blind placebo controlled trial by Ohio State. So this is an important way that you can add health and reduce your anxiety, reduce your stress every day, by simply taking OmegaBrite.

Dr. Carol Locke:
If you’d like to learn more about these five ways of reducing stress or about the study on OmegaBrite by Ohio State, you can go to our website at omegabritewellness.com/reduced stress. That’s O-M-E-G-A-B-R-I-T-E wellness.com/reduced stress. This is Dr. Carol Locke. Stay safe, stay well.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was made possible by my good friends at OmegaBrite Wellness. I take their supplements every day and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. Shop online at OmegaBrite, and that’s B-R-I-T-E, wellness.com.

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ADHD Questions About Diagnosis, Medications, Doctor Disagreements & Helping Family Understand

ADHD Questions About Diagnosis, Medications, Doctor Disagreements & Helping Family Understand

What does it mean when you’re one symptom short of an ADHD diagnosis? Dr. H answers this and other listener questions including the difference between short-acting and long-acting medications, how to explain ADHD to family members, and what to do when your child doesn’t like their doctor.

Do you have a question for Dr. Hallowell that you’d like him to address in a future episode? Send it to [email protected].

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Dr. H takes their supplements every day. Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode is made possible by our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness. I’ve taken their Omega-3 supplements for many years, and so has my wife, and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. I’m proud to have them. You can find all of their products online at omegabritewellness.com and Brite is intentionally misspelled B-R-I-T-E, omegabritewellness.com. This episode is also sponsored by Landmark College, another institution that I have a warm personal relationship with in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently. Learn more at lcdistraction.org.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, and welcome to Distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. I’ll be answering in today’s session your questions and responding to emails we’ve received recently from many of you. Remember, if you have a question you’d like me to answer, please, please, please send it to [email protected] That’s [email protected] We love these Q and A sessions. Of course, we can’t have them without your questions. So off we go. Off we go to the races. Let’s get started. My wonderful producer, the inimitable Sarah Guertin is joining me now to read your questions to me, as well as your comments. And so let me ask Sarah, the wonderful, wonderful Sarah, who are we starting with today?

Sarah Guertin:
Hi, Ned. Today, we are starting with an email from a listener named Tim. Tim wrote to us in response to the episode we released about an ADHD diagnosis being good news, and he wrote: Hi, Dr. Hallowell. I haven’t technically received a diagnosis of ADHD, but the process wasn’t good news for me. After struggling and underperforming through grade school, community college, and university finally earning my bachelor’s degree six years after graduating high school, I finally had myself tested for ADHD when I was put on academic probation after my first semester in grad school. I was told that I was one self-reported symptom short of a diagnosis of ADHD. They found that I had a good IQ, but my working memory and processing speed scores were three standard deviations below my other scores. My university was unwilling to allow me any accommodations. And the representative told me that, “No one was going to feel sorry for me if I was able to get a bachelor’s degree.”

Sarah Guertin:
I later worked with a psychiatrist that allowed me to give ADHD medication a try, but they didn’t seem to help me. This was around 2003, and they had unpleasant side effects. A few years later, I tried treating my dysthymia pharmacologically, and that didn’t seem to help either. I’ve worked with a few different therapists over the years and have made only a little progress on that. I currently take dextroamphetamine because of daytime sleepiness associated with insomnia and sleep apnea that is not treated well by APAP/CPAP. The dextroamphetamine sort of helps the attention piece a little, but also makes me more distracted in other ways. Anyways, the point is that the news isn’t always good, but maybe that is just because I didn’t get a clear ADHD (VAST) diagnosis. Take care, Tim.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, thank you so much, Tim. For people listening VAST is the term that John Ratey and I came up with in our new book for ADHD because ADHD itself is so inaccurate. VAST stands for Variable Attention Stimulus Trait. Tim, yes, what you suffered is not good news. What you’ve suffered is terrible news. It reflects both how difficult it can be to have ADHD or VAST, but also how hard it is to get competent help. I mean, the idea that you were one self-reported symptom short of a diagnosis is ridiculous. It’s like my friend and colleague, John Ratey, kids, “If you’re one symptom short of a diagnosis of depression what does that mean? You’re just miserable.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I mean, these diagnostic criteria are not supposed to be taken that literally so it’s hard and fast if you have five symptoms, you don’t have it. If you have six symptoms, you do. Technically, that’s the definition, but a true evaluation, a good evaluation is based on the totality of your presentation. What are you struggling with? And how long have you been struggling with it? And how intense is it? And these are not amenable to being so concrete that you say, “Well, you have five symptoms. You don’t have it. You have six symptoms. You do have it.” That’s just not right. You were suffering and you were not given any help. The idea that no one was going to feel sorry for me if I was able to get a bachelor’s degree that’s also absurd.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
There are plenty of high achievers who have ADHD. I have any number of physicians in my practice. There is a Nobel Prize winner who has ADHD. You can be a CEO, a self-made millionaire, or billionaire, and have this condition. So the fact that you were able to get a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean you don’t have ADHD. Again, we’re dealing with misconceptions. It breaks my heart to see how hard you’ve been trying, which is also typical of folks who have ADHD, not getting the right help. In fact, getting wrong help. I don’t know about the medications that you were given, but if my guess is right you weren’t given the full range of possibilities vis-a-vis medication. Now, medication does not always work. It does work about 80% of the time and by work, I mean, you get target symptom improvement, improved efficiency, improved focus, improved performance with no side effects other than appetite suppression without weight loss.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
In my own case, meds don’t work. I’m one of the 20% for whom meds don’t work, but I have found a medication that I like, namely, coffee. So I have my coffee every day, and that’s my version of stimulant medication. I think if you were to work with a psychiatrist who really understood the condition, and if you were given help beyond simply try this medication. If you were given some education, some coaching so you could have a fuller understanding of what your strengths and vulnerabilities are then you could maximize the strengths and minimize the vulnerabilities, but you need to find somebody who really gets this. I refer you to my book Delivered from Distraction. If you read that you’ll know enough to be able to actually teach whoever you go to see and you’ll know what the various meds are, but also what are the non-medication interventions that are available, and there are many of them.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
We’ve talked on this program before about the Zing program. And if you want to learn about that go to distraction.zingperformance.com, Z-I-N-G performance.com. And it’s just a series of physical exercises that stimulate the cerebellum, which in turn is connected to the frontal part of the brain where the action is in ADHD. My buddy, John Ratey, has written a whole book about how physical exercise, just exercise in general can help with ADHD. And we know also that meditation can help. I’m a big fan of promoting finding some creative outlet, something where you can use your imagination to create, build, or develop something. That’s something that the reason I write so many books. I’m starting my 21st book is not because I’m ambitious to write books it’s because if I don’t have a book going I get depressed. I need a creative outlet to keep me to keep me going.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So, long-winded, but yes, this condition undealt with can be horrible, but if you find someone who can guide you to deal with it properly, you can tap into your superpower. You can tap into your unique talents, and your special abilities, which we all have. It can take some doing, some scratching, some probing, some trying, and failing to find what are your special talents and abilities. Tim, don’t give up. It’s not like people with ADD to give up, but I’m sorry you had that negative experience. I’m sorry you’ve had the bad news side of ADHD. Let’s see if you can get some help and get to the good news part of it. Thanks so much for writing in. Sarah, do we have another one?

Sarah Guertin:
We sure do. Actually, it ties into what you were just saying. This one is about changing careers from a listener named Sarah. She asks: Can you do a podcast about ADHD-ers who want to change fields or careers? I have tried to switch a few times with no success. I have never been “happy” in a job. I have an enormous amount of student debt to pay off, which weighs on me every single day of my life. I would like to find something I can be happy doing day in and day out. Like you, Dr. Hallowell, I’m a writer at heart and I am depressed when I don’t have a creative outlet. My husband has even said, “You are so much happier when you write.” With three school-aged kids it’s very hard to find the time for all the things to keep us healthy, exercise, cooking, et cetera, and sane. I’m not a novelist yet. How do you find the time?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, Sarah, as one writer to another my heart goes out to you. I mean, you’ve got to make money, and it’s very hard to make money as a writer. So for now I would put the writing under the category of hobby, avocation. It’s probably not going to pay you what you need to make right off the bat. So you want to find a job that is at the intersection of three circles. One circle are things you really like to do. The other circle are things that you’re very good at doing. And the third circle are things that someone will pay you to do.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So where those three circles overlap, what I call your sweet spot, that’s where you ought to be spending as much of your time as you possibly can. Just sit down at the kitchen table with your husband because we’re not good self-observers. We so often sell ourselves short. Make a list. What do I like to do? And then another list. What am I good at doing? And see where those two lists over overlap. And then the third one. Okay, given these overlaps, which one of them will pay enough to make it worth my while, worth the time I put in? And I know you can find probably a few things in there where you can try to get a job in that overlap in your sweet spot.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And then for the writing, I would recommend you get it’s a very short book. I can’t remember the author’s name, but it’s This Year You Write Your Novel. It’s a very short book and it’s very practical. It’s written by a man who’s written 20 books so he knows what he’s talking about. I’m just going on my cell phone to see if I can find the actual … Here we go. This Year You Write Your Novel. Okay? The author is Walter Mosley, M-O-S-L-E-Y. It’s in paperback. It sells for $15.99. I can tell you it’s money well-spent for you. This Year You Write Your Novel.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Basically, what he recommends is that you write for an hour a day. Now you may not be able to find an hour a day. I think he’d approve if you put in a half an hour a day, but that’s how you do it. You find the time. You create the time. And then you protect that time religiously. And it gets so you really look forward to it. And even if you spent the half hour staring out the window, you’ve committed to doing it. Since you’re a writer at heart, I love your phrase, I’m a writer at heart and depressed when you don’t write, you got to write. Just don’t think that it’s going to pay your bills right off the bat. Now the day may come when it does pay your bills.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
One of the main reasons I went to medical school is I didn’t want to put all my financial eggs in the basket of becoming a successful writer. And it took me a while before my book started paying me, but now they do, and they’ve helped me put my kids through college. I’ve achieved my dream, but my primary job is being a doctor is helping people. I specialize as you know in this condition, ADHD, terrible name, but that’s what they call it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I hope this answer helps. Try to find a job that’s in your sweet spot, the overlap of what you’re good at, what you like to do, and what someone will pay you to do. And then have your writing. Don’t give up on it. Absolutely have it. Commit to it at least a half hour a day, ideally, an hour a day, and get Walter Mosley’s book This Year You Write Your Novel. I want you to come back to me, please. Let me know how you did with this. Congratulations, Sarah. Don’t give up on your dream. Okay. We’re going to pause for a little break right here to hear from one of our sponsors.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
OmegaBrite, omegabritewellness.com has been a sponsor of this podcast for I don’t know how long. I invited them to join us because my wife, Sue, and I have taken their Omega-3 supplements for years and years and years. I’ve known Carol Locke, the woman who developed all the products for many years. She’s a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a superb physician, and incredibly careful with the products that her company creates. She has extremely high standards that are uncompromising. She’s also a really nice person. They’re a natural fit for the show because their products help with mood regulation, anxiety, as well as focus and attention, as well as being good for your entire body their powerful anti-inflammatory action. You can find all of their supplements online at omegabrite B-R-I-T-E wellness.com. That’s omegabritewellness.com. And Distraction listeners you can save 20% on your first order by entering the promo code Podcast2020. That’s Podcast2020. All right. Now, back to the show. All right, this next question comes from Kristen. Sarah, you want to read it?

Sarah Guertin:
Sure. She writes: Hi Dr. Hallowell. My son is moderately gifted, IQ approximately 135, so nothing profound. I would think he hits about six to seven check marks for inattentive ADHD. It does definitely affect him at home and at school. He gets pretty stressed about writing, prioritizing, organizing, planning, ignoring distractions, et cetera, but because he is gifted, he seems pretty average to the teachers. Just seems to “need a bit of help to stay on task.” He is going into grade five in Canada, but he does like school so that’s good. He does have some success there, thank goodness. He has accelerated by one grade for math.

Sarah Guertin:
At home, he has a hard time following more than two-step directions, forgets what he was going to do, avoids hard stuff, emotional regulation is difficult and can be quite extreme, et cetera. Basically, I am on the verge of considering medication. I will see how this year goes. I just wonder if these struggles are holding him back from his potential. Kristen notes that her son has had an assessment and that he scored well on all tests, including working memory, but he was in the clinical range for visual attention, and visual-motor processing.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Good job with that visual-motor pronunciation.

Sarah Guertin:
I looked it up.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Visual-motor. Well, okay. Kristin, 135 is more than moderately gifted. “IQ approximately 135, so nothing profound.” That’s profound. 135 is real good and it’s certainly the top one or 2%, so I think he is indeed at least on the basis of IQ a gifted kid. You said in your letter, “Basically, I am on the verge of considering medication.” That makes it sound like it’s some kind of last-ditch intervention. Medication used properly is very safe and very effective. Putting it off it’s like saying, “Why don’t I do a year or two of squinting before I get eyeglasses?” Medication is proven to be effective in 80% of cases. Effective means you get results and you don’t have side effects. 20% it doesn’t work, but 80% is a pretty good batting average.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And it makes no sense to defer hoping that the non-medication interventions will take care of it because the non-medication interventions become far more effective if the person is on medication that works. In other words, you can do all the coaching, and organizing, and planning that are part of the non-medication interventions far more effectively if you’re taking a medication that is helping you. So I would absolutely get my doctor to give my son a trial of Ritalin, or Adderall, whichever he or she likes to prescribe. Make the trial involved enough so you don’t just try one dose of one medication. You try various doses of one from the amphetamine category, and one from the methylphenidate category. The holding off on medication is real common. People have a tendency to think of it as an extreme intervention and it isn’t. It’s not surgery. It’s not last-ditch when all else has failed. Unfortunately, that’s the way a lot of people approach it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
If they approached it more like, okay, let’s get the proven intervention, namely medication, and then do all the rest you’d get much better results with a lot less heartache and struggle. People talk about the side effects of medication, and all those side effects can be controlled simply by lowering the dose, changing the medication, or discontinuing it altogether, but what they really ought to talk about are the side effects of not taking the medication. Year after year after year of underachievement, of frustration, of knowing you could be doing better if only you could get the mental eyeglasses that medication can provide. I hope you’ll give that some thought. Please do get back to us. We love to get follow-up emails from these calls. Okay, Miss Sarah, do we have another one in our mailbag?

Sarah Guertin:
We certainly do. We have lots of parents this week. You can tell it’s back to school time, but this next email comes from Lisa, who is the mother of a 12-year-old girl in the seventh grade. Her daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in the second grade, but didn’t start medication until fifth grade. She writes: Please share more on the psychiatry of ADHD medications, and interaction with the brain. My very specific question is about why a 10 milligram methylphenidate seems to be more effective than the fancy slow-release Concerta. What are the risks of me sending methylphenidate to school for my immature 12-year-old to take at lunch hour? (I heard kids sell them). Thank you again for all you do to help me learn to be the best mom I can for my challenging child. Lisa.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, thank you so much, Lisa, for writing in. 12-year-girl in the seventh grade. You got the diagnosis in the second grade, but didn’t start medication until the fifth grade. That’s sort of in keeping with the previous call. There’s a tendency to put off starting medication, which again, I don’t think makes much sense. Everyone does it so don’t feel bad. Everyone thinks that medication is this last-ditch intervention, but it really isn’t. It’s a first-ditch intervention. At least I think it ought to be because there’s very little downside. The meds work right away, and if you don’t like what they do you stop it. That’s only common sense. And if you do like what it does, you say hooray, and you continue it. And that whole process can take a week. You can really find out pretty quickly if the meds are going to be helpful or not. Sometimes more than a week, maybe a month, but it is a process of trial and error.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Now, your specific question, why does 10 milligrams of methylphenidate seem more effective than Concerta, which is a slow-release medication? The short answer is we don’t know, but specifically with Concerta, it may very well be if you’re taking the generic Concerta that the osmotic pump, the generic manufacturer didn’t get it right. Concerta was the first long-acting medication we had. And when it went generic, all of a sudden people were saying, “My Concerta doesn’t work anymore.” And that’s because the osmotic pump, which was developed at MIT, and allowed for the medication to be slow-release, a lot of the generic manufacturers didn’t get it right. They didn’t know how to technologically reproduce the original Concerta so all of a sudden people were getting different generic formulations that suddenly didn’t work so that could be why.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Now there are other slow-release forms of methylphenidate. There’s Ritalin LA, for example. LA stands for long-acting. And if you want a long-acting formulation, I would suggest giving that a try, or trying a different generic of Concerta, or trying brand name Concerta because there’s a distinct advantage to not having to bring your medication to school. Most schools will not allow kids to bring it in for one of the reasons being you already cited that some kids sell their medication. Some kids lose it. Some kids pass it around to friends just to see what it does. You know how kids are with experimentation. That’s dangerous. You don’t want to be doing that. So I would not have my son or daughter bring their medication in their pocket to school.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What schools do do is you can give it to the school nurse and she can dispense the medication. Now that’s inconvenient. The child has to go to the school nurse at recess, or lunchtime, and a lot of people don’t want to do that. So I think it’s worth it for you to hunt down a long-acting methylphenidate that does work. And don’t forget if you don’t find a methylphenidate, there’s always amphetamine, Adderall, or Vyvanse the long-acting version. Adderall XR, extended-release, or Vyvanse.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What can you do to be the best mom you can be? Learn all you can about ADHD. My most recent book is Delivered from Distraction. There’s a ton of information in there. Superparenting for ADD is another book that is worth it. And there are many others out there by many other authors. This field has become richly written about, which is great. And you might subscribe to the wonderful magazine ADDitude. That’s A-D-D-I-T-U-D-E. Terrific, terrific magazine full of really good articles every month that it comes out. I hope this answers your questions. I’m just looking back and trying to see. I think I addressed it, but the main thing you can do for your daughter is to love her, which you’re already doing. Sorry about that. My cell phone just went off. The producer always tells me to turn off my cell phone and, of course, I forget. And so then I will get my wrist slapped during the break for not turning off my cell phone.

Sarah Guertin:
Everyone knows your ringtone.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Anyway, I’m sorry for that interruption. There’s methylphenidate and there’s amphetamine. Those are the two molecules that comprise the bulk of the stimulant medications that we use to treat this condition. And it is a matter of trial and error. You can’t predict which one will work best for any given child, but it’s worth trying a few before you give up, different doses, and different formulations. As I said, the best thing you can do for her is love her, and you know that. Provide structure. Provide a routine. Provide what her brain usually doesn’t do so very easily.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And make her feel proud of having it. The more successes she experiences, the more she feels proud of having the imagination I’m pretty sure she’s got. Having the kind of spontaneity, the kind of humor, all her quirkiness make her feel proud of because she should be proud of it. We need this in today’s world. These are the people that make the changes that bring us what we’re hoping for. Anyway, Lisa, thanks so much for writing and please give us follow-up. We love hearing about what happens to the people that our listeners write in about.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I want to tell you about Landmark College in beautiful Putney, Vermont. It is the best college in the world for students who learn differently, with ADHD, for other learning differences, or autism spectrum disorder. It’s fully accredited not-for-profit offering bachelor’s and associate degrees, bridge programs, online dual-enrollment courses for high school students and summer programs. They use a strength-based model at Landmark, which as you know is the model that I certainly have developed and subscribe to, to give students the skills and strategies they need to achieve their goals in life and really expand upon what they believe they’re capable of doing. It is just a wonderful, wonderful place, and I can’t say enough good about it. I myself have an honorary degree from Landmark College of which I am very proud. Landmark College in Putney, Vermont is the college of choice for students who learn differently. To learn more, go to lcdistraction.org. That’s lcdistraction.org. Okay, let’s get back to today’s topic. So do we have another email?

Sarah Guertin:
We have a couple more here. This next one comes from Tricia and she writes: I enjoy listening to your podcast to help me learn more about how I can help my 11-year-old son use his ADHD superpowers. I have read your Driven to Distraction book as well. Where we struggle is explaining his brain to the grandparents that don’t see him on a day-to-day basis to know how to deal with, or understand his behaviors. They are used to the other grandkids that are very organized and even keel with their emotions. Do you know of a concise general resource that we could point them to so they can better understand and appreciate his unique brain?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, this is common. Grandparents, and people who didn’t grow up with ADD as part of the lexicon often get grumpy about it and say, “What is this nonsense? All he needs is more discipline.” And that’s simply wrong. It’s understandable because they don’t know what they don’t know, but they need to know what they need to know. Now it’s hard to educate your parents. As people get older and more fixed in their ways, they become less open to hearing the truth. So how do you present to them the truth? Sometimes you can’t do it as their child. So sometimes you rely on a book, and the book I would give them would be not Driven to Distraction, but Delivered from Distraction because it has newer stuff in it. The first chapter is called The Skinny: Read this if you can’t read the whole book, so get them to read the highlights.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Now, if they’re willing to listen to you, and if you’ve read it, just explain to them. Keep it simple. The analogy that I like best is the one that I use most often. Having this condition is like having a Ferrari engine for a brain, but with bicycle brakes. It’s not hard to understand that analogy. You’ve got a powerful, powerful brain, a powerful imagination. Your challenge is in controlling it. It’s not easy to control the power of the brain that you’ve got so you need help in strengthening your brakes. That’s a pretty good analogy, and the grandparents should be able to understand that. And the way to strengthen your brakes is not to punish or shame the child. In fact, that’s the worst thing you can do, but to support and give structure.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And when they screw up, say “Your brakes failed you.” You see, because that’s not shaming. There’s no shame in my brakes failed me. It’s a mechanical problem. So I got to work on my brakes. Okay, now how do I do that? Well, I exercise. Maybe I take medication. Maybe I practice more. Maybe I work with a coach, or some teacher. Maybe I get extra help. Maybe I eat right, get enough sleep, not too many video games. These are all ways of strengthening my brakes. And if grandma and grandpa can reinforce that, then that’s so much better than undermining it with grumpy remarks about all he needs, or she needs is more discipline.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Telling someone with ADD to try harder, or get more discipline is about as helpful as telling someone who’s nearsighted to squint harder. It’s antediluvian. It misses the biological science, the point. And even though we live in an age that people are not always receptive to science, we ought to be because science means knowledge, and knowledge is powerful. Lack of knowledge on the other hand is hugely destructive. So try to go with knowledge and science, and try to help your parents help their grandchildren. Grandparents are the greatest blessing next to dogs God ever created. And so let your child’s grandparents live up to the blessing that they have to offer. Thanks so much for writing in.

Sarah Guertin:
Okay. We have one more and it, too, is from a mom. Her name is Denise and she wrote: Good afternoon, Dr. Hallowell. I have enjoyed your books and podcasts for many years now as my husband and I are learning how to help our 13-year-old son with ADHD. My son has been under the care of a child/adolescent psychiatrist since he was nine years old when he was started on Concerta. In the recent 12 months, my son is not liking his doctor. My son describes him as confrontational, and he feels like the doctor is trying to make him mad, or put him down.

Sarah Guertin:
I have a professional relationship with the doctor and have subtly brought up the fact that my son does not like coming to see him recently in hopes that things would improve, but they have not. I would very much like my son to have someone he likes to talk to and can connect with, a physician, therapist, or social worker. These teen years are hard, and I know my son is frustrated with his ADHD. I’m writing to see if you know of any child/adolescent psychiatrists, or therapists in the Chicago area. With much gratitude for your work and positivity in the area of ADHD. Warmly, Denise.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, Denise, it is very important that your son like his doctor. Everything will go better. The meds will work better. The interventions will work better. Your son will feel better about himself. And if he’s come to a point where it’s time to part ways with this doctor it doesn’t mean the doctor is bad it just means the chemistry. People leave me because they don’t like me. It happens to all of us. It doesn’t mean we’re bad doctors. We can’t be liked and appreciated by every single person who comes to see us. Just like you can’t like every food, or you can’t like every movie you see. There’s an element of chemistry in the doctor-patient relationship that you really need to respect.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The doctor won’t take it personally. If the doctor is being unpleasant to your son your doctor probably doesn’t like seeing him either. So if you leave him, he’ll probably be relieved. He probably knows that their relationship has gone a little bit sour. Again, no bad guy here. It just happens in doctor-patient relationships. It happens in clergy-parishioner relationships. It happens with merchants. You have a merchant that you’ve always liked and suddenly you’re not getting along with the merchant, or the plumber, or the gas station person. You have people that you’re working well with, and then you’re not. And rather than getting mad, and pushing forward move on. Fortunately, there are many doctors in the Chicago area. Plus your son will be relieved that you’re listening to him that you’re understanding what he’s saying and just say, “Well, this doctor helped us for a while. Now we’ll find another doctor who can meet you more on your terms and get along with.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I don’t have a specific referral in Chicago, but I can tell you the best psychiatrist in the world, in my opinion, is the head of child psychiatry at Northwestern. His name is John Walkup, like you walkup to a store. W-A-L-K-U-P. John Walkup. Now he won’t have time to see your son himself, but his office I’m sure could give you a referral either within their department, or somewhere. Just to have John Walkup’s name in your book of names, he is an amazingly wonderful child psychiatrist. He’s both an academic, but also just a wise, knowledgeable, commonsensical, down to earth human being. And since you’re in Chicago, I would try calling his office and seeing if you can get a referral, and explaining to your son, you respect what he’s saying, and you’re going to find him a new person because it’s important, not just for medication, but for understanding this condition as he continues to grow and develop. And, also, that you have an ally in the doctor that you can turn to and trust.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Like I say, I don’t treat disabilities. I help people unwrap their gifts. And in order to have someone unwrap your son’s gift, your son has to like that person, and believe in that person, and enjoy seeing that person, and laugh together, and be silly, or whatever your son’s stock-in-trade is. And they’re out there. A big city like Chicago there are plenty of clinicians. It’s not easy to find. You have to do some legwork, make some phone calls, but I’ve given you a starting point. Good luck in unwrapping your son’s gift.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, thank you. Thank you, thank you for sending in those emails. Please keep sending them in. Send it to [email protected] You can send us an email, or record a voice memo. You can put a message on a carrier pigeon, but it’s got to come to [email protected] And I don’t think the carrier pigeon could get onto the internet. It’s a sad thing that we don’t have carrier pigeons anymore, or smoke signals, or any of those ways of communicating that we used to. I’m just saying that tongue-in-cheek. Of course, it’s a wonderful thing.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s going to do it for today, unless you want to send me a smoke signal to the contrary. Thank you so much to all of you who wrote to us. Really, we rely on your messages. Please keep them coming. It’s the way we exist is because of you, and without you we wouldn’t exist. Remember to like Distraction on social media. We’re trying to beef that up and be sure to subscribe to the podcast wherever you listen so you never miss one of our lovely episodes. And please let us know how we could make them even better. Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our recording engineer and editor is Scott Persson, the wonderful Scott Persson. And our producer is the also wonderful, talented Sarah Guertin. I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell saying goodbye for now.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was made possible by my good friends at OmegaBrite Wellness. I take their supplements every day, and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. Shop online at OmegaBrite, and that’s B-R-I-T-E wellness.com.

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From Our ADHD Archives: Productivity Tips to Get Stuff Done

From Our ADHD Archives: Productivity Tips to Get Stuff Done

Kristin Seymour accomplishes more in one day than most do in a week! And she might be the only person we know that travels with a cooler and ice packs in her car… just in case! This busy ADHDer (and previous Distraction guest) joins Dr. Hallowell to share her very best ideas for getting things done. The Clinical Nurse Specialist also shares some encouraging stories about some of the kids and adults she’s worked with to help accomplish their goals. Learn about incentives, buffers, prioritizing and more through the practical ideas and solutions Kristin offers up in this episode from our second season.

To learn more about Kristin or to get a copy of her book, The Fog Lifted, click HERE.

Do you agree with Dr. Hallowell? We want to hear from you! Reach out to us at [email protected].

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Ned takes their supplements every day. Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode is made possible by our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness. I’ve taken their omega-3 supplements for many years and so has my wife, and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. I’m proud to have them. You can find all of their products online at omegabritewellness.com, and brite is intentionally misspelled, B-R-I-T-E, omegabritewellness.com. This episode is also sponsored by Landmark College, another institution that I have a warm personal relationship with, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently. Learn more at lcdistraction.org.

Kristin Seymour:
The mind is a powerful thing. If you want it bad enough, you can do it. Medicated or not, you can do it, right, Ned? I mean, when you want it bad enough, you can accomplish it. If you set out little ways with lists, prioritization, incentives, and timelines, anyone can do anything.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello. This is Dr. Ned Hallowell, and welcome to Distraction. Today, we have one of our favorite guests, Kristin Seymour, all the way from St. Louis. She is, in terms of credentials, a board-certified adult health clinical nurse specialist. She’s a nurse practitioner with a specialty in cardiology. She’s at the world-renowned Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, one of the absolutely top-rated hospitals in the world.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
She also happens to have ADHD. In her spare time. She works on ADHD. She’s authored a book about her own experience with ADHD, a wonderful book. I urge you to go buy it. It’s short, which is good for those of us who have ADHD. You can actually read it. It’s beautifully written, full of stories and anecdotes. It’s called The Fog Lifted, and it tells you how Kristin discovered the fog she’d been living in and how she came out of that fog and went on to excel.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It’s quite something to excel in cardiology. If you don’t know it, cardiology is like the toughest field in medicine. It’s a thrill a minute, a crisis a minute, and she’s able to do that, and then in her spare time, like on weekends and evenings, take care of the crises that arise in the lives of these kids, mostly who have ADHD. I’ve met some of them, and she’s really working with some of the really tough cases, kids who are coming out of terrible poverty and abuse. So, Kristin doesn’t just serve the easy cases. She serves the tough cases.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
She’s really, no exaggeration, saving lives, changing lives. She’s one of these people who, honestly and truly, is on a mission. Much as her life was reclaimed and transformed by this diagnosis, she’s now going about doing that for a legion of people in St. Louis. The medical profession in that city swears by her. They all want their patients to see Kristin. She can’t take care of everybody, but if she had her way, she would.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
She’s just one of those people who’s always busy. Whenever I call her, she says, “Wait a minute. I’ll call you right back.” She’s always in between doing things, and it seems like she’s never tired. And even though she’s always tired, she is able to keep it going like the EVEREADY Bunny.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
She’s a remarkable woman, has two children herself, been married to a wonderful man for a very long time, and really one of the really good people in this world. It’s great to have her with us. I told her she could talk about pretty much anything she wanted. So, I will welcome her to Distraction. Kristin, take it away.

Kristin Seymour:
Thank you, Ned. I don’t know if I’m worthy of all the kind words.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You certainly are.

Kristin Seymour:
But thank you very much.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You certainly are.

Kristin Seymour:
Thank you very much, and thanks for having me. The thing I thought was so funny is when you offered me open platform to discuss what I thought was important. I kind of reached out to some of the patients I work with and some of the mothers who have ADHD and those who don’t to find out what they’d be interested in hearing from me specifically, or me and you, and they all pretty much unanimously said the same topic. They said, “We all want to know, how is it that you get things done with pretty profound ADHD?”

Kristin Seymour:
Medicated or not, in my life, I’ve always been able to execute and task to completion. It’s not easy, but you learn to make it a habit. I had a very brilliant junior from Washington University, computer engineering student, in my office recently, and he said, “How do I just make myself do it? I look at all these things, and everything looks so insurmountable and overwhelming.”

Kristin Seymour:
As you and I both know, when things for people in general, but it’s particularly those with ADHD, see something that’s mentally exhausting or overwhelming, they procrastinate, avoid, completely blow it off until it’s too late, then end up doing poorly things, then they get behind the eight ball. And then this vicious cycle ensues, where you’re playing catch-up on a hamster wheel.

Kristin Seymour:
I explained to this young man that so much of it is, what do you want to get done? So you have to basically prioritize. And he said he had to get eight letters done with a résumé to send out to internships by Wednesday. And I said, “Okay. Well, let’s draft this cover letter. You just have to take one piece at a time. Don’t look at every other assignment you have to do by Wednesday. Just do this one.”

Kristin Seymour:
I always tell them to prioritize the most important tasks and timeline and put them down on paper. Whether it’s an old-fashioned list, putting it in a notes app on the phone or dictating it into your phone and then pasting it, whatever, you need to make a list because it feels so good when you can cross it off. Everybody agrees that accomplishing a task, whether it’s making your bed or finishing the letters, you feel great crossing it off. But the big-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It’s like losing a pound. It’s like if you’re trying to lose weight, each pound, you feel that much better.

Kristin Seymour:
Yes. Exactly. And as you-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I know that because I’m trying to lose weight. So yeah.

Kristin Seymour:
Right. But the biggest thing is, all of us are pleasers, and we all like to have rewards, right-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes.

Kristin Seymour:
… because it’s a little dopamine release with a reward, correct?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah.

Kristin Seymour:
So, I like to incentivize myself and my patients. I always tell them, “Incentivize yourself.” And this kid likes to go work out. He doesn’t have time. I said, “Well, get it done by 6:00 PM, and then go work out for an hour. Make time.”

Kristin Seymour:
The mind is a powerful thing. If you want it bad enough, you can do it. Medicated or not, you can do it, right, Ned? I mean, when you want it bad enough, you can accomplish it. If you set out little ways with lists, prioritization, incentives, and timelines, anyone can do anything.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Absolutely.

Kristin Seymour:
There’s really no excuse because you just can take little pieces of the pie and finish it off. Because when you take a little teeny piece and break it into small, manageable tasks, it’s nearly impossible to get it all done at once, those small segments don’t look so overwhelming, and then your anxiety goes down and you can do it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kristin Seymour:
Okay. The next thing is how I get it all done in a day. I always set an alarm, do a routine, even on the weekends. But things like just putting a cooler in the back of your car with ice packs, for especially the moms, when you’re running around, going to and from work or going to and from helping at the school, and you think of something on your mind kind of impulsively or instantly, and you want to run to the grocery and get it and stick it in that cooler and then keep going your way, you don’t have to detour back home and then waste time. I live by having a little cooler in the way back in my car with the ice packs in it because you get all these little things done throughout the day without having to waste time and space. Another thing-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Wow. So it’s like you’ve got a refrigerator in your car.

Kristin Seymour:
Pretty much.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Wow.

Kristin Seymour:
But it really saves time because if you can get to the gym a little bit early and there’s a grocery right in that strip mall, you can pop in there, get a few items. Then you’ve nailed two birds with one stone. You’ve worked out. You’ve gotten the groceries for the night. Go home, shower, go to work. It’s just so much easier when you can start to put interventions in place that will make life easier.

Kristin Seymour:
Life’s hard enough. We’re all busy. We’re all stressed. We’re all doing a lot of things. And people are like, “How do you do it?” I do it because I want to, first of all. Like you always say, get the job you love. Get the right job. I love what I do, love my kids. You always just have to prioritize. They’re always the most important. So, the clock stops at both jobs between 3:00 and 4:30 so I can get them off the bus, take care of my girls, and then I can go back to whatever I was doing.

Kristin Seymour:
People need to learn to prioritize what’s the most important and then take it off into little pieces. Eliminate, eliminate the stress that you’re able to. For me, social media was becoming a rabbit hole just going down a bad path. So, eliminating Facebook for a while, eliminating social media, for some of us, for a time, a little amount of time, is good. Then you can come back to it. It’s just sometimes it becomes one more thing to do, and you can eliminate it because it’s probably not the most important thing at the time. Does that make sense?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Total.

Kristin Seymour:
Another thing is, a lot of states are doing this-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
If I could just stop you for one second-

Kristin Seymour:
Yeah.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
… because I want to do full justice to that because I think it is the single biggest time-waster. When people say I have more to do than time to do it, my word for it is screen-sucking. I say, “How much time do you give to screens?” Most people are just not aware of how much time. If you add it all up between email and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and all of the different screen … the screen time, we’re mostly not aware of how much time we’re giving to screens. If you just go screen-free for even a part of a day, let alone a whole day, you’re going to have a lot more free time. And at first, you won’t know what to do with that time.

Kristin Seymour:
Right. Yeah, agreed, agreed. There is a platform for the promotions and the good things through social media and things like that, but I think, as you say, to just be cautioned about how much time you are on it and how it can be so addicting. I’ve seen your other pieces on that, and I think it’s really important because people need to get outside and play games, and play, and run, and do sports, and be active because it gives the same kind of dopamine feel-good release and gets your energy out there without having to sit there and worry about how many likes you have and if you’re liked or not based on amount of hearts. It’s just ridiculous.

Kristin Seymour:
And so, I thought role-modeling that for my own kids was a good idea, just showing them, “You don’t need this.” And then they don’t … Well, you got to kind of practice what you preach, if you will.

Kristin Seymour:
The other thing is, whether you have a housekeeper or not, or a helpful husband like I have, I have my girls pitch in, which helps also get things done during the day. Delegate, learn to say no. All these parents, a lot of these moms or dads see that they are … and they are so amazing and that they can do it the right way. That’s true, but it doesn’t mean it’s the only way.

Kristin Seymour:
So, sometimes I’ll be like, “Hey,” to my husband, “can you pick up the dog’s medicine?” or, “Can you get the girls today?” Delegate, learn to say no, build in buffers. Like on Late Start, I’m sick of trying to arrange that. So, I hired a high school girl to drive one girl in for Late Start. Parents need to learn how to just relax, know you’re doing the best you can, and that’s how you get it all done. You just have to put things in place that are going to help you be a success. Making lists and taking off little pieces, it’s huge. And by the way, the WashU student finished all eight letters and applications by Tuesday night.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Wow.

Kristin Seymour:
So he accomplished a goal in a matter of 48 hours of meeting together. He did one letter, I proofread it, he buffed up his résumé, and by Tuesday, he said, “I got them all in.” And what a great feeling.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But you didn’t put that on your list of suggestions, namely, work with someone like you.

Kristin Seymour:
No. Well, right. But I mean, just, he looked at me, and he said, “How can I just make myself do it? I keep looking at it.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But see, that’s not … You can’t. You got to work with a coach, work with Kristin.

Kristin Seymour:
That’s true. You do. You’re right. I mean, I guess I underestimate that role too much. But I think it’s very important because just saying, “Hey, that is a lot of work with your regular 14 credit hours, and you’re a brilliant young man.” Yeah, it’s a lot of pressure, and you’ve been sick, but let’s see how we can do this. What’s due first, second, third? And next thing you know, I got a text Friday saying, “I got everything in,” and he’s … It’s kind of a great little story because he said, “I couldn’t finish my entire exam because I was so sick and tired and behind the eight ball.”

Kristin Seymour:
I said, “Well, why didn’t you tell your teacher you were sick. Let’s shoot a quick email. He probably has no idea. You were flu-positive.” We did. The professor writes him back, says, “You know what? You have a 24-hour extension. I had no idea you were so ill over break.”

Kristin Seymour:
I think people just are so quick to give up sometimes, and I’m not saying he gave up, but they don’t realize you can think outside the box, and people want to help each other. And if they understand there’s a good reason that we can all work together, it just-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. When you’re doing it alone, you get overwhelmed.

Kristin Seymour:
Correct. You’re right. They don’t think outside the box, and you get overwhelmed. Exactly, Ned. That’s exactly right. And so, it’s good to … You’re right. You get overwhelmed. When you have someone there to help, you kind of think it through and kind of plan with, it’s a lot more … you feel not like you’re drowning. You feel supported. That’s a very good point. Yeah.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
All right, Kristin, if you could hang on for just a moment while I tell our listeners about our sponsor, Landmark College.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
For over 25 years, the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training has provided cutting-edge relevant and practical professional learning to individuals in schools. Informed by current research and decades of classroom experience, the Institute is a leader in the fields of learning disabilities, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder, and this spring is no different.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The Institute has lined up a couple of great webinars for educators, including one available now called Destination Education: Supporting Students with Learning Differences in the College Search. In this presentation, Landmark College’s lead educational specialist, who also happens to be a former admissions officer, offers tips that educators can use to assist their students with learning differences as they face common college search obstacles. You can register for any of the Institute’s webinars by going to lcdistraction.org and then click on Research & Training.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
All right, now back to Kristin Seymour.

Kristin Seymour:
I had a physician the other day, brilliant. He had so many thoughts on his mind, he didn’t know how to exercise documenting them. So, he dictated them while he was driving in the phone Notes app. And he’s like, “How do I get this to a document?” I said, “Just upload it in an email to yourself, copy and paste it to word, have it spell-checked and formatted, and you’ve got your outline for your paper.” There’s just all these shortcuts. And I-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So this is a physician.

Kristin Seymour:
That’s a physician who’s in a graduate program here in St. Louis. Yeah, he’s one of my patients’ parents.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Just to underline that for people listening, that this is not a problem that’s related to IQ or level of achievement. This is a problem that cuts across all levels of education, all levels of IQ, that is afflicting, I would say, everybody in the world today.

Kristin Seymour:
That’s a great point. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Everybody in the world today could benefit from just a few … like, just take it easy, how to do some shortcuts. ADHD, as you say, it’s across all types. And this patient’s … I believe you’ve spoken with him once. But anyway, his parents are both physicians, and they’re very bright. The dad I don’t believe has ADHD, but he was asking, he said, “Well, how do you get those thoughts out so quick?” And then because our minds are like, as you say, a Ferrari engine, and sometimes the thoughts are coming faster than you can write them down, especially if you’re maybe walking or-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Driving.

Kristin Seymour:
… driving. You can dictate, and it’s really … saves some time. And it also … some of your best ideas come when you’re stimulating your dopamine, exercising, walking, driving, listening to music. That’s why it’s just not convenient for a pen and paper. So, dictate, cut, and paste is a nice way that people can … “Hey, that’s awesome. I didn’t forget what I was going to say or do.”

Kristin Seymour:
Also, I always try to tell people what I do because I hate saying, “Oh, do this,” but if I know I can’t do it. I like to do things that are really truly reasonable and feasible because otherwise, you get frustrated and you’re like, “This isn’t going to work.” And then you get frustrated again.

Kristin Seymour:
So, I never quit. The sky is not falling. So many people freak out, if they don’t … and get behind on one assignment. That is the biggest mistake. Just chill out. The sky is not falling. Start up again tomorrow. Your professors are understanding. Teachers want to help you. You just don’t have to make excuses every time. But once in a blue moon, they want to help you too.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right, right, right. So ask for help, I guess, would be another tip, huh?

Kristin Seymour:
Ask for help is huge. I mean, to have so many bright students, especially the high school, the college students, the young professionals, I think it’s okay to ask for help. None of us are in this alone. It’s kind of humbling. I think incentivizing yourself is huge, from the eight-year-old I work with … Oh, my gosh, he’s so precious. If you could get up and make your breakfast every day without whining to your mother, I think … I’m sorry, he’s 11 now.

Kristin Seymour:
He is going to go with me to Shake Shack on a Sunday and get a shake. That was his incentive for like a month of good behavior. Incentives are great because they’re rewards. It’s that dopamine, that reward pathway again, the positive reward. You don’t have to kiss their behinds for just doing their job and being a respectful young person. But when it’s something that’s a challenge for that child, like making breakfast, getting up on time, getting homework assignments done without mom nagging, those are all things that deserve a reward and recognition after a few weeks or a month because that’s really hard for kids with ADHD and can’t focus, much harder than the child who can.

Kristin Seymour:
Those are just more reasons how we all get it done. I incentivize myself to get stuff done and all the time because I don’t always want to do something, but you have to. I mean, if we all did what we wanted in life, gosh, we wouldn’t be very successful probably. We have to do certain things.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). The thing about incentives, the more immediate they can be, the better. I mean, you brush your teeth to avoid getting cavities. That’s a long time away, but if you can have an immediate incentive, like your kid, so he can go work out, that tends to work a little bit better.

Kristin Seymour:
Right. I think even just something as simple as making the bed every morning, it’s so nice to see a clean and, you know-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes.

Kristin Seymour:
… all put together, so when you come home from work or your day, it’s just, it’s clean, it’s put together, it’s one task accomplished, right?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes, yes, yes. Same thing about cooking dinner. You end up with a dinner.

Kristin Seymour:
Right. And so, I think that this kid, when he was able to … I have another patient who just wanted to be able to go swing dance every Monday night, and he is hilarious, in college. And I said, “Well, if want to keep that up, we’ve got to get the stats going. So, let’s have this our goal be, by Sunday at 3:00, everything is done and checked.”

Kristin Seymour:
You’ve got to have that incentive, no matter what it is. It’s different for everybody, what makes you tick. But when you have someone to kind of help … I feel like I’m more of an accountability coach, more than anything, because they want to make … We’re all pleasers, right?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah.

Kristin Seymour:
When we’re pleasers, we love making people happy, we love pleasing people, especially those with ADHD. They’re so sensitive, and they love to please their parents and teachers and friends. When they know they’re pleasing you, they feel good. So when they know that I’m not their mom or dad, but I’m also not their friend or peer, they’re like, “I want to make Miss Seymour happier,” or Kristin or whatever, “I’m going to do this.”

Kristin Seymour:
And then it becomes a habit. So after about three weeks or four weeks, some kids about six months, of working together, they’re like, “Oh, it’s ingrained. I did it so long trying to make her proud and myself proud, that now I only want to do it because I like it and it’s a habit.” So I’m kind of creating positive habits with the kids and adults.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But one of your great talents, and I think anyone listening who is a parent or a teacher or a coach, you want to cultivate this. I happen to know this because I know you, you have a great way of showing that you’re pleased. In other words, don’t just sort of say, “Oh, that’s nice.” I mean, you really say, “Wow!” I mean, anyone would want to please you because you really show you’re pleased, and you don’t fake it. You really mean it. You’re like, “Wow! That’s great!”

Kristin Seymour:
Yeah, I really … Yeah, I celebrate it big time.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You really get excited for them, not over just producing a good bowel movement. I mean, they’ve got to do something that matters. But if they do something that matters, you really get excited about it.

Kristin Seymour:
Right. Right. Especially if it’s something that was hard for that person or a challenge. I mean, this young man who I just met, his mom was really eager to get him in because we have to stay the semester. This kid showed up early to my office. We worked together. He completed it. He wrote me and said, “I’m going to go camping this weekend. I did all my work. I feel great.”

Kristin Seymour:
And I didn’t just write him. I called him, and I said, “I am so proud of you, you rock star. Look at this. You did everything and more than you wanted to do in one week. This should be celebrated. Enjoy your …” whatever. But yeah, I get really excited with them. I’m very proud of them because I know personally how hard it is to do what they’re doing.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I think that’s something that anybody who works with people who are having trouble making progress and whatnot, that they need to be aware that when they do make progress at something that is challenging, it’s important to get really excited the way you do, Kristin.

Kristin Seymour:
Well, thanks. Yeah, I agree with you. I even think even just getting help … I mean, I have a lot of moms I’m working with just coming in to say, “Hey, how do I get this done?” And I’m like, “I’m just proud of you for being here.” Sometimes making the call and getting yourself in to get someone and help guide you or understand your child better is hard. It’s not easy, and just coming to get help is a big deal.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What advice do you have for moms or dads or anyone who says, “Well, my son or daughter just won’t get help”?

Kristin Seymour:
Well, that’s tough. If they’re on meds, or they’re in sports, or they’re not medicated, or whatever the situation is, I usually tell the parent, if they have me mind me, just to at least come and see, and then they’d let the kid decide because what’s worth an hour of their life? I mean, it’s one hour, and then they can reward the … My office is over a cupcake place, and I did that on purpose. They could bribe the child, again, incentive.

Kristin Seymour:
So The child can come with their parent, and a lot of these, I would say about seven out of 10, probably didn’t want to excitedly come here, but they all leave wanting my cell phone number and not actually wanting to leave. I had one young man yesterday for three hours and 20 minutes in my office. [crosstalk 00:24:48] one-hour meeting.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It’s so symbolic that your office is over a cupcake place. That’s-

Kristin Seymour:
I did that on purpose, my friend. That was a complete strategy.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That is so great. That is so great. I often say that any expert who says that you shouldn’t bribe children doesn’t have children. I mean, if it’s-

Kristin Seymour:
Oh, it’s all about threats and bribes, I’m just kidding, consequences and incentives because these kids … Think about how we … Or I try to think about how I used to be. I kind of tried myself and put myself in their position, and I think, “You know what? I didn’t probably want to be here at 9:00 on a Sunday morning.” And next thing you know, it’s like, I look at the kid and I’m like, well, this one’s 17, “This is probably the last place you want to be, but I want to help you, and I’m going to talk to you about a few ideas to get these grades up and make you feel more confident.” He didn’t want to leave. I had to literally take him out [inaudible 00:25:38].

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You worked with yesterday for three hours. That’s-

Kristin Seymour:
17-year-old, yes. And then he texted me that night, and he goes, “Hey, thanks again.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Three hours on a Sunday afternoon-

Kristin Seymour:
Yes. I was only supposed to be with him for an hour. My husband’s like, “Hey, I got dinner. Are you coming home?”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
… with the 17-year-old, who at first didn’t want to come at all.

Kristin Seymour:
No, he didn’t, and he was so great. He’s already texted me today and said he’s going to do his flash cards during study hall, and he’s going to send me a picture of them because I’m going to prove to him … I said, “You have five days to do this my way, and if it doesn’t work and you don’t like it, then we’ll know we tried and we’ll do something else.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
See, Kristin, that’s just … You see, we have to do this again because you really have a secret sauce. I mean, this is solving a problem that I get asked about all the time by parents everywhere, “How do I motivate the kid who doesn’t want to do anything?” And so, you took a 17-year-old male, about the most difficult population you can imagine-

Kristin Seymour:
Yeah. I’m talking like six feet tall, football player, lacrosse player, darling kid that did not really want to be here.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah, but who doesn’t seem darling to anyone else because he’s saying, “No, I don’t want any help,” and, “Get away from me,” and-

Kristin Seymour:
Pretty much.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
… and, “I’d rather sit in the basement and play video games.”

Kristin Seymour:
Exactly.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. And somehow or other-

Kristin Seymour:
By the way, the video game is one of his rewards, by the way. Funny you said that.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. So he walks into your office and, basically, arms folded and says, “Okay, what are you going to do for me, bitch?” And you somehow keep him for three hours. That’s-

Kristin Seymour:
Well, I started packing up. He kept wanting to stay. And finally, I start doing my stuff. I’m like, “We got to cruise.” And so, he walked out to my car with me, and he was lovely, gave me his cell phone number. And I tell the parents. I screenshot our messages to parents. I like to keep them in the loop. And the children know that that’s the rule, just to give them a feel of how we discuss goals and objectives. And this young man wrote me last night and this morning, both, and said, “I will send you my pictures of my flash cards. Thank you again.” And I-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
In 25 words or less, how did you engage him?

Kristin Seymour:
In how many words or less?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, take as many as you want.

Kristin Seymour:
I engaged him by relating to him and saying, “I know how much this is a struggle. But you know what? You don’t have a choice. You have to get through this class unless you want to spend the whole summer in summer school. So I want to help you do this, and that’s for …” And then he just looked up at me like, “Okay.”

Kristin Seymour:
And I’m like, “The last thing you need is another lecture or parent. You need someone to help advise you and guide you. So here’s what I want to try to do with you. You’re not an audio learner. You’re visual. You’ve already told me that. So, let’s figure out a way to implement and commit these terms to memory for this class. I want you to try these colored flashcards and colored gel pens because they stimulate dopamine. They stimulate your brain to feel happy when you use these.”

Kristin Seymour:
And they did. And he’s like, “Wow.” He took them home. I always have stuff stocked here just so they can start right away. And then he just started saying, he goes, “I’ve been to a lot of therapists over the years, and I sit there and tell them what they want to hear. But I really felt good today. I thank you.” And then his dad called later and said, “I’ve never heard him sound so peaceful.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Wow.

Kristin Seymour:
And that was the … And I’m like, “Usually, people who are done with me need a nap, but that’s good.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s good, yes.

Kristin Seymour:
He laughed, and he said, “My son was revived. He Just felt calm and was so happy.” So it was a good day. It was actually a great day. I worked hard, but it was worth it just for one more kid to feel comfortable and confident.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, I know you have another place to get to, and I’m going to let you go. But you really are the Pied Piper. You really are amazing, whether it’s working with difficult parents or difficult children, you can engage just about anybody. And I think-

Kristin Seymour:
Thank you. Well, I learned for the best, I mean, you.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, no, you learn from yourself and your own experience where you were in a fog, and then you wrote about it, how the fog lifted.

Kristin Seymour:
Truly, yeah. And I had great parents. I mean, they were really wonderful and instrumental. They weren’t perfect, but they sure did a heck of a good job, I think. And I then became out to say, “You know what? I don’t care what people think.” I put it out there about my struggles, and I just want to help people, as you say, burn, I burned, so they don’t suffer like I did. But you have taught me so much in [crosstalk 00:30:00] too.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And you come up with these great ideas, like keeping ice packs in the back of your car. So you’ve got a traveling refrigerator.

Kristin Seymour:
It doesn’t have beer or wine in it, folks. Everybody always asks me if that’s what’s in there. I’m like, “No, friends. I wish. That’s for tailgate season. Okay?” But anyway, you’re the best. Thank you for everything. You have really taught me so much too, though, to implement with this.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, Kristin, it goes both ways. You’ve taught me so much, and we’ll have you again. I love the idea of, you’ve got a 17-year-old male who doesn’t want to talk to anyone, and he ends up spending three hours, and goes home, and has to take a nap. That’s fantastic.

Kristin Seymour:
Oh, he’s awesome. It was a great day. But you guys are great. Thanks for everything. You have a super rest of the day.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Thank you.

Kristin Seymour:
I look forward to talking with you all again soon.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
All right. Take care.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Thanks so much for joining me again on Distraction, Kristin. You really are remarkable. I hope her energy and imagination came through. I mean, what she’s doing, thinking on our feet, using her intuition and her experience, she really is engaging with the most difficult groups of people I know because she talks to me about them all the time. She can engage with anyone. I mean, if you can take a 17-year-old male with ADD who doesn’t want to talk to anybody and have him stay with you for three hours on a Sunday afternoon, believe me, that’s about as tough as it gets, short of someone who’s actively on drugs, in which case, there’s no point in trying because you have to wait for them to get sober. She’s really remarkable.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
If you’d like to learn more about Kristin or get a copy of her book, The Fog Lifted, go to adhdfoglifted.com or click on the link episode description in the podcast. If you like what you’re hearing here, remember to subscribe to the show so you don’t miss an episode. We’d love for you to give us a review on Apple Podcasts as well. That really helps the show. So, just go to Apple Podcasts and review us.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Also, please send us questions or show ideas to [email protected], that’s [email protected]

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Distraction is produced by Collisions, the podcast division of CRN International. Collisions, podcasts for curious people. Our producer is Sarah Guertin, and our audio engineers are Scott Persson and Greg Session.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was made possible by my good friends at OmegaBrite Wellness. I take their supplements every day, and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. Shop online at OmegaBrite, and that’s B-R-I-T-E, wellness.com.

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The ABCs of ADHD

The ABCs of ADHD

ADHD is comprised of positives and negatives, as you’ll hear Ned describe in this mini podcast. He talks about the triad of symptoms that define ADHD and how each negative trait can be turned into a positive. After all he says, “What is creativity, but impulsivity gone right!!”

Do you agree with Dr. Hallowell? We want to hear from you! Reach out to us at [email protected].

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Ned takes their supplements every day. Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode is made possible by our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness. I’ve taken their Omega-3 supplements for many years, and so has my wife. That’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. I’m proud to have them. You can find all of their products online at omegabritewellness.com. Bright is intentionally misspelled B-R-I-T-E, omegabritewellness.com. This episode is also sponsored by Landmark College, another institution that I have a warm personal relationship with, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently. Learn more at lcdistraction.org.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, and welcome to Distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. Today, and in subsequent episodes, I’m going to sort of give you a mini course in ADD, the ABCs of ADD, if you will. I still call it ADD, because it was ADD when I learned about it, but technically it is all ADHD now, what it is and what it isn’t.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Let’s start off with the term, itself, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s a terrible term. Just say that right off the bat. This is not a deficit of attention at all. We have an abundance of attention. I say we because I have the condition myself. We have an abundance of attention. Our challenge is to control it. I don’t see it as a disorder. I see it as a trait. Can it be a disorder? Yes, it can ruin your life, absolutely no doubt about it. ADHD at its worst can ruin your life. But it can also be a superpower. I know many entrepreneurs, talented artists, creators, writers, who say their ADHD is the key to their success.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The goal I have with myself and all the people I treat, is to unwrap their gifts; develop, identify, promote their talents, and in so doing, reduce the damage done by the downside, to the point where I’ve given it a different name, because ADHD is so dripping with pathology. I call it VAST, V-A-S-T, variable attention stimulus trait, V-A-S-T. That term was suggested to me by a woman who work in public radio in San Francisco. I just, I love the term, variable attention stimulus trait. It is a fascinating condition, because it’s composed of positives and negatives.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Most people who know about ADHD know about the negatives: distractibility, impulsivity, hyperactivity, the hallmark triad of symptoms. But if you take each of those negatives and turn it on its head, you get a positive. What’s the flip side of distractibility? It’s curiosity. That’s why we don’t let something go. Well, what’s that over there and what’s that over there and what’s that over there? We’re endlessly curious. We’re constantly wanting to go wherever our curiosity leads it. The ADD mind is like a toddler on a picnic, it goes wherever curiosity leads it with no regard for danger or authority.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The second one, impulsivity … That’s so bad, right? Well, no. What is creativity, but impulsivity gone right. You don’t plan to have a creative idea. You don’t say, “It’s 2:00, time for my creative idea,” and lay it like an egg. No, creative ideas pop. They come unexpectedly, unbidden, unlooked for. They’ll interrupt you in the middle of dinner. They’ll interrupt you in the middle of your sleep. They’ll interrupt you while you’re taking a shower or they’ll entertain you while you’re being forced to listen to a boring lecture or a boring conversation. This impulsivity, creativity depends upon. In order to be creative, you have to have a leaky braking system to slow you down. You’ve got to be able to get interrupted, to be spontaneously disturbed by some new idea.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Then the third element of the triad of symptoms that define ADD, hyperactivity … You get to be my age, I’m 70 years old. It’s called energy. I’m really glad I’ve got this little turbo pack on my back. Think of this condition as a trait that can be onerous and terrible, but if you learn how to unwrap the gifts embedded in it, it can become a superpower. That’s the true nature of this condition, positives and negatives, and the goal being of course, to maximize the power of the positives and minimize the damage done by the negatives. Okay, that’s my first in these series of short introductory talks about ADHD or ADD.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, I want to once again, thank you to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness. I’ve been taking their Omega-3 supplement for years, and recently started their CBD supplement as well. OmegaBrite products, I trust them because I know the woman who’s in charge of the company, a Harvard medical school graduate. She’s very fussy about quality, efficacy, and is always looking to make sure that the product she has is the best in the business. Distraction listeners can save 20% off their first order with the promo code Podcast2020 at omegabritewellness.com.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Okay, that’s going to do it for today. Remember to check out Distraction on social media. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Please reach out to us with your ideas for show topics or questions you have at [email protected] That’s the word [email protected] Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. The wonderful, beautiful, talented Sarah Guertin is our producer, and the equally wonderful, talented, and I hesitate to say beautiful, Scott Persson is our sound engineer and editor. I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell saying goodbye for now.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was made possible by my good friends at Omega Brite Wellness. I take their supplements every day and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. Shop online at omegabright, and that’s B-R-I-T-E, wellness.com.

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Take Care of Kids’ Emotional Health First, Says One of Ned’s Favorite Teachers

Take Care of Kids’ Emotional Health First, Says One of Ned’s Favorite Teachers

Our guest today taught Ned’s children when they were young and he can’t say enough good things about her! Tracy Eisenberg is a 5th grade teacher at Shady Hill school in Cambridge, Massachusetts and knows how to teach neurodivergent kids, because she was one herself.

In this episode you’ll hear Tracy’s best advice for parents of school-aged children right now, how shame and disappointment affected her self-esteem growing up, and how an ADHD diagnosis in her 30’s confirmed what she already knew.

As Tracy tells Ned, she’s in the business of people, and helping her students become self-aware and achieve some agency in their lives is one of the things she loves about teaching!

City and Country School in New York City

Reach out to us with your questions and comments! [email protected].

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Ned takes their supplements every day. Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode is made possible by our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness. I’ve taken their omega-3 supplements for many years, and so has my wife, and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. I’m proud to have them. You can find all of their products online at OmegaBriteWellness.com, and Brite is intentionally misspelled b-r-i-t-e. Omegabritewellness.com.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode is also sponsored by Landmark College, another institution that I have warm, personal relationship with in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently. Learn more at LCDistraction.org.

Tracey Eisenberg:
I don’t know if they have that in Massachusetts, but they had the PSATs in New York and that was what you took in 11th grade, and I remember everybody huddling around the principal at my high school and everybody was showing him their scores. We had just gotten them in. And, I remember his looking at my score and it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. And, he looked at it, and he looked up at me, right in my eye, and around all of these peers and he said, “Huh, you’re not going to college are you?”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello. Welcome to Distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. We have a truly special guest today. I know I always say the guests are special, and they always are, but this one has truly very personal significance to me, and I almost get choked up thinking about it, but Tracey Eisenberg is this wonderful woman’s name and she teaches school at the Shady Hills School in Cambridge, Massachusetts where all three of my children went.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It’s a pre-K through 8. Is it still 8, Tracey?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Yes, correct.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Pre-K through 8 and community-ed and it really is, I think, the perfect school. I’ve never seen a school that’s like it. It’s very hard to go to that school and not come out with a solid sense of who you are and liking yourself and liking life. It’s in the paint there. There’s just a respect for people and an encouragement to be playful and experiment and grow and develop, and Tracey is the embodiment of what that school represents and she just does it beautifully, wonderfully.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
She taught one of my kids, Jack, who remembers her to this day as his favorite teacher. And, to give you an idea of what kind of teacher she is, one day, Jack came into class and he hadn’t done his homework. And, to cover it up, he raised his hand and sort of being a wiseguy, said… I don’t know what he called you, Ms. Eisenberg, or whatever, and said, “How about if you let me teach the class today?” And he, of course, thought she would say, “Jack, what are you being a wiseguy?”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But, what did she say? She said, “Fine. Come right up and go at it,” and that was such a brilliant move. How many elementary school teachers would have the presence of mind and flexibility to know that, that’s exactly what this rather shy boy needed, was a chance to stand up and grow leaps and bounds in one school day and that’s just one of many examples of what a brilliant, creative, innovative teacher Tracey Eisenberg is. And, she’s in my hall of fame for sure, and she’s in Jack’s, and I know she’s in my wife’s hall of fame as well. It’s just you have no idea how loved you are, Tracey, by so many, many, many people.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
She also shares with me the gift of ADHD. She has it and, as you listeners know, I have it and she’s been very open about it, which is quite wonderful because it’s only in doing that, that we bring it out of the realm of shame and stigma, where it should not be. I know for a fact this condition is a potential super power and Tracey has lived that message and passes it along to her students.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, you didn’t come here to listen to me talk, but I just have to tell you what a treat it is to have you here, and I know you’ll be modest, but for listeners, this is a master teacher. This is someone who knows children, knows what she’s doing. It’s in her bones. It’s in her DNA. She just gets it. And, any child who is lucky enough to have her will be changed in a good way forever, witness my son, Jack. Well, that as introduction, welcome, welcome, welcome, Tracey Eisenberg.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Thank you, Ned. I’m not sure I’m speechless. You’re very kind and generous with your words.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, it’s absolutely true.

Tracey Eisenberg:
But, it is a pleasure to be here and I’m so glad to be able to connect with you live, at least in voice.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes, me too. It’s quite wonderful. Well, tell us, first of all, what is it like teaching little kids because you’re not a college teacher, you’re an elementary school teacher. Kids who are squirrely and want to interact and breathe on each other and what is it like? How are you handling it at Shady Hill?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Well, first I have to say that we had to just jump into it last spring, and last spring, we were all in shock and we were, that saying, building the plane and flying it at the same time and we kind of limped through until June. It was a really hard spring for everybody. And, the school, Mark Stanek and everybody, the maintenance crew, they have worked so hard to get this school ready so we can have as many kids on campus at the same time.

Tracey Eisenberg:
So, we’re doing live school every other week for the middle school and every day for the lower school, and because of the numbers, and because we have such a large campus, we’re lucky enough that we can have the kids remain six feet apart in the classroom and outside of the classroom. But, what we needed to do, was increase teachers, so we’ve decreased the class size and increased teachers. So, I now have 12 students in my class.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And what grade do you teach?

Tracey Eisenberg:
I teach fifth grade and I typically have 18 students, so I have one-third fewer students and it’s different. It’s incredibly different. But, the joy that the kids have when we’re on campus… I’m about to go on campus tomorrow for the second week, and there is… I can’t describe it. The joy that the kids have seeing each other live is… it’s heartening. They just want to be together. We’re social creatures and fifth graders are not independent enough to be successful on the computer, on Zoom, every day, all day. It’s just not who they are. They don’t have the skill set or the drive or the emotional stamina for it.

Tracey Eisenberg:
So, I feel really lucky that we can have every other week live and then, because my class is so much smaller, I can actually see all of my students on the Zoom screen at the same time, which changes the game. If I’d have to toggle between pages, I could have a couple of kids sitting under their kitchen table and I wouldn’t even know for a few minutes. So, it’s been a challenge, but the school has done everything they can. I couldn’t ask for them to do anything differently, or anything more, and the kids feel it.

Tracey Eisenberg:
They’re grateful to be on campus and they realize it and that’s kind of the special bi-product. [crosstalk 00:08:17]. We are so lucky we are here.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And they’re all wearing masks, or not? Are they wearing masks?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Oh, yes. They wear their masks all the time. We have mask breaks outside, but then the kids have to be 10 feet apart and sitting and we spend as much time… They have tents all over campus and so we have outdoor classes whenever we can. Windows are open. Doors are open. We have the desks and chairs are six feet apart in the classroom, so we’re really cautious. But then, when we get to go outside and have classes outside, it’s like…

Tracey Eisenberg:
The kids, they’re incredibly resilient.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes.

Tracey Eisenberg:
It’s just like, “Okay, if we’re having class outside, we’re having class outside,” and they’re doing it. I think that when the weather, the bad weather, rolls in, we just have to make sure that the kids have proper gear. There’s no bad weather, there’s only bad clothing. That’s what I heard, I think, from the Swedes. We need to get better clothing, I think.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s a great line. And, you ask the parents not to come on campus, right?

Tracey Eisenberg:
That’s correct. They can only drive and drop off their kids. They’re not allowed on campus, so every meeting that we have is via Zoom. I will never see parents in person on campus this year.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And, how does the online part of it work?

Tracey Eisenberg:
What do you mean? The actual teaching?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah, last week you were online, correct?

Tracey Eisenberg:
That’s correct. So, what we’ve done differently, at least in the fifth grade, I can speak specifically about fifth grade because I think the older grades do things a little bit differently with the kids being more independent and capable.

Tracey Eisenberg:
But, in the fifth grade, we actually have a maximum of teaching time on Zoom for 3.5 hours per day, so the math teacher, the science teacher, myself, we have to coordinate. There are arts, but it’s abbreviated from what it used to be. So, the kids have 3.5 hours of explicit teaching and then the rest is, rather than asynchronous working tasks, where the kids would just be offline, we keep the camera on and we have the kids work independently so when they have questions, we’re right there.

Tracey Eisenberg:
So, between 8:00 and 3:00, the kids have access to a teacher, except for recess breaks and lunch break. So, they have an hour and a half of off-screen time entirely, they’re not looking at any computer screen, but at every other minute in the day, if they have questions about their assignments, their teacher is right there and rather than emailing back and forth, and having the hour or two delay, and it works so much better than it did last spring, significantly. Kids like it because they have access to one another.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What’s the difference?

Tracey Eisenberg:
We play games, we take breaks, we do silly things, as we would in the classroom, so they’re getting social nourishment. They’re getting the academic supports that they need in the moment. It’s not helpful to have a question and then get it answered four hours later, when you’ve lost momentum. And then, they also have time where they can be quiet, so even when they’re reading quietly, I have access to them and they have access to me. And that has made all the difference in the world.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What’s the difference between the way you’re doing it now and the way you did it last spring?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Well, last spring, I think they were… I would teach for maybe an hour a day and I’d have access to them for an hour, or an hour and a half, and that’s it during the entire day. So, they would be working asynchronously and they would look at an assignment and inevitably, they had questions because kids, they need to ask two or three times just to make sure that they’re on the right track, or maybe they have no idea they’re on the right track and they couldn’t move forward.

Tracey Eisenberg:
So, then, assignments wouldn’t come in. They would email me a question, but I didn’t get it right away and then they put their assignment down and there was no traction. And now, we’re getting work done and the kids are feeling supported and it’s actually working for families because we have parents that are working from home and they’re not bothered by your kids saying, “I don’t understand what to do.” So, they get to work, the kids get their questions answered, they’re getting their work done and also, when they say they’re done, they can say, “I’m finished,” and then I take a look and I say, “Okay, let’s see how we can elevate your work. You wrote two sentences here, let’s see if we can elevate this to get another supporting idea.”

Tracey Eisenberg:
So, I can push them where they need to be, but when they’re working on it rather than a day late.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. So, asynchronous means they’re not together?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Correct.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Whereas, you’re doing it now, you’re doing it synchronously, together.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Yes, the entire day, except for… And they love it. They love it. We’ll take stretch breaks. The school has implemented this great wellness app and the kids meditate every day and sometimes, we do it in the middle of the day. We’re experimenting when it feels best. We’re taking stretch breaks, meditating, playing games, being silly, and doing work.

Tracey Eisenberg:
So, they’re also nourished much more. I’m hearing fewer reports from parents that their kids are really sad and disengaged.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And, are you in your classroom when you’re doing this, or are you at home?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Well, it depends. When I have my son, I’m home, and then he’s on his classroom with his teacher. And then, when he’s with his other mother at her house, I sometimes go in. It really depends. We have total flexibility and support from the school to work from home or in the classroom.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
How has it impacted the faculty? Do you still feel collegiality and togetherness?

Tracey Eisenberg:
That’s hard. That’s actually really hard. Do you remember Josh Horwitz, my colleague?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah.

Tracey Eisenberg:
I think Tucker may have had Josh.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Yes. Well, I’m never on campus when he’s on campus and he’s one of my closest friends. We’ve been working together for 20 years. I haven’t seen him live since… Well gosh, probably this summer while we were on campus setting up our classrooms. But, it’s really different. We Zoom, we have our faculty meetings by Zoom, but those spontaneous connections that you get, it just doesn’t happen, walking on the paths, it’s just very infrequent.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Do you ever see Mr. T?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Oh, I do. I actually have his son and he had my son last year, so she’s a great guy, isn’t he?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Absolutely. Please give him our regards. He had Lucy or Tucker, or both of them, I can’t remember.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You have so many wonderful teachers over there. Honest to goodness, I really do believe, and I’ve seen many, many, many, many schools. I think it is the closest thing to perfection in the world of elementary schools that there is out there and I’m so glad because most places, the kids are really complaining about how difficult the online part of it is. But, you found a way that the kids are enjoying it.

Tracey Eisenberg:
As much as they can. The kids prefer live, but if they have to have it online, being together all day is easier and more fun and engaging for them. They’re less alone.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. And the alternating… My big thing is connection and I talk about vitamin C, vitamin connect and the problems these days is we’re all living with a vitamin connect deficiency. My wife, Sue, who’s incredibly extroverted, she’s every day saying, “I need more people. I need more people.” It sounds like you folks at Shady Hill are doing the best you can to provide that vitamin C.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Yes. Mark made the most difficult decision, but the right decision. We were going to have the entire school on campus at the same time, rather than alternating the middle school A, B weeks. But, because of the metrics and then they’re been a couple of cases, he decided to decrease the density of people on campus and it’s the right decision because I think it will allow us to stay on campus even longer, but we do have it every other week, which will help sustain us.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Absolutely, and I’m just so impressed and so heartened to hear this. I actually have a couple of patients of mine who were at Shady Hill and they’re reporting the same thing, you guys are handling it so well, and I’m not surprised.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
OmegaBrite, omegabritewellness.com, has been a sponsor for this podcast for I don’t know how long. I invited them to join us because my wife Sue and I have taken their omega-3 supplements for years and years and years. I’ve known Carol Locke, the woman who developed all the products, for many years. She’s a graduate from Harvard Medical School, and a superb physician, and incredibly careful with the products that her company creates. She has extremely high standards that are uncompromising. She’s also a really nice person. They’re a natural fit for the show because their products help with mood regulation, anxiety, as well as focus and attention as well as being good for your entire body, their powerful anti-inflammatory action.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You can find all of their supplements online at omegabritewellness.com. That’s omegabritewellness.com. And, Distracted listeners, you can save 20% on your first order by entering the promo code PODCAST2020. That’s Podcast2-0-2-0.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Now, back to the show.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Can we branch off and talk a little bit about ADHD, a condition you and I share?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Yes, please.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
How did you find out about it?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Well, teaching, becoming a teacher helped me learn a lot about myself, but it took years… I’ve been teaching, this will be my 29th year of teaching and I have such an enormous sample size of teaching kids for 29 years and you start to see some similarities in struggles. So, what always started with… We noticed the kids that have ADHD, because we’re not celebrating them. We’re saying, “Hmm, something’s not working.”

Tracey Eisenberg:
Because, I think for kids with ADHD, school is the hardest time in their lives. They have to do everything that they’re told to do, in the way that might not be the best for who they are as a learner and that was true for me growing up in the 70s and 80s on Long Island in New York. It was really hard and I was not a successful student. So, I started teaching in New York, in the Village, at this small school, City and Country School, great school. Charming and the oldest progressive school actually. One year older than Shady Hill.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
If you hadn’t been a good student, why did you want to become a teacher?

Tracey Eisenberg:
It’s funny that you ask. I kind of felt into it. I don’t think my teachers would have predicted success for me. I didn’t test well, as most ADHD kids do not. I don’t know if they have that in Massachusetts, but they had the PSATs in New York and that was what you took in 11th grade, and I remember everybody huddling around the principal at my high school and everybody was showing him their scores, we had just gotten them in. And, I remember his looking at my score and it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. And, he looked at it, and he looked up at me, right in my eye, and around all of these peers and he said, “Huh, you’re not going to college are you?”

Tracey Eisenberg:
And, I just grabbed the piece of paper away from him and I didn’t even know how to react. I just remember skulking away, mortified, and it was just a terrible moment. So, what happened? I do go to college. I go to community college to get my grades up. I get to University of Buffalo and kind of limp through that as well. I think the biggest role… I think it was my brother. My brother had this enormous impact on me. He was very paternal and he was very worried about me and I was just always flitting around and he was just saying, “Let’s go to Adelphi University and I want you to check out this teaching department, and I was like, “Oh, God. Teaching?”

Tracey Eisenberg:
I didn’t really feel like I had many skills to offer anybody anything, except I was funny and resilient.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Uh-huh (affirmative)

Tracey Eisenberg:
And that’s what I could identify at that point.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Uh-huh (affirmative)

Tracey Eisenberg:
And so, I started this education program at Adelphi and they let me in on as a trial basis if I could do well in a couple of classes, which I did, then they’d let me matriculate. So then I’m there, and then it’s time for me to start doing my student teaching and they put me into this school district where I grew up and I was like, “Oh God, I can’t do this again.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
God, talk about PTSD.

Tracey Eisenberg:
No, this was at Bellmore-Merrick, and I was like, “I can’t.” So, I went to talk to a professor and I said, “I’m thinking about dropping out of the program. I have no interest in going back to the place where I failed once. I can’t do it again,” and she said, “I want you to check out a school in the Village. It’s City and Country School. I want you to go, check it out and then come back and talk to me.” And, I had one of those moments where it was a turning point for me.

Tracey Eisenberg:
So, I walked into this really cool brownstone building and it was like walking into my home, and I loved it immediately, from the smells to the people, to then the curriculum that they were then describing. Their entire curricular from age 2 through age 14. And, I then volunteered there for two weeks and then they offered me to do my student teaching there and I never left. Six years later; I was there for six years until I moved to Boston. And, it was about teaching people, not just facts. It was about teaching the human being. It was about teaching character development, who are you as a learner?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Okay, let’s say you’re not the… Learning doesn’t come easily, but how do we get you to learn? How do we exploit your strengths and mitigate the weaknesses, and help you get through this really hard time in your life, which is school?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right.

Tracey Eisenberg:
And I learned with the kids.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes. That’s so beautiful. And why did you leave there [crosstalk 00:24:36].

Tracey Eisenberg:
And so, I fell into it. I had my brother to thank for this because then, it was something I became passionate about and I never had a passion. I didn’t have a passion. I didn’t think I could do anything. I was great at waitressing. I was good with people. I loved waitressing and I was like, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll move to Europe and make that a career,” but it was an accident and then I fell in love with teaching and I fell in love with the kids, especially the kids who struggled the most.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Because I empathized with them and I was like, “I know, but it doesn’t have to be this hard and life will not always be this hard and hang in there. Let’s develop some tools.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And you knew that firsthand?

Tracey Eisenberg:
I knew it firsthand, and I learned it firsthand with them. But, the first couple of years, I don’t think I knew it, but it was just like I found it while I was working with the kids. So, it was a two-pronged approach, two-for-one. The kids were learning and I was learning and I was like, “Wait a second,” and that’s what I loved about City and Country and Shady Hills School because I become a better teacher every year and they invest, and the same thing at City and Country School, they invest in the teachers. So, we’ve become better people, we’ve become better teachers and there’s nothing better than that. I’m still learning. Every year I learn with the kids.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Okay, joining me now is Professor Eric Matte of the wonderful Landmark College, an institution from which I have an honorary degree. They’re also our wonderful sponsor, and they’re located in wonderful, beautiful, downtown Putney, Vermont, actually not downtown Putney, but outside of Putney. Welcome to the podcast, Distraction, Professor Matte.

Eric Matte:
It’s such a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me, Dr. Hallowell, and thank you for all your influences, honestly on my teaching and the mission of Landmark College. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, I can’t thank you and all your colleagues enough. Man, Landmark College really does an amazing job serving folks like me, folks that learn differently, and you’re the best in the business. I always love to speak to someone on the faculty there and just get a little insight. So, can you tell us what you particularly do at Landmark.

Eric Matte:
Well, in terms of the faculty at Landmark, I feel like one of the luckiest people possible. I came onto the faculty 21 years ago, the time when Landmark was just truly a mecca of education and learning and these incredible teachers that are on the faculty there and coming right out of graduate school with no teaching experience, I really learned Landmark College philosophy from .0, which is another one of our teaching principles, but just really learned how to teach there and influenced by some of the most incredible people there.

Eric Matte:
But, I am a faculty member, a professor of communication and I run the college radio station and teach about a dozen courses in communication and also, I coach the men’s basketball team.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s fantastic.

Eric Matte:
So, I wear many hats.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s fantastic. So, you know how good exercise is for our brain?

Eric Matte:
All the evidence is really conclusive on this and yeah, when we talk about training and working with students in the basketball realm, we really still talk about the whole student and complete wellness, but physical training is part of that. Physical fitness and with the guys, we emphasize not only training for basketball, but also functional, every day fitness; getting enough steps in, movement, sleep and obviously, nutrition, but that whole physical well-being.

Eric Matte:
And of course, as you know, increased memory and fitness is shown to help with executive functioning and time management and cognitive load and memory. We talk about it across all my hats at Landmark, how important just physical well-being is.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I also understand you’re a pioneer of online learning and boy, is that ever important these days. Do you have any brief remarks about that?

Eric Matte:
First of all, people can learn online and it is a new and really hot medium of education and we’re making this epic transition as educators into this new world of online learning.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Eric Matte:
I’ve been doing online teaching for a number of years now and I’m getting a lot more emails from my fellow faculty and colleagues out there about how to do this and how to do it effectively, but it can be done.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
People struggle with it. Can you give a few quick tips, both for teachers and for students, how to make online learning less onerous?

Eric Matte:
It comes back to good teaching. First of all, just being a content expert, obviously, and knowing your material. But, secondly, being flexible with your teaching abilities, diversifying assignments, being able to adapt your teaching to diverse learners and all people are diverse learners and are divergent in some way. So, those are two really important things, but the most important thing is the rapport, is the presence that you have with your students and making a connection. You have to work harder at rapport online, and so I talk about those things a lot in my work as well with how to build rapport through feedback and connections and assignments and engaging activities, asynchronously, synchronously, and how to do that.

Eric Matte:
Those three things, rapport and knowing your content and diversifying and adapting your teaching.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s wonderful. That’s really wonderful. That’s all the time we have. Thank you so much, Professor Eric Matte of Landmark College, the absolute best in the world at what they do. Thank you so much for joining us and a real pleasure to get a brief glimpse into your work at Landmark College in beautiful Putney, Vermont.

Eric Matte:
Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Thank you again. All right, to learn more about Landmark College, go to LCDistraction.org, that’s LCDistraction.org.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
(music playing)

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Why did you move to Boston?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Love. Yes. And, it was either Boston or Washington, D.C. and Boston won out.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So, she got a job in Boston and you followed her?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Well, she went to graduate school, yes. She went to graduate school to become a therapist actually. We’re no longer together, but I think, again another great woman, and also helping kids in a different way, more in line of work. But yeah, that brought me to Shady Hill.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Had you known you were gay all along growing up?

Tracey Eisenberg:
Yes. I knew. The earliest memory I have is when I was eight years old and I wanted to marry my third grade teacher, Ms. [inaudible 00:32:53]. I don’t know where she is, but I knew. I would like for her to be my wife, but I didn’t have the language really. I didn’t know what lesbian was and I just knew it was also taboo. I wasn’t telling a lot of people.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. So, here you were a different learner and your sexual identity was in a taboo place back then and you were groping your way along. Did you have a guardian angel or someone other than your brother who looked out for you?

Tracey Eisenberg:
I think my brother was the biggest guardian angel and still to today, he’s my number one champion. He is the most loyal person ever; that I’ve ever met.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s wonderful.

Tracey Eisenberg:
And then, sure, we’ve had our difficulties, but the fact that I can call him on a dime and he would be here in a second.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Tracey Eisenberg:
But, I think that there’s a lot of luck. There’s a lot of luck. You pay attention to the opportunities. And, I always knew when I was good at something. I didn’t deny it. I knew I was a great waitress. I knew it and I knew I was funny. I was always the joker and I knew that that was one of the things that when my friends go together, we would have a great time. And, I also knew my limits.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Here’s an interesting thing, my brother and my father were… A couple of years into teaching and they’re like, “You’re going to be an administrator. You’re going to work your way up,” and I was thinking, “Whoa. No way. I do not have the skill set that is required to do that.” And it would then make my life miserable. Why would I do that? I don’t need the prestige, I don’t need the extra money, I’m not looking for that. I’m completely fulfilled. I’m getting better at what I’m doing every year and I don’t want to go anywhere.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Eventually, after year seven, and I was like, “No, no, no.” They stopped barking up… I was like, “Enough. I don’t have that skill set and I’m okay with it. I don’t need that skill set because I don’t want to be an administrator.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
When was the moment that you said okay, this ADD thing, I think I’ve got it.

Tracey Eisenberg:
I don’t even think I was the first person to say it. I think everybody around me knew it, kind of like everybody around me knew that I was gay, and they were just waiting for me to say it; because the behaviors are pretty obvious.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah.

Tracey Eisenberg:
I present very… Obviously you know that boys and girls present very differently, generally; not everybody, but generally. My symptoms are very aligned with the male, very impulsive and very active, hyper, inattentive, all of those sorts of things. So, it was in my 30s that it was confirmed and I was tested for it and it was confirmed, but I already knew it. It was just okay.

Tracey Eisenberg:
But, by then, I also… Then, I started talking about this in the classroom. Then I started sharing my struggles with… I don’t even really think that we call learning challenges, learning disabilities. It’s just, we haven’t caught up. The language hasn’t caught up with us. It’s just different learning styles. It really is.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Let me tell you, Tracey, my name for it because I have it. ADHD is a terrible name. It’s not a deficit of attention at all. It’s an abundance of attention that challenges to control it and so I call it VAST, Variable Attention Stimulus Trait. So, it’s a trait. It’s like being left-handed. It’s not a disorder. It can become a disorder if you don’t know how to manage it, but it can become a tremendous asset, as it has in your life.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Right.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So, it’s usually a little bit asset, a little bit problematic and my job is to maximize the upside and minimize the downside and you’ve just done that. The two most important things, marry the right person, find the right job, so you did that and you’re helping others do the same. So, when you… You didn’t every feel ashamed of having it.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Not as a grown-up. I felt a lot of shame because of my failures in elementary school. I just felt like a loser. I just couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t successful. I didn’t just have ADHD, I had trouble learning how to read, how to write; I had the whole gambit, it was just…

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So you’re like me? You have dyslexia, too? I’ve got them both.

Tracey Eisenberg:
I don’t have dyslexia. I just have a language-based learning disorder, which influences… It’s different than dyslexia, but it just makes learning really hard and then years of compounded failure really takes its toll and I’m sure I was struggling with depression as a kid, but we just didn’t… I was pulled out for special classes, I graduated from high school with a non-Regents degree, which is the kind of standard degree that you get in New York State. I didn’t get that, which didn’t affect me at all in my life now, but growing up with these struggles and not having the supports in place or the people around to help me gather a tool-set, or [crosstalk 00:38:45]. That was hard. That was very hard.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Of course, it was hard. And now, you’re in the business of making sure it doesn’t happen to other kids. It was at Shady Hill that our first child, Lucy, was diagnosed in third grade when her teacher said to us, “I’ll ask Lucy a question and she’ll just smile. I don’t think she’s really heard me. Do you think she might have ADD?” And, I said, “Oh my gosh,” and my wife said, “Let’s go get a good evaluation.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So, it was… I can’t remember her name but she married Mr. Vorenberg.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Amy Vorenberg. Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes. Amy Vorenberg, was then Amy Purcell. She diagnosed my daughter and changed her life forever. Lucy would have had exactly your story in another school.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And feeling bad about herself and all preventable by making this wonderful diagnosis, if it’s done properly in a strength-based context.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Right. It’s the strength-based context rather than the deficit context. Absolutely.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And then, the way you treated Jack, who also has ADHD, made him feel proud of himself instead of I’m different. Yeah, we’re different, but different in a good way.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Right. We’re all different, every single one of us, but some of it’s more public. Some of our differences are public, which makes it hard for some.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes. Until you find a teacher like you, and then you start feeling proud of who you are.

Tracey Eisenberg:
And, I think at Shady Hill, that’s why I love working at Shady Hill because the teachers, that’s what we do. We’re in the business of people. It’s not so much… We’re teaching people and helping them become self-aware, help them achieve some agency in what goes on in their lives. I just love that. I just love when we talk about kids. We have to put the kids first and it’s just great.

Tracey Eisenberg:
And the community is so committed to it. We’re a lucky community because it’s curated. It’s a curated community and so the parents are committed, the kids, for the most part, are really committed, the teachers are committed, so we have an embarrassment of riches over there, but everybody deserves this for sure [crosstalk 00:41:24] the environment.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Talk about agency, when Jack says, “Why don’t you let me teach the class today,” and you say, “Okay.” Holy moly. That was a life-changing moment and most teachers would have said, “Sit down young man and do what you’re told.” That’s not the Shady Hill way.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, to wrap up, do you have any thoughts for listeners about how they can help their children during COVID and obviously, the model at Shady Hill is one that’s worked very well there, but a listener says, “My kid is struggling,” do you have any general thoughts?

Tracey Eisenberg:
I guess I would say, and I’m thinking about this certainly in terms of my own son, so I have thought about this. I even say this to my students sometimes when they get really stressed about an assignment, let’s say. I think I have a point here, but we’ll figure that out in a minute. But, if they get really stressed out about an assignment, I’ll say, “Listen… ”

Tracey Eisenberg:
They’ll say, “I stayed up until 11:00 doing this homework,” and I’ll say, “Listen, this is fifth grade. You’re not curing world hunger. I would prefer a well-rested child than a finished homework assignment. If you’ve been late for every assignment, we need to have a different conversation about why this is happening. Any given assignment is not worth you sacrificing sleep.”

Tracey Eisenberg:
And I think we, as people, as parents, as teachers, this is a crazy time. This is a worldwide pandemic and I think that what we have to do is first and foremost, take care of the emotional health of our kids. So, if their kids are struggling because they’re stuck on Zoom, and you have the opportunity, because not everybody has this opportunity, to go outside and get fresh air and don’t worry so much about any given homework assignment. They’re not taking a medical exam. Forget the math. Forget the essay. Cozy up on the couch, watch a movie together, because no one is going to remember that math sheet.

Tracey Eisenberg:
If they’re struggling with math so much, again, that’s going to be a different conversation. Then, we have to take care of a math deficit in a different way, but I would say emotional health first and make sure that your child feels connected to the family, because that’s their primary and try to get them out socially as much as you can. FaceTime with other kids in real time, real life, six feet apart, kicking a ball around, and not worry about the small stuff, which is the daily homework. If they don’t get in a couple of assignments, that’s okay. For me, that’s okay. I would just say, what I want is for my son to maintain healthy relationships, to stay intellectually engaged and realize that this will pass. It may change our lives forever. We’ll never forget this time. This is… My son said the other day, he said, “When there’s a cure and we have a vaccine, everybody in the world is going to be happy about the same thing.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What a great remark.

Tracey Eisenberg:
“Has that ever happened before,” and I’m like, “I don’t really think so.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, the polio vaccine.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Yes, okay, there it is. See, neither one of us was around during that time, but yes. But, this is our time. Everybody is affected, so I just try to put things in perspective, which is so easy to say because there are people that are starving, they’re hungry, they can’t pay their bills. So, I don’t have any words of wisdom, I suppose.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, you’ve already spoken so many, and I think you embody… I always say if schools would take connectiveness scores as seriously as they take reading and math scores, we’d be serving our kids a lot better and you absolutely embody that. You’re all about that, pushing connection and its many different shapes and sizes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I can’t tell you how special you are and I really, really mean that and I know I speak for thousands of people that you’ve touched and the wonderful school that you are a master teacher at. Actually, saying master teacher is against the Shady Hill ethos because they don’t want to promote one person over another, but you are a school that’s all about connection and cooperation and growth and experiment and play, in the best sense of that word.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I just thank God that my son wandered into your classroom and I know I speak for so many parents out there and I’m so glad that you’re able to now repair, or give to kids, what you didn’t get and thanks to your brother and others, you were resilient enough to make it through a champion. I can’t thank you enough. Thank you so, so, so much for joining us today.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Oh, Ned, thank you. It’s an honor to be a part of your show and I was just thrilled when you invited me and I just enjoyed talking to you, immensely.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Thanks a million, Tracey. Take care.

Tracey Eisenberg:
Take care. Bye-bye now.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
All right. Well, that’s going to do it for today. Wasn’t she fantastic? I love everything about her and what she stands for and what they do at her school and there’s no reason that schools everywhere can’t take more of that approach.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Please, continue to reach out to us with your questions, comments and ideas. Write an email or record a voice memo on your phone, and send it to [email protected] That’s [email protected] Please like Distraction on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. You can also now find me on my new project. I’ve started TikToking. Go to TikTok and you can see some videos there. My handle is @drhallowell, @drhallowell. I’d love to know what you think, truly would love to know. It’s a new venture for me.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our recording engineer and editor is the estimable Scott Persson, that’s with two esses and our producer is the equally estimable, Sarah Guertin. I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell thanking you so much for joining us and once again, thanking the wonderful, magical Tracey Eisenberg for being our guest. Good-bye for now.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was made possible by my good friends at OmegaBrite Wellness. I take their supplements every day and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. Shop online at omegabritewellness.com.

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From Our ADHD Archives: ADHD’s Practical Problem Solver

From Our ADHD Archives: ADHD’s Practical Problem Solver

ADHD pioneer, Dr. William Dodson, joins Ned to talk about the similarities he sees in neurodivergent people, the prevalence of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, the omnipotential of those with ADHD, and what he wishes your doctor knew about the condition in this episode that was originally released in our third season.

Dr. Dodson specializes in the evaluation, treatment and support of adults and teens with attention deficits, learning problems, and related behavioral difficulties at his ADHD Center in Colorado.

For more information:

Dodson ADHD Center

Additude Magazine

Reach out to us with your questions and comments! Email [email protected].

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Ned takes their supplements every day. Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode of Distraction is sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at omegabritewellness.com. And by Landmark College, offering comprehensive support for students with ADHD and other learning differences. Learn more at lcdistraction.org. Landmark College, the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, this is Dr. Ned Hallowell and welcome to Distraction today. We are welcoming a man I’ve wanted to have on this podcast for a very long time. It turns out he and I are the same age and we’re the same vintage and we’ve been barking up the same tree for an awful long time. William Dodson, Bill Dodson, has been specializing in adult ADHD for most of his career. And I’ve been toying around with the same syndrome for most of my career. And Bill has come up with some wonderful observations. And so this is a treat for me to tap the experience and the brain, the mind, of a man I’ve respected for a long time and have really never had the pleasure of interviewing. And welcome to Distraction Dr. Dodson.

Dr. William Dodson:
Good to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this myself.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Give us just a couple of words about your background. How did you get into this world? How did you find yourself working with people who have ADHD, particularly the adults?

Dr. William Dodson:
I started back when I was a resident at Louisiana State University, and there was no place where anybody could go in all of New Orleans if they had learning disabilities and ADHD. So I and another resident started a clinic there that was still running until Katrina wiped out the entire hospital.

Dr. William Dodson:
But I’ve always been drawn to ADHD. I know it’s somewhat controversial nowadays to talk about it being the happy diagnosis, but it really is. There’s no place else in medicine where the outcome is that the person’s better than they’ve ever been. Usually in medicine we’re just trying to get people back to their previous level of functioning. But with ADHD, people are usually much better than they’ve ever been before in their lives. I mean, it takes a lot of work. I’m not belittling that. But the outcomes are usually wonderful outcomes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Just out of curiosity, who introduced you to the condition?

Dr. William Dodson:
No one. I think I heard a lecture from Randy Salle probably 25, 30 years ago, and that’s what really turned me on to really emphasize and specialize in it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That was at LSU?

Dr. William Dodson:
No, it was at a Continuing Medical Education Conference. The whole subject of ADHD was not mentioned in four years of my training, which I think is still at least 50% of adult psychiatry residencies just never mention it at all.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Sp you just kind of learned about it on your own.

Dr. William Dodson:
Yeah, I’m out here in the hinterlands.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
How did you get to Colorado?

Dr. William Dodson:
I wanted to live here. I was actually practicing in Washington DC and had my first child and decided that was not a place to raise children. So I moved here to Denver.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You picked Colorado because it was a-

Dr. William Dodson:
Great place to live.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
When did you settle there?

Dr. William Dodson:
20 years ago.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So you just started seeing adults with ADHD and began to realize that it was a good news diagnosis. They were doing okay, but they could do even better.

Dr. William Dodson:
Well also because people with ADHD have another comorbid coexisting condition about 70% of the time. The statistic is that about one in every five people who walks into a mental health professional’s office is going to have ADHD. And what I was finding was that the diagnosis was being totally overlooked. I would see patients who had seen half a dozen other clinicians and the missing piece was adult ADHD. And it had never occurred to anybody.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Why do you think that is?

Dr. William Dodson:
I think again, it’s lack of training. It’s just not something that people look for.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It’s not on the radar.

Dr. William Dodson:
Right. When we were going through school, it was a disorder of little boys.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And a lot of people still think of it that way.

Dr. William Dodson:
You have to almost be hyperactive and disruptive before you’ll get the diagnosis.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So for people listening who don’t know what this condition is, tell them. If you’re an adult listening right now, Dr. Dodson, how would they know if they have this condition?

Dr. William Dodson:
Well, that’s one of the major problems that confronts us is that we don’t have diagnostic criteria for adults that have ever been research validated. That sort of stops at age 16. For an adult to continue to meet the diagnostic criteria that we have for children, they would have to be functioning on the level of an elementary school aged child with untreated ADHD. And if that’s your cut off, somebody’s going to have to be severely impaired indeed.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So, how do you diagnose it?

Dr. William Dodson:
To me, ADHD is three things. There’s a cognitive piece, an emotional piece, and a arousal piece. The cognitive piece is if you ask a person with ADHD, look back over your entire life, if you’ve been able to get engaged and stay engaged, have you ever found anything you couldn’t do? A person with ADHD will think for a second, say, “if I can get engaged with something, I can do it.” The term that is out there that’s used out on the internet is it people with ADHD are omni-potential? They quite literally can do anything if they can get engaged.

Dr. William Dodson:
People with ADHD get engaged in one of four ways. The big one is they can do it when they’re interested. They can do it when they’re challenged or competitive. They can do it so long as it’s new, novel, or creative, but by definition, that one’s time limited. And they can do it when it’s urgent. That’s sort of the substitution for important.

Dr. William Dodson:
In those four ways, people with ADHD can get in the zone or get in the flow and be extremely productive, creative people. The other 90% of people that they rub elbows with, the neuro-typical people, for them being interested or challenged is totally optional. They can take it or leave it. Neuro-typical people use important and rewards as ways of getting engaged, getting access to their abilities, and getting things done. And so that’s one way where you can say always and never. A person who has ADHD is able to say, “I have always been able to do anything I wanted to do, if I could get engaged and stay engaged through interest, challenge, modeled in urgency, and I have never, in my memory, been able to make use of what everybody else makes use of, and that’s importance and rewards.”

Dr. William Dodson:
The emotional piece is what for 60 years has been called rejection sensitive dysphoria. I’m not responsible for these terrible names.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Who came up with that one?

Dr. William Dodson:
I don’t know. It’s very, very old, it’s 60 years old. But on my checklist, the question goes, for your entire life have you always been much more sensitive than other people you know to rejection, teasing, criticism, or your own perception that you’ve failed or fallen short. And virtually everybody that I see not only texts that, they put stars by it, they underline it. What it means is that the vast majority of people who have an ADHD nervous system are hard wired as part of the ADHD that if they perceive, it doesn’t have to be the reality, they just perceive that they disappointed somebody, and because of that, that person is at risk for withdrawing their love, approval, and respect, it’s excruciatingly painful. In fact, that’s what the meaning of the word dysphoria is. It’s Greek for unbearable or difficult to bear, because when they did the original work, they wanted to get right up there in the name just how severe this emotional pain was. And so just about everybody with ADHD will endorse that specific experience.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I mean, no one likes to be rejected. So you’re saying that it’s a quantum level beyond that.

Dr. William Dodson:
It’s several orders of magnitude greater. It’s devastating. If you ask people they can’t describe the quality of the emotional experience, but they do talk about its intensity is awful. It’s terrible. It’s catastrophic. It’s overwhelming. It just really throws people. If they internalize it they can look like as an instantaneous major depression. If they externalize it, it’s a rage at the person or situation that wounded them so severely. And so very commonly, these folks get misdiagnosed as being borderline because of that interpersonal nature of the trigger that sets off this emotional experience.

Dr. William Dodson:
The third piece is that people with ADHD have to have some sort of hyper arousal, either their having three or four simultaneous thoughts. They physically have a hard time sitting still. They have to be in motion. They can’t sit all the way through a movie for instance. Or, something that usually goes unrecognized, they can’t fall asleep at night. That as soon as it gets dark, they get a burst of energy, and when they try to go to sleep, they physically toss, turn, fidget, kick the covers off, and their thoughts bounce from one concern and worry to another.

Dr. William Dodson:
The average length of time is more than two hours before they can fall asleep, and so it’s a major cause of insomnia that generally goes unrecognized. In fact, people believe that the stimulant class medications are going to make this insomnia worse when actually it makes it better.

Dr. William Dodson:
In our group, what we do is, once we find to the medication as well as we can, we ask the person to lie down and take a nap after lunch, to prove that they sleep great on their medication, then they know they can take a second dose and sleep normally at night.

Dr. William Dodson:
Those are the three things that has to be. There’s a cognitive piece, where the ADHD nervous system works on the basis of interest and not importance. There’s an emotional piece of an exquisite sensitivity to rejection and criticism. And a third piece of some form of hyper arousal. That to me is ADHD and nothing else.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The usual triad of distractibility, impulsivity, and restlessness, you may find that, or you may not?

Dr. William Dodson:
You generally do, but what I’m looking for is most people come in, one of the first things they say as a goal is, “Do I have ADHD or not?” The vast majority of the people I see are self-diagnosed. Usually they have some, because ADHD is so genetic, they have somebody in the family who got diagnosed, got started on medication, they were transformed by medication and coaching, and they start talking to their cousin. Usually they try their cousin’s medication, know that it works great by the time they get in to see me.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That leads to the logical next question. Now, if this is how you diagnose it, what are the interventions? What are the treatments? You say we’re going to make your life even better. What re the ways you do that?

Dr. William Dodson:
Well, medications are what we’ve been doing for 50, 60 years. The ones in the stimulant class do one thing spectacularly well, and that is when a person’s engaged with what they’re doing already, that it keeps them from being distracted. And that’s really what the stimulants do.

Dr. William Dodson:
What we’ve done is we’ve missed the first step, and that is, how does a person with ADHD get engaged in the first place? And they engaged through interest challenge, novelty, and urgency. So with our people, what we ask them to do is write their own personal owner’s manual for their nervous system. Most people with ADHD were given the wrong owner’s manual back in preschool. All of the helpful hints, techniques, methods, whatever you want to call them, that they were offered by people, usually people who are neuro-typical, and that they see working for other neuro-typical people, don’t work for them at all, and so they have to figure out how do they, as a unique individual, get in the zone and become omni-potential.

Dr. William Dodson:
It’s usually as somebody is coming out of the zone that they recognize they were in the zone. When somebody is deeply engaged with what they’re doing, they’re really not self-aware that they are, so it’s when they’re coming out of the zone and they say, “Wow, I just got a whole day’s work done in about an hour,” and we have them stop right then, write down for themselves, how did they get in the zone and become superhuman?

Dr. William Dodson:
Was it because they were interested and, more particularly, what did they find fascinating? Was it because they were challenged or competitive? And what brought out that competitive streak? A good example of that one for the people who are listening to this podcast, imagine somebody saying, “Ned, you can’t do that.” What’s your first response? For most people with ADHD is, “Oh, yeah? I’ll show you.”

Dr. William Dodson:
You’ll know from personal experience that if you do have that response of accepting that challenge, whatever that challenge was, you’re going to have it mastered today because you slipped into the zone. And so it’s picking up little subtle moments when you go from just day-to-day life to getting in the zone and writing those down so that then you can come back and do them on demand, is something we found to be very helpful.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So you have them sort of take an inventory of, what are the activities that put you into the zone? What are the moments? What are the prompts?

Dr. William Dodson:
Ways of thinking. What are the emotions that do that? So much of treatment in the past has been focusing on what doesn’t work. What are the executive function deficits? Which never made much sense to me because once you identify somebody couldn’t do something and then demand that they do it, you only get to failure with that.

Dr. William Dodson:
This is recognizing when things go spectacularly well and writing them down so that you can remember to do them the next time you have something that’s very important, but probably fairly boring.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. Do they do this one-on-one or do you have someone else work with them?

Dr. William Dodson:
Well, I’ve always found that people with ADHD work best in groups where they can feed off of each other, where they can learn from each other.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So, you’ll do a group talking about what are the moments where you trigger into the zone?

Dr. William Dodson:
Right, and when things went. And then somebody else will say, “That’s what happened when I…” And they tell their story. The other thing that that does is being in groups helps people overcome a lot of the guilt and shame about having ADHD, is that they’re able to talk with people who really get it. Who’ve been through that themselves. That’s not going to make fun of them or tell them they’re doing it the wrong way because they’re not doing it in a neuro-typical way. So that the group has a lot of things going for it that no other modality of treatment does.

Dr. William Dodson:
You can also do it with family and friends. You can do it with teachers. You can especially do it with coaches who are able to pass on things that worked for other people they’ve coached in the past. You can do it with practically anybody anytime.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What else goes into your treatment plan, if you will?

Dr. William Dodson:
We generally refer people to coaches and, again, looking for different categories of things. There are some people who just need help with organizing daily life. There are some people who need coaching in relationships, because the relationship of somebody with ADHD with a partner who’s neuro-typical is going to have its own problems.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Do you find any particular problems recur more than others?

Dr. William Dodson:
The biggest one is that the neuro-typical person expects their partner to behave in a neuro-typical way. Intellectually, they know the person has ADHD and they may have even done some reading up about what ADHD actually is. But the knee jerk response is that their ADHD partner should be behaving in a neuro-typical way. The other big one is that the ADHD partner doesn’t seem to be listening to them, and that will really tick people off in a hurry.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And leads to all kinds of name calling, including by psychiatrists, like narcissistic and those kinds of words.

Dr. William Dodson:
Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I know you have particular medications in mind for rejection sensitive dysphoria. Do you want to talk about that for a minute?

Dr. William Dodson:
As with most everything in ADHD, it’s something that we just stumbled across and that is there are two medications that are FDA approved for the use of treating ADHD. They’re called alpha-agonist medications, Clonidine and Guanfacine are their names. They’ve been around since the mid 1980s. They were originally brought on the market as blood pressure medications, and so consequently they’re not controlled substances. You can just phone in a whole year’s worth at a time.

Dr. William Dodson:
As blood pressure medications, they were pretty poor. Nobody used them very much. But very quickly practitioners figured out, just through, again, real life experience that they were going to be the drugs of choice for a half dozen other conditions. They’re the treatment of choice for tic disorders, for Tourette’s syndrome. It’s the anesthetic they can do LASIK surgery under. A whole bunch of different uses.

Dr. William Dodson:
For years they’ve been the medication used for the hyperactive component of ADHD. And it’s in that context that we started seeing when we started a medication for hyperactivity, that in about 30% of people, the rejection sensitivity would just go away.

Dr. William Dodson:
It’s a different 30% for Clonidine and Guanfacine. It’s not the same patient population for either medication. So if the first medication doesn’t work, we stop it and we try the other one. We end up trying both of them sequentially, not at the same time, but sequentially, you get about a 50-60% robust response rate.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What kind of dose?

Dr. William Dodson:
If you take all the people who get a response, 80% of them are going to be at three tablets. That’s three milligrams of Guanfacine or three-tenths of a milligram of Clonidine, which still means a 20% are going to be higher or lower. But by far, the most common dose is going to be a three.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Is there any category of predicting which, whether of Clonidine or Guanfacine?

Dr. William Dodson:
Nothing predicts response to either medication or predicts [inaudible 00:22:54] is not going to respond. It’s just something you got to try and see.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Do it’s like Methylphenidate or Amphetamine. You can’t tell. You just got to try.

Dr. William Dodson:
With all the medications in ADHD. There’s no predicting. You just got to try them. And it doesn’t run in families either.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
How long does the trial of Guanfacine last?

Dr. William Dodson:
It takes about two weeks. With the stimulants, when we give a stimulant, we’re going to see everything the stimulant is going to do in an hour.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s the beauty of stimulants.

Dr. William Dodson:
All of its benefits, all of its side effects, in one hour. With the alpha-agonist, it takes about five days for the benefits to develop. So we change the dose every fifth day. So Guanfacine we do one milligram for five days, then two milligrams for five days, then three milligrams for five days. So that takes about two weeks to do.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And the Clonidine, you start with 0.1?

Dr. William Dodson:
With Clonidine it’s 0.1, 2.1, 3.1. It only comes in a 0.1 size.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. And then again, do you sometimes get a response at 0.1?

Dr. William Dodson:
Yes, you do. That’s why you pick it up. You can get a very good response just at one tablet.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And a response means if someone walks up to them and says, you’re ugly, they don’t go into a big depression.

Dr. William Dodson:
Right. They just say, well, that person’s unpleasant, and walk away.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What a difference

Dr. William Dodson:
The other thing that you see is that the number of simultaneous thoughts that a person has goes from three or four down to the one that they want. A lot of people, even when they’re on a stimulant medication, will still have two, three, four simultaneous thoughts going on. And that in and of itself is distracting.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. Now you can of course combine the stimulant with the alpha-agonist, right?

Dr. William Dodson:
In fact, that’s how they’re usually done. In fact, they’re combined so frequently that the FDA has actually tested them and approved them for use at the same time.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, this is a wonderful thing. And you’ve pretty much pioneered this, correct?

Dr. William Dodson:
I’m the first person that started writing about it. And again, it’s just one of those things that, as you say, we’re naturalists. If you see the same thing happening over and over again you know it’s important. You may not know why, but you know it’s important.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. Yeah, no, exactly. And it’s a great contribution, but so is your way of categorizing all this. I know you have a book that you’re on the brink of coming out with, is that correct?

Dr. William Dodson:
It’s been on the brink for a long time now.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, but this time you’re going to… Do you think 2019 will be the year?

Dr. William Dodson:
I’m shooting for Christmas time.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Excellent. Well, please allow me the honor of writing a blurb for it. Do you have a tentative title?

Dr. William Dodson:
Well, it’s either going to be something formal like, The Practice Of ADHD Medicine, or something informal like, What You Wish Your Physician Knew About ADHD.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, maybe one could be the title and the other could be the subtitle. That’s often a good way to combine those two. And if someone wants to find you, is there a website they can go to?

Dr. William Dodson:
Yes, it’s dodsonadhdcenter.com.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s D-O-D-S-O-N, right?

Dr. William Dodson:
Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
D-O-D, as in dog, S-O-N adhdcenter.com.

Dr. William Dodson:
Right.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
If they want to reach you, they just go to that website?

Dr. William Dodson:
Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You will respond to them, or do you have someone else respond to them, how does that-

Dr. William Dodson:
I try and do it myself.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I know you’re very approachable. And you also write frequently for ADDitude Magazine, correct?

Dr. William Dodson:
Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s a wonderful magazine. They do a great job at it. If they want to go to ADDitude, again, just go to… What’s their website? Just ADDitude?

Dr. William Dodson:
It’s ADDitude, A-D-D-I-T-U-D-E, mag, M-A-G, .com. It’s additudemag.com. One of the nice things is they’ve been publishing for 20 years, but they have everything they’ve ever published in a searchable format online. So if you want an article that they printed 10 years ago on ADHD and sleep, you can pull it up from that website. It’s probably the largest ADHD website in the world. They get more than a million discrete hits a month, so it’s very popular.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Wow. They’ve done a great job. Sarah Kaufman and Wayne Kalyn. You’re one of their mainstays.

Dr. William Dodson:
As are you.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, thank you. And this is a real pleasure. And just again, Dodson, D-O-D-S-O-N, adhdcenter.com. And if they want to track down articles that you’ve written in ADDitude, like on rejection sensitive dysphoria, or on any… You write the most practical articles. Truly listeners, if you want practical, Bill Dodson is practical. He’s not in the clouds, he will tell you how to solve problems. And he also shares with me a very positive approach to all of this. He’ll tell you how to make things better for yourself and not get mired in the misery of it all.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
He and I have both seen a lot. We’re both getting a little bit older and we’ve seen a lot. But fortunately, what we’ve seen is how great life can be with this condition if you learn how to manage it, right. Would you agree with that, Bill?

Dr. William Dodson:
Th word I use is embrace it. If you embrace it and you start learning about it and you see what works, it’s a good life.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It hurts you if you run away from it, that’s when it does its damage, and that’s when you get addiction and the prison population and all of that. It’s when people, and a lot of men, unfortunately, don’t want to… How do you deal with them, Bill? How do you deal with the wife who says, “My husband won’t come to see you because he thinks it’s a bunch of crap”?

Dr. William Dodson:
Usually the last thing that somebody has to overcome is a combination of shame and the rejection sensitivity. They don’t want to be blamed. They don’t want to be the one that’s at fault, that’s got the defect, because it hurts so much. And usually if I can get the spouse to give them just something short, a one page on rejection sensitivity and the fact that it’s got a treatment, that usually can overcome that hopelessness and shame.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, gosh, I could talk to you for a lot longer, but I can’t thank you enough for coming on. I look forward to your book coming out and congratulate you on the wonderful career, and many more years to come. Thank you so much, Dr. William Dodson and dodsonadhdcenter.com. Thanks a million.

Dr. William Dodson:
Pleasure to be here. Good to talk to you, Ned.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Take care.

Dr. William Dodson:
Bye-bye.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, that was Dr. William Dodson. Really one of the great men in the field. He’s truly in the trenches, been doing it for as long as I’ve been doing it. He’s seen it all and then some. He’s taken what he’s seen and turned it into real pearls. He’s a naturalist. You can find a lot of his work in ADDitude Magazine. Again, A-D-D-I-T-U-D-E mag.com. And he’ll have a book coming out, hopefully around Christmas.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, this is Dr. Ned Hallowell. I hope you’ve had a wonderful summer and looking forward to a terrific fall. And I’ll look forward to talking to you again soon. If you have a question for me or a show idea for us, email it to [email protected]

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode of Distraction you’ve just heard was sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at omegabritewellness.com.

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Advice for ADHD Parents Raising ADHD Kids

Advice for ADHD Parents Raising ADHD Kids

Raising children is tough. Having ADHD and raising children with ADHD is really tough. In this week’s mini podcast episode, Dr. H responds to one dad looking for help.

“I have ADHD and four of my children have been diagnosed with ADHD by their pediatricians. I wish I were a confident guide for them about how to thrive with this condition, but instead I’m a mess… What can I do to make sure they are best prepared to thrive when I can’t show them by example?” 

Ned offers reassuring advice that’s applicable to everyone facing a similar struggle. 

Books mentioned in this episode: Delivered from Distraction

Superparenting for ADHD

Can you relate to what Dennis wrote? Let us know what you think. Email [email protected].

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Ned takes their supplements every day. Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode of “Distraction” is sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD, formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at omegabritewellness.com. And by Landmark College, offering comprehensive support for students with ADHD and other learning differences. Learn more at lcdistraction.org. Landmark College, the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, and welcome to “Distraction”. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. Today, I want to respond to a question we received from one of our listeners named Dennis. And, by the way, we love getting these questions. Dennis wrote, “Hello, Dr. Hallowell. I have ADHD and four of my children ages 15, 13, 10, and eight have been diagnosed with ADHD by their pediatricians. I wish I were a confident guide for them about how to thrive with this condition, but instead I’m a mess. I was diagnosed at age 37 after having developed anxiety, depression, and a panic disorder. All the kids have taken Ritalin, but none takes it regularly because of the way it suppresses the appetites of the two oldest.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The current pediatrician sees no problem with not taking it as long as they are doing well in school. My wife is inclined to use the same gauge for the necessity usefulness of the medication. But, I have seen my kids lose confidence and joy as they’ve aged, and I’m sure it’s partly because of typical ADHD woes. I think they just hide the effects well, as I did when I was a child. What can I do to make sure they are best prepared to thrive when I can’t show them by example? Should I try to get them under the care of an ADHD expert? If so, how do I even find one? I’ll appreciate any suggestions you offer. Dennis”.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, first of all, Dennis, I think you’re a whole lot better than you think you are, just judging from the letter you wrote. You’re a caring, attentive, loving father. And I think, like an awful lot of adults with ADHD, you sell yourself short. And you don’t need an ADHD expert. They are hard to find. I don’t know where you live, but the most reliable way is to go to the nearest medical school and go through the department of child psychiatry. That’s where most specialists reside, in medical schools and department of child psychiatry. But, failing that, just get one of my books. Honestly, not to peddle my own wares, but they’re very good. And I would get “Delivered from Distraction” or “Super Parenting for ADD”. Either one of those would have more than you could possibly need or want. “Delivered from Distraction” or “Super Parenting for ADD”. And read those and you’ll become an expert, not only for your kids, but for yourself.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And learning about this condition is the single best way to master it, to turn it from a liability into an asset. And that’s the goal. I don’t treat disorders. I help people unwrap their gifts. And the way to do that is to understand the condition, the ins and outs, the nooks and the crannies, like a Thomas’ English Muffin, which I had one this morning. A lot of nooks and crannies, a lot of little holes, a lot of interesting terrain in the world of ADHD. And the more you can understand it, the more you can anticipate the pitfalls and take advantage of the upsides. Regarding medication, I think you’re wrong to say don’t bother with it as long as you’re doing well in school because they may still be struggling even though they’re putting up good grades. You can be number one in your class and be struggling, not be performing as well as you otherwise could.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It’s like needing eyeglasses or driving on square wheels. So, I would not use grades as a gauge of whether or not you need it medication. However, I would work with your pediatrician, or whatever doctor you do see, to find a medication where you have no side effects other than appetite suppression without weight loss. So, you have to eat. And the best meal to pig out is breakfast. Have a high calorie breakfast: eggs, pancakes, bacon. If you’re in a hurry, make a shake with yogurt and ice cream and some frozen fruit or fresh fruit, whatever, and some powdered protein. You want to get some protein in for sure. But, 80% of the time you can find a medication regimen where you have no side effects other than appetite suppression without unwanted weight loss. And then you should take it every day.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
In fact, you’ll want to take it every day because it’s nice having eyeglasses instead of having to squint, or it’s nice having round wheels instead of driving on square wheels. So, I would learn about the condition, read my books. If you want to find an ADHD expert, go to the nearest medical school, the department of child psychiatry, and then work with your doctor to find a medication regimen where you can take the meds every day, including weekends, without side effects, just with target symptom improvement. And if you do that, confidence will rise because it’s nice to do well. And if they’re doing okay without medication, imagine how much better they can do with medication. And, again, the anxiety and depression that so often accompanies ADD is usually due to the fact that the ADD itself is not well-treated. You feel anxious because you know you’re missing stuff, and you feel quote/unquote depressed because you’re underachieving, you’re frustrated, and it’s disheartening to underachieve, not do as well as you know you could do.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I hope that answers your questions. They’re very good questions, and you are a very good dad. Thanks so much for writing in, and keep us posted. Let us know how this goes. Well, I want to, once again, thank you to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness. I’ve been taking their omega-3 supplement for years and recently started their CBD supplement as well. OmegaBrite products, I trust them because I know the woman who’s in charge of the company, a Harvard Medical School graduate. She’s very fussy about quality, efficacy and is always looking to make sure that the product she has is the best in the business. And “Distraction” listeners can save 20% off their first order with the promo code “podcast2020” at omegabritewellness.com.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
All right. Remember to reach out to us with your questions, thoughts, and show ideas, just as Dennis, who wrote in. We love to get your questions. We will answer them and keep you informed and up-to-date. To do it, to send us an idea or a question, send an email or a voice memo. Those are great because we can play them on the air. Send an email or a voice memo to [email protected] That’s the word “connect” at distractionpodcast.com. And check us out on social media. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We’re working hard to develop much more of a social media presence, so help us out with that, would you please? “Distraction” is created by Soundscape Media. Our producer is the wonderfully perfect and estimable Sarah Gertin, and our recording engineer and editor is the brilliant, talented Scott Persson, and that’s “person” with two S’s. I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell. Goodbye for now.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD, formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at omegabritewellness.com.

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Black Girl, Lost Keys Founder Empowers Black Women with ADHD

Black Girl, Lost Keys Founder Empowers Black Women with ADHD

René Brooks had to get diagnosed with ADHD three times before finally getting the right treatment. And now she’s using her superpowers to empower other black women with ADHD through her blog, books and brand, Black Girl, Lost Keys.

In this episode, René shares the struggles she faced as a smart young girl who felt defective because she couldn’t keep her room clean or do her homework. She shares the moment she knew medication was right for her and talks about how getting properly diagnosed with ADHD was critical to her success and happiness in life.

Check out René’s most recent book, Everything You Need to Completely Clean With ADHD.

Do you have a question or comment for us? Email [email protected].

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Ned takes their supplements every day. Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode of Distraction is sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD, formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. Shop online at OmegaBriteWellness.com. That’s B-R-I-T-E, OmegaBriteWellness.com. And by Landmark College offering comprehensive support for students with ADHD and other learning differences. It is the college of choice for students who learn differently, and I have an honorary degree from that college. Learn more at LCDistraction.org.

Rene Brooks:
They wouldn’t stop telling me how smart I was, so I knew it had to have been defective. I must not care, I must not be motivated, I must not want to do these things, maybe I’m just obstinate, I don’t know what the problem is. They’re asking me to do it, I want to do it, but I can’t do it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello and welcome to Distraction. Don’t you just love joining us? I loved having you join us, it’s wonderful to have you with us today. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. You know, I don’t have a sweater that I’m taking off, but it’s wonderful to have you, and it’s wonderful to be alive. Even as we’re living through all the stresses and strains that the glorious year of 2020 has bestowed upon us, at least, right now, we’re all alive and able to listen. I’m able to talk, you’re able to listen and pay some fraction of your attention and I hope I can engage you.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I think I will today because I have an amazing guest. She is a great example of someone who has learned how to harness their ADHD superpowers. Renee Brooks is her name that’s R-E-N-E with an accent, a U over the E. Renee Brooks was diagnosed with ADHD three times, three times, before getting properly treated. Once when she was seven, once when she was 11. You’ve heard that kind of response before, well-meaning, but ill informed. Finally, at age 25, she got diagnosed and properly treated. Now she writes an extremely popular blog called Black Girl, Lost Keys. Isn’t that a great term? Black Girl, Lost Keys. Where she helps empower Black women with ADHD. I think she empowers an awful lot of people including this White man, and teaches them how to thrive. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for joining me, Renee Brooks.

Rene Brooks:
Oh, Ned. It’s an honor. I tell people all the time, when you’re learning about ADHD, you’re bound to run into Ned first when you’re ready to start taking it seriously. So when I got the request, I was like, yeah, of course I’m coming. When? Now.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, I’m honored as well. It’s remarkable, the Black community, in general, has been under served. In part because they’re suspicious of White men like me trying to control them. So there’s been an understandable skepticism and, at the same time, information travels slowly. As you experienced at age seven and 11, there’s a lot of wrong information out there. So there you were, a little girl having the condition, but not being aware of it. So what was it like as a little girl with ADHD, that you didn’t know you had?

Rene Brooks:
It was frustrating, I felt like I couldn’t make anyone happy. I couldn’t keep a clean room, I couldn’t keep a clean desk, I couldn’t get my homework done in a timely fashion. So everywhere I went, I was always faced with this disapproval, and it doesn’t do good things for your self-esteem as a child. Children want to make the people around them happy and know that they’re doing the things that they need to do to make that happen, and it didn’t happen for me.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Say more about that, because I often say to people, you can worry about the side effects of taking medication, which we can control and there can be side effects, but I say, what you really ought to worry about are the side effects of not taking medication. You experienced those side effects as a little girl, correct?

Rene Brooks:
Absolutely, my favorite is when people say, I don’t want my child to get a label. Your child is going to get a label, it can either be ADHD or it can be lazy, unmotivated, stupid, uncaring. They’re going to get one, you want them to have access to the label that’s going to get them the help they need, to get where they need to go.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. Right, exactly. And you didn’t get that?

Rene Brooks:
No. So I underperformed and was frustrated all the way up through college.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And your self-esteem suffered?

Rene Brooks:
Majorly, because you feel like, I’m trying my very hardest, I’m being told that I’m not trying my hardest, which makes me think maybe I’m just damaged, bad, whatever adjective you want to give it. It’s a bad, bad feeling. I see other people who, I know I should be doing as well as, and I’m not and I don’t understand why.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So I just want to underscore that, because it’s so poignant and it is so common. Before I die, I want this never to happen because there you are, with a very diagnosable and treatable condition, and you are feeling, I’m trying my best, but everyone’s telling me I’m underperforming and I know I am underperforming. So maybe I am, then fill in the blank, stupid, lazy, [inaudible 00:06:00], deficit disorder or maybe I just don’t have what it takes in this world. That’s just, and year after year, you felt that way. Right?

Rene Brooks:
Well into adulthood.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Wow, wow.

Rene Brooks:
Well into adulthood and, as the depression got worse and worse, it finally got to the point. By the time I got to the point where I was sitting in that therapist’s office that day, I was on medical leave from work. I was so depressed, I couldn’t get out of bed. It should never have gotten that bad, it didn’t have to get that bad.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Absolutely, you could have been diagnosed and treated at age seven.

Rene Brooks:
And I often wonder, people talk about how remarkable it is to have made a transformation later in life, but what I’m more interested in, whether it’s productive or not is left to conjecture, but I’m very interested in who would Renee Brooks have been, if she had gotten what she needed then? If you think I’m great now, how much greater could I have been if I never went through any of this?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes. I just want our listeners to let that sink in a little bit. Here’s this little girl at age seven, presents for diagnosis and treatment, and it’s all right there, right? You were not a tough kid to diagnose, right? If someone knew what they were doing.

Rene Brooks:
I think that, in and of itself, and it’s funny… If you want to bring it full circle, my mom got diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago. So we were having a talk one day about this particular teacher, it was a second grade teacher, who had spotted this in me. I told her, with the disparity that there is in diagnosing not only Black people, but girls. For her to have cared enough about me and paid enough attention to me, to see what was going on and make that kind of recommendation, that lets me know she was a marvelous educator. My mom looked at me and she was like, Oh my God, I never once thought of it that way. She still saw it as an attack on her kid, and I’m sitting there going, no, she tried really hard to get me help. She was right.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes. Did your mother apologize?

Rene Brooks:
She did, but you know, I’ll tell you, Ned, I don’t feel like my mother owes me an apology because she did what she thought was best at the time. There’s never been a doubt in my mind, she did it to protect me. If we have cultural competency, then we know that Black people have been preyed on by the medical community, we’ve been abused by various systems that are in place, that are supposed to protect us, but often take advantage of us-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So you’re naturally suspicious, yeah. Yeah.

Rene Brooks:
So for her to have snatched her child out of the clutches of that, who could blame her?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Absolutely. She said, you’re not going to label my kid, you’re not going to drug my kid, you’re not going to manipulate my kid in the way you’ve been manipulating black children for so long. In this one particular instance, she was wrong, but like you say, she owes you no apology. Today it’s happening and there’s less excuse today, but it’s still happening. We have the knowledge, but the consumption of the knowledge still lags behind the knowledge. Nowhere is it as true in medicine as it is in psychiatry, that we know so much more than people are using.

Rene Brooks:
Absolutely the truth. That’s another thing, swing back around to it. So I was one of those girls that got overlooked in the ’90s, but there was a young man who lived in my neighborhood, who I was close friends with, and he did have a diagnosis and he was on Ritalin. One of the things that I think genuinely scared my mother, was that she could see the difference in this child’s personality from when he was medicated to when he wasn’t, and he was a different person. I think maybe the dosage was just off, we didn’t know as much then as we do now.

Rene Brooks:
So it was like, there were all these things that were not working in my favor. If someone had taken the time to educate my mother on what ADHD was and what it meant, and what it could mean if I didn’t have access to treatment, I think the story would have been different, but she didn’t have that and no one tried to give it to her. It was just like, Oh, here’s this backwards Black woman, of course Black people don’t want to… That’s the impression that is left with so many people, that Black people are too backwards or too ignorant to know that their children need treatment, and that’s not the case. The case is that we are not being properly informed because people don’t think they need to take the time to inform us.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So say more about that, say more about the Black side of the story. Would it have been different if you were a little white girl?

Rene Brooks:
I don’t know, but I do know that my mother was a single mom, but she co-parented with my… So there were all these things that looked like some sort of stereotype that people are used to seeing. My mother had a solid job, my mother was a rock for our family. My dad is a great guy, we have a wonderful relationship. So they needed it to be a stereotype and it wasn’t one, and she wasn’t going to let them bully her. They thought that they could come in and give her the direction and that she had to take it, and she wouldn’t. So unfortunately, when people think they are in a position of authority, sometimes they can speak to people in ways that they shouldn’t. I’m quite sure, I would put money on the fact that this is how they came at my mother. I’ll tell you, if they came at me like that when I was trying to protect my kids, I can’t say I wouldn’t have make the same decision that she made.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Once again, I want to tell you about the favorite supplement that I take and my wife takes, OmegaBrite. Go to OmegaBriteWellness.com for their fish oil supplement, their omega three supplement, their CBD supplement. They’ve been our sponsor so, of course, I’m going to tell you to go buy their product. But in addition to sponsoring us, they have really helped my health, my wife’s health, and the many of my patients who I’ve encouraged to take the OmegaBrite products. That’s O-M-E-G-A-B-R-I-T-E. Particularly with all the stress we’re feeling these days, the antioxidant effect of OmegaBrite, the anti-inflammatory effect of OmegaBrite is a real stress reducer and health promoter. Omega Brite CBD and omega-3 three supplements are top of the line. You can find all of their supplements online at OmegaBrite, that’s B-R-I-T-E, OmegaBriteWellness.com. Distraction listeners, you can save 20% on your first order of omega-3 and CBD supplements at OmegaBriteWellness.com by entering the promo code Podcast2020. All right, let’s get back to the show.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Once you got the diagnosis, how did your life change?

Rene Brooks:
Oh man, on the blog I have a post that I wrote about the first time that I ever took medication. I was being treated for depression for six months, so they had jumped me around from trying to get me into an antidepressant that would work. I said to my doctor, you know, if this is another six to eight week thing, I’m just not going to do another med like this. I can’t, I don’t have the patience. She said to me, Renee, you’ll know in probably a few hours that this is going to be the right thing for you. My room was always jumbled, and scattered, and disorganized, and I had been working on it here and there for like the better part of maybe two years, trying to get it organized. By the end of the afternoon, I had it done and that’s when I knew, this is the thing, this is what I needed. Medication is not the only tool in the arsenal, but that was when I knew. They were right, it was ADHD. The meds were going to help me fix it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It was like you were given eyeglasses.

Rene Brooks:
Exactly that, for the very first time. It’s funny, if you had known me when I was 25 and 35, now I would never in my life have thought that I would be writing a cleaning book for people with ADHD, and that they would be like, Oh my God, this is so helpful. Because I was a slob, Ned.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It would be like the Pope writing a sex manual, right?

Rene Brooks:
It would have been.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh, goodness me. Well, there you go. You got your eyeglasses, and now your book is called Everything you need to completely clean with ADHD. Wow, what a turnaround.

Rene Brooks:
Every once in a while, I look around and I’m just like, this is a lot different. [crosstalk 00:16:25] be like.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, we should tell our listeners, if they want to get the book or see it, your website is Black Girl, Lost Keys. Those four words, Black Girl, singular, Lost Keys, plural, .com. And your Twitter handle is @BLKGirl, they wouldn’t let her have the AC. So it’s BLKGirlLostKeys. By the way, sometimes people ask for my Twitter handle and it’s @DrHallowell, no period after DR. Just @DrHallowell. I’ll tweet about you and you can tweet about me.

Rene Brooks:
You bet I will. I’m telling you, this is quite something, Ned Hallowell. If you would’ve told me at 25 I’d be sitting talking to Ned Hallowell, I’d have been like, you are a liar.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well Rene, we got to team up and reach all those little girls. Girls and women are the biggest undiagnosed group and, among them, Black girls, I’m sure, are the leading underdiagnosed group for all the reasons you mentioned. Boy, you’re perfectly positioned to change that, and I will help you in every single way I possibly can. Unlike so many diagnoses, this is good news, things can only get better when you find out about it.

Rene Brooks:
And that’s it. People talk about, Oh well, they’re trying to drug you up. First of all, no one told you, you had to take medication to treat your ADHD. Although, I will be honest, I’m very pro-medication, medication changed my life. Coaching changed my life, as well, but it was both of them. It wasn’t one or the other.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But you know, Rene, it’s a lot easier for you to use the coaching if you’re on the medication.

Rene Brooks:
Exactly that, and I always was. That’s the thing, it’s like, in order to absorb information, you have to be able to give it as much attention as you can give it. The medication gave me the opportunity to take in as much as I could.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. It doesn’t make you smarter, but it makes you able to use your smarts more effectively. A lot like eyeglasses.

Rene Brooks:
Absolutely.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. Yeah. So, it’s a multi-pronged approach. You’re such a messenger to these little girls and their parents, because you know firsthand what it’s like not to have the diagnosis, and then what a liberating, uplifting thing it is to get the diagnosis and the treatment that comes with it. What would you say to people who say, I don’t have brain damage, I don’t have this deficit disorder, what would you say to that?

Rene Brooks:
I would tell them that I was in gifted and talented for the vast majority of my school career and I still couldn’t turn my homework in, but I can turn it in now.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. Right. And you were being told to try harder.

Rene Brooks:
All the time because, of course, if I wasn’t performing, it must have been because I was bored because I’m so darn smart. Now we’ve got her in these gifted and talented classes that are really just additional work, if we’re being honest. So now I’m not doing homework in any of those places, and everyone is telling me, look, we know exactly how smart you are, kid. We tested you what’s the problem? How are you supposed to tell a group of adults what the problem is, when you don’t know?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Exactly, then you reach wrong conclusions like you’re not very smart or maybe you’re just defective, you know?

Rene Brooks:
Well, I’ll tell you, they wouldn’t stop telling me how smart I was. So I knew it had to have been defective. I must not care, I must not be motivated, I must not want to do these things. Maybe I’m just obstinate, I don’t know what the problem is. They’re asking me to do it, I want to do it, but I can’t do it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
We are really happy to welcome Landmark College back as a sponsor. It’s my favorite place in the world, as far as a college for kids who learn differently. It is absolutely a pioneer in the field and has set the bar for how to teach, at a college level, kids who don’t do school easily. They find the gifts in these kids, it’s all about finding strengths, not about just about remediating problems. They really get it, and they have the added advantage of being in a beautiful town in Vermont, Putney, Vermont. It is an ideal college for students who learn differently. You could not do better. You’ll come out with confidence, direction, and a real solid sense of what your special talents are. It is the college of choice for students who learn differently, go to LCDistraction.org, to learn more. Such a profound difference between won’t and can’t.

Rene Brooks:
Exactly that. It was like, don’t you think I would rather… No kid wants to be in trouble. I’m not saying that every kid is the same, but what human being in general wants to be in trouble, if they have a method to avoid it? Why would anyone choose to not do their homework and not clean their room? Oh my God, I spent like half of my teen years grounded because my room was messy. Why would anyone choose that? No one chooses that, nonsense.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right, right. Well, look how you turned it all around, and look at what you’re doing now. It’s really impressive. Again, the website is BlackGirlLostKeys.com and the Twitter handle is @BLKGirlLostKeys. Renee Brooks, do you have another book in mind?

Rene Brooks:
I would say, if you’re going to check books out on the store, I’ve got a style guide for ADHD femmes, that is also a lot of fun. There’s that one, I did one about tackling time blindness, that one was a lot of fun. They were just, they’re fun to write, they’re workbooks so they’re fast, they’re colorful, they’re fun. You can pick it up and go any place in the book you want. It’s not something where you have to read from beginning to end, we hate that. I have to write the book, so it has to be interesting to me. So you know it’s going to be generally… We’re not all the same, obviously, but it had to have been interesting enough to me to write it.

Rene Brooks:
So I try to keep it as engaging as I can. Because like, cleaning’s not very interesting, but this is fun. There’s sections in it, and that’s it. You know what it is? When you can succeed at something, it starts to not be so boring. Then it becomes like, okay, here’s this thing that I got to do, but I know I can get it done. It doesn’t feel insurmountable anymore. I don’t have to procrastinate as much because I know I can go in, spend this 10, 15 minutes and at least walk out with something accomplished.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes, yes. Even just the feeling that I accomplished it.

Rene Brooks:
Exactly. Exactly that-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So like, for example, our dishwasher is broken, so after I finish with you today, I’ve got to go down and do by hand a big sink load of dishes, but I’m looking forward to it. I’ll tell you why, because I’m looking forward to the feeling I will have, of having done something concrete of value. Nothing can be more concrete than washing dishes.

Rene Brooks:
You do, you get that it’s right there waiting for you.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah, exactly, exactly. I can either hate it and put it off, and rue the day that I ever bought a dishwasher to break, or go down and plunge my hands into the soapy water and say, all right dishes, you’re not going to defeat me.

Rene Brooks:
That’s the attitude, that’s the way to come at it. But yeah-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s the ADD way. Look at you, look at you, you didn’t give up, you just kept plugging along.

Rene Brooks:
And I think that’s the thing. I think it’s normal for people to get discouraged and take a break, but don’t quit. Just keep going.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. What’s the key to not quitting, do you think?

Rene Brooks:
I don’t know, I wish I did. It’s just one of those things, where I just felt like, if I keep looking for the answer, I’m going to find it. I’ve got to find it because, you know what? It’s funny. I’ll tell you what the key for mine was anyway, my mother might not have gotten me treated for ADHD, but what she did teach me was that happiness was my birthright, but it was also my personal responsibility, that I had to find happiness and nobody else could find it for me. So when I would look at my life, I could say, I’m not happy, therefor I’m not finished yet. I have more work to do here.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, you’ve got many years ahead of you. I’m pretty much twice your age and I wish I could live long enough to see you go all the way. Do you have any immediate goals?

Rene Brooks:
I’ll tell you, this month… Of course you know, it’s ADHD awareness month. So I’m going to be speaking on the 17th at a neuro-diversity conference for Stanford University. I laughed when they called me, I said, you know I couldn’t get in Stanford with the grades that I had.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But with the brain you have, you could get in today.

Rene Brooks:
That’s the thing, my grades couldn’t get me there, but my brain took me there anyway. Isn’t that something?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It just shows how misleading grades can be.

Rene Brooks:
Then there’s that. I think that was it, so much of the grades in school were whether or not you could do the busy work. It didn’t have anything to do with whether or not you’d learned the material.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. No, exactly. Could you memorize and repeat back? We don’t do that well, we like to think, and create, and discover.

Rene Brooks:
Absolutely the truth.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, I can’t thank you enough for joining us. Again, @BLKGirlLostKeys, the Twitter handle and the website, BlackGirlLostKeys.com. Her book, Everything You Need to Completely Clean With ADHD. What an irony that you would end up writing that book and teaching people with ADHD how to clean. And you’ve got another one on how to negotiate another tough topic, time. How we don’t have a sense of time, but you’ve got so much more yet to do in your life, Rene. Thank you, thank you, thank you for joining us and congratulations on having persisted and triumphed.

Rene Brooks:
Ned, thank you so very much. I’ll tell you, this was quite a pleasure. Thank you very, very much for having me.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Thank you, and let’s stay in touch.

Rene Brooks:
Absolutely.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
All right, take care.

Rene Brooks:
Take care.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
All right well, that’s going to do it for today. You can follow Rene’s blog at BlackGirlLostKeys.com and you can find her on Twitter @BLKGirlLostKeys, as well as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, where you can also find us. And you can find me on Twitter @DrHallowell, is the handle. Please continue to reach out to us with your questions, comments, and show ideas. Write an email or record a voice memo on your phone and send it to [email protected] That’s [email protected] You can follow the Distraction podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Give us a like and follow to stay connected with the show.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media, our recording engineer and editor is the amazingly talented Scott Persson, we’re so lucky to have him. Our producer is the also amazingly talented Sarah Guertin, whom we are also so lucky to have. This is Dr. Ned Hallowell, I don’t know how lucky you are to have me, but here I am and hoping you’ll join us next time. That’s it for today. Bye-bye.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. Shop online at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

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From Our ADHD Archives: Women and ADHD Q&A

From Our ADHD Archives: Women and ADHD Q&A

To help celebrate ADHD Awareness Month we’re re-releasing some of the most popular episodes from our first four seasons!

Women and girls with ADHD face a number of unique issues in dealing with their “race car brains.” In this episode from Season 2,  Terry Matlen, ACSW, who specializes in helping women with ADHD, joins Dr. Hallowell to answer questions from our female listeners. Topics include pregnancy and medication, hormones, exercise, toxic relationships, social isolation and much more.

Listen to the second part of this conversation: Women and ADHD Q&A Part 2

Other Links:

ADD Consults website

What Does Everybody Know That I Don’t? by Michele Novotni, PhD

The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus, and Get More Done by Terry Matlen

Survival Tips for Women with ADHD by Terry Matlen

The Hallowell Center 

Do you have a question for Dr. Hallowell about ADHD, or a struggle you are facing? Write an email or record a voice memo with your thoughts and send it to [email protected]. We regularly release listener Q & A episodes!

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

And thank you to our other amazing sponsor, Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. Click HERE to learn more about our the college of choice for students who learn differently. (Dr. H has an honorary degree from Landmark!)

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode of Distraction is sponsored by Omega bright CBD formulated by Omega Brite, wellness, creators of the number one omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. Shop [email protected] That’s B R I T E omegabritewellness.com. And by landmark college offering comprehensive support for students with ADHD and other learning differences. It is the college of choice for students who learn differently. And I have an honorary degree from that college. Learn more at lcdistraction.org

Terry Matlen:
With the right treatment, your life can change. I know that mine changed when I was diagnosed and treated, to such an extreme that that’s why I wanted to be out there helping other women. I can see how quickly and how wonderfully women can improve their lives.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, this is dr. Ned Hallowell for the podcast Distraction. Today, we’re going to devote the episode to women and ADHD. And when I first learned about what was then called ADD in 1981, I was taught that the ratio of males to females was 10 to one. 10 males for every one female. That’s because we weren’t catching onto the fact that girls and women usually don’t have hyperactivity, aren’t disruptive. Quite the contrary. They’re the quiet daydreamer sitting in the back of the room, staring out the window. And they were passed over or dismissed as not very bright or maybe depressed, but they didn’t get their ADHD diagnosed.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, thankfully that has changed in the ensuing however many years is 1981 ago. And one of the leaders in the field today of helping women with ADHD is my long time friend, Terry Matlen. One of the kindest women you’ll ever meet, as well as one of the smartest. She’s, by training, an MSW social worker. And she’s also a psychotherapist, a writer, a coach, a consultant. Her books, plural, the Queen of Distraction and Survival Tips for Women with ADHD, I recommend very highly.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So we are really lucky to have Terry with us today. And we received a bunch of questions from our listeners. And thank you by the way, for writing in with your questions. All right, with that introduction, let me bring Terry onto the line and welcome Terry.

Terry Matlen:
Hello Ned. Thank you so much for inviting me to your very popular podcast. I’m thrilled to be here.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It’s wonderful, wonderful to have you. So how did you get into this line of work? How did a nice girl like you find yourself in a place like this?

Terry Matlen:
Well, I have two daughters and my youngest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD at a very young age. Her story is pretty unique, so I’m not going to get into it, but it’s not the typical story of she was born with ADHD, she had trouble with school, and then all that sort of thing. But suffice it to say that in trying to help her, oh I’d say from the time she was about four, I was learning about ADHD and kids. How can I help? Here I am, a social worker. How do I help this kid who was totally out of control with severe hyperactivity and impulsivity? So along the way is I was reading and reading and reading. In those days, as you know, Ned, this would be early 1990s, there weren’t a lot of books out on ADHD in kids, let alone ADHD in adults.

Terry Matlen:
So I was reading and somehow I came across a book, the only book in the early nineties, I believe, that was out there. And then I read that, and came across your book, which has changed millions of people, which changed my life dramatically. So that’s Driven to Distraction. And reading your book, I’m not quite sure why he picked it up because it was really more about adults, and I didn’t even think I might have ADHD. I just thought I was quirky, that I couldn’t get my life together. Maybe it was because I had two very active kids, one with the ADHD, but your book really changed my life.

Terry Matlen:
And so I read more, as the years went on, more books came out, but yours really is the bible. And then I got evaluated by a local psychologist who happened to specialize in ADHD in adults. And when I was diagnosed and treated for my ADHD, this was back, gosh, over 20, over 25 years ago, I saw how much it changed my life for the better. I never went through the stages that we talk about that many with ADHD do go through with things like grief and loss and anger and all those sorts of things. I took it and I ran with it because of how positive it was for my life. And when I saw how wonderful my life became, well, not bed of roses wonderful, but it changed significantly. I wanted to help other adults with ADHD and that’s how I landed in the field of ADHD.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, thank goodness you did. And then you wrote the books, and then you have a very robust online presence as well.

Terry Matlen:
Yeah, what happened was I got involved, even before the books were written, I got involved with nonprofit organizations like CHADD and Addup and I was very active on their boards. So what happened was people were emailing me from all over the world. And I thought, well, how can I help people who are in Africa or Sweden and Canada, US? So I took everything online and started my website at addcounsults.com. But still I needed more outreach, because I wasn’t giving people what they needed. And because of my passion like yours, I was thinking, what else can I do? What else can I do? Not much of a podcast kind of person. So I started a bunch of groups on Facebook, because Facebook had gotten extremely popular. And I focus more of my work for women with ADHD, so I have one group on Facebook for women that has over 22,000 members. So I really have taken to social media because I think that’s one way that a lot of people can find what you call vitamin C connection online.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. If someone wants to look into those, how do they do it?

Terry Matlen:
If they want to get to the women’s group, Facebook, the URL is facebook.com/groups/womenwithadd. And if that gets to be too confusing, folks can just email me and I can send them in the right direction. My email address is Terry T E R R Y at addconsults.com.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And that’ll take them to your groups?

Terry Matlen:
That’ll take them to that group. I have another group for specifically, for moms with ADD.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Ah, what’s that one?

Terry Matlen:
I don’t have that one in front of me, but I have all kinds of Facebook groups to cover a lot of my bases. I have one for, let’s say for professionals who have ADD, they have their own group of problems that they feel misunderstood. So there’s all kinds of Facebook groups that I run, but this one is the biggest, the one for women. It’s just gone crazy. I’ve gotten about between 25 and a hundred people a day who were trying to join.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What happens you? So you’re in the group. How does it work?

Terry Matlen:
Well, it’s like a support group. I don’t spend a lot of time in the group. I have a large group of volunteers who moderate things to make sure everything stays calm, because imagine being in a room with 22,000 with ADD, I can’t quite handle it myself.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So do people just post comments?

Terry Matlen:
Yeah they post comments. A lot of it has to do with have you experienced this? Am I the only one who can’t handle a conversation at a party? And then other women will jump in and say no, you’re not the only one I have the same problem. So what it does is it validates people’s experiences.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s wonderful. So it’s become a successful business for you.

Terry Matlen:
Yeah. And that’s been a really great outcome of embracing my ADHD. And I think that’s an important message for not just women, but men and women, that you get to a stage, hopefully, in your journey with your ADHD that you can embrace it and take it and run, and use the qualities that are positive and use them to your advantage.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Tim Armstrong, have you ever heard of the company called Oath?

Terry Matlen:
No.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Okay. Oath is the result of the merger of Verizon, AOL, and Yahoo.

Terry Matlen:
Oh, okay.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So those huge companies merged into one called Oath, and Tim Armstrong is their CEO. And he and I have become friends because. He and his wife and I have become friends because Tim has big time ADD. And he’s very proud of it, very open about it. And he is committed to funding and making a documentary with me and his wife based on just what you were saying, the strength-based approach. That you’ll get the best outcome if you own it, embrace it, and manage it, as opposed to hiding it, and we all know the terrible outcomes that can result if you don’t take it seriously. But Tim is, is going to make this wonderful documentary and I think, Terry, it’s a real chance for finally the cloud of stigma to be blown away. And some people misunderstand what people like you and me are saying. We’re not saying ADD can’t be a severe problem. It sure can. It can be horrible. Lives can be ruined. But at the same time, if you learn how to manage it right, it can turn into a tremendous asset.

Terry Matlen:
Well, that’s what it did for me. I Learned what I’m good at. I learned what I’m not good at. I learned to use what I call accommodations, just like we use for kids in school who have special needs in a learning environment. And I bring that into the adult stage of, well, you have a problem with keeping your house together, you have a problem getting your work done at your job. And then you bring in an accommodation, and I emphasize that it’s not a luxury. It’s not a luxury to say have some cleaning crew come into your home, because it might take you 10 days to do what a cleaning crew can do in one hour. And a lot of women feel absolutely horrible about asking for that kind of help. When I reframe it as no, it’s not a weakness at all.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Anymore than eyeglasses are a weakness.

Terry Matlen:
Exactly.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So it’s smart. It’s called working smart instead of just working hard. Well, we’ve received a bunch of questions from our listeners and I thought rather than me answering them, it would be really nice for you to answer them. But before that, we want to take just a moment to hear from our wonderful sponsor Landmark College.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You know, when I was growing up, there weren’t many options for students like me, students who learn differently. Basically we had two diagnoses, smart and stupid, and one treatment plan, try harder. And they’d get you to try harder by punishing you and shaming you. It was, it was a pretty primitive system.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Having ADD and dyslexia, which didn’t have names back then, it made learning a challenge. But as I’ve mentioned on the show before, I was lucky. I had a first grade teacher by the name of Mrs. Eldridge, whom I’ve talked about many times, who helped me simply by putting her arm around me. She didn’t excuse me from reading, but she made a classroom experience without fear, without shame. It was okay to be who I was. I may never have learned how to read where it not for Mrs. Eldridge. I’m still a very slow reader. I have dyslexia, but I’m not the least bit ashamed of it. I majored in English at Harvard and did pre-med. So I’m a slow reader. So what? I can read, that’s what matters.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And that’s one of the things I love about the sponsor of our show, Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. It’s a college full of teachers like my dear old Mrs. Eldritch. They uncover how each student learns best, and then they create an environment to help that student succeed. They truly do teach differently. For those of us who learn differently, we need that. And I couldn’t recommend this school more highly for students with ADHD, ASD, other learning differences, or really any kind of brain.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
To learn more about Landmark College, go to lcdistraction.org. That’s lcdistraction.org. And now back to the show.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Okay. So I’m here with my wonderful friend, the expert on ADD, Terry Matlen. And we’re about to answer some questions from our listeners. And again, thank you so much for sending these questions to us about women and ADHD, or as Terry and I still call it, ADD. Our producer, Sarah Guertin is in the studio with me now, and she’s here to read the questions we received from listeners. Terry, are you ready?

Terry Matlen:
I’m ready.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
All right, let’s go to our first question.

Sarah Guertin:
Okay. Hello everyone. This first question we got comes from Lauren C in Maryland, and she writes, I am 31 years old and was diagnosed with ADD and anxiety at the end of last year, after struggling, primarily with activation and focus my whole life. Since the diagnosis, I’ve been on Adderall and Zoloft. They are working really well. And I am seeing an ADHD coach to improve on habits the medication hasn’t resolved. My question is this, my husband and I are interested in conceiving this year, and I am most concerned about stopping my stimulant medication while pregnant. My main concern is that I will have to endure a year or so of distraction during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Do you have any suggestions for supplements or other medications for ADD that are safe for mom and baby?

Terry Matlen:
Well, I’m going to answer part of it, but I’m going to also defer to Ned because he’s the MD on this team. First of all, a lot of women find that during their pregnancy, their add symptoms improve, and that has to do with the estrogen levels changing, and Ned, you might be able to explain why that is.

Terry Matlen:
But before that, a couple of tips to help you Lauren from Maryland, is to consider exercise. I know that you’ll have to check with your doctor to see what kind of exercise will be beneficial and what will be safe for you during your pregnancy, because obviously towards the end, you’ll want to be careful with that. But there are studies out that show that exercise can be extremely helpful in taming ADHD symptoms. So I know that swimming, a lot of women say that swimming has been extremely helpful with their ADD symptoms and safe for their months in their pregnancy.

Terry Matlen:
Also prenatal yoga classes. They’re out there now. They’re all over the place, and that can help with your focus and calming you down. If you have the hyperactive impulsive component to your ADD, that’s an excellent option for you.

Terry Matlen:
I’ve heard things about neurofeedback, Dr. Hallowell can probably address that better than I can. What I found just in general is meditation. Meditation can calm your mind, so that would be something to look into during the pregnancy. There are brain training courses that will be safe for you during your pregnancy. Again, Ned, I think you can address that better than me.

Terry Matlen:
And you mentioned in your question that you’re working with a coach and I say bravo. That would be a huge help, not only throughout your pregnancy, but now and after you have your child, because we find that working with an ADD coach is like working with a second brain. They help us with the executive functioning that we often lack as adults with ADHD. So I would hope that you continue working with your coach to help you get through some of these things.

Terry Matlen:
Also, maybe working with a CBT, cognitive behavioral therapist. They often can help you with some of the aspects of living with ADHD that can be problematic. So I think those are some of the main things that I think that help you, but also keep it in mind that you may find that while you’re pregnant that your symptoms may actually improve.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. Just to reinforce that a pregnancy is a good treatment for ADD, so you may not miss your medications much at all. I would advise you not to take any medications during pregnancy at all. As for supplements, obviously talk to your doctor, but fish oil is a real good one. We like Omega-Brite, the best O M E G A hyphen B R I T E, ordered online. Fish oil is a real good supplement, but talk to your doctor before you ingest anything. And I would stay off the ADD meds and pregnancy may take care of it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And absolutely echo what Terry said about meditation, physical exercise, yoga. Coaching is absolutely wonderful, whether you’re pregnant or not. But if you work with that coach. The brain training stuff, I don’t think we’re there yet. The best way is just to use your brain, with stimulating conversations, reading a book, crossword puzzles. And neurofeedback, for ADD, I don’t think we’re quite there yet, either. For trauma, yes. Bessel van der Kolk is a big proponent of neurofeedback for trauma. But I think the ones that Terry ticked off are plenty and enough.

Sarah Guertin:
Okay. Now here are two questions from two different listeners, but they kind of go together. Is there any evidence on how hormone changes impact the symptoms of ADHD? For example, many young women take hormonal birth control. Could this cause problems with our ADHD symptoms and or stimulant medication? Regards, Monique. And then Jane asked, I read that the effect of ADD on a woman may change with hormonal changes, such as puberty or, later, menopause. I heard that it could help to have your hormone levels tested, if like me you’re in your late thirties or forties. Do you think there is a hormonal element?

Terry Matlen:
Absolutely. In the work I do, which is probably 99% with women, this is what I’m hearing from puberty on to post-menopausal stages of life. Hormones have a huge, huge effect on symptoms in women. And I think that we’re not doing enough work in explaining this to women, because they’re coming to me distraught at these different areas, different times in their lives of why am I getting worse? Am I developing Alzheimer’s? These are the perimenopausal, post-menopausal women. And even in the younger women, going through puberty, there’s a change in hormones, obviously with that. And because of these changes in hormones, we see an increase in ADHD symptoms.

Terry Matlen:
So we first need to really learn about this, and there’s literature online. Actually, I have a chapter in my book on hormones and women with ADHD. It’s very important to understand yourself. So during all these phases of life, you’ll see a change, often for the worse, I hate to say it. But not every woman has a terrible time with hormonal changes, but we do see fluctuation in how they affect symptomology.

Terry Matlen:
So one thing that I would recommend, even though it wasn’t really asked, but I’m going to offer it anyway, is to start a journal. When do you feel best? When do you feel worse? Is it two weeks before your period? Is it during your period? Is it as you’re entering perimenopause when your estrogen levels drop? Is it certain times during your pregnancy that we kind of alluded to? It’s to really start tracking this down and taking this information to your psychiatrist, but also to your OBGYN, because there are ways to help you during these times in your life when you are struggling.

Terry Matlen:
So absolutely these changes in hormones will often affect how you manage your ADHD, but there are ways to work with it for some women. And again, Ned can address this better than me. For some women that might be adding a anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications during times of change. It can be hormone replacement. Dr. Patricia Quinn talks a lot about using hormone treatment, especially during menopause, perimenopause, to help with some of the cognitive changes.

Terry Matlen:
I get emails all the time from women who really do think they’re losing it, that they’re developing dementia at 40, 45, 50. And we know that statistically, that’s probably not the case, that it’s more likely the ADHD that is affecting you because of the changes in your estrogen levels. So absolutely. It’s a great question. It’s something that women really do need to better understand so that they can take proactive action in helping themselves. So Ned, if you have some more specifics about…

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
No, no, you covered it very well, Terry. Absolutely work with OBGYN, internal medicine, endocrinology, take the hormones seriously and make the proper adjustments.

Sarah Guertin:
The next question. Does it appear that women with ADHD are more isolated socially regardless of treatment? Growing up, I was the only girl I knew diagnosed and I was more tolerated than accepted. That carried into adulthood, and I was in my thirties before I met another woman with ADHD. I find now that the more I open up about it, the more ADHD women I find. Thank you, Sabrina.

Terry Matlen:
Hi Sabrina. If you’re listening to this, your story is not the only story that I’ve heard like this. And I think there’s a number of reasons why women with ADHD feel more socially isolated regardless of treatment. And I think it has partly to do with how girls grow up. And this is from the work from Sari Solden, that is a colleague of Ned’s and mine. And she talks about how girls are taught very, very early on what society’s expectations are of girls and women in this world, whether you have ADHD or not. But we’re taught that we’re supposed to carry a lot of responsibility for keeping the family together, putting meals on the table, having holiday dinners and just making the doctor and dental appointments for our kids. It’s really holding the family together.

Terry Matlen:
I think that’s changed a bit and men are definitely taking on more of the responsibility, but I think girls are still taught from the time they’re little by their mothers, and even in ways that we’re not aware of through media, that this is how girls behave. This is how girls carry on as adult women. So if you feel that you’re falling short because you have an ADHD brain and you’re 30 years old and you just can’t juggle all of these responsibilities, what’s going to happen is you’re often going to feel like you’re different, that you’re out of step, that there’s something wrong with you. There’s something off. And that of course can lead into symptoms of depression and anxiety, and even substance abuse.

Terry Matlen:
So this feeling socially isolated, I think comes from a long history of girls hearing this message and then feeling that they don’t measure up. Because we’re constantly comparing ourselves to our sisters, our mothers, our neighbors, our girlfriends who may have it more together because they don’t have the challenge of living with this ADHD brain.

Terry Matlen:
So I think it really comes from a very early experience that just continues. And especially if you’re late in getting diagnosed and late in getting treatment, that can just be a huge part of your life. And that, again, can change with the right treatment. Your life can change. I know that mine changed when I was diagnosed and treated to such an extreme that that’s why I wanted to be out there helping other women. I can see how quickly and how wonderfully women can improve their lives, so it’s not a lost cause.

Terry Matlen:
There’s another piece to this that I think that’s important. And that is a lot of women and men, it’s not dependent on your gender, have problems with social situations. We don’t always read social things appropriately or correctly. There’s a number of reasons for that. And there’s ways to get help with that. So learning to listen in a more proactive ways can help with feeling more socially in tune with other people.

Terry Matlen:
There’s a really good book out there, Ned I don’t know if you’ve read it, Michelle, Dr. Michelle Novotni, another colleague of ours, wrote this book a number of years ago, but it’s still a fantastic book to read, and it’s titled What Does Everybody Know that I Don’t? And she specifically gets into this feeling of being out of step and how you can relate better to people around you. And once you learn some of these tricks or whatever you want to call them, then you’ll find that you’re not as socially isolated because now you have a toolbox of, well, how do I say hello to people? When do I stop talking? When do I start talking?

Terry Matlen:
And then lastly, it’s finding connections. Dr. Hallowell talks about this all the time, the vitamin C. And as we talked about earlier, finding groups of other women with ADHD so you can see that you’re not alone. And finding me on Facebook or wherever online, reading books and women with ADHD, going to conferences. We didn’t really mention CHADD and ADDA put on fabulous conferences where you can connect with women who have ADHD. And that was also life altering for me, when I found people like me losing things, dropping things, forgetting names after I just met someone, was just life-changing. So connection is the key.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And go to facebook.com/groups/womenwithadd and you’ll get into Terry’s group of adult women who have ADD, and 20,000 members. You’ll get a lot of support, and a lot of knowledge and the vitamin connect, as I say, is the best, the best thing going, and now you can get it online again. facebook.com/groups/womenwithadd to join Terry’s group.

Sarah Guertin:
Okay. Here’s another question from Sabrina. Does it appear that women with ADHD have an increased risk of becoming involved in an either toxic or abusive relationship? Is this more attributable to the ADHD brain overthinking the reasons to justify abusive behavior? Or is it more societal norm driven? You mentioned during your how to ADHD interview last year, Dr. Hallowell, that we are attracted to train wrecks, she quotes, and after coming out of narcissistic abuse, I can not think of a possible bigger train wreck than an abuser.

Terry Matlen:
Well, I think that I love that quote. The being attracted to train wrecks is so true because the ADD brain is always searching for stimulation, stimuli, and being in an abusive relationship certainly does spark that part of our brain that is searching for the train wreck.

Terry Matlen:
But I think there’s more to it than that. I think it has to do with a lot of adults with ADHD have very poor self-esteem. So we might be attracted to people who may not be the healthiest match or us.

Terry Matlen:
If I’m losing my voice it’s because I’m here in Michigan where the weather keeps changing from 40 degrees to below zero. That’s a train wreck, if you want to enjoy that kind of abuse.

Terry Matlen:
But yeah, I think it’s a combination of looking for stimulation of the ADD brain, but also growing up with a feeling of a lack of self-esteem. If you’ve been in your own mind, you’re perceived as someone who has failed in many areas of your life, you haven’t gotten the right treatment, you haven’t gotten the right support. You haven’t had a great relationship perhaps with your parents, or your teachers in school, with peers. Then it kind of sets you up for continuing that type of behavior in your adult relationships the love, romantic relationships.

Terry Matlen:
So it’s something that needs to be broken. And the way to break that is to get the appropriate treatment, seeing a therapist who can walk through your life with you and look at the different things that you’ve done over a lifetime and how to break that, and working on your self-esteem, and talking about the things that you do well and, and focusing on that and putting your energy into the good stuff. So I think it is a combination of those two things.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I’d add a third reason. Most people with ADD are remarkably intuitive and remarkably generous. And so they see into these train wrecks and believe they can help them and save them. And so they go ahead and do it, because they’re so generous. So it’s not a good idea. That’s one time where you want to hold back on your instinct to save. You probably do understand the person, but it usually does not work. It usually, when you become intimate with the train wreck, usually you get hurt. The other person doesn’t get saved.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But I completely agree with Terry on the other two reasons, and to get a coach, a therapist, someone to help you put on the brakes, or get out of the relationship if you’re already in it, and find a healthy relationship, which is, really great when you do it. Well, my sincere thanks to Terry for joining me today. We’ll continue this conversation next time when we’ll answer more of the questions that you listeners have sent into us about women and ADHD. So Terry until next week.

Terry Matlen:
I am. So looking forward to continuing our conversation, Ned, on this very, very important topic. Thank you so much for having me as your guest.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Thank you.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, my sincere thanks to Terry for joining me today. We’ll continue this conversation next time, when we’ll answer more of the questions that you listeners have sent into us about women and ADHD. It’s so great to hear Terry’s thoughts and to hear her. I mean, you can just hear in her voice what a calming wise woman she is. It’s really fun for me to listen and know the knowledge she’s imparting comes wrapped in kindness and experience. If you’d like to learn more about Terry Matlen and her work, just click the link in the episode description, or go directly to her website, ADD consults that’s plural, addconsults.com.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Remember to like Distraction on social media. We’re trying to beef that up. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast wherever you listen so you never miss one of our lovely episodes. And please let us know how we could make them even better. I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell. Thank you so much for joining me. Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our recording engineer and editor is Scott Person. The wonderful Scott Person. And our producer is the also wonderful, talented Sarah Guertin. I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell saying goodbye for now.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was sponsored by Omega-Brite CBD, formulated by Omega-Brite Wellness, creators of the number one omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. Shop online at omegabritewellness.com.

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ADHD in Women and Girls Is Often Overlooked

ADHD in Women and Girls Is Often Overlooked

The largest undiagnosed group of people with ADHD is women and girls. Girls who are underachieving are often mislabeled as anxious, depressed or not smart because their symptoms are frequently harder to detect. This causes damage to their self-esteem and relationships, and overall missed opportunities in life.

In this mini Dr. H shares the good news that even women who get diagnosed later in life can mitigate the damage that has been done and reshape their lives.

Do you have a question for Dr. Hallowell about ADHD or a struggle you are facing? Write an email or record a voice memo with your thoughts and send it to [email protected]. We regularly release listener Q & A episodes!

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

And thank you to our other sponsor, Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. Click HERE to learn more about our the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode of Distraction is sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at omegabrite.wellness.com and by Landmark College offering comprehensive support for students with ADHD and other learning differences. Learn more at lcdistraction.org. Landmark College, the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, and welcome to Distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. Today, I want to talk to you a little bit about an often overlooked group, girls and women with ADHD. In fact, the single biggest undiagnosed group are adult women with ADHD followed closely by younger women, also called girls, who have ADHD. Why are they overlooked and why is it important not to overlook them?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
They’re overlooked because they’re not disruptive. In general, they do not have hyperactivity. They might have hyperactivity, just like boys might not have hyperactivity, but in general, it is the males who are the disruptive ones, who overturn desks and get into trouble, conduct problems in the like, and the girls and the women tend to be the quiet daydreamer. They don’t bother anybody. They’re lost in their thoughts. They’re staring out the window. They’re counting the specks of dust in the shaft of light that comes in through the window. They are perfectly happy in the classroom but if you ask them, “What’s it like to be in the classroom?” They’ll tell you, “Oh, it’s fine, I’m almost never there,” because their mind is wandering around the universe, catching butterflies and imagining all sorts of beautiful things.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
If you want an example of a famous person who I’m pretty sure has this condition, Emily Dickinson, arguably America’s greatest poet of all time and the way she wrote, you can just see her ADD. She talks about mercury rolling on the floor and it’s the mind of ADD dispersing in different directions, like little balls of mercury if you’ve ever dropped mercury out of a thermometer.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Girls and women need this diagnosis because typically they’re underachieving and they may be doing very well, but they’re still underachieving and whatever underachievement is present, if they actually do go for help, they’re often labeled anxious or depressed or not very smart or ditsy, these pathological adjectives, demeaning adjectives that get applied to females more than males. And it’s just a shame because when I see these women and I reframe their entire life, I say, “In fact, you’re very smart, you’re very creative, you’ve got a lot going on. You’re anything but not smart, you’re anything but dull, you’re anything but these adjectives that have been applied to you,” they start to cry because they know I’m right and finally, they’re recognized. Finally, they’re seen for who they are.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Now, if it happens as it did in my own daughter’s case, in the second grade, that’s great because no damage has been done but if it happens at age 45 or 50, as many of my adult female patients are, a lot of damage has been done. Damage to self-esteem, damage to career plans and hopes, damage to relationships, damage to the world of opportunity. But it’s never too late. Never, never, never too late to get diagnosed and that damage can largely be mitigated and re-reshaped into a wonderful career or a wonderful relationship or a wonderful sense of self, the adventure of life.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And you can start writing poems, or you could start a business as many of my patients do. That’s why this diagnosis is such good news. So whenever you see someone under achieving, not living up to potential, regardless of what their actual achievement level is, as I say, you could be top of your class, or seemingly doing very well. Look a little bit more deeply and if they’re struggling to stay focused, if they’re struggling to stay on track, if they’re struggling to get their act together, so to speak, think of ADHD because the intervention, the treatment can make a world of difference, can absolutely and dramatically change a life tremendously for the better.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
As I say, the largest undiagnosed group are adult women and girls with ADHD because they’re not disruptive usually. They’re the daydreamer, the serene lost in their thoughts, Emily Dickinson kind of ADHD. She had the great line, “I heard a fly buzz when I died.” That’s so typical of ADD that she would put those two together, “Because I could not stop for death, death kindly stopped for me.” These lines that are eternal, thanks to Ms. Dickinson, are spun out of the ADD mind that we really owe it to women and girls to identify, diagnose, and provide the help that will allow them to develop their full potential.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well I want to, once again, thank you to our sponsor OmegaBrite Wellness. I’ve been taking their Omega-3 supplement for years, and recently started their CBD supplement as well. OmegaBrite products, I trust them because I know the woman who’s in charge of the company, Harvard Medical School graduate. She’s very fussy about quality, efficacy, and is always looking to make sure that the product she has is the best in the business.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And distraction listeners can save 20% off their first order with the promo code PODCAST2020 at omegabritewellness.com. Well, those are my thoughts for this week. Please share your thoughts with us at [email protected] That’s the word [email protected] Your ideas for shows, your questions, your comments, anything you might want to say, we love to hear from you. Love, love, love to hear from you. And have you followed us on social media yet? You can find Distraction on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, we’re really trying to beef that up and remember to subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts so you never need to miss an episode. We hope you’ll do that and tell your friends about us please, we’re trying to grow every day.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Scott Persson, that’s with two ss’s, is our recording engineer and brilliant editor and our producer is the ever creative and always industrious Sarah Guerton. I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell saying goodbye for now.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at omegabritewellness.com.

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An ADHD Coach Helps You Live A More Fulfilling Life

An ADHD Coach Helps You Live A More Fulfilling Life

One of the strength-based approaches to managing ADHD that Dr.H frequently recommends is to hire a coach. This week fellow ADHDer Alex Hey, the founder of Reset ADHD, shares what led him to start his own coaching practice for teens and adults, how religion played a part, and the sleep formula he’s developed to help his clients fall asleep faster.  

Links mentioned in this episode:

Reset ADHD

David Giwerc’s ADD Coach Academy 

Share your episode ideas and questions with us! Write an email or record a voice memo with your thoughts and send it to [email protected].

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode of Distraction is sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD, formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. Shop online at omegabritewellness.com, that’s B-R-I-T-E, omegabritewellness.com. And by Landmark College, offering comprehensive support for students with ADHD and other learning differences. It is the college of choice for students who learn differently. And I have an honorary degree from that college. Learn more at lcdistraction.org.

Alex Hey:
So that’s the approach I take with ADHD coaching, is if instead of admitting defeat to ADHD, you hit the reset button and start again with some fresh strength-based strategies and hopefully can live a more fulfilling life.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, this is Dr. Ned Hallowell and welcome to Distraction. Today I’m going to be talking to a fascinating man whose name is Alex Hey, but that’s spelled H-E-Y because it’s German, he told me. He is a ADHD coach and started an organization called Reset ADHD in 2018. He’s only 27 years old, but he’s lived a long life. He lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And if you go to YouTube, you can watch a wonderful bit that I just watched myself. But I’d like him to tell us his story. So I’m just going to welcome you, Alex, to Distraction. Tell this audience how you got into the world of coaching and how you found out about ADHD.

Alex Hey:
Yeah, so I was diagnosed at the age of 20. I’ve always had issues paying attention and whatnot, but what really came to the forefront at the age of 20 was I was in a chapel praying one day and wasn’t able to focus. My faith is really important to me and I felt like a fraud because if I can’t focus on one of the most important things in my life, what’s that say about my faith? So that really crushed me. I left the chapel that day thinking, “Something’s got to change here, so I got to figure out what’s going on.” That’s when I got a diagnosis for ADHD. A few years of studying that on the side and in my free time turned into a passion for studying it, which turned into a book, which turned into me having this passion for helping others with ADHD. And that’s when I founded ADHD coaching.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You wrote a book about it.

Alex Hey:
Yeah.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What’s the name of your book?

Alex Hey:
Catholicism and ADHD: Finding Holiness Despite Distractions.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh, that sounds fascinating. How did you tie the two together, Catholicism and ADHD?

Alex Hey:
It was just all the challenges you face in your daily life with ADHD also comes to a head when you’re trying to pray and trying to grow in holiness while you’re having ADHD. So it was just the two together. It was really important to me to find a way to manage my own faith life if having ADHD. That’s what inspired me to write the book, is there wasn’t a book out there about ADHD and Catholicism. So I wrote one.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s wonderful. One of the challenges in life with ADHD is feeling separate, apart and alone. As I told you before we went on the air, I am an Episcopal, which is similar to Catholic. We just don’t have a Pope. So I think of the Holy Spirit as my friend who’s always with me, the father, son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the messenger and the healer. And despair is the sin against the Holy Spirit because you shut out the message of good news. I think for us with ADHD, if we happen to have a belief system like that it can be very helpful to just know, whether you’re paying attention or not, the Holy Spirit is there with you. You’re never alone.

Alex Hey:
Absolutely. I think that’s a great way of putting it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I’ll have to get your book. Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve heard someone try to integrate those two topics and they’re both very important to me as well. I’m so glad you did that. You were only 20 something when you wrote this?

Alex Hey:
Yeah. So trying to think when I officially started it. I officially started writing it in 2017. So I’d have been 24 when I started writing it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Wow. And it got published?

Alex Hey:
I self published it, but-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh, good for you. So I could find it on Amazon though?

Alex Hey:
Correct, yeah.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And then you went to a David Quirk’s Coaching Academy. Is that correct?

Alex Hey:
That is correct. Learned a lot there.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Tell us about that.

Alex Hey:
Well, when I was looking for ADHD coach training, I saw the ADD Coach Academy and it seemed like a really good institution. So I went there, took almost every class they offered and the only one I didn’t do is the family program that they have. But I did Simply ADHD, Personal Transformation, Basic Coaching, Advanced Coaching. Learned a whole lot there. Really changed my life. Met some great people through that. Met my mentor coach through the ADD Coach Academy. So lots of good experiences there. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I agree with you. David Quirk is really a pioneer in the world of coaching and just a mensch, to use a Yiddish term. You now do a full-time practice. Is this your job, your full-time job?

Alex Hey:
Yeah, this is what I do. I made my office in my house. Looking to grow my practice, so if anyone out there is looking for a coach…

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
How would they reach you?

Alex Hey:
They can go to my website, Reset ADHD. Or they can find me on all the social medias at Reset ADHD.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And that’s R-E-S-E-T, resetadhd.com. And obviously you do the coaching over Zoom or over telephone?

Alex Hey:
Yeah. I use Skype, FaceTime, the phone.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Do you have a philosophy of coaching? Or you just tailor it to the individual need of your client?

Alex Hey:
Oh, I mean, a lot of it is individualized, but the name of my practice is Reset ADHD. And where that comes from is I used to play video games a lot when I was younger. When I would be playing my brother, when we were little, he would always be kicking my butt at whatever sports game we were playing and I’d want to quit at halftime. He’d try and convince me to keep playing. He found a way to manipulate me into keeping playing and the game would never get better at halftime. So what I would want to do is I’d want to hit the reset button on the N64 and so the game would start over. Because if the game didn’t end, I didn’t lose. So that’s the approach I take with ADHD coaching, is if instead of admitting defeat to ADHD, you hit the reset button and start again with some fresh strength-based strategies and hopefully can live a more fulfilling life.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Absolutely. The strength-based is so key. Do you coach all ages?

Alex Hey:
Teens and adults.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It’s usually not terribly helpful if they’re younger than that, I think. I mean, little guys and girls get the coaching from their teachers and their parents. But I think as you get older, your parent… I only think of coaching is what a parent would do minus the nag factor, you know?

Alex Hey:
Yeah.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Once again, I want to tell you about the favorite supplement that I take and my wife takes, OmegaBrite. Go to omegabritewellness.com for their fish oil supplement, their omega-3 supplement, their CBD supplement. They’ve been our sponsor so, of course, I’m going to tell you to go buy their product. But in addition to sponsoring us, they have really helped my health, my wife’s health and the many of my patients who I’ve encouraged to take the OmegaBrite products. That’s O-M-E-G-A-B-R-I-T-E. Particularly with all the stress we’re feeling these days, the antioxidant effect of OmegaBrite, the anti-inflammatory effect of OmegaBrite is a real stress reducer and health promoter. OmegaBrite CBD and omega-3 supplements are top of the line. You can find all of their supplements online at OmegaBrite, that’s B-R-I-T-E, omegabritewellness.com. Distraction listeners, you can save 20% on your first order of omega-3 and CBD supplements at omegabritewellness.com by entering the promo code, podcast 2020. All right, let’s get back to the show. So are you working on another book maybe?

Alex Hey:
Not at the moment. Just did a bunch of research into ADHD and sleep, which turned into some YouTube videos, but-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh, great. Wonderful. What did you find? It’s a problem. Most people with ADD have trouble going to sleep. Then they have trouble waking up.

Alex Hey:
Yeah, so that’s one of the things I found. I came up with a sleep formula to help you fall asleep.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh, what is it? Share it, please.

Alex Hey:
It’s in bed, plus feeling tired, plus a calm mind, equals sleep. You need to physically get into bed.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
How do you achieve that third one?

Alex Hey:
A calm mind?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah.

Alex Hey:
You have to find something to focus your brain on, but not something so exciting that it energizes. But just something calm and relaxing so you can stop thinking about X, Y or Z that’s spinning around your head. So getting outside of your own thoughts and just focusing on something external. One of the things I do is I listen to a podcast called Sleep With Me. And if I’m not mistaken, you featured them on this podcast before.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yes. That’s wonderful. So Sleep With Me helps you go to sleep.

Alex Hey:
Yeah.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You don’t have a romantic partner that you sleep with?

Alex Hey:
No, I don’t.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Because that could also make it easier if you’re not… But when you’re sleeping alone, it’s easy to get lost in your negative thinking, if you’re not careful. On this podcast I talked about the default mode network, which is the negative thought generator that we have in spades, we people with ADD, when our imagination becomes our enemy instead of our ally. One of my mantras is never worry alone. Well, if you’re in bed by yourself, you’re going to be worrying alone. But that’s where the Holy Spirit can help you out, if you access it, or your idea of focusing on something neutral to try to engage, that will shut down the default mode network.

Alex Hey:
Yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The role of medication? Do you use medication or do you control your distractibility without medication?

Alex Hey:
I use Concerta.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Uh-huh (affirmative), good medication. For listeners, Concerta is methylphenidate, long-acting methylphenidate. It was the first long-acting stimulant developed by scientists at MIT. Before Concerta we only had the immediate, really short-acting, lasts about four hours. So patients were left saying, “Well, how am I supposed to remember to take the pill that’s supposed to help me to remember to take the pill?” But when Concerta came in, that all changed. So you could have a medication that would last all day. Of course then, when it wears off, you’re left with your homework if you’re a kid. So I usually add a short-acting Ritalin, what I call the homework pill. So you take, let’s say, 36 milligrams of Concerta in the morning. It lasts until around four o’clock in the afternoon. Then you take 10 milligrams of Ritalin to get you through your homework. And then you go to bed. But you don’t take a second… You don’t take a homework pill?

Alex Hey:
No, I don’t take a homework pill. I just stick with 54 milligrams in the morning.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
54, that’s a good number. Concerta is so weird. It comes in these multiples of nine. It comes in 18, 27, 36, 54, 72, but I don’t know why they did it that way. Okay, joining me now is Professor Christie Herbert of Landmark College, our wonderful sponsor in beautiful Putney, Vermont. Professor Herbert has worked with students with ADHD for 35 years and has also trained teachers on how to work effectively with students with ADHD and other learning differences. She is a Professor of Fine Arts at Landmark and most recently coordinated the college’s Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art. Welcome to our podcast, Professor Herbert.

Christie Herbert:
Thank you. Good to be here.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So tell us what you do, please.

Christie Herbert:
I teach at the college and as people may or may not know, Landmark College is specifically geared toward students who learn differently or, as we like to say, who are neuro-divergent. So the bulk of my responsibilities are to design curriculum and deliver curriculum and work effectively with students as both a professor and as an advisor.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What do you do differently than, say, they do at Amherst or Colby or Harvard or neuro-typical colleges?

Christie Herbert:
Well, I like to think that first and foremost, when I’m teaching, I’m not making judgements about what’s happening with the students. I’m being very patient and thinking a lot about communicating as clearly as possible and being structured in a way that will help them be successful. So for example, this morning I was teaching and I was working with students to prepare for an upcoming, specifically, I was teaching a ceramics course and I gave them a log in which to draw pictures of all of the ceramics they were planning to glaze. I very methodically went over, here are some of your choices and got them excited about it.

Christie Herbert:
And then I paused a moment and said, “So this is also going to help you with your executive functioning.” And I asked them why that was and what would be useful about doing this, how might they use it, what is irritating about it. So in a sense, one thing that might be different about what I’m doing from other colleges is inserting this meta conversation that helps students think about, how am I going to do the best I can here academically and otherwise? How can I think about this? How can I develop my abilities to be as successful as I can?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s because you understand the obstacles they face so well and teachers at other colleges don’t, because they don’t really understand the kinds of different brains that we have. We could go on and on, but this is a tease just to get people more interested in Landmark College, which actually I have an honorary degree from.

Christie Herbert:
Yes, we love it!

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I love Landmark College. It is the best of its kind. And if you want to learn more, please go to lcdistraction.org, that’s lcdistraction.org. Landmark college, the college for students who learn differently. Thank you so much, Professor Christie Herbert.

Christie Herbert:
Thank you. Appreciate it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
What is your feeling about the way ADHD is regarded these days? Do you think stigma is subsiding and the strength-based approach is coming to the fore?

Alex Hey:
I think so. I think we’re getting there. I think still it’s a little hard for people to take ADHD seriously. I think sometimes in the media it’s portrayed as a joke and that’s not helpful.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right. No, it is portrayed as a joke. People just don’t understand it. If they understood it and didn’t dismiss it, they could really get a lot of help, because a lot of people have it and don’t know it, particularly high achieving people. People who are at the top of their game doing great, they don’t realize that they could do even better, get more done with less effort if they got their ADHD diagnosed and treated. So the high achievers and the women, females, the biggest undiagnosed groups. The people who are in school, they think you have to be failing to get diagnosed. And it’s just not true.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I graduated with high honors from Harvard while doing pre-med and I’ve written 20 books and I’m small potatoes compared to some people who have this condition. Nobel Prize winners with it. It is absolutely, doesn’t have to be associated with failure, although it can be. That’s why it’s so important to get it dealt with. If you deal with it, things can only get better. One of the key elements of dealing with it is what you’re doing, Alex, coaching, resetting ADHD. I love that, Reset ADHD. Well, do you have any final thoughts or comments you’d like to share with the listeners?

Alex Hey:
No. I mean, I do want to echo what you just said about the high achievers. I think one of the reasons I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 20, is I was smart and was getting by in school. I just want to echo that it doesn’t mean you’re stupid or anything like that. And if you think you might have ADHD, but you’re doing okay in school, it’s still a possibility.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Absolutely. And you’re living proof of it. So am I. Well, listen, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m very impressed with your story and what you’ve done. Listeners, go to resetadhd.com or find Alex at Reset ADHD on social media. He’s a tremendous resource if you’d like someone to coach you. I can tell just by talking to him over the telephone. He has a very calm, steady way about him, which you want in a coach. And that’s terrific, Alex Hey, but remember, it’s spelled H-E-Y. Thank you so much for joining us, Alex and good luck with Reset ADHD and resetadhd.com.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Okay, listeners, please reach out to us with an email or record a voice memo and send it to [email protected] That’s [email protected] Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is the wonderful Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer and editor is the equally wonderful Scott Persson with two s’s. I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell saying goodbye for now.

The episode you just heard was sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD, formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. Shop online at omegabritewellness.com.

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