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Living With Adult ADHD - Danny's Interview - Part 1 of 4 - 070

adhd interviews podcast May 12, 2020

Are you someone who struggled with ADHD your whole life and finally received a diagnosis later in life?  If so, then you're not alone.  Today I'm interviewing Danny, a writer and director whose story is similar to a lot of folks.

We met at a local ADHD MeetUp group back in 2013 and have been friends ever since.

He’s come a long way, and I want you to hear from him how ADHD almost ruined his life, and he overcame his depression and addictions by working on unique ways to retrain his brain.

In this first part (Part 1 of 4), we discuss Danny’s childhood, how he discovered his ADHD later in life and what cognitive hyperactivity can look like.

Let’s jump right in. The conversation starts with Danny describing himself as we chat a little about our MeetUp days…

Developing your Executive Function Skills and shifting your limiting beliefs is the fastest and most effective way to overcome ADHD limitations, find focus, gain confidence, and newfound freedom in your life!

My mission is to put an end to the worldwide needless suffering of adults with ADHD and those with under-developed Executive Function Skills - whether from ADHD, chronic depression or anxiety, trauma, addictions, or chronic illnesses.  And, you don't need a formal diagnosis to know you need help developing these executive function skills in order to greatly reduce your suffering.


Full Episode Transcript Dr B: Hey, ADDers. Are you someone who struggled with ADHD your whole life and finally received a diagnosis later in life? If so, you're not alone. Today I'm interviewing Danny, a writer and director whose story is similar to a lot of folks. We met at a local ADHD meetup group back in 2013 and we've been friends ever since.

He's come a long way, and I wanted you to hear from him on how ADHD almost ruined his life, and he overcame his depression and addictions by working on unique ways to retrain his brain. In this first part, Part 1 of 4, we discuss Danny's childhood, how he discovered his ADHD later in life, and what cognitive hyperactivity can look like.

Hi, I'm Dr B. Let's jump right in. The conversation starts with Danny describing himself as we chat a little about our meetup days.

Danny: I am a 49 year old male with ADHD, but I didn't-- I've had it my whole life, but I didn't get diagnosed until I was 43 years old.

Dr B: Your journey is really amazing to me because you're someone who got diagnosed later in life. You came to the meetup group and you didn't... you were really depressed. It was really bad. You didn't know there could be anything good. Cause it was a pretty helpless state that you came that I didn't know that the night you came and then–

Danny: Even you have said that you saw that I was not in a good place. Right? Like…

Dr B: No, it was really clear where you were sitting in the back, kind of isolating yourself that... you know, I'm not going to say you are a spectator, but it's almost like you were coming there to see what the meeting was about and if there was something there for you and you were just going to kind of hang back and you were going to listen and see what you heard because your energy wasn't really engaged.

And it was engaged when you came up to me at the end of the meeting and you talk to me about wins, what's this thing about wins? Where can I read more about wins or learn more about wins? Which, you know, I feel like I was scratching my head if I didn't do it physically, it felt like that emotionally, and it's like, where could he learn more about wins?

Well, at that time, which is really different than now, like now I hear people talking about wins everywhere. Like everything I listened to, wins, wins, wins, wins. And, but seven years ago, I didn't hear anybody talking about wins. And so there was no place for me to tell you to go read a book or listen to something.

And at that time I hadn't even started my podcast. And so, it's like what they say in recovery: keep coming back. Because this is where you're gonna learn about wins, you know, and learning what wins was. Learning it was doable. Learning that it made sense to you and you took it on. So maybe we transition to you now talking about what your journey is, because this is kind of my perspective of going from being in such a low place when I first met you to a place where... it may not be everything you want at this point, or maybe it is?

Danny: Oh no, it isn't.

Dr B: I didn't figure, I'm not assuming, but certainly a far cry from where you started. And exponentially growth, taking on new ways of trying it, doing it. It's like you are at least open to doing certain things to prime the pump, to try certain things. Then we stopped doing that. The meeting changed all that, but you kept going. You found other groups. You got into writing groups. You continue to pursue it.

And you grew. You grew into what you want to be doing.

Danny: That's the whole point.

Dr B: It's a huge win in my eyes. So what was it like for you? Cause this is my perception of your journey. What was the journey like for you, Danny?

Danny: So I want to just take a step back and say that like there are things I know about ADHD now and like... I did not... I did not know before I was even diagnosed. Right. Like, so I grew up in a household where my youngest, I have five brothers, six boys by two. Like my biological father, my mom had four sons by him. They got divorced when I was like seven and she had two more children. Okay. Well, my youngest biological brother has the most severe case of ADHD I think I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of people over the years.

He was sort of like stereotypical bouncing off the walls, hyperactive kid, like he put the age in ADHD. Like he routinely broke bones, like he did constant daredevil stuff and he was a huge behavioral problem. When my parents got divorced, my mom initially got custody of us. And my brother, I just remember like him being explosively angry and yelling, " I want my dad! I wah!" And being the, like, just hyper-disruptive. And I mean, he was too young to really understand everything. But like that's what I grew up with. And he was not diagnosed through school years, but later on, like whenever anyone would say the word hyperactive or anything like, I'm like, that's my brother.

Like that was just him. So like, because I was never that, because I was never outwardly hyperactive and bouncing off the walls and, and, and that kind of thing, I didn't ever, ever, ever remotely think that I could ever have ADHD. Like that was just not even... Even after when I was like in my twenties when, you know, it was becoming, like my nephew got diagnosed with ADHD and my nephew was very similar to my brother.

So that like, I mean, he would do, my nephew would do stuff with like break Christmas tree ornaments or, or do stuff that like wouldn't really have a rhyme or reason, but like, so that's what I thought ADHD was. I didn't know. I did kinda know that my brain never stopped working. Like I knew stuff like that, but I didn't know. I didn't have a name for it. I didn't have Anything.

Also, I was always kind of depressed, like not in any sort of like suicidal way, but I was always, it's what I called a realist, right? Like I always kind of looked on the negative side. I always kind of was attracted to sort of darker stories from history. Like human nature is awful, you know, that kind of thing.

I was not an optimist; like I was... what I would say now is I always had some sort of low- grade depression through my entire life. Like…

Dr B: Which from a psychology perspective, I mean, if we're going to use a term for it, they would call it like a "negativity bias." It's like the lens that you look through was negative.

Danny: Yeah, sure. But I also do think that there was, it wasn't just, I don't feel like it was just a thought disorder with me. It was more of a mood disorder.

Dr B: I'm not saying it's a thought disorder. It's, that's a term that would be used for someone who, that's how they see the world. That's how they feel into the world. That's how they experience it. It's just negative.

Danny: Sure.

Dr B: Go ahead.

Danny: I wouldn't say it was exclusive and I never, I don't, I think when people hear the word depression, they think certain things, but I feel like with me, it was always low key and it was like, always enough because it wasn't a problem because I still, you know, had fun, had friends, like I did experience, I would I don't know if I experienced joy, like I wouldn't say that.

Dr B: Right.

Danny: When I did, like I laughed. I had, you know, like, but it was definitely constant. Like it was definitely always enough to, it could be a problem, but I didn't know it. Right.

Dr B: And what's interesting too to me is. It's easy to hear how you could have been missed because the models you had for [00:11:00] ADHD were people that were hyper, people that were volatile.

All these other things that you're describing. Sure. And your depression. Which even if you had been working with someone, if they saw you come in and you were in a state where you were more upbeat, or you were describing your life, and it's like, yes, she went out with friends and yes, you had a good time and you laughed and you did this and that, and then you sat there and you told them you were depressed and they would doubt it.

Many, not all, but many of them–

Danny: Oh, I personally would doubt it. Like, yeah, yeah, yes. So I think that like if I flash forward, like I had issues in school that were like, I never really did my homework. Like I never really, but, I think that like there's a pretty strong [00:12:00] hedonistic streak in a lot of like my brothers that I think I also had, and so like I would rather sort of come home from school and just watch cartoons and like do stuff rather than anything that felt like work. Which became problematic, but I think was probably in retrospect, symptoms of bigger issues that were not getting, or that were completely falling through the cracks.

And so it's really crazy that it was someone, a lifelong friend of mine who... it was an outsider looking in who first gave me the impetus to say, "I think you have a problem." Right? So. I don't want to use names like'cuz I talk to these people. So like my friend who I knew from community college, like for [00:13:00] years, I was like, we were in our early forties and she came down from Northern California to visit me and after a week together, and she was starting to study some stuff, but she... so like... we had spent the week together and she was about to leave, and she said, "I need to do my laundry." Like I was like alright, well let me finish my laundry first. And she was staying in the master bedroom in my bedroom and I was sleeping downstairs, but that was where my clothes were. So I finish my laundry, and I have it all laid out on the bed in the bedroom, getting ready for the fold it to put it away and stuff.

And this was in the morning, and so she's doing her own laundry and when she finishes her laundry, we go out for the day. We come home in the evening and she goes up to go to bed and she yells down, "I thought you did your laundry?!" The whole entire bed was covered with mounds of my clean clothes that I failed to fold, failed to put away, and I would…

And it just completely slipped my mind altogether. And she was like, what were you doing up there the whole time? Like in the hours where I was doing my laundry, what were you doing? And I re, I just remembered that like...I was, I started to fold the laundry and I, something in my brain said, I gotta go check my email.

I never came back. Like it didn't cross my mind. And like for me, if I didn't have a house guest, what would have happened was 11 o'clock at night rolls around, I go to go to bed and I see all that laundry there. I would just, go... Oh, I thought I did that or something and I would just get off the bed and go to bed.

Right. Well, because I had someone who needed the bed, like was there to say, how do you live like this? So, but she was leaving the next morning and we had breakfast together and she broached the topic and said, "You know, I think you have some attention deficit problems. Have you ever looked into that?"

And we talked a little bit and she's like, I've observed you all week long. That was just one incident. She pointed out some other things that I don't remember now, but like it gave me... And she did it, like, not in a judgmental way. She was like, "I think you're not living your best life. And I think you have these issues."

And I did fight it. Like I'll admit that like, cause she knows my brother ---- and she knows that he's a drug addict and like all of this stuff.

And she, I was like, that's ADHD. And then I would point other people out in my life that she knows. I would say that's ADHD. This is not ADHD. Right. I don't even know if I said, this is not ADHD. I just, you know, that was the gist of what I like. So I immediately went to the library and I got an audio book.

Right? You know, like, I did have, I've always had issues with reading lifelong. Like I'm a lifelong reader. It's just, I read so slow and... I have talked to you about this many times. What happens with me is that all be reading along and I'm engaged and engaged and somewhere in my head, something happens and I start, I disappear from the page.

Like my eyes are still following along and I'm still turning pages. But my mind, my thoughts are completely somewhere else. And like, because I have a brain that doesn't stop, I don't always know that my attention isn't there. Right?, but what'll happen is I'll wake up at the page and I'll have no idea how I got to this point in whatever I'm reading, right?

I'll go, all of a sudden I'll go, wait, how did they make, how did they get from that to here? And I'm like, Oh, I lost the thread. Like I don't, I don't know. And then what happens is I have to back up to the last place I remember. And sometimes it's two or three pages and I'll have to start reading over again.

Dr B: Right.

Danny: And it makes for like, I never did the reading all [00:18:00] throughout high school, college. Like I never did all of it cause I couldn't. Like I literally, I had to get by with whatever I could do. But I never sought help for any of that because I thought I'm just a slow reader, or like it never occurred to me that that's a disorder or that's part of a disorder.

I never sought help. I never told anyone, which is maybe my mistake, but it was a struggle. Reading was always a struggle, and so I didn't ever do all of it.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. I'm in my kitchen doing dishes with the CD on in the background and like I'm cleaning up and I just... I stopped because everything I was hearing described was me. And he didn't, this author didn't concentrate on the behavioral aspects, didn't concentrate on the [00:19:00] hyperactivity, and it was the first time I learned that everyone gets the diagnosis of ADHD, even if you don't have the H.

Dr B: Right.

Danny: But he made it clear to me that my hyperactivity manifests in a very different way than my brothers. Right, that like it... yes, it is for me. And I think, I think a lot of people would be exhausted living in my head. Like…

Dr B: It's cognitive hyperactivity is what it is.

Danny: Sure. Yeah. So like, from the time I wake up in the morning, maybe like five or 10 minutes after I wake up, like to the time I hit the pillow at night --cause I have no problems falling asleep--but my brain only stops when I'm dropping off. Right? Like to into sleep.

And so like all day, every day, it's a symphony up here...a cacophony. Like it just is. [00:20:00] I don't know how anyone else lives, but like I've been told, I talk a lot and I do. But it's not half of what's happening. Like…

Dr B: I understand.

Danny: Yeah. Like, so, um, it was the first time, like. I don't know if I cried, I may have cried, but it was the first time I have ever got an inkling that this is a thing. This is like, it's not just like I'm weird or I'm ----- excuse my language, but like this is not an end, that it's something that like I did more than a little bit because it's something that should have been caught. But because I wasn't, especially in my really young years, I was not a behavioral problem.

I was a quiet kid who didn't really, like, cause trouble. Right? In my teenage years I did, but that was different. But like, I mean, I always knew my brother fell through the cracks and that if he had had, like this was 1970s if he had had intervention early on, he would have been a better a human being . I think, I think that's just how you say it. I don't have any other way to say it than like his life would have been better. And I've always mourned that a little bit like for him, but I was a kid too, growing up in the same house. There was nothing I could do.

Dr B: And what about after you got this inkling or this insight that there's another model or configuration of ADHD? Because it's confusing for a lot of people since they've changed the name, diagnostically, because it used to be there was ADHD and there was ADD.

Danny: Right. And I would've been diagnosed as ADD…

Dr B: Of course and it was much more clear to a lot of people. ADD not being hyperactive and what the symptoms of that are, to be able to relate and identify. And when they changed the name and it all became ADHD and then "primarily inattentive," "primarily hyperactive," "impulsive," or a combination of all three, I think it became very confusing for a lot of people in general.

Because every time you hear the H and you know that isn't you, and this is what it's called, and you may not go and look and see the three sub categories of "primarily inattentive," "hyperactive," "impulsive," and all of that. But ADHD is in you because you're not H.

Danny: Sure. And I guess because I got my diagnosis way post all of that, like... I don't think I ever was aware that there were... I thought ADD was the same thing as ADHD and that like, that there was just like a more abbreviated way to say it. I didn't know. But having the explanation that you can have this thing without hyperactivity was a real revelation to me.

Dr B: So we're going to break off here and continue this interview in three more parts.

Thanks for tuning into my first podcast interview. I hope you're enjoying this interview and you can relate to some of Danny's experiences. In the next episode, we'll hear about Danny's darkest struggles and how one chance meeting started him on the road to a happier life.


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