Hello Brains!


By Patricia Schwab

That is the greeting from YouTube sensation Jessica McCabe to address her fellow adult ADHD’rs. Jessica explains in her TED talk, “Failing at Normal – An ADHD Success Story”, that she uses that greeting to address us because it’s actually our brains that drive all of our activity. Think about it. Your brain decided to open the email containing this newsletter. Then it decided to click on the link to this article. Hopefully right now it’s telling you this article is interesting enough to finish reading. All our decisions and behavior are determined by our brains.

As an old(ish) adult diagnosed at the age of fifty-eight, I was determined to do whatever I could to not only salvage what was left of my life but to turn it into a masterpiece. A lofty goal, but really what is there to lose? So, like all the rest of you reading this right now, I began my search for resources to help reach my goal.

I’ve spent countless hours on the internet looking for answers. I’ve bought and read dozens of books on ADHD, I’ve even finished some of them! As we all know this can be a frustrating experience as many of the answers we find only lead to more questions. Plus, frankly, sometimes it just sucks that we have to do this at all.

But there are those moments when you read something and recognize yourself. You feel you’ve stumbled upon someone that truly understands what you’re going through. You’ve made a connection with this person and in that moment, you are not alone.

For me, one of those people is Jessica McCabe. I happened upon her TED talk after googling ADHD for the gazillionth time in the hopes of finding something new and timely. And, boy oh boy, did I find it.

Jessica’s TED talk, which made its debut in Jan 2016, was a breath of fresh air. In her talk, she bravely described her painful realities of living with ADHD as a child into adulthood. She freely admitted her vulnerability in this new forum, which only served to make her presentation that much more authentic.

But this wasn’t a poor me story. Jessica had done her research and related with great clarity the biological science of ADHD and its effect on our brains, our behavior and our feelings.

She spoke of her own frustrations in finding reliable resources for ADHD’rs. So, she did what is normal for someone with an ADHD brain. She found a new way, her way, to fill that void. With no idea how to do so, she forged ahead and started a YouTube channel, “How to ADHD” which has soared to success and currently has over 160,000 subscribers! “How to ADHD” has over 100 short videos that address the many issues we face and ways to deal with them. Jessica accomplished this in about two years. Wow, talk about hyper-focus!

I’ve struggled to find a way to end this article. And then I realized that there is no end because it’s all about beginnings. Everyday our brains encounter problems but we also discover our own unique solutions.

Jessica McCabe touched me, she gave me hope, she made me proud to be a member of our ADHD tribe. If she can inspire an old(ish) woman like me to keep looking for my answers, to believe in new beginnings, just imagine how many young(ish) ADHD’rs will find their own way to lead our tribe? We’re in good hands.


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      • Wendy
      • October 6, 2018

      Omg, I am a psych np. I have been treating ADHD for a while…failing to recognize ADD symptoms without much of the hyperactivity, if present at all. Why did I fail? Because I’ve had this all my life and thought it was normal. Everyone has to have their friends tell them where to turn, while driving in a familiar place, because you’re talking and fail to pay attention. Missing my cousins wedding because I couldn’t manage the gps. Being in gifted classes and testing high but poor grades because you hate school, procrastinate, fail to turn in homework. Having to be waivered out of high school because you’re short credits but test well. Failed first attempt in college because you couldn’t make yourself study. Going back to school years later and having to use all sorts of funky methods to study…colored markers, flash cards, recording lectures, diagramming, etc. Being called space cadet, squirrelly, or having people tell you “how can you be so smart but still no common sense?” Or, ” if your head wasn’t attached you’d lose that too.” Being married and divorced from a man who used to yell at you if you were driving in the wrong direction or on a less efficient route or played too many video games. People thinking you’re weird or quirky. Getting fired from a photocopy store for consistently screwing up orders yet can discuss intellectual topics easily. Not paying your bills or making late payments, not because you didn’t have the money but because it was time consuming, uninteresting, and tedious. Your mother telling you, ” you were the kind of kid that talked thru the movie but paid attention to the commercials.” Well I can still remember a lot of those commercial jingles and I still play hours of video games, and get lost driving, but I’ve learned how to manage better. Didn’t think I was not ‘normal’ so thought my patients with ADD were ‘normal’ too. Didn’t notice that I had to struggle more than others sometimes, maybe because I often don’t pay attention. How many times did I tell people, “sorry, i have the attention span of a gnat,” or ” sorry, wasn’t paying attention.” Growing up confused about why you’re smart but forgetful, thinking you’re mentally lazy, and you’re smart yet stupid. There are more people like me than are diagnosed, often because we’re quite. No one notices the kid in school that daydreams. I didn’t realize I had ADD until a few months ago. I am 52 y.o. and now understand why I do the things I do.

      • mrs.carguy
      • June 21, 2018

      Another great resource! Thank you for sharing it. It’s also so encouraging to find that there are so many of you, like me, diagnosed at 59. I’m still adjusting to the actuality of it all, but working at it!

      • Savage Mother
      • April 23, 2018

      I am a 70 year old mother who’s 40 year old daughter just figured out she might be undiagnosed AD(nonH)D. I can’t even start to research this topic without shaking and tears. I have treatment resistant depression first diagnosed when I was 19 and there was not treatment outside of electroshock therapy. I too, have had to make it up as i go along and that included many mistakes and such an enormous waste of potential and life. 20 years on medication that did no good unless not committing suicide ( I am more suicidal now than I ever was before I got some therapy and connected with the enormity of what my life wasn’t.) is some form of reward. Half of my daughter’s life is already in the crapper. How do i help her find the answers to having a life worth living for the next however many years? At present she has some creepy form of insomnia that makes daily life (no job, few friends, no potential) impossible. Where do we start? Fortunately, I hope, she lives in St paul MN so maybe there is access to some real expertise in the twin cities to treat and counsel her as an adult female.

      • John Arnold
      • March 30, 2018

      Diagnosed late 50’s also. Comforting to find out I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing your story. My reaction was more or less the same as yours: Figure out how to make the best of what lies ahead. Its sort of feels like starting over but from a new perspective. Not easy, but I believe it is possible!

      • Michelle
      • March 14, 2018

      Amalin, thanks for sharing this information! I will definitely be digging into it. I, too was diagnosed late in life at 48 with combined type but it doesn’t really seem to describe everything that goes on in my brain. Ten years later, I’m still learning more everyday exactly how this brain of mine works (or doesn’t as it is sometimes wont to do ;-). I think it’s high time we get the awareness raised because I suspect it’s more prevalent among women of every age even more than we can imagine!

    1. Reply

      Loved the TED Talk! Could relate!

      • Amalin Ferguson
      • March 14, 2018

      Thanks, Patricia. I’m new to this group — seems like you all offer many useful resources (though I’ve yet to attend a webinar). I’m also an old(ish) woman (now 63), and was 60 when diagnosed with ADHD, Surgent Subtype, which is not in the DSM, but recognized by the NIH, per my psychiatrist. There’s little information to be found in professional literature, so even many psychiatrists are not aware of it (including those specializing in ADHD, and layman don’t recognize my traits as ‘classic’ ADHD). I wanted to raise awareness about it because understanding how my ADHD Surgent Subtype brain works made my whole life make sense. I still have challenges in every domain, but I’m better able to minimize the problematic traits and maximize the gifts of having an ADHD Surgent Subtype neural wiring.

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