“From the moment I was diagnosed with ADHD, I’ve been deconstructing all of these thoughts that I thought were personal character flaws. I’ve been learning that they’re just thoughts about myself, and I can change how I think about myself. It’s allowed me to give myself compassion for not being the way that society expects me to be.” – Chelsea Uithoven
I can’t even begin to express my excitement about today’s Become an Unstoppable Woman episode! I have been waiting and waiting to cover the topic of ADHD in women and help answer the question, “do you have ADHD?”
But I was waiting for the perfect guest for this episode.
Enter Chelsea Uithoven.
Chelsea and I were introduced because we share the same podcast editor. When I started following her, I just knew she would be the perfect guest for the show. She is a health and mindset coach who was diagnosed with ADHD within this past year and has since launched a network and coaching program exclusive to women with ADHD.
If you’ve been following me closely, you may know that I myself have been exploring my own relationship with ADHD and going through the diagnostic process. It has been an incredibly eye-opening experience that I suspect will change my life just like it did Chelsea’s.
I also suspect this could change many of your lives as well as the lives of some of my clients to really understand ADHD symptoms in women and if ADHD is impacting you.
This interview today is a very conversational one where Chelsea and I share our experiences as coaches and with ADHD.
WE SPECIFICALLY DISCUSS:
- The process Chelsea went through to get diagnosed with ADHD (and this compared to the process I’m currently going through)
- Signs and symptoms of ADHD that both Chelsea and I have experienced
- Common misconceptions about ADHD
- Why ADHD is not commonly diagnosed in women
- The biggest takeaway that Chelsea has been able to apply in her life as a result of her ADHD diagnosis
…And so much more
There is so much great information in here! I hope this blows your mind like it did mine. Listen at the top of this page.
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
Episode 136: IS IT ADHD?
This is the Become an Unstoppable Woman podcast with Lindsay Preston Episode 136, IS IT ADHD?
Welcome to the Become an Unstoppable Woman podcast, the show for goal-getting, fear-facing women who are kicking ass by creating change. I’m your host, Lindsay Preston. I’m a wife, mom of two, and a multi-certified life coach to women all over the world. I’ve lived through enough in life to know that easier doesn’t always equate to better. We can’t fear the fire, we must learn to become it. On this show, I’ll teach you how to do just that. Join me as I challenge you to become even more of the strong, resilient, and powerful woman you were meant to be. Let’s do this.
Hi, Ms. Unstoppable. Today’s episode is a big one. My hope is that it opens your minds to potentially see what ADHD looks like in women, and for you to determine if possibly you have some signs of ADHD. I’ve mentioned this here and there on the show, but in the past few months, I have realized that I likely have ADHD. I haven’t gotten a formal diagnosis yet, I’m actually in that process right now. I talk about it on this episode a little bit later, what this looks like, but I’m pretty certain that I have ADHD, which has been so mind-blowing and eye-opening to me.
It’s been really hard for a lot of women to find that they too have ADHD because surprise, surprise, the ADHD research studies are done with little boys. Typically, when we think of ADHD, we think of the boys bouncing off the walls. Well, that’s just what one form of ADHD looks like in boys. There are many forms, and it shows up differently in girls and women. Today, I have a special guest on the show. Her name is Chelsea. Chelsea is somebody that I actually connected through my podcast editor, Paroma. We both have the same editor.
I found her on Instagram when Paroma mentioned her, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I love her stuff. I love the way that she teaches.” I reached out for her to come on the show, and of course, she said, “Yes,” so here we are. Chelsea just delivers so much goodness in this episode. To give you a little bit of background on Chelsea, she’s a former kindergarten teacher, and now she is a health mindset and nutrition coach. She just recently discovered just a few months ago in fact, from the recording of this episode, that she has ADHD.
After she had her diagnosis, she took some time off from her business to just reflect, do some developments, and came back and decided that she wanted to focus on mindset, nutrition, and health with women who have ADHD. I love Chelsea’s stuff because she’s allowed me to even see how I can tweak my own work personally and with my clients, to ensure that it’s ADHD friendly.
As Chelsea and I talk about in this episode, we grow up in a world that’s for neurotypical brains. We’re taught all these generalized strategies, and well, people for the most part meanwhile, they don’t understand how certain brains can be different, like those with ADHD. We have to take these general concepts and tweak them in a bit to work best for our brains.
Get ready to learn all about Chelsea, how she found ADHD, what her diagnosis process was like, what’s changed for her since that diagnosis and starting medication. Then, going from there, we’re going to talk about the qualities of what it looks like for women with ADHD and how to tweak some habits as well if you do feel like you have ADHD. Buckle up, it’s a great interview. Enjoy.
Okay, Chelsea, I’ve been waiting for this interview for a really long time like it was going to be my person that’s going to talk about ADHD. Here we are, I’m getting chills just thinking about it. Okay. First off, before we get into all the things about ADHD in women, let’s talk about your journey. I know there’s even a Mel Robbins tie in there with this.
Chelsea: Yes. Yes. Well, first of all, I was just as excited as you, and when you said you got chills, then that made me get chills. I feel so honored that I’m the person that you picked to talk about this topic. This is going to be so fun. Okay. Yes. The time with Mel Robbins, let’s actually start there because there was this weird–
It was like this intuitive hit somebody randomly mentioned to me in a conversation. I think I sent her something with Mel Robbins, I can’t remember exactly what the situation was, but Mel Robbins came up somehow and she said, “Yes, she’s the one that helped me realize that I have ADHD.” I was like, “That’s interesting.” I have no idea what really sparked me to look into it, or I guess I do know what sparked it.
I had recently become an entrepreneur and I noticed a lot of struggles with focus, and with my limited knowledge of ADHD, really all I knew about it was focus. I just noticed I had been having a lot more struggles than I did in my previous careers. Previously, I was a kindergarten teacher, and when you’re teaching kindergarten, you’re bouncing around all the time anyways. I feel like it just lended itself to not really needing to pay attention for very long. I was really zoned in on the focus piece.
I just started researching and opened up a can of worms and was like, “Holy cow, this is so much more than I think it is.” As I was doing research, I was just like, “How is it possible that every single one of these things is hitting the nail on the head for me, personality-wise, my personal experience and I’ve never even considered this?” It was just mind-blowing.
Lindsay: Yes. You said this on the podcast I was listening to this morning Chelsea is that a lot of us think ADHD, we think boys bouncing off the walls, and we’re like, “We’re not that.” A lot of us walk around with like, it’s just something’s missing. That’s how I would describe it, there’s just something like– We internalize and we think there’s something wrong with us, were we ever different? It’s just like, I knew I grew up and just looked around constantly and was like, “What is different about me? Something’s off here and I can’t put my finger on it.” Is that how you felt too?
Chelsea: I felt like I didn’t feel like other people would think the same way I think. I would explain my thought processes to someone, I’m like, “You don’t see that connection, you don’t think in that way?” They’re like, “No.” I always felt really misunderstood in that way, but I never put two and two together.
Honestly, I thought I was some unique, special being and that nobody else was like me until I met a community of other people with ADHD. I realized, “There’s a ton of people out there like me.” It’s actually been really cool to connect with people. I feel like I’ve been able to connect with people on a deeper level because I do feel really seen and understood by other people in the ADHD community, which has been really cool.
Lindsay: Yes. For me in my journey, it was like these thoughts of, “Okay, what’s wrong with me? Something’s off. I’m different. Then when I experienced coaching as a client– you know I did personality tests, and one of which was the Myers-Briggs. I got the result, INFJ, and especially that N, was like, “Oh, you’re just a big thinker. Only 25% of the population has this. INFJ is the most rare type.” I was like, “Oh, that’s what it is. That’s why I think differently, right?
Lindsay: From what I’ve heard, I don’t know if you’ve heard this too Chelsea is that most Ns on Myers-Briggs do have ADHD.
Chelsea: I’ve done like every personality test under the sun, and most of them are saved in my hundreds of phone, safari tabs that are open, but I don’t know what that one is because I accidentally closed it one day and it was a long test. I didn’t go back to do it again, but I think I have an N in mine too. I’ll have to do it again because I’m curious.
Lindsay: Even on your podcast you were talking about like, “I see patterns. I put things together.” I’m like, “Yes, that’s totally N, right?”
Lindsay: Who would have known it was ADHD. Going back to your journey, so you were a kindergarten teacher. I remember you saying you became an entrepreneur and you’re like, “Why can’t I get these certain things done? I’m not showing up. Is there something– Am I lazy?” Was something you kept telling yourself, right?
Chelsea: Yes. Absolutely.
Lindsay: Then you dug deep into ADHD and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is it.” Then how did you get diagnosed?
Chelsea: I just realized I did feel like I was lazy and I couldn’t get things done. Now I realize it’s because having outside structure is really important for ADHDers or for some ADHDers. On the flip side of it, we want freedom. Entrepreneurship is like this really weird in-between where you have the freedom, but you don’t have the structure. You have to create the structure for yourself.
What I did to get diagnosed, I didn’t have a doctor at the time because hello, I hadn’t gone to the doctor in years. I hadn’t gone to the dentist in years. That was just one of the many things that was slipping through the cracks is like how I like to say my life was prior to diagnosis. There was just so many things slipping through the cracks constantly. I found a doctor and just went to a general practitioner and just told them, “I’m not sure what this is going to look like or what.” I was really nervous.
I know a lot of other people feel that way too, to go to the doctor, feel like you’re going to be judged. A lot of doctors may think that you’re medication seeking or something like that. I know that’s a fear for a lot of people. It was for me. It was confirmed in that first conversation I have with the doctor. Obviously, I talked to the nurse first, she opened the door and she said, “You want ADHD medication?” I was like, “What? No. I want to find out if I have ADHD, I don’t know anything about this, how do I get a referral?”
I wanted to do the official diagnosis. There’s a few ways you can do it. You can get the official diagnosis, which is more expensive, it takes more time. It’s over the course of three appointments and they’re each an hour-long. There’s an interview and a long test, et cetera, or you could just go to a psychiatrist and talk to a psychiatrist and they can diagnose you.
I did not want to go that route because when I was about 23, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Now, looking back, I really think that that was a misdiagnosis for ADHD because one of the ways that it does show for me is that emotional rollercoaster. I wanted to make sure. I was like, “I don’t want to just get another diagnosis slapped on me. I don’t think that was correct.”
I had the thought, resonated with that for years, and so she sent me to a psychiatrist and I got the official diagnosis, which in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that long. It took from about November of 2020 to February or March of 2021 until I had my diagnosis, but it felt like the longest period of my life, which is the period that you’re in right now so maybe you can relate. It’s just waiting.
Lindsay: Totally. I have my brain scans, and then there’s a month before they set me down and I’m like, “We’ve got to move that appointment up.”
Chelsea: Yes, and you’re doing the brain scan so that’s a whole new way to do it. What’s that experience been like?
Lindsay: Yes, I’m just starting it. Actually, after our interview, I’m going to fill all this paperwork, and then I meet with somebody and we discuss the paperwork, and then I do a brain scan where I’m at rest, and then a brain scan when I’ve done something, like some kind of work. Then they set me down and they say, “Okay, here’s a healthy brain, and here’s what your brain looks like.” My thought is that they’re going to say, “You have ADHD.”
My thought too is I have inattentive ADHD, but I know where I’m going it’s the Amen Brain Center. They have seven different types of ADHD, which blows my mind, so who knows what it’ll come back. Even there’s a part of me that’s like, “What if it’s not ADHD?”
Chelsea: That was my fear, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, there’s really something wrong with me If I don’t have a name for it. What is this?”
Lindsay: Yes, for sure.
Chelsea: Then you have these fears like, “Maybe I am just really lazy,” but you’re like, “I’m so driven at the same time.” It’s a very confusing experience, right?
Lindsay: Yes. I want to touch on that, is a lot of people with ADHD, it’s like they’re in, they’re out. They’re passionate, they’re not passionate. For me when I’m working, what we know now is hyperfocused in a lot of ways, you’re like, “Here we go,” and then I’m exhausted. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, I need three hours of rest from my two hours of work.” I look at people on Instagram, especially these influencers that look at my life and I’m like, “She goes to like this, to this, to this, to this.” That’s where the thoughts start to come as, “What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I do all of that?”
Chelsea: I can’t tell you how much I relate. I will watch people’s morning routine, and I’ll be like, “You do more in the morning than I do all day,” because I do that exactly what you said. I hyperfocus for an extended period of time. I’ll be honest, there’s some days where you can’t make the hyperfocus happen.
Unfortunately, you can’t force that moment so some days it doesn’t ever come, but it happens, and then it’s really draining because you’re so mentally involved than you do need. It’s more of a cyclical experience is what I’m starting to notice is that there’s these periods of highly driven energy, and then you have to recover for it, or at least I’ll speak for myself, that’s how it’s been for me. It’s been a very cyclical process.
Previously, I was trying to fight against that and trying to be that person, like you were talking about these influencers that are just so consistent in their entire day, they’re working or they work really consistently. I was like, “Why can’t I do this?” I’m starting to learn to lean into that natural cycle a little bit more and trust it. It’s actually been really beneficial for my productivity.
Lindsay: Yes. Now when you say cyclical, do you have it relate to your period at all because I’m finding that that’s what’s true for me?
Chelsea: Yes. The interesting thing with me is I love the menstrual syncing, learning about it. There was a point of time that that was my hyperfocus and I was studying it and teaching it and learning it, and it’s just so much fun. I have not noticed, but I haven’t explicitly tracked very well, really strong connection between different parts of my cycle and how my ADHD symptoms are, although I know a lot of women do. For example, a lot of people say, during their period, they are really low energy, what you would expect. I don’t find that to be the consistent circumstance for me so it’s interesting. Yes and no, it’s cyclical but mine doesn’t seem to go exactly with my cycle.
Lindsay: What is your cyclical mean, Chelsea, I’m curious.
Chelsea: It just means that there’s less of– I always compare myself to my husband because he’s just the most consistent being there ever is on the planet. That’s men in general because they don’t have a menstrual cycle, they don’t have an infradian rhythm, but his energy is consistent, where my energy is sporadic. Same with my interest and my excitement and my just everything is really cyclical. It goes in those highs and lows. It’s like, well, no wonder I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “For me, that’s how it shows up, but I’m realizing that there’s a lot of other people that experience ADHD that way as well.
Lindsay: Totally, and even going back to the bipolar disorder, I’ve had clients with that. They’ve realized in time it wasn’t bipolar, and then now we’re like, “Oh, it’s ADHD.” Even in my world, we have what’s called these inner mean girl voices so it’s these voices of the ego. One is the vacillator. It was a voice that I wasn’t aware of at the very beginning until I went to a couples coach and I was doing some couples coaching with my husband, and she was like, “Lindsay, you have this vacillator voice, and so you have this rollercoaster. It’s like you love it, you hate it, in or out.
Then, again, I was internalizing, “Oh my God, what’s wrong with me? I have this horrible voice.” I’ve even been finding now, having ADHD in the mix, it’s like, those with the vacillator, it’s just ADHD. That’s what it is, and too, again, attached to our ego with that, but so many things. I love how you took the time to really get the right diagnosis because it is so important. It is so painful to be given something that’s not true because then you just go down this path of things that aren’t even the right fit for you.
Once you had your diagnosis, Chelsea– I know you’ve talked about this on your Instagram and it was so inspiring to me. I even remember the post, I think you were in an aerial position in aerial yoga, but you said something about medication, and so you started taking medication. What has that been like for you?
Chelsea: That was, gosh– My diagnosis, it’s hard to distinguish what the difference comes from really, because the diagnosis itself comes with so much self-knowledge, so much opportunity to learn from other people with ADHD and change the way that I operate. That’s changed a big portion of my life, but medication, I think has had a really big and positive impact for me. I was really afraid of medication because I’ve heard all these horror stories.
I’ve heard people talking about– You hear all the horror stories. That you can get addicted and it’s terrible for me and made me feel terrible. All these negative symptoms, yadda, yadda. It made things 10 times worse. I was really afraid, and so before I started medication, I told myself if it has any negative impact in another area of my life, so areas of my life that were going relatively well now that in comparison after post-diagnosis, I’m like, “Well, they weren’t going that well.”
Areas that were going pretty well if it had a negative impact, then I was going to stop it because it’s not worth it to me to have focus, and then other areas of my life crumble like not being able to sleep or eat or all these things that people were saying. The biggest difference I’ve noticed, I started low dose of medication, and a few weeks after I was on it, I realized something, and that was that my entire life up until then, I kind of was experiencing– I guess I could describe it as a low-level dissatisfaction.
I always felt I was seeking something else outside of me. I felt I was constantly seeking and I didn’t realize it until I was no longer in that state, but I couldn’t be happy in the present. It was like, “Okay, I’m going to be happy when we go on this vacation. When my body looks this way, when my business is this way, when we build this house, when we don’t live here any longer.” It was always, once I got the thing, I moved on to the next thing because I was like, “Well, satisfaction isn’t there, it must be in the next thing.”
That was also showing up in purchases, impulse purchases, seeking food, and come to realize, all of that I think was just my brain seeking dopamine.
A big part of ADHD or one of the differences in the brain is that there’s a lot of differences in dopamine production, and our dopamine isn’t able to get where it’s supposed to go in our brain. We’re kind of basically dopamine-seeking machines, essentially. I realized that that’s what I always thought my dopamine was going to come from. That’s a big, huge difference that’s come from medication for me.
Emotional stability, that’s what my husband always talks about, because I was very could fly off the handle at any moment. I’ve been so much more emotionally stable. I didn’t realize how much, I was still. I had worked so much on my relationship with food prior to my diagnosis, but I was still doing a lot of overeating and eating that was me trying to get dopamine. Once your brain is balanced out in that way, I’ve had a lot of positive experiences. Personally, I’ve been lucky enough to not have any of the negative side effects people have talked about.
Lindsay: That’s awesome. I mean it’s so funny because even this morning, I was working out, Chelsea, and I’m in this phase now. My big intention for the year was joy expansion. When you set intentions like that, of course, all the shit comes up of like, “Here’s what’s stopping you.” The whole year it’s been like, “Why can’t I just enjoy my life? Why can I not take it in? Everything is so good.”
Then, again, this morning I was working out and I’m getting really frustrated with it and it’s like, “What the hell is wrong with you, Lindsay? Why can’t you just enjoy the moments?” Then those negative thoughts start to spiral, so just hearing you say that Chelsea again, allows me to take a deep breath of, “Okay, it’s just ADHD. There’s nothing wrong with me.”
My brain, like you said, it’s just seeking that dopamine, it’s that hyperactivity. I’ve even heard Dr. Amen talk about it this way, is with women with ADHD, it’s just like constantly of– almost like an addiction to personal development or that drive, or it comes out anxiety, depression, because the brain is just like, “Give me something to process here.” Yes, that’s huge, huge. I know I see a lot of your stories too, where you’re talking about how you’ve slowed down a lot and you take a lot of time off? Do you feel like post medication, it’s been easier for you to just be still in present?
Chelsea: [laugh] That is one thing that I still have an extreme difficulty with is being still because I do have a little bit of that hyperactive side to me physically as well, and that’s one thing that she said. You see me, I’m constantly moving. They said in my diagnosis that I was constantly fidgeting, which I didn’t even notice of course. I think just like physically sitting still is really hard for me and my brain. I’ve just learned how to enjoy and be present in ways that work for me.
I can be present just like dancing or going for a walk or engaging my brain in a way that’s exciting for me. It’s organizing, taking more time to do those things, versus before where I wasn’t necessarily allowing myself to have breaks or rest, but I was still taking them because I was scrolling on TikTok. I would start scrolling and my brain just needed something to engage it, but I didn’t want to do the thing that I was supposed to do. I’m just almost swapping it out now for things that I actually enjoy, but that being said, I don’t know if I’m necessarily more still.
I do also want to make a clarification too. You were saying, “These are things that are just ADHD.” I want to be very clear because something I’ve noticed a lot is psychiatrists and psychologists on TikTok just saying, be very careful to make sure you’re not saying your symptoms are everybody’s experience, right? Everything I’m sharing is my experience. I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know if they’re necessarily the markers. It’s always good to talk to a professional before you self-diagnose.
Chelsea: Not saying that you are, but I was just putting that out there saying that.
Lindsay: No. I’m so glad you mentioned that because it’s true. It’s like everyone’s a little bit different. Even when I mentioned earlier with Dr. Amen is like, there’s seven different types of ADHD and there’s other things in there. I wanted to mention too is that sometimes you can maybe just say, oh, that’s ADHD and maybe be dismissive of it, but really it’s a mixture of things of like, okay, maybe having a diagnosis like ADHD can get you closer to being the person you want to be and living the life you want. Also, there’s mindfulness in there because that’s what I hear from you, my coaching tactics, and other development things in there, and so we can’t just all lean on, “Oh, I’ll get this diagnosis and every problem will be solved.”
Chelsea: Right. You know what, it’s funny, a lot of the work that I’d been doing, I obsessively binged Christine Carter’s podcasts. I don’t know if you know her, you’re familiar with her. Her podcasts, I have ADHD, and then I finally joined her coaching program, and it’s a lot of the same work you do around thoughts. I’ve been just deconstructing from the moment I was diagnosed, all of these thoughts that I thought were personal character flaws. I’ve been learning that they’re just thoughts about myself, and I can change how I think about myself.
Just doing a lot of thought work and basically giving myself self-compassion for not being the way that society expects us to be, and allowing myself– When I got diagnosed, I thought, “Okay, great. I’m going to get medication and then I’m going to change, and I’m going to be able to be like everybody else. I’m going to be able to do the things. I can be productive from 9:00 to 5:00 like I’ve always wanted to be.” Like those girls, those influencers that you see and we want to be like them. That was my expectation prior to diagnosis.
At this point in my journey I’m realizing, it’s really actually been less about changing me, and more about discovering me and finding, peeling back all of the layers of the things that– this doesn’t fit with me, this doesn’t work for me, so I’m going to let go of that, and I’m going to do things my own way.
Lindsay: Shedding society’s layers in there?
Chelsea: Yes. It’s been a big theme for me personally. [laugh]
Lindsay: Yes. I feel like I’ve been doing some of that work myself, Chelsea. I’ve had an anti-racism coach. Part of that journey, I didn’t know it going into it of deconstructing my own place in society. Part of that is when you don’t have a neurotypical brain of, “Oh, here’s all the ways in which I experienced ableism and I didn’t even realize it. Then once you realize it, you’re like, oh, that’s why I have this thought, and this thought, and this thought, when really it’s just like the system is flawed, not you.
Chelsea: Right. Great.
Lindsay: Yes, and learning how to love that and redefining what success looks like.
Chelsea: Right. I’ve loved that. I’ve thought about that every time I listen to your podcast, how I like how you bring that into the conversation because that is something we don’t see a whole lot in the coaching world. There’s a lot of white women in the coaching world, and I’ve noticed a lot of your conversations around anti-racism, and I really respect it and love that about you, so that’s just a side note.
Lindsay: Thanks, Chelsea. We’ve talked about some qualities with ADHD and women. I know we don’t want to generalize and be like, “If this is it, this is ADHD,” but can we just do like a running list?
Chelsea: Yes. Absolutely. I can just share bits and pieces of what my experience was like. Is that what you’re looking for?
Lindsay: Yes, let’s do that.
Chelsea: Okay. Like I said, how it felt that low-level dissatisfaction was a big thing. The constantly seeking something outside of me. Also, the theme of things slipping through the cracks was huge. I felt like I was one unpaid bill away from just falling through the cracks, like spontaneous combustion. I can’t even explain it and there was a lot of damage control after my diagnosis of getting my life together. There was all these parts and pieces of my life that were so disheveled.
I had a 401k, I’ve two 401ks I’d never touched, and was just like, “I can’t handle it. I can’t figure out how to find it.” Even though it was my money, I would buy presents for friends and I would never send them because I forgot about it. You know how families send Christmas cards at Christmas time? My husband, before we got together, he would always send, as a single man, a 4th of July card of him and our now bloodhounds. We sent 4th of July cards instead of Christmas cards. I was like, “We’ll keep that tradition going, that’s fun.”
This year on 4th of July, the week before 4th of July, we found a stack of the 4th of July cards that I was supposed to address half of them from the year prior and send them out, and I only realized then a year later that I never sent those out. Half the people on the list never got their card because I never filled out the address or sent them. It’s pretty much just things like that all throughout my life in every area. It wasn’t just one area, it was career, it was home, it was family, it was friends.
Never remembering to reply to text messages. I feel like I was always behind. That was a really common theme and that caused anxiety. I feel like I’ve had a lot less anxiety since my diagnosis and since I’ve been able to clean some of that stuff up, I guess you could say. Poor memory was something that was also really prevalent for me and really worried me. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s and I was always like, “What is wrong with me, with my memory?” That was one thing that really scared me.
I was like, I constantly, am walking into rooms, forgetting why I walked into them, leaving cabinet doors open, silly stuff but forgetting things, just constantly forgetting things. Especially, I would open a computer tab and I will be like, “Why did I just open that?” You know how people say, “Write it down.” Get out the notebook to write something down, and forget what I was about to write down and be like, “Dang it. What was the thing?”
My memory, that was something that I’d taken every supplement for memory focus that is on the market and I’d never realized that memory was something associated with ADHD. Something that ended up being my life’s work, which is my relationship with food and my body was a really big struggle my entire life. It was something that a few years prior to diagnosis, I started really working on and decided that I wanted to become a health coach and help other women work on it as well.
Like I said, right up until that moment of diagnosis, I was still experiencing some of the things and being like, “Why? I know all the ways to–” I’m helping all my clients through this, but I’m still struggling with it in some ways. Now I realize a lot of that was dopamine seeking. That’s something a lot of women with ADHD struggle with, and men. It was just a lot of this feeling of, I don’t feel like I ever really felt like I could trust myself. I just always was letting myself down, and that was a lot.
Like I said, a lot of this is self-concept of working through. I just thought this was all me and my personality, and took it on as personal failures. Now I realize there are workarounds, that’s the great thing is that when you get into the world of other people with ADHD, it’s almost like everybody comes together, with little things. “This worked for me. Oh, this worked for me. Altogether, we kind of like– As ADHDers, we hyperfocus on one particular thing and we get really good at it, we obsess over it. I feel like all these ADHDers have this one particular thing and it’s this beautiful thing where we all come together and can learn from each other as hyperfocusers.
Lindsay: Totally. Yes, that’s such a great list, Chelsea. I’m racking my brain of like, what else do I see? One thing I see often is, I think they talk about this often as a quality, is the people with ADHD, they’re just a little bit rebellious.
Chelsea: Ooh. Yes. I forgot that one. Oh my gosh, yes, because I also just thought it was part of my personality.
Lindsay: Yes, and I even see this in my 10-year-old daughter who I think has ADHD of just like, “You’re not going to tell me what to do.” I think that’s why too, I’m questioning a lot of things in society all the time of like, “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Chelsea: Yes. I’m 100% that way. I was definitely a troublemaker because the biggest thing when I was a kid and I remember this, I would get so mad when I was ever told, “Because I said so.” When my mom said, “Because I said so.” I’m like, “I need a reason,” because my rebellious side can’t just be like, “Just because you said so.” I’m still very much that way.
Lindsay: Yes. I was just telling my husband this the other week. He wanted me to apologize for something, and he takes when I don’t apologize right away as disrespect. I finally broke it down, I was like, “It’s not that I don’t want to apologize. I have to really understand what I need to apologize for and if I’m on board with that.”
Chelsea: It’s like, we need to know the why. I need to know the why-
Chelsea: -to do anything.
Lindsay: Yes. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else. I think the big thing too is, my realm was personality tests and that’s where I started to see patterns among myself and clients. When I started to have clients who have Clifton’s strengths of learner, ideation– I’m trying to think of some other– even focus. Some clients they would have focus, and they’d be like, “That’s so weird, I have focus,” because sometimes they can really focus, but sometimes they can’t. Now I look at that and I’m like, “Oh yes, ADHD ideation.”
They were all over the place with ideas, learner, it’s like, I’m into something and then I’m out of it, even inputs which is like learner. I want to gather all of these things and have all these things, and then I’m over it and it’s hard for me to organize it all and do all the things. Again, I was looking at it through a strength’s lens which is a beautiful thing, but I didn’t quite put it all together of like, “Oh, that’s ADHD,” but now I do.
Chelsea: I did the Clifton strengths because I heard it on a podcast. It was actually a great procrastination tool for something else. I was like, “I’m going to do this test instead, this looks fun.” I believe I had the ideation and the learner. I can’t remember my others, but I know my top was future-focused.
Chelsea: I had this thought, I don’t think that’s necessarily an ADHD one or anything that’s tied to it, but I wondered if it was why I get so hyper-focused and obsessed with self-development, always looking to the future. What’s next? What’s next?
Lindsay: Yes. It could be because you’re seeing the 10 steps ahead of like, here’s where it’s going to go. I’m glad you mentioned that because another one that I see often is activator, which is the opposite of futuristic. In some ways, I have clients that have a mix of two, but activator is like, “I’m really great at taking immediate action, but my follow-through isn’t so good.
Chelsea: Yes. That’s another thing. Novelty seeking is a big one for me too. I get bored really easily. I’m like, yes, super excited in the beginning and fizzle out, and that’s something I’m learning about myself and learning that when I have that immediate urge to move on to the next thing, I can do that in certain areas of life. I can do that in lots of areas of life. I can change my house a million times. I can do a million different workouts, but when it comes to my work, let’s resist that urge, that’s a place to not change your niche every five days.
Lindsay: Totally. That was my problem in my business at the beginning. I’m like, “Why I’m I not–” because I was changing everything all the time and I was just not getting the success I wanted. Now, I know it was probably ADHD. The other thing I wanted to mention is, “Oh God, I had it, now I lost it.”
Lindsay: I just forgot.
Chelsea: That’s a thing too.
Lindsay: That’s another sign of ADHD.
Chelsea: It’s funny because the more I learn, I’m like, oh. I started this series on Instagram where I’m like, “Is this just my personality or is this ADHD?” It seems like everything I learn about, I’m like, “Do I even have a personality or is it all just tied to this one thing?” I’m starting to doubt I have a personality at all. It’s funny. It’s been a funny thing for me to–
Lindsay: I remember you saying that on your podcast is like, “All these things in my personality are now all tied to ADHD.”
Chelsea: It’s wild.
Lindsay: Yes. Oh, I know what it was. I got it back, is the feeling of overwhelm, I find it’s really common. It’s like, “Why do I feel so overwhelmed? My life is not that overwhelming.”
Chelsea: Yes. I truthfully still do a lot of the time. I think it’s because a neurotypical brain can think in a linear fashion. It can stay on one source of input. It can stay on one task. It’s not that we can’t stick, like keep our focus in one place, it’s rather that we almost, we can’t filter the things around us, so we’re focusing on everything. For me, what that looks like, and you can probably relate is just the flood of constant thoughts. It’s almost like there’s so much always coming in and I don’t know how to prioritize it.
That’s something that’s really difficult for ADHDers is prioritizing what’s actually important and what is not important? That’s a big difference in people with ADHD versus people without. It’s like because everything seems important, it just gets super overwhelming. You don’t know where to start and that’s where a lot of us get into that freeze mode, where then we feel like we physically can’t do anything. That’s how I felt a lot of my life prior to diagnosis. It definitely does still come up a lot, but not as frequently.
Lindsay: What I found too is that sometimes it’s like, is this autism? There are links to that because it does feel almost like sensory overload sometimes. Do you feel that way too, Chelsea?
Chelsea: I have a lot of sensory issues, I guess we’ll say, but the things that I’ve seen about autism, I have not related to other than the sensory, some of the sensory things.
Lindsay: Which I guess can be tied to ADHD.
Chelsea: To be honest, I’m not really sure much of the crossover-
Lindsay: Yes, I’m not either.
Chelsea: -where each of those lies, but I do have some physical touch sensory input stresses me out. A lot of different physical touch, or how things feel like I said, can cause me to fly off the handle like we were talking about earlier. It’s just interesting because, again, these are all these things of it’s like, now, I’ve just able to better-set boundaries, knowing that about myself.
Before I would just feel terrible if my husband tries to give me a hug or somebody tries to touch me, and I jump away or scream or whatever. I don’t know, whatever dramatic unnecessary reaction I do. We’ve learned to set boundaries and talk about what it can look like so that that doesn’t happen. Then I’m learning to be less reactive.
Lindsay: Thank you for going through all that, by the way. Okay, so I know that you have the Habit Edit program, and that is really focused in on food, correct?
Lindsay: I see you just talk about habits in general of like, okay, people with an ADHD brain, this is what works and what doesn’t work based on just general personal development tactics, right?
Lindsay: Can you just walk us through what are some general personal development tactics out there that really an ADHD brain needs to modify for it to work for them?
Chelsea: That’s such a good question. When I first got diagnosed, and I was already coaching and already teaching people a certain way, I actually took time off just to do some dedicated research and understand this thing better because I knew immediately– I’ve heard that a lot of entrepreneurs do this, when they get their diagnosis, they immediately want to work just with ADHDers because it’s like, again, we know these people connect with us so much. I took some time to research, discover myself and really try and figure out what next?
Basically, exactly what you’re saying. How do I now talk about this and think about it, not only for myself but for my clients and everybody else? How do I explain this stuff, how to cater it to our brains. A few thoughts that I’ve had and a few shifts that I’ve made– like I said, the one that has really shifted everything for me is I stopped trying to change me. I said this earlier, but it’s so big, and it’s really been the biggest change is I stopped trying to change me and I started trying to change the things in my life around me to better fit me.
Lindsay: Okay, wait, that’s good, Chelsea.
Chelsea: [laughs] I only was just able to put it into words recently.
Lindsay: Okay, go ahead.
Chelsea: Again, it’s about more so I have switched my focus. Again, when I got diagnosed, I was like, “Yes, I can finally be like all these other people and be productive, and yadda, yadda.” Now I’m like, “It still didn’t work.” No amount of medication, no amount of force, no amount of discipline is going to change who I am at my core. What if instead of trying to change who I am, I did that thing where I was saying before, peel back the layers, and said, “What if I focused on discovering who I am.”
The focus then changed from trying to be more disciplined and trying to force myself into certain actions, to getting more creative and curious and being on a big scale and a small scale. A small example, flossing my teeth, this is such a micro example but instead of– I would never floss my teeth. I’m just going to be honest here, you guys can judge me, it’s fine, but I would never floss my teeth.
I was like, “What if I brought the floss and set it in a little side table or underneath my side table in a little bucket by my couch and I floss my teeth while I sat on the couch and read or scroll my phone or watch TV at night.” That’s a small example where I started making these changes, where like instead of trying to force myself to have more discipline, which is near impossible for people who struggle with executive dysfunction, which is a big part of ADHD. I started like, “How could I change my environment? How can I change the way I look at this?”
In a bigger scale way like changing my relationships, changing my boundaries, and what other people’s expectations are of me. I’m still really bad at communication. I’m not going to lie, that’s not a strong suit of mine. Instead of I was always just like so much shame and was just like always feeling so bad and starting every text with sorry, I haven’t responded, it’s been like 100 years, every email every DM, everything. Now, in my life, I set the expectation with people like, “Hey, I really love you so much and I care about you so much, but I don’t text in the same way that you do.
This is how I operate, can you accept this? Is this something you’re willing to work with? Can we meet somewhere in the middle?” Not saying the whole world has to change and everybody has to lower their expectations for me but seeing if there’s a place we can meet in the middle and just honoring my natural self a little bit more. Letting go of, “This is the way I shouldn’t be just because everybody else is this way, and society says we should be this way.” Maybe it’s that rebel side too, combined. [laughs]
Lindsay: No, it’s so smart. This is where I have been in my journey is, I guess it was 2020. I was really honing in on the model and thought work. Even though I’d been a coach for years and done that work of that one tool and really using it and following the Life Coach School of Brooke Castillo who I love. Even, for example, generating discipline, well, just change your thoughts. I was like, “I’m stuck. I’m just stuck here. There’s something off here.”
Then it opened the doors of so many other things of where I’m at today, but like you said, it’s this ongoing ableism we’re constantly being fed. When you just start to shift your mind just a little bit of, “Okay, maybe this is something else.” Maybe right now you’re listening to this podcast and is like, “Maybe it’s ADHD,” and then realizing, “Okay, how am I going to get the world to work for me because, generally speaking, the world is neurotypical?” We have to go in and say, “How am I going to make this work?”
That’s why I love your work, Chelsea because you’ve done so many great posts too on Instagram of just how to shift things. I’ve been like, “Oh shit.”
Especially doing the DEI work in the anti-racism, I was like, “I want to be inclusive. I want to make sure I’m not perpetuating ableism. This is why I need to do this work.” Even you said you took some months off after your diagnosis to really reflect, and that’s what I’m doing as well of like, “Okay, I need to first incorporate this in my life, and then how am I going to incorporate this with my clients?”
I love what you’re doing and I even see all the stuff you’re doing with food because that’s been such an overwhelming thing for me that I just do a food service, but I don’t love the food. I don’t love it, and when I see how you’re doing all that stuff, I’m like, “Okay, maybe this could actually be the thing that allows me not to feel overwhelmed with food.”
Chelsea: Right. It’s funny you say that too because I also, previous to my diagnosis, was following Brooke Castillo and just change your thoughts to have more discipline and use the urge jar and all that. I still love the urge jar, I still think it’s very fun. It’s almost been this big experiment of surrender, like how much can I let go and allow myself to really be who I am and see what happens, what kind of magic happens then.
It’s been this surrender in my work life, but it’s also been something that I’ve really surrendered to as far as my eating habits as well. I really haven’t focused on discipline, whereas I used to think that was something that was really important and crucial. Now I haven’t focused on it in a really long time and I’ve realized like, “Wow, I don’t really need it.” I don’t really need discipline, my body will naturally balance out and the choices naturally balance out. It’s been this huge paradigm shift for me mentally just to–
Lindsay: So many things come up for me as you say that. It goes back to what you said earlier of I’m changing the world instead of me, so here I am world, how are you going to fit me? How are you going to work for me versus me working for the world? See, when I hear surrender, I’m like, “Oh, she’s stepping into her feminine power and essence versus this masculine capitalism patriarchy, go go go.” You’re like I trust myself. I will show up for myself, but I’m not going to show up in the way that you’ve taught me that I need to show up in this world.
Chelsea: Yes, absolutely. I never made that connection to the feminine but that is really true. Flow, surrender, trust. It’s been a lot of trust.
Lindsay: Yes. I think for people with ADHD, we’ve really beat our self up with that. You even said it, it’s like, I didn’t trust myself. You’re like, “Oh my God. Sometimes these things fall through the cracks or whatever.” That’s great. All right. Chelsea, tell us more about the Habit Edit on your podcast and all the things.
Chelsea: Yes. The Habit Edit is the first health and mindset coaching membership exclusively for women with ADHD. Hopefully, not the last because we need all kinds of people coaching people with ADHD. What it is is basically what we’ve been talking about kind of putting it into practice with health habits. You can do it with any habit, of course, but my specialty is health and nutrition. I specifically tend to work with women who struggle with the same going back and forth, that all or nothing thinking with food.
Finding that place in the middle, like I said, where you’re surrendering and letting go and figuring out what habits work for you. Exactly like you said, you’re like, “The food delivery service. I do that because it’s easy,” which by the way I love when clients do that. I’m like, “Yes, you get to decide how much effort and time you put into it.” It’s just about finding what works for you. It’s me guiding you through that experience of learning how to find the habits that fit in your life versus me saying, “This is what worked for me here. You try this.”
It’s a lot of mindset work. It’s completely self-paced and it’s a membership style. There’s live coaching calls. There’s curriculum that you do on your own time. Essentially, you just get to work your way through different health habits that you want to implement in an ADHD-friendly way. We do them one at a time, but you get to choose.
Again, that rebel, I don’t want to choose for you. You get to choose what habits you’re editing and changing. It’s the same where they stack over time, and you look back and realize, “Wow, I’m doing all these things that I wasn’t doing six, eight, nine months ago, however long. It’s been really fun to create and to welcome people.
It’s brand new right now. It’s been super fun to go through the experience of starting a membership and growing a community of other ADHD women. There’s that, and then there’s my podcast, which is Vibrancy with ADHD. It’s all basically just about finding ways to, something we didn’t talk about a whole lot but is infusing a lot of fun and joy into my life too versus so much force and discipline, teaching other ADHD women to do the same.
Lindsay: Yes. Again that feminine power. That’s the one thing I remember that I loved about you Chelsea when I found you on Instagram was like, yes, it was just this feeling of here’s a woman, a powerful woman kind of thing. I just love that about you. Tell them your Instagram handle too. It is brightlightchels, so bright light chels. (UPDATE: Chelsea’s handle now is @parttimewellness)
Lindsay: Perfect. We’ll have all the links in the show notes, of course.
Lindsay: Chelsea, thank you so much for doing this.
Chelsea: Thank you so much. This was so much fun. I appreciate you having me on.
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