Hey Rebooters! It’s nearly the end of Season 4 and we’ve been wanting to talk about this subject for a while – and our guest today was the perfect addition to that conversation!
She’s Katie McKay, one of the first friends Sarah made when she moved to Canada. And Sarah couldn’t help but notice that the stories and experiences she was hearing from Katie during the day, were often mirrored by Carla’s stories and experiences in the evenings (time difference, yo!) – so it was zero surprise to her when they were both diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year.
Katie joins us to talk all things ADHD and neurodiversity – and it’s glorious chaos!
Katie McKay is a multi passionate business owner, coach, digital marketer, network owner, hypnotherapist and mum with ADHD – phew!
She’s known as Sarah’s Canada friend and Carla’s Canadian ADHD friend – can you see a theme developing here?!
She wears a lot of different hats, is passionate about connecting entrepreneurs and business owners in a supportive environment, and bringing together NLP and digital marketing to help people grow and get to the next level – essentially she helps people get where they need to be, which we think is exciting and soothing at the same time.
What we talk about
We’ll keep this as brief as possible, this is another episode you really do need to listen to to get the full effect, including the incredibly obnoxious alarm that Sarah set, we all forgot about, and which made us all jump when it went off!
Obviously, we talk about ADHD – from noticing our struggles when the pandemic meant all our external structure was taken away overnight, to the emotional fallout of realising that we found things difficult that other people did seamlessly and effortlessly.
Katie discovered ADHD on TikTok – finding people telling their stories, seeing herself in them, and recognising both the good and the bad. Carla’s experience was different but equally random – a friend from wizard school (of course) who mentioned it to her after their first zoom. After initially both thinking it couldn’t possibly apply to them, they fell down the internet rabbithole… and here we are, a year or so later.
They’re both super-quick at processing the world around them, and they both talk insanely quickly – something they’ve often been rebuked for and told to change. This is a pattern that’s repeated with various behaviours throughout our lives. As Katie says:
“If I have to speak too slowly, I forget what I’m going to say.”
We also talk about
Doing All The Things (but only if your brain co-operates). Doing one thing. Doing many things. Trying to do many things and being utterly epic at some and utterly incapable of others, for no logical reason.
Processing the diagnosis – getting the diagnosis, in the first place. The grief that can come with diagnosis, and not wanting to believe it.
Being more patient and understanding with yourself, giving yourself grace and coming up with effective strategies with a better understanding of what your brain is actually doing.
One of Katie’s genius solutions is taking the doors off her closet (wardrobe, for UK readers), and replacing drawers with a bookcase, because if she can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Now she can see her clothes and she is less stressed!
From laundry to sensory issues with doing the dishes, from the overwhelm of recognising all this stuff to how weirdly reassuring it can be to find parts of your life making sense all of a sudden, to more or less shutting down for a bit because it all got a bit too much, we cover a lot of ground with a lot of twinning moments!
Is it ADHD or your personality? Not wanting to be defined by your ADHD, overwhelm (again), clocking how much you were doing / trying to do, figuring out how to change that, working out where your drive comes from – all this stuff is hard to extricate and look at in isolation, because it’s all very intertwined.
When we initially planned this episode, Sarah was fairly convinced she was neurotypical and that she would keep the conversation on track. But then she had a conversation with an ADHD therapist, and she has a lot of friends who have ADHD, and she is now wondering…
And so are we! Acceptance and finding others like you even before you know what it is that makes you different, belonging and fitting in, standing out and not fitting in – so many of our experiences are common to all three of us, and the thousands of other women who have discovered they have ADHD well into adulthood.
When things all fall into place it can be kinda emotional, but Carla has experienced people who have known her a long time and also people who have known her not long at all both say “but of course you aren’t neurotypical, I was wondering when you’d get around to telling me” – her diagnosis was news to pretty much no one except her.
Katie’s initial reaction was anger when someone questioned how she didn’t know she had ADHD, which goes back to why women are under-diagnosed. We are so good at masking, and fitting in, and doing what we’re supposed to.
We learn to do things like everyone else, even if it’s hard for us, so that we don’t get embarrassed and we don’t stand out and get noticed. Childhood and teenagehood has a lot to answer for in this instance – no teenager wants to be different.
Learning to take that mask off is interesting – it takes a massive amount of emotional energy to keep up that level of pretence, and it’s liberating but also very strange to be able to be entirely yourself. And it’s lovely not spending so much energy hiding yourself!
There is a whole chunk of conversation about masking, flying under the radar, embracing your weird and external structure – and how you don’t really know what’s normal until you live with someone who isn’t your family, and figure out what normal is for them. It’s a weird thing.
Being too much
Ah, that old chestnut. Women with ADHD frequently feel like they’re too much – too loud, too talkative, too quick, too enthusiastic, too everything. It’s exhausting trying to be less than you are to fit into what’s expected of you.
We do also feel like we’ve missed some kind of secret memo or handbook on How To Adult Properly. We haven’t – we’re just not wired the same way as most of society.
Being honest is helpful, but we carry triggers about too much from our past. And then we try to out-logic our emotions and it all gets very messy.
In the current explosion of adults seeking diagnosis, there are a lot of women who are doubting their instincts, and worrying that they are somehow following a trend. There have been mentions of private practices having too high a hit rate of diagnosis – but if you get to the point where you relate to enough of the examples you’ve seen, and you’re willing to pay money to see if you have a thing, and more money to try to fix the thing, then there’s a good chance you have the thing. It’s fairly self selecting in adulthood.
From a societal perspective, the world is set up for neurotypical humans, and women are overwhelmingly expected to maintain the house and home and children, and carry the mental load for domestic stuff.
Women, diagnosis and perception
Referral for diagnosis depends on having a GP who knows what to look for – and in both the UK and Canada it appears to be a bit of a postcode lottery as to whether your local medical services support adult ADHD assessment and treatment or not.
ADHD, and neurodiversity in general, is misunderstood on a wide scale, particularly as so much of it shows up differently in women, and as the diagnostic tools are based around boys (not even men, it’s still very weighted towards childhood symptoms).
Listen in to hear us discuss these misunderstandings, our common experiences around not getting on with normal jobs, changing jobs every five minutes for the dopamine boost, or in Sarah’s case working in the emergency services and being amazing at it because of the adrenaline/dopamine surges.
We’re all brilliant in a crisis but can be indecisive day to day, and anxiety often goes hand in hand with ND traits. Our symptoms can be misdiagnosed and treated with antidepressants, which don’t help.
And then when you look at creatives, entrepreneurs and creative entrepreneurs, there is a crazy high proportion of neurodiverse humans and neurodiverse women. It’s like we decided to opt out of the box society made for us and find our own way in the world – almost like creatives have more permission to be a bit weird.
Katie talks about not fighting things – another version of acceptance, of being ok with being a quick learner and funny and not coming across as cocky, but owning these parts of her personality.
In business, Katie says replying in an appropriate amount of time. Time blindness, generally, is something she and Carla both struggle with. And were both thrilled to find the other one didn’t mind when message replies were weeks or months apart!
Deciding whether or not to tell people – there are so many misconceptions about ADHD in particular that we’re reluctant to set up expectations of being less than we are, because so many people still see it as a negative.
We still want to be taken seriously, and we are probably already not taken as seriously as men in our same fields – Katie illustrates this very starkly with a story from her experience.
And it is exhausting having to unlearn and relearn so much of life when you’re no longer a child. (we are, between us, in our 20s, 30s and 40s).
And the positives
Whether it’s a superpower or a disability or something in between depends on the person – we all have different experiences, our upbringings will also impact, and what we currently do will have an effect on that too.
Setting your world up for how it works for you, recognising you are different not broken, and learning to work with that so you can create, in Katie’s words, “your own little world that does work for you”.
And finding that diagnosis helps us be more patient, calmer and kinder to ourselves – that we don’t hold ourselves to quite such high standards and we’re not quite so hard on ourselves after getting it.
Get more Katie in your life
You can mostly find Katie at Chewie Media
And also at Connect Now Business Network