Some medical conditions are detected late in adult life because of the people around us, the environment we are in, and our upbringing. This is why undiagnosed ADHD is a common thing among many professionals. Determining it is easier said than done. Whitney Lauritsen opens up about her experiences with anxiety, shame, and mood swings, which she suspects can be related to ADHD in one way or another. Jason Wrobel discusses getting proper medical help when dealing with ADHD and the dangers of misdiagnosis. Together, they talk about the blurring lines between ADHD and other serious conditions like burnout, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. Jason and Whitney also delve into the role of neurodiversity in today’s ever-changing society and why antidepressants must be the last resort when treating mental health problems.
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Exploring Undiagnosed ADHD And Normalizing Neurodiversity
I started listening to an audiobook called Think Again that has some remarkable points on the way that we think. One thing that resonated with me is that it’s not only okay to be wrong but it might be beneficial for us to be wrong. That resonated because I have a fear of being wrong and not in the sense where I try to prove that I’m right all the time. At least I’m not conscious of doing that. It’s that I usually won’t do something unless I feel confident about it. If I need to do it despite feeling insecure, I will always indicate that I feel insecure and this is an example. That book gave me the courage, the freedom and the permission to be wrong, I suppose because it’s not as bad as I believe I was conditioned to believe it is.
One of the points that I’m taking from the book is that if we don’t permit ourselves to be wrong and to shift and change then we don’t evolve and grow and we’re not as open-minded as we think. It’s very constraining and this whole idea of perfectionism comes up a lot and perhaps that’s my experience as a perfectionist. This also came up for me as I’ve been learning more about what it means to be anti-racist. In June 2020 when I first started being committed to that journey, I was afraid of saying the wrong thing, as many white people were. Those of us who wanted to be allies called ourselves allies felt awkward because this fear of saying it wrong and we’ve talked about on the show cancel culture can make it scary.
Reading this book makes me feel stronger about cancel culture and that it’s a slippery slope and challenging thing because we want to hold people accountable. If we instill this fear of saying and doing the wrong thing in people then do they lose the courage to try and do we lose that opportunity to be wrong and the growth within that. It’s also a lot in our ego to think that it’s possible to live life without being wrong at some point. I started listening to it. I’m probably going to read the written version of it so I can better understand it.
That ties into the show in a lot of ways because it’s important that we state Jason if it’s not already clear that this is a big exploration and we’re not here to be right. We’re not here to be gurus as we talked about. One of the episodes that you and I did towards the beginning of the show that sat with both of us had a big impact on each of us was that guru episode. That is something that I was complimented on by a friend, Jason.
One of our mutual friends said that they liked that we didn’t come across as having all the answers and didn’t have an ego about us and that felt good to me. That ironically made my ego feel good because I get turned off when people seem they have all the answers. If I’ve noticed my tendencies when it comes to me consuming content, I lean towards people that are vulnerable with a little bit of confidence and courage but not leading from a place of being knowing it all and I’m better than you and this dominating energy. I don’t like content these days that feels too structured and edited. I like that content that feels like an exploration and a curiosity and let’s learn together. That feels more open and free and it feels more in the flow. It also depends on who’s sharing the information. I’m very sensitive to the energy around it.
One of the reasons I bring this up is because a subject matter that I feel insecure about talking about but also, I feel like is important to share is my exploration of ADHD and how I’ve been wondering if I have undiagnosed ADHD and I felt a little nervous sharing this. I recorded a video for my Whitney Lauritsen YouTube channel and I never posted it because I thought, “What if I don’t have ADHD? Are people going to be offended that I’m wondering?” I want to start by saying that I try to be respectful when it comes to anything mental health-related because I don’t ever want it to seem like I’m taking it lightly. When it comes to conscious languaging I’m using terms like, “I have anxiety,” “I have depression,” or, “I’m depressed.” Those words get thrown around so much but some people have clinical depression. If we associate depression or mix it up, I wonder if the people that are clinically depressed feel like it’s minimized, almost like it’s cultural appropriation, if that makes sense.
We’re taking something from someone else and making ours, even if it’s different from their experience like we’re making light in a way. We have to be mindful and, in that sense, it can minimize somebody else’s experience. It’s like, “If everybody is depressed then the clinically depressed people, are they not taken seriously?” It’s like when you share something with someone and they go, “I can relate,” but maybe you know as a fact that they haven’t had that experience. An extreme example would be, “I’m upset because my dad died.” My dad’s still alive. If somebody said that to me, I can’t completely relate. I’m not going to be like, “I understand.” Even the phrase I understand. I try to be mindful of it because I can’t understand what it’s like to lose my dad until I lose my dad.If people don't give themselves permission to be wrong and change, no one could evolve and grow. Click To Tweet
I’ve said this before on the show. I want to learn more language for those discussions to validate other people and also try to take myself out of it. I tend to try to show that I relate or can understand what somebody is going through because I’ve had been unconsciously trained to do that. That’s how our society tends to try to support somebody through grief. It’s like letting them know that you have compassion because you feel like you can understand but over time, I’ve started to feel that’s not the best approach. Sometimes we truly can’t understand what someone’s going through and they don’t need us to understand. They just need us to listen or be there for them or show our compassion for them.
My point being the conscious language side of this is I am treading very lightly and I want to say that upfront because, Jason, I know that you have started to have a question mark in your head the more than I have explored ADHD out loud, you said, “I wonder if I have it?” I started to look at ADHD through the lens of like, “What if other people in my life have undiagnosed ADHD?” The other question came up like, “A) What if a lot of people have it? B) A lot of people have a symptom but don’t necessarily have it.”
It’s been this interesting exploration for me and I’m not going to self-diagnose myself. I am exploring it so that I’m prepared with some questions and I can ask a doctor. I have a doctor’s appointment and I want to begin this journey by asking my doctor, “If I want to find out if I have it, where do I go?” I don’t know where to begin. It’s something that I’m feeling more confident talking about out loud, Jason, this exploration because I wonder how many people are undiagnosed with it.
I didn’t recognize how common an adult diagnosis of ADHD was and now I know several people who didn’t want so much of their life without even realizing it. I’m grateful for the people that speak publicly about ADHD especially those who have it because that’s how I’ve learned. It’s mainly been on TikTok. Coming back to one of the reasons I spend much time on TikTok is I appreciate people who talk about things that I don’t see addressed as publicly, openly and honestly as in TikTok. That’s why I’m talking about it because even if I don’t have it’s an important thing to explore if you have symptoms.
I thought what we could do is go through some of the symptoms of it and some of the neurodivergent elements, which is a term I didn’t know before. We did an episode about what it means to be neurodivergent. When we did that episode, Jason, I didn’t suspect that I had ADHD and that is another interesting thing. I don’t know if that’s a newer term, neurodivergent versus neurotypical. It’s new to me and it’s like, “How many things are out there in this world that could be helpful to the mental health that we don’t even have exposure to?” That’s something I’m committed to with this show is just talking about things so that the readers feel comfortable and aware that they can explore it and discuss it themselves.
To back up what you said about us not claiming to or being clinical psychotherapists, medical doctors, psychiatrists, just to reinforce what you said on a medical scientific level, we don’t have any of those certifications or degrees. We are exploring all of this often in real-time, trying to unpack not only the ramifications for our individual health, Whitney and myself but the larger ramifications for society and culture and humanity. As an offshoot about the guru episode, if you do a Google search, there’s also a companion blog post. The last time I checked, it is the most read blog post on our website Wellevatr.com. It’s Be Your Own Damn Guru. It’s one of the blog posts I’m most proud of. If you want to read companion posts to the episode, that is out there on our website as well.
On that topic, Whitney, we got an email for our newsletter and on our website, you can subscribe to our newsletter. We send out newsletters every single Friday with new blog posts, new podcast episodes, including our brand new private podcast, This Hits The Spot, which is all about our favorite products and supplements, services and things we’re excited about. All that being said, we received a reply to the newsletter because we talked about how as of the time we’re recording in June is National PTSD Awareness Month. I’m by no means an expert on PTSD or the nuances. This listener was very forthright and I appreciated her willingness to say, “This doesn’t cover the whole spectrum of PTSD.” For instance, she was saying, “She has something called C PTSD,” which I’d never heard of. It stands for Chronic PTSD in the sense that this is a form of PTSD that has a sense of embedded trauma that doesn’t resolve as easily as other forms of PTSD. I’d never heard of C PTSD.
All of this is to say we’re always very open to receiving new information and new perspectives. We’re here learning along with you because we share shit that doesn’t have all the answers. We’re nowhere even close to having all the answers. Shout out to our reader and our listener who sent us that email to educate us because I didn’t even know Chronic PTSD was even a thing. Thank you for that. The other thing, Whitney, too, that I wanted to just briefly touch on is you talked about self-diagnosis. There’s a huge rampant amount of distrust with science and medicine in the “wellness community,” the wellness influencer community. Basically, it’s like, “Science is bullshit. Western medicine is bullshit. You can diagnose yourself.”
I’ve seen that messaging very consistently. I find especially in the framework of mental health, diagnosing oneself is potentially extremely dangerous and here’s why. You could take the wrong medication, you could take the wrong supplements and you could seek out a form of therapy that isn’t tailored to what you are experiencing or suffering with. This idea of self-diagnosis can be a slippery slope and potentially dangerous. That being said, you talked about how people using terms like depression, trauma, anxiety loosely can affect people who have been clinically diagnosed with those kinds of things.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression back in 2014. I have been dancing with it, wrestling with it, struggling with it and fighting it for years. I remember when I got diagnosed and I was talking about it on social media. There were people saying what you were saying, Whitney, like, “Me too.” One person I remember was like, “It sounds like you have situational depression, not clinical depression.” I was like, “Thank you, doctor, for weighing in on that.”
People have interesting opinions when you start to speak publicly about something you’ve been clinically diagnosed with by not only my general practitioner but also my psychotherapist. They’re like, “You have clinical depression.” I don’t know that it per se, Whitney, diminishes my experience or how my experience is perceived. I’ve seen people using the word trauma in relation to traffic like, “I was in traffic for three hours and I’m so traumatized by it.” I’m like, “It’s not fucking trauma, with all due respect.” You being stuck in traffic for three hours, not to diminish it, unless maybe you’ve been in an auto accident in the past and this retriggered something.
I don’t want to make a blanket statement saying it’s all bullshit but with influencer culture using words like depression, trauma, suicidal ideation, I observe them being used very flippantly in many cases, not all cases. I say all this because I want people to be mindful of their language. I’m glad you brought that up, Whitney. Talking about being depressed, talking about being suicidal, talking about anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, without knowing what’s going on with your body and your psychology, it’s dangerous and a little bit irresponsible to be using those terminologies. I feel it’s irresponsible to do that.
I don’t think most people mean to be irresponsible. A lot of people mean the best and they’re trying to connect and trying to relate. That’s why I’m also mindful about how I’m talking about my ADHD exploration because I don’t want to take it away and be like, “Me too.” When I can say me too to is that I can relate to some of the symptoms. I’m not going to assume that because I have some of the symptoms of ADHD that I have it because what I don’t know yet and I haven’t worked with a professional is are those separate? Is it a coincidence? Similar to how you can feel anxious but not have an anxiety disorder.
I’m also mindful when I use the term eating disorder. I prefer disordered eating because I don’t think they’re the same thing. They imply something very similar to some people and they might be the same thing but to me, I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder. There were elements of the way that I treated myself that are not fully in line with the eating disorder that I was most similar to. I don’t feel that I have the full ability or permission to align myself with something that I take seriously. I may have said eating disorder in the past but I’ve since changed the way I speak about it. It’s up to interpretation. Some people don’t mind if you use the term eating disorder but some people do.Even if you don't believe COVID is real, it still impacted you because everybody has reacted to it in their own unique way. Click To Tweet
To your point, Jason, that message that we got to our newsletter, I was a little taken aback by it at first but it reminded me of a situation that happened in the news. The movie In The Heights came out and I haven’t seen it yet. I would like to. One response that I’ve been aware of is how some people feel that not enough people of color were represented, specifically dark color. Some people have spoken out about that to the director, the producer or Lin Manuel, the creator. There’s been a little bit of pushback from people involved in the beginning. I think it is shifting now.
There’s been a conversation around this of like, “What is enough diversity?” One comment that came out in mid-June 2021 was Rita Moreno, who is a Puerto Rican actress. She has been praised for a lot of her work. She spoke out about that. At first was saying like, “Isn’t this enough for you?” It’s as if she was saying, “How dare you complain about lack of diversity when there is diversity? We should be focused on the progress that we’re making, not what we haven’t achieved yet.” There’s something to be said about that but first of all, I’m a white woman and it’s not my place to comment on this. Let me be clear that I’m simply observing. I’m bringing this up because she eventually apologized for saying that. Part of the reason that she apologized is she realized she could only speak from her experience as a fairly light-skinned woman. How can she speak for someone dark-skinned and upset that they’re not being represented?
That ties into this as well. We can only speak from our experience and I don’t believe that it’s fair to comment on somebody or invalidate somebody else’s experience that we can’t relate to. That’s something I’ve learned a lot over the past years. It’s not my place. With all of that said I wanted to speak more about my current experience. One element of this, Jason, that I’m reflecting on is, let’s say that I am neurodivergent, which first of all I’m wondering is how does anyone truly define themselves as neurotypical because lately, all I hear of is neurodivergent people. I’m want to know more of the definition of what it means to be neurotypical versus neurodivergent because it feels like a lot of people are struggling with their mental health. It seems that a high percentage of that is people feeling like they don’t fit in and they can’t meet the standards that were set for them or the expectations.
In my experience and the experience that I have observed from others is people trying to fit themselves in a box that they don’t fit in and when they don’t fit in it, they get frustrated and often anxious or depressed or something on that spectrum. It’s like, “Life wants me to be something that I’m not.” We see this with gender, sexuality, anxiety, depression and on and on. All these issues are coming to the surface.
The word typical brings up some questions for me and I’m sure there’s a medical standard for what it means to be neurotypical. I also don’t necessarily take that as factual because psychology is constantly developing and a lot of these study standards that doctors use to diagnose somebody are old and often outdated or based on traditions. Medicine itself and science are constantly evolving so it’s a slippery slope.
This is also a part of my curiosity with this journey in pursuing an examination around my mental state is that I don’t know if I’ll trust whatever result I get, to be honest because it could change in five years. They could suddenly be like, “You do qualify as having ADHD.” The definitions could evolve. It also makes me wonder about my childhood because the more I’ve examined my experiences and my “symptoms,” I think, “I’ve had this all my life and how come nobody caught it?” This is why people get diagnosed with ADHD later in life because they were never tested as kids. Why is that? Did your parents, teachers or your doctors not catch it? Was the diagnosis very different when I was a little kid versus the way it is now? That’s an important thing to consider.
I’m not attached to putting a label on how my brain works but what feels important to me is to understand the way that I work so that I feel like I can interact with other people with more confidence. Part of what led me down this path was seeing a TikTok post about executive dysfunction. I didn’t know what that term meant. I took a screenshot of it. It was a video of a person with ADHD cleaning the house and then they use the phrase couch lock from anxiety/executive dysfunction. I’m fairly certain that was the video I saw where I was like, “What is that?” I went and looked it up.
I saw this video and I looked up what executive dysfunction was. I have never heard this term previous to this. “Executive dysfunction describes the range of cognitive-behavioral and emotional difficulties, which often occur as a result of another disorder or traumatic brain injury. Individuals with executive dysfunction struggle with planning, problem-solving, organization and time management.” This is the definition from AttitudeMag.com. That was at the top of the Google search. Don’t take that as an all-encompassing definition.
I also pulled up an article on the Manhattan Psychology Group that describes it as, “People with executive functioning disorder exhibit a wide variety of difficulties with everyday tasks such as not being able to manage time well, difficulty meeting deadlines or goals. Determining the amount of time that has passed or is necessary to complete a task. Difficulty in organizing and planning, trouble paying attention, trouble switching focus and not being able to remember details. Misplacing and losing possessions. Difficulty delaying response or withholding a response.” Just reading that sentence, I’m like, “Holy shit. This is why I need to look into this further.”
A lot of things on this list seem very common and not everything on this list is something I struggle with. For instance, most people that know me believe me to be organized and good at planning and those are skills of mine. However, Jason, I’ve often wondered, “Did I teach myself those skills because I was trying to compensate for my challenges with the other things?” How much of who I am now is the result of me trying to cope with something I’ve been struggling with my whole life that nobody else seemed to be able to help me with because I find relief and comfort in planning and organizing?
When I can’t plan and I don’t organize, I feel extreme distress. I feel so much anxiety. That’s why I don’t think I’ve ever looked into ADHD because I thought, “I seem to be able to pay attention and to focus. I’m pretty good. I have a good memory.” You see some of these things but when you get into the nuances of this stuff, that’s where I start to wonder. My difficulty in responding to people is a big red flag. One of the top things that I’m curious about is that I thought all these years, Jason, once I noticed that about myself, which was probably about years ago. I figured that was purely a weakness of mine. I thought something was simultaneously wrong with me but something fixable. I’m struggling with this but it’s just temporary.
This is why it’s hard to put into words because I feel like other people internalized what I believe other people are thinking, Jason. To be specific most people especially you, know that I’m slow to respond to emails. Emails have been a huge challenge for me for years. Enough people seem to struggle with emails that I thought, “This is A) Common but B) I thought it was a temporary problem I was having. I’ll get over it. I’m just being lazy.”
I thought it was something I could fix. I don’t know if that makes sense. It just wasn’t fixed yet. I’ve noticed reflecting that at a certain point, if something’s not fixing itself, it’s probably not going to fix itself if that makes sense. At a certain point of experiencing something, maybe it’s the way that you are. I’ve internalized it so much as a point of shame. I feel deep shame when I don’t reply to emails and then on top of that shame, I get anxiety because I feel much shame. I get caught up in the cycle and in my brain, I’m always thinking, “One day I’ll catch up, I’ll remove the shame and the anxiety will be gone if only I do this.” This is part of where the executive function comes in.
I’ve noticed a lot of people expressing with ADHD that they get these windows and this burse. I can’t remember if I sent you this video, Jason. I saw that someone else articulating this but a lot of people with ADHD get these brief periods of time where they can focus. As soon as you feel that you have to spring into action and do something with it. I’m always waiting for that window and that’s my hope. I’m like, “Here’s the window. I have the energy. My brain is focused. I’m going to get this stuff done.” I get something done,” and then it’s like the executive dysfunction comes back. Other people describe it as paralysis where I feel I shut down but because I’ve been caught in the cycle of self-blame, I just put it on myself all the time. I don’t even have the word for it. I don’t know if it makes sense to you at all?By instilling fear in people than holding them accountable, they lose the courage to be wrong and find growth within that. Click To Tweet
It’s tough because the reason that it’s difficult to self-diagnose something like this to your point is when you read how this affects at least on the list and the symptoms and the actions or lack thereof, even I could say or I identify with some of that to a degree. It’s difficult, though because I wonder about this for myself. Is it simply exhaustion sometimes where I can’t sit down and focus on the inbox? For me, it’s like dishes. I cook, I make a meal, I get distracted by work, I get distracted by other people wanting things for life and then I look at the dishes and I’m like, “I’m not doing this,” and they pile up higher. I wait until I have no clean dishes left. For me, as transposition, is that exhaustion from life in general or is that executive dysfunction and that shows up for me and my reticence to do dishes daily? It’s hard to say.
It is hard to say and again we’re just talking through this. My fear that the readers are going to be like, “Don’t even try to understand it. Go get diagnosed.” It’s not that simple, first of all, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with exploring it. I’m glad that you’re open to having this conversation with me, Jason. I want to be very clear. I’m reading about it so that I have some of the words to ask my doctor because I’m a little afraid that going in and if I don’t articulate it the doctors are going to be like, “That’s common.” This is part of my preparation as a coping skill. I like to prepare my thoughts because I haven’t had the words to describe this and one thing that you said, Jason, that’s in this article on ManhattanPsychologyGroup.com.
This to me sounds like what you’re describing and one reason you should talk to your doctor and see where you fall on the spectrum of all this. “While depression and anxiety do not have to occur with executive function disorder, they are likely to present in conjunction with it. Adults may mistake EFD for laziness or a lack of intelligence. Furthermore, as academic demands begin to increase and children recognize that for some reason they can’t keep up, this can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem.”
I get emotional reading things like that because, first of all, I know my sister struggled with this and I’ve suspected for many years that my sister has ADHD. We’re different that I figured, “She probably has other people that have wondered that about her but she’s never pursued a diagnosis.” It turns out ADHD is genetic. I was seeing that within my sister and assuming I didn’t have it but now that I know that it is genetic I wonder that maybe we both have it but it shows up differently.
For me, one of the ways that showed up is exactly what you’re describing, Jason, the laziness factor. “I can’t do this but it must be because I’m lazy. I can’t do this I must be burned out.” That was the thought process I’ve had for a year and a half. I remember distinctly in January 2020, before we are globally aware of COVID in the US, I felt executive dysfunction and I thought I was burned out. I thought I needed a break. I’ve wondered throughout COVID, Jason, why I don’t feel better after all of this time collectively of taking “time off” doing things differently, not socializing? All these things that I haven’t done and I still feel the same way. I’m like, “I don’t think this is burnout.”
I’ve labeled it as burnout and that’s another reason why I wanted to talk about this on the show is that I think a lot of people use and throw around the word burnout. What if it’s not burnout? What if you have something neurologically going on? My heart breaks for my younger self. If I do find out that I have some disorder, ADHD, EFT, whatever it is or even some major symptom of it, if I’ve gone my whole life feeling like I couldn’t keep up, maybe that helps me better understand the anxiety and the low self-esteem I’ve struggled with. There’s a lot of therapeutic elements of this.
Jason, as I’ve looked into this part, part of me is afraid of getting diagnosed because one of the most common things that happen is your prescribed medication. I’m like, “I don’t want to go on medication.” I might try it because it’s incredibly frustrating for me as somebody who wants to function mentally in certain ways and has struggled with doing so. I might try medication so that I can function in the way that I would like to and see what it’s like but I have to go down and better understand what the side effects are.
The alternative is cognitive-behavioral therapy. I’m thinking that there’s got to be a lot of therapeutic elements of not only being diagnosed with something or a better understanding of your brain but then therapeutically working through it. For me, I want to heal that inner child that couldn’t keep up in school, that would try so hard to get A’s and usually got B-pluses. That never felt good enough. I was devastated when I didn’t get into the college that I wanted to because I couldn’t get my grades and my SAT scores up high enough. I bet you there are adults and teenagers that carry around shame, anxiety and low self-esteem because they couldn’t keep up or they couldn’t meet those standards in that criteria. That’s the other reason that again I want to share this journey. What if we have been beating ourselves up over something that we can’t help?
It’s an intense thought, isn’t it? To think about making ourselves feel bad for many years because we were underperforming, we were thinking we weren’t good enough, not matching the work ethic or the output or the level of enthusiasm or passion. The focus that we saw in our classmates, our work colleagues and the people in our industry. It has the potential to reframe a lot. It has the potential to present a whole another series of choices of how I suppose to move forward in life and perhaps take different approaches.
The thing that I land on, though, is what’s the ultimate intention? I was trying to formulate my thoughts here. Not just understanding what may or may not be going on with us neurologically, what may or may not be a genetic predisposition? How we’re learning to navigate the world if we do get a diagnosis to your point whether that’s pharmaceuticals, CBT and different therapies? Do we want to be more productive? If so, why?
I transpose this because I’m realizing that over the years, my desire to “be more productive” and match other people’s energy and seeing how hard people were working, how hard they were hustling, how much they were, “accomplishing” in all their success and feeling like I had to match or exceed that output and those successes. My question is as we understand ourselves more and potentially get a diagnosis for some neurodivergent framework with our lives. I’m curious, Whitney, other than understanding yourself more, which is an incredibly important thing. Is it to achieve some effect for you if I understand this better and have a diagnosis and have a different set of therapies to be more productive to engage with work differently? I’m curious about the nuances for you specifically. Are there very specific things you want to address through this process? If so, why do you want to address those things? It doesn’t have to be productivity that’s just one that popped out at me. I’m wondering, is there a part of not-enoughness wrapped up in all of this? Does that make sense the question I’m asking?
Absolutely and I think it’s a great one. A huge part of it for me is that it felt like something has been wrong with me and shame is a big part of this. I find myself apologizing or I feel much shame that I don’t even apologize because I’m afraid that people don’t understand and won’t understand, there’s no point. The number of times that I’ve “dropped the ball” on something because of these traits. I felt much shame that I didn’t even articulate it. I can think of many examples. The times that I don’t respond to text messages, it’s not just emails I struggle with communication in general. I feel like either my awareness has heightened or my executive dysfunction has gotten worse. It might be a universal thing.
Going to the PTSD point, Jason and again, I’m not trying to say that I have PTSD but there is an element of trauma that many of us have experienced because of COVID that we will not fully understand. Like 9/11 instilled a lot of trauma in the entire country and the world as well. There are elements of trauma within me from 9/11 that I probably don’t fully understand. It was a very traumatic time, even though I wasn’t in New York City. I’m not going to get into 9/11 but there are times when I reflect on how that’s impacted me emotionally.
We’re going to see the same thing with COVID. Lots of people have died from COVID and people have suffered. I don’t even need to list off the effects. COVID, the pandemic, has impacted us as a fact, even if you don’t believe that COVID was real. It still impacted you because everybody has reacted to it in their unique way. Somebody shamed me for getting the vaccine, Jason and that’s traumatic for me because shame, in general, is a very traumatic thing. I’m incredibly triggered by being shamed. If getting the vaccine in itself did partially relieve me from a mental health standpoint because I experienced a lot of anxiety about COVID and around socializing. I realized after getting the vaccine that there’s a level of shame that people will put on you for getting it because they have judgments around that.Just because you can't manage your time well doesn't mean you have executive dysfunction. Click To Tweet
The mental health on COVID, everybody’s experiencing it on some level or not. There’s a lot of trauma and sometimes I’m like, “Everybody’s feeling trauma and everybody is probably experiencing some executive dysfunction as I’ve list listed it out.” I’ve met a lot of people who share a lot of those elements. When I was sharing about the disorder, those sound like somebody you know has experienced. The ability to not manage your time well is a very common experience. It’s because you can’t manage your time well doesn’t mean that you have it.
In terms of me figuring it out, Jason, to going back to your question. I do feel like it’s therapeutic to better understand myself first of all so that I can articulate it because if I understand my brain and say, “Whitney, black and white, you’re not very good at answering emails.” I can take some of the shame away and I can confidently say that to somebody. If I had a way to describe that to someone truly, I don’t want to sound like I’m lazy. If I can articulate to someone professionally, “I cognitively struggle with responding to emails. It’s not personal.” If I can say that upfront in business practices. I have so much anxiety. I have more anxiety than I’m fully conscious of because I haven’t responded to business emails and I have people following up with me, which makes my anxiety even worse because I feel shame around it. I feel embarrassed and weak.
To your point, Jason, it’s not necessarily trying to be more productive. It’s that I don’t want to carry that unnecessary shame with me. I don’t know for sure that a diagnosis would comfort me but part of my exploration and my commitment to the readers is that I want to share what I learn about this. If I can get more tools for communicating with others, I will share that because I guarantee I’m not the only one that feels shame when they don’t reply to a text message or phone call or email. It would make me feel so much relief if I had more phrases to use to explain myself if that makes sense. The number of friends that think that I don’t like them because I haven’t responded to their texts or I don’t want to get together with them. I carry that anxiety around me constantly. It’s very often that I will not get together with people, I will delay it. All that stuff comes out of me feeling executive dysfunction symptoms because I just want to not do anything. Do you know what I mean? Does that answer your question?
Absolutely. The interesting thing, too, we’ve talked about how to navigate work and the workplace when you have a mental disorder. We’ve discussed this in previous episodes. To your point, Whitney, you communicating to people potentially depending on how this process goes for you of seeing your doctor and potentially diagnosing some things of saying in a work context I apologize I didn’t get back to you. It’s cognitively challenging for me to respond to emails in a timely way. That also takes courage because we can make a sweeping generalization that in general and in the workplace, it’s not a societal acceptable thing to talk about mental health or disease or even people dying in your family. It’s like, “You go to the funeral and mourn and come back in three days. You get three days off.”
Our capitalist work industry is not structured to be supportive of people’s health, physically or mentally or honoring their human needs in many ways. I know that’s a generalization. Different corporations are employing some human-centered practices but for the most part, work is not designed to support us physically or mentally. Financially, sure. You come up, you show up and we exchange work hours for money. The interesting thing about what you’re sharing, Whitney, is I have been more forthright in certain work interactions to tell people like, “I’m dealing with it. I’m sorry I’m behind on this project. I’m incredibly depressed. I appreciate your patience and your understanding while it worked through what I’ve agreed to do for you.”
My thing is like, “Could I risk losing money? Yes. Could I risk losing the project? Yes. I have a ton of anxiety around it. When I have communicated that to people there is a part of me that’s like, “They could just pull the plug completely and I’m going to lose the money. I’m going to lose the project. I might lose clout.” It’s nerve-racking for me in communicating those things yet I feel like if I don’t then there’s going to be this judgment of, “Jason’s a slacker. He doesn’t care about this. We’re never going to hire him again.” On the one hand, to me, it takes courage to communicate this knowing that I will risk the person not understanding but I’m willing to take that risk rather than having them think he’s lazy, he’s not committed and he doesn’t give a shit.
I still cringe every time I communicate those things, Whitney because I don’t know how it’s going to be received. On a higher level, I also want to communicate it because I want to normalize this conversation of, “I’m a human being who has a mental illness. I am clinically depressed and if this person doesn’t understand then don’t work with me again. I’ll sacrifice the money. I’ll sacrifice my reputation because I’m a human being. My health comes first before the money. My health comes first before success.” With very few exceptions, I’m placing my health now, Whitney, above a lot in my life for the first time. I’m excited and supportive of you in this exploration for you in you not only understanding yourself more but using that understanding and that framework to communicate in these ways and having the courage to say, “Fuck it. If people don’t understand they don’t understand but I have to be honest about what’s going on in my life.”
I am experiencing the same thing. The more I’ve been thinking about the executive dysfunction, which I will say something else I learned that women especially struggle with ADHD because of their hormones and their cycle. I have been tracking my cycle for many years but I’ve been trying to take more notes of my mood changes. It’s crazy how different I am emotionally right before I start menstruating and crazy in the sense that I’m taken aback by it but that’s pretty common for women to have mood swings, mood changes, PMS and all of that.
For ADHD women, that can be an extremely challenging time. It’s called the luteal phase where that week before you start menstruating, executive dysfunction can be so high. There was a week I had major executive dysfunction meaning l had trouble functioning. I started thinking similar to you, Jason, I was “slacking” on projects. There are a couple of people who are waiting for things from me and I’m terrified of telling them, “I’m having some cognitive struggles.”
To your point, the place that we’re at is they want to hire me and I haven’t sent them a proposal and I’m afraid that they think that I don’t care, I’m not interested or I’m a slacker. I’m afraid that they’re not going to want to work with me because of that but the truth is I want to work with them. I just struggle to send that email with the proposal. I’m wondering do I tell them that I’m struggling mentally because why would they want to hire me? Are they going to hire me if I can’t send them an email?
The number of opportunities I’ve let go for that reason where I could not get over this current hurdle but I’m very confident. When I’m hired in the role that I am talking about where I do my consulting, I’m incredibly confident about my abilities to coach but I’m terrified that when people know where my struggles are pre-coaching, they don’t want to hire me. I’ve thought about this a lot over the years when I’ve talked publicly about shame, my struggles and insecurities especially on my Whitney Lauritsen YouTube channel I’m like, “Great, who’s ever going to hire me as a coach because I do well being coaching too? Why would they hire me knowing how much I struggle with my mental health sometimes?”
Another thing I wanted to bring up is an article I came across and I can’t remember what I googled to find this but it is one of the more fascinating articles I’ve read, Jason and this is one that I sent to you but I don’t think you’ve read it yet. It’s titled When Adult ADD/ADHD Goes Untreated. It was written by a doctor in 2013. This article is eye-opening to me. I haven’t cross-referenced it. I like to be transparent. It’s on Psychology Today, which I find to be fairly reputable. Also, they review their posts so it’s cool. I’ve never clicked on this before, Jason but they’re in Psychology Today. You can click a button and it tells you about their editorial process, standards, guidelines, their content labeling. It’s impressive and I appreciate that. As a theme of this particular episode, we try to be mindful not to state things that are untrue, if we have not. Meaning we try to go through a process of transparency.
When we’re sharing opinions when we’ve done thorough research, our certifications and lack thereof of all of these things because we take mental health incredibly seriously. It’s been a big gift running this show because I feel I’ve learned so much about mental health. This has been an education for me even when we’re not always basing it on scientific research. It’s still enlightening and it puts us down this path.
This article is great for what we’ve been exploring and it begins with a case study and to quote, it says, “Doctor, I have been to four psychiatrists during the past ten years and I’ve tried everything. They tell me that I’m depressed or bipolar. The meds make me feel worse. I was in therapy for six years and figured it was that I had a bad childhood but I still feel lousy.” The doctor and writer talk about this person, John. I don’t know if that’s the real name or one for the article. “John contacted me because I specialize in the diagnosis of ADHD and the treatment of ADHD in New York City.”The capitalist work industry is not structured to support people's health, physically or mentally, or even honoring human needs. Click To Tweet
His financial firm that he worked at had sent this doctor similar people who are bright and brilliant and feel they should be accelerated excelling but never seem to get their act together. A third of the patients they referred ended up having adult ADHD and have never been diagnosed. In his opinion of it, he references another doctor named Dr. Hallowell. “ADHD is a misnomer, a bad term. This doctor sees ADHD neither as a disorder nor a deficit of attention. In his personal professional experiences, he has come to define ADHD as a trait, not a disability,” which is an important distinction.
He gets into whether or not ADHD is overdiagnosed and this doctor says, “More often than not ADHD is missed and the person is labeled with depression or bipolar disorder.” Fascinating. Doctor says, “When someone tells me they’re depressed but every treatment in the book, including medications haven’t worked, I start wondering if something else is going on.” Jason, I don’t know if that about you but this makes me wonder about yourself. I’ll continue, “Many times symptoms of ADHD can masquerade as other diagnoses. They often have mood swings and difficulty with mood regulation. This isn’t a DSM IV criteria,” which for those that don’t have a background in psychology, that’s a book basically of how they make a diagnosis as psychologists.
He said, “It’s not in that criteria but if you’ve worked with hundreds of patients with ADHD, you know that ADHD causes mood swings. When someone with ADHD is sad or in a funk, they have a hard time shaking it. When they are excited, they are excited. This is one of the gifts and wonderful traits of people with ADHD. They are passionate people passionate about life and passionate about letting other people know about it. If one doesn’t spend the time getting to know the person, they might think the person has bipolar disorder.” I bring this up because some people have wondered if Jason has bipolar disorder.
People have literally said, “You’re bipolar.” These people are not clinicians so this gets tricky because now we’re getting into nuance because everything you’re talking about under the framework that I was always under the impression of was that I could be bipolar because of the mood swings. That’s what I was told for the chunk of my adult life that I’ve experienced depression. “You might be bipolar because you have high highs and you have low lows.” That was almost parroted to me over and over again.
I’ve never heard that in relation to ADHD ever. It’s confounding too. First of all, I haven’t been diagnosed bipolar by either my therapist or my general practitioner. Neither one of them is looking at neurotransmitters and things like that. I’ve had radical mood swings since I was a young child. What you’re describing is not a new thing for me. I remember being young and having the personality that when I’m on fire about something, you’re going to be on fire too because I’m so excited about it. When I get low, I get scarily low.
That’s why my eyebrow was raised upon reading this because you said to me after something else unrelated to this I sent to you Jason, you’re like, “I wonder. Should I get tested for it too?” I thought to myself, “What makes him say that.” When I came across this article, it was more clues. I can’t stress this enough. We’re not trying to diagnose ourselves. We’re bringing this up so we can seek out this with a professional. One question that comes up for me before I go back to that article because there are other points that I want to bring up. I wonder sometimes if it’s possible to be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. It’s a little scary because what if you’re misdiagnosed for having ADHD and you go to someone else and they say, “No, you don’t have ADHD.”
You could technically bounce around through all these different doctors based on their opinions and their criteria. That makes me a little bit nervous. What if you can never get a true answer? I’m prepared for that, to be honest. It’s similar to what you’re describing and what this doctor is describing. To go back to that, he said, “Many clinicians were taught that if someone presents with depression and ADHD, first, treat the depression and treat ADHD.” In his opinion, this is backward thinking, “Often the patient feels depressed, frustrated.” Jason, pointing at you, “Has lost interest in work and other activities but this can be because he has experienced one failure after another or has gone from one job to the next.”
“In this doctor’s experience. When you treat ADHD, the person begins to acquire the ability to achieve their goals, improve relationships, meet deadlines, on and on and they feel more confident and happy. Unfortunately, when patients are treated for depression, stay on medications and their symptoms aren’t improving, they get worse without getting to the root problem.” Reading this feels so insightful. He was taught during training to never take away someone’s dopamine. “Dopamine gives us a zest for life motivation and enables us to pay attention. It is the piece of the puzzle people with ADHD may be missing that inhibits and blocks them from reaching their potential. Guess what antidepressants and antipsychotics do?”
“Through a feedback loop. These medications can decrease the function of dopamine in the frontal lobes and limbic system.” It explains why some people hesitate to take drugs and I know you’ve been reflecting on this yourself, Jason and maybe for good reason. It also makes me wonder when I took antidepressants briefly back in college, they didn’t seem to do anything for me. Granted, maybe I need deeper therapy. I needed to find a specific type of therapy that works for me or was it that I was misdiagnosed and given antidepressants when I needed something else?
All of this is turning I suppose a lot of the traditional diagnoses or the system of diagnosing. It’s flipping it on its head. To your point about SSRIs, which are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. We talked about dopamine but most of the antidepressants out there work with serotonin rather than dopamine specifically. One of the concerning things that I have researched comes from Harvard Medicine. In Harvard’s research around SSRIs, they found that in a lot of cases it can increase suicidal thinking.
For someone who’s already suicidal like I am, I deal with a lot of suicidal ideation and I don’t want to be taking a drug that’s going to increase the frequency and intensity of my suicidal thoughts than when that’s what I’m trying to address. To your point about experimenting with different things. This will probably be a different episode because on the other side of what I’m about to talk about, there’s going to be some episodes. I’ve been talking to my GP and my therapist about coordinating alternative treatments that are not SSRIs and not antidepressants because they both agreed that’s not the best option.
The other thing I did not know about this quickly, I was talking to my therapist, Gary, said that the other reason that he’s reticent to go to an antidepressant for me is that in his experience and he’s worked with many patients who are on antidepressants. He’s noticed that they take on an average of 2 to 3 months to be fully functional. He said, “Where you’re at with your depression, your suicidal ideation, I do not want to wait 2 to 3 months for you to have relief. We don’t have that luxury and there’s no guarantee they would even work.”
I’m teasing a future episode. FYI, what I’m about to say has been discussed with my doctor, who is an integrative medicine doctor and my therapist. What we’re doing is I started micro-dosing psilocybin mushrooms and I got a text that my therapist and my MD talked, which I wanted them to do and I’m going to go into an assisted MDMA therapy program which means I will be taking MDMA. MDMA is the former pharmacological name for ecstasy but there’s pharmaceutical-grade ecstasy on the market now and apparently what this does is, it affects the neurotransmitters in your brain. I don’t know exactly what part of the brain. I need to research more. I’m not an expert on MDMA. I’m trying the psilocybin micro-dosing and the assisted MDMA therapy before I consider an antidepressant.
Basically, what I’m saying in my framework of how I’m handling my mental health issues is an antidepressant, in conjunction with my medical team, that’s the last resort. What we want to do is try these other modalities. With this information we’re talking about, I want to bring this up on my next appointment of, “In seven years of working together, we’ve never talked about ADHD.” This has been timely as I’m approaching these new functional therapies to bring this to the table and say, “Could this be a possibility?” I’m not diagnosing myself but it’s everything you’re saying is giving me the confidence to bring this to my MD and my therapist and say, “What about this,” because we’ve never discussed it. Not to take away from their expertise or their knowledge. It’s never been put on the table.Asking someone to hold you accountable can make a world of difference in your life. Click To Tweet
This article that I’m sharing might explain that. Maybe the therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists are not trained to look. In my experience, my first time doing therapy was with a psychiatrist who is fantastic was in 2002. I’m thinking back to that date and how I haven’t fully sat down to think about the trauma of 9/11. My time going into therapy was not that far after 9/11. It was within a year. It’s probably 6 to 9 months. I’ve never even thought about how that could have impacted my mental health at that time. I thought I was going through a breakdown so I went to therapy or to the psychiatrist for two reasons.
First, primarily it was because of my disordered eating. That’s why I was referred to the psychiatrist. After I worked through a lot of that, at least on the surface level, I started to dig into other things. I went on antidepressants because I felt like I couldn’t function. That’s the important element. Something else to put on the table. What if I was also experiencing PTSD that was impacted? This is the important, the connecting all of these dots, the impact of trauma and the impact of learning disabilities. All of these things that we carry with us, if they’re not addressed properly, can have deep impact on how we progress in life.
First of all, before I forget it came up in a conversation about ADHD, that micro-dosing can help with that as well and be therapeutic for that. I’m curious about your journey, Jason because it might help with both of these potential challenges. Going back to that article, there are other things in here. This article is almost written about you. This guy, John, the case study said that he was popular in school. He was generous, creative and he was the life of the party, which is a lot how people describe you. Everyone thinks that you’re exuberant and joyful and yet everyone was puzzled why he was never quite living up to his full capacity. He seemed to not see the big picture or to perform consistently, which is something that you’ve expressed. More often than you can imagine, adults with ADHD find themselves without a job and a plan.
“Losing a job can have many causes especially in this touch-and-go economy.” This is 2013 but it definitely applies now. “Without being a plan is easily associated with ADHD because they’re characterized by difficulty in visualizing the future, along with the inability to put the pieces together to get there. ADHD people come to a full stop. They have difficulty deciding what to do next,” which is one of my big challenges. “At a full stop, they lose all forward momentum. It seems like they will never find a job because the full stop blocks forward motion. Paradoxically, an ADHD person may also feel barraged with a torrent of thoughts about where to turn but each leads to a few weeks of submitting applications and concluding that something else is more interesting or promising. Paralysis can set in and depression will follow.”
A lot of that is resonant. My curiosity is how do you even treat ADHD? I know so little about this because I never ever thought that I even remotely identified with it, hence never researched it. My curiosity, is like, “How does one treat it? Is it drugs? Are there other forms of therapy or experiences that can address it? Does the article go into treatment?”
This is the article that said that cognitive-behavioral therapy can be helpful for that so that was promising to me. This article is in-depth. There’s another section here that I resonated with that you aren’t trying syndrome and I’ll come back around to your question, Jason but I wanted to go through this before we get to the end and how it concludes because I haven’t even gotten to that yet. It says here, “People seem intelligent and bright, they’ve done well and no one would imagine that they would have ADHD. Often organized and structured parents or schools can serve as the person’s frontal lobes or breaks in early years. People with ADHD are great with structure,” myself included.
“However, once the structure is gone, they have difficulty providing it for themselves.” It’s true for me. ADHD doesn’t start as an adult. It starts during childhood. However, people with ADHD are often poor self-reporters and historians and may believe that they have no trouble with attention or focus when in reality they did but the structure of their environment helped them to compensate.” That’s me. In this whole idea of being a poor self-reporter, sometimes we don’t even realize we’re struggling because we’re not keeping track of it. We’re not thinking about it that way.
It talks about how high intelligence can help people compensate with ADHD. When they start to dig deeper into their history, they’ll start to suspect this. Daydreaming and being late can be a symptom of it. Having people around you that are organized can help you move through it in ways that you’re not fully aware of. Finished projects. There’s so much in this article I’m trying to get through here. “People with ADHD can have learning disabilities. More often than not, they’re talented, gifted and intelligent. When ADHD is recognized and appropriately treated, they can finally be free to express their talents and gifts to the world.”
“Exercise is a huge treatment forum.” I’m getting to the treatment section now. Adderall can be recommended. I’ve heard that Adderall is great but I don’t know that much about it so I don’t know what the side effects are, for example. “Treatment for ADHD must be individualized as each person is unique and people are complex, treatment isn’t about writing a prescription and seeing the patient once a year. Treatment is about helping people develop a comprehensive strategy to move on with their lives and achieve their full potential. First, the relationship between you as a therapist and the patient is paramount whether you’re prescribing medications or engaging in therapy or coaching. Second, people with ADHD have difficulty maintaining and focusing on relationships and social connection is one of the primary pillars of helping someone improve and must be part of the treatment.”
The article ends with an update on this guy, John, who started taking Adderall. He said that for the first time in his life, he felt like he was out of the fog. He wasn’t giddy or anxious. He finally felt okay. They had coaching for him where he would write down his goals. They addressed all these different areas of his life from work, community, spirituality, relationships and personal growth. They did cognitive therapy together to continue to work on this. Later that year, they met and reviewed his accomplishments.
They said his mood was better. He was exercising regularly. He was making all of these personal and professional changes. It’s basically a big case study about how things shifted. There’s no conclusive answer to your question, Jason but it does sound what the right treatment that’s specific for you, there is hope and that’s an important element of this. My personal feeling is I am aligned with a lot of the things that I’m reading. I want to present this to my doctor and take it from there. They’re in the article is a link to where to find a therapist to help with ADHD. That’s a starting point for you, Jason and for anyone else reading who’s reflecting on this for themselves or others in your life. It’s about taking the next steps.
As someone that struggles, sometimes booking an appointment is the hardest thing for me. It took me a long time to make the appointment I have with my doctor. I’ve noticed this with my students and my clients. Simple steps are not always simple for the mind. I want to say, lastly to you Jason and to the reader, that one thing that can be helpful is having some accountability or somebody to help you get this stuff done. Something as basic as asking a friend, a family member, a loved one or hiring an assistant, someone that can help you take those “simple steps” can make a world of a difference. That would be my suggestion.
If finding a therapist is tough for you, is there somebody in your life that you can call upon to help you do that? If not, can you hire somebody? Whether it’s a virtual assistant, an actual assistant or can you go on to a website and do a short session with a therapist to start getting the momentum going. Fortunately, you don’t have to go in person but I’m not sure beyond that recommendation, Jason of what somebody would do if they were halted with this. Sometimes it’s hard to ask him for help but I found since I struggle with taking “easy steps,” what I want to practice more is asking for help. The big conclusion I’ve had is that earlier is learning to effectively communicate with others so they know how to help me and building the courage to articulate what I need.
That’s well-spoken and this journey is full of experiments and clarity, confusion and more clarity. I don’t find this easy. Maybe that’s what prevents people from addressing it perhaps. They’re feeling overwhelmed by it. There are times I feel overwhelmed by it. There are times where I feel it’s hard for me, to your point, Whitney, I don’t know about asking for help per se. It’s more expanding the energy to keep trying to work with it. A lot of days I feel totally exhausted by my mental health struggles so it’s important that we continue to try and find answers for ourselves, every single one of us.
I want to say that in real time I went on this Psychology Today Therapist Finder and it’s impressive. You go to this first landing page, you put in your zip code and it shows you therapist but on the sidebar, Jason, you can select your insurance, which is magnificent because my insurance provider directory feels a little hard to navigate and that makes it hard for me to narrow it down. In addition to this, Jason, you can narrow it down by your issues so you can select ADHD anxiety, you can select depression all on and on. You can also select sexuality. If you would feel more comfortable seeing a gay or lesbian bisexual therapist, you can choose that. You can also narrow it down by gender including binary. I might have been backward. Maybe it’s sexuality in terms of your sexuality.
I’m not sure. It’s a little confusing because then they have an age section and it says toddler so I’m assuming they don’t mean toddler therapists. This confuses me but I’m sure if you click around. They have types of therapy, Jason, so including cognitive behavioral therapy, EDM, EMDR, mindfulness base and they have ethnicity serve. It’s amazing and it brings me comfort that Psychology Today has organized it. Honestly, it looks like an organization done by somebody that understands mental health because knowing that you can select all of these things to customize the type of therapy you get is relieving and empowering to me and that gives me hope and excitement.
I want to take that article to my therapist, Whitney because it’s important for me to discuss it with him. We want to reiterate to you. It’s an ongoing journey and we’re exploring all of the answers for ourselves in real-time here on the show with you, dear reader. As always, we want to hear your feedback. If you’re on the journey, you’re figuring this out too, any of your emails, texts and direct messages are held in strict confidence. The big thing here, Whitney, is we’re all learning from each other.
Kicking this off, the willingness to know that we don’t have all the answers and to know, “I wasn’t right about this. Maybe I was totally misdiagnosed. Maybe all these years have had it wrong.” It’s scary to say that but maybe that’s where solutions come in. Maybe that’s where the relief comes in. It’s by realizing that maybe we don’t have all the answers and that there’s always something new we can explore about ourselves. It’s not easy, necessarily. It’s not light subject matter but it’s important we continue to explore and discuss this.
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- Think Again
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