Being neurodiverent doesn’t mean someone is defective. It merely means their brain is not “typical”. Whitney Lauritsen takes a deeper dive into neurodivergence with Kori Tomelden, a late diagnosed autistic ADHDer, life strategist for autistic and ADHD women, and a transformational purpose coach. Kori and Whitney take a look at how autism and ADHD manifests in adults and children, how it relates to identity and societal change, and how to coexist with neurotypical people. Tune in and be inspired by Kori’s story in this special episode.
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Neurodivergence In Adulthood: Separating The Facts From The Myths With Kori Tomelden
Late Diagnosis of ADHD and Autism
I am excited to do this episode because the guest, Kori, is someone I felt at ease with on a level that I have become aware that I don’t feel with everyone. That’s due to my explorations around neurodivergence. I did not know that term until fairly recently. I don’t remember when it occurred. I think it was part of an episode I did about neurodivergence.
Learning that word was key because I started to identify my neurodivergence, which had never been presented to me before. The more I learn about things like ADHD and autism as we are going to explore now, I have the simultaneous feeling of, I understand myself on a whole new level and a sadness of wishing that this had been brought to my attention before for myself and others. The more I learn about neurodivergence, the more I see opportunities not to make assumptions about someone, honor people, ask them questions, and ultimately understand that they are not exactly like us. Their brains work differently.
Kori, you had posted something on your Instagram that resonates, and I’m going to read it. It says, “My functioning ability is based on any given moment at any given time on any given day. It could be a moment where I’m fully capable of being an adult, learning, and doing all freaking things. It could mean that I’m overwhelmed and overloaded with everything around me that I’m not capable of doing the things.”
That’s an important starting point because overwhelm and overload are very relatable feelings. I imagine this on a whole another level when diagnosed with neurodivergence like autism or ADHD. We can start with that post or perhaps we can start with a little background because you were diagnosed late in life. Is that right?
I was formally diagnosed in April of 2020. I did my self-diagnosis on ADHD inattentive type in 2019 when I started going down that particular path. I’m a quiz junkie. I took all these different quizzes on what it was like to be an INFJ, a highly sensitive person, an empath, and that type of thing. The HSP part spurned over into sensory processing. Somehow that led me to look more at ADHD.
That piece opened up so many things. Some started to click and fall into place. “That’s why I struggle with this particular thing. It’s not that there’s something wrong. It’s not that there is something. My brain is wired differently.” Now that I know what it is, I can look into ways to compensate, come up with strategies, and do things like that.
How did you go about getting the diagnosis? When I started looking into neurodivergence and wondering about my own, I felt at a loss for how to get evaluated for it. I’m still pursuing that very casually now. I talked to my doctor. I was referred to a psychiatrist but I didn’t feel I had got to the bottom of it. How did you?Many of us grow up either misdiagnosed or just not diagnosed at all. Especially with females, there's a tendency to diagnose with either anxiety or depression. Click To Tweet
What happened was that I connected with an autistic business owner. She and I had gotten to this conversation. We were talking very casually about the diagnosis process. She referred me to someone because I had mentioned, I wasn’t very sure if my primary care physician would be onboard with recommending diagnosis.
With adults, there’s this tendency to say that, “You are an adult. You don’t need it or you are an adult, there’s no possible way that you could have ADHD, autism or any one of those neurodivergences.” I sat there. I was like, “I want to pursue this because I have always been on the mindset that if I needed the extra support, if I needed to be on medication, then I wanted to be able to have that open.”
That was why I pursued an official diagnosis. I went into my evaluation fully convinced I would walk out of there with ADHD. It’s like, “This is what I have.” As the evaluation was less than halfway through, she said, “I’m going to bring in more pieces to the evaluation questions.” I paused for a second. It’s like, “Why is that?” “It’s because some of what you are telling me doesn’t quite match up with ADHD.” As we are progressing through, I finally get to the end of it. She said, “You are right about the ADHD inattentive type but there’s also Autism Level 1. I was like, “Bring it on. It explains even more.”
That must have been a fascinating experience and also perhaps surprising. One thing that I’m excited to explore with you is the nuances and the true spectrum of this. When I think of autism, it’s very far on the spectrum and specific types of behavior. There’s a TV show on Netflix that you and others may be familiar with called Love on the Spectrum. They have people on the show that tend to exhibit some of these traits that are classic signs of autism. Having gone through much of your life not even knowing, was it a big surprise? How did you react to this news, and where did you go from there?
I have learned a lot throughout my research and talking with others who are also diagnosed late in life. Many of us grow up either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Especially with females, there’s a tendency to diagnose more with either anxiety or depression. I have been diagnosed with both. That was part of my clue there.
I have an autistic daughter. She was diagnosed with what they call Classic Autism. It would be considered autism level. She’s in-between levels 2 and 3. She’s non-speaking. She exhibits a lot of those stereotypical behaviors. There are some things that she and I both do stemming-wise that are the same. We have some similar triggers.
It takes a little bit more for me than it does for her. That was the other thing. Looking at many of the supports that have been put into place in our home environment for her, the routine, structure, schedules, it was supporting me not as much as her but it was supporting me as well. When I talked to my mom about it, I shot her this quick text to say, “I’ve got my autism ADHD dual diagnosis. She texted me back, “That explains a lot.” “All right, mom.”
When I look back on that, too, it’s part of the piece that goes on with some autistic individuals, not all is hyperlexia. It’s when you learn how to read at an early age or have a more fluid vocabulary. I have always been a very well-spoken individual. I was reading 2 or 3 grades above my level. Over the summer, when I was either 12 or 13, I read Wuthering Heights for fun.
My strengths were always in the Language Arts and English. I struggle big time with Math, which I have identified as dyscalculia. It’s like dyslexia but with numbers. Instead of reversing your letters, you reverse your numbers. You have difficulty with finances, difficulty with basic math, which is something I have always struggled with. You get me into logic and statistics, and I’m spot on with those. It was looking at more things and realizing this makes sense.
I had said it once on one of my podcast episodes. It wasn’t as if I had one light bulb moment. It was as if another entire universe was being illuminated. That is what it felt after getting the dual diagnosis and allowing myself the time to hyper-focus on it. I have talked to a few women with dual diagnoses, ADHD, and autism. One of their big things after their diagnosis, self or formal, was letting themselves hyper-focus on it. Once they understood more, they were better able to adapt and see.
Another thing, we also realized where we have been masking and/or it’s camouflage, it’s common for both autistics and people having ADHD. We are trying not to show what makes us autistic or ADHD. We look normal or neurotypical. I have been told I have a monotonous voice. It was regulating that or making sure that I was making eye contact with somebody trying not to fidget too much or other little things that weren’t the societal norm. I’ve got sick of that. I said, “No more. I’m done masking or camouflaging. I’m ADHD. I’m autistic. That’s how it is.”
I’m glad that you brought up the subject of masking because this is something I have wanted to address on the show for a while. I have noticed it being discussed a lot. You are on TikTok, and TikTok has been a fascinating place to learn about neurodivergence. There’s an article I have been meaning to read that I saw about how social media like TikTok is great for helping people understand things that they didn’t know about. Still, there’s a huge issue where people are self-diagnosing themselves.
I fell into this category, too. This is why I want to pursue an official evaluation. Through TikTok, I started seeing things like masking and the elements of someone that would classify them as autistic or ADHD. I saw these and thought, “That’s me. I didn’t even know. What if I do have ADHD or I am another type of neurodivergent?” All because of a platform TikTok.
When I saw this article explaining how many people are going through that similar experience as me, it made me step back and think, “This is fascinating because a lot of people are identifying with these things that maybe many of us have been masking.” Even though not everybody is neurodivergent, what if some of the things that we consider neurodivergent or needing to mask are experiences that many people are having but are we all collectively masking it?It's not on us to gatekeep. It's not on us to hold someone back from being able to embrace that self-diagnosis and identify with it. Click To Tweet
We all think that there’s something wrong with us that we have to hide but if we could take off the mask and reveal these things about ourselves, maybe we would be more accepted than we expect. There’s a movement happening, especially with younger Millennials and Gen Z, who share many of these things. They own up to them in a way that gives others permission.
As I was hearing your story about your diagnosis, there’s part of me that thought, “I hope that I am diagnosed as neurodivergent because maybe it would explain something.” I have to release that hope and recognize the truth is, I want to feel more understood and comfortable. What if it’s not about being diagnosed with something but feeling permission to be fully myself without having to mask? It’s wonderful that you are sharing all this information on your social media and your podcast to educate people about these things and empower them because everybody can learn from it, neurodivergent or not.
Honestly, that was the other big piece behind getting the diagnosis. The formal, official one was it would give me that more solid frame and foundation of, “This is what it is.” When you talked about that article, it came up in one of the groups that I’m in about how there seems to be this surge of self-diagnosed. It’s becoming almost a hot topic in quite a few of the neurodivergent groups that I belong to because I’m on the frame of mind that a self-diagnosis is a 100% valid diagnosis. Even though someone does have a formal or official diagnosis, it’s not on us to gatekeep. It’s not on us to hold someone back from being able to embrace that self-diagnosis and identify with it.
Do I think there are merits to informal diagnosis? Absolutely. At the same time, that’s a very individual decision. We can’t be the ones to judge somebody as to whether or not they want to get an official diagnosis. That’s the thing too with social media. We see many people doing that. Maybe we are all bored because of COVID.
I’m not a social creature by nature. Large crowds and groups of people are not my cups of tea. Being on social media allows me to watch people, observe, see things and be myself without this overall anxiety, nervousness and fear of, “This person is looking at me, hear me say something, watching or this or that.”
It takes away that barrier or that need to have to mask, which is beautiful. It gives us this platform and gateway to show up as we are. It’s why I named my socials and my coaching business, Authentically Autistic and ADHD. I have come to this point in my life that I’m done being a people pleaser and living in this imposter syndrome. I’m over all the societal norms, societal expectations, not what people expect for neurodivergence but what they expect for females, what they expect for moms in general because I am a mom.
I have gotten to this point where it’s just like, “Fudge that crap.” I have a life. I am a woman. I know what I want in life, and I’m going to go after it. That’s what I have been doing for myself for several years. I’m stepping into who I am as an individual. The third episode of my podcast was called Embracing Your Extraordinary because that’s what it is. It’s beyond self-love and self-acceptance. Those are two big parts of it. It’s embracing all of those things that make you who you are and saying, “Screw you,” to society. I’m not afraid to be me or to be who I am anymore.
That’s part of why I do what I do with the transformational purpose. It’s this big inner journey, and it takes getting uncomfortable because you have to face many things. The result ultimately is worth it because you come out of it with this level of authenticity and awareness about yourself. Are you still going to second guess? You are. It’s human nature.
Part of what I see with ADHD women is the imposter syndrome and the rejection-sensitive dysphoria. Those are two big things that ADHD-ers deal with. Are these things going to be there? Absolutely. That’s why I weave in its life strategy. It’s not just these coping strategies and other things that I have used on my own but these strategies can be adapted for anybody. What works for me may not work for someone else. I would fully expect that. That’s why you take the base and make it your own because it’s not a cookie-cutter.
It’s important to acknowledge that it’s not cookie-cutter because so much advice out there is cookie cutter and one size fits all. For those that feel they don’t fit into a certain mold, that can be tough. You begin to think that there’s something wrong with you if a certain strategy or approach doesn’t work. The rejection-sensitive side of it is something I would love for you to touch more on.
It’s called rejection-sensitive dysphoria. When I first read about that, it was a huge a-ha moment. I fully identified with it. That’s the time I wanted to pursue getting diagnosed. Another thing I saw on your Instagram was a post about executive dysfunction. That was another big thing I had been struggling with much. I thought that there was something wrong with me. “Am I burnt out? Let me take a break. Let me slow down. Let me see if I can become not burnt out,” and nothing seemed to work. It has been a daily thing.
Even if it turns out that I don’t have ADHD or another form of neurodivergence, at least knowing these terms and the tools you are mentioning are still helpful even if you are not neurodivergent because learning something that you can relate to your point could help you better understand what you need and help you feel more empowered. The one thing that I have struggled with and still do, I have awareness about it, which has been very empowering but I still need to learn some more tools perhaps or build some more confidence within myself is because I felt I operate differently.
I’m scared to speak up for myself and ask for what I need. I was experiencing this in the context of a group that I’m in, a group project online. I feel a little intimidated by some of the people in the group. That feeling of like, “They are so much better at this than me.” That led me to be afraid to ask for basic things that I need to thrive in a group setting.
I was reflecting on how I could navigate that and why I was feeling these things, why I was afraid to verbalize something that might feel trivial to someone else. As I was reflecting, I started to think of all the times in my life where I have asked for something and someone didn’t have the compassion or awareness to realize how important it was.What works for you may not work for someone else. That's why you take the base and you make it your own because it's not cookie cutter. Click To Tweet
One experience I have had over and over again in my life is someone saying, “You need to adjust to what everybody else is doing. You are the only one that needs that. Everybody else is doing it this way.” Whenever I hear phrases like that and even saying that out loud, I feel the pit in my stomach of, “No one else can relate to me, so there must be something wrong with me. I don’t fit in. I need to mask or mold myself. I won’t get my needs met.”
I have noticed the pattern of resentment building, the pattern of not being able to thrive, not being able to do my best because no matter how hard I try to mask, cope or mold myself, I also know deep down how important those needs are. They are true needs in the sense that I cannot fully operate without them being met but I have tried so many times to do them. That’s maybe where the cycle of feeling a failure has come from.
I’m going to be touching on this in a future episode of the show. One catered fully to imposter syndrome and another dedicated fully to rejection-sensitive dysphoria because they go hand in hand. One thing that I have asked people in quite a few of the groups that I’m in is, “How many of you would describe yourselves as recovering perfectionists or recovering people pleasers?” That was one of the big things that a lot of us in these neurodivergent groups have been identifying as are recovering people-pleasers and recovering perfectionists.
The people-pleasing part ties into that rejection-sensitive dysphoria because there is a great need for acceptance and validation. We have a very hard time with our sense of self-esteem and sense of self that we are relying on others for that. There’s this great need to be accepted, so we will do whatever it takes. That also leads to a lack of ability to set proper boundaries.
There’s also that misconception around boundaries. It’s like, “Boundaries are meant to protect other people.” No, boundaries are meant to protect you and only you. They don’t need to be understood by others, don’t need to be greatly explained to others, and don’t need to make sense to others. What matters is that they are in place for you to feel comfortable. When you are stuck in that people-pleasing cycle, it whittles away at your self-esteem. That’s where also, the rejection-sensitive dysphoria and the imposter syndrome go hand-in-hand.
Imposter syndrome is that feeling of, “I’m not good enough. This person is better than me. I will never be good enough. I may know enough but I don’t know quite that much,” which is where the perfectionism piece comes in. Again, for many of us who identified as recovering perfectionists and former people-pleasers, there’s much overlap between imposter syndrome and rejection-sensitive dysphoria. It was eye-opening. I sat there for a second, and was like, “I’m not alone in that.”
The other one that I love to bring up is procrastination. That’s a big executive dysfunctioning piece. It’s time blindness. It’s all these other things. They all come together. Seeing it in yourself is one thing. You get that layer of awareness and self-discovery. There’s this T-shirt I have that says, “Weird Must Stay. The weirdness in me recognizes the weirdness in you.” That’s how it feels. If you want to call it, “ADHD Must Stay, Autistic Must Stay or Neurodiversion Must Stay. The neurodivergent in me recognizes the neurodivergent in you.”
It’s beautiful because for many of us who do have a lot of social anxiety, being online sometimes can be a little bit difficult because you are dealing with strange individuals, not odd in the weird sense but people that you don’t know. Being able to be around other neurodivergent women and not have to worry about if I say the wrong thing, if I act the wrong way, if I sit here, and I stem, they are going to judge me, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s so wonderful.
I feel many emotions coming up, and I need to tap into your community because it’s impacted me in many ways. It’s also something that I didn’t even realize impacted me that much until I learned about this. I’m learning but I’m also unraveling all of these emotions that I couldn’t even put a name to before. I want to talk more about procrastination because I have struggled with it my whole life.
I felt much shame around it because in our society, procrastination or being late, not following through, those things are looked down upon. All of my experience in school, my experiences in a lot of jobs, holding onto this weight and this pressure, also trying to fit the structure. When I stopped working for others and quit my last full-time job years ago, it was a huge relief to wake up whenever I wanted to.
For my whole life, I have struggled against the typical hours that people wake up, work, and go to school. It never worked for me. I was constantly struggling with my energy as a result. The freedom to set my schedule was huge, and I worked at timeframes that worked from my brain. I have noticed that I can only focus for chunks of time. I need to take a break and want to zone out. I need to recover my energy. You pointed out the social side of it. For the last few years, I realized that social interaction drains me much. To your point, too, I attributed that to something being introverted.
I thought, “I’m an introvert. I would get drained by other people.” I would talk to other introverts and think, “There’s still something here that doesn’t make sense.” For so long, I have been masking and trying to fit over and over again. I want to bring that back around to the procrastination side of this and hear more about what you have learned.
I have been identified as someone who works best at the eleventh hour. I have carried a chain around that, too. I get overwhelmed and feel I can only get things done at the eleventh hour. I procrastinate. The last-minute is when I will finally be hyper-focused. I don’t know if I need that pressure. I have trained myself to need that pressure or thrive on that pressure. I’m curious to hear what you have learned about procrastinating through all your work.
It’s the adrenaline rush you get because your body is craving it. It’s our internal conditioning. That’s my thought on it because I’m the same way. When I was in high school, my mom would always tell me, “If you would apply yourself a little bit more.” I was like, “I know, mom.” I’ve still got good grades. I would have these term papers and whatever else too that I would wait until the absolute last minute and still get an A or an A-plus, or whatever the highest possible one was for it.There is such a great need for acceptance and validation because we have a very hard time with our own sense of self-esteem and our own sense of self that we're relying on others for that. Click To Tweet
That was partially the adrenaline rush but it was also this recognition of, “I don’t need to work as hard as everybody else because I’m going to be able to get it done anyway, so why not?” To tie that back into the procrastination piece, one of the biggest things that I have come across first is breaking this whole myth around time management because you can’t manage time. Time is not a physical entity. You can manage yourself and what you do with your time. That goes into the time blindness. That’s not being aware of how much time is passing. It’s another very common executive dysfunctioning thing.
For example, I use a combination of time blocking and Pomodoro. With my time blocks, I have certain hours, times of the day where I will do certain things. The Pomodoro is a 25-minute, 5-minute break. You do 25 minutes of focus work, 5 minutes to take my break, refocus, recuperate and recover, then I get back into the 25 minutes. They work beautifully when you are not hyper-focusing.
The other thing too is learning to work with hyper-focused because sometimes it’s okay. I can get a lot done when I’m hyper-focused on something. My big thing there is, “Is this a productive use of my time? Is this me procrastinating because I don’t want to do something else?” It is awareness and being honest with yourself.
My forms of procrastination come across in several ways. It’s progressed to researching. I put things off in the name of research and want to know everything. It’s progressed to planning, putting things off in the name of making sure that everything was planned perfectly. All of my plans have a backup plan and planning out every single possible step. It progressed a scrolling that looks a lot like going on Facebook to say, “I need to do some market research,” and then getting caught up in Facebook that I’m not doing anything.
However you procrastinate, it’s that level of self-awareness and saying, “This is what I’m doing but because I know what I’m doing, I know ways that I can support and scaffold.” I was a strategist before because I have tried traditional time management strategies that did not work for me, and others swore by using a planner. I can’t use a planner to save my life. They have become this nice little stack where I can raise things higher. Other than that, I’ve got a drawer full of happy planner stickers. They are beautiful but I can’t commit to the long-term. It’s not going to work.
There was a year that I had not yet bought a planner. I’m sticking to it because people are like, “You should try the happy planner. It will help you much. Try bullet journaling, try this or that.” I have. My biggest struggle with those was that you know how they have the little hours inside the planners, and the short deadlines and things on the schedule. When I would look at those, I would say, “I’m going to do this whatever time this is.” If I didn’t meet that deadline, I would get crushed because I felt like a failure. My whole day is ruined. I can’t do anything. As minuscule or tiny of a thing as it is, it was crushing. It’s like, “I can’t do it.”
I’m glad that you brought that up because it’s a very relatable thing. For me, planners will work sometimes and not others. It’s more of a fluid thing. I have major frustration with buying something and not using it all, also what you are sharing about not buying one. I also feel sometimes I need a reward from planners.
I work very well in seeing progress. I use a digital to-do list platform that is a game-changer because every day, it gives me a list of everything I want to do. I’m setting it myself. You can set it by priorities. When you check off something on this, it has a little ding. You hear the ding, and it activates your brain in a rewarding way. The satisfaction of checking it off that I get digitally is different than a physical planner.
I was laughing at myself when you talked about it turning into a stack. That is a relatable thing. Speaking of being relatable, I’m curious about what you have learned for people who work in a more structured environment. I work for myself, which has made a huge difference in my mental health. I always thought it was a personality thing. Maybe it is. For a while, I thought, “Everybody could work for themselves if they wanted to.”
Over time, I realized that’s not always the case. There are a lot of things that come into play. There’s a privilege, resources and there are a lot of factors, experience, and connection, on and on. It’s working for yourself and truly not for everybody. Some people prefer to work for others. Some people feel that’s their only option at the time. I would love to know more about what you found for neurodivergent brains in those settings where maybe they don’t have as much say or control in their day.
I thought it was some recent news but maybe it was brought up on social media again. In some countries, either Iceland or Finland, maybe both, and some places in the US have been experimenting with different types of structure such as four-day workweeks for their full-time employees and six-hour workdays versus the classic 5-day workweeks and 8-hour, 9-hour days.
The number of people commenting on this and how much of a difference it would make from them is pointing out how we are craving a different structure than what we have. If we don’t feel we are allowed to have a different structure, we feel stuck in a setting that makes us feel miserable. Some people truly don’t feel they have a choice.
With COVID, one of the big realizations that have come out of that is working from home and people realizing that that was an option. When I read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, I worked a full-time job. I’m reading this book thinking, “If only my employer would let me work from home once a week, I would feel much better.”
I didn’t feel it was an option because, at that time, working from home was a very rare thing. Since some people are allowed to do that or encouraged to do that, there’s a big shift in mental health. I would love to hear all of your perspectives for those in a corporate environment, maybe retail or restaurants. It seems there are a lot of struggles there.You can't manage time. Time is not a fiscal entity. What you can do is manage yourself and what you do with your time. Click To Tweet
I worked in retail. I was never full-time in retail but I was always a part-time person. Some of us find our strengths there. You’ve got to a lot of observation if it’s your thing and that’s it. If it matches up with your interests and it’s something that you feel passionately about, then you can find ways to compensate. It’s also becoming comfortable enough to advocate for yourself and say, “I need these things or these things will help me better.” It’s getting those workplace accommodations.
This would be the only other reason that I would ever advise someone to pursue an official and formal diagnosis is that it helps you to get workplace accommodations in place if you are dealing with a particularly combative employer. You can say, “I need these accommodations according to Federal Law. To that end, for some autistic individuals, in particular, having the structure, having the routine in place can be very comforting because there’s the predictability there.
You don’t have to deal with any level of surprise. It’s predictability and the routine. That helps a lot. At the same time, we all know what will work best for us. I don’t think we should be afraid to pursue a career that we know works for us, whether it’s leveraging one of our special interests or if it’s leveraging other strengths and leaning into that. Otherwise, it takes a toll on your mental health.
There’s become more awareness of it, especially with the Olympics, with Simone Biles when she dropped out of those particular events that took her out of the running for the all-around, which she was a heavy favorite for it to win. She’s one of the greatest gymnasts of our time, possibly ever. She prioritized her mental health enough to say that she needed to take a break. We all awed to ourselves to honor that as well.
It’s the same with Naomi Osaka, who made similar decisions. We covered an episode on that when that had happened. It was an amazing thing to witness, yet it was also very sad to see the reaction that some people had the stigma thereof like, “How dare you prioritize yourself over the team or this important event? Look at the ripple effect.”
That’s where the shame comes in that we still need to shift. What you are sharing is true. I had a flashback to my retail experience as you talked about yours because I ultimately left my job. I was working at the Apple Store. I was proud of that. I loved working for Apple. Many elements of it worked for my brain and personality.
I ultimately left because they were not willing to accommodate my schedule needs. I was asking them over and over again, “Can you please make sure I’m scheduled later in the day? When you schedule me early in the morning, I don’t function as well.” They flat out refuse to do that. I had to leave. It was either pleasing people, trying to fit myself into this box to appease my boss or honoring my wellness.
I was falling apart at the hours they were giving me, and it wasn’t worth it. It was heartbreaking. It was a very hard decision to make. Flash forward, many years later, things are different. I hope that they are. I hope that more people in management positions are trained in working with their employees to accommodate truly their mental needs.
Sleep still has many stigmas. It’s a big challenge for me that people do not understand the hours I thrive and need to sleep. That’s taken a lot of self-work for me to own up to it. I forget how you phrased it but it was beautifully said about knowing what we need. One of the core things here is taking the time to sit down and understand your basic needs, priorities, boundaries around there.
You said that boundaries are meant to protect you and only you. They don’t need to be understood by others. I still want to circle back to the workplace because I had a friend text me in her job, which she loves. She’s struggling with handling COVID because they wanted their employees to come back from working from home and go back into the office. She wasn’t ready to do that, COVID-wise.
Her health boundaries were not being respected. She believes that she will have to leave the job because they are not willing to accommodate that. What happens in the case of someone who’s terrified of losing their income but is faced with this huge decision about not working in an environment their health needs and boundaries are not being respected? How do you navigate through that?
Ultimately, what that does come down to is it’s honoring yourself and your needs and looking at that bigger picture 5 to 10 years down the line, even in 1 year if you are still in this soul-sucking job. Is it worth it? What does your mental, emotional and physical health look like? It is being very honest about it, saying and thinking, “The money is nice.” Think for that aspect of, “How much do you need from your job financially? Could you find another way to do that or line up another job?”
Maybe this is because of COVID, and everybody working at home or working from home is the rise in entrepreneurship and self-employment. Not only that but if you look at your job skills and the jobs that you have had for the past several years, there are so many things that are translatable over to the online space.
People don’t think about retail, for example. That’s customer service and customer support. That’s some pieces and aspects of marketing. All of us, to some extent, were consumers. We look at marketing. Some of us may look at it from a very different lens, depending on our background and whatever else we have been exposed to. There are always skillsets that will be translatable from an in-person aspect to an online aspect. It can be difficult for us to do it ourselves because we can be dismissive of what we do and accomplish.Don't take a hobby that you really do truly enjoy as a hobby and make it into a job because then you're going to end up hating that hobby. And that's just not fun. Click To Tweet
My advice here is to have a close friend help you with that, to say, “I know how to do this, this and this. I don’t think it’s going to be worth anything.” You may think that it’s not worth anything or that it’s not translatable to a job skill but a friend of yours could look at it and say, “It’s this, this and this,” for the examples there. Look at the hobbies that you have. You can say, “This hobby could translate nicely.” My one caveat with hobbies is don’t take a hobby that you truly enjoy and make it into a job because then you are going to end up hating that hobby, and that’s not fun.
That reminds me of a resource I heard about, which is HireMyMom.com. At first, I thought, “That name is a little strange.” I’m not a big fan of that title. What is neat about it is that it’s targeted towards mothers. Both of us, our audiences, there are a lot of women and mothers. I felt this was worth mentioning.
You can go on here to either post or find a job. If you are looking to hire somebody remotely, get a remote job, you can go on onto that website. It’s supporting small businesses. It looks wonderful. I’m glad that I learned about it. I love that it’s acknowledging the needs and boundaries of mothers too because that plays a big role in what you are able to take on.
That’s something else I want to address with you, Kori. You said that many of your listeners and followers online had lost their identity entirely due to their societal roles, and they are ready to make a true change. For you to talk more about what that means for them to have lost their identity due to societal roles, is that around motherhood or being a woman? Is that around something else in their lives that they are feeling constrained by or lost in?
It’s all of those things. Sometimes it comes from and starts with your own family. Speaking from experience, my mom has her Master’s degree, and she has her Juris Doctorate. I always had these own internal expectations that I would go to at least a PhD because that’s what my mother did. Certainly, if she did it, then I can do it, too.
It’s not the family and the cultural expectations but social expectations like what’s expected of any individual, wherever they fall in life. You start to lose yourself into that, and you start to place much of your self-worth and self-esteem based on how well you are performing based on whatever society’s roles are or based on whatever people expect you to do.
It’s long overdue for change. It’s like the one saying, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” You can’t compare yourself to this person, to that person, to whomever, because you don’t see what’s going on in their life. You don’t know what’s going on in their life. You don’t know what other support they have. At the same time, people need to be very mindful and cognizant of that. My situation is my situation. It’s not going to be the same as somebody or anybody else’s. There might be relatable parts or parts that are, “I can empathize with that or I can recognize pieces,” but it’s not the same. My set of experiences that come in is completely different. That’s where it is.
Speaking of circumstances, you were a teen mom. I’m curious what that was like. There are a lot of judgments around having a child as a teenager, getting pregnant. I’m curious how that shaped you, what your experiences were, and what you have learned from that.
I had my first child when I was sixteen. Before he was born, I was sitting down with my guidance counselor. We were talking about my schedule for next year. My guidance counselor had said to me, “In New York City, there’s a track called a Regents diploma. It’s a higher recognition than a run-of-the-mill high school diploma.” I was in an AP class advanced placement. I was in honors classes. My guidance counselor at the time had suggested, “You can drop out of the Regent’s track and go to the school level or you can drop out of high school altogether and go for your GED.”
I’ve got very offended for him to think that I’m not going to push aside all I have accomplished academically. No, thank you. That drove my ambition and determination to prove my guidance counselor wrong. I didn’t need to drop out. I could keep carrying my course load. I said, “I’m not going to drop out and go for a GED. I’m going to stay on my track because it didn’t make sense to me not to do it.”
I had my schedule structured in a way that I was able to leave school after lunch. I still took my AP classes and my honors classes. I graduated with my Regents diploma. This was right before my junior year. I was in American History and AP. Part of the whole advanced placement is taking the SAT 2s at the end of the school year. I took my SAT 2 in American History, and I’ve got a 720 on my SAT 2 out of an 800. I wanted to rub that in my guidance counselor’s face like, “You wanted me to drop out. You wanted me to do this but I’ve got a 720 on my SAT 2. Take that.”
There still is a lot of judgment. There are a lot of stigmas passed around fourteen-year-old moms because we look at them and say, “How could you be irresponsible and negligent? How could you be this or that?” One reason that rubs me the wrong way is that it takes two to make a baby. You can’t blame the mom, first of all. Second of all, where is the compassion? Where is the support? Where is the, “Do you need anything?” What’s your support system and support structure like?
It doesn’t happen always but it happens enough that when young teenage girls become pregnant, sometimes they are shunned and disowned by their families. They have nothing and have no one. Who’s reaching out, supporting, and providing them with at least some structure? Who is providing them with at least a helping hand and not in the way of pity but in a way to show them that they still matter and are still someone? Maybe you made a mistake but that doesn’t mean that you need to be judged and shunned for the rest of your life.
Where did the support come from for you? Where did you find it? Did you have to seek it out? Did you already have it in place with family and friends?Maybe you made a mistake, but that doesn't mean that you need to be judged and shunned for it for the rest of your life. Click To Tweet
I was very fortunate. I had my mom as my main support network, and I had my dad’s family. My dad’s family lives on the West Coast. I’m on the East Coast but I still had their support. Even having that moral and emotional support was still huge, and not having to bear the shame. That is something that many teen girls go through when they get pregnant. They feel ashamed. My biggest bone pick with all of that is that it usually does fall on the girl. I get it. She’s the one who’s going to be carrying the baby but she didn’t make that baby by herself.
It’s a fascinating thing. I started reading a book called Regretting Motherhood. One of the points at the beginning of the book is how much expectation is put on women in general. It’s interesting learning what you are saying in relation to that book because women simultaneously are pushed to have children.
There’s a lot of shame if you choose not to have children as well, yet they are shamed if they have children too early. They are shamed if they have children too late. It’s going back to these societal expectations and the pressure that women feel biologically when it comes to children and the timing of it. It’s very disturbing to me.
To add another level or layer to this, you are a fourth-generation Japanese American and second-generation Filipino American. You felt you had to spend most of your life trying to fit in and not feeling Asian enough even because of the generational sides of all of these. That’s a lot to manage, too.
The more I learn about you, I’m thinking it’s remarkable what you have had to deal with at a young age. I’m curious how that’s fit into your life and how you have moved through that, given that you grew up in a racist country and there’s still much work that we have to do. You have had to move through it your whole life.
A lot of it comes from observing how my mom handles things. I have tried not to let that either affect or bother me. I didn’t want that to be another label or say, you are trying to play the race card or the gender card. I did not want those to be things that were ultimately defining me. As of that approach, I have tried not to let it affect me quite as much. It is that awareness of it that it’s happening and going on. I have that different approach.
Awareness has led itself to your ability to support people who don’t feel they are fitting in. Maybe it’s not necessarily a gift. It’s part of who you are, and have the ability to understand people in all these different levels, which makes you a remarkable person. You have experienced stigmas, judgment, shame, confusion, masking, and all of these things that you have had to go through.
I’m grateful for the work that you are doing to help others and help people realize that they fit in that nothing is wrong with them, that they are enough, can truly be accepted, can learn to find and set their boundaries, and then also find ways to feel empowered. We need much more of that. I am grateful to be aware of you. I want to dive deep.
Even looking at your Instagram account, visually, it’s very pretty. It’s the similar colors as I have on the show’s Instagram account with the purples and pink shades. The quotes you wrote I read at the beginning of this are soothing and helpful. I love the diagrams you have on there. I would also love to know more about your podcast. How many episodes do you have out, and how frequently do you release them?
I release new episodes of the podcast every Monday at 9:00 AM Eastern. I am up to 22 episodes. It was breaking things down on the neurodivergent experience, talking about those things, and explaining them in a way that would make more sense. That has always been one of my big things. I used to be a parenting coach for parents of autistic children. One of the main things that I helped them with was with IEPs, Individual Education Programs in the United States.
The language in there can be confusing that it gets overwhelming. There weren’t and aren’t a lot of resources readily available for parents that break things down or explain things in a way that makes sense. Most parents weren’t aware that you don’t have to wait for your child’s scheduled IEP meeting. You can call for an IEP meeting at any time. The district has to grant you that meeting. It’s protected under Special Education Law.
That was one of the big things, and making people aware of that and doing it in a way that wasn’t complicated. It wasn’t complex but it also wasn’t talking down. It was in a way that was easier to understand. That has been part of the focus of the podcast. It was looking at some of these things and saying, “This is what this is.”
The executive dysfunctioning, for example, and giving these real-world examples for people to say, “This is what your timeline or your procrastination might end up looking like.” Even though you may not recognize it for what it is, this is what it could look like or working memory sustained attention. I have a whole little miniseries on executive dysfunctioning, and it went over well. I was looking at it again. I was like, “There are some more episodes that need to be expanded on here.” One of the more popular ones out of that series was on working memory and sustained attention, two separate episodes but because it was geared towards adults, they became popular.
A lot of the information that is out there is geared towards kids. I fully understand why. I’m eternally grateful for all of the information and the resources that are out there but that does leave a gap in the information out there for adults. How do you take these things and apply them to an adult because our brains are different?
What is true for a child in the circumstances for children may not always be true circumstances for adults, especially when you take into consideration that at least if you can get your accommodations in place, special education speaking, you have readily available access or at least you should have readily available access to support system and to an occupational therapist, speech therapist, or a physical therapist.What is true for a child in circumstances for children may not always be true circumstances for adults. Click To Tweet
For an adult, you don’t always have those things available to you. How do you then, as an adult, accommodate and create these things for it yourself? That was my biggest drive behind this podcast, bringing this light into it, this awareness of it, and expanding on it in that way. That’s similar work over on my YouTube channel. I published more on there than I do on my podcast.
One of the things that I’m going to be bringing later in 2022 over on the YouTube channel is neurodivergent talk. It’s similar to this conversational style of, “Let’s talk about the diagnosis. Let’s talk about our struggles. Let’s talk about these things and say to people, ‘This is who we are. This is how we are.’”
I’m glad that you are doing all of that. What about on TikTok? You mentioned it but I didn’t have a chance to check out your TikTok account yet. What are you doing over there?
I’m still trying to figure out my plan of action on that one.
You can always call me to help because that’s my favorite platform. If you need ideas, I’m here for you. Count on me to follow you there. You would thrive on there, given there’s a massive amount of interest in autism, ADHD, and all different types of neurodivergence. People want to know. Maybe the conversational style and breaking it down into these 1-minute or 3-minute long segments, I would watch every one of those.
Fingers crossed. That’s what you do. Thank you for everything. I can tell that you put much time, effort, and passion into all of this. It’s needed and valued. I cherish people like you, so I’m also grateful that you are here. I found that Wall Street Journal article, which is about TikTok diagnosis videos. I’m going to read that, too. I will make it very easy for you to check out all of the amazing work that Kori is doing. Thank you much for taking the time, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.
Thank you much for having me, Whitney. It has been an absolute pleasure.
- Kori Tomelden
- Episode – Exploring Undiagnosed ADHD And Normalizing Neurodiversity
- Instagram – Authentically Autistic and ADHD Post
- Podcast – Authentically Autistic and ADHD
- Wuthering Heights
- @AuthenticallyAutisticAndADHD – Instagram
- Embracing Your Extraordinary – Authentically Autistic and ADHD Past Episode
- The 4-Hour Workweek
- Episode – Dealing With Toxic Work Environments: Naomi Osaka, Mental Health Challenges, And Racism Against Athletes
- Regretting Motherhood
- Instagram – Wellevatr
- YouTube – Authentically Autistic and ADHD
- Wall Street Journal – Article
About Kori Tomelden
Kori is an late diagnosed Autistic ADHDer, life strategist for Autistic and ADHD women & a transformational purpose coach. She is currently located in Albany, NY where she is raising a neurodivergent family.
Her older daughter is non-speaking autistic (and also has ADHD and Anxiety) and her youngest daughter is HSP/Gifted. She also shares her life with her partner and three cats.
As an empath, HSP, and highly intuitive individual, Kori brings her own life experiences as an autistic woman combined with her adventures in momming, entrepreneurship, and homemaking to bring you the day-to-day of her life at home.
When she is not working on or in her business, Kori enjoys watching true crime documentaries, listening to self-improvement podcasts, re-watching Disney movies, singing along to musicals, and spending time with her family.
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