Cynthia Hammer: Inattentive ADHD & the importance of early detectionFeb 05, 2024
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“Why are we being diagnosed at 50 with a condition we’ve had since birth? We need better ways to diagnose it sooner.”
Cynthia was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD in 1992 when she was 49. At the time, she thought she was the only adult in the U.S. who had this disorder, but quickly learned she was not alone. She founded ADD Resources, a non-profit organization that focused on helping adults recognize their ADHD and learn how to improve their lives, which she ran for 15 years before retiring.
During the COVID lockdown at the age of 78, Cynthia wrote her first book, “Living with Inattentive ADHD: Climbing the Circular Staircase of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” and founded a new non-profit called the Inattentive ADHD Coalition. Creating this non-profit felt imperative to Cynthia after she learned that 30% of those with ADHD have inattentive presentation and they are significantly less likely to be diagnosed and treated in childhood.
We talk about Cynthia’s journey to diagnosis and her commitment to educating families and doctors on the signs of inattentive ADHD in childhood and the importance of an early diagnosis and support systems that can help reduce the long-term negative impacts of undiagnosed ADHD.
At the age of 80, Cynthia is still out there tirelessly working to educate others about inattentive ADHD and achieve her goal of having all girls screened for ADHD before they finish the second grade.
Did you go undiagnosed for too long and want to help others to have an earlier diagnosis? Head to iadhd.org/connect to volunteer with the Inattentive ADHD Coalition.
Links & Resources:
Inattentive ADHD Coalition YouTube channel
Cynthia Hammer 0:00
You have to work your way into Improve Self Esteem. And that's by improving how you function. And as you improve how you function, as I said, you're climbing that circular staircase, you get that feedback that you're better. And so I don't think it's just saying the words, but I do think it's really helpful to stop saying bad words to yourself.
Katy Weber 0:31
Hello, and welcome to the women and ADHD podcast. I'm your host, Katy Weber. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 45. And it completely turned my world upside down. I've been looking back at so much of my life, school, jobs, my relationships, all of it with this new lens, and it has been nothing short of overwhelming I quickly discovered I was not the only woman to have this experience. And now I interview other women who liked me discovered in adulthood they have ADHD and are finally feeling like they understand who they are and how to best lean into their strengths, both professionally and personally. Before we begin, I would love to share with you this review from a listener named Susie Q young, it's entitled can't soak it in fast enough, ADHD wasn't even on my radar nine months ago. And now at 56. I have an ADHD diagnosis inattentive type, and it's been life changing. Of course, I'm neck deep in research and reading and listening to all things ADHD as we do finding this podcast has been an instant and on demand support group and so so validating, I've learned so much, and I just feel so seen and heard. I appreciate the variety of guests you have, and it's endlessly fascinating to hear everyone's stories. Thank you for taking the time to put this out into the world. Well, thank you, Susie Q, and you're gonna love today's episode, which is all about inattentive presentation of ADHD, and why early detection and early screening are so necessary and could truly be life changing, especially for girls and young women. I'm so glad these conversations have been helpful to you during your hyperfocus phase of research. And yes, we all seem to go through that when we're diagnosed in adulthood, don't we? So thank you for taking the time to write this review. I really truly appreciate it. And if you're out there listening to this podcast, and you've found these interviews to be helpful, consider this a friendly reminder to head over to Apple podcasts or audible and you can now leave feedback on individual episodes on Spotify. And if putting your thoughts into words feels like too much right now. And believe me, I totally get it. You can also just quickly hit those five stars. In fact, why don't you just pause right now and go do it. I promise we'll wait for you. Okay, here we are at episode 173 in which I interview Cynthia hammer. Cynthia was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD in 1992 when she was 49. At the time, she thought she was the only adult in the US who have this disorder, but she quickly learned she was not alone. She founded add resources, a nonprofit organization that focused on helping adults recognize their ADHD and learn how to improve their lives, which she ran for 15 years before retiring. Fast forward to the COVID locked down when at the age of 78. Cynthia wrote her first book is called Living with inattentive ADHD climbing the circular staircase of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and she founded a new nonprofit called the inattentive ADHD coalition creating this nonprofit felt imperative to Cynthia after she learned that 30% of those with ADHD have inattentive presentation and they are significantly less likely to be diagnosed and treated in childhood. We talk about Cynthia's journey to diagnosis and her commitment to educating families and doctors on the signs of inattentive ADHD in childhood and the importance of an early diagnosis and support systems that can help reduce the long term negative impacts of undiagnosed ADHD. Now at the age of 80, Cynthia is still out there tirelessly working to educate others about inattentive ADHD, and hopefully achieve her goal of having all girls screened for ADHD before they finished the second grade. Did you go undiagnosed for too long and want to help others have an earlier diagnosis head to iadhd.org/connect to volunteer with the inattentive ADHD coalition. And before we get started, I just wanted to put a trigger warning out there because there is a brief mention of the death of a young child. So if that is a subject that is difficult for you, you may want to skip this episode. Otherwise, I hope you get as much out of this conversation as I certainly did. Here is my interview with Cynthia. Cynthia hammer. Thank you so much for joining me. Well,
Cynthia Hammer 4:51
thank you for having me, Katie.
Katy Weber 4:55
I call anyone diagnosed in the in the 20th century a unicorn whisperer. actually women I feel like there it was few and far between back in the 90s. So, I would love to hear your story in terms of your diagnosis first it was it was back in 92. And your son was diagnosed first, correct? Yes. But he was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD, which I find interesting because I feel like that's also quite rare for a boy to get diagnosed with an attentive, especially 30 years ago. Was that rare at the time?
Cynthia Hammer 5:29
I can't really say the doctor said you have inattentive ADHD, but from my reading the literature and observing him. That's what I thought he fit into more. And even now, when you talk to women, they say, Well, I don't know what type I am. So it's not like the doctors give you a label that you're one type or another. And I always felt that getting diagnosed with inattentive type is a little more complicated, because it's not as clear. When you're physically hyperactive in your high energy. Those things are just more observable, they're more tangible. But the other ones are a little more a TI almost loosey goosey in a way. So sometimes I'd look at my son and say, Yes, this describes him. And other times I'd look at him and say, No, it doesn't. So it took several years before we decided he needed to go get diagnosed. And the only thing that really spurred it was, he was in elementary school in a single classroom, and he was going to move on to middle school. And without understanding why we just knew he'd get lost in a school of that size. So we decided to send him to private school. And even there when he was one of 12 children, the gym teacher was telling us how he'd be in gym class was looking at the ceiling, and he was playing soccer. And he'd be looking at studying clover in the grass when the ball was coming up. And even though he was good when the ball came near him, the parents would get all agitated shouting at him, you know, the balls coming your way, pay attention. So there were things like that going on in his life that made us think he had this type of ADHD. And for myself, again, off and on, I would say, Oh, those are things I do. So I'd be wondering about it. And where I was working, I finally got evaluated by my supervisor. It was I was a social worker. And she was she had a grandchild they've been diagnosed with ADHD. So when she evaluated me, she said, You do some things? Well, she said, You're hard to evaluate. Because you do some things well, and other things not so well. And then she went on to talk about some things I did, that she wondered why I did, because they really weren't in my area of my job responsibilities. And when she said those things, I just I honestly said, I don't know why I did those things. And I said to her, I think I have ADHD. And she said, I think so too. So she was the one that really got me to go back the next time I visited with my son's pediatrician. And I've been going to see him for two years, accompanying my son. I said to the doctor, I said, I think I have ADHD, and he said you do esitate Well, no. And that was the thing. You know, you start wondering what is it that people see about me that I don't know about myself, but somehow the way I come across? So when I wrote my book I just said I can only speculate that I would get restless when the topic got boring. Or I would interject with something that was off topic, or that when he was ready to leave the room, I suddenly had a lot of things I wanted to tell them. Those are the kinds of behaviors I think an ADHD person would have. So I only can imagine I was doing those things. And that's what made him think I had ADHD. But when I got diagnosed, I thought it was the only an adult in the US that knew. And it was very shame based for me, very lonely. And then I found a book in the library by Lynn Weiss and it was about adult add. And I found a woman in Bellingham Washington. We went to the first conference for adults. It was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And Terry Matlin was there, and Siri Solden was there and Dr. Hala was there. And they had all been diagnosed like three years earlier. So I was not the first one to the party. There were other adults who had known and the thing with Dr. Halliwell and I don't know at what point he said this but he said I was never ashamed to say I had ADHD. So when I went back to Tacoma, we decided to start a support group, just a small one, which didn't work out. So then we switched and started a larger one in an auditorium. And I had to sit in my car and practice saying, I have ADHD, because that's what I wanted to do. When I opened the meeting. I wanted to be able to say that, and I just kept having a shaky voice a tearful voice. But I kept having Dr. Halliwell's image of how you need to be able to say it with comfort. And so that's what I achieved. And after that, of course, I was working in a field then where it was perfectly acceptable. And I didn't have to worry about my job. If I was telling people I had ADHD. But it just became a very easy thing to do. So what I wanted to say, is even leaving the ADHD conference, I don't usually talk to people on my seatmates on the plane, but this woman was playing Sudoku. And I was just asking her about it. One thing too, led to another. And I ended up telling her I had ADHD. And she said she had gotten diagnosed a week earlier. You're kidding. Oh, wow. I'm not. And so but the thing was, which is the sad point, which I've encountered, is she had been seeing her psychiatrists for two years. And she had been tried on several medications for depression, and anxiety. And I had read earlier, Dr. Dodson said that women typically experience six medications before someone decides all this is attention deficit disorder. So she was the first person that I really heard from, who had experienced that, going through that process of elimination, where they start out thinking it's depression, or they can say, oh, it's anxiety, we just haven't found the right medication yet. And then eventually deciding is ADHD. So she had only been on medication for a week. And she wasn't angry at her psychiatrist. But I'm thinking, the more she knows about her ADHD, and the better she function, she'll be upset at those two last years. Oh, I know, we're all those years. 28 years, actually, cuz she's 28 years old. Yeah,
Katy Weber 12:45
you know, I was diagnosed at 45. And I and it's something we've talked about on the podcast a lot that grief of you know, what, if only, you know, how did nobody see this? Right, especially, I think when I was first diagnosed, looking at my report cards, the signs were everywhere. You can't help but wonder, like, how would my life have been different had I known, but at the same time, feeling like, I think one of the things we benefit from having a diagnosis nowadays, as opposed to 30 years ago, is the fact that there's such it's so much more widespread, there's so much less of that shame and stigma, it felt so freeing to get that diagnosis more than anything.
Cynthia Hammer 13:26
Well, and there they can find more people. You know, the online community is wonderful. And I don't know if you encountered this, but people that get into the field, they actually say, I'm glad I have ADHD, because I relate to my clients relate to my patients better. Yeah. That it's helpful that way. Yeah,
Katy Weber 13:50
I actually I could probably count on one hand, the number of people I've met who work in the ADHD field and don't have ADHD. Like, are you sure?
Cynthia Hammer 14:00
Yeah, airy, airy Tuchman. I was trying to interview men and women that had the inattentive type. And I thought, because of the way he comes across, he had inattentive he said, he didn't even have ADHD.
Katy Weber 14:13
You're kidding. I didn't know that. Yeah,
Cynthia Hammer 14:16
I don't. I don't. I mean, it's not severe. It's not important. And I wonder if Sherman shilling has ADHD, you know, sort of
Katy Weber 14:24
on the fence. I think she questions officially she doesn't, but I know. She's, I know, it's definitely she questions that. So yeah. So tell me about the interviews where the the interviews were for the book, or was it a new project that you're working on? I
Cynthia Hammer 14:38
don't remember the timeline. You know, we're not good at that. But anyway, I set out to interview 25 men that had inattentive type, because I had heard that boys had inattentive type as well as girls. So that was the first thing I did is interviewed, found 25 men through online and interviewed him and they had a lot of the same emotions a lot of the same experiences is the women who have inattentive ADHD. And then recently, I decided to interview 25 women with the combined type. Because I get concerned when we all get lumped together, you know, they say girls are under diagnosed, and the girls who are hyperactive under diagnosed or is it just the girls that have inattentive type. So the women, I diagnose, they all were combined type. And very few of them were diagnosed as children. They said that they were hyperactive, but they suppressed it, there was so much cultural messaging, that they would move a foot around, they would get up out of their chair, sharpen their pencil, one woman said, I bet the inside of my cheek so I wouldn't move. So they weren't identified either. And after we learned that, our organization now is more concerned that all children get diagnosed for you know, we're broadening because we realize it's not just the inattentive that gets overlooked. I think the only ones that really get recognized are the ones who are physically hyperactive and disruptive in the classroom. And I like to think that it's because people don't know what to look for. And if we educate them more about what to look for, as you were saying, the signs were all there for you. And no one was noticing. And so there's too much of the concept that you have to have this physical hyperactivity. And even the women I interviewed, they said, I just never realized there were these other ways that it presented that it would cover how I am. So a lot of that is just education. Yeah,
Katy Weber 16:53
yeah. You know, one of the things I really appreciated about William Dodson was that he refers to the H as hyper arousal, often instead of hyperactivity, which is something I relate much more to, because I, you know, when my therapist first suggested I had ADHD, I immediately thought they will, I'm not hyperactive, right, a lot of women don't think of themselves as that little boy who can't stop moving. But when I was going through the diagnosis process, and talking about emotional dysregulation, and how quickly we go from zero to 100, with rage, right, like that is a form of internalized hyper activity, I just wouldn't have known to label it. And some something about the term hyper arousal just really kind of feels all encompassing about the emotional element of hyperactivity. Mm hmm. So now, what are the sides? Because I think that's, you know, one of the things both of my kids were diagnosed after me and they're both might well, my son was diagnosed with combined, I do think he's much more inattentive than anyone in my family, but he's also 12. So it's kind of hard to it's kind of hard to parse what is typical, distractibility in a child versus what would fall under the disorder, but of what are some of the signs that you recommend to either teachers or parents that might be beyond just, well, you know, their kid, and might be something to look into?
Cynthia Hammer 18:20
We have a series of YouTubes, where we've interviewed 25 adults who are diagnosed late in life, and we always ask them, could you have been identified earlier, and they tell us what kind of behaviors they had that could have clued people in. So, you know, there are the nine symptoms in the DSM. But I don't find that helpful enough, it doesn't get down into the nitty gritty enough to really guide someone to it. And I like to say that it's, it's a complex of behaviors. So you're not just saying one thing, like, you could say, oh, the child's really, really hyperactive and, and maybe that means he has ADHD. But for the inattentive type, it's a lot more subtle signs. And people were saying, Well, of course, being dreamy, the teachers talking and I'm not aware of what she's talking about, I have to ask my classmates, I would not turn in my papers, I would not follow instructions, I wouldn't turn over and do the backside of the paper, I would submit my paper without putting my name on it. I didn't always follow the instructions. So we were going to make a list of all these complex of behaviors that the children would demonstrate. But the other thing I think is a big key is the teacher knows normal childhood development. And if she looks at the class as a bell curve, and I think the children that are off the end of the bell curve are the ones that she should be paying attention to and be thinking, you know, what's going on here that this child is kind of off the bell curve have. And what Orrin Mason said is, what happens is that this started the school year, the teacher is usually looking at her classroom, and saying, oh, that's the child that I'm gonna have to pay attention to, that's the one that might need to be referred, you know, they're kind of assessing their classroom. And he said during that period, is when the inattentive child is perfect, you know, the situation is new, they're trying their best to pay attention in school, they're not disruptive, maybe they're following instruction. So later on, the teacher doesn't have that assessment mode going on, you know, she's just gotten used to the child being that way. So I thought that was really a good insight that we ought to alert the teachers to both go back and look at children a little bit later, after they get adjusted to the classroom, when it's not such a new situation, and be looking out for the children who often seem to be a little bit out in left field, you know, their eyes are looking out the window, when you want them to be looking at the blackboard, they're talking to their neighbors, some said that I was a big talker, because that's the only way I could pay attention, you know, to keep something engaged. You know,
Katy Weber 21:25
it's funny, I hadn't thought about it before. But I wonder if the fact that we are those really excitable, Type A or A plus students at the very beginning? Is that why we so often get those messages like you're not meeting your potential, you have so much potential, you know, some of those messages that so many of us received that were so damaging, to our sense of self concept. I wonder if it's because they saw that really high performing version of ourselves right out of the gates, and we can't sustain that.
Cynthia Hammer 21:55
Oh, maybe. But I think to that, because of your interest, sometimes you do have that high performing. It continues to be there. Sometimes when people said, for the subject interests me, I was really good. And others didn't. I wasn't, some people said, I was always a good student, I was under pressure to be a good student, it was important to be me to be a good student. Other people told me that I was so bright, it was easy to be a good student. So sometimes, being a good student mastered they had problems. You know, how much effort they put in how much anxiety it cost them? How hard they were trying to be the perfect child?
Katy Weber 22:40
Oh, absolutely. And I think, you know, I didn't realize that was what ADHD also looked like, in adulthood until I started interviewing women, and found the vast majority of the women I was interviewing were very, very good students, who then ended up diagnosed with depression and anxiety because of that perfectionism. And because of that high, you know, desire to mask and show up and, you know, really feeling like they were white knuckling it through so many situations and then falling apart at home. So
Cynthia Hammer 23:11
Well, that's what some of the women I interviewed, they, they figured it out during COVID. Because before that, the way they manage their life was to stay super busy. If they weren't super busy, it all fell apart, being super busy, forced them to be organized and stay on top of things. But once they didn't need to do that during COVID. That's when I mean, maybe they realized that before. I think everyone I've talked to who has ADD said I always knew I was different. They knew but they didn't know why or how. And during COVID, they watch Instagram, watch tick tock, and that's when they figured it out. So
Katy Weber 23:58
speaking of COVID, so you found it the add resources. It was a website or as an organization or a nonprofit, back
Cynthia Hammer 24:06
in 1992. My mother gave each of her daughters $2,000 And I decided to start a nonprofit back then. So I learned how to do it and did the paperwork. We started a nonprofit. And initially it was called Adult supportive Washington with the AD D. Back then we called it AD D. We didn't call it ADHD. So it was called Adult supportive Washington, but it's only if you read it. You knew what we were talking about. So eventually, we changed the name to add resources. And that was a nonprofit that we had and based in Tacoma for 15 years, and we would have workshops and it was all in person. You know, we had monthly meetings with the speaker and then we had conferences. We had Dr Halliwell come down rady all those people that, you know, the, like the grandfather's of add now they came and presented to we ran. I ran that nonprofit for 15 years. And then I retired. I trained as a coach. But I don't I wasn't successful. I wasn't successful as a coach. So then I just stopped. And during COVID, I wrote started to write a book. And in learning about ADHD, again, I read a story of a 23 year old girl, she wrote a blog on attitude, just saying she was so angry, because people had seen she had some challenges, she got referred for help. And no one recognized her ADHD. So she's only 23 years old, but she's already so angry. And she said, people tell me just to move on now that you know, you know, go forward and make your life the best it can be. But she said, I can't. I'm just stuck in being angry. So somehow, that resonated with me. And I decided to start another new nonprofit, which is the inattentive ADHD coalition. And this one is only virtual, you know, it's only online. It's such a different world. And it's kind of fun to learn all of it. I
Katy Weber 26:26
know. Right? So what made you decide to write the memoir in COVID? You were just kind of looking for a project? Well,
Cynthia Hammer 26:36
yes, I had received my roommate after college, went and married someone in Australia, and she lived on a sheep farm. And she was in charge of a piggery. She wrote a memoir for her children. And I had just received it right. In Washington State, we were isolated. And we had to stay home. So I got that. I said, Well, I've never really talked to my children about my life. In an add family, you never seem to get around to that there's always other stuff. So I thought, well tell him about my life and what I did. And so I wrote that. And then I thought it was pretty good. But I read online, I was just planning it for them. But I read online that you should have someone else evaluate it. So I hired this developmental editor. I had written 55,000 words, and he threw out 15,000 He said, This is about your life with inattentive ADHD. And so he helped me to structure the book. He said, it's supposed to be a hero's journey, where you know, stuff goes wrong, stuff goes wrong. And I say, Yeah, that's true. That's how it went. And then, you know, things improve, and you come out looking like a butterfly. Yes. So that's what happened. And I also heard that an author should have a platform. So those two things coming together thinking I want to start this nonprofit, and the author should have a platform. That's what got me to do the inattentive ADHD coalition. And the thing I didn't realize, well, there was a process to find a publisher for the book. And when I signed the contract, I did not realize it would be two years before the book was published. I mean, I kept thinking that they want me to die before the book comes out. But it was also helpful, really, that that it delayed because I kept writing. And some of that writing also got incorporated into the book that made it, I think, more relevant, because I discovered read it, I had more up to date knowledge. And in the meantime, I had befriended Dr. Stephen for own. And so he read my book, and he made a few changes for it. And then he said that I should include information about ADHD. So at the end of each chapter, I included a myth and correcting information for the myth. So my book is a memoir about my life, but it's actually a self help book. If people I asked him from what category do you think this is in? She said, self help, because I showed how I helped myself before there was coaching. Before there was therapy. There was just medication. The books I read and the things I did that enabled me to start a nonprofit and run a nonprofit. Wow.
Katy Weber 29:54
Amazing. come out of retirement in a big way then, huh?
Cynthia Hammer 29:59
A lot of us have that we have an idea and we pursue it. And it's it's like you're on a big wave in it. Look where it's taking you, Katie, you never envisioned this. But there it goes.
Katy Weber 30:13
I know. Absolutely. I always talked about this, I just wanted to have some conversations with some women, that I accidentally started a business. I always joke that we don't have hobbies, we start new businesses. Let's, you know, you have ADHD. Now, one of the things you you're the subtitle of the book is climbing the circular staircase, what what is the circular staircase? What does that mean?
Cynthia Hammer 30:37
Well, I think when people see the cover of my book, they relate to the image, but I, where I tell people is you acquire one skill. And that's going up one step, and you acquire another skill that's going up another step. So each step takes you up and around and up and around until you're at the top.
Katy Weber 31:01
I love that. And I really do relate to that visual, I think it's a great visual for, for the way in which small steps can be so important in this journey. And it's one of those things that just slowing down. And taking those one step at a time is not something I think many of us are naturally good at.
Cynthia Hammer 31:20
And I don't know if people CIP succeed, any other way. But I think that's how I succeeded. And then my first step, you could be embarrassed to tell a neurotypical person this, but my first step was to put my credit card back in my wallet. And my second step was to put my keys back in my purse. The third step was to put my purse at a certain place in my house when I came in the house. And just those little things started to give me confidence that you could manage your environment, and manage yourself.
Katy Weber 32:00
That's lovely, that you had talked about when you first received the diagnosis that you did feel a lot of shame about it, you did feel very lonely at the time, because it was 30 years ago. But Halliwell and others really brought you to a place of moving past that shame. Is there something looking back that was really helpful mindset shift for you in terms of being more comfortable living out loud with ADHD,
Cynthia Hammer 32:27
I don't think you can just talk yourself into Improve Self Esteem, you have to work your way into Improve Self Esteem. And that's by improving how you function. And as you improve how you function, as I said, you're climbing that circular staircase, you get that feedback that you're better. And so I don't think it's just saying the words. But I do think it's really helpful to stop saying bad words to yourself. To stop saying anything negative about yourself. And the book that helped me with that was learned optimism. So when something bad goes wrong, you're more focused on how can I change it for the future? And when something good goes, right, you keep saying what you did that made it go, right. So there's ways you can talk to yourself, that help you to build up your self esteem. But it's not like, you know, the thing where they praise young children for just participating. You have to build your self esteem on something that's real. So you need to be making some achievements that you're proud of, when I first was diagnosed, because you wonder how do people see that I have this, I thought I had the letter A embroidered on my clothing, which stood for ADHD, everyone could see that I had ADHD, you know, everyone knew. I just didn't like it, you know, but, but then, as I got on medication, and people were saying, Did you see how Cynthia did such and such, or the change in her that people were starting to build me up? Do you know what I mean? Their the way they interacted me was was different. So as I said, it's each thing builds on other things. It's like building blocks. Recently, I was on a podcast where she talks about the chrysalis that you're, you know, you're in your cocoon, and you come out as a butterfly. And I said, Yes, that's true with ADHD, but you shouldn't think that it's going to happen in 30 days. I think it happens in three to five years, and only with effort. Yeah,
Katy Weber 34:48
that's a good point. I often feel like it's one of those games like Chutes and Ladders where I like two steps forward, one step back,
Cynthia Hammer 34:57
forward and back. Yeah, Yeah, that's true.
Katy Weber 35:02
So no, I'm curious looking at this horizon of ADHD over the last few years, especially I was a pandemic diagnosis. I was diagnosed in 2020. And it was very similar to what you said, all of a sudden, my kids were home, my husband was home, I was the chef, the teacher, the housekeeper, all of the things. And my house of cards really just fell fell apart during COVID. And it's just been such an explosion of diagnoses awareness, tick tock, it's just feels like it's everywhere. And obviously, it feels like it's everywhere, because that's what I do full time, but you're
Cynthia Hammer 35:37
surrounded by it. Right?
Katy Weber 35:39
I'm curious what your thoughts are about this, about the recent rise in inflammation and talking about and the recent rise in diagnoses? Is it? Does it feel like this is a positive move? Or do you feel is like because I feel like sometimes it's mixed, right? A lot of people worry that, you know, ADHD is going to be taken less seriously, because everybody's rolling their eyes and saying, Oh, everybody has ADHD now, that it might be taken less seriously, it might be looked at as something that isn't requiring of a diagnosis isn't requiring, like you had said earlier. Like, maybe you haven't, maybe don't, it's not a big deal. But anyway, I'm just rambling. Now, I'm just curious what your thoughts are about the last couple of years in this change in the climate.
Cynthia Hammer 36:27
years ago, Dr. Phelan said his experience was most adults who thought they had a DD were right. And I guess I go with that. And I think that where I'm coming from now is this is a condition we're born with. And the sooner it gets diagnosed, the better and why? Why are being we being diagnosed with a condition when we're 50 that we had since birth, we need better ways to diagnose it sooner. Because we know it gets more complicated and more damage happens when it doesn't get diagnosed when a child has seven. The additional depression, the anxiety, the low self esteem, we know that people with undiagnosed ADHD are more at risk for suicide, more likely to get involved in substance abuse, divorce, all the bad things in life, they're more likely to experience and if they get diagnosed and treated, all those things are less than more comparable to a neurotypical person.
Katy Weber 37:39
Well said, though, one of the things I hear a lot from women, you know, especially older women, who approach their doctors and say, I think I might have ADHD and they hear from their doctors. Well, you've made it this far. What's the point in getting a diagnosis? Is that something you've heard from least postmenopausal women?
Cynthia Hammer 38:00
So one woman wrote that online, she said, we're about herself. She said, I think I have ADHD, I'm 50. Should I do anything about it? And I said, Well, if you're content with your life, no, but if you want to grow, and change and improve, go get your diagnosis. Because I don't I personally don't think you can improve your life very much without knowing what you're dealing with. Yeah. And I personally think that medication is a cornerstone medication and educate education are the cornerstones for improvement.
Katy Weber 38:43
So I guess I like to ask, what is it that you love the most about your ADHD?
Cynthia Hammer 38:50
My first child died, I believe, because of my undiagnosed ADHD. We had been in the Peace Corps. And we were supposed to take some pills when we came back home to prevent malaria. And when I unpacked the suitcase, I didn't put the pills in a safe place, and she swallowed them. That was over 50 years ago. And when I learned about my ADHD, I said, I'll never be happy to know I have ADHD because now I understand why my daughter died. And so it's very hard for me to say what I celebrate about my ADHD. And I go with what Paul Chafee says. I don't think it's a superpower, but there are hard won compensations. And I think my compensations which I learned from Strength Finders to is course, ideation, having lots of ideas, having good ideas. And I'm realizing another strength I've had but I was always too shy about is you building other people up. I love encouraging other people. And I think people would add or that way a lot. They're in the fields where they try to help other people, that's just their nature to be very helpful. So those two things stand out for me, I guess. And along with that is creativity, I love to create the template for how something's going to be done, you know, to figure out the steps, and this is that working out the logic of it. And I think that is a part of it. adj trait and of course, the hyperfocus were, when I was writing the book, you could get so involved in it and look up and say, Oh, it's evening, you know, and you had been so engaged in something that it was a wonderful experience. And when I give talks, now, I like to tell people, that ADHD can be so different for everyone, because you can have as few as five symptoms, and say you have ADHD, some of the women I talked to had all 18 symptoms, some of us have more severe symptoms than others. So it's already a different thing for all of us out of the starting gate. And then depending on the family you're born into, that can make a big difference. I said, I grew up with a lot of structure. But I didn't have medication. And a lot of kids today grow up without the structure, but they get the medication. So which one is better? Which one is better? I mean, we need both. And then you need good diet, and good rest and good nutrition. You know, there's all these things that some of us were more fortunate to have than others. So it's very hard. When people come out and say, add is a disorder and someone else says no, no, it's a superpower. I just think it can be all things depending on the person and depending on where they are within their journey.
Katy Weber 42:08
Yes, well said. And I think I really the hard one compensations is a great way of saying that too, because there is so much pain, you know, in our lives, and the diagnosis just feels like it feels like an opportunity to rewrite a lot of that pain. I would add to your list the ability to write your first book, at what 78 which is a tremendous, tremendous accomplishment. So congratulations on that. Now, I'd love to on your blog, you had talked about writing the book itself. And you know, one of the things with inattentive ad ADHD is how difficult it is to do something like write a book, but you had a very, you know, very measured approach to it correct?
Cynthia Hammer 42:58
Well, you have to realize first that I don't have children anymore. I don't have a job. I have the whole day to spend how I want. And I had read once about someone trying to die it that if you're on your diet, and you go off it one day, you don't say, Well, I blew my diet, I better quit. You say I went off it yesterday, I go back on it today. So when I made a commitment to write every day, I had that attitude that my goal is to write every day. But if I don't, that's not an excuse not to go back and write another day. I think I have some a little bit of autism. Because I did like that kind of routine. Every morning, I knew I was going to exercise and right. So that gave structure to these long days of being in the house. And the other thing was, I don't see it is available now. But there were these websites that would help you to write better, though, so I learned about how to write dialogue, that when you go into a new space, you're supposed to describe the space because you don't just bring someone into something. So, you know, we like learning new things. So that was the fun part of it, too, is learning and improving. And I had written before, when we had the other nonprofit, we put out a monthly newsletter. So I had all those articles. And some of that got incorporated into the book because I wouldn't have remembered all that stuff. And that was what was annoying working with the developmental editors. He wanted me to say which came first and which happened next. And I was just having, how old was my son at that time? Oh, oh, that might have happened that then that happened. You know. And so yeah, there's some pressures on you to make it a certain way but I'm very proud of the book.
Katy Weber 44:56
Well, that's amazing. And I I feel like it's such a great time. I submit to what it looks like to retire with ADHD. Which is, you know, the idea of sitting around and doing nothing in my retirement is agonizing. But I love the idea that you were able to start this new venture this new book and this new resource and platform on your own time and sounds like you're having a lot of fun with it. Well,
Cynthia Hammer 45:19
and if you meet Dr. Halliwell still out there when I talk to him, he said, No, he's never gonna give up. Terry Matlin says she's gonna die doing what she's doing. Kathleen Nadeau was writing another book with Pat Quinn. I mean, they're Pat Quinn, I know is in her 80s. And she was so eager to write another book. So yeah, I just think being engaged is what gives us our spark. Having something we love to do. I
Katy Weber 45:50
know. And I've, yeah, I've often that's been a way that I been able to reframe my sense of learning to because I didn't do well in all subjects at school. You know, there, I really struggled in school a lot of the time in the classroom. But seeing the way in which we are lifelong learners, is really inspiring to just have yet like you said, have that engagement is great. Well, this has been so lovely. Thank you for sharing your story with me, Cynthia, and congratulations on the book. I'll certainly have links to your website into the book in the episode show notes. Oh,
Cynthia Hammer 46:22
can we mention the name of the book?
Katy Weber 46:23
Oh, yeah, of course. Go ahead.
Cynthia Hammer 46:27
The book is called Living with inattentive ADHD, claiming the circular staircase when where I think the book is really helpful is not just for people with inattentive ADHD, but for your family members, who they doubt you have ADHD or don't understand the broad impacts of it. Because at my age, I decided I have no secret, I have no shame. So I tell you how many car accidents I did, how many items I lost, that were expensive. How I left a son at preschool on a day, it wasn't there, how I forgot if you know, all the things that are hidden errors, I guess I don't know what to call them. But I'm sure all of us have things that we wouldn't, we wouldn't want other people to know. And those are the kinds of things I write about in the book. So your family would really understand. There's a lot of things they don't know about you because you hide.
Katy Weber 47:28
I love the picture on your Instagram feed of you reading your own book with the barbecue. In the background.
Cynthia Hammer 47:37
Katy Weber 47:38
Such a great photo. It is a nice way to kind of take some of the sting out of some of these behaviors. Yeah, it was great. So I'd love to find out if there was if you had an alternate name for ADHD, would you call it something else?
Cynthia Hammer 47:55
I am going to call it neuro divergent. Because I think that the direction we need to go in, you start hearing women say Oh, I have autism, I have ADHD, I have anxiety. Like we've got a little bit of everything. And, and it's nice to have your own tribe. But I think we're going to create a tribe of neurodivergent people. And that's when we're going to have much more power.
Katy Weber 48:24
That's beautiful. And I does feel like we're definitely moving in that direction. Thanks to the internet and social media and the way in which we're able to find each other such a thing such a huge part of our the treatment plan around ADHD is finding each other and sharing our stories and feeling less alone. For sure.
Cynthia Hammer 48:44
Yes, yes. You're a big part of that. Thank you.
Katy Weber 48:48
Oh, well, thank you for for all the work that you are doing in this field. And yeah, I can't wait to see what what else comes from from Cynthia the next 1020 years? Well,
Cynthia Hammer 48:59
I guess what our when our nonprofit is hoping to work on it. We've decided we're going to focus on getting girls screened by age seven. Amazing. And the other thing we're saying is it whenever a child is diagnosed with ADHD screening should be recommended to the parents. Absolutely. Yeah. Okay. And so this is not my idea. But this was a powerful thing a woman told me at the ADHD conference, she thought in the hospital when the mother gives birth to a baby. That's when they should be given the screen for ADHD. It's only an 18 question. thing. It's available online, the ASRS it's free, you can go look at it. But if parents if mothers knew when they had a child that they might have ADHD, they'll have several years to come get themselves ready before, you know they might take on the child with ADHD, which I think is a awesome thing to think about. I mean, we want to change the future. But to fix things right now, if we could start finding the women, when they're giving birth, and they give screens now like, do you have postpartum depression? Do you have depression? They could just give this other screen along the way, that would make a big difference. Gosh, I certainly
Katy Weber 50:29
know I would have liked that when I was pregnant, or having newborns. That was a really hard time. And I think it is for a lot of women undiagnosed or diagnosed of having babies around the house. So a
Cynthia Hammer 50:42
good time. Yes. Yes. Awesome. Well, thank
Katy Weber 50:45
you again, Sophie has been really lovely.
Cynthia Hammer 50:47
Thank you. Take care.
Katy Weber 50:55
There you have it. Thank you for listening. And I really hope you enjoyed this episode of the women and ADHD podcast. If you'd like to find out more about me and my coaching programs, head over to women and adhd.com. If you're a woman who was diagnosed with ADHD and you'd like to apply to be a guest on this podcast, visit women in adhd.com/podcast guest and you can find that link in the episode show notes. Also, you know, we ADHD ears crave feedback. And I would really appreciate hearing from you the listener, please take a moment to leave me a review on Apple podcasts or audible. And if that feels like too much, and I totally get it. Please just take a few seconds right now to give me a five star rating. Or share this episode on your own social media to help reach more women who maybe have yet to discover and lean into this gift of nerd of urgency. And they may be struggling and they don't even know why. I'll see you next week when I interview another amazing woman who discovered she's not lazy or crazy or broken. But she has ADHD and she's now on the path to understanding her neurodivergent mind and finally using this gift to her advantage. Take care till then
Transcribed by https://otter.ai