Kay Rohloff: Divine distractions & nerdery at church

Jul 10, 2023


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Episode 145 with Kay Rohloff.

“I can meet someone, hear their entire life story, and remember every single detail and still not be able to tell you their last name to save my life.”

Kay is a pastor who lives in southern Minnesota. She is also the co-host of Nerds at Church, a podcast about themes shared between the Bible and various areas of nerdery. Kay was diagnosed five years ago with ADHD, and she wrote an article for Sparkhouse about some of the ups and downs of life as an ADHD pastor and she is a moderator for a Facebook group for pastors with ADHD.

We talk all about some of the specific benefits and challenges of being a pastor with ADHD, including being held to a higher standard by their congregation. We also talk about how her diagnosis has helped her reframe her approach to her job and what support she seeks out from others, and how she’s helped several colleagues seek help and get diagnosed.

Website: gracealone21c.com

Twitter: @romans821kjv

Articles mentioned:

Your ADHD Pastor and You by Pastor Kay Rohloff




Katy (00:02.391)
Hi Kay, thanks for joining me!

Kay (she/her) (00:05.078)
Good morning, I'm so glad to be here.

Katy (00:08.121)
Well, I guess let's get started with talking about your ADHD diagnosis, which was about six years ago at this point, right?

Kay (she/her) (00:17.526)
Thereabouts, yes. I was in my early 30s at the time and I had a full-time job. I was at my first regular church and I noticed that I was getting more and more disorganized and more and more forgetful and losing things. And I'd always had a little bit of that in my life, but it was getting much worse. And I actually had benefits at this job and so I was using it to get caught up on some healthcare and I was seeing a therapist. And while all

I found a Tumblr post of all things that was sort of describing ADHD from the inside as a woman. And I said to myself, this sounds eerily familiar, and also are you telling me that this isn't normal? And

After reading that, I mentioned it to my therapist and she said, you know, I have ADHD and having met with you several times now, I was wondering if maybe you were an example of that, but I was waiting for you to bring it up.

And so I continued to meet with her. I was trying to figure out what it would take to get diagnosed but then she had to leave town and I couldn't see her anymore and then there was a misunderstanding with my insurance and then I had some dental emergencies and suddenly I had three thousand dollars of stuff to pay off and I had to do that before I could get diagnosed and then it was six months later and my forgetfulness and disorganization was so much worse than it had been and I

wound up being asked to leave my job and then I lost my insurance and had to go on my husband's which was not as good and we had to move and so it took about a year for me to actually get diagnosed from after that first hint about six months after leaving the church and then the medical help that I had at the time was

You know that generation of medical professionals who were apparently deeply scarred by the 90s and small children being over prescribed strong drugs? I had one of those and she tried to convince me to take these unregulated white pine tree bark supplements instead of something, you know, approved by the FDA. And we had a little argument and I insisted on something approved by the FDA and eventually she agreed on Stratera. Because that didn't have stimulants.

you could live with that. And I started taking them and because I didn't have any guidance, I didn't know anyone with ADHD who was on the non-stimulant medication. I had several friends with ADHD, but they were all guys on the really heavy stimulants. And I didn't understand how to take the meds in order to sleep like a normal person. And so I had like six months of sleeping

Kay (she/her) (03:14.396)
and I could not hold down a job and while I was getting used to the meds and figuring out how to time those with morning caffeine because I did need some stimulant and eventually now I'm sleeping better than I ever have in my life and As it turns out I'm pretty sure what actually got me diagnosed was something that I have heard from several colleagues who are women who have

It turns out that apparently in the early 30s one of those small hormonal changes that happens throughout your life for a lot of women that will cause your brain to go haywire. I don't know exactly what it's called because it turns out if you try to Google women and hormones horrible things show up and it is not a helpful thing to search for at all. But I've heard this from several different women that if you have ADHD when you hit your early 30s, everything goes a little extra.

haywire. And so that happened to me and since then, because I've aged out of that age bracket and apparently the hormones have shifted back somehow, I've been able to reduce my medication levels and I'm doing much better as a result. But that whole process was just deeply confusing and wildly

uncomfortable for me because I had spent my entire life being told that, you know, my brain was the best tool I had and I was brilliant and a wonderful student and suddenly I couldn't control anything in my life and it was so deeply unsettling.

Katy (05:00.394)
Yeah, I feel like there's catalysts, you know, like I like to think of my own ADHD in terms of just these ebbs and flows throughout my life where there were times either hormonally or structurally where it was really at a fever pitch. And then there were other times where I was sort of like, I was fine, right? I seem to be doing well. And then other times, you know, like babies and, you know, puberty and so and now perimenopause where it's, you know, I feel like a lot of women are diagnosed in perimenopause too because of the

I'm not sure what the early thirties hormonal changes are. That's peri-menopause or what that is. But like, you know, I just feel like there's these moments where our life suddenly becomes out of control. And it's like everything that we had, all of our management tools that had worked for us at other times in our life just get like blown off the table. And that's where it feels like chaos ensues, right? And so, yeah, even just talking about like...

Kay (she/her) (05:48.735)

Katy (05:53.166)
you know, having a job where you had, where you had, um, benefits to suddenly not. And like all of the, you know, all of the like difficulties that we have, even just booking doctor's appointments and like getting to things, right? Like I, you know, I, my therapist the other day was asking me, I've been trying to talk to my own doctor about medication and I call and I leave a message and nobody calls me back. And then I have to remember to call back again. And it's like,

There's just so many things involved in these otherwise seemingly simple transactions that I'm like, that's the diagnosis right there, right? Which is like, how long does it take you to do some of these simple things?

Kay (she/her) (06:25.738)
Oh sure.

And sometimes, yeah.

And sometimes if one person in the process isn't properly informed, it can throw a giant wrench into the whole process. That nurse who I mentioned who didn't like me being on real ADHD meds was under the impression that because I was taking a FDA approved ADHD med, I had to take a copy of the prescription on paper with me to the pharmacy and give that to the pharmacy in order to have them approve it and give me my drugs. And I had to do that every month.

And that added like four steps to getting my meds. And it was, I think, three months before I finally realized, wait, this does not sound likely. And I asked the pharmacy about it, and the pharmacy explained to her that no, she was wrong. So just one person in that process, and there are dozens of people in that process, can throw a giant wrench into everything, yeah.

Katy (07:23.014)
Right? And yeah, and I didn't realize Sartaro actually messes with your sleep. I always thought that was the stimulants doing that. But was this just new meds or what do you think that was behind that?

Kay (she/her) (07:31.962)

I think it was the new meds and I really didn't understand about the importance of taking them in the early morning yet because I was reading mostly advice for people who were taking stimulants and a lot of the people who take stimulants take them at different times of the day in order to sort of space them out. And so I think between that and for a while I tried quitting coffee and also just my general nerves about everything. Yeah, I couldn't sleep for months.

Katy (08:05.474)
saying so yeah I mean I feel like that's kind of how we find this stuff out is hearing other people offhandedly mention these things it's not like it's something you would think to go out and google so now

Kay (she/her) (08:14.466)

And I've helped so many of my colleagues get diagnosed because so many people don't know what ADHD is like from the inside. And by explaining it in various groups that I'm in mostly on Facebook, I've helped I think at least a dozen people get diagnosed by now, just in the last few years. And I'm so glad that they have the help they need now, but it's astonishing how few people know.

Katy (08:38.03)
Right? Yeah. That's funny when you mentioned that about

Yeah, I know I was funny when you were mentioning that about, you know, meeting people who so clearly have ADHD and it's like, how or when do I tell them? They're on their own journey. And, you know, and then I start sharing my own experience, being like, like you said, like, that's not actually how everybody experiences life. This is actually, you know, a very, very much part of your brain wiring. Um, but also not wanting to diagnose every person I meet.

Kay (she/her) (08:55.086)

Katy (09:11.662)
Now, so I'm curious after your diagnosis, then, I mean, what were some of those things looking back over your life as one does where you were like, oh, the signs were there all along.

Kay (she/her) (09:24.602)
Oh, so many. So one of the things that came to me almost immediately was there's this family story. I was one of those small children who picked up everything and learned all kinds of new things and was fascinated by learning. It took my parents actual years to teach me how to tie my shoes. No one could figure out why that was so hard for me. Every adult in my life at one point was sitting me down once or twice a day to walk me through tying my shoes

Katy (09:26.651)

Kay (she/her) (09:54.456)
months and it was this extraordinary journey that really should not have been that hard but that apparently is super common with kids with ADHD the physical stuff like that also I have always had terrible handwriting I am so grateful to have something to blame that on now I spent so many years getting yelled at about it

And there was a class when I was in seminary, I was finishing up my last year and I...

I didn't realize that this had happened until afterwards, but it was one of those things. I knew the end of the semester was going to be super busy. So what I did was I took my final paper for one class and I wrote it in advance, like a month ahead of time. And I saved it to my computer and I thought it was all set and I was ready to go. And then a month later rolls around, my paper is due. I completely forget that I have written that paper or that it is on my hard drive. I don't even look in the folder that has all of the stuff for that class.

write another one, but I am running so late that I have to get an excuse from the teacher and the teacher tells me, I'm sorry this is just too late and too incomplete, you're going to have to take an incomplete for the class. I take the incomplete and then two days later I find that paper on my hard drive.

And then I had to retake the class the next year after I was supposedly graduated. I had to take a different class actually, because that one wasn't available. It was astonishing. And I was incredibly deeply shamed about it. Not shamed by other people, but myself. And after years of being a successful student, aside from my terrible Hebrew language skills, which are a whole separate story that probably aren't the ADHD fault.

Katy (11:14.066)
My goodness.

Kay (she/her) (11:43.798)
I just, I didn't know how to handle that at all. It was just a complete failure on my part and I felt so terrible about it. I didn't want to talk to anyone about it. But I took the other class, I finally finished and years later I got diagnosed with ADHD and I knew where all of that had come from. So.

Katy (12:07.33)
Yeah, I often talk about how I felt as though I had some sort of learning disorder, but I didn't know enough about ADHD. I didn't know enough about executive dysfunction, but I, I often like had those moments, especially in university where I had so many different processing issues when it came to information and, you know, again, knowing I was intelligent, but also having just such, you know, deep confusion and shame around some of these things I really, really struggled with. And so always felt like I had a learning.

disability, but like never got to a point where I had looked into it or nobody else seemed to think there was any issues. Right. You know, it was mostly, I was just either admonished by professors or, you know, got it together at the last minute just to scrape by. Um, but you know, always kind of looked back and be like, I don't feel like that's normal, but yeah, never knew what to call it.

Kay (she/her) (12:43.019)

Right. Yeah.

Katy (12:59.77)
So I'm curious now also, you know, looking back at your decision, decision to enter seminary and the priesthood or, um, or the ministry, right? Like, um, were there any revelations about, you know, this career path and, and an ADHD brain?

Kay (she/her) (13:12.383)

Well, this might surprise some folks, but actually I have found the clergy to be a very ADHD friendly profession.

Certainly, you have to have a calling to it in order to survive, frankly. If you don't have the calling, you're going to burn out almost immediately. But really, being in the clergy, as long as you're in a fairly normal congregational environment, is great for folks with ADHD. And I've spoken to hospital chaplains that say that that's wonderful for them, too. A large chunk of that is because our schedule is so flexible, and we get to decide so much of it. And we...

we joke in our circles about how there is no such thing as a normal day for us. You can wake up and you can have a to-do list and you can have a schedule of places you have to go and everything can get completely thrown in the trash an hour later when you find out you have a funeral. And you have to be able to roll with that or else you cannot do this job. And having ADHD means that you have already learned how to do that by sheer being forced to because your brain will make you do that.

And so it's really a wonderful job for folks with ADHD. Another thing is that there is almost no such thing as busy work. You have a little paperwork to do, but even then you know that it's going to something useful. And so everything that you do matters. Everything that you do is important to someone, even if it's not important to you. And you spend a tremendous amount of your time helping other people or working on something

and a lot of the jobs will have various creative outlets. I spend a lot of my time writing, which I love to do, and I can do that because of this job. So as it turns out, this can be a wonderful place for folks with ADHD. Now, do congregations like having a pastor with ADHD? That is a whole separate universe of questions. I actually wrote an article a few years ago just after my own diagnosis called

and I'd be happy to pass that on to you for one of the educational blogs associated with my denomination. And I've been told that a few folks have found it helpful, but some of the traits that come along with ADHD sometimes, people don't so much appreciate in a pastor, or it might be that there's a little misogyny mixed in there and they're confused about why a female pastor would have those traits. The...

I don't know if you personally experience the difficulty in quickly switching from one conversation topic to another, but standing in the church lobby before worship on a Sunday morning, it is completely likely that I will be having one conversation about the budget and someone else comes up to ask me how is so-and-so doing in the hospital, and I have to be able to switch back and forth between those two conversations.

But if my coffee hasn't kicked in yet, it's very likely that my gears in my brain will grind pretty hard while I do that. And that makes people think that I don't care or that I'm not paying attention. And neither of those things are true. But explaining ADHD to people in that kind of detail takes a lot of time and effort. And not everyone is willing to listen.

Katy (16:49.974)
Yeah. So interesting. I'll definitely have a, include a link to that article in the episode show notes. Cause it was really, I mean, I felt one of the things I loved about that article, that piece was, you know, uh, talking about some of the wonderful qualities of ADHD that work in your favor, but also like, you know, being very, being very specific about some of the accommodations, like, you know, like if you need me to be some, if, if an event starts at eight and you would like me to be there at seven 30.

please tell me I need to be there at 730, right? Where it's like, and so it's not, you know, it's not just because I'm running late because I don't care. And I think that's where so many of us get into those issues, which is like a lot of the things we struggle with are interpreted as us being careless or selfish or not, you know, not meaning well. And it's usually, it's aggressively the opposite. Usually we mean really, really well and we get kind of tripped up. So yeah, that was a really great piece.

Kay (she/her) (17:19.871)
Yes, exactly.

Katy (17:47.97)
And I think also, uh, the rapid fire conversation, you know, it's fun. I feel like sometimes I'm really good at that. And other times I'm not, I think it's, maybe it depends on how much stimulation is happening. Like I could totally imagine what talking about, you know, being in the lobby and having all of that coming to you. And I think about my children always, you know, we're always trying to interrupt me when I'm working and how, like that was a big thing for me before I was diagnosed was just how angry I would get at being interrupted, like while I'm cooking or something like that.

Kay (she/her) (18:13.919)

Katy (18:16.086)
And that rage would come so quickly and I never knew where that was coming from. And so then there's that like, what's wrong with me that I'm so angry all the time and that everybody has to walk on eggshells around me. So that was like, just knowing that was like you said, a transitional processing issue, you know, stimulation, like that. There was a lot happening. Uh, a lot of things firing to get me to that place has been able to really help me, um, you know, allow me to not get to that rage, um, all the time. I still do sometimes, but

Um, so now I'm right now I'm curious about, you know, talking about the female element. I mean, you know, being in the clergy is definitely an old boys club as I think you called it. Uh, you know, what, what do you, do you think, are there differing expectations you think as a woman in terms of, um, how people relate to you that have to do with, you know, the, that expectation to

Kay (she/her) (18:45.651)
Oh sure, absolutely.

The original, yeah.

Katy (19:09.758)
be everybody's secretary, right? You know, I hear that a lot where women are kind of, it's assumed if you're in a room full of men that you're the one who's taking notes.

Kay (she/her) (19:18.259)
Yeah, that-

That still occasionally happens. I have to admit, personally speaking, I experience misogyny differently than a lot of women, in part because I'm 5'11". And a woman that tall tends to put a lot of guys off their stride, you might say. And so the kind of misogyny I experience is usually a lot more subtle than what a lot of women will go through because I'm not small, I'm not especially meek, unless I'm really working at it.


I also grew up in a family where all of the guys in the family were taller than me, and I have never been intimidated by height in my life. And a lot of guys are used to using their height that way and get a little freaked out when I don't react to it. And so my experience is different. But on the other hand, yeah, there are a lot of different expectations. For the first several years, just after I was ordained, I had to work with the fact

of an extra granddaughter. And I was eventually able to use that in some ways because there are some people who don't open up to anyone except for someone that they see as family. And there were actually congregation members who I was able to get to open up to me because they sort of saw me as an extra family member. There are also lots of boundary issues involved with that, but I was

Kay (she/her) (20:50.884)
that I had learned earlier in terms of how to deflect questions, that sort of thing. But

Finding those weird expectations and then figuring out a way to turn them to my advantage was something I had to do. And frankly, if I didn't have the number of clergy Facebook groups that I have working in a rural area, those connections were absolutely necessary to me. And being able to ask a hundred different people for advice when I only actually saw my own congregation members and like four other people during the week.


Katy (21:30.278)
Yeah. Interesting. Now, one of the things that a lot of us talk about, you know, I certainly struggle with is I guess the combination of time blindness, but also, um, that out of sight, out of mind issue that a lot of us have, right? Which is like, I feel like we often are thought of as, um, bad friends or bad communicators because I have it, I don't remember people's birthdays. I don't remember to check in on them.

Um, if I haven't spoken to you in six months, you know, um, I, I have a really difficult time sort of maintaining those relationships, but I feel like that's something a pastor needs to be really good at is remembering names and remembering details. Is that something that you have a work around or do you not struggle with that? Or, or is that

Kay (she/her) (22:18.362)
Yeah, well, the-

The expectations for a pastor are usually different than for a friend. I've never met anyone who expects the pastor to remember their birthday, which is super helpful. Also, a lot of churches will publish a monthly calendar that have everyone's birthdays on them, and those are also very useful. But in my case, yeah, I absolutely have trouble with names for the first several months at any new call. And then after that, you hit the six months mark and suddenly you feel like you can't ask for people's names anymore,

Katy (22:30.514)
I'm sorry.

Kay (she/her) (22:52.68)
listen to conversations, to wait for someone else to use their name, and then look up in the directory how many people have that first name. Oh, well, I know it's not her or her, so she must be this one. And so yeah, I've done that several times. And I am absolutely one of those people. I can meet someone and I can hear their entire life story and remember every single detail and still not be able to tell you their last name to save my life. So I've gotten very good at having entire conversations without using a person's name.

very good at using those details from their life that I know to deflect from anything else so that I can ask about, you know, oh, your tractor broke down last week. Did you ever get that sorted out or did the mechanic figure that out? And as long as I'm showing interest, usually I'm okay. And so having those extra details at hand and being able to know all of that stuff about the person's life, even if I cannot remember, like I know they're the cousin of someone else in this room. But at the smaller.

is very often those family ties are incredibly complicated and go back six generations, so they don't usually expect me to figure those out for at least the first three years, which is very kind of them. And so as long as you remember that everyone knows everyone and therefore you can't say anything about anybody that you wouldn't want to say to their mom, you're usually fine. And it's really all about the showing interest and even if you don't remember

Katy (24:01.787)

Kay (she/her) (24:22.962)
And as long as you can go to that, that's usually helpful.

Katy (24:27.298)
I think one of the things we are specifically very good at is being present, right? It's almost, you know, it's the opposite of, okay, so I'm not going to remember these details. I might not remember to check in on you, but when I am with you, I can be very present. I can find what you are talking about. Fascinating. Like we can sort of go on a journey together and show interest in a way that I think, um, is something that can really work in your favor, I guess, when you're in a caring profession, which is why I think.

So many people with ADHD end up in these personal face to face relationship type roles, like social worker or nurses or teachers. So yeah, it makes sense that clergy would also fall into that category of just being like, um, you know, being able to develop these, these sort of temporal, intense relationships with people.

Kay (she/her) (25:16.574)
Yeah, and okay, I know that it is every ADHD person's personal deep hatred of hearing this, and I am one of those too because I've had people say this before, but I have managed to develop the, not a consistent habit, but I usually remember to, if I'm having a conversation with someone and I realize I need to check up on them, I put a reminder on my phone for three days from now to call them. Now

it's like a 70% chance that I will remember why I'm calling them, but usually just picking up the phone is enough and then they will start telling me about what's going on. So unless I remember to actually put a note in, which almost never happens, and I've got my phone calendar set to remind me a day before and also 10 minutes before anything happens, just automatically every time I enter a new thing into it. And so I usually get enough notifications that I actually managed to do the thing. I'm also one of those odd

elder Millennials who I don't actually have a problem making phone calls. The thing I hate is receiving phone calls because I spent so many years undiagnosed with ADHD where almost every phone call I got was bad news. You've missed an exam. You forgot to give us this piece of paper and now we can't finance your next year of school. That kind of thing. And so making phone calls doesn't bother me, but the receiving phone calls I still panic and wonder, oh

Kay (she/her) (26:42.956)
every time.

Katy (26:44.622)
Well, it's funny because anytime my husband or my best friend calls me, I answer in a panic where I'm like, hello? You know, they know they're like, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I called out of the blue. I just there was something really quickly I wanted to check with you because for yeah, it's true. I never thought about the whole fact that it's always bad news for me. I'm the same way. I don't mind talking on the phone. I don't mind making phone calls. In fact, if you text me and say, do you have five minutes to chat? I'm like, yeah, of course.

Uh, it's the, but for me, just the, the random phone call out of nowhere for, it's such a transitional thing, right? Where it's like, I can't shift whatever I'm doing fast enough to answer the phone. And it feels like a real affront. Whereas if I just have a little bit of warning, I'm fine. And so that's what I always thought it was a transitional thing, but it's interesting to think about the fact that like, maybe there is some unprocessed trauma around phone calls in general. Uh, that's really interesting.

Kay (she/her) (27:24.596)

Katy (27:40.378)
Um, and, but, you know, it's funny, the setting reminders thing is, is I do that too. Um, and, you know, I have reminders for every person I care about birthday and, you know, all of those things, cause I would never remember. Um, but it just reminded me of even when you were talking about having a conversation with somebody and checking like, okay, what is their last name? I have to go back and do that. Like how much mental work we have to put on in the background, you know, like in the wings, uh, in terms of like having to kind of, you know,

do all of this extra work at the back of our wits. And then we wonder why we are so mentally exhausted all the time. It's because there's so much of those, right? There's so much of that extra work that goes into showing up that we don't, I don't think we pay attention to. We don't, we don't, um, we don't give credit to all of that extra work. All we see, or all we think about is the fact that we're mentally exhausted all the time.

Kay (she/her) (28:15.013)
Yeah, exactly.

Yeah, and the only reason I can remember to go through the directory and check on people is that I have a directory next to each of the three places I most regularly sit. And so I see that and then it is on my mind and then I eventually make the connection of, oh yes, which Lois was that and that eventually works out.

Katy (28:54.162)
Um, now I have, uh, you know, one of the things I've talked about before, because I grew up in a very religious evangelical family. And so we, um, were very involved in the church. And, um, one of the things I really appreciated about the church was just the, the built in community and how I think that is so important for people who are neurodivergent to have those communities and how those, you know, fa I think Facebook can be really great for that kind of thing. Um, but it can also.

Kay (she/her) (29:09.877)
Oh yes.

Katy (29:23.31)
you know, it's sort of a double edged sword, I think sometimes, uh, because there's so much vitriol on Facebook, but I think, you know, anywhere where we can find intentional community, I think is so important for our brains and how we socialize. Uh, and, uh, you know, I, it, it makes sense to me that there is so much, um, benefit, right? To, to having, um, the, you know, being in a Christian community,

Kay (she/her) (29:25.793)
Oh yeah.

Katy (29:52.282)
with ADHD, but I also feel like there is so much, um, judgment too, right? In terms of character flaws and this, you know, cleanliness is next to godliness. And some of those, uh, you know, some of the stuff that comes with the, with the community aspect, right, which is the community judgment and the hypocrisy. Like, how do you weather all of that? That's such a big question. How do you weather all that? But you know what I mean? Like, I feel like there's so much benefit and yet at the same time.

Kay (she/her) (30:07.086)


Katy (30:21.53)
difficulty around.

Kay (she/her) (30:22.142)
Absolutely. Before I had my diagnosis, I absolutely got a lot of...

a lot of comments about my personal habits or my conversational style that it bugged people and they thought it made me a worse pastor and something I used to comment on that I thankfully now that I have a diagnosis and I'm able to tell people that it's less of an issue. But the thing is that if you're a bad mechanic or a bad accountant, most people will still recognize you can be a good person. If people think you're a bad pastor, there's almost no room for them to think that

It's weird. So every comment about your job turns into a comment about you as a person, which was deeply damaging to me for years until I got my diagnosis. And then I could say, actually, this is an ADHD thing. And you probably know other people with ADHD who do this exact same thing. And let me explain to you how this works in our brain so that you can have a little bit more empathy toward them as well. And I don't...

I don't entirely know how to explain this, but I think the timing of my diagnosis was also hugely important. I got diagnosed in about 2018, or early in the year. And once I had my diagnosis, I started talking to people, and it seemed like a lot of the folks in the congregations I was working with had grandchildren who had just been diagnosed with autism. The numbers for the diagnoses were going up.

people who didn't have any knowledge of any kind of mental histories in their families were getting to have more information about recognizing those signs and therefore their ability to empathize with someone with a different kind of neurodivergence actually skyrocketed. And so I can't imagine what would have happened if, I mean on the one hand I would have loved it if I had gotten diagnosed as a child. There's a family story that in fourth grade a specialist came to my class and tried to

I had ADHD and made a really terrible argument for them and for it and so they didn't believe them but

That would have incredibly changed my life, but I can't imagine trying to explain ADHD to people back in 2001. Like, that would have been a completely different and exhausting thing before there was all of this much more common knowledge than it is now. I'm not saying it's perfect by any means, but it's so much easier and so much more likely that the people you talk to either have a family member themselves or have a dear friend who has a family member that they're able to empathize more.

And that's been really massively important to me. Absolutely. Because I've had several conversations with people where I was genuinely worried about how they were gonna take the fact that I had ADHD, especially like interviewing with a new church. And then almost invariably somebody mentions, oh, my friend has a granddaughter with autism, or my cousin has a sister who has ADHD, or that kind of thing.

There's just so much more information and general knowledge out there now. It's been incredibly wonderful.

Katy (33:42.774)
Yeah. I mean, I think that also speaks to why so many of us after our diagnosis are so open about it and kind of shout from the rooftops and get into an advocacy role because it really is about changing this perspective around, you know, how can I help people who may have children that they're confused about? Right? Like where it's like, this isn't a discipline issue. This isn't a matter of obedience. This is really, this isn't a character flaw. This is really just like, how do we work within this? You know, how do we, how do we alter the system to work?

Kay (she/her) (33:50.368)

Katy (34:11.59)
with everybody. Um, and, and also, you know, how can I say if I could save one person from going through the experience I went through, it would have all been worth it. Uh, you know, and you just reminded me, we were talking to it because both my parents have passed on. Um, but my father, it's, uh, every, every Sunday in church, he would like, it was so hard to sit still. And my parents always had all of these different interesting ways to get me entertained, you know, quietly during a sermon. Um, but my father used to take notes and it,

Kay (she/her) (34:19.904)

That's right.

Katy (34:41.482)
Occurred to be after my diagnosis. He never read them. They just went into a binder and he had binders and binders and binders of notes, but it was the only way he could like stay present and stay focused was to constantly write notes. And I'm like, I feel like you could kind of look through the audience or look through the congregation and decide who has ADHD based on who is taking notes. Just because of that. It's like doodling, right? Um, it's sort of that way in which we need to, we need to, um, keep our brains.

focused on the actual, uh, sermon, but it just all those little things that I've have occurred to me and just, you know, intuitive ways in which we manage within our environment, um, uh, as, and just in terms of how our brains work anyway. Um, so now I'm curious also, you had talked to, I guess in our correspondence, you had talked about the difference between creativity and lateral thinking with ADHD and I wanted to know if you.

Do you remember writing that? What was the, what were you thinking when you wrote that? Was that in reference to, uh...

Kay (she/her) (35:41.226)
Yes, oh, I-

I think that having ADHD, one of the things a lot of people comment on, is that we are able to make connections that other people don't. That's the lateral thinking. And because of those connections, it winds up looking like creativity to other people, because they don't see why we're making those, frankly, sometimes bizarre connections. Just ask my husband. But we can come up with solutions and ideas that other people won't come up with. Of course, now that you're asking me,

of this. But it has happened multiple times that I will make a connection other people don't. One of the things that happened to me was I was in a class one day and we were talking about the five different things of whatever it was and I managed to connect it to a list of five things from the previous class period which was about something completely different. And my professor

Kay (she/her) (36:43.5)
writing whenever he actually got it published. As far as I know it still hasn't been published, so oh well. But because those two things happened so close together I was able to connect them. And it was an unusual connection that other people wouldn't have made, but I think it's because of my ADHD that I was able to see how those two things paralleled each other.

Katy (37:06.97)
Yeah, we do talk about that a lot, but it is, I think it can be really difficult to come up with concrete examples off the top of your head when that happens, right? But even anyone who listens to this podcast hears it throughout the conversations as we go from one topic to another in a seamless transitions, right? But then if you're like, oh, why are we suddenly talking, you know, we were talking about potatoes and now all of a sudden.

Kay (she/her) (37:22.126)
Oh sure.

Katy (37:30.294)
talking about, you know, the, um, you know, butterfly migration, you're like, Oh, well, no, obviously those, those all connect. Um, so, uh, no, but you know, even, I feel like even your podcast, you cohost the podcast nerds at church, right? I mean, isn't that really about taking some of the, some of the, uh, um, is it, tell me, you tell me about it. I was going to guess that it was about talking about biblical themes and how they relate to, um, other nerdery, but.

Kay (she/her) (37:30.336)


Kay (she/her) (37:52.703)

Kay (she/her) (37:59.87)
Yes, generally speaking. Well, so years ago, the podcast actually started in a different form with a different name, and then a certain extremely popular author became a turf. And we had to change the theme of the podcast to be a little bit more wide ranging and because my podcast partner is non-binary, although we would have anyway, to be honest, but.

Katy (38:00.385)
How did you start the podcast?

Kay (she/her) (38:24.278)
we've started embracing all different types of nerdery, all the nerderies that we personally have ourselves and also some of the ones that our friends have. And we take a popular set of readings that is used by many large denominations. It's called electionary. The idea is that you get a set of readings for each week and also each major holiday. And that way you don't have to choose them yourself and there's a decent variety. And so we take those readings

look through the reading and we see what other kinds of nerdery come to mind. Is it a line from a popular TV show we like or is there something mentioned that I wound up talking about how linen is woven differently now than it was a hundred years ago because it turned out that the invention of the cotton gin meant that all of the linen weaving machines got shut down because you couldn't

Kay (she/her) (39:24.352)
is actually a wildly different quality than what you could make a hundred years ago. And so, or 200 years ago. And so, all of those things, any given Bible reading has a bunch of different stuff in it, and even just a word can bring something to mind. And so, yes, it is absolutely hugely helpful for my ADHD. It is very tailored to that. My co-host

Kay (she/her) (39:53.718)
but they know several people with ADHD. And so it's been a lovely adventure. We very much enjoy it. And we're also trying very much with this podcast to just make the Bible and religious themes more accessible for people and to see that, yes, this is another kind of nerdery, but also it connects to all the other kinds of nerdery we already have.

Katy (40:21.119)
Yeah, I love that. And I think we're also living in a time where there are many conservatives in this country who are trying to weaponize Christianity.

Katy (40:32.162)
tragic. Now, so wait, you have a Facebook group for pastors with ADHD that's separate from the podcast, right?

Kay (she/her) (40:35.062)

Oh yeah, I, so it's not technically my Facebook group. I am now a moderator in it. I did not really have a choice in that matter. Sometimes you just get recruited for things without really having a choice in it. But.

Katy (40:53.675)
It's volunteerism. I know that's another thing with ADHD chronic volunteerism

Kay (she/her) (40:56.022)
Yeah, and yeah, and so I joined the group and then I knew a bunch of people who I wanted to join the group and Facebook won't let you invite people to join unless you're a moderator, I guess, on that particular type. And so I wound up having to be a moderator and then the group doubled in size and now somehow I'm partly responsible for it. But, but that's been hugely helpful for us, especially since a lot of the people in the group are in the process of getting diagnosed or just newly diagnosed and still figuring those things out.

I wish I had a group like that back when I was just getting diagnosed, because I didn't have direct connections that way. I had plenty of clergy to talk to. The clergy Facebook groups that I've been in have been very helpful for work-related stuff, but very few people there had ADHD, and most of them weren't willing to talk about it in places that other people could see, frankly. So it's been very helpful.

Katy (41:50.738)
Hmm. Yeah. Right. Um, and again, where I feel like Facebook can be incredibly helpful in terms of normalizing some of these struggles and, uh, validating them, but also being more constructive in terms of like, how do you deal with this? How do you work with this? Right. I think a lot of these, like you were saying that one of the great things about being

A pastor is that there's not a lot of that paperwork. Cause I think there's so many of us struggle in jobs where there's a lot of interesting face to face work. There's a lot of, you know, every day is different, but what we really struggle with is like administrative stuff and all of the stuff that, you know, the stuff that's just the terrible mundane parts, um, and how do we get other people to do it, but, or how do we figure out ways to do it with little, you know, a little help or, uh, what's the word? Less.

stress about it. So, um, I think that's where, you know, those groups can be so helpful, right? Yeah, exactly. Right. So what are some of the, when people are coming to that group or what are some of the things you find, um, are, are common struggles that pastors are, are noticing that they might need help with.

Kay (she/her) (42:42.43)
and having fewer steps.

Well, I think the most common question is, so what med are you on and how is it going for you? And unfortunately, so many of those questions, I mean, it's all just so personal. We still don't know why some meds work for some people and some meds work for others. I have been on stroterra my entire diagnosed life except for one weekend of trying Ritalin. And it turns out I am one of those folks who unfortunately receives hallucinations while on Ritalin, never doing that again.

Katy (43:04.146)
I'm sorry.

Kay (she/her) (43:24.83)
And thankfully I was not working for a church at that time, thank God.

So we all answer to the best of our ability, but we also have to explain that, you know, your body chemistry is different than ours, and there's really no telling how you're going to react. And so you just have to try it. It's, we mostly try to avoid making the, it's like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks comparison, but frankly, it's a really good one. So you only have so many options. But also we wind up talking about, yeah, how does this impact our

Kay (she/her) (44:02.672)
certain very specific tasks. Like you said, that data entry stuff or the administrative stuff that we don't like, making that stuff easier is something that I have a huge amount of drive to want to do. And so, for example, years ago I created a mileage Excel sheet that does all the math for me and all I have to do is once a year go in and plug in the

Kay (she/her) (44:33.212)
and then I have a mileage sheet that I can use all year. Now, have I filled out my mileage for the last six months? No, but when I do, it's not gonna actually take me that long. But it's basic stuff like that, yeah. And to be honest, a decent chunk of the reason that group exists is just to know that there are other people out there and we're not alone. Because while...

the expectations for pastors are so different depending on what denomination you're in and what area you're in and your particular congregation. Every congregation is different. There are some things that remain pretty standard and one of them is that you are expected to hold yourself to a higher standard than most. And

that doesn't always go too well with ADHD. And so those are very often the common conversations we have about how we have to make it clear in other ways to people that yes, we do care about you. Yes, this is important to us. Yes, this does matter, but we're treating it a little differently than you might expect because our brains are wired differently. And so figuring out how to have those conversations is a big part of it too.

Katy (45:46.054)
That is such a good point. And I think that's such an important part of that personal reframing that comes with a diagnosis is realizing so many of us had such a complicated relationship with our intellect or our sense of responsibility and many of us didn't feel like true adults and all of that stuff that kind of gets muddled for us. And so I think it's so important for us to be able to convince ourselves.

that yes, you can be extraordinary. You can be intelligent and also be bad at some of these things or, you know, also need support and struggle, not just be bad. That was terrible. But you know, one of the things I loved about Sarri Saldon's book, right? I know, but it'd be okay about that. Right. And, and, and not have it be such a reflection of our worth as human beings. And I think one of the things I credit Sarri Saldon's work so much for was, was how much she drives home that point that yes, you can be.

Kay (she/her) (46:25.654)
Well, no, sometimes we are just bad at things, but yeah.

Amen. Yeah.

Katy (46:43.682)
extraordinary and still need a lot of help and support. And it's not, you know, if that, if that particular system that is working for somebody else doesn't work for you, it's not a reflection of how terrible you are. It's just that system doesn't work. So find one that does right. And move on and, you know, not dwell on the what's wrong with me question that I think a lot of us ended up defaulting to before this diagnosis.

Yeah, that's really interesting. I didn't, I didn't think about that, but as soon as you said it, I was like, Oh, of course there would be that sense of like, you know, the higher standard and the, and the, the sense that you have to be all things to all people. Um, that pressure would be, would be quite high. Uh, um, well, wonderful. So now is there anything else that, um, I know you have a website. Is it a course that you were, that you offer through the, through your website?

Kay (she/her) (47:34.45)
Yes. So, well, not through the website.

Denomination I'm in is the ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Evangelical doesn't mean the type of evangelical that you were talking about earlier. It's just a word for sharing the gospel. The word goes back way further than the political movement, by all means. But My denomination has a program for students who are about middle school age 12, 13

Kay (she/her) (48:09.68)
faith than you picked up in Sunday school and at the end you decide if you're ready to take on your baptismal promises, your faith life for yourself and confirm your faith or affirm your faith. And so this course, there are lots of different options from lots of different places and publishers and frankly a lot of them were just getting way too tech focused and I'm used to working in rural congregations that have very little money and I don't know if

to set up and then take down a projector every single week before, but it's exhausting and miserable. And especially when also like getting the projector to work with a set of speakers that it's not actually supposed to work with, because those are the ones they could afford, but making the connections work every week is a whole new adventure. And so trying to show a video for class is just way more work than it ever should be, because it's not like all the students can see your laptop screen. And so I got really tired of that.

that I could use that was just a book, a Bible, and the students. And so that's what I put together. It's called Grace Alone, Lutheran in the 21st Century. And I did my best to make it so that it would suit not just kids going through that process, but also it can be used for small group Bible studies for adults as well. I like to say it's for children of God between the ages of 12 and 112.

Katy (49:34.77)
I'm sorry.

Kay (she/her) (49:34.966)
and I tried to make it so that everybody could find something useful in it. And I was very much going for the, let's treat these students not like small children because they are about to take the step of becoming adults in the faith. So let's give them more information, let's give them more detail, let's acknowledge the nuances. And that can also be really helpful for a lot of adults who haven't frankly had their imagination stretched when it comes to their faith.

long time. And so I've known people who have used it for small adult groups as well as for a confirmation program and I've really enjoyed working with that and it seems to have helped a lot of folks so I'm very grateful for that.

Katy (50:22.162)
Oh, that's wonderful. Um, okay. Well, I'll definitely put a link to that. Now the, another way people can reach you is Twitter.

Kay (she/her) (50:30.938)
Yes, Nerds at Church has a Twitter and a Facebook account, and I do have a personal Twitter account that I don't personally tweet, I just retweet things mostly. But I can send you that as well.

Katy (50:48.722)
Okay, yeah, I think I have that. That's Robbins 821, right? Now, why is that your favorite verse?

Kay (she/her) (50:51.647)

Oh, so this is a fun story. I was like eight or nine years old and I was about to go to sleepaway church camp for the first time. And I had been going to church long enough that I was pretty sure that one of the questions I was going to get was did I have a favorite verse and I really didn't. Like I had some stories I liked from the Bible, but I didn't really care about verses. And so one day I had heard this idea that people could like

Kay (she/her) (51:25.432)
thing but sort of like ask God to give you a sign and you open your Bible to a random page and see what verse your eyes fall to and see if that's God answering your question. This is absolute hoax obviously but I was eight and so I opened my Bible to a random verse and I found Romans chapter eight verse 21 and depending on which translation you read it reads a little differently but the one I was reading was talking about we have been freed from their corruption

of humanity to the glorious freedom of the children of God. And I love that phrase, the glorious freedom of the children of God. And that's really not a way that a lot of people describe their faith lives, but it is so central to what I personally have experienced and what I have been taught about what the Lutheran concept of faith is all about. And so that's been really wonderful for me over the years. So yeah, that phrase,

liberty or glorious freedom depending on which translation is one of my favorites.

Katy (52:30.694)
That's lovely. I love that story. I had a similar experience with my high school yearbook. We had to have our final message or quote that went with our graduating photo and I couldn't think of any, I couldn't think of any. And I literally, we had a giant book of quotation, a famous quotations book on our bookshelf. And I opened it up randomly and found a quote by Vaclav Havel that was like, if you're mediocre and you grovel, you shall succeed. And I was like,

take it. That ended up being my quote. I was like, yeah, it seems like it. Uh, but I had never heard of Vaclav Havel. So it like sent me down this whole, you know, rabbit hole of who, who this person was. And I ended up, I don't know if this is related, but I ended up being a poli sci major and like ended up, you know, learning more about him. And I had this weird connection to him. And I was like, um, but you know, people were like, why did you choose that quote? I was like, I, I know, right? Actually, now it all makes sense. Looking back at it, I'm like, it made perfect sense. Uh,

Kay (she/her) (53:07.722)
Oh sure.

and what an ADHD quote to.

Katy (53:29.421)
I love that to the randomness of choosing things and then having them make sense to us in the end. So now if you could rename ADHD to something else, would you, would you call it something

Kay (she/her) (53:40.25)
I don't know that I would rename ADHD, but I do have a new name for a phenomenon about ADHD that I think most of us are familiar with. So I have a bunch of friends with different chronic mental conditions, and one of the phrases we love to use together is the brain weasels, right? It's not that I want to do this, it's that the brain weasels are doing this to me. And so depression or autism or ADHD or whatever, like some days your brain weasels are just getting to you. That's perfectly normal.

thing. I didn't invent that. But what I did eventually realize was that there are also days when our mental conditions are doing good things for us, even if like it's kind of random. And so there are days when I really enjoy the wacky journeys my ADHD takes me on. Or I've known a couple of people who have said that they once had a day where they were so grateful for their depression because it kept them from going to a party where everyone got COVID or that kind of

guinea pigs because they're very similar to the brain weasels but they're actually doing good things for you. So I've enjoyed that. Yes. Sure.

Katy (54:47.026)
They're cute and fluffy. I like just brain rodents in general. But I think, you know, I think we have a tendency to refer to our brain in the third person a lot of the time as though it is this petulant roommate, right? That we live with, that we can't control. And sometimes it does these things and sometimes it's wonderful and sometimes it's awful. But like, we feel like we are not at the wheel a lot of the time when it comes to our brain.

Kay (she/her) (54:57.002)
Oh yeah.

Yeah. Yeah, very much.

Katy (55:13.654)
So that tendency to kind of other, you know, make it this other roommate that we have, uh, I think it's very, it seems to be a very neurodivergent experience. Um, well, this is lovely. Thank you so much. Kay. It's been wonderful hearing your perspective and your story. How did you find the podcast since you were diagnosed so long ago? Did you just stumble upon it or?

Kay (she/her) (55:33.514)
Oh yeah, no, I came across it in the last six months or so just by searching my podcast app for ADHD, and this was one of the first ones that showed up, and lo and behold, I've found a lot of the episodes very interesting, so that's been very helpful.

Katy (55:51.646)
Well, I'm so glad you reached out and that we can have your Share your interesting story. So thanks a lot

Kay (she/her) (55:58.71)
Thank you so much. Absolutely.