Raegan Cotton: Facing young adulthood with ADHD [Top 10 Replay with Bonus Update]Aug 28, 2023
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Welcome back to my special Top 10 Replay series, where I’m re-releasing 10 interviews that really stood out to me and have stayed with me in some particular way — either because of the topic, or the conversation, or the feedback I received from listeners. I’ve chosen 10 episodes that I feel deserve a replay — so hopefully if you missed this one the first time around you’ll get a chance to hear it, or if you listened to it when it originally aired, I hope you’ll enjoy listening to it again.
This week I’m re-releasing my interview with Raegan Cotton, which originally aired as Episode 21 in December of 2021.
Raegan had reached out to me because she had been an avid listener of the podcast and while she related to many of the stories of my more seasoned guests, she wanted to share the perspective of a 20-something who had recently graduated college, was facing independence and young adulthood and had recently been diagnosed.
Plus, a lot of younger listeners reached out at the time to express their appreciation for this episode — and Raegan is so wise and thoughtful and insightful and adults of any age will relate to her story.
Make sure to stick around because the end of the episode, I check back in with Raegan to see what’s changed for her since the original interview, including her advocacy and non-profit work, and what it’s been like going off her parents insurance and navigating the medication shortages in the US.
Raegan Cotton 0:00
I brought that to my therapist. She was like Reagan I think she could tell I was spiraling in the way that like we ADHD ears do we're like minimizing our own stuff she was absolutely if it helps I'm I'm a professional here like you have ADHD. You don't need to say that you're putting this on yourself like this is a confirm thing. So we can like move on and kind of that like validation just helps so much to be like, You are not crazy like this is this is real. Don't talk yourself out of it. Like don't minimize what you've gone through and what is real.
Katy Weber 0:38
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. Welcome back to my special top 10 Replay series, where I'm re releasing 10 interviews that really stood out to me and have stayed with me in some particular way. Either because of the topic or the conversation or the feedback I received from listeners for many different reasons. I've chosen these 10 episodes that I feel deserve a replay. So maybe you missed this one the first time around and you'll get a chance to hear it or if you listen to it back when it originally aired. I hope you'll enjoy listening to it again. This week I re releasing my interview with Regan cotton, which originally aired in December of 2021. Regan had reached out to me because she had been an avid listener of the podcast. And while she related to many of the stories of my more seasoned guests, she wanted to share the perspective of a 20 something who had recently graduated college was facing independence and young adulthood and had recently been diagnosed with ADHD. After the episode aired. A lot of my younger listeners reached out at the time to express their appreciation for this episode. And Reagan is so wise and thoughtful and insightful. I think there's a lot in here for adults of any age to relate to and make sure to stick around because at the end of the episode, I check back in with Reagan to see what's changed for her since the original interview, including her advocacy and her nonprofit work and what it's been like going off her parent's insurance and navigating the medication shortages in the US. So here as part of my top 10 Replay series, I give you episode 64 With Regan cotton. Regan is 25 years old and lives in Denver. She works for the political advocacy, nonprofit New Era Colorado, Reagan actually reached out to me because she is a listener of the podcast and noticed that a lot of my guests are older and she felt she could offer an interesting perspective on what it is like to be facing ADHD in early adulthood. At this particular moment in history, Reagan was born in 1996. So she is literally right on the dividing line between millennial and Gen Z. And we talk about the various assumptions and stigmas that were held around ADHD and mental health as she was growing up and how some of them might have differed from older generations like mine. We also talk about what it's like to get this diagnosis during the pandemic as a young adult, as well as the various ways ADHD is still being overlooked and dismissed in girls and young women. I really appreciate it and enjoyed Reagan's perspective, and I'm sure you will, too. Enjoy. Yeah, I was really interested when you reached out to me because it's true. I started this podcast because I was diagnosed at the age of 45. And so I like looked out looked back at the span of my life through motherhood and, and university and babies and it was just like ADHD everywhere, right? And so yeah, like I have a tendency to interview a lot of women who are in the same position as me, oh, and perimenopause. Like it's just, you know, this whole long laundry list of all of these ways in which it manifests itself. And so I'm always I love whenever I hear, you know, women in their 20s are listening to the podcast and relating to because I feel like, It's my gift to you. Right? I'm like, you can avoid the 20 years of depression and anxiety and questioning that some of us went through. I feel like that would be so wonderful. So when you reached out to me, and you were like, you know, I feel like generationally, there's a lot of interesting, you know, just I feel like you have a lot of thoughts and I want to hear about them because I think it is super interesting. We kind of find out what it's like, you know, I have had guests who were diagnosed in their 20s but just sort of what it's like in the moment and also with what we know because often When I interviewed women who were diagnosed either in childhood or in high school or in or in, even in their 20s, that was 20 years ago. And it still felt like even if you were diagnosed, it didn't matter because nobody knew anything about ADHD or what it looks like in women. And we're only just really coming to like a, an explosion in terms of our understanding about what it is and what it looks like, and how different it is for women and men. Yeah, so yeah, so I can't wait. So let's get started. First of all, I want to hear about your diagnosis. And when you were diagnosed and kind of what was going on for you that led you to think maybe this is ADHD,
Raegan Cotton 5:43
for sure. There's like, I know, I feel like for all of us, there's like so much to it, it's hard to even get it into one, one kind of snapshot. But yeah, like you were saying, so I'm, I'm 25. Now I was diagnosed when I was 24. It's been interesting, for sure, growing up, like undiagnosed. And I think actually, really, the most interesting thing is that I have two younger brothers. One of them is two years younger than me. And he was diagnosed pretty much right off the bat when he was like, I don't know, 12 he started having a lot of like, academic problems. And it just was like, alright, let's, let's get him tested, let's do all the stuff. And I mean, in a lot of ways, like he is and was like the stereotype of like, you know, when you say, Oh, you get this ADHD diagnosis, you think of the little boy climbing around on the walls, like, that was never me, that was my brother. So, you know, it was pretty easy, I guess, to just see that and be like, like, for the people around us for students, or sorry for teachers around us and like our kind of community to just be like, oh, yeah, done, ADHD. And then like, I kind of was two years older, I did not get any of that recognition or like, awareness really, at all until I kind of sought it out on my own when I was really struggling at a later time in my life. But yeah, it's it's been definitely interesting. So I actually in high school, while I should go back a bit, I have always been told, you know, Oh, you're so smart. Like, you're so capable. You're so this and that. And I've always in a way, like no, not. But I've also never really felt like I've been successful noise that I want to be successful. And I've like, never really been a good student academically, like just not, you know, in a way that I think, when you like, talk to neurotypical people, and you're like, Oh, I wasn't a good student. They're like, yeah, yeah, like we all get in. No, like, I was really not a good student. Like, I don't think y'all are y'all know what I'm saying? So, yeah, I just was really struggling in school, but I always kind of got by like, I don't know, if it's because of my gender. I don't know if it's because I was like, just kind of more quiet and reserved, where I kind of flew under the radar in a lot of ways that I was struggling. Honestly, I, in middle school, I started like, copying homework off of my peers, and like really just kind of trying to get through and whatever way that I could without, like, letting anyone know that like, I mean, I didn't even know I was struggling, I just couldn't do it. I just was like, I'm trying to keep doing these things that everybody says you have to do to be successful. And like, I didn't know how to do that. So I was just trying to figure it out kind of the best way that I could always and you know, it's so funny, because like looking back, I totally would sit in class and like, talk to like the boy next to me. And then the teacher would come around and be like, hey, like, James, stop talking. Like you're distracting Reagan. And it was like very often that they would not see me as like the troublemaker kind of because I was generally pretty quiet and reserved, but then I'd be like, bouncing off the walls, you know, like talking to the students next to me, but they just they wouldn't expect it. So that was kind of interesting, always. And there's like 100 examples of things that I messed up and didn't like, succeed in, in the academic world, growing up, and just, I feel like I never read a single book that we were supposed to read through high school, like, I just would like listen in class when they were discussing the, like the book report or whatever. And I would get through somehow, and I would understand the big picture enough that I could like, figure it out, connect the symbolism and kind of just make it through. So I mean, I don't know, you know, I think that's a pretty ADHD thing, but definitely had some funky coping mechanisms always. And so then in high school, I was like really struggling I couldn't really get by with my kind of sneaky coping mechanisms that I now know are coping mechanisms as well. I was struggling a lot more academically, but like still in the case that I was getting by I was getting these c's even though I was like, I was like failing tests but that I do all the homework. So then I like got all the points to like, get me to this kind of average. Ah, you know, fly under the radar. But I was really struggling, I was struggling depression, I was struggling with anxiety, my anxiety got really bad when I was in high school, like out of control, I felt like I could not function, I couldn't do anything. And it was at that time that I mean, I was like, going out with my mom all the time over like, my room was a mess, like, I could not keep it clean. And just like really struggling with like day to day things outside of school. And like the things that my peers were doing, like applying for colleges was like, really not something I even knew how to do or like what to do. And it did have a lot of support. But it was just really, it became really difficult. And I actually thought, like, I believe it's like my senior year of high school. Once I did start getting a treatment for my depression and anxiety of seeing a therapist at the time, and I kind of was like, I think independently, I was like, I think I have ADHD, like I really cannot do a lot of these school things. And at the time, I was really just thinking of kind of the main first thoughts that people think folks with ADHD struggle with, like school, you know, and then when you get older, like work, but I had no awareness of like the emotional regulation, like the kind of greater sensory overwhelm things at the time. So I was just saying, like, I really can't do school, I'm really struggling, I don't know what to do. I tried talking to my mom about it, and like, bless her heart, like she looked at me and was like, well look like she, you know, she looked at me, she looked at my little brother, and she was like, You are not the same. He's got ADHD, like, he checks all the boxes, like, yep. And she was like, I think you're just really depressed and anxious, like, and then was kind of just like hesitant. And so then I really didn't know. And I obviously didn't know that there were gender differences. I didn't really, like look into it too much. It was just one of these like fleeting things. And so then we I went to my psychiatrist, and my mom came with me, and we had like a discussion about like, do you have ADHD? And basically, they were kind of like, maybe, you know, like, my, my, my mom just kept being like, you are not this running around. Like, you don't have these things. You do not check these boxes, like you're different. You know, you're intense, like there were these other terms used. But really, it kind of was like chalked up to depression anxiety. The psychiatrists did give me one prescription like, she was like, well, let's just let's just see how it goes for Ritalin, and I remember I took it like once, maybe twice. And it made me feel so sick. Like I had such bad side effects that I just was like, I can't do this, like, No, and I never took it again. And then was your brother and continued on. He was on and off, but not really ever consistently. He really didn't get a ton of treatment in that realm. I think he's doing a lot more now as he's gotten older. But his support came more in the sense of like, he was transitioned to a smaller private school with much smaller classes and like a lot more teacher attention and teacher focus, whereas I was, you know, I like to say like guinea pig, I was the oldest, I was enrolled in our big bigger public high school where I was a number not a name, like, teachers didn't really know me that well. And I could fly under the radar. And so that's kind of what I did. And my brother got support in different ways, like academic, you know, changing schools, whereas I was like a junior at that point. It would have been a lot for me to change schools and I didn't really want to honestly, it would have disrupted everything but yeah, not really, like dabbled in it. tried it, but I don't think he was ever truly medicated and like a consistent way. So yeah, it was it was fascinating.
Katy Weber 13:54
Okay, so yeah. So you, you went to the psychiatrist and they thought, Okay, you might have ADHD, maybe what? What then happened?
Raegan Cotton 14:04
Yeah, it was kind of like, well, we'll give it a shot. Like, I don't know. It was alright,
Katy Weber 14:08
that's really we're sorry. So you took it in and you didn't feel you've made you feel nauseous or Yeah,
Raegan Cotton 14:16
yeah. And then I went off to college and I was super busy. I moved from Southern California to Denver, Colorado, where I live now to go to school. And yeah, I just kind of was like thrown into college and kind of forgot about ADHD thing. You know, I was definitely struggling with depression, anxiety, but it's really hard to get treatment for that when you're a college student. Even on campus. I remember like, if they were going to continue prescribing me my antidepressants that I was taking, it was $110 copay every time and they made you go every like month to check in. And I didn't have the time didn't have the money like that was half my paycheck, you know? So I kind of just I stopped, let it all go powered through college. Definitely. I definitely like loved my classes. I know that that's like, definitely an ADHD thing. But I started studying criminology and within sociology and political science and psychology, and I just got like, so sucked in, I loved it, I still love it, I wish I could go back and just do school like that forever, but only take the classes that I want to take. And the ones that are interesting to me. And if you look at my GPA for like, my common core classes, those you have to take and then the ones that I chose to take, it's like, worlds apart. I mean, you could just see it, it was like C minus C, versus like, I was doing really well in my other classes where I could write and read. And
Katy Weber 15:47
I could always do that with attendance too, right? Like the classes I loved, I would be there no matter what time of day it was, and then the classes that you could tell I was just like, desperately trying not to flunk. Go to just stop
Raegan Cotton 16:02
by. Exactly. So. Yeah, that was that. And I definitely like, struggled, there's a ton of ways that I could one of the questions you asked, like, what are some of the things that you look back and see, we're definitely ADHD like in college, I wrote this paper one time. Obviously, I wrote it the night before it was due, I misread the prompt, I missed a key detail that said, like, pick one example and write your paper about this. And I missed that. I picked I think two or three, and I structured my paper around like two or three different things. And the professor I remember wrote, you didn't follow the prompt, too bad. It's a really good paper, see? And I just remember being like, what like, first, I was so mad, I was like, What is he talking about? And then of course, I reread the prompt. And I'm like, it says one, like, right, one example. Like, what the heck, like, what is wrong with me, you know? So there's like a ton of examples like that, that just stand out through college. And, you know, I did make it through like, I'm very grateful for that. But yeah, then what, I guess mid 2020, or beginning of 2020, I was having a lot of trouble, like with depression, anxiety. And I don't know why untreated ADHD amidst general chaos. So yeah, that's kind of where I was like, I'm really struggling, like, I was stuck in my house all the time. I'm working remote. I do love my job. But I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I'm just stuck in my house, there is so much going on. Just it feels like everything's compounding. I had a lot of family stuff going on at the time. And so I just, I was really feeling out of control, like in a way that I hadn't felt since probably high school when I was at my worst mental health space. And I was like, you know, took a lot of time, took a lot of dealing with insurance and figuring out online, like how to get help, but then I got connected with a therapist. And pretty early like, I think at our intake, she kinda was like picking up on some things and was like, Have you ever like, considered ADHD like, and I explained, you know, in high school it was dabbled with, but never really, nothing came of it. She was like, let's just do this Quick Exam, like this quick assessment. And I mean, I checked literally all the boxes, like, and I even then I still was like, oh, okay, like, continued on. And it wasn't until like, a few weeks later, where I just was like, Oh my gosh, like, everything makes sense. Like, this is it like, oh my gosh, and she was on that introduced me to like, look like women, like fan presenting people, like, do a lot to hide this and do a lot to display like these traits differently than men. And that's kind of your stereotype. So that led to my diagnosis. Everything in the world suddenly made sense. I had a full night of like, maniacally journaling, just like, and this thing like recounting my entire life, you know, being like, and this thing happened. Oh, my gosh, and the laundry like, oh, that's why I can't do this thing in the morning. Like, I could never do anything in the morning. And I just I never knew like, that was a thing. I always was like, I can't work in the morning. Like, I can't do it. I need some time to warm up, like more time than other people need. So yeah, that's what led to my diagnosis and it's honestly changed everything in my life.
Katy Weber 19:36
Amazing. I love hearing stories when what you know when a therapist either suggests it or is like fully on board because I feel like there's so many stories where women are like no, I was they think I'm just depressed and anxious. I was like if a therapist is not willing to see the connection between a life of depression and anxiety and being undiagnosed, then they Do you need a second opinion? Because it's just like, you know, even when you were talking about going with your mom and like that idea that like, well, you don't exhibit these hyperactive symptoms that your brother did. So maybe you're just depressed and anxious. It was like, No, there's no such thing as being just, just, like yesterday figure out what the source is. And it was so many of us it was this fact that, like, we felt like we didn't know what was wrong with us, or like, we're saying, like, I just can't do that thing. And it's not like I don't want to it's not like I, you know, don't feel like it. Like there's a legitimate paralysis there. That is really, really difficult to articulate.
Raegan Cotton 20:41
Yep. Yeah. Not knowing if like, I'm like, Am I making this up? Like, is this am I lazy? You know, like, why can't I do this? Just that feeling of like, why can't I do this? Like, yeah, it's happening.
Katy Weber 20:54
Also wersal? Well, I'm just, you know, also, I think your story is so similar to so many of us in terms of like, you, it's never noticed in with teachers if you're not being disruptive, right? So you know, if you are not jumping around, if you're not like, you know, picking chairs or doing whatever annoying the teacher, then why would the teacher bother to suggest it or even diagnose it like all of those diagnoses and boys, when they're kids is because they were disruptive. And so the teacher is like, we need to fix this. We need to make this person less disruptive. And girls are so much more inclined to be likable, right? And to try to like behave. So I thought it was interesting when you told the anecdote about the boy who got a job.
Raegan Cotton 21:38
Oh, I think that's like so many times gender,
Katy Weber 21:41
gender stereotyping right there. Yeah. They're like,
Raegan Cotton 21:45
Oh, you're distracted Reagan, like she's trying to work. Now I'm looking back, like, oh, my gosh, like,
Katy Weber 21:52
what did I know, I didn't even realize that until after my diagnosis, how many times I was separated from the group in elementary school and middle school where like, we'd be in these like desk clusters, and my teacher would pull my desk away, or I'd have to sit all by myself, or I'd have to sit next to the teacher's desk as punishment, because I was always talking and I was like, oh, like, I never would have remembered. I never would have remembered that if I hadn't been like thinking back about like, what are the signs when I was a kid?
Raegan Cotton 22:20
What an isolating feeling to as a kid to be like, Oh, I've been pulled aside. And you know, I gotta sit by the teacher, like, that's a good feeling.
Katy Weber 22:29
Oh, I know, oh, don't even get me started. And then also that that stereotype, I think we fall into a lot, which is like, you can't possibly have ADHD, because you have good grades, you know, or like this, this reinforcement of the stereotype that ADHD only happens to people who are like a total hot mess on the outside, and, you know, demonstrably a hot mess, whereas so many of us do really well in school. And so many of us do really well in our jobs. And we actually are quite high functioning. And so people say you can possibly have ADHD, and you're like, No, no, you don't understand, like, that's what you're seeing. There's the that's just the iceberg. You know, like the iceberg analogy of just like, you don't understand what's going on behind the scenes.
Raegan Cotton 23:13
Absolutely. I really felt that even when I was given the diagnosis, like I had so much doubt of like, is this a thing that I'm putting on for myself? Like, am I just saying that I have ADHD to make myself feel better, or like, say that? This isn't my fault and to like, dismiss that blame? I brought that to my therapist. She was like Reagan, I think she could tell I was spiraling in the way that like we ADHD ears do where we're like, minimizing our own stuff. She was like, Absolutely, if it helps, I'm, I'm a professional here, like, you have ADHD. You don't need to say that you're putting this on yourself. Like this is a confirmed thing. So we can like move on. And kind of that like validation just helps so much to be like, You are not crazy like this is this is real. Don't talk yourself out of it. Like don't minimize what you've gone through and what is real.
Katy Weber 24:07
Yeah, right. I try to remind myself of that all the time, which like that impulse to select that impulse to self doubt that constant questioning and then the subsequent minimizing like, yeah, that is the ADHD talking all of that.
Raegan Cotton 24:21
Katy Weber 24:24
Okay, so now you talked a little bit about how life has changed since your diagnosis. I feel like we have that you know, that emotional roller coaster of like, oh my god, this explains everything. But then also followed by like, wait a minute, I'm still in isolation. From pandemic I still can't work in the morning are all of these like ways in which you now have to kind of manage what what you now understand as ADHD? How do you think how do you feel like life has changed for you since your diagnosis?
Raegan Cotton 24:54
Yeah, it's changed a lot. Honestly. Just having that awareness like be able to tap in and recognize like what is happening as it's happening specifically with like, being overstimulated has helped me so much recognizing like, you know, I would come over to my partner's house after a long day. And I'd get to his place and he's watching like a football game or something or a game, and I'm trying to talk to him and like, the game is on in the background, and like, were the dogs running around, and we're trying to figure out dinner and I would just, like, freak out sometimes. And then he'd be like, what is like, are you good, and I was like, it's loud, like, but I never really knew why that was the case. And so it was hard for both of us. And now, I guess, recognizing that, like, I'm able to be like, okay, like, I can support him in doing the things that he wants to do and like, remove myself or even have that anticipation of like, this might be a little overwhelming. And I know why. And I can use that to kind of like, better mediate the situation to prevent me from getting past that threshold. That's been really helpful with like, the emotional regulation piece. And just knowing I get stressed when there's weird noises, I can't talk when the TV's on or you know, this or that is happening. That has helped immensely. I'll also say I am now medicated. Not with the Ritalin that made me sick. But it has helped so much. And what are you taking instead? Yeah, I take Vyvanse. Now, okay. And it's been much better, much, much, much better. We, I had a lot of support from my psychiatrists, and my therapists, which has really helped me because I had a lot of apprehensions about taking this medication. I think that's another thing like growing up and being the age that I am. And growing up when I grew up, like I had such a stigma around medications, and I still have some anxiety. But I like to think it's a healthy anxiety. But just growing up and being like, you know, seeing my peers, abusiveness like this, yeah, I'm hearing it in the news. And you're seeing articles on like that this medication is being abused, and it's being over, administered. And I don't really know the details on all that, but I know that I saw my peers in college and even high school, like, abusing this medication and using it to like, become like a superhero, and all this stuff. And so I was like, very scared to take it as, like, always been a rule follower, and also knowing I can be really impulsive of like, is this what I really want to introduce in my life? Like, what type of like, crutch is this gonna be? And how could this like, spiral out and create more problems in my life when I don't want that, but it's helped so much. Yeah,
Katy Weber 27:50
well, and also we have addictive personalities and to decide exactly,
Raegan Cotton 27:54
I've never smoked a cigarette, because I know, I cannot smoke a cigarette, you know what I mean? Just five. Yeah, I never let myself do it once. And so I definitely have that addictive personality that I think is quite not not alone in that. But really like, talking with those professionals and understanding like, this is like true support, like people take medication for all different reasons, like working through that stigma, knowing that I like have professionals supporting me who like they're, you know, they're gonna know if, if things go out of hand, like, that's, that's their job, they've got my back, and like, that feels really good. Just to lessen that personal anxiety. And then also, like, I believe it was my therapist was like, Look, Greg, and like, even if you want to take this for, if you take this for a year, that's what you decide is the best thing. Like, really, the goal is to like, have enough space in your brain to build the tools to build the practices and like the coping mechanisms and strategies that are going to be healthy. And if you use this to support you through that, then you know, we could revisit, like, obviously I was I can always decide to stop or change. I have tons of agency in that way. But just being like, look, after a year, you can say, I don't want to take this medication anymore, and you're probably still going to be way better off because like I'm working with this therapist, we're working on skills, we're working on the regulation and like having the space to implement and actually build these practices into habits has been so so helpful. So that's definitely changed in a in a really good way.
Katy Weber 29:36
Yeah, I love that. That's a great perspective, too. You know, I've talked about this with other guests. My history with antidepressants was always sort of feeling I would get trapped in that cycle of like, this medication doesn't feel like it's working. So let's up the dose and then I would have constant questioning which is like okay, if this is how bad I feel on the medication, imagine how bad I'll feel off the medication and so that I have to keep upping the dose and never being like, maybe this is the wrong medication but just I guess always feeling like a so much mental real estate was taken up wondering if the medication was working. And then I'd be like, You know what, maybe it's just easier to go off everything and start from, you know, start from scratch. And like, that's my baseline. And so I like the fact that you are, you know, the handholding that you're getting from your therapist. And just in terms of like, this medication is supposed to free up that mental space, as opposed to making it feel even more crowded, which is what I sometimes think.
Raegan Cotton 30:40
Yeah, I had the same experience when I was in college taking antidepressants as well to like, very much the same. And I was just like, I'm done for like, a lot of reasons like the finances were some the time, the energy, all of it, I was just like, I can't do this, I stopped. And it was what I had to do at that time. And I think it really got me to where I am now. But I do wish I had more support at that time.
Katy Weber 31:03
Well, and then you think about the quote unquote abuse of stimulants, right with in college especially, and how it's gotten this reputation of being this controlled substance. And it's so expensive, and like the way in which it seems to be going, it seems to be splintering off from like SSRIs. And antidepressants, like when like antidepressants are so easy to get there like Danny's pennies, bottle, compared to the expense that so many of us, especially in the US are experiencing with with stimulants, right? Like it blows my mind, though, the hurdles that we have to go through in order to get this medication and the overwhelming expense. So many of us have to have this medication. I don't know what I'm getting, I guess just the stigma that is rising with stimulants. And it's this the stigma is from the fact that it's being abused, right. And I don't think it's necessarily being abused. I think it's just being used in in, like, in a way in which like, if it was more available, it was more widely available, or if or if young people understood the, you know, what was happening and that this was helpful to them, like, yes, you know what I'm saying? Like, I feel like I'm not articulate, lightly. nobody's using it.
Raegan Cotton 32:21
The narrative is what I had always held and seen as being so problematic, like, you're absolutely right.
Katy Weber 32:29
But you're right, we feel it. We think that's like your see.
Raegan Cotton 32:32
Yes, exactly, exactly. And, you know, even just thinking like of being on a college campus, and how drugs, various drugs are more or less acceptable, like the social implications of that, like the racial implications, the the history of different medications and where they come about, and who is allowed to have what is is fascinating to me. But just, the narrative was a big thing, just growing up and being like, oh, that's like math, like they're giving kids math. And that's what I grew up hearing. So then it's like, I'm in high school struggling, and I'm like, I don't want to take math. Like, what, that's not gonna help me. And having to really unpack that and be like, Whoa, like, this is not where we are. This is not what it is. And that was definitely the case.
Katy Weber 33:25
Yeah. Yeah. What other kind of observations do you have in terms of Gen Z? Millennial? Gen. I guess you're still millennial, right? Gen Z is? Yeah, I know. Yeah. Millennials a huge category.
Raegan Cotton 33:42
I know I'm on the cusp, I was born in 96. So I never know where I fall in that. But I've definitely straddling a weird line. I think really the the gender difference comes with just omitting in what we think about ADHD as just omitting the like emotional regulation, omitting the non like, school and work pieces, or the things like I see it as, I don't know how to articulate this, but just when you're struggling in like school, or you're struggling in work, for some reason, like that is much more accepted and like validated than struggling with those emotional and like interpersonal kinds of things. And I think, in a lot of ways like, that has led to I mean, there's a ton of reasons why men are are diagnosed more than women, but I think it's like, Oh, if there's a man struggling with work or with school, like that's a big problem. We need to be sure that that person is getting a lot of support. Not really considering like, of course, men have emotional regulation problems too. And those are valid and need to be treated as well. And then, you know, we have women on the other side who we're gonna go through way greater lengths to still succeed in these academic and like, traditionally, you know, male masculine dominated Spaces, we're doing a lot more to get through and to be seen as successful. But when we're struggling with our mental health, like, that's not validated, that's, that's, oh, you're depressed, but you're anxious. And there's not this urgency of like, oh my gosh, why are all of these women struggling? Why are all these people struggling? And it's really like what we as a society, prioritize. And, you know, that's doing well in school that's doing well and in work, and really is dismissive of the fact that we're all people with like, very wide scopes of life. And, you know, we're more than our like, capitalistic output we have merit in and of ourselves and our health and our well being, and that healing is so important. So I think that's kind of a big thing that I've seen, just in those gender differences.
Katy Weber 36:05
Yeah. And I think, you know, your generation has the crippling student debt. Absolutely. Which, you know, so you have that butting up against the overwhelming pressure to like, succeed in your 20s. And because you're seeing all of these, like social media influencers, and Tiktok influencers, who are, you know, making piles of money at such a young age. And it's, I feel like there's, you know, the pressure is much greater on your generation in terms of, like success at a young age, when it's just impossible. I mean, like the you, you still have to go, you still have to get a college education, but then you end up with crippling debt for the rest of your life as a result. But there's still that pressure that you have to like, live by yourself and have all of these accommodations, like having, you know, the great house and car and career that just aren't available to you anymore. And yeah, it's the, the reality just doesn't reflect the dream in a way that I got, for my generation at all.
Raegan Cotton 37:09
Yeah, and the stakes are higher. I mean, like you said, like, you come out of college with all this debt, I have debt, and most of my peers have debt. And it's this, alright, you got six months before you're going into repayment, like, what are you gonna do you better, better get on that, like, better find a job. And there's not a ton of great job opportunities. There's not a ton of, you know, resources for finding that. And you are just pushed really hard, really fast into like, real adult world, and the stakes are really high, you now have loans, you now have all of these things you rent is astronomically high. And you know, we're way under paid is like a generation and just looking at inflation, looking at how how we as a generation are doing like the stakes are really high. And it's very hard. It's really hard. People don't know what to do they feel lost. And then we're in the middle of environmental crises. And I know a lot of young people, a lot of people my age, neurotypical, ordinary neurodivergent are feeling really compelled to move to work that they are passionate about. And unfortunately, that work doesn't often pay very well. So stakes are definitely higher as well.
Katy Weber 38:27
Yeah, that's nothing new I I remember, it's not, but I do remember feeling like I'm having this realization with my teenager, recently, where I was like, your generation is really the first who doesn't know if you're gonna make it to adulthood. Like, I've sort of feel like, there's this nihilism this that's in all of your life decisions, right? Like, I'm like, Why have children? What is it we're destroying the earth? Like, there's an imminent threat to the destruction of the earth that didn't exist when I was in my teens? And 20s? Yeah, and so, you know, there was always that question of, like, do I have children do I not and we had all obviously, as women had a lot more opportunities, you know, there was less pressure to sort of be a housewife, and any of that, but like, I feel like with a much younger generation, like, this is really the first time where you space all of your life decisions with a sense of like, we may or may not make it, you know, and, and like, how, even, like, I was thinking of this out loud with my teenager, and then I stopped myself and I was like, God, am I like, destroyed, like, I was like, should I even not mention my bad mother, if I'm even mentioning that this reality exists? But like, I was, like, how does that even affect any, you know, the way you approach decisions, you know, like, how does it approach saving money? You know, why bother, you know, how does it approach? Yeah, working towards anything, you know, with that looming sense in the background of always just being like, well, we're fucked anyway. So
Raegan Cotton 39:56
what's the point? Yeah,
Katy Weber 39:58
and that's like, that defines there. Generation. Yeah,
Raegan Cotton 40:01
it does that. I don't know, like, how much of this is like ADHD, I do think I suspect some of it, but like, I get pretty infatuated with like these thought loops, you know, that rumination of like, oh my gosh, what are we doing? Like, what am I doing? Seeing that bigger systems connect, I think for me and just my passions has been both a blessing and a curse because I feel like it's really propelled me to like, push myself get out of my comfort zone, like, do more and like be better. But it also is this like, a very heavy weight to carry is like having so much pressure that you put on yourself and trying really hard to step back and not putting the weight of the world on yourself and knowing that I will never as an individual like, right the wrongs and what am I trying to say? That like justice liberation, those like humanity components, I cannot do that I cannot write those wrongs as an individual, that does not mean that I can be complacent, you know, there are absolutely things that I can do. And so it's definitely this like, give and take of like, I am deeply passionate, I care so deeply, but then also being like, sometimes I'm like, I can't do this anymore. Like it's too much. You know, like, I work in, I work in a nonprofit space, working to get young people engaged in politics. And it's incredible. I couldn't do anything else. Like I'm so deeply passionate about it. And I feel very lucky to have a job that I like care so deeply for and get to connect with, like, really amazing. My coworkers are amazing, like, like minded peers, who pushed me but it's also I know, we all really do struggle with like, it's heavy stuff. It's not. We care deeply. And that's why we do this work. So it has mental health implications as well, for sure.
Katy Weber 42:04
Oh, yeah. And I think that that is something that you constantly like, like you said, you're constantly writing that, you know, at what point is it too much? At what point do I really have to start thinking about self preservation, versus helping others and doing the work that not a lot of other people are able to or willing to do? And so feeling that in calling but also realizing that somehow that calling is leading to a sense of self destruction that you feel like you're interested in?
Raegan Cotton 42:30
Yeah, absolutely. And that savior complex, too.
Katy Weber 42:34
Yeah. All right. Oh, my God. elements. We
Raegan Cotton 42:37
feel that pretty heavy too. And I think I think people,
Katy Weber 42:41
I think because we are Yeah, because we think really, really deeply. And I think we are like really run by our emotions. Like it's, I love having a positive spin on ADHD. And I think there's so many wonderful qualities about it, but it is not a superpower. Like it just drives me crazy when people like or dismiss the emotional gravity of life with ADHD and are sort of like, No, this is the greatest thing that ever happened to you. And like that toxic positivity just drives me crazy. And I certainly don't feel like, well, then you have to swing in the opposite direction and talk about how it's like a real it's a disorder and take it seriously, but you know, because that bothers me. But yeah, I just feel like it's so nuanced. And that's why I feel like we kind of are figuring it out one conversation at a time, right? Just being like, what is happening? And how do we deal with it,
Raegan Cotton 43:35
you're right, that that's such a toxic approach. I mean, I know, I definitely have skills, I have things about ADHD that I definitely like and make me a better person. But we really got to step back on that one and think about everyone's like power and privilege and the identities we hold and the space that we grew up in, and the ways that we can succeed. And I know for me, like, I'm very grateful, but I'm also very aware of like how my identity and my privilege growing up, like really did help me succeed and get to the space that I'm in now. And that, you know, you could look at me and say, Oh, you're successful, you're like a successful person. And the metric that we use is just, it's so rooted in like, what export we put out, like how productive we are for society, and you know, even in school, like really marking students for the things that are, you know, just training them to be good workers and get things done and productivity and productivity and the output and this not about the means not about how we're doing it, what we're getting there. And so like, I think, yeah, there's there's definitely a bunch of skills. I've also struggled very greatly. But you know, I grew up where my parents could afford to send me to tutoring. And they would help me and my brother could get put into a private school because they could afford that. I grew up in a Pretty, moderately wealthy, like white suburban home. And like how did that when I had those really impulsive outbursts and I got in trouble in a bigger way than just being reactive in class or something. I was given a pass because, you know, I'm like, Oh, she's like a cute white woman. She's like, a sweet, you know, like, all these things we put on women and we put on whiteness, and we put on the the passes that we give to people because of their identities. Like, I do think, I hate hearing that, like, Oh, it's a superpower. Because I just think like, how much of that mindset comes from
Katy Weber 45:40
the accommodations that you have? Yeah, like,
Raegan Cotton 45:43
yeah, so that other people don't have. And I just think we kind of need to step back on that and be like, Okay, we all work hard. That's true. We all are struggling, but like some of us have different tools and different resources. And I think that gets minimized when you start talking about that. That approach?
Katy Weber 46:02
Yeah, no, that's a great point. One thing I like to ask my guests is, if you could rename ADHD to something that's a little less confounding or problem, have you thought about what you would, you might call it? Yes,
Raegan Cotton 46:18
I have. And I've thought about this, like, even before, before this question was posed, because I've never really felt like that ADHD, like, label fits. I mean, it does in a million ways. But it also doesn't. I don't have a name, I will say, but I wrote down regulation, because I think that's a key thing. I think that's a key misunderstanding and a miss consensus. And I think something that has to do with processing, something that has to do with regulation, I think those are my that's the direction I would go for renaming it. Because I know I just, I don't have a deficit of attention. Like, I really don't, it's just that I can't regulate it. I can't get myself always to do what I know needs to be done. Or even. Sometimes I don't remember what I need to be doing that needs to be done. It's it's bigger than that. It's bigger than not having that focus piece.
Katy Weber 47:24
Yeah. Well, and like you said, it's it really doesn't hit home until you start really understanding the emotional aspects and the sensory processing, right, where you're like, those were the two things that really hit home for me. So the fact that neither sensory or emotional is mentioned in the DSM, or even in the in the name itself, I find, just sends people down the wrong rabbit holes. I love thinking about how, by the time you're 45, you know, how much more will we know about this nurse about neurodiversity? And how many more accommodations will we see in the classrooms or in our workplaces? And absolutely, this pandemic and working from home has blown up a bit of that like nine to five narrative that so many of us struggled with so much, and then it'll leave open this idea that like, everybody has their own productivity windows and everything works differently, and we can we can accommodate for all of those. There's not like that worker that industrialized worker.
Raegan Cotton 48:26
Exactly, exactly. Yep. Of course, I, you're preaching to the choir here.
Katy Weber 48:33
Awesome. All right. Well, I will look forward to seeing how it goes over the next 20 years.
Raegan Cotton 48:40
Thank you. Me too. Little bit of eminent eminent do mix. You're rolling with it. So
Katy Weber 48:48
awesome. All right. Well, thanks again. Lovely to talk to you. What a great interview with Ray Kim. As I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, I got a chance to check in with Reagan again. She's 27 now so let's hear what's going on with her these days. Yeah, so basically, I you know, I'm about to release my 100 and 50th interview and I started getting reflective was like, oh, like looking back over episodes would I be able to pick favorites. And I was like, I can't pick favorites. They're all my every but they're all my babies. Everybody's my favorite. But I did kind of wanted to rerelease some episodes that really have stayed with me over the last couple years and like have really just felt like deserved if somebody missed it. You know, I really wanted to highlight it and yours definitely stuck out. For me. It's one of the episodes that has always, I always think about a lot, especially having a daughter and you know, just the generation some of the generational things that we spoke about. And so I was like, I just wanted to rerelease some of these episodes, but also get a chance to catch up with you because it's been almost two years since this interview. And so how's it going?
Raegan Cotton 49:57
Oh my gosh, I know I'm so I First, I just I really appreciate that I'm very flattered. And like your kind words are, are really meaningful. So thank you. I appreciate it. Secondly, yeah, what is time? I was like, How long has it been? I feel like everything is in this weird. Permanent like time blindness, you know what I mean? And all that. So, yeah, I'm doing I'm doing really well. It's been definitely a few years, I was thinking, you know, what's changed, like, were in ADHD and and other things like, you know, did some reflecting and I don't know, I think the main thing that I wanted to kind of speak to an update was, well, I turned 26. And, you know, that meant I got the boot from my parents health insurance plan, which was probably the worst birthday gift I've ever gotten. And yeah, you know, that was like, actually a really big thing that I was dealing with for a while after I lost access to my parent's health insurance. And, you know, I was lucky enough, I had a job that offered health insurance, but the benefits just were not comparable. And basically, almost immediately, I was not able to access by ADHD medications, it became like, a really big executive dysfunction, Nightmare, which is like me calling insurance, the pharmacy, my doctor, the psychiatrist playing phone tag, and, you know, the whole, I assure everybody, everyone's been there to some extent. But yeah, that was, that was definitely something that I think, you know, being in my mid 20s, I didn't really recognize the impact that that was going to have until it happened, and I lost, you know, access to my meds that were keeping me in a lot of ways, like, well and stable. And so that was definitely tough, I wound up changing jobs actually, wasn't really exclusively because of that. But it was definitely a main motivating factor for me was really needing to like prioritize my health, prioritize my mental health and find the right care for me. So I'm in a new position, now I have access to much better health insurance benefits. I feel very grateful and appreciative of that. But you know, when I was going through that it was like, a really draining emotionally, like, very taxing and very frustrating experience, for sure.
Katy Weber 52:28
Oh, yeah, I feel like it is at every age.
Raegan Cotton 52:32
Katy Weber 52:34
Right. Gosh, wow. And reflecting back over some of the stuff that we had talked about, when you were dealing with this, you know, were there any strategies that did end up working for you?
Raegan Cotton 52:48
I mean, you know, to some extent, it's like you're going up against, it's David and Goliath when you bought all these big insurance companies and all this. But, you know, what did help was like my partner, being very supportive. And, you know, with the folks that I trust in my, like, network, being open with them of like, this is what I'm dealing with. And this has been basically a part time job on top of my full time job, which I was struggling with. And I think that support and that community, like, you know, folks really understand and were very supportive to the extent that, you know, just saying, that really sucks, like, that sounds so hard, you know, it goes a long way. And it really helped me to continue like that self advocacy and continue being persistent. I don't know, my strategy is just keep writing things down and keep making less over and over and like, you know, until I can't avoid it, which which worked. And the other thing that I'll say that helped, was actually getting connected with a local pharmacy. So I stopped working with the chains. And I don't know if that's something everybody has access to, I didn't realize there was a local pharmacy near me. But it's great when someone actually picks up the phone and you don't have a 20 minute phone tree and hold time to get that made a huge, huge difference in just my like, ability to even pick up the phone and be like, Okay, I know, I'm going to talk to an actual person. They're going to respond and help. And I would say that that really helped. That's great advice. Yeah, give yourself some space. It's a lot of time. It's it's a big process. It took me months, and it was tough. Like, I feel like now looking back, I'm in a much better place. I have access to my meds, like I've made the adjustments I needed, but it was really frustrating. And it felt very draining to have to keep doing that. So just like know, your Know your limits and do what's reasonable, but also know that like, you're fighting a really difficult system with executive dysfunction, like it's just going to be a process.
Katy Weber 54:48
Yeah, that's one of the things I feel like self advocacy is such. One of the things that I very encouraged by going back to school and being In a classroom environment with so many students who are in their 20s is seeing how your generation is so much better at advocating already even, you know, even though there are so many struggles, I feel like that's such, like, my jaw just drops when I listen to some of the how just how smart everyone is, but also just like, what, like not accepting shit, like from professors, or just being like, this is not acceptable. And I think you know, and me sitting there just being like, can you do that? Are you allowed to say that, like, I'm just in awe of the level of advocacy that is already existing in your generation. And I'm like, This is amazing.
Raegan Cotton 55:40
It's funny, you say that, because I just had a similar experience with a kid who was in high school, like saying something to a doctor and advocating for himself in front of me where my jaw was on the floor, and I was like, wow, like, kids these days, they're just saying what they need. And, you know, I was like, I feel so Oh, like, oh, my gosh, like this kids in high school. And I was so scared, I would have never said that, you know what I mean, like for him? And I'm like, it really is, I think, a trend and a shift in, it's necessary. It's unfortunate, for sure. But, you know, for me, it made it. I mean, I needed my meds and took months, but I got them. So I, I'm very grateful, like celebrating those wins, I think is just as important when you're dealing with this system and advocating, you know, like taking a minute to be like, that was a big accomplishment. And I made it happen. Like, that's, that's great. And I'm better off for it. So I think setting in the winds is another thing I'd really like to think of like, being proud of yourself and letting yourself like express that and be like, I can do this. I'm doing it.
Katy Weber 56:42
Right. I think that that idea that like embracing the fact that we are phenomenal. And eccentric, is one of the is one of the biggest changes that I've had. And one of the things I work on with a lot of my clients too, which is like, asking for help and asking for support is a sign of maturity, it's a sign of responsibility. It's a sign of strength. It's not something to be embarrassed about, right? And, you know, so often we get trapped in this narrative of like, you know, I have to have tried all, I have to have exhausted all of my own resources before I can ask for help. I'm like, where did that like we need to drill that out of ourselves?
Raegan Cotton 57:21
Right? No, that's definitely definitely true. Yeah, so I think that's kind of what I've had going on, I'm trying to think what else I'm pursuing my hobbies, I feel like for the first time in a long time, I've never really been able to, like, do that. And actually follow up with something, not just spend a ton of money and then forget about it, I can say my gardening supplies are actually being used one year later. And that has been really nice. Growing some tomatoes, peppers, it's been a really good experience, my partner and I have been really trying to, you know, get creative and kind of start growing and start playing around with things in the garden and learning flowers. And I found a new interest for me, and I never would have probably gotten so hyper fixated and stuck with it. If I didn't know, I had ADHD, like, if I didn't have this diagnosis, I think it still be spinning around and around. And so that's something else that I think about is, you know, I'm really been trying to prioritize the things that bring me joy, the things that give me peace outside of work, you know, like, I know, work is a big thing. For me, it's a lot of my stress, anxiety, but I really try to think about managing my ADHD in the scope of the things that bring me happiness and joy. And not just, you know, I need to do this to say, to pay rent, or to keep my health insurance and really working hard on that. And just mindfulness I think has been a big piece of that.
Katy Weber 58:58
Right? And just understanding that like having boundaries around work and putting, investing in your free time and investing in your happiness will actually make you better at your job, as opposed to feeling like I have to give, you know 80 hours a week and get totally to the point of burnout. It's like no, actually, the more you invest in your personal self, the better you will be an and you know, ways is I think that's a difficult lesson at every age.
Raegan Cotton 59:25
It's really hard. I'm not a morning person. And you know, I have to be up at work early every morning but I you know, I try like little things where you can I try to go out with my dog every morning for just 10 minutes if I wind up sitting out with her and you know, we do snuggles like, or I wind up watering some plants or you know what I mean? Whatever it is just being like, Okay, before I start work about 10 minutes outside, I think that's really helpful for me. So trying to just like weave, weave things that are I don't want to say easy. It's never easy and I frequently don't do these things but like that's my goal. All it's like, we've been things that should be simple to add into your life and be able to take care of myself and, you know, then go to work and show up and be present and not frazzled. It makes a big difference than when I sign off at the end of the day. And I think it's just all really connected. And I tried to be very holistic with my approach to, like, well being and self care. So I think it's tough. It's a lot of work. But I feel really good. You know, I'm, oh, my gosh, I'm 27 now, and yeah, I feel like I'm at a good point in my life with my future and my job. And you know, my partner and I are looking to move and we've got just a lot of big things in the works. And it feels like, it took a lot of hard work on my part, and a lot of barriers and struggles. And, yeah, I don't, I don't know, I just feel like I definitely would not be where I am. Now, if I had not been diagnosed with ADHD, like, I just I keep coming back to that important for me, getting a diagnosis in my mid 20s. Like, changed everything. It's definitely like, it's not too late. It really helped me it. You know, I wish I could go back and like, do some things over live my childhood self with a different understanding. But I'm also like, while I'm here now, so I'm trying to do that as I as I go, and like building that compassion and care. And yeah, I think I feel a lot better off than I was without a diagnosis and with out this understanding of how my brain works. Yeah,
Katy Weber 1:01:34
I know, right? I feel that way too, when even when I speak to women who are like in their 60s or beyond who have been diagnosed with that feeling of just hope, and grief, obviously, all of those things, but yeah, but really just feeling like, Oh, my goodness, this is so profoundly insightful. Now, I know, I got a lot of great feedback from this episode, a lot of people who really appreciated your perspective, but did you share the episode with anyone in your life?
Raegan Cotton 1:02:00
Um, you know, it's so funny. I only shared this with a few close friends. I feel so self conscious, I guess I don't know, I just get really nervous. It felt like something that I wanted to be able to be open and like myself. And so I was thinking with this favorite episode, when this airs, I might be a little bit more open to sharing it. But, you know, it's like, if you Google my name, I know it'll come up. It's not hidden. But I also am not trying to like, put it out there for everyone. And that way all the time. Yeah,
Katy Weber 1:02:39
no, I hear you. I always joke about the fact that like, I accidentally came out on Facebook because I thought I was posting on I thought I was posting on my podcast, I ended up posting on my on my personal feed. And I was like, Oops, oh, well, and I was like, that's a very ADHD thing to do.
Raegan Cotton 1:02:54
gotcha moment. Oh, well, and it's out there.
Katy Weber 1:02:57
Okay. Awesome. Well, I just, I'm grateful for the chance to not only catch up and see you again, but also just to, you know, be able to thank you for the influence that you've had on me and how much your conversation meant to me and how much it stayed with me. So. So thank you for being vulnerable and sharing yourself.
Raegan Cotton 1:03:18
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Yeah, I, I don't know. I just, that's very nice to hear. Thank you.
Katy Weber 1:03:30
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 and 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 neuro divergent mind and finally using this gift to her advantage. Take care till then