Tracy Otsuka: Word holes, baby steps, and smart ass womenJan 08, 2024
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“I have this thing, I call them ‘word holes,’ where all of a sudden I'll be talking and I’ll forget a simple word. It's like there's a hole in my brain and the word just kind of goes in there and I can't access it.”
Tracy is a certified ADHD coach and the host of the popular ADHD for Smart Ass Women podcast. Over the past decade, she has empowered millions of listeners to see their neurodivergence as a strength, not a weakness. We talk about her inspiration for starting her podcast and the incredible impact it has had on the ADHD community (including myself!).
We also talk all about her brand new book, ADHD for Smart Ass Women, which was just released at the end of 2023. And we talk about the power of positivity for the ADHD brain, and how to begin to take those first tiny steps toward living your dream. Tracy offers some incredible insight and advice for women with ADHD who might be struggling right now or feeling unsupported — if that’s you, then you do not want to miss this interview.
I’m such a fan and Tracy has been at the top of my “dream guest” list since I started this podcast, so I’m thrilled that I finally got this chance to sit down with her to thank her for all she’s done for our community and chat with her about being a smart ass ADHD woman!
Links & Resources:
ADHD For Smart Ass Women by Tracy Otsuka
ADHD For Smart Ass Women Facebook group
Denise Duffield-Thomas, Money Mindset Mentor: https://www.denisedt.com
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
Tracy Otsuka 0:00
We know that estrogen modulates dopamine. So there's certain times in a woman's life when she's more likely or a girl's life, she's more likely to see symptoms. It was paramount to pause. That is when I just hit the skids. I didn't even recognize myself. And it wasn't just the confidence around what I do. It was also the confidence in kind of who I was.
Katy Weber 0:27
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 like 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. Hello, and Happy New Year. I'm so glad to be back after a two week hiatus. And I have to say I have so many incredible guest interviews in store for you in 2024. So I can't wait for you to hear them, starting with today's episode. But first I'd like to share with you this review from a listener named Kai lean. It's entitled, validating and inspiring. My sister recommended this podcast to me, we both received our ADHD diagnoses in our late 30s. After listening to six or seven episodes, I'm struck by how beautifully Katie and her guests explain things that I've struggled to articulate to others and or understand about myself for my whole life. Listening is a deeply healing experience. And super useful to thank you for the podcast, Katie. Well, thank you, Eileen. And thank you to your sister for sharing this podcast with you. I also find these conversations to be deeply healing. So I'm always thrilled to hear from listeners who are right there with us and along for the ride. And I'm so glad that you and your sister have each other so big hugs to you both. And for the rest of you if you are a listener of this podcast, and you found it helpful. This is a friendly reminder to head to Apple podcasts or audible and you can now leave feedback on individual episodes on Spotify. And if putting your thoughts into words feels like too much right now. And believe me, I totally get it. You could also just quickly hit those five stars. In fact, why don't you just pause right now and do it I promise we'll wait for you. Okay, here we are at episode 169 in which I interview drumroll please. Tracy Ohtsuka. While she really needs no introduction as far as I'm concerned, Tracy is a certified ADHD coach and the host of the popular ADHD for smartest women podcast. Over the past decade she has empowered 1000s of clients and millions of listeners to see their neuro divergence as a strength, not a weakness. And Tracy also moderates the very popular Facebook group of the same name, Tracy and I talk all about her brand new book ADHD for smartest women, which was just released at the end of 2023. We also talk about her inspiration for starting her podcast and her thoughts on the incredible impact that has had on the ADHD community, including of course myself, we also talk about the power of positivity for the ADHD brain and how to take those first steps to learn to rely on ourselves. Tracy offers some incredible insight and advice for women with ADHD who might be struggling right now or feeling unsupported. So if that's you then you definitely do not want to miss this interview. Tracy has been at the top of my dream guest lists since I started this podcast and I have pestered her many times to be a guest. So I'm thrilled that I finally got to sit down with her to thank her for all she's done for this community and chat with her about being a smartass. ADHD woman. Okay, here is my conversation with Tracy. Well, what an absolute honor and privilege to have joining me today the incomparable Tracy Ohtsuka the trailblazer for women with ADHD, I feel like you personally with your podcast, ushered me through the first few months of my diagnosis. I as soon as I was diagnosed, even before I was diagnosed, I typed in women, ADHD into my podcast player when I first had a, you know, an inkling that I may have ADHD and I listened to I think the first 75 of your episodes while power walking with my dog. And I just I can't thank you enough for all that you've done for this for this community. I'm just so happy to have you here. Welcome Tracy.
Tracy Otsuka 4:50
B. That was so enormously kind. Thank you so much. And I just love that. It's the ripple effect, right? You learn about it, and then you teach other women about it. And there can't be enough of us literally shouting from the rooftops because we know how science and medicine feels about women. And we need to be the ones that are leading this charge because they're not listening to us. They're starting to, but only because we're forcing them to write.
Katy Weber 5:23
Because there's so many of us now. Well, and you know, it was interesting, because I've often said, the reason why I started my podcast felt very selfish to me, it was really I didn't really think ahead, because I have ADHD. So I really just wanted an excuse to have conversations with other women about our experiences. And I didn't have a platform, I didn't have any reason to reach out to people other than feeling creepy and saying, Hey, do you want to talk to me for an hour? So I decided to start a podcast, but I'm curious what inspired you to start the podcast after your diagnosis?
Tracy Otsuka 5:56
You know, Katie, it was probably the exact same reason, I always had this vision that I wanted to be able to love to travel. And I want it to be able to travel to anywhere in the world, and be able to pick up the phone, we don't really do that anymore. We're taxed, right, or email, and be able to have coffee, or lunch or dinner with someone. It could be someone but it ended up being women, anyone, you know, in that area that I actually knew. And that is absolutely come true. I also did it because I knew and this is terrible, but it's the truth, I might disappoint myself, but I would never disappoint someone else. So I knew that even if I had one person listening, and I was making a difference in that person's life, that I would continue to do it. Right. That is the guardrail that I needed. And I also wanted to put guardrails on my learning, I figured that we know the best way to learn is to teach. So if I would just be a little bit ahead, so I would learn something and then I would go and teach it, it will consolidate my learning in a much better way than just sitting on an island by myself. I'm also I love people, I love all people, I don't even care even the prickly difficult ones. I'm always wanting to know what is your story? Because I believe that all people are innately good. Okay, we have a couple of Ted buddies, and you know, but in general, I just I want to know about people, I want to learn about them. I want to know their stories. And it just gave me an opportunity to meet a lot of people, women. And I also knew this is what do you expect ADHD, right. I also knew that I loved ADHD women. When I went back and thought about the friends that I really connected with, they all had ADHD, they may not have known, well, none of them knew about it, then. But now it's kind of like, well, if you're friends with me, you better look into your, you know, your background. So that was, I mean, there were a lot of reasons. And you know, I really believe that ADHD women we are not born to fit in. And that is where the problem has always been, you know, we're trying to fit in, we're trying to be good. We're trying to do things their way. I really believe that we are all meant to lead in our big area of interest. And so once we start leading, everything else gets better, all of them.
Katy Weber 8:29
Did you have any idea at the time what you were creating what you were starting? I mean, how long after you were diagnosed? Did you start the podcast?
Tracy Otsuka 8:39
It was actually quite a bit. I was diagnosed in March of 2015. And what do they call it? The mommy factor? Right? My son was diagnosed with ADHD. And I remember thinking, they're they've got it all wrong. For three years, we have been through all kinds of testing and different therapies. And we never quite knew well, what is it? We knew we had this amazing kid who was totally out there. But he was super engaged, you know, in the things that he was interested in. He wasn't like his friends. Like we would catch him at 10am Excuse me, 9am. I know this is bad parenting on the computer on Sunday morning. And he would be Googling, like, how do I get into Harvard? You know, this certain battle in World War Two. He knew everything about all the baseball players and he was just quirky in that way. He was very immature. But then, on the other, you know, the flip side, he was extremely mature. We would be in I don't know. I remember being in LA and running into this older gentleman who was really into baseball, and my son. He didn't just know the bass player, baseball players of the day. He knew baseball from the time it started. He knew all the players. He knew their stats, he knew everything. And I remember that elderly gentleman you know who was a huge baseball fan. He was just so impressed by Marcus. Of course, I didn't really know much about baseball. So what was your question?
Katy Weber 10:10
Why you started the podcast?
Tracy Otsuka 10:15
Talking about that? I was going somewhere, but I can't remember.
Katy Weber 10:17
Well, no, I think I was kind of a two part question. It was, did you have any idea when you started the podcast? What was ahead of you in terms of how much it would resonate with such a global audience and what you were creating what this community you were creating, and how many women, you were helping find their own diagnosis?
Tracy Otsuka 10:38
I always feel a little cocky saying this, but I do think it might be an ADHD thing. Have you always felt that you were meant to change lives? Like there was just something about you that it wasn't enough to just go to that nine to five job, you just were meant to do something bigger? Have you felt that way? Like your entire life? Well, I
Katy Weber 11:01
feel like I've been told that as well, too, you know. And so I definitely always felt like there was this elusive version of me out there that I hadn't yet fulfilled, for sure. But but in
Tracy Otsuka 11:14
your gut, you didn't know how. And the thing is, you know, if you're not doing this early on in your career, you start to question Can this really happen? And I guess people would have looked at my life and said, she's successful, like I did all the things I was supposed to do. Of course, I now realize I struggled so much harder than everyone else, I had to work so much harder. But I almost think, and I hear this with people with dyslexia, too. I almost think that hard work ultimately ends up paying off. Because you know, you need all the structures, you need all the systems. And I think that when we're hyperactive, combined type. So we're hyperactive impulsive, we don't struggle to jump into the scary stuff. I mean, we do but we force ourselves simply because we have realized that it's the action that makes our brain and our motion and our mood, and everything feels so good. So we can look like that proverbial, you know, just constantly accomplishing this and accomplishing that, but never really feel like feeling like we're doing enough. And I think it's, we feel like we're not doing enough because we are typically in an area, that really isn't part of our purpose. And because we're so mission driven, we need to be in that area where we are making a difference. So once you get a little piece of it, and you realize that oh my gosh, this is resonating. And the first thought when you ask that question, Katie was, I don't think I have realized it. I still don't really get it. You know? I do. I'm sure like you. I get the emails and the DMS and all of that, you know, every day, and it means so much to me, but still hasn't really connected. I mean, I'm still surprised when something happens and someone will know I'm somewhere and they'll know who I am. Right. It's incredulous so and I think if I thought about that, it would scare me away. So I just think about one woman like every podcast every speaking thing, every whatever I do, is all about forget about yourself because I have a lot of issues around working memory. And this has been like, you know, Cobblers kids without shoes like I talk all the time about you should be uncomfortable every day. Was I really uncomfortable every day? Not until I started writing this book. And so I had been so uncomfortable for the last two years to be honest, that I can't remember where I was going. Sorry.
Katy Weber 13:54
Know what I think there's something about this idea of many of us experience with ADHD which I think can be one of our greatest gifts but also a downfall which is we're like Sisyphus, right? We're we get our energy or excitement or interest comes from pushing the boulder up the hill. We don't spend a lot Oh, Sisyphus, the you know, the mythical character that push the boulder up the hill, and then the boulder would fall back down again. And he would just keep pushing it out was a man.
Tracy Otsuka 14:21
So what's his name again?
Katy Weber 14:24
So yeah. Sisyphus s is y pH us. IV. Basically the idea is, I think we find much more fulfillment in the act the challenge, right? And we don't spend a lot of time soaking in the final product. We're always on to the next thing, because that's where our interest is. And so I think it can be really difficult to sit and think about the influence you're having on others or some of the, you know, the wonderful milestones that you might meet because you're focused on the next interesting thing. And so I think yeah, like, it can be a wonderful thing to keep going and keep pushing yourself. But then, you know, my next question is always well, how do you avoid burnout? Because I feel like you already had a law degree, you could have sat on that. But since the podcast, you've really I mean, you've taken on so many new businesses and invent, you know, you're just a you are a an entrepreneur, and you're, you know, took on the coaching and the book. And it's amazing that how do you find that balance?
Tracy Otsuka 15:30
I think what it is, I have enormous reserves of energy. And I know some ADHD women cannot relate to that. I could, if I didn't know better, probably stay up until three, every morning and get up at 630 or seven. I've always been like that, like, I'm irritating to live with, especially, you know, with my husband, who is very, like, you know, he needs his eight hours of sleep. Although I've kind of pushed him towards the end. That's not good, right? Because we know that, what is it, our longevity is directly proportional to our REM sleep, which that is the statistic that finally got me to pay attention to my sleeping, or non sleeping, but I'm never really tired. You know what it is to It's that when you are literally making a difference in women's lives, and we know like, you know, we can brush it off and say, Oh, it's just ADHD and a lot of people do, you know, oh, you're just a little unfocused, you know, you're just a little all over the place. But we know that 24 You know, and as much as my like I you know, I try to keep it light and happy, because I know how important positive emotion is for our brains. But the truth of the matter is 24% of all women with ADHD have attempted suicide. So and we know that's I think it's eight times the rate of men with ADHD. So that's pretty serious, important work. And I think that's what motivates me. And isn't it so interesting, Katie, how quickly they can flip it. They can be in the depths of depression and anxiety and just shame and beating themselves up. And once they have the information around what it is, and how ADHD affects them specifically, it's just insane to me how quickly they can turn it around. I mean, I had a book team meeting last week, and there was a woman who I've never met before. And she was like, I want to show you something. And she opened up her planner, and she pulled out gold stars. I was talking about how we're gold star people. And she said, I was literally a year ago, curled up in a ball in bed. And then I started to listen to your podcasts. And literally, I could feel myself getting better and better and better. And today I am, you wouldn't even recognize who I am. And that did not take a year. You know, that took a couple months for her. And of course, she's getting better and better. But it's if we just get the information out. We're beyond changing lives. We are also saving lives. And so I think that's what drives me and motivates me. And I bet you were similar in that. You're always looking for that next thing to do despite the dopamine, but you want to make sure that you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I can't remember. I'm so incredibly bad with names. Oh, she's Denise Duffield Thomas, do you know who she is she's an online entrepreneur that teaches money mindset. And she's been doing this online entrepreneurship thing for a long time. And what she said is, look, I can go mess around with whatever I want to mess around with. But my main program, which is I think it's called money mindset, my main program is what keeps me going and I will never kill that. Versus in former lives, she would have, you know, I mean, if you look I was having, working with one of my bas on highlights for Instagram. And one of the highlights that she kind of put together and all she had was mom, wife, dog, Mom, I think on it, you know, there's like my head with all these things. And I just started messing with it. And I started putting all the things I've done, you know, aerobics instructor, of course attorney, high end women's wear designer, I sold Christmas cards door to door in January when I was eight, it didn't work well. You know, I make feather earrings. I crocheted stuff for my ballet team, or the whole ballet company, actually, you know, snoods and leg warmers and like I have done this entrepreneurship thing as long as I can remember. And it was hilarious here was this head and just all this crap around the head. And I think it's Steve Jobs who said that you you can't see your path when you're old. Looking forward, you can only see it when you're looking back. And so I think that for a lot of us, ADHD women, we think about our lives and other people think about our lives. And they're like, Oh, my God, she's just all over the place. Like I think about when I said, Oh, I'm going to leave law. Now, my parents, they never said anything negative. But I had other friends, parents say, I don't think that's a smart idea. I don't think that's what you should do. And my parents like I, you know, I was totally privileged, they paid for law school and graduate law school. So they must have been like, What the hell, but they never said anything. And so we can start feeling bad about ourselves, because we are doing this and it doesn't make sense. But I promise you, when you connect it to your purpose, we're mission driven. It all starts to connect.
Katy Weber 20:50
It is amazing how the ability to reframe because I've, you know, after diagnosis, your whole life flashes before your eyes, like you know, and I was one of those women who was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, constantly feeling like what is wrong with me? That was the question I kept asking, and why can't I hold down a job for longer than two years before I'm moving on to the next thing, and that was such a you know, that even that was such a negative way of framing my relationship to my sense of worth, you know, in terms of the workplace, and now I'm like, I'm a patchwork quilt of all of these different certifications and degrees of experience that's brought me to who I am today. It is, it is your right, that it's funny, the transformation is so profound. And so quick, relatively, you know, given how much work so many of us have done on ourselves in in terms of therapy and mental health, it really is the most transformational experience and so difficult to articulate to people who, who don't get it right.
Tracy Otsuka 21:53
You don't get it. And what I do want to say is, I don't want people to think that, oh, everything worked so well for her. So my experience with ADHD was very different. Look, if one of your main traits is that you are extremely hyperactive, have tons of energy, and are also impulsive. So you have no fear. You can imagine as an entrepreneur, or frankly, anything. That's probably a good thing, right? Because you just jump right in. What happened to me though, is once my son was diagnosed, and this was kind of going on, in the little itty bitty pieces, was, I was so highly confident. And I'm confident because of all the action I undertook. And so that's what I want ADHD women to know, confidence doesn't just come it's not just with you, right? It's because you've done so many things that you know that okay, well, failure is probably my best teacher, because I don't learn anything when things just work for me. Right? But, um, Okay, where was I going with this? Because this was important. You can see exactly how my brain works here. So I was so highly confident, to the point where I would constantly hear it from people. How are you so confident? I don't know. I just thought it was like innate, right? No, I was confident because I was constantly doing things. But then all of a sudden, mid 40s, late 40s, it all went to hell. And I was still faking it. But I don't know what happened to my confidence, like, everything changed and things that were so easy for me. Like I used to look at Martha Stewart, I really love aesthetics. And I love food. And I love entertaining. And I still look at Martha Stewart. And I think many of your ADHD listeners will like roll their eyes. But this was my best was my interest. Right? I would look at her and I would literally critique Oh, this could be better. This is kind of too big of a mess. This should be aesthetically cleaner or nicer. Like I was obnoxious, right? But I would host like, you know, for for events, like if our school had some special event, I would raise my hand and say I'll do it. And I can have 75 people here. And although the timing was always hard for me, like what comes out when when do you put this in? The other part of it was so fun for me. I was so interested that I could figure it out. All of a sudden, I could not even make dinner for like six people. I couldn't follow the recipes. I was completely overwhelmed with the timing. I burned everything I and I'm like What is wrong with me this thing that I was so confident about? And I remember having friends who they would tell me they were afraid to have people over or to invite people because they didn't think they would come? Well, I'm sorry, everybody wanted to come to my house. But I started to have those feelings because I just felt like I couldn't do it. I couldn't rely on my brain anymore. And my handwriting changed. And all of a sudden this confidence that was just always really innate in me because I was so hyperactive and such a doer. It just plummeted I kept doing the things. But it was I was faking it. Right? It was I was so anxious and stressed. And so I started to get anxiety. Now, I always thought, I created anxiety and other people because I have that, you know, you know, your sign up, and you're gonna do that. I mean, I'm sure people thought I was nuts. I remember being on the board of the mothers club. And they were talking like hot dogs, and you know, all that. And I'm like, okay, and I literally showed up, and I handed out copies of Bon Appetit Magazine, we're going to all that, you know, and these people who couldn't even get dinner on the table ever, they probably had ADHD were like, this woman is crazy. So that's kind of, you know, at all this exuberance, and you just kind of come in and take over, that was my form of ADHD. And all of a sudden, I started to understand those other women, right, because even the simplest things I could no longer do. So I ended up and I was working at the time, too. This wasn't like my full time thing. I ended up going to my doctor, I ended up going to my gynecologist, I ended up going to a hormone specialist, because the first thing that was telling me is, Oh, honey, it's hormones. And it kind of is, but also something else, right. So I ended up a hormone specialist and then a naturopath. And then finally, when I said my handwriting, my handwriting completely changed. So if you look at my handwriting from like 10 years ago, and you look at my handwriting now, it doesn't bear any resemblance to each other, and that it kind of happened over the years, my handwriting change. And I was having trouble like buttoning little tiny buttons. And again, I loved I was a crafter and like I loved crafty things. So I was always the one with a little tiny needle and everything looked you know, are making like cookies that look like I sound like I'm bragging but it's the truth. They look like they came out of like the best bakery. You know, every birthday party, my kids would have these, like all these themed cookies and these little cellophane things with bows. Now the cookie thing I could probably still do, because I could do it in advance. It was anything related to time, I just got so anxious. So the final straw was I saw a psychologist I'd never been before. And she was also Asian. I'm half Japanese. She was I believe Chinese, if I recall correctly. And she said to me, you don't have anxiety. It's not depression, I also have this low level. They don't. It's not in the DSM anymore. But it used to be called dystonia, where it was just this low level malaise. And that was so not me. I was always like, you know, the upbeat, happy, like manic almost right? Just happy. And I still am, I was an incredible optimist. I always saw the other side to the point that I irritated my friends, because sometimes they just wanted to complain. And I was looking for solutions. And I was looking for the positive. So finally, when I told them about my handwriting and the little buttons, they said, Okay, we're gonna test you for Parkinson's. So I went to a neurologist, and I was tested for Parkinson's. And I'm sitting in the office, waiting for my appointment. And I'm by myself, like, I didn't bring my husband, it was just kind of like, Whatever, I'll go. And I saw a woman who was in a walker, you know, is it called? Yeah, it's called a walker. And she was trying to get to the door, and she was probably my age. And I remember thinking, Oh, my gosh, what if it's Parkinson's or because I had been thinking some dementia, right? Because I would literally forget everything. And whereas my working memory was always terrible, it really got bad, to the point of you could introduce yourself. And two seconds later, I didn't know who the hell you were. I knew who you were, I didn't remember your name, right? Or I didn't remember what you had just told me about yourself. So this Asian psychologist, she says to me, Tracy, it's an Asian thing, you know, we are just so focused on success and doing and achievement. And, you know, you get to a certain age and the balloon just kind of comes off the rows, and nothing's ever going to be as exciting. So, I had been going through probably two years of that. I also went to a hormone specialist who was a nurse practitioner and came highly regarded. And I'll tell you, she changed my friend's life who ultimately ended up having Hashimotos but for me, she did the absolute opposite. I was on so many and I'm very sensitive. I can't take medication, can't take stimulant medication. This is tea, not coffee. I'm just really sensitive to any kind of stimulants and I always have been, I couldn't take medication, but I was on all of these supplements. And at one point, she didn't know what to do with me. So she said, I think you have a thyroid disorder. I did not have a thyroid disorder, but she Put me on something called sleight of mouth. And that is I think what ultimately caused anxiety like I had latent anxiety anyway. But it caused anxiety, like, to the point where I remember one day, and I am not like this I did, I struggle with emotional dysregulation in that it's very specific. So I cannot be around anything that sad. Like, I can't see any of the Oscar winning movies don't even ask me. It's pitiful. Don't even ask me about it. I'm just so like the empathy part. I can't handle it. Like these news things. I just I can't. Those sorts of things just really, really affect me. I don't struggle with like blowing up. Except for when I'm in a time crunch. And of my mom was just like this where she would have a dinner party. And right before the company came, oh, my gosh, you know, because there were just so many things to do. And you're just so overwhelmed. And I would get like that too. And then I would feel bad because like, I'm yelling at my kids clean up here, stop here, do this, do that. And I'm, I just thought, Oh, I just learned that from my mother. Right? You know that that's just what happened. And in part, maybe a little bit, but I don't think so I think that's just how my brain works. Now, since I do a lot less of that. Part of it is I don't have the time. And the other part is the people that I want to be connected with the people that I really want to do things with and be with tend, sadly, not to live in my town. So what happened was she put me on site amount. And the site of Mal is what really caused emotional dysregulation, over the stupidest things like I remember being upset about, oh, it was probably about the holidays,
I would get like about the holidays, because I was always overdoing everything. I mean, my kids would write papers, you know, on holiday, like their class would be like, right about a holiday tradition? Well, the tradition in my family is we have no traditions. Every year, my mother does a completely different theme tree every year, you know, that was my thing. Like I loved it. Because creativity, right? I remember having a cell phone in my hand, and I was upset about something about the holidays, probably that I had to do it all. And my husband was just like, do we have to do that? Because he's saying, and I remember having to stop myself from throwing a brand new iPhone across the room onto the floor. Because I was just so overwhelmed, and you know, emotionally dysregulated. And that's when I was like, Okay, I'm gonna get off the site amount. But one of the side effects of the site amount is it did something in my brain. And so I now have anxiety, I have learned how to manage it. And it usually comes up around time, if I'm late, if, again, you know, I'm trying to get, you know, dinner on the table for company. And I'm trying to figure out the time that my husband steps in a lot more on that he is very type A and very linear. And so he will literally put all the times on and then I'll I'll I'll wear a watch, he has to wear a watch to he has to supervise me because otherwise everything will get burned. I'll just forget, Oh, I thought it was this one. But it's that one or will burn the house down. So I can't remember where we were going with that other than to say that, that was really my problem. Where the ADHD really came to a head, we know that estrogen modulates dopamine. So there's certain times in a woman's life when she's more likely or a girl's life, she's more likely to see symptoms. It was paramount to pause. That is when I just hit the skids. I didn't even recognize myself. And it wasn't just the confidence around what I do. It was also the confidence in kind of who I was. But I think yes, it was ADHD. And it was probably my ADHD sense of mission that was pushing me out of my comfort zone. Because what I had been doing was not enough.
Katy Weber 34:10
Yeah. Well, no, it's really interesting. Because yeah, I also I feel like I had so many contributing factors to my diagnosis. It was the pandemic, I was 45 in perimenopause. And also, you know, had all of my therapist had been diagnosed through her middle schooler and that, of course, was looking around at all of her patients and deciding who had it. But I also, you know, I think a lot of women in their 40s Come to that experience where it's like, is it hormonal? Is it perimenopause, or are we just at that age where we stop caring what people are thinking about us? And we stopped like, you know, right, we stopped wanting to white knuckle it through so much of our lives, that there's something you know that there is that catalyst there is that that something that the switch flips in us, we're like, That's it, I'm not doing this anymore, and then you start to realize As you know, this house of cards that you had in place, and so when the structure starts to fall apart, then you're start to, you know, lose a lot of your reading of the working memory and the executive dysfunction starts to show up. But I'm here I've never heard about the handwriting. Did you ever figure out what what it is about ADHD that would have led to that? Well,
Tracy Otsuka 35:20
apparently, that is a symptom of Parkinson's, which is why they were worried about it. Honestly, what I think it is, is boredom. I am so bored by everything. That's that kind of detail, you know, because I was the girl in school, you know, we're supposed to have this beautiful writing just by virtue of the fact that we own a vagina. But I was that girl, like my penmanship was perfect. But you know, I liked aesthetic, right? It was really, I know, a lot of ADHD women, they don't, they don't mind clutter. I call it visual pollution. I can't get to what I need to get done if my surroundings are a mess. So I do a lot of procrastinating. You know, and we're all different, right? As far as just how we're put together and what works for us what doesn't work for us how we are how we're not. So a lot of ADHD women can't relate to that. But I think there I know, there is also an ADHD symptom. And that's perfectionism. And we do a lot of masking around. And sometimes perfectionism is truly because then we don't have to do that next thing, right, we're just gonna keep making it more perfect, which is not a thing. Nothing's ever perfect. The other one side of it, though, is I think that if your surroundings are so important to you, like we were at dinner last night, and we went to this restaurant, and they put I was working all day at the library. And they put us in the middle of the room. And I literally so and we were on a four top, and it was just my husband and myself, okay, I literally he sat in a chair, I tried all three chairs around it. It's like Goldilocks, right, and the Three Bears. And none of them were perfect. Because I was in the middle of the room, which I hate, I want my back to something. And I want to make sure that what I'm looking at is visually, like it's pretty, and nothing was pretty, you know, it's just where that table was. And it just, it drove me nuts. And I couldn't get this hypersensitivities, right. Like, we just have this, it's like walk, I can't go into big box stores, I can walk into Costco. And I think it's because I know where everything is, at this point after decades. But like places like Target or the worst one for me is Walmart, where there's just so many, I mean, just wall the wall stuff that most of it is crap. And it's all this color and noise and I just I can't do it. I will pay double to go to some little beautifully, you know, kind of store just because I can't handle it. So if my husband wants something really cheap, he has to go get it.
Katy Weber 38:00
You will it's been a you know, that's reminds me of the ADHD test for women, the self test for women series sold ins on attitude magazine, because i When my therapist first suggested I had ADHD, I thought well, first of all, I thought I was insulted. I thought what do you think of me? Do you think I'm this terrible little boy, you know? Or do you think I'm this little boy who can't sit still. And I was like, Well, I am kind of a hot mess. So I see where it's going. But I took the generic adult ADHD test and scored kind of like a 50 60%. I didn't feel like it was really any profound experience for me. But then I took the women one. And that's where it was like everything fell into place. Because she talks about the emotional dysregulation sleep problems, sensory issues, the eating and food, like there was just so many things that are not in the DSM when it comes to ADHD that so many of us, that's where we really, really relate to it is all that all have these sort of seemingly random struggles. So I'm curious, like, Why do you think so much of that is left out of the conversation in terms of the clinical diagnosis.
Tracy Otsuka 39:05
But they're not even. They don't even study us? Right? The male body is the default in all of science. They don't even know what the symptoms. They're getting better. But you know the symptoms of women for heart attacks, because if you don't really study that, and you just assume that, oh, if it's this way for a man, it's going to be this way for a woman. I don't know if you've read the book. Why do I always forget the name hold on invisible women. Have you read that book?
Katy Weber 39:37
No, I haven't read that one. I'm gonna add that to my episode show note length.
Tracy Otsuka 39:42
I read it last year and I think it is the most important book that I read that year. The author is from the United Kingdom. It's Carolyn criado Perez. The thing about it is it's going to make you really angry and so when I was a kid, this is not really ADHD but maybe it is because I was obnoxious. I Um, when I was a kid, my father would have the thermostat set at like 68 degrees. And I would read it and my mom was cold all the time, you know, but my father just thought, you guys put a sweater on. And so I being an obnoxious kid would literally go and just move it, whenever he put it to 68, I put it up to 7268 72. And he got irritated. So he put a nail in it was one of those thermostats, it wasn't like a digital thing, because this was in the olden days, it was you put a nail and you couldn't move the bar any farther. So he put a nail in that. So in this book, they talk about a study that they did on women, and temperature. And you know how when you go into these giant, high rise office buildings, it is always friggin freezing, you feel like you're going into a meat locker? Well, they discovered that women's women's body temperature is naturally five degrees, it needs to be five degrees warmer. And by making it five degrees colder, we're causing all kinds of stuff with our nervous system, like it is not good for us. But because they did this study on men, and it was like 170 pounds are 165 pound 34 year old white man. That's what they did the studies on so then all of the office buildings, all the homes. And so I of course, show that study to my dad, you know, it's like, I hope you feel bad now. Because, you know, he just thought, Oh, we were just being obnoxious, go put a sweater on? No, and I'm sure it affects affected our health. You know, my mom ended up with Renard disease, which you know, where she doesn't get that. And I think that's one of the things that they were saying, when you feel like you're cold all the time. But because it was never called this, like my husband, my husband is never called, he's just always warm, and I'm always cold. And so you know, with him, too, when I would say, Well, I'm really cold, he looked at me like you're cold, really? Like, you know, because I showed him this study, too. So this is all full of exactly what we're talking about. All these studies, you know, that have done been done by men. And, you know, things like the way the train route goes, or the bus route grows, because it's white men that put in all those regulations, you get a bus route that suits them, it goes directly to their office, right? Well, women typically have to make all kinds of stops. So not only is the bus route now completely ineffective for women, it's also so expensive, because they have to make all the stops and starts. So you know, it's like that with everything. So why would it be any different with ADHD and women? And so again, I think it's up to us to shout it from the rafters. So people finally start to listen and get women in positions where they're the psychiatrists. They're the psychologists, they're running the studies for women.
Katy Weber 42:55
All right, so I want to talk about your book, congratulations, by the way, what an incredible season. I'm sure you've exhausted. So this, this whole process took two years and change.
Tracy Otsuka 43:08
So it took probably more than two years starting. So I didn't know all this. I don't know about you. But in the back of my head, I always had, I want to write a book 80% of people supposedly want to write a book. I didn't know on what I didn't really even think I would enjoy the process because oh my gosh, that is so long. But what I knew is I could not self publish a book, I would never finish it again, I always look for how can I build the guardrails. And for something like that I need, I needed to be working with someone that I highly respected and did not want to disappoint. And I got the big guns and Lisa Sharkey, who's my acquiring editor at HarperCollins. William Morrow, I needed someone that I couldn't make excuses where if I couldn't say, oh, it's not done. It'll be done tomorrow, or it'll be done next week. Now. She is all in the deadlines. However, I believe she was attracted to the project because she thinks she has, you know, an ADHD brain too. So it was the hardest thing that I've ever done. So what I didn't know is you so you have to do a book proposal first, which is kind of like writing the book. Because I have this problem that they want you to write chapter summaries and they're supposed to be, I don't know, a couple paragraphs, maybe I can't write a chapter summary until I write the book, write the chapter, right? I need to get everything out. So then I know the overview. So that took me you know, forever but I worked with a woman, Allison Lane, who, without her helping her helping me to write the book proposal, which is basically a marketing document why you think that this book will sell and so I had to do that and she ended up chasing me I like I literally ghosted her for a couple months and then She came back. And she's like, Okay, we're going to meet and we're going to do it together. And so I get on the call with her. And she says, we're going to query agents today. I'm like, No, we're not. We don't even have to book proposal done. She has ADHD too. And she said, I know. And she had created an email, all she had asked me to do was to show up with two or three literary agents, I still can't remember who's the agent who's the acquiring editor, who's the editor, like the whole thing. She said, come up with three literary agents that you just love. Like, I don't even know what a literary agent is. So I was like, on Instagram kind of watching people. And so I found three. So she said, When I showed up, I've got an email. We're going to do it right now. I'm like, No, we're not. She said, Yes, we are. And I had every excuse, but she had them all covered. So we ended up sending a query letter, which is basically you know, it's a couple of paragraphs of what you want to do. And how you have the book proposal ready? No, it didn't say it's almost ready to go. And so you would, maybe we didn't even talk about the book proposal. But it was like we had the book proposal ready. So we're sitting, we send them out, and we're sitting there and literally, I think it was 15 minutes later, I get a ping back. And it was my number one pick. And she said, I am so interested in this subject. I have ADHD and autism. And when can I see the book proposal and I was like, crap. So that's what got the book proposal done, you know, in like, 10 days, I had to finish it so that we could get it out to her. And she actually did end up pitching me as far as she, she made me an offer. So we had a lot of interest on the book ultimately went to what they call auction, meaning there was more than one publisher that was interested. And, you know, the rest is history. However, it was the hardest thing I've ever done. You know, I'm like Dorothy Parker. And apparently she didn't even say this, but everybody credits her with. I hate writing, I love to have written. So I fancy myself a very good editor. But it's the linear process that is required. For each chapter. I literally had double the amount of words that I needed. And you know, the ADHD brain, like everything's important to us. And we don't know where to cut. But we're also a little I am at least a little oppositional, where don't tell me what to do. And it had been so many decades, frankly, certainly years, probably decades since I was in a position where there was someone else telling me what to do. And that was hard, you know, where I just felt like everything I was doing was wrong. Because it was, I didn't understand the process. I didn't have the big picture. I would do things that I thought made perfect sense to me. And then you know, what would come back as No, no, no, that's not how you do it. And what I realized is, you know, once I got over the, we need each other, right? We need neurotypical brains. And we need neurodivergent brains, because I would have never been able to get this book out there. It's not out there yet. But almost maybe it will be. It will be by the time this airs. It wouldn't be out there if it weren't, you know, but for my incredible publishing team, and my own, you know, personal editor, Sarah Toland. Like, there's no way they gave me the structure. They gave me the system. And yes, it's a little annoying when you have these great stories, and you really want them to be in the book. And all of a sudden, months later, you realize, Wait, that that was like the best story. But to me, that was the best story, right? Because they're all the best stories. When I think about them. It was hard again, I had to keep thinking of that one woman, because my fear Katie was could I do with the book? When I did with the podcast? Would I be able to get that message across because I was always worried to that, you know, my program. Your ADHD brain is a Okay, when someone couldn't afford it. I just I felt that like, where could I send them? What Yeah, go to my podcast. But I wanted to be able to give them one place, right, where all of the most pertinent information was in this by the way, this is these are Butler's look into the void that they wrapped. Mr. Butler as I didn't know who he was hired to look at. I love that, like the head. He's the bass player and the head lyricist for
a Black Sabbath. I love it. And he recorded where I recorded my audio book.
So I got all kinds of stories. So anyway, it was the hardest thing I've ever done. I'm saying I will never ever in a million years do it again. Although I have friends that are authors who said that and then you know, six months later, they're friggin writing another book proposal. So I know enough Never say never. But they say that writing a book is the best self development that you can possibly do. I'm not sure if it was the writing the book, but definitely the marketing of the book because all of the things that you've done a little bit, and then you kind of keep them at bay a little bit, keep it at bay, because you know, it's uncomfortable and you need to be uncomfortable every day or so I say, that is the stuff that really pushed me forward. Like, you have probably figured out, I did not do podcast interviews, I literally could count them on one hand, and I don't even know how they came about. The reason was not because I didn't want to do them. The reason was, because I was so worried about my working memory. And it's so stupid now that I think about it. Certainly for lack of podcasts like yours, it's all about ADHD, you're not going to ask me about ADHD, specifically know about ADHD specifically, and your audience gets that from you, right. And other guests who, like, you know, are medical professionals, but that's not my job, you know, the science, the doctors, the, you know, whomever, the studies, that's all good and wonderful, that is not my area, they've all been going in one direction, for the most part, you know, we have those four women, you know, Kathleen Nadeau and I always forget the names, but you know, who I mean, who have been pushing for decades, frankly, you know, women and ADHD, but nobody was really listening. And so now they're finally listening. My area is not that, although I do believe in science and medicine and doctors, I, you know, I'm not one of those people. However, in many cases, they have not been listening to women. And so what we have is, we have an audience of real live, you know, 1000s of women that we have interfaced with, and what do our brains do? Well, they recognize patterns. And we see these patterns over and over and over again, right. So anyway, you know, my point was simply that I was so worried about my working memory, I have this thing I call them, what do I call it, I can't even remember that. I call them word holes, where all of a sudden, I'll be talking. And it's like a simple word, like the one nervous system. I don't know what it is about that word. But I always forget it. It's like, there's a hole in my brain, and the word just kind of goes in there, and I can't access it. And my whole thought was, oh, my gosh, I'm gonna have to be talking to media, I'm gonna have to be on podcasts, I'm gonna have to be completely out there. Because my entire life, what I've done is control everything around me. So that there, that never happens. Now, that doesn't give a good interview, right? If you're controlling everything, you have to just kind of let it go. And so that is what I am finally learning how to do. Because I was so worried about Oh, my God, I won't remember the statistics. I will like, sometimes I'll go through this book. And I'll be like, wait, I said that. I wrote that. Really? That's, that's, that's what it is. Like, I can't even remember right? And just the thought of you wrote the book. And there are things in the book you can't remember, like, oh, my gosh, you know, you should not be let out in public unless everything around us control. I feel like I'm Barbra Streisand.
Katy Weber 53:06
No, it makes perfect sense. And again, I think it goes back to that idea of like, well, there's things I'm good at. And there's things that I am not good at. And that's fine with me. Right? It doesn't make me any less than. So one of the things and I'm sure you get this too, one of the few criticisms I ever received from interviewing women with ADHD is where are the stories of women who are actually struggling? And it really bothers me because I feel like you send me a woman who was really struggling, and in an hour, we will figure out, especially women with ADHD, we will figure out what she is incredible at. It's really difficult to see that in yourself. But it's really wonderful to see it and other people. But what what advice do you give to women who feel like they don't have support or that their ADHD definitely is not their superpower, it's the source of their biggest struggles?
Tracy Otsuka 53:55
Well, based on what I have been told by my audience, and I'm sure you have been told this by your audience, start listening to an uplifting podcast, because there's something about what happens with the brain. And I mean, you have to like the person, right, and you start listening to them. And I think new neural pathways build where you start seeing that, oh, well, maybe I can flip that. So let me tell you, there is a study out of Canada that came out in 2022. In I think it was February, March that I don't hear anybody talking about and that study is or was that 43% of people with ADHD are in excellent mental health. Not good mental health. Not okay. Mental mental health, excellent mental health. So we know that's a possibility. Where I think women really struggle is it there's trauma as well. And now, granted, we can't get out of life without some amount of trauma, but I'm talking about more serious developmental trauma but I'm also talking about all those little cuts when you have ADHD. So you stopped trusting yourself, you stop believing in yourself because you think that, oh, well, I can't do it their way. So why do I even bother trying? When in fact, you already have systems, right? You already have structures that work for you, you just don't realize that you do. And it's okay. In fact, it is required that you have your own systems and structures. So if you can make just a little bit of inroads and open, I mean, if there's a lot of trauma therapy, first and foremost, because it's the thoughts, right, we all know that just because you think it doesn't make it true. So if I can plant in you that a 43% of people with ADHD are in excellent mental health. Why can't that be you two, just by virtue of the fact of having ADHD, that does not mean that you're doomed. The symptoms of ADHD and trauma are the same. So you can imagine you've got developmental trauma, you're already not feeling say, not trusting yourself, you know, feel like you're all over the place, focus, you know, all of that. And then on top of that, you have ADHD. And then on top of that, let's say perimenopause, menopause, like you can see how it could really be a problem. The first thing I always say is, where is the positive emotion. So our ADHD brains positively thrive with positive emotion, and we wilt with negative emotion. So where in life can you find the positive emotion? Even if it's just a little tiny piece? You want to build on that? So oh, I don't know. I get up in the morning, and I just walk outside. And for 10 minutes, I look at the sun. Or, you know, even if there's no sun, you're just outside in nature. Okay, did that make me feel better than I've when I was just lying in bed? Okay, so what's the next thing? Okay, I'm out in nature. Could I walk to the mailbox and back? How did I feel promised? We're not connected to our bodies, right? We're just in our heads thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking that we're actually making progress on a problem, when in fact, we're not because we're just in our head. So it really is about getting into action. Because if you will do just the smallest action, and then ask yourself, Okay, did that feel better than before? I did it. It did. Okay, what's the next thing that I could do? And so once you realize what a few of those things are, that you build in a system, so the next time I wake up, and I just feel like, I cannot even get out of bed? What is the little thing I could do? Could I walk and go get a glass of water? It's not the big stuff. And that's, I think, what really screws us up. Because we're looking way out there and thinking there's no way in hell, well, you can change your life starting with a glass of water every morning, right? Because what you teach yourself is that you can actually depend on yourself. I think a lot of us were following everyone else's intention, instead of our own. That's all I do. I don't do one to one coaching, because I realized that the community is the most important aspect. If you're with a bunch of ADHD women, and you're looking at that woman and this woman, and that woman and that woman and that one, they're all brilliant. You're like, Okay, well, wait a minute, they're all brilliant, I'm here to, there must be something brilliant in me as well. And as we said, environment, right, its environment is so important. That's part of positive emotion. I always suspect, whenever someone comes to me, and they really feel truly, you know, they're not feeling good. That usually starts with positive emotion, and environment, they're in the wrong environment, whether that means relationships, whether that means career, whether that means friends,
Katy Weber 59:05
sure, their community, our
Tracy Otsuka 59:07
sole mission in life is to become figure out who we are, and then become more of that. And the more we do that, the better we feel, right? And it's little tiny baby steps. Pick one thing that you have intention around for you. I want to do this for myself, not because I want to make someone else happy. And then do that little thing, whatever that little thing is, and do it over a period of days, to prove to yourself that you're reliable, you can rely on yourself. And then the next week, something a little bit more. The whole point is that we start to think we're not reliable, we start to think we can't trust ourselves. We can. But on our own terms, we have brains of interest, right? Not brains of importance, just because you think it's important for me to do that. Not doing it. And so if we have haven't built an identity around whatever that intention is, I am the kind of person who gets up every morning and drinks a glass of water, right? Whatever. I mean, it sounds silly. But that's how you start to change your life. It's not the big things. It's becoming more reliable to you. Honestly, I would rather be around an ADHD woman than any person on the face of this planet. We are all brilliant. And I know you know that too. I've met 1000s of ADHD women at this point, even the ones that are curled up in a ball in their bed. They are brilliant at something, even if they don't quite know what that is. Yeah. So I went on a bid. Was that helpful?
Katy Weber 1:00:39
No, it was beautiful. It was beautiful. And it kind of reminded me of the part of Wizard of Oz, where it goes from black and white to color, right? It's just like this window opening. But yes, I think the one small step is such an important part of moving forward. So yeah, I couldn't have said it better. Beautiful. It reminded me that you have time for one more question. I've always wanted to know the the significance of the goldfish in the water glass is there what? What is that in reference to
Tracy Otsuka 1:01:11
you know how they say that a goldfish has a six second attention span? Ah, yes. Okay. Got it. Okay, well, that's bullshit. Their attention span is quite longer. So for me, it was more up. There's another falsity or falsehood that they're trying to sell you. Right.
Katy Weber 1:01:27
Got it. Okay. I love it. All right, I thought maybe it had something to do with expanding, you know, the bigger the glass, the bigger the bowl, the the goldfish will expand to meet its Vironment or something like that. But yeah, no, I
Tracy Otsuka 1:01:40
love it. Oh, yeah, that one, too.
Katy Weber 1:01:42
So speaking of attention, have you ever thought of what you would call ADHD? If you if if you were able to rename it anything? No. I don't have an answer. either. I asked everybody. But I still couldn't come up with an answer. I
Tracy Otsuka 1:01:59
am totally oppositional. So if everybody's doing that thing, I ain't there. That's just how. And it's kind of sometimes it's kind of sad, right? Because, like, and I don't know if you can relate to this part of me wants to be part of the group. And I will say, often people want me to be part of the group. But I'm always kind of if everybody else is doing it. I'm like, Nope, I want it originality is so important to me. And so I've seen those, right? And I'm like, I don't know. So I've never, I've never gotten farther than that. I honestly, okay, got all this stuff going on now with AI. And AI is going to change the world. And I think this is finally our time, because it is going to level the playing field when it comes to intellectual capabilities. But what are we not paying attention to? We're not paying attention to the emotional quotient, right? EQ. And I don't know if that's what EQ stands for, but emotional intelligence. And I think that is what many ADHD women have in spades. It's that intuition. It's that empathy. It's the kindness. It's the Justice sensitivity. So I think our time is here. And so I am so excited. I wouldn't choose another brain for all the whatever in whatever they say.
Katy Weber 1:03:26
Well, it's been an absolute pleasure to be able to talk with you, Tracy, and I couldn't be happier for you for the book. I'm so excited to have it out there. I hope. I hope clinician start handing it out with diagnoses, honestly, because it's
Tracy Otsuka 1:03:40
telling me they will Yeah.
Katy Weber 1:03:43
I just think it's so psychoeducation is is so important. What you know, especially at that moment of diagnosis, so your podcast has helped so many of us, and I can't wait to see what what comes next from your amazing brilliant brain. So So thank you, Tracy, and all the best for 2024.
Tracy Otsuka 1:04:04
Can I give the link? Oh, of course. Yes. ADHD for smart women.com forward slash book. I will
Katy Weber 1:04:13
have a link to the book and the audiobook too in the show notes. So thank you again, it's been an absolute pleasure.
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 stopped lazy or crazy or broken, but she has ADHD and she's now on the path to understanding her neurodivergent mind and finally using this gift to her advantage. Take care till then