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Not lazy, but exhausted from analysis paralysis (Emily’s story)

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ADHD coach Emily Weinberg is no stranger to analysis paralysis. Before she was diagnosed, she thought she was just lazy, and that she couldn’t have ADHD since she wasn’t hyperactive. But whenever she was being “unproductive,” she was actually just frozen. She was stuck thinking about the list of things to do mounting in her head.

When she first spoke to a psychiatrist about ADHD, Emily was told that “she just seemed like an anxious mom with young kids.” So her ADHD was missed, which happens for so many women. Since then, Emily has worked hard to understand herself better, and now she empowers others to do the same.

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Episode transcript

Emily: What looks like somebody just like, sitting relaxed, not wanting to do anything. You know, watching a show, looking at their phone, is actually describing analysis paralysis. And I just felt like I was in that every day. You are just sitting there screaming at yourself to get up and do something. And as the time ticks by, you're like, "Great, now you have five less minutes to do this thing. Now, what's the point?" 

Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood, and as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.

I'm here today with Emily Weinberg. Emily is a listener who wrote in, who says that she's been listening since we started the show. So grateful for that. Emily is also an ADHD coach who is located outside of Boston. You can find her at Emily, thank you so much for being here today. 

Emily: Thanks for having me. 

Laura: Emily and I are laughing because the fire alarm just went off. Did you hear it? As soon as I introduced you. 

Emily: This is amazing. 

Laura: It's part of it now. OK, I don't think I need to evacuate the building, but, you know, if you see smoke behind me, please let me know. And I'll go running out. Oh, if only this were a video episode so everyone could see the flashing lights. 

Emily: It looks like a laser beam. Like one of those, school photos where you had, like, the lasers behind you. 

Laura: Oh, my gosh, I know exactly what you mean. And that's not a big deal. You know, we're not people who get distracted at all. It's just an interview about ADHD. 

Emily: Totally tune that out. 

Laura: Well, thank you for being at the circus with me today, Emily. I'm excited to chat with you. Thank you for being a listener for so long. I really appreciate it. 

Emily: Yeah. Of course. I mean, thank you for putting out such good content. 

Laura: My pleasure. OK, we're going to talk about your diagnosis. We're going to get to that. But I want to start with a biggie if that's all right with you. When we chatted last, you told me you used to describe yourself as a lazy person. Could you just unpack that? Why did you think you were a lazy person? 

Emily: I was not a driven-by-a-motor brand of ADHD. I honestly feel like I never had an abundance of energy. I could nap whenever given the option of napping, and I mostly just didn't feel super driven to do a million things. Unless — you know, I know in high school, like when I was playing sports — yeah, of course I'd go to practice afterwards. 

And you know, in those months when I played sports, I would be doing, doing, doing. And then in the in-between, I just didn't do much. And as an adult, it's like any time I could just sit and "relax," I would.

The term lazy — I really hate it so much now — but it did just kind of feel like laziness, like I don't really feel like doing much. And obviously what I know now, it's that I did have a bunch of things I probably wanted to do and still want to do, but sometimes that feels overwhelming when there's so many different options and you're not quite sure what to do. 

And also, I really was tired often, you know. And I credit that to just like mental exhaustion of like a really fast-moving brain and making choices and decisions all day and trying to plan ahead and not really being able to see ahead. And just, you know, everything that happens within the brain of somebody with ADHD. I was exhausted all the time. I didn't feel like I had a great reason to be exhausted at times, because it's not like I had been out training for a marathon or running all over the place or whatever, but I was just often tired. 

Laura: Yeah. And just listeners — you need to hear this — Emily is not a lazy person. And I hope you hear that Emily knows that she's not as lazy person, right? 

Emily: Right, right. 

Laura: I wanted to start there because it's just such a stark contrast with how we usually perceive people with ADHD. Tell me more about the exhaustion in your brain and how that kind of transferred to the body. 

Emily: It's like, I can't even tell you. "Oh, I remember in high school just having like a million thoughts a moment and my brain was constantly racing." It's more now like of — in hindsight, this is now what I know about ADHD, it makes a lot of sense — that if my brain was just always on and thinking and processing and try to figure things out, it makes a lot of sense then that that would be completely and totally exhausting. 

I know as an adult now, one of the things that really exhausts me the most is just like decision-making. I used to be a teacher. I mean, you make 4 million choices every day as a teacher. So, teaching is exhausting, period. No other explanation. But man, I just came home and it was like, I can't tell you what I want for dinner. I can't tell you which show I want to watch. I could barely walk my dog and like, think about what route I wanted to walk him on it. It's just. 

Laura: So, you're talking really about analysis paralysis, but not in your more formal areas of life. Not in work life, sounds like. But when you get home and it's just you and you may have an option for, there's not something you have to do. Now you have a different kind of choice to make. 

Emily: Yeah. And I have never felt that part, the analysis paralysis, so strongly as in when I had my kids. Their nap times were like torture for me. Because I think every single nap time they had, I immediately went into that analysis paralysis. Exhausted. Can't do anything. Didn't do anything. Just like spin cycle. It's like they'd go to nap when they're really little. You have no idea how much time you're going to have. 

So, that's like your first challenge, right? Do I have 20 minutes? Do I have 40 minutes? You're exhausted. You just want to sit down for a minute. But sitting down for a minute for me meant sitting down for the remainder. But not relaxing. Not taking an intentional "I'm tired. I need to do nothing while they nap. 

So, I'm sitting here on the couch." It was not an intentional decision. It was, "I would like to sit down for five minutes and then do something." But the five minutes of "rest" turns into, "Are they going to wake up in 20 minutes? Do I have two hours? Do I have laundry to do? Should I do the dishes? Should I organize stuff?" And then I get so exhausted in those five minutes and then I'm like, "Well, now I only maybe have 15 minutes." And it was such a cycle. 

Laura: That happens to me a lot, too. It's so emotional as well. I will, when I'm transitioning from anything work or parenting-related to none of the above. It's like "I'm just going to take five minutes. I just need five minutes." It's always 30 minutes, at least. 

Emily: At least. 

Laura: Yeah, yeah. I'm not doing anything productive and that's not really the point. But then I'm mad that I'm not doing anything productive. Like that's this shame spiral. 

Emily: You know, I'd love to sit here and say, "But I'm over it. I figured out how to." Yeah, it still happens. I'm a little bit more aware of what's happening. You know, I have tools now that I can, like, snap myself out when needed or give myself some compassion and understanding when needed. But at the time, right, you are just sitting there screaming at yourself to get up and do something. And as the time ticks by, you're like, "Great, now you have five less minutes to do this thing. Now what's the point?" 

I think another piece of it, too, is the idea behind like, starting and finishing tasks. I know — now I really know about myself — I really, really cannot stand starting things that I'm not going to be able to finish, because I know pulling myself out of the task when it's not quite done is just so painful. So, there's this piece of it where you're like, stuck in analysis paralysis, and then the time starts ticking by and now it becomes, "Well, even if I could get myself to start now, I'm not gonna be able to finish. So, what's the point?" 

It's the exhaustion of trying to get yourself to do something, doing the mental math of how long that's going to take, trying to figure out what is the thing that mental exhaustion and then the afterwards mental exhaustion of just like beating yourself up so much and shaming yourself for not being "productive" with this time. It's brutal. 

Laura: It's brutal. An example I give to other folks who don't have this brain is, "You know, that feeling when you know you have to wake up really early and then you can't fall asleep because you keep thinking about the time, like the lost sleep cycles, every passing minute? It's like living in that loop." 

Emily: Like all day, every day. 

Laura: What did this look like as a kid? 

Emily: You know, I very distinctly remember, you know, you heard the garage door open and like, a parent was home and you hopped off the couch, right? Like, "They can't know I've just been sitting on the couch all day." 

Laura: I still do that today. When I hear my husband coming home with the kids and, like, I get up and I'm conveniently unloading the dishwasher as they're walking in the door. Giving the appearance. 

Emily: Same. And sometimes I can catch it and like, stop myself. I'm like, "Oh! I don't need to be being productive right now." But whatever happens in your body when you hear the garage, it's like an instinct where you're like, "Ooh, I gotta be finding something to do." So, there was a little bit of like, "I should be doing more because I'm just kind of being like, lazybones, you know, just lounging." 

Laura: Can you recall ever getting in trouble for being a "lazybones?" 

Emily: No. I mean, I think I just distinctly remember feeling like everyone thought I was just like a lazy bum. My sister, who now has also been diagnosed with ADHD — which is interesting because we are polar opposites — my sister is more driven than me. She was very go, go, go. She was like involved in all the clubs and great grades and she was like a fitness instructor. And I feel like I was like a bum hanging out. I don't think I got in trouble. 

I think I got questions sometimes like, "How long have you been, playing that game on the computer?" Or like, "How long have you been sitting on the couch? Or like, "What are you going to do today?" I was a really good kid. I did not cause any problems. I did not get in trouble. I did fine in school. I didn't break rules. You know, if the worst thing I was doing was, like, coming home and just, like, vegging on the couch, nobody was like, "You're not doing anything with your life." 

And that really, honestly might have been their perception of like, they really didn't care because they knew that I was busy at other times. That to me, it always just felt like, "I don't know to do. So here I am." 

Laura: I have this random image in my mind and it's TMI. But just like, go with me for a minute. I remember right after having each of my kids and I was pumping a lot. I didn't physically like it, but I liked it because I could pump and I could just play games on my phone and I didn't have to — again, "have to" — feel guilty because I was doing something productive with my body while just letting my mind wither away. 

Again, nothing wrong with just chilling out and like playing on your phone in between like tougher moments in the day, whatever. It was just this, like, I felt guilty about it and I needed to be doing that act of pumping to not feel guilty about it. 

Emily: It was like the one time you really gave yourself permission to just zone out. 

Laura: Totally. 

Emily: And in hindsight, I should have applied that to my pumping sessions because... 

Laura: My husband was like, "You are very prolific. You are making a lot of milk."

Emily: So good, right? I mean, and isn't it so funny though, that like, I was giving myself permission to just do nothing, and it's like, because you're actually not doing nothing. Like, "Oh my God. You're body is creating food for your child." But it seems like it has to be that level to just have the permission to sit and play on your phone, when like, you should have the permission any day, at any hour, whenever you want to give it to yourself. But that's hard. That's a hard place to get to. 

Laura: So, you got diagnosed in 2021. What was happening in your life like, at that precise moment? If you can remember. 

Emily: I think it was just a whole bunch of things. One of my best friends — who we are very, very similar to each other. People joke like we have the same brain — she had been diagnosed with ADHD. So she had been talking to me a little bit about it. Like twins. Like we're the same person, really need to look into it. My main hold-up at that time was this "I can't have ADHD. I'm not hyperactive, I'm just like, disorganized and a 'hot mess' and like spacey, whatever."

So, my sister's son was in first grade, and he was, you know, having some problems with like, his folder was always disorganized, and his handwriting. And they were trying to, like give him some support. And they said he has some executive functioning deficits — which I am embarrassed to admit, I was a teacher and I honestly had not really heard of executive functions — and so, I kind of looked into it, and that's when I was like, "This is what I have. This describes me." 

Like, organization, planning, time management, you know, self-motivation, emotional regulation, all that. I was like, "This is what I have. I don't have the hyperactive piece." And then looking into that further and realizing, "Oh, that is ADHD inattentive type." And then I saw the Dani Donovan graphic of somebody sitting on a couch looking like they're just lounging, looking at their phone or watching TV. And it said on the top, like "What it looks like to the outside world." 

And then the bubble below was the same graphic with all the things in the whole thought bubble. Yeah. And what looks like somebody just like sitting, relaxing, not wanting to do anything, watching a show, looking at their phone is actually describing the analysis paralysis. And I just felt like I was in that every day. 

Laura: Dani Donovan, friend of the pod. She's phenomenal. 

Emily: I really thank her for those comments because it was so perfectly portraying my experience. That just catapulted me into going down the rabbit hole. 

Laura: Yeah. So, your kids right now. You have two kids who are the same age. They are five. 

Emily: They just turned five. Yeah. We just had their birthday party yesterday, so I'm surprised I'm still standing. Actually, it was fine. That was dramatic. It was fine. It was a bit overwhelming, but it was fine. 

Laura: You and your wife carried your kids at the same time. Is that right? 

Emily: Yeah. You know, without going into too much detail. Fertility issues played a part of it. And I'll just say we were kind of hedging our bets. I guess that's how you want to put it, like just hoping for a good outcome. And we just happened to get two good outcomes very unexpectedly. Did not think that that was going to be what happened. And yeah, so they were born a week apart. We have a boy and a girl and now they're five. 

Laura: So, in 2021 your kids were three. How big of a factor did being a new mom play into this. Because you were managing before, and then you became a parent to two, not one, but two children. 

Emily: That made it really hard to try to claim that I had ADHD, because the mom kind of dialogue out there is like, "Motherhood is so hard, everyone's struggling. Everyone you know is having a hard time staying organized. All moms are running late." It's this... 

Laura: Happy comic. 

Emily: Yeah, it's just like being a mom isn't easy. That's kind of what it comes down to. So, it was hard to kind of be like, "I think this is harder for me because of ADHD. Like, I don't think I'm experiencing the same kind of hard as like baseline-mom hard." And the first psychiatrist who I spoke to, basically did tell me that I was an overwhelmed mom with young kids. 

And that basically, that's actually the words that she said to me, "You're anxious. You just seem like you're an anxious mom with young kids." That was it. So, it was like, what you already are worried it is. Like it's this hard for everyone, but everyone else is just managing it better. A psychiatrist now said that to me, "This is just anxiety. Everyone is experiencing this." And this was after months of me researching and knowing it was ADHD and really just wanting it to be confirmed so I could know I wasn't completely crazy. 

Laura: You were told to basically just like toughen up. 

Emily: By the time I had that evaluation, I had already joined a coaching program. Super thankfully, because I knew that that was a possibility. I had kind of been prepared that some psychiatrists do not know enough about ADHD and how it presents in women, and chalk it up to anxiety and depression, and it's unfortunate. So, I kind of knew that that was a possibility going in. I very naively thought that that would not be the case, but it was. 

And then I had like, a support network for when that happened to kind of tell me, like "Get another opinion, go to someone else. That person doesn't know what she's talking about." Because this was also a person she basically just had said, like, "You sound like you're, you know, pretty successful and you graduated college. And this just sounds like anxiety," but she had not asked me any questions about, like, how school had been for me or how my work life was. 

There was no curiosity around where the anxiety was stemming from, which is really where she missed the point. And I try to be really vocal about that, because it just that is what happens to so many women, is that they really are just told it's anxiety. 

Laura: So, you left your teaching career and have become an ADHD coach. Did I say that right? or yeah, I saw your face... 

Emily: Yeah, well, I left teaching when I had the kids. I went on maternity leave and then I took an extended maternity leave. And then I realized "There is no way I can go back to teaching." That was the other thing. Like, I know that there are so many teachers who are also moms. I could not wrap my head around how much I was struggling with momhood. 

How much I struggled as a teacher doing those things independently and then doing both of them. I was like, "There's actually no way." And again, this is undiagnosed, untreated, unmedicated un-anything. Would I want to do it now? No. Do I have tools that I could probably make it work now? Probably, but I don't want to. 

Anyway so, I had been home. I joined a coaching program. I spent a long time learning — and, you know, about a year and a half of that — just like trying to understand more about myself. Trying to learn more about myself, trying to accept how I am and that I'm not just, like inherently flawed and lazy and forgetful and inconsiderate and all the words that we have gathered and put into our own little narrative about ourselves. 

So, I kind of spent a really long time trying to relearn myself, and I still am. I still very much am. Like I said, I pop up when I hear the garage and I spend time playing on my phone instead of moving on to the next thing on my agenda. And I get into analysis paralysis sometimes, and I still do all the things, but I really have learned how to kind of like, be a little bit more in control of a lot of that stuff and how to support myself. 

Laura: And others. 

Emily: And that's what really — it really just dawned on me one day like, "This is what I want to do now." All I want to do is help other people who are struggling, understand themselves more, and feel like they can shift into a life that they feel like they have a little bit more control of, you know, more intention. They're doing what they actually want to do and not just what they're like feeling shamed into doing or should do. They're not just sitting around beating themselves up all the time. Yeah. It's just like, "Well, that's actually what I have to be doing." 

Laura: Do you take clients outside of Boston? Do you work remotely? 

Emily: Yeah. I mean, I see clients over Zoom. So, I have a client in Germany. I used to see someone in Australia — but that time zone is very difficult — but we made it work. 

Laura: I just mentioned because you have your website and I know you are in the Boston area, but want to give a little plug for folks who may be looking for a coach. 

Emily: Yes, I could totally see people all over. I am taking clients. Yeah. 

Laura: Emily, I'm grateful that you came on today. Emily, I'm really grateful that you have been listening to the show for so long. It's really validating to me, too, because it's hard to get organized sometimes to do something like this. So, here we are. Just similar with you with your coaching. Yeah. 

Emily: No, I have loved this show so much. I love the like, diverse experience. It's not just like the same story every time. It's like, they're all so different. Yet you can just understand everybody's experience so well. There's like it's like a universal language and then like all these different, like dialects. So, I've loved it. 

Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. 

Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently, discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine! 

Jessamine: Hi everyone. 

Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening.


  • Laura Key

    is executive director of editorial at Understood and host of the “ADHD Aha!” podcast.

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