Signs of ADHD can pop up for kids — and adults — in unexpected, emotional, and even funny ways. But sometimes there’s a single moment when a person realizes that they or someone they know has ADHD.
In this bonus episode, host Amanda Morin talks with Laura Key, host of ADHD Aha!, a new podcast from the Understood Podcast Network. Listen in to get a sneak peek at Laura's emotional story. Hear when it finally clicked for Laura that her ADHD was real — and why she thinks it’s important for others to share their aha moment stories.
Subscribe to ADHD Aha! to hear these stories, including Laura’s full story.
Amanda: Hi. I'm Amanda Morin. I'm the director of thought leadership for Understood.org and a parent to kids who learn differently.
Gretchen: I'm Gretchen Vierstra, a former classroom teacher and an editor here at Understood. And this is "In It."
Amanda: It is a podcast from the Understood Podcast Network. On this show, we talk to parents, caregivers, teachers, experts, and sometimes even kids. We offer perspectives, stories, and advice for, from, and by people who have challenges with reading, math, focus, and other types of learning differences.
Gretchen: And today we're doing something a little bit different.
Amanda: "In It" has been around for a few seasons now. And if you're new to the show, well, go back and listen to the previous episodes, because there's so much good stuff there. Now, though, "In It" is a part of a whole Understood Podcast Network. And we thought it could be fun to do a bonus episode where I share the mic with our colleague Laura Key, who also hosts one of our podcasts.
Gretchen: Yup. It's called "ADHD Aha." She'll be talking to all kinds of people about their "aha" moments — that single moment when it finally clicked that they, or someone they know, has ADHD. So what did you talk to Laura about, Amanda?
Amanda: So here's the thing. Laura and I have worked together at Understood for a really long time. But it was years into that until she shared with me that she has ADHD. And it was something she didn't learn about herself until she was an adult. So I wanted to know more about that, about her "aha" moment or moments, and what she did with that new knowledge.
Gretchen: Let's listen.
Laura: So why don't you go ahead and take it away, Amanda? I'm ready. And I'm not going to lie — I'm a little bit nervous. Because this is not a story that I have shared very often in my adult life.
Amanda: Well, I mean, if you think about it, it's amazing. We've worked together for almost, what, a decade now. And I only found out about two years ago, literally when we started working on "In It" together, that you have ADHD.
And it was really surprising to me that you were so private about it for such a long time. I mean, I noticed that you were a tremendously organized person. And I just thought that was your personality. But it sounds like you were working hard at that. Why did you not tell us sooner?
Laura: Yes, you're right that I was working very hard at that. It was very new to me when we started working together. I got diagnosed when I was 30, and this was coming off of an anxiety diagnosis. So after having gotten diagnosed with anxiety, the other kinds of things that I was struggling with started to become clearer. I remember I had finally gotten my anxiety under control, and I remember my psychiatrist starting to notice new things in my behavior, things that were a little bit sharper, a little bit crisper, I think, to both of us.
And he started asking me all these questions. And I didn't know where he was going with it. And eventually he looked at me and he said, "You know, Laura, I think that you have ADHD." And I thought, no, that can't be true. And he said, "You know what, let's do an evaluation, nonetheless." So I got the evaluation. It turns out I had ADHD. I got a second opinion from another psychiatrist who also told me I had ADHD.
Amanda: Wait, I want to know about that. What I really wanted to know is why you got a second opinion. What was it about the first diagnosis of ADHD that made you think, no, I want to hear this again or get a second opinion about it?
Laura: I just felt like if I tried harder that it would go away. And I work at Understood. I worked at Understood at that time and, you know, looking back, I can't believe that I was carrying some of the same stigma about myself and the same myths that other people with ADHD have, despite having worked there. That just goes to show how strong those myths and that stigma can be and how deep they run. I was still stuck on the, you know, it's just little boys with hyperactivity who have ADHD. ADHD and women weren't a huge part of the conversation at that time. And that was just a few years ago.
Amanda: ADHD in women looks really different. Can you tell me a little bit about what you thought ADHD looked like before you were diagnosed with it?
Laura: Yeah. I thought ADHD looked like something you could look at, right? Something noticeable, something very visible — hyperactivity, running around. Roughhousing, fidgeting, being overly restless. And it does look that way to some people, men and women, boys and girls. But that's not how it was surfacing for me.
Amanda: So say more about that. What did it look like for you?
Laura: For me, it was surfacing through constant distraction. So a tiny little noise across the room would send me spiraling. I would not be able to regain my focus. I couldn't keep my focus if something distracted me, and I couldn't get it back. I was having so much trouble getting organized and following through on tasks. And it's funny that you mentioned, Amanda, that working together, you thought that I was the most organized person. And I'm not surprised that you thought that because I worked my butt off to make it seem that way. I used to do this thing where I would give myself fake deadlines in order to get something done on time. So if I had a presentation that was due on a Friday, I would tell myself that it was due on Wednesday. And I would actually make myself believe that was true, to the point that Wednesday would come around and I'd say, why isn't anyone asking for this yet?
Amanda: You know, I work with Laura, so I seek what this looks like. Laura is the queen of calendaring things. I mean, to the point of working backwards from dates and knowing what happens at each stage and each step. It never would have occurred to me, Laura, that was hard for you. And, you know, I feel bad now. I feel bad now looking back at that and thinking how easy that seemed, right? I can't imagine what that was like for you. I can't imagine you carrying that and having everybody else think that you were so on top of it and feeling on the inside like you weren't.
Laura: I think I'm someone who will always be hard on myself, but not nearly to the degree that I used to be. And as a teenager, throughout my twenties, in my early thirties. Now, as I approached 40, I feel so much more empathy toward myself. I feel OK with asking for help or saying something like "Hey, I didn't actually catch everything you just said. Would you mind putting that in an email for me so I can go back to it later?"
Amanda: Well, and I can vouch for that. We schedule meetings with each other, and you've gotten so much better over the years about saying to me, "After 3 p.m., I just, I can't focus on this. I can't have this conversation." And I really respect that about you. I don't know that I've ever said that to you, but I really respect the fact that you're willing to speak up for yourself and say, "This is not the best time if you want to have a great conversation with me." And I guess I never made the connection that's what you're doing is you're accommodating for what you need. And speaking up for it. That's hard. It's hard to do. Do you find that people are willing to hear you say that?
Laura: I mean, absolutely here at Understood that we work in a place where these challenges are understood and embraced and accepted. And that's one of the things that I love about working here and with you, Amanda. Um, wait, can you repeat the question? I forgot what it was.
Amanda: Oh my gosh. This is like perfect. Too perfect.
Laura: I lost it. I couldn't hold it in my working memory.
Amanda: OK, so Laura has just given us a perfect example of ADHD. Um, say 10 years from now, you're in a different workplace. What would you do now, knowing that you have ADHD, that you wouldn't have done in your twenties?
Laura: Well, I'll tell you what I hope I would do. I hope that I would disclose my ADHD from the get-go, not as something that I'm ashamed of, but as something that is part of what makes me unique, is also part of what makes me good at what I do, and is also going to cause some struggles here and there that I'm going to accommodate for. I would hope that for anyone, that they would feel comfortable doing that. And especially women, women with ADHD, I think — I'm clearly generalizing here. I'm a sample of one. But I think that we, we work really hard to hide our quote-unquote imperfection and the things that we struggle with. Because we want to, you know, I almost said we want to be in the room where it happens.
Amanda: I want to go back to something you said about private, though. Because the last time we had a conversation about this, and that was a couple of years ago, you hadn't talked to many people outside of just the few friends and, and your immediate family. Has that changed?
Laura: Yes, it has. I'm actually excited about that. I have had so many encounters with people in a further orbit of friendship, not my closest friends, but friends of friends or people I meet at a restaurant — outdoors or masked now, of course. People who I meet, who it's like, there's something that draws us to each other. They will tell me about an experience that they have with their child, struggling with ADHD, not even knowing what I do for a living. And I say, you know what? I have ADHD. I understand. And they look at me with this look of relief. Like, oh my gosh, she gets it. She's not judging me. That's fantastic. And it feels so good.
I want people to hear other people's stories — hear about those tipping points, those "aha" moments that other people had and realize that yeah, that moment was way different than mine, but I get it. I've had that tipping point too. And feel that community reduce some of that internal stigma or that "not being allowed to be different"-ness, or "not being allowed to be imperfect"-ness.
Amanda: Well, and from my perspective, that's part of being in it, right?
Amanda: You're talking about the ADHD "aha" moments. And that's what it's like to be in it, is when you're hearing other people talk about their experiences and whether it's exactly the same as yours or not, you can relate to it and you feel like you're not alone.
Gretchen: That was a powerful conversation to listen to, Amanda.
Amanda: It was meaningful to have. And there's more of our conversation, which you can hear on Laura's podcast, "ADHD Aha," which premiers on September 28th, wherever you get your podcasts. And she'll be having a lot of other great conversations there too.
Gretchen: Yeah, she will. In fact, I got to listen to one, and I'm still thinking about it, especially as a mother. She talks to a single mom who was overwhelmed by her daughter's behavior as a child. She didn't really understand what was going on until somebody asked her, "Does your daughter have ADHD?"
Amanda: Oh, I can't wait to hear that one. You've been listening to "In It," part of the Understood Podcast Network.
Gretchen: You can listen and subscribe to "In It" wherever you get your podcasts.
Amanda: And if you like what you heard today, please tell somebody about it.
Gretchen: Share it with the parents you know.
Amanda: Share it with somebody else who might have a child who learns differently.
Gretchen: Or just send a link to your child's teacher.
Amanda: "In It" is for you. So we want to make sure that you're getting what you need.
Gretchen: Go to u.org/init to share your thoughts and also to find resources from every episode.
Amanda: That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G, slash in it.
Gretchen: As a nonprofit and social impact organization, Understood relies on the help of listeners like you to create podcasts like this one to reach and support more people in more places. We have an ambitious mission to shape the world for difference. And we welcome you to join us in achieving our goals. Learn more at understood.org/mission.
Amanda: "In It" is produced by Julie Subrin. Justin Wright mixes the show. Mike Errico wrote our theme music. Laura Key is our editorial director at Understood. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are production directors. Thanks for listening, everyone. And thanks for always being in it with us.
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Gretchen Vierstra, MA
is the managing editor at Understood and co-host of the In It podcast. She’s a former educator with experience teaching and designing programs in schools, organizations, and online learning spaces.
is co-host of the In It podcast and the parent of two kids with ADHD. She has a background in writing and editing content for kids and parents.