Culture encourages girls and women to exhibit both traditional “feminine” qualities, such as being empathic, good with relationships, nice, obedient, good mothers, and home-organizers, as well as traditional “masculine” qualities, such as being assertive, competitive, academically driven, and career-focused. However, when girls display disruptive, hyperactive, impulsive, or disorganized behavior, they are at risk of harsher social judgment compared to their male counterparts because they violate the feminine societal norms. For starters, ADHD and resulting Executive Dysfunction in girls and women can turn their lives upside down and in an attempt to avoid social sanctions, many of them spend excessive amounts of energy trying to hide their challenges, which in turn go unnoticed and hence untreated.
On this episode, psychotherapist, consultant and author, Sari Solden, discusses why girls and women with ADHD get diagnosed much later than a typical child with ADHD and how best to help alleviate their personal shame and struggles with the unrelenting societal pressure of needing to “prove it to the world” that they are worthy to be given opportunities. An essential component of improving Executive Function skills is building self-knowledge and constructing a personal narrative of a wholesome self that recognizes the common humanity in all of our experiences. Instead of framing self-work or self-change as “fixing something that is broken”, the best therapeutic way to empower girls and women with ADHD is to help them invest in their own future-self.
About Sari Solden, MS
Sari Solden, M.S, is a psychotherapist who has counseled adults with ADHD for over 30 years. She is the author of the books, Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, Journeys Through ADDulthood, and co-author of A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD. Her areas of specialization include women's issues, inattentive ADHD, and the emotional consequences and healing process for adults who grew up with undiagnosed ADHD. She is a prominent keynote speaker on these subjects nationally and internationally. Ms. Solden currently consults with neurodiverse women mental health and helping professionals, as well as trains therapists in how to help women with ADHD. She serves on the professional advisory board of ADDA and was the recipient of their award for outstanding service by a helping professional.
You can contact Sari at Sari@SariSolden.com
Support the show
About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.
Sucheta Kamath: Welcome back to Full PreFrontal exposing the mysteries of executive function. I'm your host Sucheta Kamath. And thank you for joining once again, to take a deep dive into the topic of executive function. Today, we are going to take a very special look at an anomaly that 50% of the people on this earth might be interested in, which is women and their cognition. And particularly women with ADHD. I want to kind of share a story for one of my clients who came to me at age 45. And she knew me because our children went to same school, and she had her sister in law, and I were good friends. And so she wanted to reach out to me privately and say, Hey, would you consider taking me as a client? And I said, Sure. And we started, you know, had a consult. And it was very interesting, because she was very confused. And she was extremely smart, highly, you know, highly well put together, extremely anxious, because she was very well put together looking. She had achieved a really a significant success in her personal career. And however, she was spending 10 hours more in a day than average person. And she was doing all that at a cost of relationships with her family, and relationship with her colleagues. So in order to I won't disclose what her profession was, but she was the consultant trying to solve very big problems. She was the only woman in this, it was in finance field. So she was an outlier right there. So she had to compete and for to be accepted for being highly capable. And then turns out I said, Have you ever been diagnosed with ADHD? And she said, No, nobody ever said she had had ADHD. So that was my first I was the first person telling her she might have an ADHD but because she said, Well, I've never been hyperactive, I don't have problems concentrating. And then, of course, so that's a just to introduce an idea that when we as women, I'm going to include myself in this cohort, because we are competing in spaces where we may not have had a chance to be and what goes into demonstrate you what goes into demonstrating your competence, you're the gratefulness for being included in the circle may come at a big cost. But then if you have undiagnosed ADHD, or an anomaly, which inherently makes it difficult to make things flow seamlessly, it can be even more burden. So with that backdrop, I am going to introduce you to an amazing clinician psychotherapist, and a brilliant of mind Sari Solden. She has counseled adults with ADHD over past 30 years. She is also a very accomplished author, and kudos, because you will know a little bit more about her that she has written so many books in spite of what it goes into writing if you have ADHD. So she has written several books, including one of my favorite, which is Women With Attention Deficit Disorder. Another one that she has just recently published, which is called A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD. And this particular book is of great interest to me because of the radical acceptance concept that I'm very much familiar with. Because of my own background in mindfulness meditation. She is a prominent keynote speaker on these topics nationally and internationally. She currently consults with neurodiverse women, and she'll talk a lot about why we should really talk about neurodiversity rather than box people into one type of diagnosis because it takes a very medical model. And lastly, I will say that she serves on professional advisory boards of ADBA and was recipient of their award for Outstanding Service by a Helping Professional. Congratulations and welcome to the podcast. How are you today?
Sari Solden: Oh, it's wonderful to be with you. You summed it up so beautifully. And I you know, would love to comment as you just described my clients for the last 30 years, that woman you know, it just encapsulated the price and the cost and the struggle and the difficulty and the invisibility to other people of that of that struggle. Imagine having 10 hours extra a day just to present well how to get through your day with no one even knowing it when you're successful on the outside, I've had so many clients like that. And, you know, as a therapist, I'm grateful to be able to take that journey with these women men too, but lately more on the women's side to to help them see themselves fully and as whole people. And that's really my focus. I know you share that frame of mind, too.
Sucheta Kamath: Absolutely. So let's begin, since the spark podcast is all about executive function, which entails adaptive flexibility, goal directed persistence, intensely monitoring, or regulating focus so that we do what you're supposed to do, and not get distracted by shiny objects. I'm just curious if you could share a little bit about your own journey as a learner and a thinker when you were a kid? What kind of student were you? And did you know you had ADHD when you began your journey?
Sari Solden: No, nobody ever heard of that before? I don't even think they heard of it in boys. And I mean, nobody talks about ADHD, I'm very much older than, than that, you know, it was just like, Okay, you're, you're smart, or dumb, basically, or you're organized, you're not organized and reviewing this question for you, you know, I could just go on for the whole hour about it, because it was quite a review, thinking back, I had no idea. And when you're a client with ADHD, that's, that's the problem for women, they have no idea. So it's not just the difficulty. It's this mystery, like, what is wrong with me? What's going on here? And I have diaries and diaries of this thing, asking myself into my 30s. You know, what, what's wrong? Do I have a brain tumor? Or do I have a learning disability? Am I selfish, stupid, dumb, I mean, I had no idea how I could be, you know, educated and successful and smart and, and struggling with just the basics, you know. And so I reviewed it, and I'll just share a few things, I guess, you know, but I compensated right from the beginning. And I see that's what a lot of smart women do. And girls, they compensate, which is great, except that it makes it harder and harder for anybody to understand what they're going through. And while they're internalizing it, you know, it's very shy and quiet. But Oh.
Sucheta Kamath: So before you explain that further, I have a question. So you know what's so interesting, because I really hope you can help the audience listeners understand the distinction between a struggle that is knit that is the nature of living a complex life versus struggle that's very unique to ADHD. So, and second, I think, particularly these contradictory labels, you know, Am I smart and stupid at the same time, because I can't figure out how to find my keys, where I kept them, but I can actually solve a, you know, write a thesis in physics, you know.
Sari Solden: Right, right. Well, exactly. It's topsy turvy, I always tell my clients, you know, it's upside down. So what you might think of is easy writing, you know, these great ideas or getting a, you know, a degree where you can't figure out how to sort to recycle, or how to clean up the kitchen, no one's gonna believe you, you know, how do I do this? How do I you know, how do I entertain? How do I do all these basic things that other people find very easy, you know, like, filing or, you know, writing a list to do lists of women with ADHD, just, you know, amazed that someone else could do those kinds of things. And so it's topsy turvy, you can do things that other people can't do and vice versa. So yeah, so I think a lot of days, they want to talk about, oh, you know, everybody struggles in this kind of fast paced world. And it's not what ADHD is about. And it's so hard, I'm so glad you're focusing on executive functioning, because that's what I talked about. I don't like to call it you know, ADHD now, because it's so meaningless. For women, it's so stereotypical, and it keeps women from understanding it. But the problems with executive function that are, you know, so counter to what women consider their roles, even in this day and age, what they consider core to being a good mother, wife, friend, person that makes them feel so much shame, the executive function are so subtle, that it's almost impossible to let anybody know what you're struggling with. And executive function also makes it almost impossible for you to go out and figure out how to solve the problem. So people say, oh, well just do this. Just do that, you know, and Michelle, Frank and I, in the book, radical guide, we have a chapter called duh, why didn't I think of that? Like, of course, there's a million solutions, but the executive function is so overwhelming you that so much is coming in and twisting around and you know, people say it's like herding sheep, you know, like in your brain, that you can't get to those things, even if you might think of things to do to help yourself. It's very hard without an outside person or someone helping support you to actually marshal all that stuff to move toward a goal. So it's, it's so hard for people to understand, especially in a smart educated person.
Sucheta Kamath: It's funny that you say that, you know, that Duh, Why did I think of that? This is I often have people send me pictures of their homes, or rooms, or just I asked people their logic and, and one time, or even look at their planners and I had a client and I said, Okay, show me how you make a to do list like how do you like how do you use your calendar like Google Calendar, right? She loves it. And she's showing it to me. And I just asked her. So she's literally typing everything. And I said, Do you know how to duplicate an appointment? Or do you know how to do repeat function, so it repeats itself? She didn't know that. She said, I thought you can only do it on your phone. But you can do it on and her logic, like there was no logic with her confusion about what the technical procedural detail that she was very embarrassed immediately, like, oh, maybe I'm supposed to know it, but I don't even know it. And I had to kind of say, well, systems are created, but they are not transparent. So it's okay to not know. But I think the fact that the way your mind is so curious, as with ADHD can be applied to investigating systems for self. And that's the gap I see with executive function. They're curious about the world, but they're not curious about themselves.
Sari Solden: Systems aren't made for people. And they're not made by ADHD people, they're not made for ADHD people
Sucheta Kamath: Because ADHD people cannot create systems.
Sari Solden: Unfortunately, you can't maintain them. So I mean, you could have a system and it could work well, this is the thing about to do lists. And believe me, if you saw my to do list or my calendars, you know, you would be amazed if you know, but I have compensated my whole life because of my, you know, my will, my memory, you know, as I'm getting older, you lose some of those compensations and becomes more difficult. But this to do this, you think it's a simple thing. But people with ADHD, you know, can't maintain a system for very long at all. I mean, I made great list two days ago, everything's the disaster already. Because and your smart, you create demand, I call it two E's, you know, twice exceptional people. So you're really smart. But you have this huge gap. And you have, you can't support the ideas that you're creating. So when you're in that situation, you know, you know, you're creating, you're creating great, but you can't you don't have the skill to keep up with it. And so there's a huge gap. And that's why a lot of women are men and women with ADHD are very demoralized because they can't manifest, you know, half of what they think can think of and conceptualize or, you know, create, it's very painted.
Sucheta Kamath: I really liked what you just said about the contradiction of gifts and weaknesses. They're literally juxtapose so you can never be sure who am I? Am I this? Or am I that? That'd be both? Yes, exactly.
Sari Solden: Twice exceptional learners and exactly with relationships. Even that happens. I was think I've told people, so you can who are you? Who are you meant to be with who is your cohort, you can't be with really smart people, they don't have the same problems you do. And they don't understand why you can't function on that lead then. So who you love with people who are not as smart as you and then you know, but you're smarter than them and you don't fit in there. So it's very hard. That's why the ADD world's been so great, because we all found a tribe of people who could finally keep up with us. And they understood us and they had that special kind of humor and insight. And, you know, at the Add conferences, it's hysterical. I wrote in my first book, what it was like the first ADD adult conference ever in '93. And it was the first time I'd ever been in a room with hundreds of adults, or any of them had ever been in a room with hundreds of adults for the first time and out of the closet, you know, they didn't have to pass for normal and so they let it all loose. And it was when they were interrupting and spilling and bumping into things and scratching and writing on their arm when they couldn't find paper you know.
Sucheta Kamath: Can I give you my example? When I was at one of the conferences and I'm so used to going to large conferences and Pin drop silence and people are presenting and there's like a very decorum and close I go in there and first of all, I was not sure the presentation was already over because people were not settled so I couldn't figure it out. And I said wait, but it's it's supposed to start so it had started but the half the room was standing like they had not sat down yet. And then never sat down.
Sari Solden: Oh, that's a nice thing about ADD conferences this world ADDA at the time because you know the presenters also most of the presenters many times also had ADHD so it wasn't the strict like oh above you know hierarchy. So yeah, we used to be like that but when ADDA and adults push their way in then everything got you know different but I'm going back to me when I was growing up I was I had stuff all around me my whole life that I couldn't organize and but I started compensating because instead of doing linear reports and outlines I started doing writing push shows and dramas and you know, I was compensating and using my creativity right along you know, but I was doing okay but till the seventh grade, I got a really mean teacher. And well, they actually corrected where I belong this twice exceptional thing. And they put me back in this accelerated group. And so I was just getting everything, this is a mess, this could have been done by a second grader see me blah, blah, blah. You know, even though I was smart, I started getting ashamed all the time in college, I, what you said reminded me of the kind of thing I did without knowing it, I would write, I went to hard school, and I did well, but I would, I would write the textbook like that out, highlight it, and I would, I would write it, and write it and write it and write it and write it. And then I would get the whole course down to basically five words that I could tell you the whole course, I was spent hundreds and hundreds of hours trying to internalize the material, I had the system, you know, talking about extra time, I my whole life was taken up trying to cope, you know, I couldn't couldn't if someone was the library going like that, or moving their chair around, I had to keep moving around to try to find some way I could study. And so it was very difficult. And I kept moving from one place to another after college to try to once I got too disorganized, I'd move around to different. I had leave, I'd move and I try this or that. But I kept creating my own innovative kind of programs. And I kept, you know, I kept using my skills. And you know, it was just, it was very difficult, you know, and it wasn't until I was, you know, close to 40 that I figured out like this was a thing, you know?
Sucheta Kamath: Well, I think your story just is so it's touching my heart I think number one is looking at the human potential in you like just brimming with potential. But it's like, and this is a cliche, of course, they you know, round peg in a square space. But I do think you know this, this can take a big toll on people like you maintain your zeal you plowed through. But I'm just curious, can we talk a little bit about why is it so difficult to live to have? Get this diagnosed in women? And why is it so hard to live with ADHD? For people who are going through it? Can you maybe shed a little bit more light from a larger perspective of people who are trying to do their best?
Sari Solden: Or why they don't get diagnosed first?
Sucheta Kamath: I lets talk about why do they not get diagnosed?
Sari Solden: Right? You know, and when I started out in early 90s, you mentioned that Hallowell, we all started out and he wrote the first book, and a couple of us wrote those first books. But before that, we had no idea that adults even had anything called ADHD. And then we understood that adults, oh, continue to have it, even though they lost their hyperactivity. But it wasn't until we understood that they, you'd never had to have hyperactivity, ADD, without hyperactivity, we called it that we understood then that women could have it too, but it was different. You know, so everybody was saying that in the early 90s, and I, and women have it too, but it's different. So I happen to be in a good situation, you know, just luckily, I came from a minority mental health, cross cultural, you know, orientation, not a medical. Just, it was just, that's why I think I've been successful, and again, and not pathologizing people who with these kinds of differences, but I just happen to, you know, to help one of my clients I happen to wind up in this program is in California, one of the only places in the country had in a counseling agency had a program for adults with learning disabilities. So it was within the context of studying the effect on your sense of self and self psychology, that I had this program for adults with learning disabilities. And because of that, I had to take a test. And I, for the first time I, I took this test, I was shocked, you know, that I had like, no memory, like everything. I had no short term memory, I couldn't do this test because I got a 16th percentile and like you had an identify, like, crazy robot, you know, faces and remember them without any context. And so I started to understand anyway, I was dealing with that was when we I was so I was working with women and men who were having great organizational problems in their life. But what I was understanding, I started tracking all these people and I saw that the women had so much more shame than the men who were having some of the same difficulties. The men had more assistance, they didn't figure it was core to them to be disorganized, but the women had such shame about it. That was the main difference. So it was not just the difficulty it was the way they thought about themselves a shame the avoidance, the pretending this is what I work with my clients about so the reason why women didn't get diagnosed then and even though it's much better now over these last 30 years, you know women never had that mostly don't match a stereotype of hyperactive acting out, you know, trouble making little boys so they weren't looking for them. That was those little boys. They got referred and kept getting, you know reinforcing the diagnosis. So little girls are much more used to internalizing their difficulties getting more anxious or depressed, maybe becoming perfectionistic. They often have support or structure at home. Or if they do that hides, it masks it. As they get older, sometimes they're self medicating. So at some point, it gets hard because puberty hormones kick in, often at these different stages, and they start to show their difficulties or they go to college, or at some point, they can't keep up with their, with their peers. And then by then they're depressed or anxious, and then they can get diagnosed with that. But often, that's secondary to a primary diagnosis of ADHD. So what's hard about it is like, who am I, you know, these women come in, and they've been working so hard, like you said, I had a client, who you remind me of, when he talked about I had a client who she was like, she was like, 65, or something she had spent the last 30 years spending 10 hours a day, cooking, cleaning, shopping, trying to put things away trying to figure out how to clean up how to, she was a gifted writer, and she didn't realize that till after all this and she stopped doing all that and she started writing, but you know, every little thing you do every minute of the day, you take your brain with you. So executive function means how do you spend every minute of your day, and it's chronic, it's not constant. So if you're in a decent situation, where you're not being bombarded, and you're focusing on something important to you, you can do well, if you're excited about it, but when you're out there with all the stuff coming in, like a lot of women are think they're the center of the household, or, or the workplace or the logistics, they talked about, you know, they're in charge and niceties of life, even now, you know, they care about relationships, but they can't keep up with them. So it's it hurts them that they can't be who they are, it hurts them that people don't know who they are, that they can't contribute who they are. And then in relationships, they either start to withdraw, because they feel so shameful, or in their intimate relationships, they don't have power in the relationship. You know, they think that having ADHD is like the worst thing in the world. And, and so they lose all their power. And here's a good story from my client. And a client like she's in her 40s This is such a telling moment, we have worked for so long together. And in her family, who was going to do the pots at the fact that she couldn't do the pots and pans was a big deal. Even though she had become you know, went back to school, she was really successful now, but she could not do those pots and pans. And it became like, for many years, it was like, okay, like, that means I'm a bad person, you know, I'm bad. I, you know, have to I don't have any power in the family. And now recently, after a lot of work many years of work she they're just pots and pans. Now, they're not like her, I mean, they're still arguing about pots and pans. But it's not about her anymore. So, you know, the goal for me as a therapist is like you stop defining yourself by the executive function, stop measuring yourself by your executive function difficulties.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, I think it's so interesting. There are some researchers who talk about this particularly I think you highlighted this wonderful or the rather, how complex it is, but the you know, there's so much there traditional feminine qualities, which is being empathic, you know, being good with relationships, being nice and obedient and good mothers and being home organizers, you know, these are all considered expected. And so the culture says if you don't demonstrate it, somehow you're lacking, but it's never viewed as is there a difficulty in demonstrating this because these are skills, these are not traits, these are not something you inhabit it like, you know, it's a and so that's one barrier. I think what you're just saying just occurred to me. And then the second thing is the flip side of that are you know, you need to be nurturing and kind and patient this is culture expects as being feminine. But then second, if you're disruptive, hyperactive, impulsive, disorganized, there's a lot of accusation or almost shaming that you are somehow less than and more male like which is like you almost are not worthy of respect or not worthy to be considered as exemplifying feminine beauty inner and outer so there's all these labels are made.
Sari Solden: I talk a lot about that and in my book, I talk about You messages where you get shamed but all the She messages I talked about me you hear like they're not saying it's you because you're hiding it you're like an invisible you know, like being in the closet with it. When you hear other women being talked about when you know you have the same difficulty. So how can she doesn't do this and she doesn't do that and you and you hear that and then you're more and more shamed. But it's amazing to me. I mean, I thought this was true 30 years ago, and I wrote about it. But now when I work with women in their 20s, who are having different lives, they're still in therapy, push come to shove, feel that same failure doesn't matter. Yes. Amazing, you know, so it's internalized very deeply. And it's a maybe even on social media, it's reinforced in a much more difficult way. It was all my life to with ads and media, but women really they've internalized it, and then they idealize it. And then they compare themselves to other people. And it's so funny as we age, my cohorts. Now, the other day, someone just said to me, Well, why can't I be the same kind of grandmother? As these other people I used to be about why a mother now, why is it so easy for other people just to take care of their kids their grandchild for eight hours a day, you know, so it was just, it doesn't change every stage of life, your days with you so funny?
Sucheta Kamath: Well, I really appreciate the same She message because to me, I think if we can from, you know, a social psychology and also, like just the culture, there's a incredible social sanctions. And in order to avoid those social sanctions, then girls and eventually women internalize this, as is. And like, if you have a lot of energy, you're muting it down, if you have a lot of ideas, then you're not participating. You're becoming sharp, not shy, but withdrawn, not shy. And then also you're underperforming, because you don't want to look like you're being aggressive with your creative creativity. So we're really again, my my biggest problem with all this is we are losing our incredible human potential.
Sari Solden: In all areas of diversity that happens, you know, whenever we for all human beings, when we when we put boxes our way see them from this narrow perspective, like I invented the term at one point, neural bigotry, and it was the same kind of thing as neural profiling, all these things that you apply to other, you know, minorities happens to people with neuro diversity, you know, in just like you get judged by what you see on outside, or you're, you really are neuro entitlement. I mean, there's people who just, you know, they entitled, they feel entitled, because they don't have the same problems. So yeah, so when I work with my clients, and I work a lot with therapists now who have ADHD. And so we talk a lot about this. Not just focusing on the difficulties but claiming space women feel they don't feel entitled to have a like, oh, how can I take that yoga class? How can I go out for lunch? How can I do this? You know, when my house is still a mess, you know, like they're waiting for some day where, where this is going to all go away. And what's why in our book, Radical Guide, we, the main concept is untangling and, you know, both Michelle and I, you know, talk about our own personal experiences and those of our clients, but the importance of untangling your brain difficulties, your executive function difficulties from your core sense of self, because for women who are diagnosed early, they're so conflated, and they think, Oh, my desk is a mess, it means I'm a mess, it means I'm bad means I, you know, full of shame. So freeing up those two things where you can walk alongside of your difficulties and your clutter or your mess, you know, I mean, that's something to work on. That's like your, your brain, your medication, your coaching your systems, tips, tools, strategies, what if that's not you? And it's so important as a therapist that, you know, that you people see themselves as separate from their difficulties, whatever their difficulties are neurodiversity, you know, it's not just ADHD, and that you, you know, you don't, and you can go on those two paths separate. You know, I mean...
Sucheta Kamath: I really, yeah, I really liked that, that your, your approach is very compassionate. But it also is empowering. So you need to kind of understand that, yes, these are real difficulties. And there's no, like, I often in my work with clients, I say, show me one person who doesn't have difficulty. So now the question is, is your difficulty unmanageable, and are your beliefs coming in the way that you don't have it what it takes, so the therapy to me is really empowering people to see all the all that goes into managing self, including adjusting, adapting a new mindset, that supportive of who you really are. So, since you are a therapist, maybe we can talk a little bit about therapeutic approaches or strategies. One of the things your biggest focus is is kind of really helping, but I love you have used the term, uh, how to shine, you know, how to move into the center of life is what you call it. So tell us a little bit about what would that entail? When how to how do you help people not feel shame?
Sari Solden: It takes a long time. I mean, yeah, depending on how you come in, you know, when you don't know you, but if you've had positive experiences, and you've, you know, you don't all come in at the same way. But most women with ADHD come in pretty full of shame and in pain and it takes a long time. That's why it's so important for them to realize your listeners to realize that this is not a quick thing take, you know, I had a psychiatrist tell client long time ago, okay, well take this pill, and when your house is clean, you're cured. I mean, that was so bad in so many ways. Like, that was gonna be, you know, we don't want you to cure yourself, we want you to be more of who you are, we want you to be, you know, more easy to access who you are. And so for me as a therapist, I mean, the bottom line for any therapist for anybody, but these women who never saw themselves and never understood is for me to see them. I mean, see them really and, and it's a battle at first, they want to go back to this idea, I'm bad, you know, when am I gonna get over this when, you know, can you fix me this is, you know, I don't like myself at all, you know, and...
Sucheta Kamath: You might be the first person who's dabbling and forcing them to say, I see you and they were like, no, no, I don't want to show you all have me.
Sari Solden: No, they don't. And that's why they they withdraw, they don't contribute, they don't get out there because they're so afraid of revealing themselves, you know, how can they be themselves, and without opening themselves up to humiliation they feel. And what they want the most is to be seen and to be heard, but that's what they fear the most to. So it takes a long time, I think that these groups for women with ADHD have been so therapeutic, because for the first time you're I'm hearing all you other, they're hearing each other say things that they're experiencing that they think is so bad in themselves, but they can clearly see these other people are so full of life and, and specialness. And so eventually, it forces them to re consider their own self image. So, you know, I have the funny MESST model in my first book. So that was basically Medications. Yeah, I mean, it still basically holds up because this medication, you know, the bottom line is this is neurobiological ADHD, so it's not character illogical. So the first thing we want to understand is, you know, can a little bit of a stimulant help you stay awake and for women stay activated. You know, I use the Tom Brown model of executive function, which is activation, distractibility, all those kinds of things in short term memory problems. So you know, medication is, at least to have a consultation to understand like, can that give us a little bit of a lift, you know, there's no fuel in the car, it doesn't matter how great a car you have, you're not going to get anywhere. And then education is, obviously there's so many more, when I started out, there was no Internet, that's my book came out the same time as the internet and the conferences it was, that's why it got all this juice, because women started talking with each other for the first time. And so Education, Support, you've got to have support, whether it's, you know, it could be a coach, it could be a housekeeper, it could be a, it could be, you know, anybody that's emotional support, physical support, we're talking about radical acceptance, I have a slide one. So you know, my clients were fighting and fighting, fighting a couple, finally, they got a laundry service, and like, that was like, radical acceptance to me and Okay, then, you know, it was really great, you know, sometimes you, you have to get help for your executive function problems. If you want to go and do anything else, you don't want to spend all day like you're saying, with your client, you know, managing your your problems, you don't want to do that you want to move toward your strengths. But I want to say that, okay, it, you don't want to underestimate either the strengths or the difficulties, and we they're both very strong, and it's easy to see one or the other. And neither one of them, are you. I mean, that's my message, I guess is like, you are not any of that stuff. You are...
Sucheta Kamath: So much more complex than human.
Sari Solden: Yeah, you have to, you know, it's a turning point. For me, I was in a high level, you know, group small group of psychologists at a major university having a small discussion, once I heard a psychologist, well known in the field, say, well, his whole idea was like, we have to fix people's executive function, so then they can feel good about themselves. And then when he said that, I realized, oh, that's the difference between me and and many people, like, you have to feel good about yourself and see who you are, even though you're going to continue to struggle with executive function. I mean, that's how your brain works. That's going to be a battle you have to have, you know, that's going to be your lifelong battle. But that's not who you are. So you can't wait. I've had so many people, I had doctors, all these people that I'm not going to go back to work until every box is gone to an organized bla bla bla, you can't wait. That's what I see women coming in their 60s 70s 80s. They've been waiting their whole life to start their life. And so that's what I want people to understand. You know, this is a lifelong battle, and get help, you know, but don't wait about your strengths and what you want to do in life. You're entitled to have a life meaningful life is a goal.
Sucheta Kamath: I love that and I think if you don't mind, just can you tell us one more time what T is for?
Sari Solden: Medication, education, strategies, support and therapy,
Sucheta Kamath: Therapy. Okay. That's what I thought And is it support or strategies?
Sari Solden: Support, it's an SS Oh, I see, I see, okay. And I added an extra s over the years because its strengths. But the bottom is T because sometimes it's, you know, it's couples therapy, sometimes individuals, sometimes it's group, but these are deep wounds to people growing up without understanding why they're struggling. And you have to find somebody who can help you can see who can value you. And that's really such a missing approach sometimes for women with ADHD.
Sucheta Kamath: Well, I love like, first of all, to me, you're speaking my language, this is exactly the model. It will be, you know, in, in my world, I call it instead of education, it is psychosocial education, I mean, neuroscience, education, whatever, it's a little bit tell explaining to them how their brain works. Probably what you're talking about the same...
Sari Solden: Well at the beginning, I do that, yeah, we have to really understand that and go through it. But then afterwards, then it's like this, being able to see themselves differently and have new experiences of themselves with your support, to to see themselves differently takes a while.
Sucheta Kamath: And then in in terms of after your support strategies. And students. One thing that I add to the process is learning from mistakes, this idea of introspection, so that you understand that mistakes are preventable, but it's not the mistakes, it's really your tendency to respond to certain situations in a particular way. And if you want different results, if you recognize the pattern, not the mistake, that pattern prevention is a really important part of building executive function. Because I tend to be late, if that's a pattern, five situations then, and I don't like it, then if you don't like it, then you need to do strategies. But if you don't mind and you only manage yourself, then it's really not going to change anything. So I like to point out to people that it sounds like this doesn't make you happy, or makes you very dissatisfied with your life. So as we close I like often like to ask my guest guest two things. One is sounds like an author like you what has influenced your worldview? So do you mind sharing with us a book or two that you recommend to the audience that they should, you know, consider as they expand their own mental worldview?
Sari Solden: And as well, I mean, I'm very into loss and grief. And you know, and moving and living with adversity, not just living with diversity, living with adversity to Yes, I had cancer a few years ago. And, and it was so funny, you know, because people kept saying, Well, you just have to get over it, you know, get through it, get over it, and go back to who you were get back to normal. And I say no, you know, for me, the point of going through any kind of trauma, or adversity, whether it's a pandemic or cancer is to learn from it to grow from it to be transformed by it, you know, and so I'm always looking for books that help us. So actually, there's a good book I like it's called Broken Open: How difficult times can help us grow by Elizabeth Lesser. That's a nice book. And that's the kind of books I like to read, you know, can can open. And then, you know, Neurodiversity, if you want to just talk about, you know, that's a really important book, because it talks about how we're all different like snowflakes, and you know, we're all unique, and there's not one perfect snowflake out there to get there ourselves, too. So I mean, yeah, there's a lot of brilliant the first book I read in the field, though, that helped me understand, recognize myself if people with ADHD, want to start with one of the first books for read by written by two women, Kate Kelly, and Peggy Ramundo, You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy? So that was like the thing that changed my life.
Sucheta Kamath: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for you, your amazing recommendations and this brilliant conversation. As we close, I can't thank you. I think one thing that is going to really speak to everybody is how you are normalizing life experiences. For people a struggle to me is ubiquitous, being part of human and you have created a pathway, particularly for women who already are carrying the burden of whole society, who expects so many things from them.
Sari Solden: Right, that other layer, and that radical acceptance that I that you like, but I'll just end with that the radical acceptance is applied to ADHD and executive function is like we all have pain and we all have challenges and what we want to do is not turn that into suffering. Like let's keep it is pain and struggle, but we don't have those say, This shouldn't happen. I'll pretend this isn't true, or I hate this about myself. So just struggle with but don't turn into suffering.
Sucheta Kamath: Well, thank you so much. So all right, everyone, that's all the time we have for today. Thank you again, sorry for being my guest. And as you can see, these are very important conversations we are having with incredibly talented, knowledgeable and compassionate experts who are presenting a perspective and infusing our lives with hope so I cannot thank you enough. And if you love what you're hearing, please share with your world and do leave a comment or reach out to us if you have any thoughts and reflections about the topic. Lastly, make sure you subscribe to The to Full PreFrontal using your favorite listening app. So that's all the time we have. And until then, be bold, be brave and keep having fun.
Sari Solden: Oh, great. Thank you. It's a pleasure.