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  • Translator: Leonardo Silva Reviewer: Mile Živković

  • Hello, brains!

  • I say that to you because, if you think about it,

  • it wasn't really you that decided to come here today.

  • It was your brain.

  • And whether you decided to walk, or drive, take a taxi, or ride a bike,

  • that decision was made by your brain.

  • Behavior, all behavior, is affected by the brain.

  • This is a story about my brain.

  • So, I was a smart kid.

  • By 18 months, I was speaking in full sentences.

  • By third grade, I was scoring post-high school on standardized tests.

  • I had, as all my teachers agreed, so much potential.

  • I was also struggling.

  • I didn't have many, any, friends

  • outside of books.

  • I was easily overwhelmed. I spaced out in class.

  • I lost things constantly.

  • And trying to get my brain to focus on anything I wasn't excited about

  • was like trying to nail jello to the wall.

  • But I was smart, so nobody was worried.

  • It wasn't until middle school,

  • when I was responsible for getting myself to classes on time

  • and remembering to bring my own homework,

  • that being smart wasn't enough anymore, and my grades started to suffer.

  • My mom took me to the doctor and, after a comprehensive evaluation,

  • I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,

  • ADHD.

  • If you're not familiar with ADHD, it has three primary characteristics:

  • inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

  • Some people with ADHD have more of the inattentive presentation.

  • Those are the daydreamers, the space cadets.

  • Some have more of the hyperactive-impulsive presentation.

  • Those are the kids that usually get diagnosed early.

  • (Laughter)

  • But the most common presentation is a combination of both.

  • (Laughter)

  • My doctor and my parents decided that, given my shiny, new diagnosis,

  • maybe stimulant medication would succeed where spankings and lectures had failed.

  • So I tried it, and it worked.

  • The first time I took my medication,

  • it was like putting on glasses

  • and realizing I could see without squinting.

  • I could focus.

  • And without changing anything, my GPA went up a full point.

  • Honestly, it was kind of miraculous.

  • By 14, I had friends that liked me.

  • By 15, I had published my first poem.

  • I got a boyfriend.

  • By 17, I knew I wanted to be a journalist.

  • My local college had a program that would guarantee admission to USC.

  • They had a really great journalism program.

  • So, I signed up at my local college and I started taking classes.

  • I moved in with my boyfriend.

  • Things were going great,

  • until they weren't.

  • I started having trouble making it to class on time.

  • I aced a statistics course,

  • but I forgot to sign up in time, so I never got the credit.

  • I took classes so I could help my boyfriend with his career,

  • but I completely lost sight of mine.

  • I never made it to USC.

  • By 21, I dropped out of college and moved back home.

  • Over the next ten years, I started and quit, or was fired from, 15 jobs.

  • I ruined my credit.

  • I got married,

  • and was divorced within a year.

  • At this point, I was 32,

  • and I had no idea what I was doing with my life,

  • besides reading self-help books that didn't seem to be helping.

  • What happened to all that potential?

  • Was I not trying? No! I worked harder than anyone I knew.

  • I didn't even have time for friends.

  • I was that busy.

  • I had potential, though.

  • So, my failure was clearly my fault.

  • I just hadn't done what I need to do to reach it,

  • and, honestly, I was tired of trying,

  • putting more effort into life than everyone else

  • and falling farther and farther behind.

  • At this point, I could have given up on myself,

  • I could have decided that everyone who'd thought I had potential was wrong.

  • But I didn't,

  • because I knew that it was my behavior that had gotten me here,

  • and behavior is affected by the brain,

  • and my brain has ADHD.

  • Looking at my behavior, I knew:

  • even with medication, even as an adult,

  • my ADHD was still interfering with my life,

  • and what I needed to know was how and why,

  • and, more importantly, what could I do about it.

  • I started to do some research,

  • and I found a lot of great information.

  • I found a lot of bad information too, but that's another talk.

  • But there's good information out there.

  • Websites, podcasts, talks, by researchers and medical professionals;

  • books that would have been way more helpful

  • than the self-help books I'd been using that were clearly written for normal -

  • well, there's no normal - neurotypical brains.

  • A lot of what I found, though, was either super technical

  • or seemed like it was written for parents and teachers

  • trying to deal with ADHD kids.

  • There wasn't a lot that seemed intended for us,

  • the people who have ADHD.

  • So, I started a YouTube channel.

  • I had no idea how to start a YouTube channel,

  • but I started a YouTube channel.

  • I almost called it "How Not To ADHD,"

  • because that was about all I knew at the time.

  • But my boyfriend, Edward, talked me out of it.

  • It turns out lots of people need help understanding ADHD,

  • including, maybe especially, those who actually have it.

  • I was no exception.

  • I thought ADHD was kind of the same for everybody.

  • I thought it was mostly about getting distracted.

  • I thought having ADHD was maybe the reason that I was failing at life.

  • And I thought I was what needed to change, in order to be successful.

  • I couldn't be successful and still be me.

  • Spoilers: I was wrong.

  • So, let's go back for a second, let's go back to what brought us here today:

  • the brain.

  • Understanding the brain you're working with, it turns out, is kind of important,

  • and that's true whether that brain is your employee's, your student's,

  • your kid's, your significant other's,

  • or your own.

  • ADHD affects between 5 and 8% of the global population,

  • which means, statistically speaking,

  • there's between 37 and 60 of us just in this room.

  • You can't tell who we are just by looking, but it's fun to watch you try.

  • (Laughter)

  • So, at some point, you're going to meet someone with ADHD,

  • work with them, give birth to them,

  • or fall in love with them.

  • Chances are you already have.

  • And, at some point, you're going to ask yourself,

  • "What is going on in their brain?!"

  • So, after two years of learning about ADHD and a lifetime of experience with it,

  • after having the honor of connecting with researchers, and doctors,

  • and ADHD experts, and tens of thousands of ADHD brains all over the world,

  • what can I tell you to help you understand ADHD?

  • By the way, many of them helped with this talk.

  • First of all, it's real.

  • It's not bad parenting or lack of discipline.

  • ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder.

  • It's currently the most well-researched mental condition,

  • and there are actually measurable differences in the brain.

  • These differences are larger in children, but, for most people, they never go away.

  • In other words, adults have ADHD too.

  • While rates of ADHD diagnosis are increasing,

  • it's not because of an increase in sugar or technology,

  • or lack of spanking;

  • it's not,

  • any more than people drowning in swimming pools is because of Nicolas Cage.

  • Correlation does not equal causation.

  • Those are real numbers.

  • (Laughter)

  • It's from both an increase in understanding that ADHD exists,

  • that girls, adults, and gifted students can have it too,

  • and ironically a lack of understanding

  • that being hyper, misbehaving, or struggling in school

  • does not mean you have ADHD.

  • ADHD is more serious than I realized.

  • The primary characteristics - inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity -

  • don't sound all that serious, and I didn't think that they were,

  • but, in real life, they translate to people getting into more accidents,

  • being more likely to get fired, get divorced,

  • significantly more likely to struggle with addiction.

  • I learned that ADHD is on a spectrum.

  • Raise your hand if you've ever lost your keys,

  • or spaced out in the middle of a lecture.

  • If you're not raising your hand,

  • I'm going to assume you spaced out in the middle of this one.

  • (Laughter)

  • The thing is, while everyone experiences ADHD symptoms sometimes,

  • an actual diagnosis is based on how many of those symptoms

  • significantly and chronically impair multiple aspects of your life.

  • Just like you can get sad and not have depression,

  • you can get distracted and not have ADHD.

  • And just like you can have mild depression or severe depression,

  • ADHD can range from mild to severe.

  • I also learned ADHD is a terrible name for ADHD.

  • It creates a lot of confusion.

  • We don't have a deficit of attention!

  • What we have trouble with is regulating our attention.

  • As ADHD coach Brett Thornhill puts it,

  • it's like your brain keeps switching between 30 different channels

  • and somebody else has the remote.

  • Sometimes we have trouble focusing at all,

  • and other times we get stuck on a channel and can't pull ourselves away,

  • which in real life might seem we don't want to do homework

  • because we'd rather play video games, and short, sometimes that's the case.

  • But the truth is there are plenty of times we want to able to focus,

  • we try, and we just can't.

  • Current understanding is that this difficulty

  • has to do with the way our brains produce and metabolize neurotransmitters,

  • like dopamine and norepinephrine.

  • I learned ADHD is highly treatable.

  • Stimulant medication boosts these neurotransmitters,

  • which is why it helps us focus.

  • It's very effective for around 80% of people with ADHD.

  • And I learned that medication isn't enough.

  • ADHD affects much more than our focus.

  • It impairs executive functions like planning, prioritizing,

  • and our ability to sustain effort toward a goal.

  • It affects our ability to regulate our emotions, our behavior, our sleep.

  • It's not one program in our brain that works differently;

  • it's the whole operating system.

  • It can affect every aspect of our lives.

  • And there are a ton of strategies out there that can help.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, coaching, even meditation or regular exercise

  • can help make a huge difference understanding your brain.

  • I knew I had trouble focusing, and I knew my medication helped with that.

  • What I didn't know was that getting overwhelmed all the time

  • had to do with poor working memory, and that making lists helps;

  • or that the reason I ran late all the time wasn't because I didn't care,

  • it's because ADHD'ers have a skewed sense of time,

  • and that using a timer could teach me how long things actually take.

  • Mostly, I expected to learn what I actually learned:

  • that ADHD is real;

  • addressing it is important;

  • and medication is not enough.

  • What I didn't expect to learn:

  • that I wasn't alone;

  • I had an ADHD tribe;

  • what a difference it would make to connect with it.

  • There are people with ADHD in every country,

  • every culture across the globe.

  • Yes, even in France.

  • (Laughter)

  • And this tribe is awesome.

  • Comparing myself to people with neurotypical brains,

  • I felt really bad about myself.

  • Why couldn't I keep my house clean or finish a project in time,

  • instead of waiting till the very last second?

  • But seeing the positives in fellow ADHD brains

  • helped me recognize and appreciate my own strengths,

  • ones I couldn't see when I was just staring at my weaknesses,

  • which is what I'd been doing for decades.

  • But ADHD brains have a lot to offer the world.

  • We tend to be generous, funny, creative.

  • ADHD'ers are 300% more likely to start their own business.

  • We not only think outside the box;

  • we're often not even aware that there is a box.

  • (Laughter)

  • We may struggle when our brains aren't engaged,

  • but ADHD brains are great at tackling tasks that are urgent,

  • working with ideas that are new,

  • wrestling with problems that are challenging,

  • and dedicating themselves to projects that are of personal interest.

  • This YouTube career I'd stumbled into was all of those things.

  • At 32, I was divorced, miserable,

  • and had no idea what I was doing with my life.