ADHD, Daydreaming and Shame With Dr. Kojo [Video]

By Understood

Dr. Kojo Sarfo played life on hard mode with his ADHD before getting diagnosed as an adult. ADHD treatment helped Dr. Kojo cope with his daydreaming and procrastination. But he wanted to do more. Today, he connects with millions of followers on TikTok and other social media, fighting the shame around ADHD and mental health and having conversations that build people up.

Dr. Kojo had an unexpected ADHD “aha” moment: as he was watching an Atlanta Braves baseball game and player Adam LaRoche made an error on a routine ground ball. Join a heartfelt conversation between host Laura Key and Dr. Kojo as they unearth how daydreaming is brainstorming in disguise — and why seeking treatment is the road to self-compassion.

To find a transcript for this episode and more resources, https://u.org/3uxe0a4.

We love hearing from our listeners. Email us at ADHDAha@understood.org.

Understood is a nonprofit and social impact organization dedicated to shaping a world where the 1 in 5 people who learn and think differently can thrive. Learn more about ADHD Aha! and all our podcasts at https://www.understood.org/podcast.

Copyright © 2022 Understood for All, Inc. All rights reserved. Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.

Transcript provided by YouTube (unedited)

0:00
– I didn’t think to myself, you can have ADHD and then go get treatment. I knew what the treatment would be but I was like,
0:05
“I have it, but I’ve been maintaining. And I have this partnership with Mental Health America, you know,
0:11
I have this clothing company. I’m like, I’m successful so I don’t really need that help. I just kind of have to get it together.”
0:17
But I didn’t know how. And he was like, “Oh, if you’re open to it you might want to go and see if you can find a doctor.”
0:24
And he said he went back to his doctor in Atlanta. They gave him medication for it and when he was describing his before and after,
0:31
that was probably what, you know, sent me over the edge and said, “All right, I’m going to take the plunge and look into it.”
0:39
(music) – [Laura] From the Understood Podcast Network,
0:44
this is ADHD Aha!, a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know
0:51
has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I’m the editorial director here at Understood.
0:58
And as someone who’s had my own ADHD “aha” moment, I’ll be your host. (music)
1:06
I am so excited to be here today with Dr. Kojo Sarfo. Kojo is a mental health nurse practitioner,
1:12
a psychotherapist, and a content creator with over 2 million followers on all of his social media channels.
1:17
That’s TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, Triller. He’s also the author of the book called “You Already Won.”
1:25
And he talks about ADHD in his book. Dr. Kojo, welcome. Thank you for being here today. – Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
1:32
– Kojo, I’m so excited to talk to you today. There’s so many things that I want to talk to you about,
1:37
but the first thing I want to talk about, mostly because I’m just a big fan of baseball, but also because I know there is a baseball story
1:43
that is very meaningful to you, is I want to talk about baseball. Can you tell me what happened in seventh grade?
1:51
– So I was watching an Atlanta Braves game, and shout-out to the Braves. They just won the World Series
1:56
and you know, that was exciting for me to witness that. So I was watching a Braves game and it was a game
2:03
between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals. And I will never forget the batter on the Nationals,
2:10
his name was Nick Johnson, and he hit a ground ball to first base and the first baseman Adam LaRoche,
2:16
you know, it was a routine play. He should’ve just scooped up the ball and just jogged over to first base.
2:22
If he had walked to first base he would’ve got there before the base runner got there.
2:27
But for some reason, I was watching the game live, and he just kind of froze like he was, as if he was paralyzed and he just kind of lackadaisically
2:35
like went over to the first base bag. And by the time he got there, the base runner had beat him to the bag and you know,
2:42
me and the millions people who were watching were kind of shocked. And, you know, we lost the game.
2:48
The Braves lost the game and I was upset. And, you know, after the game, Adam LaRoche, the first baseman for the Braves,
2:53
came out and said that he had ADHD. He said he had had ADD since
3:01
he was a child and it’s something that he had struggled with. And, you know, I went from being upset that he didn’t make the play to
3:07
connecting with him on that level. And that was kind of like the confirmation,
3:13
the big epiphany, the moment where I realized that I had that same thing too.
3:18
‘Cause I had always suspected it, you know, since second grade, third grade. But when I saw his story and then I matched it to mine,
3:25
it started to make sense for the first time. – Yeah, first of all, so brutal for Adam LaRoche. I feel for him on that play.
3:31
That must have been pretty devastating to go through that. And then also for you as a fan, right?
3:38
But I’m glad, you know, that it led to this “aha” moment that you had.
3:44
Question for you. First of all, did you play baseball growing up? – I never played baseball. I had a good friend of mine who was on a team in high school and he took me out for batting
3:52
practice and I was awful at it. So I’m just a fan. – OK. Got it. I have a hot take that, I think that baseball might be one of the hardest sports
3:58
for people with ADHD play, ’cause there’s so much downtime, right? – Oh, wow. OK. Wow.
4:03
I never thought of that. – Yeah. Unless you’re like the pitcher or the catcher and you’re like constantly in the action, if you’re like prone to daydreaming or whatever,
4:10
it must be… I feel like it would be a tricky sport for someone with ADHD to play. – I completely agree.
4:15
I agree. – Well back to you though, but back to you. OK. So this was in seventh grade that this happened.
4:20
– That’s correct. – What kinds of things were you noticing in yourself that made you relate to what Adam LaRoche went through?
4:27
– So I would, like any child during those formative years, you kind of compare yourself to your peers,
4:34
and you’ll notice that sometimes people will finish their assignments before you, and sometimes things will take you longer to do,
4:41
or you’d be spaced out and then you would get your report card. And then the teacher would say that,
4:47
“He’s daydreaming, he’s not paying attention.” And I thought that everybody couldn’t focus to some degree.
4:54
So I didn’t know that it was like a actual thing. I just kind of attributed it to the fact that we moved from Norway to Nashville, Tennessee,
5:01
when I was five and a half, six. So I thought it was because we had shifted countries and I was just
5:07
adjusting to a new country. But I kind of had that issue in second grade, third grade,
5:13
fourth grade, like it never went away. So, obviously, I adapted over time, but I just realized that it just took a little bit more out
5:20
of me to do what other kids could do in like half the time. – And how did that make you feel?
5:26
– You know, the part that would be frustrating, if anything, frustration was probably the main emotion I could relate to
5:32
because, I would have to have these parent-teacher conferences where the teachers would say, “He’s such a bright student.
5:38
If only he paid attention, he could do better.” So I used to dread that because then the teachers
5:43
would talk to my parents and then they’d say, “Oh, if he would only stay awake or if he’d only pay attention, he’d be a better student, but he he’s a bright kid.”
5:51
So outside of that, like I found ways to adapt. Like, I would be the class clown and I would goof off.
5:57
I found other ways to kind of build my self-esteem up, but the parent-teacher conferences were very frustrating,
6:03
as you can imagine. – How would you clown around? What kinds of things would you do to distract?
6:08
– Being an immigrant, you know, a child in a different country,
6:13
there’s not much you can connect to. So, obviously, I came to Nashville, the Titans went to the Super Bowl, so everybody was talking about football.
6:19
So I was making football jokes, and I would try and see what the girls would like to laugh about.
6:25
And I would just copy whoever was the loudest kid in the class. And then I would make my own jokes. And then after a while,
6:31
some of them would land and then that would make you feel accepted, you know? So anything I could do to feel like I was part of
6:37
my peers because, you know, I could speak English, but like they could pick up on the fact that
6:43
this kid came from a different country. So anything that I could do to kind of bring attention to myself,
6:48
it kind of distracted me and the teachers and my classmates from the fact that like,
6:54
I’d be a little bit behind with the schoolwork. So it kind of helped to take the emphasis away
7:00
from the struggles every day. – Right. And I wonder Kojo, you do so much.
7:07
And, I mean, you are a nurse practitioner, you are a psychotherapist, you are a content creator with millions of followers.
7:14
You have published a book, you have a podcast, right?
7:21
You do so many things. At what point did you feel like you were maybe
7:26
becoming a bit of a, not a perfectionist, but like an overachiever, is what I want to say,
7:31
and does that relate at all to your ADHD? – I think it does. And you know, when you struggle to find something that you’re
7:37
authentically good at, when you find the first thing that you notice that you do either as good as other people,
7:46
or maybe a little bit better, you latch on to that. And that’s what I did because I was a poor high school student.
7:53
And I remember, you know, my dad was like, “What are you going to do after high school?” I said, “I don’t know.” And he said, “Try going nursing school.
8:00
You can be financially stable and you can actually help people, ’cause you like to help people.” So once I got to nursing school and I tried to not fail,
8:06
but I managed to graduate and I got Most Outstanding Student, I realized that, OK, I’m good at interacting with people.
8:13
And I was never really good with like the actual skills of nursing, which is funny, because everybody was good at that part.
8:19
But I wasn’t really good with like putting in IVs. And like, I was horrible at that, but I was good at talking at people.
8:26
So once I found my way, you know, working at the psych hospital, just by talking to the patients,
8:31
I realized that I think I’m better at this than the average person.
8:36
And it’s an addicting feeling, because for so long, when you’ve had to like bounce around
8:41
from thing to thing to thing to thing, once something kind of clicks, you run as fast as possible in that lane.
8:48
And then you try your best to have other things just like that. And I feel like that’s how I went from an RN in the state hospital to where I am now,
8:56
because as I try different things and as I realize that, “Oh, I think I’m good at this,” or people enjoy me when I do a certain thing,
9:03
that’s the validation that you never really had growing up. So you just keep doing all these things
9:08
and sometimes you do become a perfectionist. But, you know, as I’ve been educating, I’ve been also taking notes and figuring out
9:15
how I can create an environment for myself, ’cause you can get to this point. But without having that right environment,
9:22
it is going to be, I would say it’s almost impossible to sustain it, because as you know, with ADHD,
9:28
it does affect all parts of your life. – So maybe less about perfectionism, more about tapping into your strengths.
9:34
And by the way, I have so much love for nurses. I was raised by an RN. So my mom, 40 years, a nurse.
9:42
– It’s a great profession. It’s changed my life. I’m so grateful to nursing. – I want to back up a little bit and
9:49
talk about the teacher. Your teacher is noticing your grades, right?
9:54
The teacher is talking to your parents. Did you say you moved from Norway? – No. We’re from Ghana, West Africa.
10:01
So we actually left when I was one, then we went to Norway and then I left, we left there in ’99.
10:06
So I was like six and a half. – Got it. OK. So west African family, the teacher is expressing some concerns.
10:14
How did your parents react? – I don’t even think they realized how much I struggled,
10:19
’cause it might be easy for them to like, you know, people come up to them and say, “Oh, is Kojo your son?” blah, blah, blah.
10:26
But I don’t think they even realized how hard it was. You know, back then, they didn’t know.
10:32
And they’re learning now, but they moved from West Africa to Europe
10:38
and then six years later they moved from Europe to Nashville, Tennessee. So they had to endure so much.
10:44
They worked as janitors so that they could put themselves through school. So we came from that mentality where,
10:51
and you see this in a lot of foreign families where it’s no excuses.
10:56
Like, you have to be tenacious. You have to work hard. Nobody’s coming to save you.
11:02
That type of thing. So for me to complain that I can’t focus, its kind of like a silly thing to a family
11:09
that’s working their butts off to try and put food on the table. – Yeah. Like struggling with focus
11:14
on the hierarchy of needs can seem like a lower-level thing. But like, cumulatively, over time,
11:22
the kind of the pain that it can cause, the difficulty that it can cause when you are continuously struggling.
11:29
I mean you, clearly extremely intelligent, but maybe it’s not showing in the grades or…
11:35
That’s, that’s a painful thing, right? – It is. – Did your parents consider,
11:43
would they have ever considered taking you to get evaluated for ADHD at that time? – I don’t think they would’ve.
11:49
I don’t think they would’ve. It was more so my mom saying, you know, “We’ll pray for you. None of my children will have this type of thing.”
11:56
And now in 2022, I know that they have a different mindset, but they would not have taken me to get evaluated.
12:04
The education was not there. It’s not something that they really acknowledged, but I would’ve had to really kind of struggled,
12:11
maybe failed a grade, and be on the verge of failing another grade, where teachers…
12:17
I would’ve had to have had like an intervention from teachers and counselors and principals who could maybe say, “Hey, like I know some kids have this.”
12:25
And even that that would’ve given me maybe like a 30% chance to get evaluated.
12:30
– OK. So an evaluation probably not going to happen for you. As a seventh grader,
12:36
you know, at that point, you have your Adam LaRoche moment. And then what happens? You carry this with you, right?
12:42
This kind of lack of knowing, but knowing that something’s off and maybe it’s a possibility.
12:48
What did you do with that, from that time to the time that you eventually got diagnosed,
12:53
which we’ll talk about, when you were 25. – So I think when you know that something’s not an option,
12:59
or at least for me, you don’t worry about it too much. I completely wrote off the option of getting evaluated,
13:06
going to a doctor, getting checked out. Like, it never in a million years was that possible.
13:13
So I spent no time worrying about it. I just spent my time trying to compensate for it.
13:19
So I put all my energy into do my best to compensate for what was happening. So I would…
13:24
You know, high school, I really struggled. High school was brutal. I had fun, you know, hanging with the guys
13:30
and making jokes and things like that. But anytime it was a time for midterms or finals,
13:37
it was the worst, ’cause I was in the IB program actually. So that’s like a super magnet program.
13:43
– That’s the International Baccalaureate. Is that what that is? – Right. It’s very challenging.
13:48
You know? So I got into the program on my own without the extra support, but a program like that is suited
13:55
for people who have support, you know? So I just kind of did my best and
14:00
I was still able to kind of get away. Like, nobody would’ve suspected it because I was in the IB program, right?
14:07
But I used to say that I was like at the the bottom of the totem pole in the IB program.
14:13
So nobody was worried about me. Like, “Oh, he’s a smart kid.” But I had multiple F’s.
14:19
I remember having, like, I went to one final and my grade was like a 48.
14:24
So I finished in like two minutes, ’cause I was already going to fail. I couldn’t get like 170 to pass the class.
14:30
It was physics, I just scribbled something and I just kept it moving. Like I just accepted that F
14:36
and I said, I’m going to try and make a A somewhere and try and average it into a C, you know? – Yeah. Also physics is brutal.
14:42
– That’s the worst class I’ve ever taken in my life. – What did you do to cope? How did you… You said you compensated in different ways.
14:48
What did you do? – So I feel like I’ve always been solution based,
14:53
and that’s actually a strength of mine. I never realized until like,
14:59
maybe even like the last two, three years, reading people’s DMs online and trying to answer questions,
15:04
but also wanting more insight into myself. The one good thing that I will say that my parents did,
15:10
especially my mom, ’cause she didn’t understand ADHD or mental health. So, you know, she just didn’t get it.
15:17
But she would always like say things about us. Like even when I was struggling, she would say,
15:22
“You all are going to be great. You are going to change things in this country.” And I’m like, “Yeah, whatever.”
15:28
But she always spoke positivity into us. So like she kind of got me to the point
15:33
where I would believe, even when I was failing. Like she was very good at not accepting negative feedback.
15:42
I remember I had a teacher who said I should work at a gas station instead of going to college.
15:48
And my mom went up to the school and she was upset and she told them, “You know, you can’t say that to a child
15:54
in front of all the other classmates.” So she was like a big proponent of speaking life into people, and positivity.
16:01
And that’s something that was very helpful, because you would naturally feel hopeless when your grades are so bad.
16:06
But my mom, in a way, she made it feel like things are going to be OK.
16:12
So that was the best way of coping. But in terms of coping negatively,
16:18
probably the thing I did the most was I would stay up late, ’cause I couldn’t get things done in time.
16:23
So I would normally go to bed like sometimes 2, 3, 4 a.m. and wake up at like 7,
16:29
and I’d sleep through school and I would get my work done. And then, the classes that I enjoyed I’d get a good grade,
16:35
but I used to just stay up like all night. I felt like I was never really awake in high school ’cause
16:42
I couldn’t get things done in time. So I would just say, “Oh, I’ll just put it off or I’ll just do it at night.”
16:48
So that, not something I would recommend. – Yeah. Wow.
16:53
Awesome on your mom, though. Daydreaming, it’s interesting, I don’t often hear about men and daydreaming.
16:59
You usually, it usually gets that female connotation. I’ve talked to people on the
17:04
show even about like being considered ditsy or a space cadet, you know? You get that,
17:10
it’s actually daydreaming is one of the reasons that a lot of women with ADHD go undiagnosed, right?
17:15
So it’s interesting to hear about a man struggling with daydreaming. – I still do it today, honestly,
17:22
but like today I understand that if I daydream all day, I’m going to miss things.
17:28
I’m going to miss appointments. So like I’ll have protected time for myself where like I might ask my assistant,
17:34
“Do I have these next four hours off?” And I’ll just really like do nothing, or I might clean the house or I’ll just think,
17:40
and this is where I get a lot of good ideas from. So I think the daydreaming, it’s not a bad thing necessarily,
17:46
but when you can’t control it or when you’re daydreaming, when you should be doing something else, it becomes maladaptive and that’s
17:53
when it can really hurt you. So, I’ve figured out how to turn it into a strength, but every now and then I have to catch myself
17:59
and put timers on because like, since second grade, I’ve always kind of drifted.
18:05
I might be mid-conversation thinking about something else, or my brain’s all over the place.
18:10
I’ve just kind of learned to reel it in. But yeah, I feel like I’ve been daydreaming since I was, you know, in second grade,
18:16
but now I just don’t get punished for it as much. – I’m so interested in this technique that you say
18:22
that seems to be working for you. Like you daydream, but almost with a purpose. Can you walk me through a specific example of that?
18:29
Like walk me through a daydream that is actually productive in a way.
18:34
– OK. So let’s say, Thursdays. Yeah, no Thursdays and Fridays, I sit down with my publicist and those are days
18:41
where we like to just brainstorm about different ideas that we want to do. So before that meeting, you know,
18:46
I like to not have anything that I have to do before then, and I’m even working to where I might just
18:52
put one whole day for nothing, where there’s nothing that I have to do. So I’ll look at my schedule like I do every morning
19:00
and it’ll say nothing, like literally nothing. So if I have a day like that, that’s when I wake up, of course get the dog out,
19:06
do what I have to do, but I might daydream about whatever. I might watch a documentary on Netflix
19:11
and I’m thinking about a certain idea. I’ll write down on a sticky note, I’ll put it in the kitchen, I’ll put it by the computer.
19:19
And I might think of an idea, and sometimes with the best ideas, you have to do it right then and there,
19:25
so I’ll do it right then and there. Maybe I’ll change into the scrubs if it’s a TikTok video or something like that, and then change out.
19:31
But it’s almost like liberating because I feel like my brain’s default wants to go to that.
19:37
Like I want to just kind of be out there and just like free flowing and just think. So I’ve trained myself to
19:44
follow a schedule and routine, but it is like you give yourself a break to just daydream and then like,
19:50
as I’m hearing a sound or if I’m seeing things over and over, you know, ’cause on social media,
19:55
I want to pay attention to the trends and the algorithms. So if I go outside and I see somebody wearing a certain
20:01
shirt and then I go to the mall and then somebody is playing a song by that artist.
20:06
Or if somebody is, if I go on TikTok and somebody using a certain phrase, I’m like, OK, this is relevant in the culture right now.
20:12
I might want to pay attention to this. So I might call a friend and then we’ll just talk and laugh.
20:18
And then they’ll say, “Oh, have you thought about doing this or that?” Or “I saw this video. I think it is funny.”
20:24
And I’ll think to myself, oh, if I made the same concept, but I made it in a way that my audience
20:30
would gain benefit, value from it, it could be beneficial. So some of my best ideas come from just allowing myself
20:37
to just think and just daydream, and just kind of be out there naturally. – That’s great. So you’re not punishing yourself for
20:44
this thing that was looked down upon maybe in your past. That’s really, that’s inspiring.
20:50
Thank you for sharing that. – I appreciate that. – I got to get to the part of you being 25 and you’re…
20:57
OK, let me see if I got this right. You’re a nurse practitioner, right? You have a clothing line and you are getting your doctorate
21:06
to become a psychotherapist. Is that right? – That’s correct. – OK. What happened? – It was funny because I remember I failed a test,
21:14
you know, and I think I got, maybe it was like a 70 or so. In grad school you have to have at least a 80.
21:19
And like I knew exactly why. I put things off to the last second, you know? And I was late at work.
21:27
So I would have to stay over late and the information was difficult to comprehend, you know?
21:34
So I’d have to go spend time in the professor’s office to learn it. The girl I was dating at the time,
21:39
I remember I would say, “Let’s go out to bowling on Thursday night,”
21:46
and we’d get to Thursday night and I wouldn’t have even started the thing that I needed to work on.
21:52
Like I had all week to do it. I haven’t even like opened it up. And like, as we get to Thursday night,
21:58
she’d ask, “Are you making progress?” I’m like, “Yeah. like I’m like 60% done,” but I hadn’t even started it, you know?
22:05
So we get to like Thursday night and I have to cancel. ‘Cause I’m like, you know what? I can’t go out and be present.
22:10
I’m behind and that’ll lead to an argument. And then I have that stress. I had stress coming from everywhere and it was getting to
22:17
the point where I’m like, I had no — I needed an answer. And I was talking to a good friend of mine
22:24
who’s a medical student and he’s graduated, he’s practicing now. And he was saying that, you know,
22:30
’cause I described what I was going through, and he was like, “Has anybody ever told you that you have ADHD?”
22:36
I’m like, “I know I have it.” But, I’m like, “I have it, but what?”
22:41
Like I didn’t know that you can have… I mean, I knew, but I didn’t think to myself,
22:47
you can have ADHD and then go get treatment. I knew what the treatment would be, but I was like, “I have it, but I’ve been maintaining and
22:54
I have this partnership with Mental Health America, I have this clothing company, I’m successful. So I don’t really need that help.
23:00
I just kind of have to get it together.” But I didn’t know how. And he was like, “Oh, if you’re open to it,
23:07
you might want to go and see if you can find a doctor.” And he said he went back to his doctor in Atlanta. They gave him medication for it.
23:14
And he, when he was describing his before and after, that was probably what sent me over the edge
23:20
and said, “All right, I’m going to take the plunge and look into it.” And it is funny, ’cause we talk about it now.
23:27
I call him every now and then, we joke. But that was actually like a pivotal moment in my life. And I don’t think I’ve ever given him like the…
23:34
I don’t think I’ve ever told him how much I appreciated that. I probably have to call him after this. ‘Cause as I’m thinking about it,
23:40
that meant a lot to me because it gave me the confidence and then I booked an appointment with my doctor and then I,
23:47
it was like the moment I took the medication for the first time, I went to my girlfriend’s house and normally I would go
23:54
and I’d make a joke or something like that, you know? And I’d have to joke ’cause I’d be late, I was late to whatever we agreed to do.
24:02
So I would joke to play it off. You know, I went to her apartment, I sat at my desk, I opened the laptop,
24:09
and I didn’t watch any football highlights. I just started to do my work. And then I got my work done
24:15
and then I had like time left and I was like, that’s when I realized I had been playing life on hard mode, you know, for like 25 years.
24:23
And then I was like this is something that people don’t talk about and it’s hiding in plain sight, but there’s relief.
24:31
So that was, that was a huge moment for me. – Hiding in plain sight is such a good phrase to describe it.
24:36
Yeah. I got diagnosed when I was 30, Kojo, and then when I started to get treatment for it
24:42
I was like, “Oh, this is what it’s like to feel quote unquote normal.” – Right. Mind blowing.
24:48
– It is mind blowing. Yeah. I mean it’s, it’s life changing. It just changes your whole perspective and also helps
24:55
you be a little kinder to yourself. – And I would say the only other thing that was maybe as life changing was when I got glasses,
25:03
in the fifth grade. You know, putting on glasses and I looked down, we’re living in Jacksonville, Florida, at that time.
25:10
I looked down and I could see the blades of grass. And I was like, “Oh my goodness. Like people can see individual blades.”
25:16
I thought it was just like green. But it changed my life, and medications did a very similar thing.
25:23
– So in a way I’m kind of glad, Kojo, that you hit that wall during your doctorate program,
25:29
’cause you had managed to like work through it and compensate for so long.
25:34
– No, I’m grateful that things happened the way they happened and you know, we get to this debate about,
25:42
sometimes people who are diagnosed late in life, you might possibly have some resentment toward maybe your parents or your teachers.
25:49
And you’re like, “Oh, if I would’ve got the help beforehand, would I have tapped into like a higher potential,
25:57
a higher version of myself?” But for me, I’m just grateful that I got the help when I got it. And you know,
26:02
just going the way I did, it kind of forced me to lean into coping,
26:09
you know, how to cope. Like I could figure out coping strategies ’cause I had so many of them.
26:15
And like I knew to do that. I knew to talk nicely to myself. I knew to believe in myself. I knew to allow myself to have more time to do things.
26:24
I would do that naturally. I would set fake deadlines. I would put my car, like if it’s 1:00, I’d make my car say like 1:17,
26:33
’cause I didn’t want it to be like 15 minutes ahead. So I like just tweaked it a little bit.
26:39
So it’d be like 17 minutes ahead. So that would help me get to work on time, ’cause I didn’t want to want to lose my job.
26:44
‘Cause if I lost my job, that would be more financial stress on top of whatever I was going through. So I found different ways to cope.
26:50
So it’s like once I got the medications, I was like, “OK, wow.” So now, everything has come together and I really
26:57
felt like I could do anything that I wanted to do, you know? – But I can’t believe you set “fake deadlines.”
27:03
That just gave me chills, because I’ve used that phrase before. That was like my number one coping me mechanism throughout
27:10
life, was the fake deadline strategy. And I’ve never heard anyone else use that exact phrase.
27:15
– Oh, I’ve been using it for… I don’t know if I heard from somebody, but I’ve been doing it for the longest,
27:21
and that’s just my way. – It was me. You heard it from me, Kojo. – I may have heard it from you. (laughing) Great minds think alike.
27:27
I may have heard it from you. But it gives that sense of urgency. So that way you can do things and not be like scrambling at the last second.
27:34
– So I want to talk about shame. Last time we talked, you told me that you experienced
27:41
a lot of shame throughout your life. I think you even mentioned that you almost didn’t talk about ADHD in your book.
27:48
Can you tell me about that? The shame and the evolution of that feeling for you? – Right. So I mean, I think,
27:55
when you jump through so many hoops and you get to the United States,
28:02
coming from immigrant family, you know, being a child of immigrants myself, and being born in a different country,
28:09
it’s almost like you’re trying to measure yourself up with your American peers. Not that you want to be better than them.
28:14
I just wanted to be with them. I just want to be accepted. There was a point where I was having like decent grades,
28:20
A/B honor roll. So when I was up like that, you know, I felt great and my self-esteem was kind of tied to my
28:27
productivity, you know? So it would make me feel good, and made me feel like I was like my peers,
28:32
even though I have a different name, different last name, I come from a different area.
28:38
But you never wanted to feel like you’re like an outsider. Right? Like I always knew that I was different from people,
28:43
but like nobody really talked about it. So I was like, whatever. But once I could put a name to ADHD,
28:50
I kind of started to like look around and, you know, I would google things or try and see like,
28:56
who else has it? What do people do for it? Do they, are they on meds for the rest of their lives? Like I went through the whole rabbit hole
29:03
and I didn’t see anybody talking about it back then. And we didn’t have the short form videos now,
29:09
on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook. So there was no safe space for it. But it was a big part of my life.
29:15
I had to put it in my book because it was a pivotal moment to go get treatment, because I don’t know if I wouldn’t have
29:22
gotten my doctorate without it to be honest. But the shame that comes with either having it…
29:29
I think it’s having it, and then thinking that nobody else has it, or thinking that if people have it,
29:34
they’re not as affected by it as you are. Like yours is just the worst.
29:39
Like you have the worst case of ADHD in the history of histories, you know?
29:44
So, I didn’t see people talking about it. So when I put it in my book, I was actually kind of scared to put it out there
29:50
because I tell people all the time, “I’ll post a video that will have a million views and the next one might have four views.
29:57
I don’t really care, ’cause I’m not afraid.” But the only thing that somebody could have said to me,
30:02
let’s say, I didn’t talk about ADHD, the only thing that somebody could have said to me that would’ve made me feel a little insecure right now would be
30:11
somebody saying, “You only got through grad school and you only got your doctorate because you took Adderall in college.”
30:16
Something like that, you know? And when people say things about you that you don’t believe,
30:21
you’re like, OK, whatever, they’re just talking some mess. But when you actually believe that thing,
30:27
it hurts in a different level. I made peace with it. So I’d already written about ADHD in my book,
30:34
and I was going to take it out, and I was trying to figure out how would I take it out without disrupting the story?
30:39
But it just wasn’t authentic to take it out. So I just kind of left it out there and I just put it out there.
30:45
And once I published it and September 29th, 2019, came and people could buy it.
30:52
You know, then it was liberating because you have a book, and you can take a video down,
30:57
but a book is in people’s houses for life. So you can’t go to their house and take the book away.
31:03
So I put my story out there and it was like any shame that I had, it wasn’t there anymore.
31:09
Like there’s no shame attached to the ADHD at all. And I think when we can get to that level,
31:16
it’s a powerful thing. – I’m so glad that you left it in your book. – I am too. That made all the difference.
31:23
I don’t think I’d have been as successful online without chapter nine in my book. Like it was very important. – Kojo, I’m curious about a few things related to shame.
31:31
I’m curious about, you’re mentioning that people are getting, in your DMs, people are talking about what they feel ashamed about.
31:38
I wonder if maybe like you could give us a few examples of some things that people are ashamed about.
31:44
– Yeah. So people are ashamed about their financial situations.
31:50
I see a lot of men who are ashamed that they can’t provide for their kids or for their wives or spouses.
31:57
A lot of men who feel like if they speak up, they’re going to be seen as weak and they can’t be
32:03
weak to their women. I see this with a lot with mothers where, they think that if they drop the ball somewhere,
32:10
they’re a bad mom, you know? And that feeling that like they’re a bad mom, that weighs heavy, you know? Like a lot of people will say,
32:17
“Oh, I saw your dance” or something like that, “and it made me feel like things will be OK,”
32:23
and “I forgot to take the kids to school,” and “I didn’t do this.” And “I got into an argument and I was thinking
32:29
I was a bad mom,” you know? So just seeing those comments and then making
32:35
an intentional effort to put content out there that can help people. I think that’s, you know, very beneficial for not only me,
32:42
but for them, so that we can know that, all right, you’re going to feel shame and anything can make you feel
32:48
ashamed. Even depression. A lot of people are afraid to admit that they’ve been in bed all day.
32:53
They haven’t brushed their teeth in this amount of days, they haven’t washed their hair. Or, you know,
32:59
people are afraid to text their friends back because they’re like stuck in a depressive episode and their friends are going to think that they ghosted them.
33:05
So there’s so much that goes with shame and it cuts deep and it prevents you from…
33:11
It kind of paralyzes you and it leaves you where you are, which makes anxiety and everything else worse. So anything that you can do to
33:18
try and reduce the shame, or just bring that a little bit is going to improve people’s confidence.
33:24
– It does cut deep. I don’t know if you noticed that I got a little teary-eyed there, ’cause when you were talking about shame
33:29
and being a mom and having ADHD, it really, that really resonated with me. I’m really, it felt like you were speaking directly to me, actually,
33:36
you know, feeling like, are you dropping the ball, or yeah, I really appreciate that.
33:41
And I know that our listeners will as well. You’re good at what you do, Kojo.
33:47
Well, it’s really important what you’re doing. I mean, it gives… People are going through a lot and to hear you
33:53
talk about the realness, especially as a doctor, it brings a legitimacy to what people are going through.
33:59
– I think people still need a safe space to like get it out, because if you shame somebody
34:05
and you make them feel like they’re crazy for feeling a certain way, you can never really get to the emotion behind
34:11
what’s going on. So, you know, thank God for therapy. Thank God for, even for the internet.
34:17
Like I always tell people, “It’s not medical advice.” I don’t want to get sued, but I wish I had this at like 18, you know, or 17.
34:28
It’d have been helpful to have it as I was graduating from high school. – As a tool just to feel less alone,
34:34
and to build confidence. I mean that’s half the battle, right? – Right. Right. And, and confidence is huge. You know, and people, not to get too far out,
34:42
but people always say like, “Why should I care about mental health?” But confidence is mental health. A lot of times just believing
34:49
that something is possible… Like it’s hard to bring something to life if you can’t really conceptualize it,
34:54
and see how that thing would come to fruition. Like you have to see the thing
34:59
before you can go out and do it. – Dr. Kojo. Kojo. Thank you for being here today. – Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
35:07
(music) – [Laura] You’ve been listening to ADHD Aha!
35:12
from the Understood Podcast Network. You can listen and subscribe to ADHD Aha!
35:18
on Apple, Spotify, or anywhere you get your podcasts. And if you like what you heard today,
35:23
tell someone about the show. We rely on listeners like you to reach and support more people.
35:28
And if you want to share your own “aha” moment, email us at ADHDAha@understood.org.
35:35
I’d love to hear from you. You can go to u.org/adhdaha to find details on each episode and related resources.
35:44
That’s the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G slash ADHDAha.
35:50
Understood is a nonprofit and social impact organization. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies.
35:58
Learn more at understood.org/mission. ADHD Aha! is produced by Jessamine Molli.
36:05
Say hi, Jessamine. – [Jessamine] Hi everyone. – Justin D. Wright created our music. Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are our production directors.
36:13
Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. And I’m your host, Laura Key, editorial director at Understood.
36:20
Thanks so much for listening. (music)

 

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The post ADHD, Daydreaming and Shame With Dr. Kojo [Video] appeared first on The Good Men Project.