I HAVE ADHD PODCAST - Episode #246

January 16, 2024

Interview with Jen Kirkman: Writer, Standup Comedian, and My Most Famous Client

Today’s episode is part 1 of a 2-part interview with my dear client, Jen Kirkman. Jen is currently a writer/producer on the one-hour comedy Etoile for Amazon Prime. She was a writer/producer on 4 seasons of the The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime). Jen hosts a weekly solo podcast, “You Are A Lot” (An ADHD Podcast) – which is about navigating life with ADHD. Jen is a New York Times Bestselling author of two books. She has toured the world as a stand-up comedian and has two critically acclaimed stand-up specials on Netflix. You’re going to LOVE this conversation – enjoy!

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Kristen Carder 0:05
Welcome to the I have ADHD podcast, where it’s all about education, encouragement and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carter and I have ADHD. Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor and challenges of adulting relationships working and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain. Unlock your potential and move from point A to point B. What’s up? This is Kristen Carter and you’re listening to the I have ADHD podcast. I am medicated. I am caffeinated. I am regulated and I am ready to roll.

How’s it going? So glad you’re here. So happy that you decided to press play on this podcast today. I know you have a lot going on in your life, so many things vying for your time and attention and energy. And yet here you are with me, you and me here together right now. And I’m so glad that this is happening. Today is part one of a two part conversation with a client and focus number Jen Kirkman, who is a writer, producer, comedian, podcaster and New York Times best selling author of two books, girlfriend doesn’t mess around. She does not mess around. Jen was misdiagnosed for most of her life with anxiety and depression. And only in the last few years has she understood that ADHD was really at the core of all of her struggles. And part one of our conversation that you’re going to hear today, it’s an in depth description of her journey. And to me, it’s very important that I share real raw stories directly from ADHD ears, because it truly helps us all to understand that we are not alone. You need to hear Jen story, you need to hear about how she was misdiagnosed, and yet was still able to set her life up in a way that made sense for her. You need to hear how she was able to become what she calls a middle class in show business. And that made me laugh so hard. I mean, writing on the marvelous Mrs Maisel is hardly what I would call middle class, but whatever I mean, in credible. So listen up, ADHD ear. Remember, you’re not alone. You’re not weird or broken. And you have a community here with us in this podcast. So as you listen to Jen story, I hope that you are encouraged, I hope that you are encouraged about the possibilities of what might be possible with a life. somebody with ADHD. Please enjoy my interview with the most famous person that I know. Jen Kirkman. Hi, Jen, welcome to the podcast. I am so glad that you’re here.

Jen Kirkman 2:59
I’m fangirling. Because as you know, I’m a huge fan of your podcast. And I’m a member of focused so I’m watching your calls all the time on video. You just I take you on my laptop around my apartment with me. And so I’m it’s so weird to be talking with you. And it’s happening live. I

Kristen Carder 3:17
love it. It’s so, so fun. And I love that you interviewed me on your podcast a while ago, and I don’t think at the time you were a member. Were you a member at the time?

Jen Kirkman 3:28
I wasn’t a member yet. And I wasn’t fully realizing that everything that I had in quotes wrong with me was all of it stemming from ADHD. And so I was still on this trip of like that it’s anxiety. And I know it could be I know people can have comorbidities. But I learned by doing this podcast that I used to do called anxiety bites. It’s 46 episodes, just kind of a one season thing. I learned doing it by interviewing people and hearing experiences and talking to neuroscientists and all that I just started to go. I don’t think this through line of what makes me tick. And not tick is just this thing called generalized anxiety disorder just isn’t I don’t relate with what I’m being told it is. Yeah. And so yeah, so when I interviewed you, I was kind of talking about the intersection of ADHD and anxiety. I knew I had been diagnosed with ADHD. I wasn’t that deep into my diagnosis. When you and I talked I was a little deeper into it, but not full on the way I am now where I’m a member and I’m getting coached and I’m working on it every day. Yeah.

Kristen Carder 4:41
So amazing. Okay, so before we hop into all of that, you tell us who you are and what you do, because your life is very exciting.

Jen Kirkman 4:49
It seems that way but because I saw my life, you would be like what this person’s in bed a lot. I will say just before I introduce myself, I have this thing I do every morning called bed quarters. And it’s like where I run my life like, you know, headquarters upon. Oh my gosh, I love that. Yeah. So I will talk to you about that later. So I’m joking. I am joking with him in bed a lot. But my actually sleeping I’m running the world. So my name is Jen Kirkman. I’m a former touring standup comedian. I did that for 25 years. I didn’t twirl 25 years. But I gave that up about three, four years ago just didn’t interest me Moore’s No, no dramatic story there. And I’ve always written for TV over the years as well. And now I’m just fully just doing that. So I’m a TV writer. I’ve written on a ton of shows. And I live in Brooklyn full time. Most recently, I was a writer for all seasons on the marvelous Mrs. Maisel. And then I’m working now on a new show that no one’s heard of yet. So it doesn’t even matter if I say the name, but it’s by the same creators. We’re on strike right now. And so yeah, you know, I’ve done it all. I’ve been an author, I’ve acted, some I’ve done stand up, I have Netflix specials I’ve toured. But now as I get older, I just want Well, ironically, I want a job security. So I went back into writing full time, and now I’m on strike. But you know, but yeah, so it’s, it’s I’m trying to simplify my life and be very specific about what I want to do. And writing is something I actually love now in terms of what the job actually is, which people picture it as sitting and typing. And it’s not, and I don’t mind not being in the spotlight, and I host a podcast, called no fun, I just kind of talk about my life every week. And, you know, between doing a podcast, where I can just kind of say my own thing, and then writing for other people. That’s about that’s about it. I don’t want to have 50 million other things going on, you know, as I call it, dreaming and scheming. I have no more dreams and schemes. So that’s me, I think my life probably was very exciting. But these days, it’s very much any normal life where you’re getting up going to work coming home and being like, do I zone out in front of TV? Or do I do something I need to do? Do I call a friend, you know, the structure of my life is pretty similar to I would think most people?

Kristen Carder 7:13
And has that been really intentional, like an intentional discipline that you’ve incorporated, simplifying your life and kind of constraining not really dreaming and scheming anymore? Or has that been just like a natural flow, just as you’ve gotten older and kind of done the gamut of things? Like, has it been intentional? Or has it been a natural intuitive thing?

Jen Kirkman 7:37
I think it’s a natural, intuitive thing. I mean, I was, you know, in 2008 to 2014, my career was really firing on all cylinders. There was a pot on every whatever you call it on your stove. You call the thing on the stove that you put the pot on burner burner. I’m also I need to mention to everyone I’m 40. I’ll be 49 on August 28. So I’m not only ADHD, I’m perimenopause. And oh, they go so well, together. They’re so compatible. Their friends. Yeah, they

Kristen Carder 8:13
are twins. And it was such a it just exacerbates every single symptom that you’ve already struggled with. Yeah, my opinion.

Jen Kirkman 8:22
No, and mine, too. Okay. And that’s why I didn’t know what a burner was a minute ago anyway. But yeah, so I was in 2008 to 2014. I wrote on this TV show, Chelsea Lately that was Chelsea posted it on the E network. So you’re there five days a week, but you’re also on cameras. You know, all of the people that were regularly on her show, including myself, you start to build a fan base of your own. And, you know, you got to capitalize on it when it’s happening. And so I got a book deal. And then I started touring, but I’m also working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. So I was always working. But it wasn’t. It was a choice. I guess everything is but it wasn’t a choice in the sense that I would never have said, Let me have all the things happening. Each one in and of itself could be a 40 hour a week job. Never. But you don’t say sorry, book deal. Can’t do it now. Sorry. Tor can’t do it. Now. Yeah, this is when people are interested. And I think every one that works in Entertainment has to go through a period when you’re successful. Now that might look like success to some people. To me, success looks like being able to say no, because you’re so popular. Your fan base isn’t going to disappear. If you don’t you know, Angelina Jolie does not have to take every movie that comes along for fear of this could be the last. Yeah, so it’s sort of a deceptive success. It looks busy and successful on the outside. But on the inside, it’s really this is the moment and in three years it could be nothing tumbleweeds and so it’s never what people think I’m not a workaholic. I’m not so successful. It’s just what it looks like for like what I call like the middle last performer where I go through an airport, one person might be going, Oh my God, my biggest fan, someone else goes, who is that? That happens all the time, right? If I ever get recognized by anyone, which is very rare, but there always was someone going who and I’m like, don’t worry about it. It’s she’s into it. It was that kind of thing I just had to and I keep saying I didn’t have a choice, but I wasn’t really consciously making a choice going, this is what I want for my life. I always thought that’s something I’m not in control of. And then as I got older, and yeah, you know, touring started to feel exhausting. And it’s, you know, you do five shows a weekend. That’s one hour each. It looks like you’re doing one hour of work. You know this with having a podcast. It’s one hour of the thing, the performance the microphones on and it’s 39 hours of all the other stuff. Yeah. And you’ve got to love what you’re doing. What up with the 39 hours of the day. And I used to love it. There’s, you know, and then once the hour of doing the fun stuff just did not seem worth it for all the other stuff. I went, I think I’m done. And I feel like I said what I needed to say in this format and like, great like it was the easiest transition out of something ever. And I was lucky because I was already writing on a TV shows writing on Mrs. Maisel. So, four years ago, when I stopped doing stand up, it was a very easy choice. Like, I was starting to feel this way around 2019. Thinking, geez, touring, like, as half of my career is a lot. And I didn’t think I wanted to give it up. But I did it until I absolutely knew like, I’m not into it. This isn’t offense. Yeah, it’s good. I did it until I burned out, which I kind of have to sometimes to make sure. And then I remember saying to my manager, December 2019, we had a dinner, what’s the year gonna look like 2020. I said, I know this isn’t possible. But I need the world to stop. So I can take a minute here. Jen

Kristen Carder 12:13

Jen Kirkman 12:13
I’m sorry. It’s my fault.

Kristen Carder 12:16
Now we know who was responsible.

Jen Kirkman 12:20
It wasn’t a lab leak or a bat. It was me.

Kristen Carder 12:22
Oh, my goodness. Well, you got your wish.

Jen Kirkman 12:27
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen. There was this TV show on when I was younger, called Amazing stories. And it was sort of a sci fi show like a twilight zone. And there was an episode about nuclear war and all these bombs had been sent towards America. And this woman had the power to freeze everything just by putting her fingers together.

Kristen Carder 12:47
Oh, I remember that. When you do that pose. I’m like, Oh, I’ve seen that before. Yeah, yeah.

Jen Kirkman 12:51
So she paused the world. And so she’s at the grocery store, and everybody’s paused. And you see the bombs in the sky. And she exists, like everyone else is frozen in time, and she can just live as long as she wants like that. But the minute she puts her fingers back together. Everything’s chaos, right? So that’s, that’s an image I’ve had in my mind for a long time. Like, I need to pause. But I can’t pause. The world has to stop. Because I need to take a long time to figure out like, when do you whenever people go? I just took some time to figure out like, how I wanted to restructure my life. I’m like, how, because everything was still going on the phone still ringing emails writing, you have to make a living like, who has that luxury, right? I still don’t understand it. Like, yeah. And so when I said that, you know, I got my wish, with the world shutting down with with the early days of the lockdown and stuff. But I mean, I truly short of a pandemic, ya know, that I ever would have stopped to think about what I’m doing. And like you’re saying, Did I constraint I mean, so I couldn’t talk anymore, which was, I was so happy. I had a writing job. And we were doing it over zoom. And I was totally fine financially. And I know, this was not a lot of people’s experience. So I had time. And I knew the first thing I needed to do is just not rushed into thinking I just had to be and I was still busy. I was working my other jobs, but I just kind of let feelings and thoughts come to me. And what I realized excited me was not you know, like when you when you write on a TV show, your manager and Agent are very rarely excited about it. They’re always they’re gamblers, they’re sharks, they want more and more and more, find new things, find new things. So you get this job and you’re ready to just like sit still. And they’re like, this job is gonna get you a great reputation. Now you get to sell your own show, you know, in the background. I was writing your own thing after you get home from work. Yeah, and then you’re trying to sell your idea so that when your job ends, you have something else lined up. And hopefully it’s your own show. There’s never any sense that you can enjoy and sit still with what you’re in.

Kristen Carder 15:12
Do you feel like your ADHD was actually an advantage in this situation and I, y’all, y’all know that I am not the person that thinks that ADHD is an advantage truly, ever. However, I can look at the chaos of what was required from you with this profession of I like how you put it like a middle class performer as in like you’re making a good living, but you have to keep going in order for that to continue. Right. So it’s not the luxury of we’ve gotten millions banked and we can just take, you know, whatever luxurious job we want. That sounds the best. It’s like, I gotta stay on that hamster wheel in order to keep this moving forward. Do you see that ADHD was helpful in that for that season?

Jen Kirkman 16:02
Oh, yeah. It mean the ability to thrive in chaos? Yeah. To not even think it’s chaos. First of all,

Kristen Carder 16:09
this is just normal. Yeah, it’s how people live at

Jen Kirkman 16:13
all. Yeah. It worked for a while to not have a self boundary. Yeah. For a while, for a while. Yeah. So looking back, it was a blessing. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. Sure. I didn’t know what I was missing out on in terms of constraining and having boundaries. So but I was burning out. Yeah. And like, You, you, you you’re not ADHD is a superpower. Neither am I. I’m someone who really doesn’t like when people say I didn’t have a choice, but just truly in this small period, she choice would have been take the opportunities or don’t. Right, right, but you kind of gotta take them all and see which one is going to. Yeah, but the one that always kept coming back, was writing for TV, I was always asked to do jobs in that way. I always, I’ve written a ton of scripts that no one’s ever seen that I’ve sold to networks that didn’t get made. Sure. But that’s part of the job too. And that’s great. So that was the one constant. Like, that was one thing behind the scenes that people kept in their own way, by hiring me informing me like, this is where you are. This is where you excel. And I resisted it for a long time. Because, you know, I wanted to be my own thing, you know, half of my face and thoughts out there. And then there’s just something about getting older where I think more about what I want to put out there. Yeah, and do I need to share every little thing I’m going through. Because unless you’re a political stand up comic, or someone that just has like jokey jokes. I’m a narrative storytelling comedian, about my life. And I was done, bringing people along for the ride of what I was investigating in my own life. Now, it’s very private, not that it’s some big deal, or anything terrible. I’m just not interested in maybe later, like, there might have one woman showing me like a little later that’s about like, menopause or something, but it’s not there yet. I want to live first, you know. So anyway, I just it was one of those things where like, during the pandemic, I was like, things started to fall away. And I remember saying to my manager, I said, I think I want to be a person who has a job, you know, a writing job, and all this, try to sell a show behind the scenes. I’m tired of it. Like, I gave all the ideas I had, if I was lucky to sell some of them and write the scripts they didn’t get made. And then others, the people would stare at me in the room and go, what’s this pitch? No, we don’t think No thanks. And I said, if I want to write a script, it’s like, for fun on my own, I will. But it has to be for fun, it would be like I might talk to my manager and I are friends. So I might say to her, I have an idea about a TV show about a woman who takes a walk, and she’d be like, great. I’m gonna set up a meeting with this for and next thing you know, I’m as they call soft pitching the idea to write to producers to see if they’re interested. And if they are, they say, please write this. we’ll partner with you. And we’ll pitch it. And in a way, it’s like, can I just write for fun? I may never show anyone the script. I might just use it as a sample to get another writing job. But I’m getting off that hamster wheel and it means less money for them if you’re less chance of money for them. Sure. And she was like, yeah, just and I said I need one job. And again, I didn’t know this was ADHD. I just I said I thought it was this collective burnout. We all realized we had sure once the world stopped, which I think it was, and I said, but I can’t do all this. So everything that was working for me as an ADHD or who wasn’t taking their diagnosis seriously stopped working. Yeah. Yeah. And it probably had stopped a lot earlier than that, but I didn’t know and then yeah, so I just made a very conscious choice like no more. Little said I’d projects like, I just want to go to work and go home. I mean, and have a life. You know, I hadn’t like been dating. I hadn’t seen a lot of my friends. It was like, no, no, no. So

Kristen Carder 20:10
I’m curious what burnout looks like for you when you identify that you like you say, like I was burning out, what did that look like? What did it feel like?

Jen Kirkman 20:20
I think what it felt like was a complete emotional shutdown, like, a lack of awareness of even how I felt. Yeah, of like, Who is this person whose body I’m in?

Kristen Carder 20:37
I resonate with that. I love that. Like,

Jen Kirkman 20:39
I don’t even know how I feel like, so I didn’t feel burned out. Like, I’m exhausted. And I got some kind of, you know, immune disorder. Like it wasn’t physical. As much as it was like, the minute I did stop. My goodness, I needed more rested than I ever thought. Yeah. And I was sleeping like a good 12 hours. I was just bringing joy slowly back into my life. So I’ve kind of like didn’t know I was burned out until after you start. Yeah, that makes sense. I didn’t stop. So it’s like, I don’t really remember. I don’t know if I stopped because I felt burned out. But I knew I felt a strong dislike for all the things that come along with touring, the flights, the promotion, I hate promoting. And out the all the things I just didn’t like it. And so that felt burned out, because I just felt like I don’t like it. I felt I don’t like this about 30 hours a week. So whatever that is, that’s what I call burnout. That

Kristen Carder 21:43
sounds like burnout to me. And I think that’s for the listener, that’s a really good kind of checkpoint, because we might not identify burnout, because we’re still going, we’re on the hamster wheel. But if our body and our just like Soul is kind of resisting everything we’re doing, and just being like, I don’t want to, I don’t want to I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to do it. That’s a good indicator that like maybe we need to pause.

Jen Kirkman 22:10
I remember a friend said to me, I have a really funny friend Tammy, we came up in the New York City comedy scene in the 90s. We both ended up moving to LA and she met a woman got married and had a kid and she was like, I don’t love comedy enough like you do to put up with all the crap. But you do and I’d never one had ever said to me anything so succinct in my life. And I thought of that every time. I didn’t like all the other stuff that goes into it. And that’s why I had that awareness. When Okay, now it’s now it’s not just like, oh, this part’s annoying, but I love it. Now. It’s just like, I hate everything. And it’s affecting my ability to perform. Now I hate performing and that doesn’t seem right. Yeah. Yeah, I’m angry that I have to be on stage. And like if the audience really knew how much I didn’t want to and I started shows with like, I’m at work right now. Do you know how badly I want to be where you guys are having a drink watching something? Very hard to have a job. That’s an eight at night, Tennant night on the weekend. And everyone’s having a drink and laughing I’m like, That looks fun. I’m like mad. I’m mad. I can’t you know. So it’s good. Yeah, if you love it, sure, that’s great. But I was like, okay, something’s wrong. And my friend Tamizh words like resonated where it’s like, oh, I’m burning out. But But yeah, I mean, I read a book about burnout. That said, the early signs of burnout are often thoughts, their little whispers. Having entirely burned out is very different. But you don’t really want to get there sure shall have to earn the burnout. You don’t have to be like now hospitalized, you’re allowed to say I’m starting to burn out I’m getting these clues from my own mind. And that the goal of of checking in with yourself is so you can stop the burnout from totally happening. Sure. So I don’t know if I ever officially completed a massive burnout. But I caught myself about halfway. Yeah,

Kristen Carder 24:25
I think that it makes sense to think of it as a spectrum of like, we can start with just those whispers and then we can move into like our whole body being like, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to do it and then maybe losing sleep but et cetera, et cetera. I don’t know all the symptoms of burnout. But yeah, I think like, if we were to go to the climax, it would be hospitalization, but like, let’s not

Jen Kirkman 24:48
let’s not go there.

Kristen Carder 24:53
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Jen Kirkman 27:33
I just had a thought to that. I think you know, it’s very true for the entertainment industry. But I think it can apply to anything, which is when you’re outside of it, and you’re dreaming of it. And you think when I get this, I’ll have that. Sometimes it’s an emotional thing, Oh, when I have this, I’ll feel secure. But sometimes we actually don’t know how much things pay. And we think when I get this, then I’ll get paid that. And then I’ll be secure able to do this. And when you get there and you realize that’s not true. You know, you don’t have to keep going if that doesn’t work for you, if that makes sense. So like, and I think people need to realize that in any industry that they’re in and, and I didn’t know about this stuff until I started investigating my ADHD and doing all of the ADHD work, whether it’s coaching with you, or just reading books, I have a whole new way of looking at my life because of my ADHD diagnosis. It has made me do self care and self work that I think the average person does not have a reason to do because they’re not suffering in this ADHD way. So I don’t want to be, hey, it’s a superpower. But if I had to do it all over again, I would have ADHD. Wow. I may want to have started working on things sooner. Yeah. But I don’t know many people without ADHD that are living so self aware and so careful as I am and it’s really paying off for me. You know, as much as it sucks. It’s really paying off. So I look back on like, when I got my first book deal. I had maybe 200,000 Twitter followers, right? And I thought, oh my gosh, everyone 200,000 times how much is a book? 5099 Oh, my gosh, I’m gonna be a millionaire. Yeah, and I did the math. Yeah, that’s $3,000,198. Right. So I did the math. I’m writing the book. And I’m like, here we go. And then I find out after the book is written, and all is said and done. And I had my little advance, which was lovely, but not trying to stop to have 10 jobs. They said to me on another note, yeah, we gave you the book deal because you’re you’re on this TV show and people see your face and you have 200,000 followers, but we know that if we’re lucky. 2000 of those followers will buy the book. That’s why you got a book deal. You know, you don’t want to start Now if you just have 2000 followers, 20 of them will buy a book. Right? And I was like, so this notion of what it takes, how much exposure it takes, and how your own fans are not going to buy your work. And there’s no reason not to as an ADHD or I can relate, why don’t I just put my key on the keychain and hang it up? I don’t know. I want I want to that I won’t, you know, so it’s like, I didn’t know stuff about the business until I was in it. So people can come to you for advice. How do I start this? How do I start that? It’s like, you don’t need advice until you start.

Kristen Carder 30:39

Jen Kirkman 30:41
Yes. And so now I’m like, oh, okay, so writing a book is like anything else? Like, it’s not a get rich, quick scheme? Did I love writing it? No. I mean, not enough to not think there’s $3 million dollars at the end of the rainbow. I don’t mean it from an entitled way. This is where my thoughts used to stop before that’s entitled, you’re not going to make 3 million. So shut up and write more books because that’s what you do. That’s how my thoughts used to be. In ADHD recovery. I go, Well, wait a minute. Okay. So, of course, anyone would want to write a book, if they knew 3 million was coming. But now that you know it isn’t, do you love it enough? Um, I didn’t really. I mean, I like writing. I might write some essays and time for fun, but no, all the work it takes and all the promotion like, I don’t think so. Okay, great. So, you had that dream? And you didn’t totally know what? Yeah, what it was made of? You liked the idea of saying I wrote a book. But did you love it all? Like now that you’ve done it? No. Okay, great. So you don’t have to worry about writing books anymore. And that’s where the ADHD recovery has brought me. I used to judge my own thoughts. You know, oh, my God, what kind of person am I thinking? I wanted $3 million, a normal person that thinks that would solve a lot of problems. Totally. And now I just don’t judge my thoughts. I investigate them and go great. So if the only reason I would do something like in other words, like if someone said how much money would have to pay you for you to eat a bug, you’d say 10 million? Totally. So that lets you know that you’re probably not that into eating bugs, but you do it. You know?

Kristen Carder 32:23
Probably not that into eating bugs. Yeah, that’s a great tagline. Jen Kirkman, probably not that into eating bugs,

Jen Kirkman 32:29
but you don’t judge yourself and go, Oh, my God, what a materialistic bleep bleep bleep. Because I want 10 million to eat a bug. It’s like, no, that’s what it would take.

Kristen Carder 32:39
Yeah, yeah. You know, really like bugs that much. And that’s okay. It’s

Jen Kirkman 32:43
okay. Through doing on this ADHD recovery work. I’m re focusing. I’m re whatever, reevaluating what’s important to me, and allowing myself to have an opinion about what’s important to me. And trying not to make a decision about like, what’s important to me in a rash moment. Yeah, you know, and not beating myself up for thoughts I’m having, like, turns out sometimes you do only want to do things for the money. And usually the stuff we love is like, not the stuff that makes a lot of money, or we do if we’re lucky, but we’re willing to do it, even if not everyone finds out about it. Yes.

Kristen Carder 33:16
That’s so good. That’s so good. So I want to really go into ADHD recovery. And I love that you call it that. But before we do, can you tell us your journey to being diagnosed? When were you diagnosed? How did that process happen for you?

Jen Kirkman 33:36
Yes, so I had you know, since I was a teenager, I had panic attacks. Ones that I call out of the blue and ones that were specific to phobias, like a phobia of airline travel, a phobia of driving, which is ironic that I ended up traveling for a living and I obviously overcame that phobia. And now it’s like, my favorite thing. But so I had I had things I had mental health issues, I had depression, and all kinds of stuff popping off. You know, I’d been in therapy forever. I’d had a psychiatrist at the time I was on, on and off antidepressants. Like, I never really found that they totally worked except the first time I took them. And then later on now that I’m in perimenopause, but but in the in between years, I’d go on and off and really not feel that I noticed the difference on or off them. Again, that was because I wasn’t primarily diagnosed. But anyway, when I was 35 years old, so that’s 14 years ago, my boyfriend at the time said, and he didn’t even know he was saying this. The he didn’t even know the profundity of what he said. But he said, You’re you’re kind of a lot because you think everything’s Of equal importance. And this laundry that you have to fold is like the same importance as like, if someone said, you know, the fate of the world is in your hands. Madam President, you know that, and in in your own life like a deadline for work and the laundry is the same. And it’s different than procrastination. It’s not Oh, I, I have to write on this deadline. So I’ll fold my laundry instead. It’s not it’s it’s being completely stressed out, freaked out, emotionally unregulated, because you have these two things to do. And your mind can’t say, Well, I gotta write, that sucks. But I’ll do the laundry tomorrow. Like, no, no, no, not that’s not an option. And it was affecting our relationship, because it was like, I might cancel plans at the last minute because I have to fold laundry, you know, like, but I have to do you see, or else the fate of the world is in my hands. You know, it’s like, it’s, so he’s you should ask your psychiatrist, the guy who taught you about medication about that. Like he jokingly said, Is there a pill for that? And I told my psychiatrist and he goes, you know, how many people are diagnosed by their partners? They come in with these weird symptoms. And he’s like, it’s ADHD. And I said, oh, and I didn’t have it as a kid. Or now I look back, I totally did. But he said, What do you want to do? And I said, I don’t know. And again, I didn’t know anything about stimulants or meds. I only knew Adderall. And I knew, you know, in quotes, it was bad. Sure, sure. Sure. So he said, there’s this drug called focalin. It’s, I don’t know, whatever. And he just kept talking about focus. And take it in, you’ll pay attention at work. But this whole conversation that brought me to to it about the laundry and the prioritization, it didn’t go anywhere. So like the minute he said, that sounds like ADHD, I took the test. I didn’t understand why any of the questions were ADHD. He, you know, I, Pat Oh, did I do well on this test person? Better than on my SATs? I got. Thank you. Congratulations. I aced it. I think every answer was was was Yeah, I have. Yeah. So. But we never talked about it. And I was with this guy, 20 years, and we talked about everything. He got me single handedly over my fear of flying. I mean, this man was a genius psychiatrist, and really smart about medication. But it was just so odd that I come in with these kind of off brand ADHD symptoms or so I thought, he takes the conversation back to focus. I take the test, we don’t discuss the results he puts me on focalin, I don’t notice anything. There’s no change. Except my skin broke out really badly. And I found some message boards. And other people said the same thing. It like maybe stimulated are sebaceous glands. I don’t know urine. But it didn’t work. And I was vain and didn’t want to have cystic acne. And so I said, Forget this. And so in my head, add medication meant cystic acne. Right and of discussion. We’re never going on any meds. Because that’s how an ADHD person thinks black and white. No further investigation needed. So I told him the meds you know, and I didn’t really notice they didn’t anything. He’s like, Yeah, a lot of people are like that. They just handle it without meds. I’m like, Yeah, you never talked about ADHD again.

Kristen Carder 38:20
I’m so upset on your behalf. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.

Jen Kirkman 38:27
So I’m in talk therapy at the same time with a therapist who I later fired because her boundaries were terrible. Oh, shoot.

Kristen Carder 38:35
Yeah, I’d love to hear that story sometime. Yeah.

Jen Kirkman 38:39
She was just emotionally unregulated. She’d come in like, oh, sorry, I’m late. And here’s my coffee. Like, I didn’t know that was an okay.

Kristen Carder 38:46
Oh, my God, honey, she mirrored

Jen Kirkman 38:49
a lot of the chaos I had growing up. Like, you know, I do resonate with having emotionally immature parents. They’re still alive. They’re lovely. Love them. But they’re emotionally mature. Boundaries. Were not a thing. Yeah. So of course, I find this therapist and they don’t even notice that, like, your boundaries are affecting our sessions. It does something to my soul that I don’t know is happening, where it makes me feel unsafe to explore things. Yeah. Yeah. So that that’s that story. But anyway, so this guy, so I would talk to her about ADHD, and she claimed she had it too. But she didn’t recognize any of the symptoms like emotional. So here I am. I’ve got you know, I’m working with the psychiatrist on the airplane stuff, which was more pressing in a way. Yeah, I thought I thought, sure.

Kristen Carder 39:35
It was the squeakiest wheel. It seemed like the squeakiest wheel.

Jen Kirkman 39:40
Yeah, I was like, I can’t do my job unless I get on a train. So let’s fix this. Sure. So I can make therapists about all the other things in life, some sense of something’s wrong. I don’t know what. And she’s taking it to this place that it really wasn’t like she was just so she just knew what she knew and wanted everyone to fit into one. What she knew? And you know, it’s like Am I a love addict and my narcissist in my love avoidant in my, in my bipolar, am I a borderline? Like, we’re investigating all of it. And I’m starting to feel like Whack a Mole. Like, like, man, I’ve got like 10 Different psychiatric problems, I guess, you know, and none of them quite went the distance. Because I always was like, but I function at work, I have relationships romantic and friendships like, not it’s, it’s something else, you know, to the point where I thought it was like a spiritual problem. You know, I’ve always been a spiritual person and like, I’m not religious, but I’ve always had spirituality in my life. And like, that’s very helpful in a lot of ways. When you just come up against the existential crisis of being human, and you just go, I gotta surrender to like, yeah, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t, like, I didn’t choose to come to earth, you know, like, I’m just here. And whatever that magic is, I gotta surrender to it. Like, I’m not in charge here. So I love spirituality for that. But that doesn’t solve the day to day. So I just sort of never found out what was wrong with me. I just kept going to the spiritual solution of that surrender. Just wasn’t working. So it was then now we’re in 10 years later, or 12 years later, we’re in 2020, lockdown, and because of all this space, and because for me, the the lockdown is working, because I’m resting, right, I’m employed. I’m saving money. I was losing money on tour, that was an issue. So now I’m saving money. I’m safe. I’m content. And I’m overwhelmed. And it’s not the overwhelm everyone else is talking about. They’re scared of, you know, when is this going to end? Or my kids or it was not an I don’t have kids and pets of marriage. I was like, What the heck am I overwhelmed about? And it was like, I’m just overwhelmed. I don’t even know how to put it. But it’s that familiar feeling of like, if I have to do anything, I’m overwhelmed. Yeah. And it’s stuff I want to do. And I do this thing, where I could you drink a pot of coffee and fall asleep? Wow. Because the shutdown is so strong with me. Oh, my gosh, me. Yeah. So if I’m like, not able to do something, I will just shut down. I’ll just go to sleep. I was doing that a lot. And no matter who I talked to, when we’re all sleeping in the pandemic, like that’s not the point, I’m telling you. Yeah,

Kristen Carder 42:53
there’s something different happening. So

Jen Kirkman 42:56
I’m still with the same psychiatrist, the medicine man. And I say, Dr. Dan, we got to revisit this ADHD diagnosis. Like, I started Googling, and I’m learning things and I’m like, okay, so I learn more symptoms than I can tell him about.

Kristen Carder 43:13
You’re telling him Yeah, y’all. This is so not the way it’s supposed to be.

Jen Kirkman 43:20
The good news is he was like, oh, yeah, I know those as ADHD symptoms. You’ve just never told me about them in this much detail. And I said, Well, I’ve been talking to the talk therapist about these things. She claimed she has ADHD, but she’s never once said any of these sounded like ADHD. So I don’t think she knows what she’s talking about. Yeah, he goes, I’m so sorry. We just sort of like dropped your diagnosis 10 years ago, because you didn’t. I mean, he can only bring up what I bring up. But how would I known is like, yeah, vicious circle. So he said, Let me would you like to try medication? And I’m like, well, they’re bad. And he’s like, Well, if you abused them, but if you need them, you know, I was very afraid I was gonna be an attackers. Yeah, he put me on 30 milligrams of Vyvanse. And I was like, I literally started bawling the minute and I was like, What is this what it’s like to be normal. And it’s the way I put it is, imagine if you’re in a big city, and there’s cars honking and beeping and noise. And then you just realize that your window is open, and you go, Oh, and you just shut it and it’s quiet.

Kristen Carder 44:32
That’s what I felt like, that’s so good.

Jen Kirkman 44:36
It didn’t motivate me to do anything anymore. It just took the noise away. And I think it gave me enough dopamine. Not that I was like high on life or nothing like that. Just enough to like sit still and do the things

Kristen Carder 44:50
just balances it out. So you’re, you’re like at everyone else’s starting point. Right. It’s not an advantage. It’s not the like you’re not high, it’s just making the scale more even.

Jen Kirkman 45:06
And because it’s so revolutionary when it first hits you, it does feel euphoric. Yeah, you know, but people talk about this, and I’ll cut you know, I’ve a friend who’s trans and they talk about, you know, so many people talk about the gender dysphoria of feeling like you’re in the wrong gender, but no one really talks about the euphoria of when you feel like you’ve achieved for yourself the way you dress, or whatever surgery might have, that you’re in the proper gender, and that the euphoria is how they know that they’re trans. And so for me, like, it’s such a weird comparison, but the euphoria of knowing, I think I’ve, I think I finally feel what it’s like to be balanced is how I knew I was truly ADHD and had been suffering. And my psychiatrist was very supportive. He’s like, yep, that, you know, and he’s like, Look, if you, you know, you still have to decide what you’re going to focus on. So, you know, if you, if you have a plan for the day to get some writing done, try to just sit down and write first, don’t start looking up flights to Bali, because you’ll do that for three hours, you know. But again, that so that moment where you take your meds and then have to decide to sit and write that, how do you get there? That’s where the work comes in that Hills can’t do that. And that’s where I go, Well, weird. I have to find somewhere to do this, because you don’t do it the psychiatrists once a month. So that’s where like ADHD reading and coaching came in. But when I told my talk therapist about this euphoric feeling, she said, You’re high. That’s just it’s like you did cocaine.

Kristen Carder 46:51
Oh, my goodness. Did you fire her that day? I hope you did.

Jen Kirkman 46:56
No, because I, again, something I didn’t know was an ADHD symptom, actually, until working on with you and focused is, I didn’t know self trust. I didn’t know I didn’t have it. Because how can I? How can I have self doubt? Not self trust? I was a stand up comedian. I got up in front of people. Yeah. How could I ever think I have issues with that? So she said that and I was like, Oh, maybe I am. Oh, this is bad.

Kristen Carder 47:20
Yeah. And the, and the euphoria

Jen Kirkman 47:23
wore off, like three days later, it didn’t feel me every time I took it. Was it the first time? Yeah, it was literally like, I think I found some more information here. thought that’s it. It’s

Kristen Carder 47:32
like the start of a beautiful relationship where you’ve got all those butterflies, and then those died down and you just commit and you’re like, Oh, like this is this is it.

Jen Kirkman 47:43
And as great as the Vyvanse works for me, you know, I forget to take it all the time. I take the I take the pills out of the cabinet. And then I put it down and do something else. And then I come back and go did I open that and take it no clue. Yeah. And I think that’s how you know, you’re not an addict is like, not addict behavior, you know. So I’m been on the same dosage the whole time. And I did fire that therapist, like a year later. And then my psychiatrist retired. And I got a new psychiatrist who claimed you as an ADHD expert, he also was not it took a lot for me to self trust again, he wouldn’t give me 30 Vyvanse he would give me 20. And just take it five days a week. Then I said, but I don’t have ADHD just five days a week. And he said, well, but work. And I said, Well, I’m a creative so I could work seven days a week like that, but it’s I don’t take it for work. I really don’t like it. I said, but on the weekends, so this is what I would take it for work. And he was very, like take it for productivity and productivity and work and work and it was like, I don’t know just very like capitalistic to me but also very male and I don’t mean to offend men. I just mean it’s it’s very male in the sense of the studies that have been done. Yes. You know about boys sitting still. It wasn’t like, but I’m also in perimenopause. And you know, I bought my friend tickets to the ballet and then forgot them on the kitchen table. And I was proud of myself because I packed the bag the night before. And my brain said put them on the table instead of put them in the back and I grabbed the bag and left the tickets but we got there of my time blindness I got there right on time. And we had to wait in line at will call and they couldn’t find my order number. You know it’s like stuff like that dressing out. Yeah, that’s the

Kristen Carder 49:39
thing. I am so with you it is not just for work it is for life.

Jen Kirkman 49:45
And I was like crying my poor friend. I’m like, Let me treat you to the ballet and the hair. I’m like crying. We couldn’t have like a glass of champagne before because, you know, I mean it was just like, things like that. And then like I locked myself out every weekend. I lose my MetroCard like, non stop. And then I do have my own things I do on the side, like my podcast or try to see friends and I’d be so exhausted from masking at work all week that I would lay in bed for 48 hours. And then I would tell the psychiatrists that needs to have depression. So he’s like, it’s good to take a medication break, because you can get reliant on it. And I’m like, but I am reliant on it.

Kristen Carder 50:26
That’s the whole point. Is not

reliant. But

Jen Kirkman 50:33
the thing is, again, there are some days where I just don’t take it because it feels natural to just like, I don’t feel like it. Yeah, like, whatever. I take my own natural vacations from it. And I do understand that, like, if you take it all the time, you might get so used to it, you need to keep going up in dose, which hasn’t been the case for me. Not been the case for me there. I’ve been on it three years now I haven’t had to. So I finally finally finally found a great psychiatrist. Actually, she’s a nurse practitioner who can prescribe. Yeah, yeah. And what this psychiatrist Mr. ADHD expert said to me was, when I said I had to leave him, because I needed more of an expert, he said, Just don’t get a nurse practitioner because only psychiatrists really know everything. And I’m like, she knows everything. She works in a psych ward. She works with people who are like high risk for addiction. So like, if anyone’s going to notice. She’s gonna, she’s gonna, and she’s young and, and hungry and keeps up on things. Yeah, she’s a woman she knows about perimenopause and ADHD. So she actually is an expert, even though her piece of paper hanging on her wall says a different thing. So I’ve never felt better. And then, you know, the past two years, again, through during this anxiety, podcast, and realizing, okay, I think all these things that I thought were anxiety, like, No, this is ADHD. And so thank God for like, memes on Instagram, or tick tock,

Kristen Carder 52:00
I just need to stop you because you had a whole 46 Episode podcast on anxiety. And that led you to realize that like, you might have anxiety, but that’s not the core know of your issues. I just like, Isn’t that wild?

Jen Kirkman 52:15
How much a way to do that, but also,

Kristen Carder 52:19
I’m like, should I say this? Should I not? So on Sunday, my husband’s a pastor, and he preached a sermon on how like, how to figure out God’s will. And everyone’s you know, like, how do I know what to do? How do I know God’s will, and one of the points that he made is just like, your life circumstances are gonna point you into the will of God. And like, if you’re not a God, person, whatever, like the universe is going to bring you to what you’re meant to do. And I just see that so clearly in you, like I want, like, I’m, I’m gifted in speaking, I’m funny, I’m going to start a podcast, it’s going to be about anxiety, and then you’re, you’re moving forward, and you’re doing that thing, and it is nudging you to the whole point, which is actually don’t have anxiety. Or maybe I do, but it’s not, it’s not the core of my issues. And I just I love the way. And if you’re listening to this podcast, like you, too, are being led somehow to the thing. And it’s just so good to just know, like, we’re all going to get there. We’re all going to figure it out. But there’s so much suffering along the way. And I really want to honor that for you. Like, I’m so sorry that you had to go through decades of misdiagnosis. I

Jen Kirkman 53:40
know. And you know, it’s funny what, like what you’re doing with your husband and God’s will? Yeah, whether it’s God, the universe, whatever. It’s like, nobody said, the will of God or the will of the universe is a straight line. Yeah. So like, I don’t know how invested I’d be. And now I want to help others with ADHD. Now, it’s all a thing about, you know, and it’s been years, it’s all I think about, like, oh my gosh, yeah. And I’m like, okay, so this is something I’m really passionate about. And how passionate would I be if it had been easy for me to know what the heck it is this whole time? Yeah. So true. And it’s funny, because when I was doing the anxiety podcast, and I talked to these neuroscientists or psychiatrists, and they talk about people with anxiety, they describe these people and I don’t mean it in a mean way. But I did find myself judging on juice. I don’t have it that bad. Like, yes, yeah. And I’m like, yeah, get it together, anxiety people. But I did feel like I was starting to feel kind of

Kristen Carder 54:40
weird. Like, yeah, like distant from that. Do you? Yeah,

Jen Kirkman 54:44
I feel distant from the diagnosis. And I felt, you know, even the people that would write in and ask me questions,

Kristen Carder 54:50
like you weren’t connecting. Yeah.

Jen Kirkman 54:53
I don’t know what that is. I’ve never had that. Yeah. And I was like, I don’t have it as much why Um, and I think the anxiety I felt was the anxiety of not knowing my diagnosis. Yes. And also like, Sure, there’s a lot of stuff that like, Yeah, I mean, I always say the human condition is kind of anxiety because we’re always like, I don’t know, what’s gonna happen, you know, with the whole human condition is uncertainty, which can cause anxiety. And but yeah, I mean, I just didn’t, I had some phobia and panic attacks is totally. And what’s interesting is, you know, if I’m going to have a panic attack, I will have one driving on the freeway, if I’m stuck in traffic, anything that feels like I’m trapped, you know, aeroplane, I’m trapped. Yeah. And even though I know how to deal with it, and it’s not, I’m not afraid of the plane crashing or a car crash, that trigger will happen, and the Vyvanse has prevented that. Wow. And what this new psychiatrist said is off brand, it’s actually was developed for anxiety. It gives you the dopamine, you need to kind of focus and not let your body get into fight or flight because fight or flight I’m learning is a big part of ADHD as well. And so what she was saying is something like a Vyvanse if you need it, if you are someone who’s got our brain chemistry, it seems counterintuitive that it wouldn’t make you jittery, but it can actually prevent a panic attack. And I’ve noticed that I’ve been doing a lot of long distance driving lately for some family stuff. And I’m, I’m in situations that normally could trigger a panic attack, and I have to do my breathing and yeah, not it’s not happening. Wow.

Kristen Carder 56:33
Thanks for tuning in. Join me next week for part two of this conversation, where we’ll discuss the concept of being in ADHD recovery and all that that entails. We’ll see you then. Bye. Hey, ADHD, or I see you I know exactly what it’s like to feel lost, confused, frustrated, and like no one out there really understand the way that your brain works. That’s why I created focus. Focused is my monthly coaching program where I lead you through a step by step process of understanding yourself feeling better and creating the life that you know you’re meant for. You’ll study be coached, grow, and make amazing changes alongside of other educated professional adults with ADHD from all over the world. Does it Ihaveadhd.com/focused to learn more.

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