Never Say This to a Person With ADD

Never Say This to a Person With ADD

1. “Just tune it/her/him/them out”

If only it were that easy. Those of us with ADD/ADHD can tune people out when we're hyperfocusing (those of us who hyperfocus) but day-to-day, chatty people are a distraction. I get anxious and frustrated when multiple conversations are going on around me or more than one person is talking to me at the same time.

Another trigger: The sound of people speaking with vocal fry. You know, that croaky, vibrating voice that makes it easy to imagine the speaker's larynx vibrating. Sometimes I speak in vocal fry, and then immediately feel the need to apologize, even though not everyone is triggered by it. 

This is the photo I'm using because it's licensed for reuse.

stop the noise

Source: SketchPort

This is the photo I wanted to use, but I don't have a Shutterstock account.

2. “Just focus” or “Just do it”

(“It” being the task.)

Focus is not the result of willpower. You can't simply tell yourself to focus and be done with it. Focus is controlled by brain chemistry. The brain of a person with ADD or ADHD triggers fewer neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which control focus and mood. ADD is a neurological disorder.

3. “Think positively”

Positive thinking and talking it out are only parts of the solution. It's way more complex than that.  There are neurotransmitters and brain health involved in those automatic negative thoughts. You don't tell an obese person to “eat less”. You don't tell a person with ADD or depression to “be happy”. I have done a shitload of meditating. I've talked to angels. I've had heart-to-heart conversations with the child version of myself as if I've time-travelled to see her. I've interrogated my inner guide, who's one smart woman, by the way. Your inner guide is too. “Think happy thoughts” may have worked for Wendy in Peter Pan, but it's not enough. Those inner gremlins are evil sons of bitches and although it is necessary to squash them, it's not as easy as flipping a switch. It takes patience, training (sometimes), time and conscious self-love.

Think positive

Source: Pixabay

4.”You'd hate [place + environmental trigger]”


  • “You'd hate that restaurant. It's always crowded”.
  • “You'd hate that store. It's so loud.”
  • “You'd hate my office. There's no privacy.”

There's an element of hate in there – yes, people hate crowds – but the word misses the point because it's not about hate, it's about discomfort.

I am sometimes physically unable to function in a way that feels normal when I'm overstimulated. Sometimes loud bars trigger me. Sometimes I'm triggered when the music – or talk radio – is just quiet enough that it sounds like a whisper. Sometimes it's a crowded subway. Or the music that a store is playing. When I used to go to clubs I hated when people touched me with their sweaty bodies. When smoking was allowed in clubs and bars (and everywhere else) I was less bothered by the smell if I lit up too. 

Sensory overload is real. I hate the feeling. Loud sneezes startle me. One time, my partner woke me up by turning on the light and the TV. The light and sound sent me into sensory overload. I ran to the bathroom, closed the door (which I never do when it's just us at home) and sat on the floor in the dark hyperventilating and trying to catch my breath. I felt like a child having a freakout. He never did it again.


The above refers to autism but sometimes people with ADD experience this.

5. “Must be able to multitask”

Even in non-ADDers, multitasking results in poor productivity. Employers are finally realizing this.

Some multitasking can be done but it needs to be active and passive, like reading while listening to wordless music. Some passive activities can be combined with active activities, but I don't recommend combining active activities.

multitask illustration

Interestingly, it recently occurred to me that one of the reasons I don't like to drive is that I don't like the focus it takes or the multitasking.

I eagerly got my drivers license at the age of 16 and renew it every time I get a renewal notice, but I mostly stopped driving a few years later, except when it was required by a job. After a few minor scrapes (I knocked the mirror off a Jaguar and left a note, for starters) I thought I was a bad driver. I didn't really need to drive because I've only lived in cities with good public transit.

I've been learning to drive stick shift. Remembering to press the clutch while shifting or remembering which pedal to use when (I'm not talking break vs. gas) takes practice. I think that ADDers can make poor drivers or excellent ones. It is amazing how muscle memory kicked in on my second lesson. I had a few panicked moments (“OMG we're coming up to a steep hill, WHAT DO I DO??”) but I was fine. Until I stalled getting into a parking spot. 🙂 I appreciate the focus it takes. It takes a lot of focus. Because my muscle memory isn't fluent yet, I have to focus on the inside of the car as well as the outside. With an automatic transmission, it's mostly the outside you have to think about. 

What would you add to this list?

What ADD Is and Is Not

What ADD Is and Is Not

Since I've become more vocal about my own ADD I've discovered that people really don't understand it.

It's not this:

…thought a short attention span and distractability are symptoms. 

or this:

…Poor impulse control
(Although occasionally I say, “Book. Book. Book.”, cry, “I'm an albatross!” and sing, “I'm flap flap flapping my albatross wings.”)

It's more like this:


(Spinning around blindfolded and then trying to pin the tail on the donkey. Getting disoriented. I know that poor Ralph isn't spinning in this scenario but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to include him, and the concept is there.)

It feels like this:

Brain Out of order

It's very much this…

For me, at least. It's why I prefer guided meditations over silent ones. My mind wanders less if I have a voice to focus on. “Monkey monkey underpants”, indeed.

Let's try this again…

It is not any of these things:

  • laziness
  • a lack of trying
  • a lack of wanting to do better
  • satisfaction with mediocrity
  • neediness
  • indifference
  • imagined 
  • an excuse
  • ignoring on purpose
  • poor parenting
  • poor life choices
  • being inconsiderate. If we're late or don't call, it has nothing to do with you.

It's also neither blessing nor curse. I like to think of mine as a gift, but often it's a gift that I would prefer not to have. It's what you make of it, not what anyone else tells you it is.

It's not a lot of things.

It is…

…a neurological disorder. Neuroimaging studies have shown structural alterations in several brain regions in children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Here's a study published in medical journal The Lancet earlier this year.

….lower levels of dopamine.

…a difference in the temporal lobe at the front of the brain.

One study concluded that the size of the brain of a child with ADD was 3% smaller than the size of the brain of a child without it.

33% of kids with ADD never finish high school, so they end up in jobs that don’t pay well. That is if they can keep a job. Adults with ADD are more likely to get fired more frequently and experience unemployment.

Ideally, when we concentrate, blood flow should increase in the brain, especially in the prefrontal cortex; this increased activity allows us to focus, stay on task and think ahead. In the brains of most people with ADD, blood flow goes down when they concentrate, making it harder to stay focused. In other words, the harder they try, the harder it gets! 

Some personal anecdotes:

  • Sometimes I get headaches from focusing too hard.
  • It takes me longer to catch on to easy things.
  • I crave routine.
  • Change can be overwhelming and the idea of change can be even worse. Not to say that I'm inflexible or can't be spontaneous, but I get used to things.
  • If I don't have notes in front of me to use as a reference, I'm screwed. Except for tests, though I always did better on reports and essays.
  • I like playing games such as Whack-a-Mole or video games that require clicking on fast-moving objects/hand-eye coordination because I like the focus required. 

I'll save the rest to add to my “about” page.

ADD Help for Mothers

ADD Help for Mothers

I'm not a mom. I choose not to be and one of the many reasons for that is because I think that I'm impatient with kids. Truth is, that's in my head. I'm really nice and don't lose my cool out loud, I just think it, and appreciate when people refer to their kids as “less than perfect”, shall I say. I never want to be that parent that drags their kid around and get short with them, yelling out of frustration, getting angry over things that aren't worth getting angry over. As it is, I sometimes do that with my dog and I feel terrible about it – especially because she can't speak English and when she verbalizes, I guess.

(An aside: She's really smart. She DOES answer me if I ask her multiple choice questions such as “Do you need to go to the bathroom? Is it dinner time? Is it bedtime?” The way she answers is by cocking her head when she hears the right word.)

Turns out, one symptom of ADD is a short fuse.

I babysat a lot as a teenager. One summer, I helped the next door neighbours at their cottage on the weekends. It was a great gig until the boy was being bratty, I snapped and called him a “moron” and understandably wasn't asked back. (I don't remember past that, but clearly, they drove me home.)

That's the only time I didn't keep my cool when babysitting. When my young (under 10) nephews test my patience I'm as nice as can be because I imagine them in therapy years from now dealing with their aunt issues, whether said concern is warranted or not. I ask them to “please” stop and tell them how they're making me feel. I relate it to them. I was a very sensitive child (an empath, while I'm using labels) and I still remember how horrible it felt when adults were impatient or short with me. I don't want to make a child feel that way.

I've been thinking about parenting with ADD – because you know, Mother's Day is this weekend and I wanted to share timely content.

Here are some tips for you, from this former babysitter, aunt, and non-parent.

1. Carve out some “me” time

…especially at the start of the day.

Wake up earlier than you think you need to, even by 15 minutes, and do a meaningful ritual. Examples of activities to choose from: Journal. Meditate. Do yoga.

I discourage ADD-ers from having too many morning routines, so pick. My guess is that journaling could be the most useful, as you can write your to-dos, your concerns, your feelings and more. You can bitch about your kids. Dump your brain onto the page.

My mom, who ran a business when I was growing up, used to get up early and do Jane Fonda videos.

2. Lists

Keep a notebook or multiple notebooks with to do lists. Online, I like Evernote. It allows you to organize your notes into notebooks and your notebooks into notebook “stacks”, so you could have one stack called “family” and create notebooks such as “schedule”, “activities” and “to dos” (with reminders). You can create one notebook per child if that helps. You can have a notebook that contains meal plans, one for errands. etc. You can also share notes with your partner.

3. Keep a family calendar

Google Calendar, or iCal if you're Apple users.

I see this one in families all the time.

Use the multiple calendar feature, assigning calendars to “chores”, “extra-curricular activities”, “social” or anything else that makes sense to you and your situation. Colour code them. Some of us LOVE colour-coding.Share them with your partner and your children if they're old enough (keeping track of your teenager's plans). Print copies and stick one to the fridge door.

Share them with your partner and your children if they're old enough. Encourage your older children to enter their own plans. Print colour copies and stick one to the fridge door.


4. Don't multitask

That seems difficult for parents but if you can, hold off the child that's interrupting you.

This is the picture I'd use to depict this, but I won't pay for stock photos.

5. Date Night

If you're in a relationship, make date nights a priority. You should do this anyway. If you like going out for dinner, hire a babysitter for the evening. If you want a quiet evening in, send your children for a sleepover. Have child-free time to reconnect with your partner.

Please don't try to be Super Mom (or dad) and go easy on yourself when you mess up. You will mess up. You will feel shitty. Your child(ren) will be fine. You won't forget the big stuff and if you briefly do, you'll be reminded. (“Mooom, I'm hungry!” “Mooom, I have no clean socks!”)

super mom

A New Direction For Finding Health & Wellness

A New Direction For Finding Health & Wellness

A New Direction For Finding Health & Wellness

Over two years ago, I created Finding Health & Wellness and gave it a mission statement: Finding Health & Wellness is a website that connects people with online health and wellness events and resources.

The website – along with the newsletter – has been a great place to share stuff I enjoy. Except, I was selling other people's stuff, and not my own. I had no stuff to sell. I didn't know what to sell or to whom. I knew I wanted to help people with their issues but I wasn't sure how.

For years I felt lost.

Two years ago I ended a work contract and tried to be this “entrepreneur”. I eventually went back to work last fall, lost that job a couple of months in, spent the winter unemployed, and started a new one in March, shortly after my birthday.

In that time, and also prior to that, I took marketing and business courses from the best in the business, including Ramit Sethi and Marie Forleo. I watched webinars and summits. I read newsletters and websites and books. I had ideas and pieces of ideas but the puzzle was incomplete. I knew what I wanted part of my website to look like. (This wasn't it.) It was frustrating. I was afraid that I'd feel lost forever. I talked about it with therapists. I meditated. I prayed. I attempted to manifest. I had a lot of dark feelings. I cried a lot. 

After years of feeling lost, not knowing my niche, knowing that “connecting people to online resources” wasn't enough, and feeling that I had all these pieces but not THE piece, I found it.

It came out of my own struggles, My own issues.

See, starting my current job made my attention deficit disorder “flare up” in a bad way. It was a perfect storm:

  • Limited money before and after the income began, so I wasn't eating the ideal diet or replacing my supplements.
  • So much to learn and keep straight, so much to focus on. In my first month, I felt like I'd been thrown into a wavy ocean,  commanded to swim, and I was barely treading water.
  • The overhead lighting at work. Fluorescent lighting is a known cause of health issues and inattentiveness. 
  • An open-concept office with rows of desks with NO walls (not even half walls), creating a lack of personal space and a lack of boundaries. There are some people in particular who regularly have personal conversations nearby. I recently lost my shit on two of them and demanded, “Can you two take it somewhere else? Your constant chatter is affecting my work performance!” (It was a nice, professional way of losing my shit)
  • The constant rain we've been having – dark days, rather than sunlight.
  • Impostor Syndrome.

All of my “gratitude” and “positive thinking” exercises were no match, though essentially being told to “suck it up” did make me decide to shut up and control what I can control.

One day it hit me: I need to help adults with ADD, using all of the training I have.

My mom deserves some of the credit here because she directed me to a book that's been released next week. The book: Finally Focused by James Greenblatt M.D. & Bill Gottlieb CHC.

I have long been frustrated by the fact that it's easier to find resources for parents of kids with ADD & ADHD than there is to find information for adults with ADD. However, I have first-hand experience and resources! I've controlled my own symptoms!

What's funny is that some of the advice we get about finding our niche is to look at what we've struggled with, but I forgot about this “struggle” until I saw that it was impairing my life. I had it under control until I didn't. The About Me page on this site currently says, “I don't have a big transformational story. I didn't have a disease that I cured. ” to start a paragraph about ADD, and yet it still took me this long to figure it out. 

A week after I decided that I was going to help other people with this problem, I was on Facebook gushing about how I was working on this late into the night almost every night, and felt satisfied by that, even when I was beyond tired and into cranky. When I think about NOT doing it is when I feel physically uncomfortable. The idea of not doing it makes me feel more anxious than the idea of doing it. My body is telling me that I have to.

What this means for Finding Heath and Wellness

  • I'm in the process of redoing this website. Instead of starting new, I'm moving content around. For example, I've removed featured “upcoming events” from the home page. They will continue to live on the Calendar and I will often promote events by connecting them to mental health rather than simply using the content that's handed to me.
  • I am currently creating a 5-day free e-course + programs with a signature system. I haven't completely worked it out but here's how I'm picturing my offerings:
    • A 5-week live, recorded course (video/web conferencing), that expands on the 5-day course (1 class per week) with worksheets and a Facebook Group 
    • An upgraded version of that which includes 1:1 coaching with me. In order to maintain my energy, there will be a limited number of 1:1 spots available.
    • A monthly membership site that includes a book club.
    • An exclusive, executive option.

I won't have all the answers, but there are plenty of experts that do and so I'll continue connecting people with online health and wellness resources in that way. I will continue using my interests in areas such as eating lifestyles, Ayurveda, yoga, meditation, medical marijuana and more, as it applies to my practice.

And what's strange: I always thought that I'd NEVER want to do public speaking but a few days ago, a voice told me that I'll be public speaking. It also gave me a vision of what that would look like. It came out of nowhere. 

It feels amazing to have clarity. I haven't felt this inspired and impassioned in a long time. I feel that it's made me better at my day job, which I intend to hold onto. Rockstar social media manager by day, superhero ADD coach by night.

Interested in ADD/ADHD and not already on my mailing list? Register via the form below. It's coded to specifically add you to the special interest list. When my free 5-day e-course is ready, I'll make sure you get it. ⇓

Hi, I'm Andrea, and I'm an ADD coach. I help adults (professionals and entrepreneurs) conquer their ADD symptoms to lead productive, fulfilling lives using proven methods and no bullshit.

Welcome to my world.



Canada Legalizes Marijuana. Here Are the Highlights.

Canada Legalizes Marijuana. Here Are the Highlights.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Canada. Canada will become the first G7 country to legalize marijuana country-wide.

If you've been following me for awhile, then you know hat this is a topic that I have geat interest in from a health perspective and a political angle. Two of my more popular posts from last year:  Why I didn’t post about 420 on 4/20 (May 5, 2016), My Thoughts on Toronto’s Pot Dispensaries (June 6, 2016). In the latter, I noted that were over 100 dispensaries in Toronto at the time. This number has drastically reduced due to several factors, including competition, police intervention, and landlord issues. Many dispensary owners got excited at the prospect of legalization and jumped ahead, even though the federal announcement, based on Trudeau's campaign promises, took over a year

In my post from June last year I also noted that I was going to create a 4-6 week email course, which is still sitting in a draft form. The process got overwhelming while I was planning it but it is still on my radar.

In this post, I  provide the highlights of Canada's legalization plan.

The purpose of Canada's new marijuana plan

It's not a matter of “getting with the times” or making it easier to get your medicine, both of which I think are benefits. The government is positioning its plan as a way to reduce the role of criminal organizations in the marijuana market and limiting the availability of the drug to youth. In other words, dealers, and dealers selling to kids.

Who will be able to purchase, possess, and consume marijuana?

The new federal law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy marijuana. Provinces can set a higher minimum age. The minimum age requirement to buy alcohol is 19 in all provinces except Quebec, where it's 18, so provinces might choose to make 19 the age minimum for pot at well.

Where will you be allowed to buy marijuana?

Marijuana will be allowed to be bought by mail or in provincially regulated retail spaces. Note the emphasis on “provincially regulated”. Currently, individuals with medical marijuana licenses can get mail order pot from provincially licensed growers.

The federal government will license and regulate growers, but each of Canada’s provinces will need to decide exactly how marijuana will be distributed and sold. A model similar to our Liquor Control Board (LCBO) stores could be likely. There's also been a discussion of licensing existing drug stores.

Where will stores get their marijuana?

All product sold will be produced by federally-approved growers.

The government says that this will ensure product quality and safety, but this has been an issue before. One side of the argument – largely made by licensed producers – is that with a local, illegal dispensary, you could be getting a product with mold, pesticides, and other nasty things. However, a few months ago Health Canada faced controversy because those very producers were selling tainted marijuana. As a result, patients experienced pain, nausea, vomiting, rashes and other reactions.

A senior Health Canada official acknowledged that even though the government prohibits the use of potentially harmful chemicals such as myclobutanil, known to emit hydrogen cyanide when heated, the department had not been testing cannabis growers to ensure that they weren't using it or any other pesticides. Health Canada claimed that they expected companies to do their own testing. Evidently, they weren't. Government-approved growers have become the marijuana equivalent of big pharma, lobbying against small family operations, dispensaries and for some big growers, legalization.

Another analogy: Grocery items bought at the farmers' market vs. items bought at a supermarket. Big companies often have recalls. Last week, there was a national recall of flour due to E. coli contamination after 26 people across the country got sick. Robin Hood and other companies were part of the recall. Other recalls in the past include those on packaged vegetables, bottled juice, packaged meat and other packaged products. However, small farmers with small operations generally don't have these issues. Small marijuana growers who are growing organically to help a population won't have the same issues as the large warehouse producers who are publicly traded on the stock exchange. Smaller operations take more care. Organic growing practices with natural ways to repel pests are important for a medicinal plant.

Marijuana vape

What forms of cannabis will be legal to buy?

Fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oils and seeds and plants for cultivation (see below).

What about edibles?

The sales of edibles aren't included under current legalization plans but will be legalized at a later date.

Individuals will be able to make edibles at home, for personal use. Bake those brownies but keep them to yourself.

What will the marijuana possession limit be?

The possession limit of dried cannabis would be set at 30 grams.

The new legislation will also allow individuals to grow up to four plants at home.

How much will marijuana cost?

It’s important the government keep the prices of the legal pot low enough to compete with the black market. It will likely be priced on a per-gram basis, just like your dealer does.

No one knows yet, but economics experts point out that the government should keep the prices of the legal pot low enough to compete with the black market, which means not overtaxing it. The tobacco industry has seen this happen: Taxes on cigarettes increase and people turn to the black market, increasing illegal sales. People like to save money where possible (I won't ramble about quitting smoking to save money and maintain health – if you smoke, you know it's bad for you and that it's costing you money).

When I was in high school there was a cafe that illegally sold cigarettes under the counter to minors. Although it's not black market, I know people who buy cheap smokes from Indian reservations just off the highway, where they don't tax their cigarettes. The cost of marijuana would ideally compete.

What marijuana activity can get you into legal trouble

Anyone caught providing cannabis to minors can face up to 14 years in jail. Stop smoking up the teenaged neighbour. While you might allow your child a bit of wine, keep your teenagers away from your pot stash.

Driving with THC in your system, like drunk driving. I know people who drive well after consuming cannabis, but better safe than sorry. Sorry has potential consequences that you don't want. The new legislation will allow for roadside saliva testing to detect drug-impaired drivers. Drivers with a small amount of THC in their blood would face a fine of up to $1,000, while those with high levels (or those who also have alcohol in their blood) would face up to 10 years in jail.

Some of my favourite memories from when was 19 include hotboxing at the drive-in, but I was young and less knowledgeable then. I don't recommend it. Hotbox your bathroom and chill with Netflix instead. Pot, Netflix, and chill.

When will marijuana be legal in Canada?

Marijuana will be legal in Canada by July 2018.

What about medical use of marijuana in Canada?

The existing program for access to medical marijuana would continue as is. You get a prescription from your doctor and then a federally-licensed grower “fills it” by mail or courier.

This begs the question: If a person needs pot as medicine, wouldn't it be more convenient and quicker for them to get it at their local retail store?

Furthermore, here's an interesting quote from Liberal MP Bill Blair, former Toronto police chief:

“It is not our intent to promote the use of this drug. In every other jurisdiction that has gone down the road of legalization, they focused primarily on a commercial regulatory framework. In Canada … it’s a public-health framework.”

My opinion: By legalizing it, the government is promoting it, but no more than it already is. Politicizing the issue promotes it. Telling people not to smoke pot promotes it. Every time the issue is in the news, it's promotion. Every image of marijuana is an advertisement.  If it's a true public health framework, I think that there must be public education about cannabis as medicine, and public education about recreational vs. medical use, along with the risks associated with addiction. Not that the public is educated about painkiller addiction or addiction to other prescription medicine.

I think it makes sense to promote it as a medical intervention to relieve your aches, pains, anxiety etc.  Marijuana is a drug. Alcohol is a drug. Coffee and sugar are drugs. Still, it's a step in the right direction.

marijuana medicine

Final notes:

What about marijuana legalization in the U.S.?

According to Rolling Stone magazine: “In the U.S., though 29 states have some sort of legalization program, cannabis remains federally illegal, including for medical use. Due largely to this restriction, America's legal cannabis industry has grown into a patchwork Frankenstein monster: each state has had to determine for itself whether legalization makes sense and how the industry should be governed.”

And remember: Marijuana is a drug. Whether used recreationally or legally, keep out of reach of children.