Black Women and ADHD w/ Advocate René Brooks
René Brooks has taken a late-life diagnosis and used it to uplift others. After being diagnosed with ADHD 3 times (age 7, 11, and 25), at 25 she was able to get the treatment she deserved. She is the founder of Black Girl, Lost Keys, a blog that empowers black women with ADHD and shows them how to live well with the disorder. In addition to Black Girl, Lost Keys, René has written for Healthline and is a Patient Contributor to TEVA Pharmaceutical’s Life Effects project. She has spoken at The International Alliance Of Patients Organization’s 8th Annual Congress. Today we’re talking about what led to her diagnosis, how she now uses ADHD as her super power, working with your brain instead of against it, and about what it’s like to be a gifted person of color who happens to have ADHD. This is awesome- enjoy!!
***CORONA VIRUS EDITION***
In this episode Peter & René Brooks discuss:
00:54- Intro and welcome Rene
2:07- So you grew up in the 1990’s, and you’ve been diagnosed 3 times now. Tell us how that played out?
4:00- So your diagnosis wasn’t really complete, or helpful in the way it was provided?
5:30- On the testing of gifted kids in the 90’s
6:05- What prompted your third diagnoses at age 25?
7:50- So when you got properly diagnoses at 25, was that a lightbulb moment for you?
8:30- About the wrong labels…
9:09- What are you doing to make ADHD your superpower?
10:18- Talk about ADHD and being black
11:00- On stereotypes, race, and being neurodiverse
12:00- What kinds of things are you teaching your readers on your GREAT blog Black Girl, Lost Keys
13:24- On control versus being the control, and working differently
14:30- Society’s way of working is not often our best way of working
15:54- Working with your brain instead of against it
17:30- Thank you Rene! And thank YOU for subscribing, reviewing and listening. Your reviews are working! Even if you’ve reviewed us before, would you please write even a short one for this episode? Each review that you post helps to ensure that word will continue to spread, and that we will all be able to reach & help more people! You can always reach me via firstname.lastname@example.org or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterThanNormal on all of the socials.
STAY HEALTHY – STAY SAFE – PLEASE WEAR YOUR MASK.. until next time!
18:14- Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits
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PS: If you’re looking for that special gift this holiday season for someone in your life who has ADD, ADHD, or any kind of neurodiverse brain, how about a conversation with me? I’ve finally been convinced to join Cameo, where you can request videos, shout-outs, birthday greetings, even a one-on-one talk about how ADHD is a superpower! You can find me on Cameo here!
My name is Peter Shankman. You are listening to Faster Than Normal, and I have been told to change how I introduce every episode. So that is exactly what I’m doing. I hope you’re happy, Steven, my producer. [Yes, I am & thank you- and your voice sounds better too now btw]. Okay. Welcome to faster than normal today on the podcast, we are talking to a woman named Rene Brooks. Rene Brooks took a late in life diagnosis and uses it to uplift others. She was being diagnosed ADHD at three times, age seven, 11 and 25. I’m guessing the first two didn’t stick at 25. She’s able to get the treatment she deserved finally. And then she went and founded Black Girl, Lost Keys, a blog that empowers black women with ADHD and shows them how to live well with the disorder and managed to say, this is sorely needed. In addition to black girl, lost keys Rene has written for Healthline, and she’s a patient contributor to Tiba pharmaceuticals, life effects, project she’s spoken at conferences. She talks about ADHD. She talks about ADHD and what it’s like. For a black woman and I am so excited to have you on the podcast because this is a new, uh, uh, category for us. And I’m thrilled that you’re able to lead it off and I’m thrilled that we can have you on it. So, Renee, welcome.
Thank you. Thank you so much for the invite. I really appreciate it. I see. We gave you the long version of the Bio. I’ve yeah. I’ve had to tell my assistant to narrow mine down to about 140 characters and you know, nothing more than that as I’m listening, I’m like, uh, we gave him the long version.
So growing up, you were diagnosed at age seven. Do you mind if I ask how old you are? I’m 36. So you’re about 10 years old or 12 years older than me. And they were totally young, younger than me brother. And so, um, you grew up in, in nineties. And by that time, they had a pretty, a bit of like a, you know, a handle of sort of, at least the name of what ADHD was.
It wasn’t so much as, Hey, this kid’s hyper sit him down or sit her down, you know, and, and, and hope for the best. So at least they had some knowledge because if you were diagnosed at age seven, you know, there was, there was an idea of what was going on. Um, why three diagnosis. So the problem is when you take someone’s child and you test them without their permission, and you do that to a person whose community has been marginalized and experimented at one by people who are in charge of social services and medicine. They’re not trying to hear it when you do that to their kid. Um, it really was quite a violation and they didn’t do it once they did it twice. And so both times you get from when you were at the age seven age 11, now neither of those tests were sort of authorized by you by your parents, by anyone, right?
Wow. So where was this?
Uh, I grew up in Pennsylvania in, uh, right outside of Harrisburg in, uh, in a little town called, uh, Carlisle. Okay. So, uh, actually you, you may or may not have heard of it. It’s um, it’s also the site of, uh, the army war college. Uh, there is a, um, just school. There was a school there for what we now call indigenous people. It was called the Carlisle Indian school and they brutalized indigenous people there. So it’s an interesting place. Lots of history. Wow. I cannot, I can’t complain about, uh, the schooling I received there or anything, but that was what happened and you were diagnosed, but it wasn’t actually that it was, it was your parents or they just didn’t listen because of, of, of what the expectations were to begin with. Well, you know, they, here’s how I feel about it. They didn’t give them the information that they needed to make an informed decision. They were basically attacked. So you, you can’t. Um, when, when I tell that story, a lot of times people are like, Oh wow, your parents just didn’t want to get you treatment. That’s not what happened at all. What happened was a decision was taken out of their hands as parents and they reacted. And they reacted appropriately. I must say if I had been given the exact same scenario, although I have the advantage of the internet now, so I can do my own digging and my own research and find out things they didn’t have access to information at their fingertips, the way we do. I imagine that it must’ve been so, so growing up there was obviously something quote, unquote, different about you. Right. And I don’t, I don’t see different. I don’t say different is a bad thing. I’ve learned that this is not a bad thing, but no, the added sort of, sort of, uh, uh, you had to deal with essentially being black and, and everything that came with that. And then on top of that, you know, here’s a hyperactive or, or a attention deficit type child showing all the classic symptoms of that, that must’ve been, it couldn’t have been easy. It wasn’t. And then you, you lump in the fact that I was like, me being tested was not unique because I was designated as gifted. And if you were gifted in the nineties, all they did was pull you out of class to test you for something. So, you know what I mean? It’s like every other day it’s like, let’s throw some flashcards in their face. Let’s ask them some questions. In their ear, constant, constant barrage of tests. So it wasn’t like whatever they did to evaluate me for ADHD was not abnormal enough for me to go home and be like, Hey, they tested me for something today because I was always being tested for something.
As you got older, um, the, the final diagnosis came at 25. Talk about that. What prompted that? And was it, was it about that?
I kind of had a, there’s no such thing as a nervous breakdown. Right. But I guess, you know, that’s what, when people get extremely depressed and kind of fall flat and like, I guess that’s what we still call it. Um, so I was, uh, working for one of the biggest health insurers in the state, a lot of pressure in the job and I just completely. When downhill mental health leave from work. And, um, while I was out on that mental health leave, about six months into that, they were treating me for depression. And of course I wasn’t getting any relief. And I just so happened to mention to my therapist one day, like, yeah, when I was a kid, they tried to say that I had Some kind of ATB, I guess, and put me on medicine and my mother be so bad and she stopped me mid sentence. And she was like, what did you say? I’m like, Oh yeah, you know, blah, blah, blah. And she, she was, she just picked up a notepad and started scrambling said, go down the hallway. Hey, uh, with my colleague, he’s an ADHD specialist and then come back and see me after you’ve met the pen and send me away for the day. And I went down the hallway, met with him. I knew that I had ADHD and then kind of rolled me down the path to where I am today.
So when you were finally diagnosed at 25 and everything, did everything make sense? Was this like a light bulb moment for you?
Okay. So for me, it was a light bulb moment because, um, because I had an identifier when, when you have a lot of people, ascribed negativity to the word label, for me, there was freedom in the label because that label gave me access to information, resources, other people who were having the same experience that I had. And society slaps a label on you, whether or not, you know it. So the label that often gets slept on ADHD. People is irresponsible, lazy, unreliable, undependable. Um, so there’s a lot more labels that come with undiagnosed, ADHD than just ADHD. I’ll take the ADHD label, those other ones. Are pretty shitty.
No question about it. It must’ve been a wake up call. Um, every everyone, uh, has, has, has said that, you know, when they find out they finally have a name yeah. That you said there’s a name for this thing. And that that’s what happened to me too, you know? And Holy crap, all my weirdest has a name. It was, it was a great feeling. Let’s let’s switch the conversation. So, so it’s been 11 years since you got diagnosed. And what are you doing to sort of make ADHD your superpower?
So for me, I, um, I still do therapy. I do meds, meds are not for everybody, but they work well for me. Um, and I have my own business, which allows me to shape my schedule the way that I need.
You mentioned that you don’t, you mentioned you don’t own or run your own calendar. That’s a trait with people that you see with other people do that. Cause we don’t do it well.
Oh, yeah, no. As soon as, as soon as I reached the level in business where I was able to hire somebody that I knew was going to be the first person I hired, like no more double booking. I mean, we still like, you know, there’s human errors, so we still get it wrong sometimes. But for the most part, everything runs smoothly. Although I will say. That I wasn’t doing too bad until I got really, really busy. And then once there were a whole bunch of moving pieces, it was like, Oh no, someone else has to go through this.
No, no, I totally totally understand that. Um, okay. So let’s sort of talk about, uh, ADHD and being black because it’s, you know, It’s not something you’d think of as a, to be honest, truthful, I’ve never thought of the racial divide within ADHD, but you know, after, after reading your site and reading your blog is obviously there.
It absolutely is there, there is nothing.. just like there’s nothing that you can come to in life, no experience without bringing your ADHD. There’s no experience I can come to without bringing blackness. So. That experience, that life experience, colors, every other experience that I have. And, um, when you’re talking about ADHD specifically, there’s the matter of stereotyping that’s pushed upon us. So being late, uh, being considered lazy, being late all the time, being disorganized can look a lot like the stereotypes that people put on black people in general that say that they’re that they’re lazy, that they’re unrefined. Um, so those things are very problematic, both within the community where it looks like are you feeding into this stereotype and making the rest of us look bad and outside of the community where people are going, ah, that’s exactly what we expected you to be like.
Wow, that’s a really, yeah. I guess, so I never really thought about it. So, so what as, as you know, with your blog, which by the way, I love the name of it. It’s brilliant. Um, well, tell us the kind of, of, of things that you’re teaching your readers, um, sort of how to understand what they’re going through and, and, and, and what they can do to utilize it. Not to, not to be demonized by it.
On the blog. I talk a lot about how to get through everyday life with ADHD. We talk about cooking and how to clean your house and how to deal with your emotions. Like the real nuts and bolts of it, because I feel like. There’s a lot of that information that’s lacking. Like a lot of the information on ADHD is very clinical. Here are the symptoms. Here’s how they can manifest, but you don’t hear a lot of people saying no. Yeah, yeah. Like I have ADHD, but this is how I’m doing life. Like life does not have to be, um, some kind of .. combination of symptoms that you can treat.. you actually can learn and thrive and succeed in spite of whatever your symptoms there are. I feel like people think like I have this symptom it’s ADHD, and then they’re like, okay, well, you know, that’s what it is. That’s not what it is. You’re it’s whatever you say, what you’re saying is your, you know, your, your you’re turning it around, right. You’re not, it’s not the end of your life with ADHD. This is the beginning. This is a new way of looking at. How you’re going to control your life.
I I’ve liked it often to a cell phone in that, um, you know, or a smartphone in that, in that at the end of the day, we make the decision to whether or not we control our smartphone or a smartphone controls us.
Absolutely. Like I think, um, for me, like for me, Knowing that I had ADHD gave me the opportunity to figure out the way that my brain worked and not to try harder, but to try.. different because nobody can say that, like the stereotype about ADHD, people not working, it’s not true. We’re working 15 times harder than everybody else. We’re just not getting results because that’s not the way that we can do things. That’ll be effective for us.
I love that. I love what you just said, where. Oh, no, no, of course. I just forgot it. We’re working. It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter and that’s yeah, I think he’s a hundred percent true because we spend so much time because we’re, you know, we’re brought into this world with the way that quote unquote it’s always been done. Right. So, so we sit there and say, well, okay, this is the way they’ve told us to do it. Why is it working for everyone else and not for us? And we’re never really given the thought that, Hey, we can think about how to work this differently.
Exactly. And when you’re able to do it differently, you can see results because you’re told, you know, there’s only one way that like, society is very rigid in the way they teach people how to do things. There’s only one way and that’s the right way. And if you don’t do it that way, then it’s just wrong. Why is it wrong? Because to me, if the job’s done, it’s done. I don’t care how you got there. You could have done it standing on your head for all I care. I have that process. Is your business totally come to me with the job?
Yeah, I love, I love that. I love that because we don’t get taught that in school, we have to show our work and if the work doesn’t go, isn’t the same way. As you know, the way we were taught, it doesn’t work. My first job, working for America Online, they let us work whenever we wanted, however, we want, as long as we have the job done and I thought, wow, this is work? This is awesome. Then of course, my second job at a publishing company, we did not get to do that at all. And I’m like, this is Russia. And so it was like, that was, that was sort of the wake up call there.
So yeah, I get that, you know, the concept of being able to do something because it works for you. I know people who work at four in the morning and stay up all night and work because that’s better for them. Right. And you know, I get up at three 30 in the morning to start my day because it’s better for me. And I think that if we get rid of. Making it sort of an all for one has to be done this way. We might see a lot better things happening. It’s really about learning how to work with your brain instead of against it. Like people tell me that cause I coach on top of everything else. And one of the things that people often come to me with is I need to journal why. Why do you need a journal? And they’re like, Oh, well, you know, as when people say that successful people do I don’t journal. I don’t give two craps about journaling, like in fact, trying to force yourself to journal when you’re not a person who journals is a waste of time.
I I’ve, I’ve been told that same thing with, um, With meditation. I am sorry. I can’t make him meditate. I just can’t. I’ve tried it countless times. Every time I went to getting frustrated and going and having a pizza. And so what I’ve learned is that my meditation comes from like, you know, skydiving or running, or be on a bicycle or something else that gives me the same end result as other people get through meditation.
There you go. It’s all about finding what works for you. You it’s, it’s your life. You get to make the rules and the rules or whatever you say they are. Amen. We’re going to have people find more about you. Where can they go? Uh, they should go to www.blackgirllostkeys.com. They can find me on Twitter. They wouldn’t give me all the characters I need to make my name. So it’s actually, @blkgirllostkeys on Twitter. I don’t know if you enter black girl lost keys in any search engine you’ll find me on any social media platform or website that you want.
I love it. I love it. I love it. Very cool guys. Rene Brooks- black girl lost keys. Thank you so much for taking the time today. I really do appreciate it. Give your dogs a big hug for me and for the rest of the team. And guys, thank you for listening. It’s always a pleasure to speak with you. If you enjoy this, you can leave us a review on any of them. Where you download your podcasts. So I could, I suppose, iTunes or Stitcher or Google play or Spotify, or as far as I know, even Amazon Alexa is scared the heck out of my daughter the other day, when I played my own podcast on Alexa, my seven year old went, why are you coming out of the speaker? So that was pretty cool. So as always guys, thank you for listening. We’ll see you next week. ADHD is a gift, not a curse.
Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at www.FasterThanNormal.com I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at petershankman.com and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were performed by Steven Byrom and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week.