Updated: Aug 1
“Something is wrong with my brain,” I said to my husband when considering whether or not to retire as an optometrist. I thought I could continue my practice part-time and still be the mom I wanted to be for my 2 young boys, but I was wrong. Something was wrong with me. I was missing appointments, having to recheck lists and recipes repeatedly, I couldn’t remember the names of people I had known for years and I was showing a marked decline in my ability to tolerate frustration.
So, I made an appointment for a neuropsychological exam to check for ADHD, but what I feared most was a diagnosis of dementia. I was only 45. Halfway through the 4 hours of testing, though, the psychologist stacked his papers and said, “Well, the good news is that you do not have dementia, but, I do suspect you have ADHD.”
How did I miss this?
As far back as I can remember, I struggled in school. I was an honor roll student in first grade, but my grip on school seemed to steeply decline afterwards. I would forget my lunches, get lost on homework, and be blindsided by tests. I continued on a downward spiral until the 4th grade when it was clear to my parents that I needed a change. To my horror, they decided I would repeat the 4th grade and change schools.
The recalibration helped actually. The new school and my friends were great, but I was still a fledgling student throughout middle and high school. I graduated toward the bottom of my class and was accepted at the University of Alabama… contingent upon my completing summer school with at least a 3.0 GPA.
Meanwhile, my excellent father convinced me that he believed I could accomplish anything. There was no real evidence to support his belief, but that didn’t seem to matter. To prove it, he was very “hands-off” with any decisions I made at school, even the bad ones; and according to him, there would be financial support during college, but none after. He said that I would not need it because I would be self-sufficient. When I doubted myself, his confidence and encouragement carried me. He was unwavering.
I successfully registered for classes in advertising, pledged to a sorority, and set off with very little input from him. The independence to do things my way with the knowledge that he would cut me off financially upon graduation was exactly what I needed. Finally, I was getting great grades and enjoying school!
In my second year of college, I had a divinely pivotal moment and still give thanks to God for it. While studying one night, I sensed advertising was wrong for me long term, so, I prayed for direction and was led to ask myself: “If I could do anything in the world without concern about the obstacles, what would I be?” The answer was a doctor. At that moment, nothing else would do. I knew I had to at least try… or regret it for the rest of my life. I immediately called my father to tell him I would be switching my course to pre-med. Without hesitating, he said, “Ok Dr. Kellett!” (unwavering).
Now things were in place! Learning about how our bodies work to fight disease and thrive was thrilling for me. I felt privileged to be in an elite group of eager people like myself with common interests. But, ADHD was there. I had to work twice as hard and twice as long as the others there. I was up early and down late. My personal hacks were flashcards, tutors, sitting in the front row, and asking LOTS of questions.
In my senior year, I decided that optometry would be a better fit for me and was able to slide my application in, by hand, on the day of the deadline (last minute). I graduated with a BS in microbiology and was off to Birmingham for optometry school. After 4 years of school, I finally earned my doctorate and started doing the job I loved. There were many bumps in the road to meeting my husband in 2002 and having my 2 amazing boys, but, despite those, I felt like I had arrived.
I practiced optometry successfully for nearly 20 years and thoroughly enjoyed it, but still struggled with those ADHD challenges of painful mistakes, fighting to keep a schedule, and mismanaging my time and resources. I know now, there was, “something wrong.” But, it wasn’t my brain like I thought. It was my understanding of my brain.
Thus began my ADHD journey. I began to research this “brain-wiring” by reading everything I could and listening to podcasts on the subject. The problem was becoming more clear, but the solution was not. I needed help with my working memory. Then I heard about an ADHD coach at my child’s school. He was not a tutor or a therapist, but someone who specialized in being a sounding board for kids who were struggling with their executive functions to find solutions. He had been educated at the ADDCA (ADD Coaching Academy in New York), so I studied the website and discovered more about ADHD and how coaching is a way to use a person's unique talents to bring success. I was sold. This was in 2017. I started my training and my new career as an ADHD executive function coach. The idea that I could use my story as a means to help others was an answer to prayer. I sometimes wonder what would be different for me had I known then that I had ADHD. Would medication have helped? Coaching? The struggles were real and very painful. They still are at times, but now that I have coaching, and can provide it, I hope to share this valuable resource with all, who, like me, need a means by which we can organize fleeting thoughts and pin them down into solutions.
Coaches are trained to understand that people are whole and have what it takes to live purposeful lives. ADHD coaches know that their clients need external help and walk with their clients to find the resources necessary to make progress. Hebrews 12:1-2 says that “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith.” To me, that means that we are all designed by the Lord for a divine purpose and that God will provide what we need to realize his purpose for us.
To have ADHD, like me, is to require external help. Much like someone with nearsightedness needs glasses to see, or someone with mobility issues needs a wheelchair. Those of us with ADHD may need medication or therapy to find solutions to our challenges. These solutions can be housekeeping, professional assistants, organizers, and financial advisers to manage money. But, solutions exist. That’s what I believe God promises, and I consider it an honor to work with my clients to find those solutions and hopefully a manageable path forward despite the challenges this unique brain-wiring presents.
ADHD may add a unique challenge to your journey, but it does not define your destination. Thriving with ADHD means embracing your strengths, finding strategies to manage your weaknesses, and charting your own path toward success.