We talk to Ginger Williams Cook, a talented artist living in Jackson, about her recent ADHD diagnosis and how she has shaped her life to suit her creative ADHD brain.
Content warning: We discuss mental health issues and briefly touch on suicide in this episode.
October is ADHD Awareness Month. Its goal is to educate the public with reliable information about ADHD, remove the stigma, and highlight the supports available to help people with ADHD and their families thrive.
Even if ADHD is not a part of your life, as far as you know, we hope you listen – because it’s likely that you know someone or are someone with undiagnosed ADHD whose life could change with treatment. And if you don’t have ADHD but struggle with some of the symptoms, like distractibility and procrastination, you’ll likely find the same kinds of strategies helpful.
We interview Melia’s friend and talented artist Ginger Williams Cook, who was recently diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 40, one year after Melia’s diagnosis at the same age.
We talk to Ginger about:
- How grief shaped her life and her journey as an artist
- Her diagnosis story and how she overcame some of the roadblocks she faced
- Challenges and gifts of ADHD as an artist and a mom
- How she channels some of her ADHD superpowers, like creativity and hyperfocus
- Strategies and supports that help her thrive with ADHD
About Ginger Williams Cook
Ginger is a published illustrator, full time artist, and workshop coordinator in Jackson, Mississippi. Her work has been shown internationally including a brief, but viral sensation featuring a hand-painted set of Golden Girls Nesting Dolls. Ginger is currently working on custom pet portraits and illustrations for different agencies.
We love this line from her bio because it so vividly captures being a creative entrepreneur and parent: “Protecting time and space for art is the pulse that sustains Ginger while raising a family and maintaining her career as a working artist.”
More About ADHD
In last October’s Episode 43: Thriving With ADHD, we interviewed Dr. Michelle Frank, a therapist who has ADHD, and shared some common myths and facts about ADHD, as well as Melia’s diagnosis story. We invite you to go back and listen for more information.
ADHD, or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, continues to be misunderstood and – many people think – misnamed, because ADHDers don’t have a deficit of attention. They have trouble regulating their attention – as well as emotion and behavior.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition affecting both children and adults around the world, up to nine percent of all children and 4-5% of adults. The lower percentage for adults doesn’t mean that ADHD goes away – it’s a chronic condition due to differences in the brain – but adults may outgrow some of the hyperactivity that causes impairments in children and no longer meet the criteria for an official diagnosis.
ADHD is a spectrum disorder; some people are more impaired by it than others. It is highly heritable. If a parent has ADHD, there’s a 74-91% likelihood that their child will also have it.
What are the symptoms of ADHD?
Dr. Russell Barkley, an ADHD researcher and author, boils the symptoms down into three categories: Problems with inhibition, self-regulation, and executive function (the mental abilities that let us plan, sequence, and regulate our behavior). He says that these can be summed up as problems with self-regulation.
Dr. Ned Hallowell describes ADHDers as having “a Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes” – and the way to win races is to improve your braking.
Here are a few examples of the way these problems with self-regulation can show up; these are from CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder:
- Poor ability to manage day-to-day responsibilities, such as completing household chores, maintenance tasks, paying bills or organizing things
- Forgetting important things or getting upset easily over minor things
- Chronic stress and worry due to failure to accomplish goals and meet responsibilities
- Chronic and intense feelings of frustration, guilt or blame
A couple of others, for those with hyperactive and not only inattentive symptoms:
- Feeling like you’re driven by a motor
- Often being dysregulated in your energy and activity – either a couch potato or a tornado, as therapist Sari Solden describes it
What are the risks of untreated ADHD?
Psychologist Ari Tuckman says, “For kids, [not treating ADHD carries] all the risks that parents worry about,” Tuckman. “Doing badly in school, having social struggles, greater substance use, more car accidents, less likely to attend and then graduate college. For adults, untreated ADHD also affects job performance and lifetime earnings, marital satisfaction, and likelihood of divorce.” Research has found that because of poor inhibition and impulsivity, untreated ADHD can reduce lifespan by up to 13 years.
The good news is that ADHD is highly treatable – 80-90% of people see improvement with some type of ADHD medication – which has been prescribed since the 1950s and is considered safe and effective. If one type is causing unacceptable side effects, you can try out another.
Russell Barkley compares ADHD medication to the insulin needed to treat diabetes, filling in the gaps for what the body isn’t producing on its own. The condition itself is dangerous, but the treatment is effective and necessary.
How do you know if you need an evaluation for ADHD?
All people experience symptoms shared with ADHD some of the time, but the difference is the intensity, duration over time, and frequency that lead to impairments in multiple areas of your life.
In Melia’s experience, if you’re self-aware and are having an “omg, that’s me” experience when you see ADHD memes and TikToks, you likely have it.
Who can evaluate and diagnose ADHD?
- According to ADDitude, a respected resource on ADHD, a psychologist, a psychiatrist (or psychiatric nurse practitioner – PMHNP. A master level therapist is recommended only for the initial screening.
- Only a psychiatrist, neurologist, or family physician can prescribe medication for adults with ADHD. Melia recommends seeing a psychiatry professional so your evaluation and prescriptions can be done by the same practitioner.
Get In Touch
Are you a fellow ADHDer, or do you recognize yourself or a loved one in what we shared? Email us at podcast[at]semitogether.com or send us a voice memo.
- Rising Spiral Coaching, where Melia is coaching fellow self-critics and perfectionists, including adults with ADHD
- Ginger Williams Cook’s website and Instagram
- Episode 43: Thriving With ADHD
- (CHADD)Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
- ADDitude Magazine
- ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder Association)
- ADHD for Smart Ass Women with Tracy Otsuka, Episode 114: ADHD, Women and Hormones