TRANSCRIPT Ep. 302: ADHD for Smart A$$ Women ft. Tracy Otsuka


Tracy Otsuka: You waste time on the things that are important to you? What you don’t like is to have your time wasted. So to literally sit in an airport and do nothing, that is insane to us because we’re so curious and we’re such lifelong learners. So heaven forbid I’m going to be anywhere and not be able to learn something.

Speaker 2: It’s the Inspiration Place podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world insider podcast for artists by an artist where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.

Miriam Schulman: Hey there. This is Miriam Schulman, your curator of inspiration. Welcome to the Inspiration Place. You’re tuned in to episode number 302, and I am thrilled to bring on one of my really good friends and share an incredible conversation with you. I’ll be sharing some of my most embarrassing ADHD moments, some of them recent, because as someone who struggles with ADHD my whole life, I do have poor impulse control.

Now, this showed up in high school, which I called the M&M debacle, and it still plagues me years later because when I’m really tired, my resistance is down. So I have even worse impulse control. And so that story I’m referring to now as Cream Gate. Don’t worry, you will learn both of these stories in today’s podcast. You’re going to hear myself and my guests be open about our struggles, but I want you to know from the very start that I also recognize that this quote unquote poor impulse control can be a great strength, because even though it means sometimes I make purchases or eating decisions that I later regret, I also recognize that my impulse inhibition allows me to take bigger risks. Risks in my art and risks in my business and risks in life. And so that also sets me up for great success. My guest and I will discuss the importance of knowing yourself, understanding your mind, and the steps you can take to thrive in your personal and professional life.

So, whether you’re looking to deepen your understanding of yourself or seeking ways to unleash your full potential, you’re in the right place. Our guest is a thought leader in the ADHD community, and she’s turned her journey of discovery into a mission to empower others.

After her son was diagnosed with ADHD, she dove headfirst into understanding the condition, only to realize that she too shared this neurodivergence. But instead of accepting limitations, she fired the naysayers and embarked on a quest to flip the script on ADHD. She has a background in law, and she’s used to using her analytical skills to dissect and disseminate the true strengths that lie within a diagnosis, proving that it’s not a deficit, but a different way of thinking.

She’s the author of the groundbreaking, award-winning book ADHD for Smart Ass Women that throws the conventional narrative on its head, celebrating the too-muchness of women who’ve been misunderstood for so long. And if that’s not enough, she hosts a podcast that’s been a rallying cry for smart, driven women everywhere, offering a space to discover their brilliance within their bustling minds.

Welcome back to the Inspiration Place, Tracy Otsuka.

Tracy Otsuka: Hi. Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here. We haven’t chatted in a while.

Miriam Schulman: Poor Tracy. I just, like, she jumped on Zoom, and I was like, “No, no, no, we’re not chit-chatting. Pre-mic.”

Tracy Otsuka: I was gonna—well, I won’t, I won’t say what I was going to ask you.

Miriam Schulman: You can ask me and I can delete it. Should I stop recording?

Tracy Otsuka: I was asking you because I know we had to reschedule. And then was I supposed to prepare for this or was this–

Miriam Schulman: No, you wrote a book. That’s your preparation.

Tracy Otsuka: Okay, okay.

Miriam Schulman: Oh my gosh.

Tracy Otsuka: This sudden, you know, that ADHD thing? It’s like, “Crap, was I supposed to prepare something for her?”

Miriam Schulman: No, no, no, you just have to show up with your lipstick on. That’s it.

Tracy Otsuka: Okay. Yeah. Okay. Well, you look fabulous.

Miriam Schulman: So do you. I love your shelf. Your whole shelf game is very nice. With all the books back there.

Tracy Otsuka: I just had a live television interview. And the funniest thing was that, literally one minute before we’re airing, the producer comes, you know, into the Zoom because it wasn’t live. It was on Zoom and it was live, but it wasn’t in studio. And she tells me, “Oh, my publisher, my producer has a real problem with ‘ass’. We’re not allowed to say it. And anything that you’ve got behind you, you need to remove if it says ‘ass’.” And I’m like, “I can’t redo this in a minute.” So I thought, “Okay, I’ll just… I got creative.” And I had a bunch of big post-it notes, not the small ones. And I just cut a little thing out and I slapped it on the book, and they were okay with that. But… Oh, lordy. Anyway.

Miriam Schulman: Yeah. Oh, well, I know you can say you can say ass on this podcast.

Tracy Otsuka: Oh, good. Well, you know what? I’ve never done this before. I didn’t know what a problem it would be. It’s come up a bunch of times. So if anybody is thinking about writing a book, you want the asterisks in whatever the word is. And if we were to reprint this, I would absolutely know.

Miriam Schulman: You know what, that was your publisher’s job to think of that.

Tracy Otsuka: You think?

Miriam Schulman: I think, you know, it’s so crazy. So for the listeners, I don’t know if I’ve complained about this on the podcast before, but writing a book is kind of like doing a group project in college where you feel like you’re doing all the work and you’re like, “Wait, why am I doing this? Like, why aren’t they doing their share? Why am I doing that?”

Tracy Otsuka: Well, what was so hard for me. And I don’t know if you can relate to this. I think you can, because if it weren’t for you, this book would not be done.

Miriam Schulman: That’s so kind.

Tracy Otsuka: So Miriam and I–

Miriam Schulman: But that’s not necessarily true. This book was going to happen. But thank you.

Tracy Otsuka: You were the only person that I knew that worked with that specific publisher. Granted, we had different acquiring editors. Yeah, but that specific publisher. And so because you were a year ahead of me, I kind of went through what you went through. Right?

Miriam Schulman: That’s right.

Tracy Otsuka: And then I was able to apply it to what I was going through. But the hardest part for me was I have not used to people telling me what to do. And finally I was in a situation it did remind me of back in college or back when, you know, in corporate America, where I had to just kind of suck it up, because what I figured is they know so much more than I do about what they do, and they just needed to get the book out of me. But it was really hard because again, I couldn’t go on and just do what I wanted to do.

You know, a lot of times I would be thinking about, oh, well, this was like months after, you know, the book came out and I’d be thinking, well, what? Months after the book just came out, months after we went through our first edits? Yeah, I would think, oh, well, what about that story? What happened to that story? And you just it was gone. It was just cut. So you don’t really know what’s taken out. And certainly for my brain, I’m big picture. I forget things until I actually remember them. And then it was like, well, why would you take that story out? That was the best story. But, you know, short of going through and making sure that it really it was taken out. I’m—Yeah, it was taken out.

Miriam Schulman: It’s okay. It’s it’s in your podcast or it will be in your podcast or god forbid you write another book. My god.

Tracy Otsuka: That’s the thing is they know like they kept telling me things like, Tracy, people are not going to like you if you say this like Iike I—

Miriam Schulman: That happened to me. That happened to me. There were some things that I had to take out. And I was like, “Really?” They’re like, “Yep, yeah, take that out.”

Tracy Otsuka: Any signs of any kind of wealth?

Miriam Schulman: Yes. That’s what it was. I had this whole Rolex thing in there because it was a great Dan Kennedy anecdote about how you don’t buy a Rolex watch for $49.50, and you probably wouldn’t buy one for $400 either. So it’s easier to sell a Rolex for $4000, $5000, or even $6000 than it is to sell it for less because it’s a really good lesson for artists. Now, I still tell that story when I do webinars, but they would not let me put it in there because they said they don’t want me to be perceived as the type of person who buys Rolexes. I was like, “But I don’t buy Rolexes.” They said, “Doesn’t matter, just don’t talk about it.” I was like, “Okay.”

Tracy Otsuka: Well, and that’s a huge thing, right? Among investment bankers, I mean, it’s all about the watches.

Miriam Schulman: Well, I was never into it, but like it’s a male thing. Like for men, it’s like it’s like—

Tracy Otsuka: Their purses.

Miriam Schulman: Exactly. Because it’s like the way they flash their wealth. Is it like a Rolex is actually the cheaper brand. It’s like what’s that Philip Patek watch that’s like you need a quote.

Tracy Otsuka: Yeah. I don’t know anything about watches.

Miriam Schulman: Anyway, I want to talk about your book because there are so many things to talk about. I wrote some things down and now I don’t remember what these things were.

Tracy Otsuka: Good, because heaven knows, if I remember what I wrote two years ago, right? Does that happen to you?

Miriam Schulman: Yeah. That’s why I listen to my own podcasts, because I never remember what it was I talked about. And like, people will say to me, “Oh, that thing you talked about,” it’s like, “Wait, what?”

Tracy Otsuka: Can I learn from myself?

Miriam Schulman: That’s right. Well, that’s why we do them, right? We teach what we need to hear. Okay, so the three things I wrote down here was, number one, cream gate.

Tracy Otsuka: What?

Miriam Schulman: I do know what that is. You won’t know what it is. Because this is my personal story related to something you talked about. I just don’t remember what it was that you talked about. Okay, the second thing is, selling M&Ms so that.

Tracy Otsuka: Okay. I don’t know what you’re talking about either.

Miriam Schulman: I will prompt you. Don’t worry. It’s my job. And the third thing I wrote down was packing ten books in my suitcase for a ten day trip. Do you want to start with that one? Because that’s the easiest.

Tracy Otsuka: Yeah, and that’s what I do all the time. And then I open one maybe.

Miriam Schulman: It’s like I packed the workout outfits that I never wear and that I know are my like my fantasy workout outfits that I always pack like because—

Tracy Otsuka: Yeah, because you’re going to work out every single morning, right?

Miriam Schulman: But why did I pack ten books on my last trip, which was like a ten-day trip? It was, I don’t know, like yours was the only one I actually read, but like, okay.

Tracy Otsuka: I know, because you’re a time optimist, right? So we have, often not all of us, but most of us have no sense of time. We don’t see or feel time. We don’t even get that it’s passing. And so we always think that we can do so much more than we can actually do. Now, the hack for that is, and I know you’re not going to like it because I don’t. But this is what I do when I’m going anywhere. I bring a Kindle, and that means I have the paperback or the hardcover, I’ve got the Kindle, and I’ve got the audiobook.

Miriam Schulman: You knew I wasn’t going to like that. How’d you know I wasn’t going to like that? Okay, but.

Tracy Otsuka: Okay but for nonfiction, hear me out. The trick with the Kindle is, do you use readwise?

Miriam Schulman: No.

Tracy Otsuka: It’s an incredible app. And the reason I love it with the Kindle is I highlight passages that I like in the book, and then it automatically uploads to Readwise. And then once a day at 3:00, you can set it for whatever. I get these emails that pop up with a bunch of different quotes from all kinds of books I’ve read through the years, so that they kind of stay in my radar. But I can also, at the end of the book, print out the whole page or pages of all of the quotes or things that I wanted to remember about each book.

Miriam Schulman: That’s really smart. Do you want to hear what I do which is so dinosaur? I make a table of contents in the front of the book. Like I will write down–yours, I didn’t put page numbers, but usually I do.

Tracy Otsuka: That’s smart though.

Miriam Schulman: I wrote in the front of my book Things to Discuss with Tracy. So as I was reading it, I would just write in. And then once I had three main takeaways that I thought, okay, well, these are funny because they’re stories that go along with it and they actually have lessons. So the ten books was definitely that whole thing, like, and I, I’m guilty of this every single time. Like maybe it’s not ten books. This was unusual. I was going to visit my son in Israel and it’s 11 hour or 12 hour plane flight, but meanwhile I’m sleeping most of the time, so I don’t know why. I so I had like in my carry on a bunch of books. And then in my suitcase there were a bunch of books, and I think I thought I’d be bored while I was there, which I wasn’t. Um, I did read your book because I, I thought we were going to be doing this interview as soon as we got back. And then there was another book for somebody else’s, who’s one of my podcasts. I only read a chapter out of his book. So I was like, we’re just going to talk about this chapter because I didn’t read any of the other chapters, and it was.

Tracy Otsuka: So you read that one.

Miriam Schulman: Uh, well, it was embarrassing because, like, I didn’t prepare that well for that one, and I was asking him questions that weren’t about his book. That was like a different book that I read. Like, it was like, “Could you tell the Lego story?” He’s like, “What Lego story?” Like, “Oh.”

Tracy Otsuka: Yeah. No, it’s like–

Miriam Schulman: Oh, I got to tell Nico to take that out.

Tracy Otsuka: Let me follow up though with what you just said. The other thing is, because of our lack of sense of time, you know, we hyperfocus, and five hours can feel like 15 minutes. We’re like, “Where the hell did the time go?” We really struggle with wasting time. And I know that, that’s really you.

Miriam Schulman: Oh dear, you know, I waste a lot of time.

Tracy Otsuka: No, you don’t, actually.

Miriam Schulman: I do, actually, but go ahead. [inaudible]

Tracy Otsuka: You waste time on the things that are important to you? What you don’t like is to have your time wasted. So to literally sit in an airport and do nothing, that is insane to us because we’re so curious and we’re such lifelong learners, this is an opportunity to get all that information in. So heaven forbid I’m going to be anywhere and not be able to learn something.

Miriam Schulman: That’s why we don’t like to be early. Because we don’t like to sit around and wait.

Tracy Otsuka: No wasting time, right?

Miriam Schulman: Our time. I am early a lot of the times. Only because if I’m not early, I’m going to be late. Yeah. So I am doing that a lot. And that’s why I pack all those books. Like, yeah.

Tracy Otsuka: We have no problem wasting other people’s time, right?

Miriam Schulman: I guess not.

Tracy Otsuka: But we do not want to waste our own time. Right.

Miriam Schulman: Uh, so in terms of time, there was one thing you talk about in your book, which actually, I already do. I just didn’t realize why I do it. And that is only analog clocks and watches. No digital, because I need to see the Pi. I need to see, you know, and I have clocks in every room. I don’t rely on looking at my phone. I don’t rely on any of that. It’s like there’s one in every bathroom. Uh, with the hands.

Tracy Otsuka: Only one?

Miriam Schulman: You know what? I probably need to get more than one because there’s one in my bathroom, which I keep moving from, from the bathtub to the sink so that I can always see it. Yep. So you’re right. I probably should get more than one.

Tracy Otsuka: We typically need one in the shower, because if you think about it, the shower, it’s warm. It’s. I don’t know about you, but I have so many creative ideas in the shower. But I can also spend 45 minutes in there and literally think I’ve been in there for five minutes. Yeah.

Miriam Schulman: I was like, where did all that time go? Yeah, yeah. It’s like all I did was like, loofah my leg. I don’t get it, you know, like or—

Tracy Otsuka: Come up with this incredible new idea, right?

Miriam Schulman: Exactly. So I thought that was awesome. And then the other thing that I love is your whole story about, “Oh, I have so much time because I have to be there at 6:00, whatever.” You know, I think it was to meet your future husband for a date that wasn’t even your fiancé yet. And the problem with us is that we think in terms of when we need to be there, rather than when we have to leave. That’s the problem. So, like, I will actually now schedule on my calendar, not just the appointment, but travel time. Like, “This is when you have to leave your house,” you know.

Tracy Otsuka: That’s exactly it. If it’s someplace that I have to physically be, what’s on my calendar is the time I need to leave the house, because by the time I write that down, I mean, by the time the meeting shows up, you know, comes up, I don’t even remember that. That’s what I did. I think that’s the time I need to be there. And so I’m always going to be late, right? Yeah. So then I’m on time.

Miriam Schulman: Yeah. Exactly. Right. Okay, so that was, uh, point number three, ten books on a ten-day trip. Like, oh my gosh, it’s a good thing I don’t like shoes. I mean, I do like shoes, but not enough that I had books instead of a lot of shoes. I wore the same pair of shoes the entire time. Okay. Number two, I have down here is M&M Sales. So this refers to you selling some sort of sweet treat for some sort of organization. And that’s what my M&M sales were about, like when I had to sell peanut M&Ms for Drama Club when I was in 10th grade and ended up gaining 10 pounds. It was like–

Tracy Otsuka: You did the same thing?

Miriam Schulman: 100%. Like I just kept eating them. Yeah, I didn’t eat the whole thing, but, like, you know, I was bringing them to classes and then I was opening the box because I have no impulse control. Like, I didn’t realize that was an ADHD thing until you wrote about it in the book. I just thought, I guess I like peanut M&Ms, I don’t know. And then I refused to sell it after that year. I was like, no, I’m not doing it because like–

Tracy Otsuka: I’m gonna gain ten more pounds.

Miriam Schulman: Yeah.

Tracy Otsuka: Yeah. Well, that’s our reward deficiency loop. So the ADHD brain, they think they’re not 100% sure, but they believe it’s either that we don’t make enough dopamine or we don’t process it the same way. So dopamine is the feel-good hormone. It is the motivation hormone. It is the hormone that makes you go do the things you want to do. And for the typical brain, it is what allows them to do what they don’t want to do, and why we struggle so much with what we do want to do. So what that also affects is this loop that I was just talking about. And what that means is that we are always looking for more dopamine. So for example, you know, my story was that I ate 12 boxes of turtles. Each box of turtles had 12 turtles in it. Oh my God, that’s 144 turtles over probably about a week and a half period. And I was supposed to sell these turtles. So I just thought, okay, I’m just going to break into my piggy bank for the first box. And it just kept going on like that. But so what goes on in your brain? And you can do this with wine. You can do this with candy. You can do this with anything. Right. But typically it happens with food. Where okay, I’m going to have let’s do wine, I’m going to have one glass of wine with dinner and it’s going to make me feel really good. So it’s this, you know, reward that we think we’re going to get. But because of this reward deficiency loop, we get the glass of wine, we have a few sips of it, we finish it and we’re like, I don’t quite feel that satisfaction that I was expecting. So now I’m going to have another glass of wine. And it goes on and on and on like that. And that’s how you can, you know, end up with issues related to addiction too.

Miriam Schulman: Um, it’s like the scarcity brain is like, it’s–

Tracy Otsuka: Disordered eating.

Miriam Schulman: Yeah, yeah. I really love that story because I so related to it. Oh, she ate all the candy too. Well.

Tracy Otsuka: And so my father was a dentist, and we weren’t even allowed to eat candy. So for Halloween, we would get all the candy and then we would bring it all to the table. There were four kids, and he would pull out any candy. That was because I’m a texture person. So regular chocolate, like me, I like caramel and, you know, nuts and all of that stuff with it. Turtles. And so turtles. I love turtles. Exactly. Turtles. He would pull all the chocolate out. We were allowed to have the chocolate. He would get all the rest, and then he would hide it up in the attic. And so we would go up in the attic and we would just steal the candy back. But I think that was also part of it. This “you’re not allowed to have it” right, which the ADHD brain doesn’t like either. And so then we’ll hyperfocus on that. But I ate so much candy I stuck it under my bed, my our trundle. It was bad. And we weren’t supposed to have any of it, but I didn’t have any cavities for some reason.

Miriam Schulman: I didn’t either, because I think we grew up with fluoride. Yeah, and good genetics. Like, I think one year my dentist tested my mouth for the acidity level or something like that. They’re like, oh, lucky you. Okay. Cream gate. Cream gate. This happened to me when I went to Las Vegas, and I needed eye makeup remover. And so I went, like, I went to Las Vegas for a conference, and there was, like, some sort of makeup cream store right next to my elevator. I said, okay, I’ll get some eye makeup remover. And I went in there and they said, oh yeah, we have this. I said, is it oil-free? They’re like, oh no, it’s really good for you. And I was like, oh, but it has mineral oil. And then meanwhile it was like, I forget how much it was. It was either $100 or $300. Whatever it was, I wasn’t going to pay for it. So I said, no, I’m going, I’m going to go to the gift shop. And I got my Neutrogena. Well, the next day, after not sleeping all night, I had bags under my eyes. I was like, well, maybe I do need some of this cream and it’s okay if I spend $100 because, you know, maybe they actually have something for the bags under my eyes. And so I was really tired. It was like 5:00 and I was very tired. And they sat me down in the chair and I literally, Tracy, didn’t want to get out of the chair. And that was such a bad thing. It was almost like, you know, you ever hear people say that they, they were shopping on Ambien or something like that, but I wasn’t on any kind of drug. But it was like, because I was so sleep-deprived and I have poor impulse control. It was it was like I was psychotic. I checked out $3,000 of creams.

Tracy Otsuka: Wait $3,000 of what?

Miriam Schulman: I know. Okay. This is one of those moments where the editor would definitely have taken this out of our books. So, um, so just so you know, I did return all of it and got my money back when I came to my senses. But that is what I call cream gate.

Tracy Otsuka: Was that all like, oh, cream gate because of all these different creams?

Miriam Schulman: Right. Well, there was also some sort of thing that he was selling me on that you it vibrates on your face and it gives you a neck left.

Tracy Otsuka: I think any of that stuff works.

Miriam Schulman: Though, none of it works. None of it. This is the thing, I don’t. That’s why I told the first story about how, like, I only wanted to buy the Neutrogena eye makeup remover. I don’t believe in that stuff. Not that I don’t do other things like, you know, other expensive things. Okay. Right. All right. But creams, I don’t do so. But it was just because I was so tired and had such poor impulse control that it kind of, it was almost like being date-raped by the cream seller, you know, it was like I was just, it just kind of happened. I was like, I don’t know, I don’t know, like what happened here. But yeah, I did get all my money back because like, and I do not have the creams anymore. But, um, why did I write that down in the book? Does this remind you of anything you talked about in the book? There’s got to be some. There’s got to be a reason I wrote this down. I got to talk about the story with you.

Tracy Otsuka: Supposedly. Supposedly. I hate these kind of statistics, but apparently there are studies that have been done that show that we are four times more impulsive than a boring brained human. Yeah. And I think that, you know, we’re all about curiosity and hope and making things better, right? It’s never our mission to keep things as they are. Which is why we can be so irritating to be around because we’re not happy with the status quo. It’s always like, I know there’s something more that can be done. We can tweak it. Um, all I can think of, though, in that story is the only thing that works is tretinoin.

Miriam Schulman: What is that? Oh, the cream that actually works.

Tracy Otsuka: Yeah. But it’s, you know, could.

Miriam Schulman: You spell that for us? For us ladies? Like, I don’t know about this.

Tracy Otsuka: I was just about ready to say, you know. No, but you go to the vet for it. No, you go to the doctor. The doctor prescribes it.

Miriam Schulman: You mean the dermatologist? You don’t mean actually vet.

Tracy Otsuka: Well, my doctor, you know, because then I don’t have to pay the price of the dermatologist.

Miriam Schulman: Okay. That’s like how we discovered my my daughter and I discovered that my sleeping pill was the same drug we give our cat when we go to the, like, gabapentin or something like that. It was the same exact drug. I was like, oh.

Tracy Otsuka: Yep. No, I mean, they’re very, you know, um, intermixed. I noticed that with—medication doesn’t work for me. And when I was prescribed a stimulant, it made me super, super anxious. So it created anxiety. And so then, of course, they want to mask it with another drug. So then they gave me anxiety medication and that made it even worse. But then when my dog, my Shizu, who’s really a Shih Tzu, um, she is so anxious and so neurotic and so in order to get her groomed, because she does take a lot of effort in the grooming, we need to medicate her, which is so sad. But otherwise she’d be all matted. And so they prescribed anxiety meds for the dog. It was the same medication they had prescribed for me.

Miriam Schulman: Yeah. It was, it was gabapentin or Lexapro or. You don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

Tracy Otsuka: Is it Adam or whatever it was? That’s what caused the anxiety mess. Whatever it was, she got vicious on it. Oh, yeah. I mean, like Cujo, so. And apparently that’s like 1% of the dog population. Of course it was my dog. We found another one, but I was like, oh my God. She’s like scary. And this is what they gave me.

Miriam Schulman: Oh my gosh. So full disclosure. Um, for my listeners who don’t know, um, some both of my kids have ADHD diagnosis and we both of them tried medication and it was a fail for both of them. So neither one of them are medicated on ADHD meds. My son, he tried was, I think Vyvanse is that one? Okay. So what he would do is he would go in the backyard and he would play basketball until it wore off. He just could not sit and do his homework. So he would have to like, use up. He was very focused on the basketball until it wore off and then it and then he could do his homework like so. Okay, well, we’re not doing that drug anymore. And my daughter had the same experience you did where it would just make her anxious. So.

Tracy Otsuka: Well, it almost sounds like with your son, so when stimulant medication really works, it’s supposed to slow down the brain, right? And so it sounds like the same thing for your son. He just maybe handled it differently where he had to go and work out to burn it all off.

Miriam Schulman: He was focused. But on basketball because—

Tracy Otsuka: Well, you can’t hyper focus on the wrong thing.

Miriam Schulman: I mean, so then it was like, well, what’s the point?

Tracy Otsuka: Because he was really interested in basketball and he was not interested in this boring homework. It’s like, what’s that going to get him?

Miriam Schulman: So there’s one part of your book that I remembered I want to discuss with you that I did not know, and that was the whole idea of, oh, you had a name for it. Like where people think everyone hates them.

Tracy Otsuka: RSD? Rejection sensitive dysphoria.

Miriam Schulman: Yes. Could you discuss explain what that is? This was fascinating to me.

Tracy Otsuka: So, they say the medical experts that rejection-sensitive dysphoria is a, um, a symptom only of ADHD. And what it means is that you are hypersensitive to any kind of criticism, and you start internalizing everything that goes on around you in a manner that it’s something wrong with me. I am doing something so, you know, I don’t know. You’ll be with a group of friends and you’ll hear two of them talking to each other, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, she’s talking about me,” when they are in fact, not talking about you. Now, there’s a heightened intuition that people with ADHD naturally have. And you can imagine if you can’t 100% rely on your brain and your cognitive skills, what do you start to do? You start relying more on your intuition. So I think it’s something that we develop over time. So there are instances where you are probably right and you’ve been, you know, right all along, but you start taking that one, two, three, four instances and then you make that the truth for everything that happens. Now, honestly, Miriam, what I think that is, is actually trauma. And I believe that if you struggled from the time you were little in school, let’s say you struggled at home, everything you did, you had too much, too loud, too, you know, you just you could not get it together. And you constantly heard that from your parents. And then you go to school or teachers.

Miriam Schulman: Or teachers. So let’s not always blame mom and dad, okay?

Tracy Otsuka: So then you go to school and you hear that from your teachers, and then you start hearing that from your friends, you’re too much, you’re too loud, blah, blah, blah. You can imagine that. All those little cuts over time create trauma because trauma is really just you’re not feeling safe. So the rejection-sensitive dysphoria I really believe comes from the trauma of having ADHD and feeling like you’re not understood. And especially for women who tend to internalize their symptoms, they beat themselves up. So why can’t I do these things? What is wrong with me? I’m stupid. I’m broken. Especially if you’ve done poorly in school, right? And you know you’re not stupid. But because you can’t learn the way they want you to learn, you’re just like, I know I’m not stupid, but look at these grades I have. I must be stupid. And so then over time, you just kind of develop this learned helplessness. No matter how hard I try, I can’t do it the way they do it. So why do I even bother? Okay, you tell me what to do. And that becomes the mission in your life, right? Is to find people that tell you what to do. And, I don’t know, a bigger prescription for unhappiness than that, because when you’re doing what everyone else tells you to do, and it’s not what you really want to do, you’re living their life and not your own, right? And then of course, you’re going to be miserable and unhappy.

Miriam Schulman: So I was telling my daughter about this part of your book because this year, hopefully my daughter’s district doesn’t listen to my podcast this year. I don’t think they do. Okay if they do. I’m so sorry, my dear daughter. Okay, so she is a middle school general music teacher and general music in New York is for kids who have to take music, but they don’t want to take orchestra and they don’t want to do band, and they don’t want to do chorus, but they have to take music. So these are the kids who don’t want to do music, and they’re in there. And she complains that they all hate her and everyone thinks that she hates them. Right. And so I told her about this book, and I said, this is why you think everyone hates you because of this thing. And she says, yes. And all my kids have ADHD, too, and that’s why they think I hate them. I was like, huh? Could be. Yeah, could be right. It was like, interesting. But think.

Tracy Otsuka: But think about it. The ADHD brain is a brain of interest. When we are in our area of interest. Nobody is more brilliant when we’re not. We aren’t. We’re so miserable. So you’re putting all these kids who have no interest in music, and I get how important the arts are. I totally get that right. But what about if you found the art that that kid was actually interested in, right.

Miriam Schulman: So she has like these, these kids who like, you know, the ones who have issues, they’re in a place they don’t want to be. No. It’s like she’s she’s like a correctional officer in there. So, so. And they don’t want to be there. No she she does. That’s why I said I hope they’re I it doesn’t matter because she’s, she’s not doing this job after this year. Like I said I don’t care if you work at Bloomingdale’s next year. I know you’re not doing this job, so just get through the year.

Tracy Otsuka: And the thing about that is. She is experiencing life every day with all this negative emotion?

Miriam Schulman: Yes.

Tracy Otsuka: What do you think that does to her nervous system? Right. And so if she’s already ADHD and let’s say prone to anxiety because I’ve never met an ADHD woman who doesn’t have at least some anxiety, she’s just going to blow all that up instead of focusing in an area that she is personally interested in and generates nothing but positive emotion for her, and then that becomes a cycle too, right? Because she’s so good at it. Everybody’s telling her how good she’s at, you know she does it versus this. They don’t want to be there. She doesn’t want to be there because they don’t want to be there. And it’s just this cycle of negative emotion.

Miriam Schulman: Right. And she’s used to teaching orchestra kids who chose to be an orchestra because if they didn’t want to do orchestra, they can do band, chorus or general, you know, they could do something else. So that’s who she’s used to teaching kids who really want to learn. I mean, yes, there’s some people whose parents make them do orchestra. Yes. But the vast majority in there are there because they want to. So yeah.

Tracy Otsuka: Why would you ever. I mean, if you just think about the school system, the stupidity of trying to teach kids things they have no interest in learning. I just don’t get it. I mean, granted, we should all know about civics, because look at our country right now. I mean, those are things that I get it. Those are basics. But something like music, which is supposed to be an elective, right? It’s supposed to be something we choose.

Miriam Schulman: Right.

Tracy Otsuka: I don’t get it.

Miriam Schulman: Yeah. They could do theater, they could do art, they could do dance, they could do something else. B

Tracy Otsuka: Anything that is, their creative.

Miriam Schulman: I don’t know, I mean, I don’t want to turn this into like, what’s wrong with the district Talia’s in, but they also have are like in a room in the library where she’s not allowed to make a lot of noise. And if she wants to do instruments, she has to take them to the auditorium. But she only has seven xylophones for 20 kids. I was like, okay.

Tracy Otsuka: She needs to get the hell out of there.

Miriam Schulman: I know she needs to get out of there. All right, Tracy, so what do you most want to say to the artists who are listening? Which, by the way, like 99% of them have some sort of neuro-spicy thing.

Tracy Otsuka: Yeah. Um, first of all, ADHD has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence. And I think when I discovered, in fact, most people with ADHD are at a minimum average intelligence, but most of them are much higher than average. Um, when I discovered that drivenness was a form of hyperactivity. That is when everything made sense to me. Because I would have never thought that I had ADHD. I was like, you can’t be. You know, I had been a lawyer. I had run a bunch of different companies. I, you know, have been married 30 plus years. Everything by and large, seems successful in my life and everything was going really great until I had hit perimenopause. Um, that period of time. And so what we know that they did not know because of course they did no studies on women or girls when it comes to ADHD. They were all on prepubescent boys. But what we now know is that estrogen modulates dopamine, and dopamine is the neurotransmitter hormone that our brains don’t make enough of. So you can imagine dopamine is already reduced 10% every single decade for everyone. So the dopamine is already going down. Then you get into perimenopause. And we know that estrogen goes down in perimenopause. You stack the third layer on that which is ADHD. And what you end up with is something that I call maturity onset ADHD, where you don’t even recognize yourself, you cannot remember anything. And the confidence, just natural confidence that I had always had, I just started to question everything.

So I want women to know that 75% of women with ADHD have not been diagnosed. They don’t even know they have ADHD. And typically it’s when their kid gets diagnosed that then suddenly they’re, you know, they realize that, oh, this is about as genetic as height. And they must have gotten it from someone. Now, I understand, you know, they got it from me. The other thing I want them to know is that 43% of all people with ADHD are in excellent mental health. I didn’t say, okay mental health. I didn’t say good mental health. I said excellent mental health. So what we really need to focus on is what are those 43% doing to be in such great mental health? And a lot of that is being in an area of interest, um, really focusing on the positive emotion and what it is that you do well, right? What are your strengths? Screw the weaknesses. If you can hire those weaknesses out as soon as possible, you will be surprised at how much of a jump you will make in the things that you really want to get done, but you’re not getting done because you’re so caught up in the day to day of it. And it, you know, as far as making money goes, oh my gosh, my business did not take off until I started hiring the people to support me in the things that I know. I know how to do them. I can do them, but I don’t do them because I have no interest in it and I don’t want to do it.

Miriam Schulman: It’s also what I tell people, Tracy, it’s also there’s so many things that we just shouldn’t be doing. Like, even if you can do it and even if you want to do it, that’s not where your genius needs to go. And we have only a limited amount of genius time in the day. Just period. It’s such a lie when we say to ourselves, oh, I could get more done if I had more hours in the day. No, you couldn’t, because you only have a limited amount of energy. And that is not because you are ADHD. That is all humans, period.

Tracy Otsuka: Well, and if we’re hyperactive, you know, we have so much energy. The problem is we can’t get into the damn bed because we just want to do everything, like, all at the same time. So it really is about simplifying. Yeah. And figuring out what is it that you really want to do and what do you do that you just feel so good when you do it. And after you do it, you’re proud of yourself for, you know, accomplishing it. And that’s what you should be focusing on. Not all the administrative, you know, stuff that yeah, I don’t care if you’re good at it. You’re right.

Miriam Schulman: You’re right. You shouldn’t be your own assistant if, like, you’re not making the kind of money you want to make. And I don’t care if you’re an artist or something else, it’s because you are acting as your own assistant.

Tracy Otsuka: Yeah, yeah. And the minute you hire someone to do that, what ends up happening is you feel beholden to them. So you’re doing the work product that you need to get done to give them what they need 100%.

Miriam Schulman: 100%. And it’s not just us. Like, I have so many clients who just hire like even two hours a week, where suddenly there’s so much more organized because they have to get everything organized to hand it off to their assistant. And then when the assistant is like at their computer, they can’t be on the computer. So therefore they’re painting or they’re doing whatever it is they need to do. Right?

Tracy Otsuka: It’s almost like they propel you forward, you know, to do what it is that you really need to be doing.

Miriam Schulman: And I even find like, I get excited during my team meetings for the whole business, just like, like, “Hey, you’re going to do this and you’re going to do this.” And it’s like, I’m just conducting now. I’m not playing all the instruments.

Tracy Otsuka: And isn’t the best thing. When you look at your schedule or your to do list and you realize, oh my gosh, I got all these things done and all I did was that one thing.

Miriam Schulman: All I did was tell other people what to do. I was like, this is great. That’s awesome. Absolutely right. So ADHD for Smart Ass Women by Tracy Otsuka. Highly highly recommend. I have added it to my book club You will find it though in every Barnes and Noble like I want on the Upper West Side. I was so proud. Tracy. It was prominently displayed. For those of you who are listening, it’s hot pink. It is such a pretty cover and it reads really well. Like I read the entire thing. I was like, oh, this is so funny. All these funny, embarrassing stories that you told, I loved it.

Tracy Otsuka: Yeah like when my car almost got car repossessed. I can’t believe I shared that story. I cannot believe I told that story. I’m still mortified,

Miriam Schulman: Oh, my god.

Tracy Otsuka: Thank God for my parents. I’m sure Miriam would have never done that. The money manager, right? Or the oh, God.

Miriam Schulman: No no no no, it was like the gyms that I payments that I signed up for my, you know, going into collections like, you know, oh my God.

Tracy Otsuka: And you’re like, I am a really bright woman. How does this happen? You know.

Miriam Schulman: I just told you cream gate like I did return it. I do not have any of them. Okay. So, dear editor here about to get canceled. Jen Lehner was on Instagram and I don’t know, she her skin looked great and I said, oh, your skin looks so good. And so she was making fun of me because she knows all about this story. She goes, I bought a very expensive cream in Las Vegas.

Tracy Otsuka: Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Okay. Tretinoin. There’s all kinds of studies. It’s the only thing that really works. And what it does is you increase your own collagen. You know it’s either not.

Miriam Schulman: Retin-A. It’s or is it something different. Is it the same thing as Retin-A?

Tracy Otsuka: It’s better than Retin-A. I think the precursor, it’s T-R-E-T-I-N-O-I-N.

Miriam Schulman: Okay, well looked at.

Tracy Otsuka: My husband the other day, I’m like, here, you need this.

Miriam Schulman: Plus the googles. We’ll find out. Yeah. Where my daughters uh, my vet because you said you get it cheap from the vet.

Tracy Otsuka: No, you don’t get that cheap from the vet, but–

Miriam Schulman: Okay.

Tracy Otsuka: I was using it was actually out of New York. There was a service and I was paying like $130 a tube for it, but it lasts quite a while. And then I realized I could go to my doctor and I just asked them to prescribe it.

Miriam Schulman: And like your general physician type of thing. Yes. And then.

Tracy Otsuka: I think it was like 15 bucks.

Miriam Schulman: Or like CityMD.

Tracy Otsuka: Know about that. Isn’t that the one that you just show up if you don’t have insurance?

Miriam Schulman: Yeah.

Tracy Otsuka: I remember the lines in New York, actually, during Covid.

Miriam Schulman: During Covid, I know I was scared of going to those places because I thought, that’s where you get Covid.

Tracy Otsuka: Jeez. Yeah.

Miriam Schulman: All right. Tracy, do you have any last words for my listeners before we call this podcast complete?

Tracy Otsuka: None other than none other than you’re brilliant. And, um, the sooner you reduce the shame and realize that you are not disordered. You are not defective. You just have a different brain that operates using a different system, kind of like Macs in a Windows driven world. Then the sky’s the limit.

Miriam Schulman: Perfect. All right, mic drop. All right, my friends, thank you so much for joining me here today. I’ll see you next Tuesday. Same time, same place. Until then, stay inspired.

Speaker 2: Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram @schulmanart and of course, on

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