Yes. Beth. Well, Elizabeth actually, but you probably know me as Brook Stephens. You see, for the almost 26 years I’ve been in radio, I’ve always had a stage name. Kind of like a pen name for an author. For me, it started as the cool thing radio DJ’s do. Then, when I was given the job in St. Cloud at Wild Country 99, it became a safety feature. I was a young, 23 year old woman, living alone in a city where I knew no one. Over the years, it became part of me. From an industry side, it is part of my brand that is on display 24-7. From a personal side, it is like a nickname that reminds me of the fun, outgoing and bright side of my personality. Those who already knew would always start with one question, “what do you want me to call you?”. Honestly, Brook is completely fine, so is Beth, so is Babs. I mean, it’s just a name.
So, if it’s just a name, why tell you now?
I wrestled with the thought of being more open with others about it, but honestly, I’ve always been afraid of disappointing those that have given me their friendship, dedication and more through Wild Country 99 and my other career outlets. I didn’t want to appear a fraud or someone that, “If you can’t tell us your real name, what else aren’t you telling us?!”. I didn’t want anyone to feel less, because I kept that to myself. Whether you’ve known me as Beth or Brook, you still matter so much to me. And the story I’m about to tell, is probably my most transparent, honest one yet. It wouldn’t be right if we weren’t properly introduced.
The story I’m about to tell you is about a woman who has struggled all of her life, though until recently, she didn’t realize the extent of this struggle. She is a woman that has seen great successes, but not without greater struggles in relationships to herself & others. She is a smart, funny woman that is competitive, witty and dreams big and loves hard. She is a woman that has experienced some great successes in life, but they have always been surrounded by a cloud of doubt, failure, and chaos. Except, now, she knows why and how to overcome it.
Hi, my name is Beth and I have Adult ADHD & Depression.
Now, stop. Before you get all “Oh girl, you’re just fine!” “Look at all your amazing qualities and the things you’ve done!” “Don’t get down on yourself”, realize that I’m not telling you this because I’m seeking pity. I’m sharing my story with you because I want you to know, that even when you’re 43, married, a mom, working a full time job and life is good, you can still be living in absolute chaos. And if you’re like me, you can’t even see it. But you don’t have to live in this perpetual world of chaos. You can learn, heal and thrive, but first you need to get real with yourself.
When my son was 4 we started hearing that he may need some extra services. As a parent, that feels like someone walked in and slapped you in the face. Like, “excuse me?!”. This is where an internal panic for both my husband and I came rushing in. We have since come so far on this journey with my son. He is beginning to thrive at school, make better connections with friends and is shining so much more brightly. But, these gains didn’t start until after his behavioral evaluation back in August 2022.
It was funny, as I would talk with Dr. Jessica Lee (Neuro Psych Services) during the interview portions of Timothy’s evaluation and then through his diagnosis report, I just kept seeing massive parallels between Tim’s behavior and mine. We knew that he wasn’t able to pay attention in school, he was falling behind, socially he wasn’t as connected. Now, after about 5 hours of evaluation, we knew why. Timothy has ADHD and Asperger’s.
This is where I dove head first into discovering what to do for Timothy. Since we had tried just about every other avenue, under the direction of Dr. Smith at Sartell Pediatrics, we opted to try medication. It was a game changer. There he was! There was my beautiful boy shining so bright again! But there was still work to do. So, I kept leaning in to his ADHD journey. The more I read, the more I saw my face behind the words, not Tim’s. I started to see glimmers of my past & present struggles start to make sense. Kind of like an epiphany. The light bulbs started to flicker.
Heading into December of 2022, I was falling behind at work and at home. It was the same issues & excuses that I’d been battling for years in my personal life and career:
Are you ever going to clean up after yourself? This house is a mess!
You said you would take care of this, but it’s not done. What do we have to do to get this finished?
I told you about this yesterday?!
You do so great, but it never fails that after some time, you seem to fall apart.
When you’re on, you’re amazing, but if you get one thing too many on your plate, it ALL falls apart.
The account is overdrawn again, did you not even look at it?
She is the loudest person in the room.
Do you act like this at work? I can’t imagine how that must go over.
Man, poor Charlie. God Bless him.
What do we have to do to keep you on track?
Just stop talking. Do you even hear yourself?
Why do you always start something new, when you haven’t even finished the first thing?
You will never be leadership within this company.
You don’t have to be friends with people to work with them.
You are the most organized, unorganized person I’ve met.
You’ve had more than a week and it’s due in a hour, where are you at with it?
We’ve got to get you back on track.
These were all attempts by others, some with good intent, some not, to “figure me out”. To correct my path, to motivate me.
None. I repeat, NONE of these were effective.
In fact, the only thing they did, was help me dive deeper into the shame/guilt cycle that I lived 24/7. I would put on a brave face and admit “guilty as charged” and claim “I’m working on it”. But in all honesty, I had no clue what was really wrong. Was I broken? I must be! How could anyone be told these things and not be able to correct them at least a little.
I knew that I constantly forgot about things. I knew that I reacted too quickly and that I talked a lot. I knew that I was impulsive and worked amazing in the last few hours before a deadline. I knew I was smart, driven and could do amazing things. So, why in the world, did I keep failing. Why couldn’t I complete a single start to finish task. Why couldn’t I ever get to the end of a to-do list for the day and why was I ALWAYS working anytime of day 7days a week? Why did I have 10 planners in my house all with only a couple pages used then forgotten about? Why could I be so successful with weight loss and fitness for several weeks, then completely fall off the bandwagon every time? Why was I so tired 24/7 that I had gone to see a doc about the fact that I started falling asleep at the wheel driving home from work on a regular basis. That I couldn’t get through a day without being so tired I would sneak naps in even at work. Why could I sit in a chair and know all the things I needed to do, but couldn’t get out of the chair. Why am I late for EVERYTHING and why do I miss so many appointments by either forgetting them completely or just allowing them to pass by. Why can’t I get up and be present with my child and my husband? Why can’t I get through changes without feeling like I’m a victim and fighting the change in return? Why can’t I pick up my dirty clothing or make my bed?
Over the last few years, I had started looking inward. I started working on my emotional intelligence. Taking the emotion out and asking myself is it Fact or a fictional story I’m telling myself. If you’ve ever ready Brene Brown, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But no matter how many personal, introspective gains I was making, I was still having the same core issues with time management, motivation, self-worth and task completion.
So, I sent an email to Dr. Lee. When she replied that she had an eval cancellation and was open the very next week, I knew it was fate.
Fast forward to January 2023. I was on day 5 of 10 of a terrible bout of Covid. I had an over the phone appt with Dr. Lee (thank you covid) for my diagnosis. I had been so worried that she was going to come back and say, nope you’re just fine, just do better and everything will fix it self. But that is not what she said. In fact, what she said has so far completely changed my life.
Cognitively, I am smart and scored high in all the areas except one. Executive Functions. I bombed that section hardcore. Like when everything else was a score of 80% or higher. Executive Functions came in at a whopping 2%. She looked at me and with this bright, kind and hopeful expression said, “You are not broken. It’s not your fault. Your brain just doesn’t function like everyone elses”.
I have never felt so much relief and hope in a single sentence. As she explained how our executive functions (carried out in the frontal lobe of our brains) work for normal people vs. me, it was as if I could visualize a puzzles pieces being set down into place. Things just started to make sense. Dr. Lee explained that although I had a strong, very textbook case of Adult ADHD, I had developed coping mechanisms that helped me to excel this far in life. But, those coping mechanisms aren’t solutions and they have led me to a pretty clinical state of depression.
Knowing that we’d seen so much immediate growth with my son taking meds, I immediately messaged Valerie Carlsen at Rejuv (My main doc) about this dianosis and set up a med appointment. Valerie took everything in and started me on a prescription to help my ADHD first. She also have me a referral for a Psychiatrist who would be best suited to manage meds for ADHD & Depression.
Within the first two days of taking my new med, I couldn’t believe the change.
When I say the air smelled better and the sun shine brighter. I’m not lying. My entire world looks different. It’s like I needed glasses all my life and finally got them. I’m getting up in the morning, cleaning up after myself, taking care of myself. Before there had been days I wouldn’t just forget to take my daily medicine, but would forget basics like brushing my teeth. Now, I’m not just doing things because I have to. I am doing things because I want to. And when the “have to” things come up, I can get up out of the “chair” and get them done.
I am speaking slower and not having anxiety attacks during public appearances and emcee events. When I’m in meetings, I’m no longer all over the board. I can HEAR and RETAIN what people say to me now! There are so many things I never realized were issues before.
I couldn’t really listen. I would hear someone talking, but never retain the information. I hear you now!
I never remembered names, even if just told to me 10 seconds before. I remember now!
I would read paragraphs over and over and still not remember them. I can read for comprehension now!
I wouldn’t forget things, they would literally be gone from my brain. When repeated to me, I wouldn’t understand why they were JUST now telling me. I remember now!
I would be upset about the lack of teamwork both at home and work, not realizing that I was the one that was rigid and unwilling to consider others opinions and needs a lot of the time. I see this now, how can I help?
I would do things only my timeline and not understand why others would get so frustrated with me. I’m completely daily to-do’s!
I’ve literally spend the last month with my life unfolding layers of memories & feelings. Things are becoming clear. Things both current and in my past. I can separate myself from false narratives more easily and give myself grace. I am in talk therapy with an ADHD specialist to help me pace my journey as an adult with ADHD and a mom with a son with ADHD.
My journey is just beginning and it will always be a journey of self-love, learning and giving grace for the rest of my life. Being diagnosed doesn’t give me an excuse for previous ways I acted or treated others, even if I didn’t see how I was at the time. But it does mean, that from here on out, I get to strive to be my best for others and myself. I have cried tears of sadness and regret. I have cried tears of joy and hope. Shoot, I’ve just cried. I’m a regular Hallmark movie these days.
I know I sharing this was not necessary. BUT, if sharing this helps even one person find their way out of their own personal chaos, then I can smile knowing that someone else is about to put on those glasses that will change their life forever.