My mother once told me that I “was the happiest kid in the world until I started school.” I have a November birthday and I was a pretty bright kid, so my parents started me in kindergarten at age four. It did not go well. I did learn to read by the end of first grade. However, second grade went so well that they asked me to do it again. But it was never for lack of understanding the content. I just couldn’t sit still and get the work done. Then, after my second time through second grade I had a wonderful teacher for third grade who pulled my parents aside and said, “I think your son has this thing called ADHD.” I do not know how my teacher knew what ADHD was back in the mid 80’s, but she was 100% correct.
From that point on we went through a series of “well-respected child specialists” who did and said things that would be unfathomable today. Apparently one of them had his assistant measure my head with calipers as part of his “diagnosis.” As part of the play therapy, one psychiatrist played knock-hockey with me. I remember he chastised me when the puck went off the table and if it hit him, he screamed at me and accused me of doing it on purpose. After a few sessions of this, his diagnoses was that I was psychopathic due to being improperly potty trained. Eventually my parents found another well-respected child psychiatrist. After a few sessions of playing nerf baseball, he agreed with my teacher, “Matt clearly has ADHD.” So he sent me to a colleague at MGH who happened to be one of the foremost experts on ADHD in the world.
So, from that point on, I had almost everything an ADHD kid in the 80’s could have asked for. I had two supportive parents who never disagreed about diagnosis and treatment. My mom took many years off before going back to work full time. My dad was a teacher and administrator. I had a world-class doctor. I was in an excellent school system. I was an only child. I was a pretty bright kid. What I didn’t have was a coach/teacher/mentor who had been inside an ADHD brain. Someone to guide me, help me, and show me what I needed to know to work with my ADHD. Someone to show me how to survive in the academic world and to thrive in the greater world beyond. As a result, I had to learn just about everything the hard way on my own.
I knew I was the proverbial square peg in the round hole of the educational system. But I’m a tenacious guy and I made it my mission to figure out what I needed to do for my ADHD brain to be successful. As a result of my intense effort through high school, not sleeping much, catching up over vacations, taking some summer classes, and a having a very creative IEP I did well academically, socially, and athletically. But I wish I hadn’t had to do it alone.
As a result I had several options for college. I ended up choosing to attend UMass Amherst in the Honors College because it was supposed to be a small school withing the big school. That was not my experience. I did reasonably well, but was mostly miserable for two and a half semesters when I had my first major depressive episode. Unfortunately nobody realized that was what was happening until I put the pieces together when I had my second major depressive episode in my late twenties.
I medically withdrew from school and spent about two years seeing a different psychiatrist, on the wrong medication, dating (and eventually living with) the wrong girl, working restaurant jobs, drinking a lot of gin, and floundering. Eventually, I went back to my original doctor, got back on stimulants, and decided, with a little support from mom, to go to culinary school. That was a turning point in many ways.
If you are interested in hiring me and we eventually speak, I’m happy to tell you how and why my time at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) was the beginning of my transformation. But here I will just say that those years taught me valuable lessons about myself and my ADHD brain and led to a nearly decade long career which I often refer to as “successful but ultimately unrewarding.” At a certain point I realized I no longer loved cooking for a living and that it was slowly killing my body and my soul. I had the sneaking suspicion that I had more to offer the world than amazing risotto. So, I made a bold change.
I began my business in the fall of 2010 as a Professional Organizer, financed by unemployment, and a small inheritance from my grandmother, by way of my parents. I then went back to coaching school, completing the advanced coaching program at the ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA,) which was also financed by my parents. After finishing ADDCA I focused on ADHD coaching, and I built a thriving, self-sustaining practice from scratch in less than two years.
I have the advantage of having been diagnosed early in an era when that was relatively rare. So, I have gone through every phase of my life knowing that I have ADHD and actively working to manage it: childhood, adolescence, college… twice, young adulthood, and adulthood. And, now I’m a husband, father, and business owner. So no matter where you are in your life, the chances are, I’ll get “it” because I’ve been there or somewhere very similar.