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Q&A with Comic Illustrator, Wife & Mother: @ADHD_Bri

February 23, 2021

We all have a passion — something that we pursue when we feel our best and that lifts us up when we feel our worst. For Bri, this passion is comic illustration. Bri uses her talent in art to educate and commiserate with those around her who might be going through a similar journey with ADHD. This wife, mom, and illustrator shared how she has been able to turn her experiences with ADHD into a creative, educational tool. Listen to the interview on YouTube, or read it below!

adhdbri comic

Jordan:
All right. So do we want to begin with just telling us a little bit about your ADHD journey and were you diagnosed earlier, later in life? Just kind of how that was for you, if you could go ahead and talk about that journey that would be awesome.

Bri:
Yeah, of course. So I was a late-diagnosed ADHD-er, so I actually didn't receive my ADHD diagnosis until last year. So at the age of 29. I did not know that I had ADHD for a majority of my life. In fact, my journey involved a lot of misdiagnoses. And so I had been from a very young age, very aware I was struggling, but of course, what's really common when you're an AFAB person (assigned female at birth), you're not necessarily going to get the same attention for some of those issues. So just starting when I was a kid, I was told, "Oh, no. You're just experiencing these issues because your parents are going through a divorce." So then as I got older, it was, "Oh, no. You're just anxious." Or, "You're rebellious." Then I received a formal diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and depression, and then potentially borderline personality traits, which didn't really fit me, but it fits some of those more like impulsive and more emotional traits that I was experiencing.

Bri:
And I tried medications then they didn't work. And so I kind of just resigned myself that I'm just stuck dealing with this. I don't know what's going on. So this is how it's going to be. And then actually I became a mom in 2019, and I ended up going to see a therapist for anxiety because my anxiety was just through the roof and we were going through everything. And I was like, I'm not depressed. I definitely am anxious, but I'm still just struggling to do so much. I'm still struggling. I've never been able to find a way to help me focus on things and get things done. And it's just really, really becoming way more noticeable now that I'm a parent. And we spent a lot of sessions where she was like, you know what? Definitely, this sounds like anxiety.

Bri:
And I mentioned my husband had told me he thought I was ADHD, like years — we've been together for over seven years — so towards the beginning of our relationship — and I was like, no, no, you're ADHD. I know how you are. You're hyper. It doesn't make any sense for me to be ADHD. But during my therapy, she had mentioned, she said, have you heard of inattentive ADHD? Which I hadn't. I never had. And she was like, let's table this because I want to focus on the anxiety stuff, but let's talk about this some time. And then it must've been a session or two later she's like, nope, we have to stop. I need to get you evaluated for this. It just seems like a lot of what you're dealing with is...you definitely do have anxiety,
but there's more to this. And so we went through the evaluation and confirmed all of that and it's kind of been history from there.

Jordan:
Wow. That must've been so good to finally have that reason of why you're feeling that way.

Bri:
Yeah. It was interesting because I almost equate it to kind of like a grieving process because being later diagnosed of course, I mean, I'm not that old, I'm 29, I'm almost 30 now. But there was still so much that my struggles held me back from. And so it was that process of being so relieved that I had an answer and that I could find ways to better cope with this, but then also grieving that time that I was searching for answers and all of these things were just ignored or missed until recently.

Jordan:
No, that makes total sense. Well, I'm so glad that she was able to pinpoint that for you and really be like, no, we're doing this.

Bri:
Yeah, I got really lucky.

Jordan:
Yeah, no, that's great. So I know that I read in your stuff that the way that you process all of this really is through your art, which I think is so cool. So how long have you been creating that art in lieu of or about mental health?

Bri:
Yeah. So for ADHD, I've only been creating comics since last summer. I hadn't done that before because I didn't know I was ADHD. I wasn't super familiar with that outside of...one of my older siblings. So my older sister and then my husband are both diagnosed ADHD. And then apparently my mom is. It's a weird story, but I didn't have any reason to beforehand. But when I was younger, so back probably around 2009, 2010, I was in college then. And I had created some comics regarding mental health with depression and anxiety, but nothing that I really stuck to. And I am an illustrator. I went to school for illustration. I've been doing art my whole life, but it really wasn't until recently that I did this and I stuck with it.

Jordan:
Nice. That's awesome. So is this full-time for you now or do you do other things too for work?

Bri:
Yeah, so I do freelance. I'm not doing it full-time at the moment, just with the lockdown and everything. I'm having to be the primary parent for my child because I have more flexibility. So unfortunately I can't really do it full-time I pretty much spend any time that I'm not doing parent duties or working on freelance stuff. I spend it doing stuff for the ADHD [inaudible 00:06:31]. So as much as I can.

Jordan:
No, I think it's great. Yeah. Like I said, I was just going through your stuff the last week and I just think it's so cool how you really take a lot of aspects of ADHD and really put into your stories. And I just think it's so cool. So I'm glad that you're able to do that. I mean, it's a lot of people with ADHD have had obviously some extra trouble focusing and everything during this pandemic. Have you felt that as well during this time?

Bri:
It's interesting because I have in ways, but at the same time I also received my diagnosis at the beginning of the pandemic. So I was suddenly equipped with so much more ways to cope and ways to think about things. And I am medicated as well. And so for me, that timeframe I've actually improved drastically and being home all the time, and having a child kind of forces me to have a schedule and I thrive with schedules. It's hard to keep two of them, but if it's something necessary, like, I can't not feed my kid breakfast, lunch, dinner. So for me in that aspect, it's been actually really helpful. I know for others, especially for students, I can only imagine how difficult that would be to have to concentrate on school work and not really have the structure of school to be in. So for me it hasn't been an issue, but I suppose it's all circumstance based.

Jordan:
No, that makes a lot of sense. And I mean, my next question was going to be how has your art increased or decreased during that time. But I guess since you were just diagnosed at the beginning of the year, it all started this year, didn't it?

Bri:
Towards the beginning of last year, but yeah. And I have created much more art. A big focus of mine was to do a lot of personal projects as well outside of what I do for ADHD. And so, it's still not quite at where I'd like it to be, but for juggling parenthood as well as kind of my advocacy work, I'm doing as much as I can.

Jordan:
No, you have a lot of great content out there, so you're doing a good job.

Bri:
Thank you.

Jordan:
You're welcome. So what do you do to help yourself focus? Is art the main thing that you do to help yourself focus? Or are there other things that you like to do to help yourself focus in those moments?

Bri:
Yeah, so structure definitely is one of those things that is necessary for me to focus. And so I have to have certain times in the day that are the times I choose to work on things and it kind of narrows down even further. It's not even just time structure, but I have to separate the areas I work from the areas that I do my hobbies or I'm sleeping. I know a lot of people will sit in bed and draw. I can't do that because my brain associates all those places with ... I know that if I'm drawing while sitting on my bed, I'm not going to be able to sleep later because my brain associates sitting on the bed with drawing. And so I actually create specific areas of my house where I know when I'm working, this is where I go and sit.

Jordan:
Okay. That's really smart.

Bri:
Yeah. It's just about reducing distractions and then adding in things. Because if there's not any kind of stimulation around, that's just as distracting for me as taking away things. So I listen to a lot of music while I work. That's pretty much a big one for my focus. I listen to instrumental music. So that way there's no lyrics to distract me, but there's something around to stimulate my brain just enough to kind of calm it down. And then on top of all the structure, I also do have a prescription medication that I take and that helps me focus as well.

Jordan:
Okay. Awesome. It sounds like you have a good amount of things that help you, which is great. I've heard the same thing with instrumental music on studying. I've heard that it helps in all of those ways too.

Bri:
Oh yeah, absolutely.

Jordan:
I should really get on that train. I feel like it's a great way to help with that. So that's really cool. So I know we kind of talked about how, and even on Twitter, I know that you mentioned your art is a way to process the ADHD. And so do you hope to...I mean, I feel like this is kind of self explanatory, but what is your main goal to help others the way that art helps you within ADHD? Do you hope to reach a lot of people with your art?

Bri:
Yeah, exactly. So as you've seen, I mentioned I use my comics as a way to process my ADHD and I started actually doing this comic on Instagram. That's where I started. And I initially did it for myself to process as well as to show my friends and family like, hey, this is what I'm dealing with. This is what I'm going through. Because even with my family that is knowledgeable about some aspects of ADHD, they were not familiar with inattentive. They had no idea. My mother who has been dealing with my older sister's diagnosis since she was a child, she didn't believe I had ADHD at first. And it wasn't until I was able to kind of show her information and provide her with more things that she was like, oh, that makes sense. And actually like, now I know why I was told in the past that I was. So I started out that, but then I
noticed other people outside of my initial circle were starting to really read and relate to my comics.

Bri:
And so I'm still using it as a way to kind of process a lot of that, but I've been motivated by the
opportunity to reach others and to either show them aspects of their ADHD that maybe they didn't consider. Maybe didn't know that it could affect them in that way, as well as to help people who are just like me, who have gone through life struggling, but not realizing why. And then maybe they come across my comics and it starts that thought of, oh, could this be it? And so anything I can do to kind of spread more awareness, I think is a positive. That's a big motivator for me.

Jordan:
Yeah. No, that's awesome. And out of all the people that you get either asking questions or really loving your art, who do you think relates to the most? Do you have a certain age group or a demographic that you think relates most with your art?

Bri:
It varies. It definitely varies, but I would say that the majority that I have that reach out to me are usually students. I get a lot of students who reach out who were diagnosed in childhood, but didn't understand what they had and what they were dealing with because a lot of people get a diagnosis, but then it's not really explained to them what it all entails. And so I get a lot of students who reach out and they're like, oh, could this be why it's affecting me? And then that's kind of the majority, but I do get a lot of older adults who reach out and they're like, oh wait, do you think that this could be it? And of course, I'm not a medical professional, I can't diagnose, but you know, I can at the very least facilitate that conversation to help them determine whether or not they should go seek evaluation or even just direct them to more
information. I'm always happy to do what I can in that aspect.

Jordan:
Yeah. That's awesome. I love that your stuff is out there because I feel like it's so clear too, because I mean even for myself sometimes I'll be scrolling on social media and I'll come up on something I'm like, huh. Or, I have more questions about that. So I love [crosstalk 00:15:23] out there that people can see and question that. And I know that you said that you're not a medical professional, but I feel like you're just a next step for someone out there to go get the help that they need in that. So that's really awesome. So is there someone with ADHD that you've been able to relate to, or that has been an inspiration for you during this time?

Bri:
That's always the hard question because there's so many wonderful people in the ADHD community. So it's hard to kind of do a name drop because I don't want to leave too many people out, but I do have a special shout out to, there's another comic artist who focuses on ADHD. You may have heard of Pina Varnel from ADHD Alien. And after I started doing my comics, she had actually reached out to me and invited me to a community of other ADHD artists. And so it was really great to just be introduced to a community of people who one are creatives like myself going through kind of the same thing. And I'm still part of that community today and I really enjoy it and it's really motivating. And so, I mean, that's one specific. But even on Instagram and on Twitter, there's some wonderful communities of a lot of advocates who are sharing their experiences and their stories. And yeah, it's really great to be a part of
it.

Jordan:
Yeah, no, that's awesome. It sounds like you were just taken under her wing and you were introduced to all of this, which is great. It's always good to have someone to look up to to introduce you to this world and yeah. And now other people. So that's awesome. So I also know that your art is inspired by...some of it is inspired by your own experiences with ADHD. And so was there a favorite moment that you created into a comic?

Bri:
I'll have to be honest. I don't have a favorite moment. I mean, most of these are all my experiences and of course, some of it's kind of played up for either some humor or just to be kind of a little bit more illustrative of the experience. But I mean, really all of it is a part of me. And so even with some of the more negative experiences that I illustrate, it's just something that, that's part of my daily life. And I don't know, I can't really separate myself from that to choose a moment.

Jordan:
That makes total sense, especially if they're all based on your life experiences. I totally understand that. No, but that's awesome. Thank you so much for telling us about your journey and just how you got started on this. Where would people be able to find your information? If you could let us know where can they find you and your art?

Bri:
Yeah. So I have a few different platforms that I'm on. Of course I'm on Twitter, but I'm also on, let's see, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. And so for most of those platforms, my handle is just @ADHDBri except for Instagram, it's @ADHD_Bri because I wasn't able to get the handle without it.

Jordan:
That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing and I'm sure we'll have a lot of customers checking you out very soon.

Bri:
Great. Well, thank you so much, Jordan.

Jordan Nerney

Written by Jordan Nerney

Jordan is the Operations and Customer Service Specialist at Revibe Tech.

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