Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

For All Abilities

Jan 13, 2020

For All Abilities – The Podcast Episode Two – Amber Hawley – Finding Your Own Path With ADHD


In this episode, I interview Amber Hawley of, The Couple Fix Podcast and the Biz Besties Podcast. We discuss how Amber has succeed in life using her ADHD diagnosis as her superpower. Amber is a wonderful, creative therapist and has found her own path using her ADHD to her advantage and learning strategies to minimize her weaknesses. You can read the transcript of the episode below.

To connect with Amber, please go to or follow her on LinkedIn – Amber Hawley,  Instagram @mybizbestie.


Please subscribe to For All Abilities – The Podcast!


Please follow me on Instagram @forallabilities, LinkedIn (Betsy Furler) and on Facebook (For All Abilities). Go to our website for information on our software that enables employers to support their employees with ADHD, Dyslexia, Learning Differences and Autism.


Thanks for listening!




Transcription of Episode Two

Betsy  0:08 

Welcome to the For All Abilities podcast. Thanks so much for listening today and today I have another special guest my friend,  Amber Hawley. I am so excited you are here, Amber


Amber  0:21 

Me too. Thanks for having me.


Betsy  0:23 

Yes. So tell my audience a little bit about yourself, introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself.


Amber  0:33 

I'm a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and I have ADHD. So I actually have a couple of different businesses which is very normal for ADHD people, I feel doing all the things and also to be self employed. That's a very common thing. So as a marriage therapist, my specialty Is our I work with couples. I've really transitioned into working with high achieving/ entrepreneurial couples. Because I also feel like I'm the ADHD whisperer, I love helping people that have ADHD and that go into business and the struggles that they face. All of that is my favorite thing to help people with.

Betsy  1:25 

I think that's really needed too. I know that the entrepreneurs I know, many of them have ADHD, or are people like me who are not really diagnosable as that and probably don't really have ADHD, but I have a lot of interests and can get easily distracted at times. So that's probably very helpful. And as we all know, it's hard to be married to somebody who's an entrepreneur. With or without ADHD.


Amber 1:56 



Betsy  1:58 

Those two things are hard. Hard on marriages. I know you were diagnosed as an adult with ADHD. But why don't you tell us a little bit about your childhood? You probably had ADHD during your childhood even if it wasn't diagnosed. Tell us a little bit about what your childhood was like what it was like for you to be in school and in college?


Amber 2:23 

Yes. Well, you definitely look at issues as a lifelong thing. So whether you got diagnosed as a kid because I'll see people like no, I was as a kid, like, well, you still have it, it doesn't go away, right? Yeah, doesn't go away. As a therapist, I see this that it's very common for girls to not get diagnosed because of how it shows up. So typically, what we see in like our clinic is a lot of young boys are getting brought in because they're having problems at school, they're acting out. So even though I'm combined types. I have both the distractibility and the hyperactivity, which that part you kind of do grow out of, I kind of wish I still had that hyperactivity. I was just really active kid. Back in the 70s and 80s, like it was just kind of a different world. So it probably really suited ADHD kids in a way. Just always being outside running around.


Betsy  3:26 

I hadn't thought about that. But it did. It probably was easier. We all got more exercise. We were all outside playing all the time


Amber 3:35 

Exactly. I feel we need recess. We didn't have technology, you know. Technology is both a blessing and a curse. It's funny when I look back at my old report cards like I've one of those like, memorabilia things. The comment was always that I was talking too much. That's how that's how it usually will show up, especially in girls. It's that, “just can't stop talking” and, and you know, looking back now, after getting diagnosed, there were just a lot of things that I thought, gosh, you know, Why do I keep doing that? Like when you're kind of blurty and you're, you know, you're just talking, you have to say that thing. And then you're like, how did I say that? And you're like, Oh, well, now I kind of understand that impulsivity piece. But I think I was just a really active kid and I talked a lot. So that was always the thing. My thing in school that was a real struggle, which this is where I wish I had known because then I would have developed strategies for it. But I was terrible at doing homework. Like I, it became so painful, that, you know, like, it's a simple thing to do for most people, and I just couldn't do it, but I tested really well. So that was my saving grace. I could easily learn information. You know, just by listening and I would remember and I would do well, but I would always be marked down for not turning in homework or for it would take me so long to get stuff done like that


Betsy  5:10 

So would you procrastinate with it?


Amber  5:12 

Oh my gosh, just, it was the worst. Yes, I can remember even I want to say even as young as sixth grade that I would finally I would stay up all night. At 1am I would start doing my homework or start preparing the next day, like really young because it would get to the point that  the pressure would have to be there for me to actually focus. So yeah, so I would, like I said, even as young as sixth grade and then it's funny my senior year of high school, they had this program where you could skip your senior year and get college credits so you could attend the local community college. The first quarter I signed up for this one class called perfectionism and procrastination. So there was a part of me that always knew! Yeah, it was like, What? Why? Why am I always doing this?  The funny thing is I don't actually feel like I finished that class. I think I actually dropped it.


Betsy  6:15 

That's hilarious. And this is good. This is a this is great for those parents out there that are listening to the podcast, and are just like, so frustrated with their kids for not doing their homework, because, you know, it's a common issue, especially for kids with ADHD. That you did actually survive school and go on to become a professional. Children out there please just do your homework.


Amber 6:49 

And you know, it's funny when when I talk to parents, sometimes it's like, is this a battle worth having? There are natural consequences and obviously, you know, I believe that kids need to do their work, but there are times where it's like, okay, let's look at the bigger picture. So right, I still did have a very, I would say, non traditional trajectory. So I did that year. And then I kind of like here and there, I would try to like take classes and college, but it just again, I wasn't I don't think I was ready. I had a hard time focusing. So I ended up moving across the country, actually, because I grew up in Minnesota, and I moved out to California. And then I started getting jobs in the marketing world and then went into internet operations. And, and it was funny because this was before the .com bust. And, you know, you didn't have to have college. I mean, they wanted it, but they but really if you were I was somebody who could pick up that kind of stuff really easy like technology. Right? Right. So you just had to be able to, you know, if you're articulate, and you could learn things like I think there are other ways to do Well in the world, and so I actually ended up moving all the way up to like senior management and internet operations with no college degree whatsoever. This was by the age of like, 24. Anywhere


Betsy  8:13 

I guess my listeners don't know this, but you're very creative. You're a very creative thinker. And your ADHD is probably your that's probably powered by your ADHD. So I think Yeah, and I think I am. I'm a strong believer that not everybody has to go to college. There's so much out there that we can do I without a college degree, so I think sometimes it is, or you need to take several years off before you go, you need to mature or do some other things. So anyway, that's Yeah, that's so interesting.


Amber  8:53 

And I think unless you're the kind of kid who knew exactly like, this is exactly what I want to do, and it's a very clear path, right? Because I'd always like I'd always gone back and forth like I wanted, I looked at like psychology or like, law. And so it was always like a lawyer like psychologists. And then it's just like, okay, I just need to go do something else. And I went into the internet world the .com world. And then I kind of had what I call my existential crisis. And that's when I realized, like, I wanted to be doing something helping people. And I think, naturally, I always talked to people, people always told me their stories, like from a young age, you know, I'd be at a gas station and people would share their whole life story with me.


Betsy  9:35 

So that’s my undergraduate degree is in psychology and sociology with a minor in religion. I didn't know I mean, I thought I wanted to be a psychologist, actually, my plan was to go to, you know, get a PhD in psychology. And I decided not to do that. And the reason I decided not to do it is because I hear everyone's problems everywhere I go. I was like, I don't want to do that. For my work because when I go to the grocery store, I hear product people will tell me their whole life story and everything going on with them and everywhere I go.


Amber  10:10 

I got so funny, I make sense because you're a talker too. But my thing was, hey, this, I love this. I love connecting with people individually. I really didn't like the corporate world, I really struggled with it. And I started to feel like I would kind of jokingly be like, I hate people. I mean, I still sometimes say that. And it's not really what I mean, because I don't it's I love connecting with people individually. But sometimes when you're in those hierarchical structures, were it just it just felt it so it felt like, you know, like, you're below me and this, you know, therefore, everything I say is right. And a lot of people with ADHD do struggle with, you know, working for other people and I, I think I always had this stress, like I was always going to be fired, even though that made no sense really when I kept getting promoted and You know, I did really well, but because I did struggle, like I had a hard time, that's why I love world, I had a really hard time getting up in the morning and being to a job by, like, even say 9am like it was, it's funny because I could go be somewhere at 5am if it's like a ridiculous hour, or I would need later in the day, so, so I realized, you know, so I would feel stressed all the time. So there were ways that it definitely showed up negative. But I think the positive ways were like, you know, the the ability to hyper focus, I think is what helps me learn things really quickly and be able to adapt and to grow. But so yeah, so then that eventually I said, Okay, I know I want to pursue the psychology thing. I really want to connect with people on a one on one and I want to help people because I you know, like I said, I my existential crisis. So then I went back to college at an older age, so I think


Betsy  11:54 

How old were you


Amber  11:56 

I think I went I went back at 27

Um, and then I, I did. I did right back to back. I did my bachelor's and my master's degree. And so


Betsy  12:11 

did you go full time? Or did they work?


Amber  12:14 

So I did try. Like I said, I tried here and there. I tried doing like a class or two at a time, and I had a really hard time splitting my focus like that. So what ended up happening is I made a plan. I was like, Okay, I'm going to continue to work and in January, I'm going to quit and go back to school. Well, when is it happening in August is everyone got laid off? This was during the bust. You know,


Betsy  12:40 

so that was kind of convenient for you.


Amber  12:43 

It was a little earlier than I thought. Yeah, exactly. I was like, Oh, I wasn't really ready for that. But um, but yeah, so I you know, it ended up working out so then I just went to school full time, and then I you know, would do like part time jobs or whatever. But mostly my focus was school.


Betsy  13:03 

I think that, I think for a lot of Well, I mean everybody with ADHD is so different but I do think that that can be really hard for a lot of people with attention problems and to have to focus on two completely different things. You know, work in school I mean, to me work in school are so different. Yeah, your priorities are different for each your, your, your motivation is different. I think that can be really hard. And I think online classes too can be really hard. Yeah, I


Amber  13:35 

One of the most the hardest things were the online ones. I didn't like them because I really I like I can sit in a class and listen and learn so much. So for me, it was so easy to do that. And I think it was it because school is such a different kind, like I could work several jobs and be fine because you're showing up and you're doing work, but my school part would be the the the Mental load of the homework. It wasn't like it was hard because actually find school very easy, but it was the where my struggle comes is, you know, in business, it's now like paperwork, stuff, the administrative stuff. But in school it was like that homework part, and being able to organize that. So that was really hard because even back in high school, what ended up happening is, I would work I was working two to three jobs. I actually ended up working like full time between all my jobs, and school was second like it wasn't my priority. So I think I've always it's not it wasn't even a time commitment thing. It's but it is that mental energy. And so yeah, being in college, it made it harder. And again, I wish I had known because I would have set up better study habits but I was able, I had this one professor who said the difference between a student and a D student is the a student is willing to pull the all nighter, haha and most of my classes like it was usually like okay you write papers. Or you would be tested. But it wasn't a lot of like, you know, like homework for the sake of homework.


Betsy  15:07 

Right, right exactly what all stuff that you have in, in middle school in high school that's just so wearing on people.


Amber  15:17 

Exactly. So in that regard, I did well because I would pull the all nighter and I would, you know, study like crazy for the test and I would do really well so that that helps. And then but then there were certain times where I did it like a self paced class and I ended up just failing because I never did one thing in it. Because it was right. It was just as weird. Yeah, it wasn't the right direction.


Betsy  15:41 

From an executive functioning standpoint, though self paced classes are so difficult.


Amber  15:46 

Although oddly, I had it I had self paced like, I had to go back and retake algebra two or something like that. I can't remember what something because I've been too long, right. And I did a self paced class for that. But there was a class meeting time, and I did so well. And also I'm really good at math. So math is so easy, right? So I was like, okay, but this other one was, yeah, that like reading and writing papers, and it was all and you never met, you never went anywhere. Right own. I failed and I couldn't even like, that's where it's like so frustrating and like, I could be so successful. And then I couldn't even withdraw myself from the class. Like, it makes no sense, right? So you're like, Oh, what is wrong with me? But yeah, so


Betsy  16:31 

that's something that I think is really important in the employment setting to is for managers to know that some people with ADHD need a you know, more frequent deadlines or a big project broken down down into tasks for them, or just some kind of like, weekly accountability. Yeah, just check in weekly on the project or whatever. And I think sometimes Managers are, you know, maybe they think people tend to be over, you know, micro managers or, you know, under management. And, and that's really I think that becomes very hard for people with ADHD if they have to work in a situation that's like a self paced class


Amber  17:17 

in management to also doesn't work because it's like, that's how my creativity happens. And yeah, I mean, it was so bad that even in grad school, when we had to write our final thesis, this is your final thing, you know, the to finish to graduate like it has to be approved and accepted. I ended up and I found strategies that worked for me, I ended up having to rent a hotel for two days. So I would go and like focus on it. And what ended up happening is like, I got there, and then I like ordered room service and rented movies. And then finally in the final day, at like, 10pm I started going and I and I finished it through because that's perfect. part right. and I was great. And I passed. And so it was wonderful that it's like, I, I wish I had learned the strategies to kind of help me do that and not in such a stressful way.


Betsy  18:15 

And do you think if you were you were diagnosed with ADHD at the time, you were saying earlier that you wished he would have been? And do you think it would have made a big difference? Just knowing that about yourself?


Amber  18:30 

I think what's what's helped out a lot. So I got diagnosed at 41. So about three years ago, what I've learned is how to, like I know what things won't work for me or like, I'm able to go, okay, and not just see it as a failure. Because before I would say, Oh, well, if it's important enough to me, or, you know, I'm capable of this. So why can't you? Why should Why can't you just do this? Instead of saying like, hey, this actually is just How I work in this will be so much harder approach the way I think I learned when I was young and been taught strategy study strategies that helped me because it's like, by the time I figured this out, you know, I'm doing this my whole life. And so like, my strategy is wait until there's enough pressure, and then, and then hyper focus, and then you're able to just like pull through, but it's also very stressful and it's not right, it's not good sleep habits. It's not good. You know, it causes a lot of distress in that in that procrastination, period time. And so, you know, like, I wish that I could have just a lot of cortisol going into my system.


Betsy  19:45 

really that good for you probably. It's so interesting, because my brain works in such a different way about that. I'm not a person who will, you know, there are people who will do the paper like as soon as the signs and it's like, you know, they have it ready. Two weeks early, I'm not that person. I have a bit of procrastinate, but then my whole life I have given myself rewards. So I will automatically break a project down into different steps. And then I will reward myself like, Okay, if I work on this, and I still do this all the time. If I do paperwork for an hour, then I can watch a hallmark holiday. Yes, I do this, then I can do that. Like I've always had that internal reward kind of strategy. And so it's it's so interesting that that all of our brains don't work the same. And then and I couldn't if I tried to study at one o'clock in the morning, there's no way I can do that. Like, there's no way I would just have to fail the task because if I waited until 1am to start something, I'd be asleep by 1:15. I just, I just can't pull all nighters. So that's not a strategy for me. Yeah. And that's hard for me.


Amber  21:05 

And I think that's the important thing is understanding yourself. And unfortunately, what I see with so many people with ADHD is you might know yourself but because everyone including yourself is telling you will you're just doing it wrong. You, you obviously don't care about it enough or, you know, you're not getting feedback to say like, Oh, you got to work the way you got to figure out how you work and make it happen. You get told like you're being lazy you're, you're you know, what's wrong with you that you forgot that or you're disorganized or you know, turning to


Betsy  21:37 

Right. And it's a lazy I think the light you're lazy. You're not trying hard enough. Yeah, I think that is something that that that people hear kids. I think everybody hears that so much. Yes, they if they have ADHD or any kind of learning difference or any cognitive difference at all.


Amber  22:01 

And I, and I wasn't in until my late 20s or late 20s, probably maybe 30. Where I was like, I would always hear, especially from my mom, like, you're so lazy, you're so lazy. And then I would also hear you're doing too much. You're doing too much. You're overwhelming yourself. And and then I'm like, right, which one? Is it? Because it's true, like, on one hand, how can you tell somebody they're lazy when they actually are doing? Like, they do a lot. Like, like I said, I do sports. I, you know, like, I had a friend that were like, I, you know, I had a social life. And so it's like one of those things. It's like, not lazy. So I really try to help people reframe this, you were unmotivated. You know, like, all right, right. You get into overwhelm and you shut down and I and now like, once you learn it, and you can see the signs, you're like, Okay, now this is how I can address it and get myself out of that shutdown mode faster. Right, right. So it happens. It's really hard. But that's I think that's the hard part. It's like Once you know yourself, but you can't just know yourself, you have to accept yourself. And once you find that acceptance, you can figure out how to make it work. And the beauty of this day and age is we have so many options. It's not everyone doesn't have to work the nine to five. I mean, in fact, most people don't. And so I knew like so once I opened up my therapy practice, I was like, okay, for years I did, I had to do like, early mornings, because I had young kids and we were trying to minimize childcare. And then after some time went by, I realized like, well actually was like five years. After that time period, I said, Okay, what works ideally for me is I would start seeing clients at one in the afternoon and I would see them till 9pm because I may get up early, but I my brain takes time to kind of wake up and be in that is, and I am like, on fire in the afternoon like I'm amazing, but in the morning, not so much. Like, and I can


Betsy  24:00 

About so important to is for people to know what time of day they work the bus, yes and and then and then maximize that time because I'm a mid morning person. I'm a, like 10am to about one or two. That's kind of my, like, optimal time or super late night I can get another kind of a second wind late at night. But that doesn't work that well for my family. So my typical time is like 10 to two. And it's I think that's so important to know when you work the best. Exactly. I don't know.


Amber  24:40 

So really honor it. Because Yeah, that people will say, Oh, I want to like I sometimes depending on who it is like I've done a podcast episode really early. Because you know, like, especially if they're a big name with a big list and you're like, Okay, I'll work with your schedule. But I'm my brain isn't really in it. I'm still good. It's just I'm much better in the afternoon. But what I do find is, I am really great with creative work or brainstorming in the morning. So like quiet time. So for me, if I go to work at 10, like that 10 to one time, I'm great at kind of brainstorming ideas or like, Okay, this is the next project I want to do, or, you know, like, kind of organizing things, that's what I'm good at, but the actual, like, having to be in that responsive place of, you know, because a lot of a lot of like, I'm kind of coaching Well, now I've kind of transitioned online to an online business, but I'm a coachy person, so it's like fixing people's problems. You know, I gotta, you gotta really be awake and be attentive for that. So, so yeah, it's figuring out what type of work during what time of day. So that's another piece of it.


Betsy  25:50 

Yes. So real quickly when you work for people you know, the the time of day matter The you know type of work you were doing mattered What else can you think of that made a difference and when you were working for someone that ADHD either helped or or harmed


Amber  26:12 

Um, so the harm stuff was always around time management I think that was always the negative feedback I got okay.


 Betsy 26:20 

Late For meetings are forgetting about things


Amber  26:22 

Know once I'm at work i'm i'm good right there, but it was getting to work on that mattered. That was a problem. But and this might be a little genex thing but I am a really hard worker. So like, I'm kind of notorious for like, I don't even like taking sick days like I always show up. Although when I was when I was really hating a job and feeling really burnt out by it that I probably did not want to go very much. Now that I'm thinking back, I would get into the zone where I would just like watch TV for like, felt like days on end like I could just waste so much time. So it was this thing where I was like going 100 miles an hour, or zero miles an hour. And so there was like, there wasn't an in between. and that feels crappy. Right? So, so I would say, mostly, that was the negative stuff. Or I would be kind of hate to call it like emotional, but like, I was very passionate about things. And so I felt like something was wrong. Like I was very vocal about it. Right. Right. So I don't know, like, my, my sense of social justice is like super, you know, developed is what I will. I'm going to say that in such a nice way. It's such a bad way right now. Yeah, I would have worded it very differently before. So I think that was a struggle because I really definitely got emotionally impacted by people in that way. Um, but on the positive side, like goes back to that creativity. Yeah, talk about like, we would be in a meeting and they would be like, Oh, you know, I wish we could do this. And I would search it out. Figure it out. And then, like, I remember, I was working for this one company, and I, I supported marketing, you know, in the internet operations department. And so they wanted to do these ads. And they wanted, this was a long time ago. So they wanted it to have, they wanted to have like, an audio component. And so I figured out how we could for free in house record, an audio component to these ads we were putting on our on our site, and and do it and I figured that out within like an hour of this one meeting, and they were just blown away and so happy, you know, so it's like, right, like that where I could, and I know it's like, nowadays, they'll be like, well, that's stupid. That's so easy. It's like no, this didn't right.


Betsy  28:43 

And it wasn’t that bad, right. I also think that that ability to think outside the box and to think about things in very different ways. I think, our brains being all everybody's brain I believe is so different from each other. And I think that is so valuable in a workplace if the workplace honors it, because you can think of things that nobody else would think about, because it's not the status quo, you know, it's something different or something new. And I think that is really. really valuable. Exactly.


Amber  29:25 

Yeah, having a work environment that supports that, that allows the space for that creativity to happen. And then so I guess another thing my this is kind of, I think it was the other reason why I did so well and the ADHD stuff didn't come out until I got to a place where I was burnt out. And my bandwidth was just too low. But I was I was an obsessive list writer, and I would either be extremely organized like a totally organized or it would be complete chaos. Right again, the All right, yeah. And yeah, so But what ended up happening then is because of my need for organization to be able to function, I was really good at like documenting processes. Which is ironic because I really struggle with this in my business now that I'm the business owner because it's like, I don't have time to do that. But when it was just when my job was to do this one job, then I had, you know, I had the focus for it. So I created like, their operations manuals and I trained people and so like that kind of stuff, and I love training people you know, the teaching component, the connecting with people one on one. So again, it's about finding what are those strengths that you naturally have and ride you know, ride that force in that direction? It's already going right? Don't try to do something different that is not not working to your strengths, right? Because you should and I think that's the thing is I should do this or I should want to and, and you know, it's the same thing with like management right? Like They say, you know, you people are promoted to their, to their place of in competence. It's like, well, if you want to be promoted, you should want to manage other people. And it's like, Well, some people are just, that's not manage other people, right?


Betsy  31:15 

And they're probably not going to be good at it.


Amber  31:19 

And that's the that's the only way they can get, you know, promoted and raises and all that. And it's like, well, that's a crappy structure. And so, because I do work with a lot of high achievers, you know, especially being in was in Silicon Valley for 22 years. And we just moved the summer, but it was like, I would see all these, you know, startup CEOs and C suite executives, and they would tell me about this because, again, a lot of people have ADHD, and they're like, oh, like, I don't want to have to manage people. Right. But it's the only way to get promoted.


Betsy  31:51 

I know. It's, there's so much work to be done.


Amber  31:55 

There is


Betsy  31:56 

So many things to be changed. So Tell me Tell my audience actually a little bit about how they can connect with you and if you have a couple of podcasts I please tell them about that


Amber  32:12 

Yes so I guess the best places to reach me number one would be that's where I'm doing I kind of trends because we've made a move across country again. I've transitioned to doing all of my work with couples and with individuals online so I'm doing coaching online with people and I have the couple six podcasts that goes along with that. So you can either check out couples fix or go to amber Holly calm. And the other piece is I co host the my biz bestie podcast and with my friend Dr. Melissa Hall, and that when we started it's primarily for women but we have a lot of we call them biz bros, but help female entrepreneurs find their business support system. Because I will say that's probably the number one thing I've learned in having a business for the last nine years is my staff, you know, having people that support me so it's not just about your team, it's also about having a biz bestie inner circle, you know, yeah, networking, all that support, but having that team that supports me like I have somebody who is so great and organized and on top of the details, so that I don't have to be because I create otherwise I'll be so stressed out because, you know, that's not my strongest part, right though. The paperwork part. I'm just terrible.


Betsy  33:38 

So hire somebody else to do that.


Amber  33:41 

Oh my gosh, it makes life so good.


Betsy  33:44 

And I think also, you know, with all my all my business friends, and it's so wonderful to have people to bounce ideas off of and your podcast is kind of a biz bestie for all of us that we are Get that info from so that's awesome. So yeah, just my biz bestie in anywhere we listen to podcasts or couples fix podcasts, both of those. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us today and telling us how you're using ADHD to live your best life. And I know that my audience is going to want to connect with you. So remember to subscribe to my podcast and subscribe to ambers podcasts as well. So thank you, thank you. Thank you and Amber. I appreciate it so much and I will talk to you soon.


Amber  34:34 

Thank you


Transcribed by