ADHD, Puberty & Beyond With Calico Boyle

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Calico Boyle, founder of The ADHD Femme Collective, shares her experience with ADHD and puberty. She also shares her thoughts on ADHD and birth control/pregnancy and bracing for menopause. Listen to the pocdast here.


  • ADHD & Puberty: Factoring in Hormones (1:01) – Calico, who was officially diagnosed as an adult, already was showing signs of inattentive ADHD before puberty. These would intensify once puberty hit. “I have to say there really wasn’t a huge amount there in terms of data until I reached puberty, which was just like, boom, you know, and puberty is a big deal for girls anyway. But I, I exploded, my hyperactivity, really kind of rose. I have combined ADHD, although I am quite a sort of on the move person, which you know, has this benefit sometimes. And but I got an intense sense of frustration, restlessness, irritability, anger. Suddenly, as a young girl, my ADHD symptoms were far worse during my sort of pre-menstrual stage. And no, I did approach the doctor several times about this. And I got told that I had anxiety or depression”.
  • ADHD, Birth Control & Pregnancy (9:20) – “One thing I would say about pregnancy, which was a huge surprise, both of my pregnancies, and my mental health was amazing. And I cannot even explain, like how awesome I felt.”
  • ADHD & Bracing For Menopause (19:07) – “I’m gonna be fabulous.”

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Sarah 0:06
This is the adulting with ADHD podcast self empowerment for women with ADHD. Today, I am very excited to have with me, Calico Boyle, she's a life coach. And she's also founder of ADHD femme collective. Hello, caligo, how's it going?

Calico 0:23
Hey, I am so happy to be here. Finally, it's good to speak to you,

Sarah 0:27
it's wonderful to speak to you as well. I'm gonna set this up a little bit, and kind of let the audience know what we're going to talk about today. So recently, I switched the hormones, and I've taken little pieces of hormones, during menopause hormones during PMS. And you've had the experience of experiencing these life stages.

From a very young age puberty, and you had, yeah, you want to tell us a little bit about your diagnosis and how puberty came into.

Calico 1:06
Okay, so, um, I was not diagnosed until I was in my mid 30s. So that is a good 35 years of a lot of misconceptions. And I would say, looking back at my score reports that as a job as a child, before puberty, I would have presented as an attentive, so a lot of my school reports, fed back must try harder to chatty and not engaging, which I have to say, when going through the diagnosis process reading back over those was really quite upsetting. And I based on that, I don't know if it's different in the USA. But criteria for diagnosis is largely based on our parents reports and how we were as children, but also our school reports. And I have to say there really wasn't a huge amount there in terms of data until I reached puberty, which was just like, boom, you know, and puberty is a big deal for girls anyway. But I, I exploded, my hyperactivity, really kind of Rose, I have combined ADHD, although I am quite a sort of on the move person, which you know, has this benefit sometimes. And but I got an intense sense of frustration, restlessness, irritability, anger. Suddenly, as a young girl, my ADHD symptoms were far worse during my sort of pre menstrual stage. And no, I did approach the doctor several times about this. And I got told that I had anxiety or depression. And I was told that my hormones were in imbalance. And I guess, I guess it was a really dismissive experience, largely because I wasn't depressed, I was trying to tell them, you know, this is this is what's going on. And I know it's not bad. But I often walked out with a prescription that, you know, wasn't going to help me, certainly not contraception. antidepressants gave me emotional blunting, which is a time I'm not sure if you guys use it in the US, but you're when you take antidepressants, they kind of remove any emotional extremes. So that also takes away happiness, you know. And I got to the stage where I had had enough, I changed over my doctor, I got a woman doctor, no prejudice here. But this woman listened to me. I took the diagnostic criteria. And she said, You know what, what you're saying makes sense. And I'm sorry. Um, so yeah, I mean, I have to say, I think young girls are being let down a lot at the moment. And a lot needs to change. And largely that seems to be because early clinical research was based on young boys. And today still, this is a bold claim, but an accurate one, I think the diagnostic criteria is still from the male gaze, you know, which means a lot of our young girls who are close to space cadets, or daydreamers, who may be going completely nuts. And I'm saying that with quotation marks, because I don't think they're going nuts. Actually, these are ADHD females who once they kind of start maturing, or coming into their selves, and they're still you know, living without intervention, appropriate treatment, and a general lack of understanding really, and I think they say that ADHD is present from childhood and its own kind of needs to be a constant thing. However, What we're not factoring in is that there is a cycle of hormones. And this may present differently throughout childhood. And I think also there is a huge amount of gender bias, and perceptions of what ADHD looks like in children, we are still hearing about that naughty little boy and God bless a lot, boy. And I think he doesn't exist, right? We see you, your boys. But we also need to acknowledge that little girls are told not to be boisterous. Or they're told that your behavior is not ladylike. So from a very early age, we are already being told not to mask and then we reach puberty, which is already crazy. We're getting into sort of like more adult themes. And we're still being told that the way we are is not enough, or who we are is wrong by default. You know, so kind of is kind of like a storm brewing, if that makes sense. You know?

Sarah 5:54
Yeah, it really is. And, you know, just hearing you talk, it reminds me of, even in the career world, which I know, a lot of experience helping people in their careers, I always felt as a woman, I was in tech, it, I am still in tech, an extra layer of you're a woman in a field that's not dominated by women. And, you know, it was an extra layer of, you know, having to take a back seat and quiet down and not get too loud. And I'm definitely not like that anymore. But when I was young, and I have confidence, like you're already like, until you come into your own, that's an extra layer that you have to fight through besides science, not acknowledging your personal experience.

Calico 6:43
Oh, big time. Yeah. Yeah.

Sarah 6:46
That's so I'm very interested in how you have at that age that you knew it wasn't depression, that you had that self awareness at such a young age, that's very impressive that even then you're like, quite adding up,

Unknown Speaker 7:01
you know, like,

Sarah 7:02
there's something more here. Because I received the same information you did when I was younger and going through puberty, and I just went, Oh, okay, well, I'm depressed and anxious. And I identified is that up until the very end until finally, I stumbled into a good doctor and stumbled into

Calico 7:23
a diagnosis, right? Oh, yeah. When

Sarah 7:25
you're young, you just listen to the doctors, but I love how you you kind of like knew.

Calico 7:31
But you know what, though, as a young woman who's impressionable and seeking guidance, why wouldn't you listen to your doctor? You know, I mean, I'm not saying you should always. But why wouldn't you assume that this person who is supposed to be better informed and understand what you're saying, and to make a accurate decision? Why wouldn't you trust what they're saying? You know, I'm not going to get political either. But I mean, I think there's a lot of instances where, you know, we're being told something from someone who's an expert. So we do take on face value. It's only when we start doing research and perhaps speaking to other people in the same situation, that we have some kind of benchmarks to say, hang on a minute, there's a gap in the knowledge here that should be conveyed to us so that we understand ourselves better. You know, I mean, certainly being told you're anxious, depressed, it kind of brings it back to the Victorian days, but women were signed off as being hysterical. You know, when I think a lot of these women, you know, maybe they weren't happy at home, and they didn't want to have children, they wouldn't go out and work and being told, no, no, you're hysterical. Off you go. Same thing, although slightly less a scowl and going off on the tangent here. But you know, ADHD, women, were saying, Hey, listen, this is what's going on. This is a screw and they're like, Listen, you just need a good contraceptive pill and an SSRI, you go off, you'll be fine. And you're like, walking away, like, this medication makes me worse, but you know, better than me. So okay, you know, is years and years of trial and error, and it really, really sucks that we're kind of at the stage where this is still happening, you know, more research needs to be thrown into the the role that hormones have to play in ADHD in general, but especially for women. You know?

Sarah 9:20
Yeah. And I do want to talk a bit about your experience with contraception and pregnancy as well, because I'm definitely until you hit those phases. You are just kind of like, okay, I've been diagnosed. That's it. And,

Unknown Speaker 9:39
you know, it's

Unknown Speaker 9:40
kind of like

Sarah 9:41
surprise, there's more to it than that.

Calico 9:43
Yeah. Welcome to your brain. Well, I can say personally, I mean, you know what, like contraceptive contraception in general is a fantastic thing. However, I think Mike personal situation, it has not been hugely instrumental in changing things. For me for the better. I've already stated I don't think I'm a depressed person, if I have depression is usually circumstance or circumstantial, and leave them aware to. So I'm not a clinically depressed person. However, on contraceptive pills, or am the Depo provera injection festival, I got terrible acne on my chin, which sucked. I think I ended up getting gaining weight and generally being quite depressed, complete loss of libido. So I kind of made the decision that that wasn't for me. And it certainly did not help any ADHD symptoms. One thing I would say about pregnancy, right, which was a huge surprise, both of my pregnancies, and my mental health was amazing. And I cannot even explain, like how awesome I felt and how sort of ycm neurotypical thinking is, like, I will never truly know less, you know? Oh, well, I think medication is probably the thing that brings us the closest to it. But with both my children when I was pregnant, and I had really good skin, I had good hair, and I was a sex cancer, like, honestly, I was, you know, my libido was really, really there, non stop. And I think also, my executive functioning skills were so spot on, I was organized, I could remember things. I didn't experience any dopamine seeking behaviors, which, you know, I think it's important to acknowledge that we as ADHD people do. So, you know, we have cravings, some of us drink too much we smoke I'm not suggesting I do. These are just examples. But you know, overeating, seeking thrills, you know, anything for a quick dopamine hit, because, you know, this is this is part of ADHD. I have none of that, right. So I stopped drinking, smoking, anything like that. And there was no effort involved. I was just the three column woman who got everything done. And this lasted, I would say, probably six months after both my children were born. I just felt like I could take on the world. And, and I've often thought about that I spoken up my dad, you know, spoke about this to my doctor, and they said, don't know, just a coincidence. Which is weird. You know, I brought this up with my son were members of the group I run. It seems to be a thing. I mean, not for all of us. But puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, these all impacts the way our medication works, but also the way our executive functioning skills work for us. Yes. So I think for that not to be acknowledged by my doctor in particular, certainly. Well, it, it makes me wonder, I mean, I think I'm advant an advantage in the sense that I kind of, have got an audience as you do, who can sort of feed back to me and it's a thing, right? Why Why is it not a thing in the medical community? You know?

Unknown Speaker 13:16
And that's a

Calico 13:18
that's a that's definitely something that I think needs talking about. Can you make a copy? pull us out, please? Is that okay? Yeah. Actually, I

Sarah 13:32
was gonna say something quickly.

Calico 13:34
If that was Yes, um,

Sarah 13:36
yeah, I was gonna say, um, for anyone who's more interested in this, look into the work of Dr. Patricia Quinn. She has studied this at length along with doctors Kathleen and go and Ellen Lippmann, and they were they they've actually written about this in a book called at, it's called ADHD for girls, but they recently lost a recent, they updated it in recent years, and there's their stuff in there about women as well. But long story short, it's about estrogen. And there's this whole part in the beginning of the book that explains the role of estrogen and neurotransmitters and the reason why our executive function and our dopamine levels are the way they are depending on your estrogen levels, and I would attempt to explain it myself, but I don't want to misinform anybody and botch it up. So do go look at the work of Dr. Quinn. And if learn more about this, if you're not familiar with it, because it is real. It just hasn't been to our medical providers. That's the part that is so concerning to me is why don't our doctors know about this?

Calico 14:48
Oh, Gina, I just want to add in the caveat that I'm just another woman with ADHD about this. I'm certainly not medically trained. I'm just speaking about my own experience. And that was I can Big home from the other people that I work with. But suddenly, I think when I was initially diagnosed, one of the things that confused me was I mean, you know, my ADHD nurse was a woman, she was fantastic. But that conversation just didn't come into it, you know. And I came back to her when it was my period. And I said, my medication is not working. The next month, the same thing happened. She said, if it's not working, don't take him. So I didn't, and things were so much worse. And then, you know, I put a post on Instagram and Facebook and I said, Is this a thing? Does your medication work during your period? How do you quite counteract this, I was inundated with hundreds of women saying, this is a thing. Oh, my God, me too. And I'm just here to say it's a thing. And we all have different coping mechanisms, but we need our doctors or physicians, people dealing with teenage girls to really be aware of this, you know, it needs so much more dialogue, the research is out there. But we need this with our immediate health care providers, you know,

Sarah 16:08
absolutely. That and I always say to myself, Why wasn't this in the pamphlet? Because

Calico 16:14
you know, there's always a pain, right? There was no

Sarah 16:18
estrogen thing mentioned in the pamphlet, or by the way, there's going to be two weeks of every month where like, forever, things are going to be hard until you hit menopause. And then it's gonna be really hard just all around.

Calico 16:35
Yeah, like, welcome to your life. I mean, I think that's a whole different ballgame. But I mean, I think for so many of us, you know, like, we all have different roles. And well, it's because so many of us are juggling so much, we cannot plan our lives around or homeowner cycle. However, it would be advantageous if we could gauge You know, when things are going to be slightly bad. And when we should sort of like pads, pad ourselves out and make allowances or just be more aware. But I mean, to not know that to be struggling your whole life, especially if you're in the late diagnosis club. where someone hands you this code and they say welcome. Yeah, you can live like a neurotypical however, just before your period is going to get bad again, but we're not going to tell you about this and then we'll you know, we'll kind of Gaslight you in thinking that that's not the case. And you know, and I don't think they really are gaslighting us, but I do think it just, there's just not enough knowledge and we should not be left to sort of seek out this research ourselves, you know, especially for young girls who may be you know, they have their periods, they've only just been diagnosed. And they need that element of protection and safeguarding because, you know, they've got enough to contend with their education, changing bodies, you know, all of the other things that come with becoming a woman, and it's big, you know, to add in all of this additional stuff that you weren't prepared for, and it's not your everyday book that needs to change big time.

Sarah 18:10
Absolutely. And I think of all the aspects of your life that effects from the very beginning that permanently impact your ability to excel in the world that you're in from

Calico 18:23
socially. Yeah.

Sarah 18:25
credible. Well, we

Calico 18:27
already know that the men and women but I'm speaking from the female gaze now, women who go on diagnosed with ADHD we are more likely to enjoy we're more likely to be obese, we're more likely to have addictive tendencies. And then you get the CO mode morbid position. Oh my God, I've lost my words. I'm an ADHD ramble. We are more likely to have comorbid conditions the longer we wait to be diagnosed. You know, so I just think in general, a lot of research needs to go in. We need to protect our girls and we need education.

Sarah 19:06
Yeah, absolutely. So now we're gonna pause we've we've had children we've and now I think we're roughly the same age. You're 30 Well, I don't want to

Calico 19:21
I am so proud of my age. I was 36 last year getting credit points though. I'm completely alright with that. how old

Sarah 19:31
I am. 39 and I'm turning 40 next month Oh, so right around the corner. Yeah.

I love my I can't wait for my 40s Um, but like you I am also kind of looking into the looking onto the horizon knowing isn't staring at me soon. Yeah, sooner rather than later. Yeah. And I know you've spoken about in your community as well as mine, just

a lot of them. On

how, how really difficult it is when when you hit menopause with a bite. And so, you know, how are you feeling about that? Knowing what you know now, are you? No, no, I

Calico 20:11
would just like to give a shout out to all of my members who have been so close in speaking out against about against this, we are against the metaphors. Can we just like miss that event altogether? No, I mean, we have a rough in general, you know, I mean, there is women, and not the weaker sex, let's just put this out there to start with. And so I've got a lot of amazing members who have spoken out about their experiences of menopause. And I'm going to be really honest, it scares me, you know, and we go through several cycles in our lives, which means that we have huge hormonal shifts, and the menopause is no joke, you know, not only physically, but mentally we go for a shift. And I don't want to scare anyone, but the general feedback that I'm getting tends to be that symptoms worsen. And sometimes medication is less effective. And at times, you know, you're gonna need a review. However, I want to put a positive spin on this, because, yes, it's something that we cannot stop. And it's something that we should not be scared of. This is just opinions. This is just WordPad. And I think it's something that we can all take away as women with ADHD. I've heard that eating clean, it all sounds very boring. But it's, you know, it helps me eating clean, Whole Foods, avoiding high sugar things, which you know what, across the board, that is not good for ADHD, because we shoot up and we crash. exercising regularly. I mean, this is all just standard stuff that as a person who's getting older, you should be doing anyway to avoid heart issues. yada, yada. And that helps, you know, and I think I think it's not something that we should be terrified of more, just something that we should acknowledge is that it's going to happen to us, we're still going to be amazing. But this is another shift in in our lives that we kind of, we need to sort of prepare, there needs to be some kind of plan in place to say, Hey, listen, we're going to deal with this. I have heard about hormonal replacements. I just want to say though, I'm not a medical professional, I just know, loads of amazing ADHD women. And this is me just being observed and hearing what they've got. So really, yeah.

Sarah 22:37
And the acknowledgement piece, just acknowledgement, right. How much that can happen from there. And when we're pregnant, we know there are preparations to be made, and we know our lives will be different, and we plan accordingly. And it's, it's, um, it's awful, or it's amazing, or it is what it is, and then we we move on. Yeah. So it's just, to me, just knowing can make such a huge difference. If you know that you plan a little, give yourself some grace during certain seasons of your life or during third 100% Yeah, I'm getting off on my ADHD ranting. But But yeah, it's just, um, it's such a basic thing of just awareness. And that's, you know, kind of what we're doing. I think both of us are,

Calico 23:26
in our own way. So I'm definitely

Sarah 23:30
watching. And that's really the only thing that's really kept me going is like, what I want to accomplish through the work I do. And that's pretty much acknowledgement and awareness is right up there. It's like, even if we don't have answers, even if we aren't doctors, can we just wave a flag and say, This is a thing?

Calico 23:48
Yeah, no, this is a thing. And I hear you and I hear you and you and you and you're not you know, this is real. I mean, I mentioned gaslighting. I don't mean, our medical professionals, I really don't want to get shut down here. I'm saying I'm not accusing anyone of being Catholic. But it is a thing. I think when you go through life with ADHD people telling you, no, that's not the case. And you're saying, but this is my lived experience. They're saying no, you know, it gets exhausting. So I think there is something to be said, for listening to your fellow woman, you know, and if we even I mean, let's just take ADHD of the equation. We should not be scared as women of aging, you know, and the media tells us otherwise. Because we're kind of in this thing where the beauty industry is huge, and where they thrive on us hating ourselves. No, you know, and I think there is this kind of cultural fear of getting older anyway. I think there's this is what I mean about being 36 I'm kind of hyped for it. You know, like, I feel like I've got a no nonsense attitude about life and yeah, I as a woman with ADHD, I am scared about The future and and what that may do for the effectiveness of my medication. But you know what, like, Bring it on, you know, like we've literally made humans push them out our bodies, we've bled for like X amount of years, it is no joke being a woman, but let's just be safe in the assumption that, like, we've been through that. So we will fight through this as well, let's just be aware of our mental health, our physical health, and, you know, know that you've got your ADHD sisters around on your podcast, my group, and you know, all the other amazing female advocates out there fighting to put the word out that we are not alone, we're gonna do this, and we'll be fabulous. You know, fabulous older women with ADHD, pregnant, I love it,

Sarah 25:44
I love it, it's like, we're gonna be fabulous, no matter what,

Calico 25:46
of course, let's just let it be said like, I'm gonna be fabulous with leopard print gray hair, I'm not aging gracefully. And my hyperactive tendencies will probably still be there, I might just be a bit more grumpy, you know, it had no way of we're gonna do it. And it's fine. We just need to make sure we get good nutrition and pay attention to where we're at and look at let things get to the point where our treatment plans no longer work, you know, we need to touch base with the people who look after our medication, or therapists, you know, we're not alone, basically. That's been around, I apologize.

Sarah 26:28
I love it so much. And so where can people find you after they finish listening to this episode? And they're like, Where is this community?

Calico 26:39
Oh, amazing. Okay, so on Instagram, we are the ADHD from collective. And we're kind of there just as an educational service. But also we have got a hyperlink to our group. And we have got a Facebook group, as well as a private thing. And that's called the ADHD femme collective on Facebook. Pre COVID times we do you have workshops running, and we work as a social enterprise. So we are here for every woman. And so we believe that workshops, educational events, webinars, should be accessible to everybody, not just the financially privileged. So whilst that's kind of on hold at the moment, due to COVID. It's not on hold forever. And our support group is a safe space for women. And we are inclusionary which I believe not all groups are and I'm not going to go into that. And please reach out and I would love to get to know your

Sarah 27:47
Excellent. Well. Thank you so much for being here. And right on. We're gonna be fabulous.

Calico 27:54
Yes, absolutely. It was great to finally talk to you.

Unknown Speaker 27:57
Thank you. Take care.

Calico 27:58
Cheers. Bye.

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