Creating Space with René Brooks of Black Girl, Lost Keys

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A very special interview with ADHD advocate René Brooks, founder of the Black Girl, Lost Keys blog. We dish on her diagnosis story, the reason she started her blog and what’s ahead for her. Adulting With ADHD will be going on summer break and will be back in the fall – thank you for listening so far and Happy Adulting!


Sarah: (00:35)
This is the Adulting with ADHD podcast, self-empowerment for women with ADHD. Today we have a very special guest, Rene Brooks, an ADHD activist and founder of a blog, Black Girl, Lost Keys, which is arguably the best name for a blog ever. How are you doing, Rene?

René: (00:56)
I’m wonderful. Thank you so much. That was such a kind thing to say.

Sarah: (01:01)
Yeah. I found you on Twitter and immediately I was like, “Wow, who’s this?” And loved all your tweets and I just had to interview you, so thank you so much for being here today.

René: (01:14)
Oh, it’s a pleasure, really. Thank you very much for having me on. It is always wonderful to connect with new people in the ADHD world.

Sarah: (01:22)
So yeah. I want to hear a little bit of your backstory. How old were you when you were diagnosed and what was that like?

René: (01:30)
I was diagnosed with ADHD three times, once when I was seven, once when I was 11, and at 25, I was diagnosed and given actual treatment for it. Before then, the school was testing me without my mother’s permission and it looked very shifty and they kept trying to push for her to put me on medication. And of course, the education that we have about ADHD really wasn’t out there at that time. Do you remember in the ’90s when the big scare tactic was, “They’re trying to dose up your kids”? I was one of the casualties of that.

Sarah: (02:08)
Yeah. What was it like being treated for the first time?

René: (02:12)
It was like having mental clarity for the first time ever in my life. It just felt like somebody turned my brain on and it made sense to me why so many things hadn’t worked out before.

Sarah: (02:24)

René: (02:25)
And then of course there’s the sadness of, “Gee, a lot of things might’ve worked out for me.”

Sarah: (02:31)
Did you seek treatment on your own when you were 25?

René: (02:35)
Definitely on my own.

Sarah: (02:36)
Was your family understanding or skeptical?

René: (02:42)
I think my mom was very skeptical at first, but once I started doing it, there was no denying this is what the issue was. Once she saw me being able to be a more successful version of myself, it was undeniable that this was what the problem actually was, and lo and behold, it turns out that my mother has ADHD and she was diagnosed with it after I was.

Sarah: (03:11)
Yeah, I saw that video you shared on Twitter. That was a really cool project. How long ago was she diagnosed?

René: (03:22)
Maybe about a year and a half ago.

Sarah: (03:24)
Year and a half ago. Okay. So now she’s experiencing what you got to experience. How has having ADHD, how has it impacted your relationships before and after treatment? Was there any sort of shift?

René: (03:40)
I think that I’m a better friend and person because of it. So that would be the main shift. When you’re not under all the stress from untreated ADHD, you do tend to be a much easier person to be around. But I think that’s par for the course.

Sarah: (03:56)
I shared the same experience. I’m better at keeping up with people now and totally agree. When did you start your blog?

René: (04:04)

Sarah: (04:06)
Oh, that was the year I was diagnosed. Tell me about how that got started and what that’s all about.

René: (04:13)
So I was out looking to find more people speaking about what the black experience with ADHD was like. And there wasn’t anything. So I decided that I would create that thing that I wanted to see.

Sarah: (04:30)
That’s awesome. That is so cool. And I saw you have a group on Facebook, The Unicorn Squad.

René: (04:36)
I do.

Sarah: (04:36)
Yeah. What’s that-

René: (04:39)
Unicorn Squad, and it’s specifically for black women with ADHD because what I found was in a lot of other spaces, women would want to have the dialogue about how the racial component affects them and they would be shouted down and told, “Everybody has ADHD here. There’s no room for that kind of talk.” So that’s fine. If you don’t want that talk in your space, we’ll create a space where we can have that discussion.

Sarah: (05:05)
That group, is it searchable or do you have to have an invite?

René: (05:10)
It is searchable.

Sarah: (05:11)
Awesome. So anyone listening out there who could benefit from that group, you can search for Unicorn Squad. Is that right?

René: (05:20)
Yep. BGLK Presents Unicorn Squad. It is specifically for black women with ADHD. It’s not because we don’t love everybody else, but that’s a space that we need to have that conversation.

Sarah: (05:34)
I love that. And do you get questions ever of people … The reason I ask is I get questions, because my group is for women and I’ve had [crosstalk 00:05:44]. Yeah. So you’ve had that where it’s like, “Why isn’t it for everyone?” I’ve had to give the same talk to the men.

René: (05:51)
It’s like, “You’re loved immeasurably, but this just isn’t your space.” People try to take it there and say, “Well, isn’t that segregation?” It is not segregation, and I’ll tell you why. It is not safe for women, it is not safe for people of color to speak in certain places and they need to be able to have a place where they can just speak freely without having to hear, “Not all men, not all white people,” whatever.

Sarah: (06:20)
I’ve had the men thing before. It’s not a hostile act. It’s creating space. I love how you put it that way. That’s awesome.

René: (06:32)
It’s necessary. We have to be able to just speak of our own accord.

Sarah: (06:34)
You were speaking at a conference recently. It sounds like you’re real busy. What have you been doing since the blog launched? Because it sounds like it’s been quite a big hit or you have a pretty good following, right?

René: (06:47)
I do. I can’t complain. I get to go a little bit of everywhere. I’ve written for Attitude Magazine. I’ve been featured in Kaleidoscope Society. Attitude actually made me … God, don’t let me get it wrong. I got to look it up because I am going to get it wrong. I can feel myself getting ready to say it wrong. Now I’m going to have to go to Attitude’s website to get you the exact whatever it was that they called me. There we go. Five women with ADHD who are changing the conversation.

Sarah: (07:19)
That’s a huge compliment. No, we’re keeping that in here.

René: (07:23)
It is.

Sarah: (07:25)
That’s awesome. That is such a high honor. I think I read that. I think Gabrielle Moss is in there too.

René: (07:32)
She is.

Sarah: (07:33)
Oh, awesome. I’m a huge fan of hers.

René: (07:35)
Yes. She’s number one and I’m number two.

Sarah: (07:38)
So how exciting is that seeing these accomplishments that you’ve had since you’ve created the space? How does it feel to A, create the space and B, seeing the fruits of your labor? How does that feel?

René: (07:53)
Is a really big honor because like I told somebody, I really just wanted to leave something for other people to discover and I wanted to be able to vent a bit and it just turned into something that I never expected it to turn into. And it’s just an honor. This is what I do. I’m a patient contributor for [inaudible 00:08:15] pharmaceuticals. I’m speaking on the Crazy Like a Fox tour. I’ve written all over the place. It’s a good life, all because of ADHD. So it’s like on one hand, ADHD made the first half of my life pretty miserable, but now it’s making the second half pretty awesome in its own way. So it’s like it’s making up for time lost.

Sarah: (08:38)
I never even thought of it that way. It’s like you flipped this thing that used to bring you down and you flipped it and now it’s made you who you are now.

René: (08:48)
ADHD for some people is a huge gift and for others it’s not. And by the way, I fall into the latter category. I’m not a fan of calling ADHD a gift, and I’m not knocking anybody who … I think a lot of people see that as a coping mechanism for themselves and I would never want to take that away from them. But for me, that does not work. I feel like it causes entirely too many issues in my life to make it seem as though there would ever be any benefit to having it.

Sarah: (09:23)
I don’t know where I land on that. I like it. I like it when people use it like that, but I don’t know that I believe that for myself either. And I’ve seen people come right out and say, “No, it’s not. It’s not a gift. Stop calling it a gift.” So yeah, I totally relate to that. I didn’t realize how much mindset had to do with it and it’s really interesting. Even the idea of creating space, it’s like the whole mindset that you are worthy of having this space created for you and that it’s not a deficiency on your part. It’s not like there’s something wrong with you. It’s like finding everyone else on Twitter. Let’s talk about the Twitter community for a minute, because that is one hell of a community that’s popped up, the Twitter ADHD women, and that seems fairly recent to me. What do you think?

René: (10:23)
It’s very recent. I’ve spent a great deal of time off Twitter and I’ve found that I’m getting pulled back over there because the community is so much more prevalent and I like it there more now. It feels good.

Sarah: (10:40)
I have a similar experience. I feel like a few years ago, probably 2016, you’d see a trickling of people but it wasn’t really prevalent. And then [crosstalk 00:10:53] yeah. And then I looked back. It was either the beginning of this year or the end of last year and it was like a totally different situation, which is really awesome. And there’s a lot more-

René: (11:02)
It’s not toxic like it used to be.

Sarah: (11:05)
Oh, it was toxic before? I missed that.

René: (11:06)
Well, not in the ADHD world, but just Twitter in general had become toxic.

Sarah: (11:14)
Yeah, that might’ve been why I left. I don’t remember why I left, but that sounds about right.

René: (11:19)
Right. Nobody feels like putting up with that.

Sarah: (11:24)
Well, that’s really cool. I’m looking forward to continuing to see you on Twitter. I love the conversations that are happening out there right now. Where can people find you?

René: (11:34)
You can find me on any social media by searching Black Girl, Lost Keys. You can find me on my website,, or if you’re a 30 something woman and you like talking about maturing, you can find me at [inaudible 00:11:54]. That’s my new project.

Sarah: (11:56)
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for talking with me and I’ll see you on Twitter.

René: (12:02)
Absolutely. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

Sarah: (12:06)
Thank you.

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