Winning Women

After a diagnosis of attention deficit, these six women blazed a path to success and happiness.

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Kathryn Goetzke

Entrepreneur and CEO, Oak Park, Illinois

Kathryn Goetzke, 41, has an MBA in international marketing, as well as an undergraduate degree in psychology. As founder, CEO, and president of Mood-factory, Goetzke develops products aimed at improving the mood of her customers. Diagnosed with depression and PTSD in her 20s, Goetzke's personal struggles led to her passion for helping customers with mood disorders. Says Goetzke: "I managed my undiagnosed ADHD by keeping myself moving and engaged, and taking on difficult projects that required hyperfocus." She overindulged in alcohol and food, and occasionally went to therapy.

In her 30s, Goetzke contracted Lyme disease, and her life changed. "It forced me to slow down," she says. She saw a counselor, worked to end her addictions, took medication for her depression, and started exercising and eating well.

Her depression was well managed, but she couldn't stay organized or focused without self-medicating. "I had major responsibilities running a business and a nonprofit, and I could not figure out what to start or do," says Goetzke. Then, at 37, she was diagnosed with ADHD. Taking a stimulant medication enabled her to curb her impulsivity, stay on task, and finish projects. She finds daily prayer and meditation helpful, as well. "It is critical for me to focus on my goals and to write them down," she says. Otherwise, she's easily distracted by the requests of others, and risks losing sight of her priorities. "Treating my ADHD allows me to use my creativity in a focused and structured way," says Goetzke.

Treatment has allowed her to foster new relationships and repair damaged ones. She talks openly to her brother about her ADHD, and he is understanding and helpful. She keeps tabs on family and friends' birthdays, so she can send a card. Her willingness to explain her challenges to friends and family has brought unexpected benefits: They help her say "no" to activities and responsibilities, so she can manage her time effectively.

"Now that I understand my ADHD, I consider it a gift."

Eva Pettinato

Entrepreneur, Calgary, Alberta

ADHD may be no laughing matter, but it doesn't keep Eva Pettinato from making others laugh at comedy clubs, corporate events, and open mics. After taking a stand-up comedy course, in 2000, Pettinato started teaching comedy workshops and founded ZEDS Comic Communications.

Before launching her business, Pettinato had more than 50 jobs. "I was hired, promoted, and then fired, or I quit out of frustration or boredom," she says. In 2009, Pettinato enrolled in a Business Administration program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). She found the work difficult, and met with a learning strategist at SAIT to get help. He suggested she speak with the school's disability services. This led to her ADHD diagnosis, in 2010.

Pettinato says her diagnosis explains the difficulties she'd had in maintaining personal relationships and staying in jobs, and why she was drawn to comedy. "I love using humor to connect, disconnect, or get out of sticky situations," she says. Learning about ADHD gave her a new perspective. "I understand now that I am easily bored, and I stopped blaming everyone else for being boring. I learned to stay engaged in conversations by pretending it's a first date."

Along with medication, Pettinato gets counseling and has joined the Calgary branch of CHADD. She learned to advocate for herself without mentioning her ADHD. "Many people have distraction problems, so if I ask for noise to be reduced in a meeting at work, no one thinks it's a big deal," she says. "Getting diagnosed helped me to accept assistance from others," she adds, "and to admit that there are some aspects of business and life that can be more successfully done by others." After decades of feeling bad about herself, and spending thousands of dollars on personal development courses, Pettinato says, "I've given up the great race to perfection based on others' standards."

You know you have ADHD when you lose the remote in the freezer. Or head out to meet a friend and wind up at the grocery store instead. Download your free digital copy of You Know You Have ADD When... for more humorous reminder moments. Plus, get email tips for managing adult ADHD.

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