Most people that know me are aware that three (and a half) years ago I was diagnosed with ADHD and learning issues primarily affecting my visual memory and processing speed. Since then, I’ve tried to engage with as many other adults with learning and attention issues as I can. For girls especially, it’s common that ADHD especially is missed, since we present differently than boys—more often we have the inattentive subtype, so we are less noticeably hyperactive!

October is ADHD and Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. You may also notice that things look a bit different around Kerri on the Prairies in celebration of neurodiversity—which is just the cool way of saying that everybody’s brain is different, whether you have ADHD, learning issues or autism… and that it’s okay to not be “neurotypical”! 

But hold up, that’s not all! A guy named Jesse d’Eça from Quebec is taking ADHD Awareness month one step further, and he and the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC – don’t get thrown off, they probably existed before all ADD became ADHD) have come together to get Canadians doing things to raise awareness of what ADHD really looks like. Challenges can be whatever you dream up: CADDAC recommends: a) Something physical—like exercise, daily b) Something cerebral—like meditation or mindfulness practice for a predetermined amount of time once or twice per day, or c) something educational, like reading or writing.

Here’s my challenge:

Planking. Opting to follow Jesse’s lead, I’m going to be trying a plank challenge for October—the app I did the initial test on today (where I made it 55 seconds… just couldn’t make a minute!) claims I’ll be able to sustain a plank for 3 minutes and 25 seconds (or 205 seconds) by the end of the month. While I understand the whole rest day thing, I’m going to try to skip the ones the app requires taking because part of the whole challenge thing is to do something every day! Unless I like, injure myself.

Blogging. Hi there, people reading my blog. I’ll be here every day in October blogging for ADHD/LD awareness month. I even have a plan for this! Some days will be longer posts, some will just be pictures, but hopefully everything will share a bit of my story of living with ADHD.
I mean, look, random t-rex pictures? Yeah, that explains my ADHD life pretty well, right? 😉

Okay and you know what, since we’ve got column A – something physical and column C – something educational(ish) covered, let’s set the bar high.

Meditation. I meditate using the Smiling Mind app. The fact that they are led by an Australian dude does not hurt the app one bit. It’s something I’ve been trying to get into a habit about, so… Let’s do this. (I’ll give myself bonus points if I can manage to get in all 42 of the remaining meditations in the Adult track ;).)

Want to support the challenges I’ve set up, and support the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada?
The site is quite non-intuitive, so you’ll have to go here, select your donation amount, and then search my name (Hi, I’m Kerri MacKay if we’ve never met and you’d like to donate money. Thanks! How are you?). Want to do something yourself? Register your challenge here.

And as always, have questions for me about my ADHD, the challenge, or about anything else? Drop me a comment or e-mail me at KerriOnThePrairies [at] gmail.com.

I always set alarms. Even if I go to bed with no need to get up and an alarm set for 11 am, I always set alarms so SleepCycle does its magic. Last night, I fell asleep amidst the beginning #MedXHangover, without setting an alarm. Ten hours later (I woke up a few times, briefly), Fitbit informed me I went to bed at 11:13 pm, and slept for exactly ten hours. That’s what happens when on the last night of Stanford MedicineX, fellow Canadian, Bill Swan, has a brilliant idea and we stayed awake all night mind mapping while waiting for our 3:55 AM shuttle to the airport, along with Steve—the reason I was at MedicineX in the first place, to be his guide—and Guide Dog Murray (who did not stay up all night because that dog does not even stay up all day.)

I got out of bed, to finish watching my friend Ryan’s documentary about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), Forgotten Plague, with my MedX mug beside me, in use for the first time.

http://i2.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8355/29782610126_1d31a78a86.jpg?resize=500%2C375&ssl=1

Ryan and I met in 2014 at MedX, and I had the privilege of watching an unfinished cut of the film back then—it’s amazing, and even more so to see the transformation within the documentary. Go watch it.

http://i1.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8417/29526648800_83f83f2628.jpg?resize=500%2C375&ssl=1

Ryan and I on Sunday night by the pool.

I then tried to put my jeans on inside out and was almost successful, and then emptied my pockets of the dollar bills that accumulated there (like pennies, this Canadian can’t stand dollar bills).

 

“We probably look like hobos.” –Bill. #medx #brainstorming #allnighter

A photo posted by kerri (@kerriontheprairies) onSep 19, 2016 at 1:32am PDT

I’ve failed in the past at adequately summarizing MedicineX on my blog: it is too big for the words that I have, as I said in this video. So instead, this time, I will attempt with a bullet point list, in no particular order. I don’t have a good track record over the last 4 years and 2 MedicineX conferences I’ve attended of expanding on the stories much, but maybe this way I can have some hope.

  • Canadians.
    Back in 2014, Rachel and I started up the #MedXEh hashtag for our fellow Canadians to share in the story with us, from the Canadian perspective. This year, I met so many more Canadians in the past, and not just patients. I am looking forward to grabbing coffee with Dr. Greg Schmidt from here in Winnipeg (represent!), and connecting again with Bill and Amos from MemoText next time I am in Toronto, after learning about the technology they are working on for asthma management. Canadian Mental Health advocate Mark Freeman and I will, I am sure, have some good chats in the future. I am happy to have found so many people from this country, this healthcare system, engaging in this discussion.

    http://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8155/29736868321_e67c586326.jpg?resize=500%2C375&ssl=1Thanks to Uber Driver Sean for pulling over to snap this shot of Dia, Bill and I!
     
    http://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8233/29193203673_3d68ec2651.jpg?resize=375%2C500&ssl=1 

  • Connections. 
    It’s so cool when someone you only know on Twitter walks up to you and exclaims your name, and you greet one another with a hug. It’s even better when you can exchange stories with patients you’ve just met and know nothing about—your quick, 30-second elevator pitch of yourself, if you will. MedicineX is amazing for bringing patients into the conversation, but also for letting us have those conversations amongst ourselves with the ample networking time. Sometimes, you walk into a room for a presentation, and the speaker greets you by name because they’ve been seeing your tweets flying by on the hashtag, or IDEO p. Patients are not just patients, and students are not just students, to most of the attendees—whether healthcare administrators, doctors—we are there to share our expertise, too. If you are willing to share your story, and be bold, your story is valued.

    http://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8598/29193262803_15a5de60e6.jpg?resize=500%2C375&ssl=1Healthcare Engineer Yang Fang and I, on a non-MedX meetup this weekend. He’s been working on a predictive asthma tracking app/site for several years now, keeping patients—like me—at the centre of his work!
    http://i2.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8546/29819898005_e047b8459a.jpg?resize=500%2C375&ssl=1http://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8228/29192176734_4262e0fed6.jpg?resize=375%2C500&ssl=1Thanks to Random Guy Who Borrowed Bill’s Phone Cord at the Sheraton Lounge for his photography work! 
     

  • Conversation.
    If you don’t know someone at MedX and find yourself sitting beside them, it’s not uncommon to hear “Hey, what’s your story?” I found that this year more than in 2014, I spoke with a lot more different people than in the past—like caregivers, doctors, designers—and not just patients.
    Story is important at MedicineX. And then story, becomes solution: how might we is one theme that is commonly used when someone illustrates a problem they have encountered, and then the community dreams big with the realization this is not right, let’s fix it. (See also: stories, below.)
  • http://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8016/29736914531_f1c4e463b7.jpg?resize=500%2C375&ssl=1Design.
    As Nick Dawson (one of my favourite ever presenters, and people, who told several of us “Come to DC and work in the design lab!”), lead the closing exercise, he said “How might we make research more delightful?” This is a common thread: how might we take something that’s okay, or good, and make it into something ridiculously great? No holds are barred, and this is a theme that IDEO has made an Integral part of MedicineX. How might we.
    http://i1.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8465/29193310403_bdd2e8ab80.jpg?resize=375%2C500&ssl=1Nick, for some reason behind the couches.

    Steve participated in the IDEO Design Challenge (video to come), as did Dia, where Bill participated in the Entrepreneurship track—all based on how better solutions can, and should, be created to solve problems caused by poor or unimaginative design. 

    http://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8071/29736913531_8637a8b808.jpg?resize=375%2C500&ssl=1
    Technology is a huge player in MedicineX, but as both seen in the IDEO design challenge and throughout the conference, sometimes it’s not about tech at all, it’s about innovation, and it’s about “co-creation” with everybody involved (as much of a buzzword as that may have been). People need to play with design.

    http://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8207/29706489392_ee3a8c4eb4.jpg?resize=375%2C500&ssl=1 

  • Stories.
    Every story someone at MedicineX brings to the table is important—even if you are not a presenter, you will at some point be asked “What’s your story?” (unless you are like, chilling in the wellness room being quiet the whole time). While I used to feel like it was mostly patients being asked their stories, I often heard patients turning to a doctor or a designer, or another attendee to ask “So, what’s your story?”

    Everybody has a reason for doing what they do—from Yoko of Sen Sound sharing and gathering stories about the last sounds attendees wished to hear, to the folks at IDEO, to every app developer or hospital administrator or insurance provider who realized “This isn’t right, let’s do better,” and went with their heart and gut feeling, even if it wasn’t the status quo. Everybody has a story—and the MedX community embraces them.

This is what MedX 2016 came down to for me: Canadians, connections, conversation, design and stories. It’s left me exhausted (that might be the all-nighter) and energized to do more, create more, be better, be more bold and transparent, and explore more areas I haven’t even begun to consider. 

There are more stories left to be told—if I’m not too wrapped up immersing myself in making things happen :).