If you’d like to listen to or watch our interview with Izzie, the episode is available on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.
- Neurodiversity and Cultural Pressures: Izzie reflects on her personal journey as a neurodivergent Latina, emphasizing the layered challenges she faces. While exploring the intricacies of her own neurodivergence, she also grapples with cultural expectations that the Latine community places on women. This duality presents a unique set of pressures and expectations that she continually navigates in her daily life, especially in her role as a mother in the 21st century.
- Redefining Parenting and Community Values: Izzie actively works to break intergenerational patterns, emphasizing the importance of communication and setting boundaries, all while navigating the dual complexities of neurodiversity and cultural background.
- Promoting Neurodivergent Representation: As a content creator, Izzie centers her own experience as a neurodivergent Latina and mom. Her work is met with appreciation from those in the community who finally see their experiences mirrored and validated.
- Advocacy for Future Generations: Izzie emphasizes the importance of open discussions about neurodiversity with younger generations, ensuring that Latine children grow up in an environment that is both culturally rich and neuroaffirming.
Beaux: Hi and welcome to Brainstorm Changemakers by Timo. In the series, we're talking to experts, activists, and movers who are shaking things up in the neurodivergent space. My name is Beaux, my pronouns are they/them and I'm the Inclusion and Belonging Lead at Tiimo, a Danish neuroinclusion company that gives folks the planning power to take charge of their daily lives.
Today I have with me Izzie! Izzie is a Dominican-Mexican-American storyteller, music educator, and advocate for mental health and neurodiversity. After receiving an ADHD diagnosis at 35, Izzie turned to Instagram, creating @izzieandadhd to share honest and relatable content about her experiences and runs a supportive neurodivergent burnout and recovery online club called The Accountable Otters Club.
Hi, Izzie. We're so happy to have you welcome!
Beaux: To start us off, would you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Izzie: Absolutely. I'd love to. So, yeah, I am a Mom. I’m a Latina. I live in the state of Texas and I have been pretty much an entrepreneur for the last 11 years. It's been an amazing experience as I've encountered lots and lots of different talents that I have in entrepreneurship and finding out that I am neurodivergent on top of it all just kind of added like a cherry on top of the chaos of my life. And that was an interesting experience.
But yeah, I mean, I am really enjoying getting to know myself better now that I have received a diagnosis of ADHD and just learning to live my life now as a neurodivergent Latina. I know our experiences as Latine people are a little different and that's perfectly fine. It's something that I've really enjoyed documenting online for other neurodivergent Latine people to see and to follow along and to relate to. So.
Beaux: Gorgeous. And then, yeah, at what point in your life did you suspect that you may be an ADHD’er?
Izzie: So that's actually a funny story because I, I didn't really think it was ADHD. I had actually gone through, you know, in the height of the pandemic just a lot of burnout. And it sort of hit a peak in the summer of 2021. At the time, it had been a full year of me teaching piano online to 50 students, running a very successful YouTube channel, teaching tens of thousands of piano learners online.
And I was just doing too much. I was just doing too much. In addition to homeschooling my kids and my husband here, working at the house. So I actually initially thought I was suffering from just really bad depression and anxiety. So I went to see my doctor and my doctor put me on an antidepressant, an anti-anxiety medicine, and I was very hesitant to try medicine.
And because of that, it ended up being that the medicine didn't really do anything for me. And that's when I went back to my doctor. I said, ‘This isn't working. Like, is something wrong with me?’ And then they went ahead and ran me through another assessment and I was testing on that assessment that I may have ADHD, but she wasn't a specialist, so she wanted to refer me to a specialist.
So I ended up going to see a specialist, an ADHD specialist, and through another battery of tests and a lot of interviews and appointments she did determine that I was dealing with ADHD, inattentive type. So it was a long three or four-month process to get that diagnosis. But yeah, it was a surprise to me. It was not something that I was thinking at the forefront of my mind, like, ‘this is ADHD, I need to make sure it's ADHD’.
It's more like, ‘what is wrong with me?’ I don't know why I can't be like normal adults. And then arriving at that diagnosis. Once I got treated for the ADHD, my anxiety dropped, my depressive symptoms dropped. It's like we found the root cause of it was, you know, all, all of my symptoms. And once I was treated for the right thing, I was able to finally, you know, start climbing out of that really deep, dark burnout. So.
Beaux: Yeah, okay. Okay. Big yay of the diagnosis, helping with that. Yeah. How is how has that diagnosis also changed your perception of your past self and has given you clarity on, you know, things of behaviors in the past that maybe you didn't understand?
Izzie: Yeah, so that's a really good question. I, I really believe that, you know, that those things that we encounter in childhood and in our teens and in my case, my twenties as well, where I would make a mistake or I would do something or forget something, you know, that's all internalized and turns into, you know, that negative self-talk that I have inside myself, Right.
And from what I had thought were just, you know, I was just sucking at being an adult or being a human, like I couldn't keep up with my peers and whatnot, ended up being that, no, it's not that I'm a horrible person or a bad adult. It's just I have my brain works differently. And when I'm able to accommodate for those challenges that I have, then I can like shoot for the moon, right?
As long as I have what I need all those accommodations to help me accomplish what I need to accomplish. And I have those strategies in place to help, you know, manage my daily life, then, yeah, the sky's the limit for me. So, yeah, you know, in my childhood, in my teens and twenties, it was a very dark and difficult place to be because I just didn't understand why I had so many issues.
But coming to that diagnosis into my mid-thirties, I only got the diagnosis about two years ago at 35 years old. It just made so much more sense. I could look back on the struggles that I had with more clarity and more understanding and more forgiveness for myself for being so hard on myself, and then take those experiences. And if I start to encounter issues again now as an adult and and aware adult of my issues, that I'm okay.
Like, I understand that this is a struggle, but I can approach it with more grace and more understanding for myself. So yeah.
Beaux: Mmm yes, yes being kind to yourself. Yeah, absolutely. Um, and actually just a little sidebar here. Would you prefer that I say Latine? I actually haven't heard that before, so I've used Latinx acts mostly, but what would you prefer?
Izzie: If you use the term Latine, it's more acceptable in our actual culture than Latinx because Latinx was actually a term derived by an outside group or what do I say, white people, they developed it. Right. And then as a community ourselves, we're kind of like, that's kind of a weird word because we don't have that pronunciation in Spanish.
So as a gender-neutral format, we use Latine there with a E at the end because it's it flows more in with our native Spanish tongue.
Beaux: Okay, gorgeous. Yeah. Okay. Latine. Is that is that all right? Because. Okay, cool.
Izzie: Yeah, that’s perfect. You got it.
Beaux: Cool. Yeah, I just I just wanted to. To check to. Yeah, to be sure. Okay, cool then. Yeah. How to growing up in a Latine household shape your understanding of of narrative origins and mental health?
Izzie: Ooo so okay. Yeah. Being in a Latine household growing up, it's almost as if narrative origins did not exist, right? Even mental health in general was not spoken about at all. Right? It's not something that is as free flowing in other cultures and other communities where you can openly talk about your feelings or the things that you're struggling with.
Being from a family of immigrants and this is can be broadened to the greater immigrant community. A lot of times, you know, we come or families come to America and they're forced to strip away their identities and assimilate. And because of that, you know, we've lost a lot of the connections to cultural practices and things that we have in our own home communities with this individualist mindset and culture.Right?
So we have all these the stripping away of who we are and trying to just fit in, right. So the survival mode sort of takes over at that point, right? So if you're struggling with something, this isn't something that's going to help push you forward in this type of culture, right? So anything that's going to bring you down, whether that be talking about your feelings, seeking out mental health services, being open and honest with what you're dealing with iis ultimately not helping bring your family up in this sort of like hyper-capitalist mindset or our industry. Right. Society, I guess is the better word. So as a result of that, you know, we have, you know, my parents’ generation, the immigrant generation, completely compartmentalizing their feelings and any issues with their mental health. Right? As they have grown up now they're their boomer age, right. They're finally coming to terms with how damaging that was over the course of the last 40 years.
And, you know, finally seeking out mental health services. I'm very proud of them, by the way, they've done so well recently with that. And that also in turn translates to my generation. Right. So we're I'm a first gen here in America and I have, you know, struggled tremendously with my own mental health as a teen all the way through my twenties because I only did what I knew, which was hide away what I was dealing with. Right. Don't talk to anybody about these things. If I did have major issues, I tried to suffer in silence or alone. Right. I was notorious with my emotional dysregulation in my teens and twenties. And it would be so, so cathartic to find myself in a room by myself if I knew I was going to be alone and just screaming.
I just had so much pain that I just needed to release and I didn't have a safe place to do that in my own culture and community. So I would often isolate myself to to deal with my issues alone. But again, that's it's not healthy to deal with that on your own. And unfortunately, that's one of the things that can be very difficult when in an immigrant community that has survival and hypervigilance and making sure your family has food on the table as their absolute priority, Right?
Izzie: So that's that's kind of how it was for me growing up and talking about mental health or not really talking about mental health.
Beaux: How have you kind of navigated conversations around mental health and neurodiversity with your family now that you know your parents’ generation is starting to to tiptoe into into talking about that?
Izzie: Yeah, Yeah. It's interesting because when I received my diagnosis, like I said, it was very eye-opening and I started, you know, you go through that sort of like grieving process of like this, things that may have you may have missed in your life because of being undiagnosed. And I had a lot of anger, you know, in the beginning towards my family and my parents in particular, because I didn't you know, all the what ifs started coming to my mind, like, ‘what if they had actually listened to me and wanted to hear what I was dealing with?’
Would I, you know, have suffered so much from 35 years without a diagnosis? But then I remember, like, as angry as I want to be at them. They were only doing what they knew and understood being in a country that they were literally just trying to survive in. There’s, you know, there's only so much I can, you know, blame them for, but they did the best that they could, you know, And that's the story for a lot is first gen kids like myself, you know, our parents love us dearly, but there's a lot of things that they just didn't have the emotional capacity or, you know, the ability to handle.
You know, they were dealing with things like leaving their home country, immigrating, having past trauma, maybe colonization, racism, you know, distrust in the medical in the medical system itself because of past trauma. So it's like there's only so much that I could do. But, you know, communicating my pain, I think, was important for them to hear me out was important, but then also to move beyond the anger and move closer to like forgiveness and understanding and keeping those communication lines open.
So that's that's something that I've really tried to do with them now that I have like my social page that's like massive. They actually follow me and they learn a lot. It's like indirectly like I'm helping them understand what I'm dealing with. And that way they have a better understanding to see like, okay, so this would explain why she's like this, right?
And then also my eldest son is also diagnosed ADHD. So that's also been a really good opportunity for us to discuss openly about setting him up for success and having them a part of that process too. So, you know, we're just we're trying to sort of mend those those tears in our past, you know, patch them up now to to make something that's going to be worthwhile and effective and nurturing for my son. And, you know, you know, anything beyond that. So. Yeah.
Beaux: And what advice would you give to folks who, you know, maybe have family members who aren't there yet, who aren't ready to have those conversations, but that they want to have those conversations with?
Izzie: Yeah, I would say we're very lucky at this point in time that we have such a robust and supportive online community. It's really important to seek community care when and where, wherever you can find it. There are a multitude of families out there that are just not going to be supportive. They are dismissive, they are abusive, they are gaslighting you.
You know so much that you're going to have to find community in places where it may not be the the most desired place where you find community. But you do need community. It's impossible to heal on your own, like we are social creatures for a reason, social interaction and communication and community amongst people that understand you is probably the most effective healing that you can do.
So if you can't find that support within your own family, reach out to friends that you have. If you don't have friends that understand either, then find those online communities that are going to be affirming and understanding and really validate your experiences. So.
Beaux: Mmm where have you found that community?
Izzie: Yeah, so lots of places, but I created my own community first and foremost that my Instagram page where that has gotten very large, which was not the plan by the way, I never intended that to be a thing. It started out as a means for me to video journal. What I had learned about my neurodivergence. So as I was creating videos, I figured, well, as an educator, the only way I can show that I've learned something is by teaching someone else about it.
So I started creating my edutainment videos and they caught on, right? And I have this like very robust community of neurodivergent folks online. Most, I assume, are late diagnosed and a good chunk of them are also Latine, which is exciting. I wanted to make sure that our stories and our experiences were amplified as much as I could possibly do.
But yeah, I mean, it's it's one thing to say that you join a community, right? So I joined the online neurodivergent community and it's been so warm and welcoming and wonderful. But then it's also another thing to say that I've created community too, and I feel like that's been probably so, so healing for me because as I share those things, those quirks, those issues that I deal with, where they're very real and very raw, and I have commenters, right?
‘This is me, I've done this right, or this is what I deal with every day!’ Then I know I'm doing something right. You know, I know that I'm reaching the right types of people that are looking for themselves in content, right? And that that's where a lot of my content ideas come from is that my goal is not for you to follow me and, you know me be like this center of attention. It's more like I create these videos so that you can see yourself in my place and understand that this experience that I'm showing online is one that is relatable and something that you don't have to be ashamed of. So that's that's kind of where the role of community comes in for online.
Beaux: Mmm yes, yeah, it's been also just for me is so, so nice to find those online communities that make me feel seen and especially you know as the neurodivergent movement is, you know, like we're not just centering people who are thin, white and high masking anymore. I think it's getting a lot more diverse than that. And it's just it's really nice to feel actually like seen by people's work.
Beaux: So, yeah, thank you for doing what you do for.
Izzie: Of course.
Beaux: Yeah. Did you So I would love to to move on to some parenting questions.
Izzie: Yeah, of course!
Beaux: Did you did you already have kids when you got your ADHD diagnosis?
Izzie: Yes, I did. I have two boys. My eldest is ten and my youngest is seven, and I received my diagnosis in October of 2021. So it's been just about two years now. And you know, as a result of the craziness of the pandemic, that's where that sort of came to fruition. So most of my experiences with parenting over the last ten years or so were through the lens of being undiagnosed.
So a lot of the issues that I would encounter in parenting, you know, I would always arrive at this like something's wrong with me, right? It would always end up feeling like, you know, I don't understand why other parents can do this and I just can't. Right. So when I received that diagnosis and I really sort of reframed the way that I look at parenting and now that we know my eldest is neurodivergent as well, reframe it in a way that I see myself as a child in him.
And I understood that the experiences that I had growing up were not positive, and I vowed to, you know, break that cycle. Right? That trauma is not going to be passed down to him. Right. So I make these decisions in conjunction with my husband, my partner and make these choices to make sure that he is able to feel nurtured and supported and able to express himself emotionally in a safe environment and really just feel like it's okay to be different on a day to day basis.
But it's a conscious choice, you know, It's a conscious choice to do that. I've changed the way I react to things, right? Whereas before I would be very, very overstimulated and quick to anger. Now I understand, and so do my sons that sometimes I need to give myself a cool down. If I'm emotionally disregulated or overstimulated, whereas before I would be very, very overstimulated and quick to anger. Now I understand, and so do my sons, that sometimes I need to give myself a cooldown, right? If I'm very emotionally disregulated and overstimulated, I will separate myself for a little while, and then I would come back and explain to them, you know, what I needed at that particular moment, and we would talk through whatever issue was that that got me, you know, heightened.
Beaux: How, how else have you made space, you know, as you have you figured out what your support needs are and what your needs are? How have you made space for that and also the needs of your neurodivergent son?
Izzie Chea: Yeah, you know, it's it's a lot about understanding limits. I believe before I, you know, understood my neurodivergence, I was a yes woman. I would say yes to everything because as a just I guess part of my ADHD manifests in novelty seeking. Right. So I would just say yes, yes, yes, yes, yes to all of these different things. And then realizing like, oh my gosh, like I've completely overbooked everything. Like I every minute of every day is for someone else and not for myself, Right? So communicating my limits and understanding my limits and giving myself permission to say no has been really, really powerful for me.
I've also made it a point to talk to my son about making sure that he is communicating how he's feeling. As a young boy with ADHD, it can be very isolating in a school environment that's not conducive to showing your emotions and things like that. So he's getting these urges to repress what he's feeling. So we've had to work with him and ask him questions and be supportive and be there for him to allow him to express himself.
Because there's some some days he comes home and he says he wanted to cry all day because there was something was very noisy in class or a kid kept messing with his backpack and then, you know, he has no way to express that at school in a way that's appropriate. Right? He would end up getting written up for something when in reality he was just like overstimulated or overwhelmed by a situation. So we try to really create time and space to hear him out and let him express because it can be very hard when you're masking all day long as a ten-year-old boy. So yeah.
Beaux: Yeah, hearing you talk about this and how you're breaking these intergenerational trauma patterns is so nice to hear as someone who has had similar experiences to you, in some ways it's just like, yeah, really, really nice that there's parents out there doing that work. Yeah. I'm wondering how you navigate the expectations put on you as a parent by your community and your family?
Izzie: Yeah, expectations are pretty wild because before my diagnosis, I think the person that put the most expectations on was myself, right? I had this preconceived idea of what it was like to be a mom in the 21st century. Plus the added pressures of being a Latina. There's certain cultural expectations that are put on us as women in this culture that really, really make it difficult to, you know, function, especially when you have neurodivergence of some sort.
So that makes it really, really hard. So yeah, I would say that managing expectations now that I have the understanding of my ADHD, I communicate my needs right. I communicate pretty succinctly to my friends and family exactly what I'm able to do and what I'm not able to do. So that way there's no there's no gray area, right?
If I'm able to participate in a family function, I will make sure that I communicate when I'm coming and when I'm going to have to leave. Right. I will help out, you know, with dishes. And then I will gather my family and we will head out. Right. It's like I I've sort of set that expectation before coming so that way they understand that, no, we're not going to just hang around and wait and wait and wait and just like, you know, So I don't expect them to ask me like, oh, you don't want to stay longer.
You know, this so-and-so's coming. You want to be here for this. And it's like, no, you know, I've set I've already said what I'm going to do and and participate in, and that's what I can handle during that particular time. So just making sure that I'm able to communicate that clearly has really helped, especially with my parents. Communicating with my parents clearly has really helped a lot.
Beaux: So yeah, such a good tip to just like name where you're at and what your like limits are. God, how have I not thought about that one. And then how do you how do you talk to your kids about neurodiversity and how is that different from how you did or did not talk about neurodiversity as a kid?
Izzie: Yeah, that's a good question. So like, yes, of course, growing up for myself, we just didn't talk at all about this stuff. So, you know, any sort of talk from me to my family and my children is groundbreaking, right? So the fact that we're having these discussions openly and regularly really, really shows that we're creating an environment that is neuroaffirming and understanding to the differences that people can have in their experiences with the world.
So we have we joined our scout's troop recently locally here. So my boys, as well as several other children in the area and we have several members of the Cub Scouts that are neurodivergent, Autistic, ADHD, dyslexic, you know, it's a lovely letter and word soup. But it's it's really interesting to be able to see how neuroaffirming the leaders and the parents and the caretakers are because they're really just tuned in to these kids a lot more than what you would expect, you know, your average Cub Scout troop to be.
So it's been a positive experience to you to have that. And we get to openly talk about our struggles. Right. So some of the young kids, you know, have really big, you know, meltdowns. You know, on our last camping trip, there was a little child. Well, not little child he’s nine years old that did have an anger outburst.
And for some of the kids, it was very startling. But for others, they really understood that he was overstimulated. It was very hot. You know, there was sand everywhere. Like there's a lot of things going on at that particular moment that the other neurodivergent kids in the group were able to really level with him and understood how he felt because they felt pretty similarly, you know, being hot and sticky and in the sand. It was just a lot to deal with. So as a parent, you know, I never want my child to feel othered or cast aside just because of the way they act, speak, behave, think and so being in groups like that really helps just show that it’s okay to experience the world in a different way, right? It really is, you know, and it’s not to say that it’s bad or good, one or the other, it’s just different. Right? It’s just different. Right, you know. That’s what we’re trying to do here in my family and in our community is elevate those experiences for our kids and just have them understand that there’s nothing wrong with being different. There really isn’t.
Beaux: And so nice to be able to find that neurodivergent community at at a young age. That must be so special.
Izzie: Yeah, yes.
Beaux: Do you have any advice that you'd give to neurodivergent parents, especially ones who may be late diagnosed and who are figuring out their neurodivergence as they parent?
Izzie: Yes, I see this a lot in my so I run an accountability club that focuses on burnout, prevention and burnout recovery. And one of the things and it's primarily made for neurodivergent people and one of the things that we've sort of like adopted as a mantra is lower the bar and lower the bar again, right? And that goes for you as the parent or the caregiver as well as for the child.
Right, lower your expectations on that child and then lower them again, because just purely existing in a world that's made for neurotypicals is hard enough. Right. So making sure that you're allowing them to create the opportunities for, you know, they're going to make mistakes and they're going to not behave like a perfect angel. It's just they're trying to just get through through the day, right?
So just making sure that the expectations are low because any step in the right direction then is a good step. Right? And those experiences change! Some days, you know, maybe they do a lot of really wonderful things, you know, in your eyes and maybe the next day they just can't replicate it. We are dynamic humans, you know, our experiences change as we go throughout life.
And it's like we're not robots either. And you can't expect that of a child. So as just as you have, you know, good days and bad days at work, it's the same with a child. They're going to have those experience as that that shift and change based off of their mood and their energy and just take it all in stride and make sure that you're you're just providing the the support that they need to get through it.
Beaux: Do you have any advice for friends and families who want to support their neurodivergent loved ones?
Izzie: Yeah, I would say, you know, really hone in on what makes that person special and what makes them like sparkle and get excited right? Special interests are something that can be such a wonderful thing about neurodivergent folks. If they are deep diving into a certain subject, ask them about it, right? Ask them more about it right. Ask them details.
You know, info dumping is a love language right in neurodivergent lives. Info dumping is love language. Being there for them physically or virtually. You know, we do a lot of body doubling in my accountability club and you know that's also a form of community care is just showing up and being there. So if you have a friend or family member that is neurodivergent and maybe they're really having a tough time getting something done and maybe it really has to be done, if you just show up and physically be there for them as they're going through something or working on something, that that can be enough to really help support and push them through.
Right? It's just the amount of motivation to help them complete what they need to work on. So yeah, lots of different little ways to support, but those are a couple examples.
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