Interview by Judy Brenis
"ADHD is not a diagnosis you need to fear. It’s a diagnosis you need to embrace,” says Rick Green, a Canadian comedian, satirist, writer and ADD’er himself.
Green is one of the keynote speakers at this year’s 14th National ADHD Conference, "Reach Out For Connection, Hope and Empowerment,” to be held July 18-21 in Detroit, Michigan, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview this funny, passionate man (talking 100 miles an hour!) prior to his appearance at the ADDA conference.
Rick Green is also founder of the revolutionary website, TotallyADD.com, and at the conference, he will be speaking about the potential of the Web as a way to reach people that have always been marginalized, and how the Web lends itself to presenting the same information in many ways so that there is something that will appeal to everyone.
At TotallyADD.com, humor and video connect thousands of people around the world with the top experts on ADHD/ADD. It features more than 30 free videos; lively forums on every aspect of ADD; creative blog posts known as "Rick’s Rants”, and a shop full of ADHD resources.
"Let go of fear and take control of your life,” says Green, whose enthusiasm is contagious when he begins talking about the growth of his Web site which now boasts more than 11,000 members, up from 300 when it was launched in 2009.
"This is about reaching out to people, and the Web site is a very powerful tool that works!” Green says. "People with ADHD can sit and get engaged,” he added. "A lot of these Web site visitors are staying, not looking for 10 minutes but checking out the different links for a very long time.”
The forums provide a place for people to get help, Green explains. "They are basically telling us in what areas they are suffering, what their experiences are and asking questions which others reply to. It’s amazing to watch the humanity that takes place.”
Green says that others cautioned him about providing a place where members could interact with each other. He was told it would become a "war zone,” when in fact it has proven to be the opposite, with people showing compassion and concern and helping each other out.
Green, not diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood, says seeking understanding of your ADHD is the first step. "There are people with ADHD who are leading very successful lives,” Green says. "The difference is understanding and acceptance.”
"I don’t have a problem with my ADHD,” says Green who "came out,” in 2009 when he wrote, and directed a one-hour documentary, "ADD & Loving It?!” This groundbreaking film stars his friend and fellow comedian, Patrick McKenna and his wife, Janis McKenna. The film won a New York Festivals Silver Award, became a hit on PBS, and earned Green the CAMH Foundation Transforming Lives Award for 2009. The two largest ADHD advocacy groups in America, ADDA and CHADD, have both endorsed the film.
"The documentary saves lives,” Green says, relating how one man, planning to commit suicide, instead flushed the pills he was going to take down the toilet after watching the film and realizing there was hope.
In 2012, a second program, "ADD & Mastering It!,” debuted on PBS as well. This program targets the specific challenges of ADHD and ADD with 36 simple tools. Green and McKenna share proven strategies they use, ones that work with the ADHD mindset, Green explains. The program also features 20 ADHD experts offering clear advice to help others move forward with power and strength. "These are practices we have used to become successful ADHD adults.”
"It’s (ADHD) just a different way of being,” Green says. "It’s certainly awkward at times,” he admits, "it can be difficult to do, but I just have to remind myself to buckle down and get through this moment.”
"ADHD doesn’t make you a bad person. It has nothing to do with intelligence. It doesn’t make you stupid or lazy. "
Green, working in television at the time, says that when his seventh grade son went from the top of his class to failing and was diagnosed with ADHD, he started to do some research and realized, that this was "me too.”
He says he began to understand why he was really good at some things, yet really bad at others. In the past everyone had dismissed an ADHD diagnosis because he was successful.
Green holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Waterloo. In 1979 he helped found the Toronto-based comedy troupe, The Frantics. Ten years later, Green became ‘Commander Rick’, the writer and host of TVO’s speculative fiction news magazine series Prisoners of Gravity and at the same time, Green joined Steve Smith to co-create The Red Green Show, writing and performing in the show for 11 seasons as the bumbling outdoorsman Bill. The Red Green Show has spun off books (which Green co-wrote and illustrated), DVD’s, CDs and more. It remains Canada’s longest-running comedy series. Green also uses the Bill character on his website.
According to Green, as many as 15 percent of adults have ADHD and only about half of those are doing anything about it. "But to be successful you have to know who you are. When you know and you start dealing with it, you can have a life you absolutely love.”
Judy Brenis is an ADHD coach based in Santa Cruz, California. ADHD has touched her life in the form of her 24-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with ADHD at age five, and Judy is passionate about helping those with ADHD create successful, happy, and healthy lives. Reach her at www.judyadhdcoaching.com.