Content creators Kim and Penn Holderness are opening up about what it’s like managing Penn’s ADHD symptoms, and how his diagnosis impacts their marriage and parenthood.
Penn, now 49, tells TODAY.com he was diagnosed with ADHD when he was in college, with the diagnosis finally offering some insight into his school troubles. “It felt good to have answers,” he says. But when he and Kim welcomed their two children, Lola, now 17, and Penn Charles, now 14, it seems Kim felt resentful of having to carry the extra parenting load for Penn due to the disorder.
“Before I knew how to live with his ADHD, it was tough,” she admits. “I mean, we went to marriage counseling. We wrote a book about arguing. But after he became aware of what was happening, he made changes. He started doing the work and researching ADHD. Our marriage has improved because of the work he’s doing to manage his ADHD.”
Now, the couple has more grace with each other, and they’ve written a new book filled with tips on how to help fellow neurodiverse parents navigate their symptoms, too. “When he has an ADHD goof, it causes some real shame,” says Kim. “He feels deep shame and then I have to realize that I’m no picnic to live with either. I deal with anxiety and depression. So we’re just like a soup of neurodiversity over here.”
They also want to reduce stigma surrounding ADHD and similar conditions, hoping to flip the script on the traditional narratives surrounding neurodiversity.
“First of all, the condition has a terrible name: deficit, hyperactivity and disorder are negative words,” Penn tells the outlet. “Forget about all of that. If you have ADHD, you’re part of a pretty cool club. Traditionally, we are innovative. We think outside the box, and we’re creative.”
Calling ADHD his “superpower,” he shares that he finds sticking to lists and calendars, keeping notes and magnets with important info close by, and wearing “a lot of cargo pants” to store essentials like his phone, wallet, and keys all very helpful in keeping his brain focused and organized.
Kim calls his brain “beautiful chaos,” adding, “He’s so talented. People are drawn to him. We walk into a party and he’s like a wind-up toy. And every single night at dinner—like on a random Tuesday night—he finds some way to make it fun and interesting.”
Penn also has a message for kids who receive an ADHD diagnosis and aren’t quite sure what to make of it. “You are not broken,” he told the outlet. “If you take the time to learn about your brain, and people around you take the time to learn about how your brain works, you will live a very successful life. And maybe even an extraordinary life.”
And those who are diagnosed with ADHD are in good company, as it’s one of the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are multiple signs and symptoms, all of which can be managed after diagnosis by working with your child’s doctor. Even if it seems scary or overwhelming, having a brain that works a little bit differently is actually really cool and nothing at all to be ashamed of.