ADHD PoC Voices: Coach Marc Almodovar Shares his Own Story and Discusses Men’s Mental Health

Episode 136

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This week we are delighted to present another special episode dedicated to exploring the lived experiences of people of color with ADHD by presenting an interview with ADHD coach Marc Almodovar.

Along with being a coach, Marc is an advocate for men’s mental health and runs a support group for men with fellow mental health advocate John Hazelwood. In this episode, Marc speaks about his own challenges growing up with ADHD and depression in a Hispanic community wary of mental health issues. Marc shares how his own diagnosis at 16 changed everything for him, answering so many questions, and how he found support and encouragement from his similarly wired father. Marc discusses with Cam how his desire to change the narrative on men’s mental health inspired him to share his own story of struggle and resilience and how the power of a supportive community is essential to real change.

Join us in this fascinating, inspiring and far-ranging discussion with Marc Almodovar. Marc’s attitude and enthusiasm will carry you through the rest of your day!

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Episode Transcript:

Cam: Hi, this is Cam this week. We’re delighted to present another special episode dedicated to exploring the lived experiences of people of color with ADHD. This week, we’re gonna be speaking with Marc Almodovar. He is an ADHD coach and he has a real interest in men’s group and mental health. So mark welcome.

Marc: Thank you for helping me on super excited to chat with you, buddy.

Cam: Yeah well, I am too. And we’re gonna jump right in can you tell me a little bit about who you are and the work

Marc: Awesome. So I am unquestionably somebody with a 100 miles an hour brain. I have been like this all throughout my life and have always known that I was a little bit different ever since I was a kid. I’m sure we’ll get into my ADHD story. But when I look at myself and what I do in this community I’m really about that. All about community. I’m somebody who gets quite a thrill from engaging with people who are like me. I get quite a thrill from sharing content on social media that’s very honest and storytelling about things that I have gone through in my own personal journey as somebody with ADHD. 

And one of the biggest events that I’ve been able to make that I’m incredibly proud of is three years ago, we started an ADHD men’s support group. Started as a small little Facebook group once the pandemic hit. We just grew tremendously. Like hundreds of members every single week. And as we started to grow I really just wanted to take a look at, okay, like what can we do to further enhance the value that we’re adding from this group?

We have become this 10,000 member group where we’re doing biweekly zoom meetings. We have productivity sessions where we’re doing things like body doubling, speaking events. We have a podcast of our own all, with the goal of just reminding men with ADHD, that we’re not in fact alone, it’s okay to be the way that we are and we can win at life when we have the proper resources at play.

Cam: Yeah. That’s amazing. And what is the name of the group and where can people find. Great.

Marc: So we are an ADHD men’s support group. We can be found on Facebook and we have a discord as well. Where. anybody can get the discord link if they just simply DM me on any of my personal social media accounts. But yeah, Facebook discord. And then we have a podcast, ADHD, men support podcast.

Cam: All those links in the description of the episode today. Yeah. So, let’s start with your passion. And I think that, so many of us with ADHD we could go a different way. And so the fact that you’re going this way in the direction of. Being of service to your community, to this community to men in general. And again, I wanna dig in around you really tap in, I think with John too, is around men and, comfort with mental health and having discussions about mental health. Yeah. I wanna start first with you and your own story of growing up, As a Hispanic. With ADHD. And just, what was that like and how that informed your choices to step into becoming an ADHD coach?

Marc: Yeah. So, Throughout my whole life, I always knew that I was a little bit different. Right. I mean, if you look at anything from my, childhood photos, I mean, you’ll see me out in parks, just daydreaming. My brain wandering to whatever I’m hyper focusing at at the moment. in school, I was somebody with the sloppy handwriting, had a disorganized desk and the report cards would often say things like mark is there, but not really there. Never really had any behavioral issues, which is something that we tend to think of a lot of when it comes to boys with ADHD, especially. Right. We tend to think of the hyperactive type. I had more of the inattentive type You know, super creative, whenever something managed to capture my interests, I wasn’t just focused.

I was like laser focused. My whole life was about it. you know, And these traits have always existed throughout my life. But the only thing was is that I really lacked a strong self awareness as to what I had. And it wasn’t until I was 16 years old, where I was at a place in my life where I had such a strong amount of social.

Anxiety was going through a depression and was struggling with school. It wasn’t until then that I actually had gone to a um, a psychologist and got an, diagnosis for inten ADHD. So I was 16 when that happened. And when I first got that diagnosis it was basically a confirmation that, I’m not in fact crazy or lazy or any of these things.

The way that I look at it, it’s like I’ve been given this unique, fancy car to drive and the only problem is society teaches everybody how to drive only one type of car. Right. And I just did. I never learned how to drive mine. So when I do learn how to drive mine, like then I can start embracing some of the natural skills and talents that I have.

So that’s how my brain processed the ADHD diagnosis. And from there on years later I, really started to take my mental health. Seriously started learning from all the greats that I’m sure, you know, Ned Hollowell, Russell Barkley, all these people. On different ways that I can navigate my ADHD brain.

And then as I continued to learn, I just felt so obligated to help other people who are like me and wanna learn how to thrive with their ADHD brains. So that’s my ADHD story in a nutshell.

Cam: Was quite a nutshell there. I was a teacher and I knew 16 year olds with ADHD. And was it really that when you got the diagnosis, it sort of clicked like that for you because I , , I can imagine me cuz I’m an inattentive ADD and I get that diagnosis and I’m ah, I don’t know. Right. It’s that sort of deal making or, you know, that’s, that’s the doctor saying that that’s my mom saying that and it was it really that sudden pivot for you of like, oh wow, this is all making a lot of sense.

And here I’ve been trying to drive this other car and now I see the makeup for a car that’s really mine. Is it, was it really like that?

Marc: Especially as I read the ADHD symptoms, I was like, wow, this literally describes me to a T. And just knowing that there were other people that were like me out, there was a wild sense of relief. It was 100% validating for me and, absolutely boosted my confidence. And I understand that some people can react that way, but like, it was like an affirmation for me that idea that I’ve always had, that I was a little bit different than everyone else was in fact valid.

And again, I just needed to learn the tools on how I can operate and win in this life.

Cam: Yeah. So me being a CIS white guy, you know, I’m not gonna pretend to, know what it’s like to be a man of color with ADHD or anxiety and depression. And just, was it like to have that added, element there of as a Hispanic growing up.

Marc: Yep.

Cam: With a mental health challenge like that.

Marc: So I would say for me being Puerto Rican and Cuban um, I have found that a lot of Puerto Rican Cuban households don’t really take things like ADHD. Seriously. So for me I almost certainly had that reaction that I just mentioned that sense of belief, but there were most definitely doubts as to whether.

ADHD even existed in our families and our culture tends to be perceived as, laziness or a lack of discipline of some sort. So it tends to be a lack of education. So, I would say for me the difficulty has been in my past, you know, just the lack of, sense of understanding as far as How my brain works, the tools that I need taking medication if needed.

Right. You know, like that was tough, you know, because that could be looked down upon. So I think the, the harmful aspect of it is just the lack of awareness of. Mental health conditions like ADHD amongst Hispanic households. That can be a rough one to deal with.

For someone like me, I’m such a words of affirmation love language person. So when the statements being made about myself are things like that I’m lazy or just not motivated and things like that. Like that was something that was hard for me early on.

So there was a lot of confidence issues growing up. Really, I think it’s part of the reason why I’m such a big fan of what you’re doing right now with your show where you’re inviting people like Hispanics. Other people of color on you know, it’s so important that we get out there and educate people that are like us, because we’re not gonna progress.

We’re not gonna win at life. You know, if we just keep on holding to onto these like toxic old school ideas just doesn’t work for us.

Cam: You know, there’s a lot of studies out there that talk about the charismatic adult, the sense of whether someone, a child is successful or not. And was there, did you have that in a family member, in a parent that in you and supported you through this process when you were 16?

Marc: That’s my dad right there. And he’s probably listening to this podcast right now. My dad. I don’t know that if he’s ever picked up a book on raising children with ADHD or raising children who are highly sensitive like myself but he just naturally knew how to raise me from like an emotional intelligence point of view and never had a moment where he looked down upon me.

Right? Like he. Incredibly supportive. He always boosted my confidence even to this day. I’ll, post something on one of my social medias and he’s the first person to comment. Like my son is so smart and amazing. So, very fortunate to have had him because he knew that my path was gonna be a little bit different.

It wasn’t gonna involve the traditional school route or anything like that. And just reminded me that I’m special and awesome as I am all through.

Cam: So he was really tacking against the current there of again what, what was in the community around, thoughts and perspectives with respect to mental health

Marc: Totally. And plus he’s like me too. you know, ADHD is 100% a genetic thing and. my dad, He’s never gotten an ADHD diagnosis, but you can see the symptoms there 100%. And my sister from my father’s side of the family also has diagnosed ADHD. So, there’s that mutual understanding of us being like each other that helped a lot big time,

Cam: Yeah, that’s wonderful. And a shout out to dad there. 

Marc: Big shouts to dad.

Cam: Yeah, so as we progress here, it’s like, when did you start taking this enthusiasm this, this energy, and again the payback or paying forward, getting into coaching, seeing coaching as a vehicle for developing community and engaging in these higher level conversations. Right? Normalizing mental health, normalizing the ADHD experience. But when did the coaching aspect come into play?

Marc: You know, it’s interesting for me. There’s this meme for people with ADHD that went viral not too long ago, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but there’s, it’s like this switch of interested and not interested at all. There’s no, like in between. Right? So for me, the interest absolutely sparked when it came to my personal growth and learning about my brain.

And I basically just almost dedicated such a large portion of my life to learning. And for someone like me, who’s a little bit on the extrovert side of things, you know, I just felt really, really obligated to share my journey. And as I saw my content really starting to resonate with people, that’s when I started to learn about coaching and how it can help.

And from the outside years ago, when I didn’t really know much what coaching was about, I’ve always thought like life coaching and things like that would be something where you’re basically signing on a client and you’re telling them what to do all day long. And it’s almost nothing like that at all.

It’s a lot of motivational interviewing, asking questions that provide some perspective, providing a really strong listening space and having been. myself and experience that I know how benefit it’s to be just heard in such a way that maybe a close family member or friend can’t really provide as well as getting some perspectives or tips or tools, you know, in which can help us with our personal situations.

So for me, I’ve always been somebody who’s been that good friend and been a great listener. So for me, this was just about like embracing my skills and providing it to the community and clients that I’ve worked with in the past gain self confidence.  

Cam: So, um, you were talking about coaching and, how it’s been a wonderful thing. And, and I think you’re absolutely right. It’s. People, when they think about coach, they go to all these different places, right? They go to an athletic field, they go to a cheerleader, they go to this, oh, this person’s gonna tell me what to do.

Right. Where coaching is this partnership, it’s a prompting. It is This working together. I was really lucky. I was sitting in a teacher meeting And this guy, David Parker from UNC came in and did a, an in-service for our small little school. Because we were inundated with children with ADHD because of our, student teacher ratio.

Right. We had a, like a, one to six ratio and people are not getting their needs met in public school. They’re bringing their kids to us because again, that attention and we were kind of overwhelmed. And so we had this specialist come in from uh, UNC chapel hill. Well, David. And his crew were realizing that.

So he was the academic skills person and he was like tutoring kind of like teaching skills for this influx of ADHD students. And this is uh, 93, 94 95. It wasn’t working. And so he started to kind of, looked at a coaching model. It was like, oh, this coaching where we partner and it’s like looking at their week and there’s something happening here.

So I was lucky because I got, you know, this sort of like, oh, here’s this coaching thing. And I had the same thing I hired a coach who helped me with these damn reports that were just a huge labor. It was that, wow, this is different. This is different from all of the therapy. This is different from all the tutoring that I’ve had.

This is a different animal. And it’s like that switch, as you said, flipping the switch and like, okay. I’m not gonna teach forever, but this coaching there’s something here and there, there definitely is. You mentioned though, that Well, I got into coaching and it was a, great area for my content.

So I’m kind of curious about, when did you go from, you know, a consumer of ADHD and learning and being able to advocate for yourself and figure out your own car that you’re driving to then helping others? Like what were you doing?

Marc: So, I, When I went from a consumer to coaching and by the way, I’m so proud of the fact that I remember that part of the question. Usually I, lose track of my memory and things like that. So I was regularly just learning and things like that. And I had actually similar to you.

I had, been coach as well. I, I had a life coach, not a, not a general ADHD coach, but, you know, and I had benefited from that. And I just thought to myself like, I would be pretty good at this. Like, let me try it out. I didn’t know exactly that it was gonna be ADHD right away, but I just started sharing general online motivational content.

And then somewhere along the line I just thought to myself, you know, it would be really cool. What if I just talked about my ADHD experience because I can relate to this audience the most. and, there’s something special about that? That I’m actually somebody with ADHD. Cheating other people.

So I started doing that and then that’s when I started to really make a name for. I got featured on some other big podcasts which I’m very grateful for. And it just continued to build I’m like people with ADHD. What if I go even further and talk about men with ADHD, see how that goes.

It was like this slow progression, but the answer to your question though, was just It just goes back to an idea. I have, you know, after having been coached myself, and having some self awareness of who I am and my level of empathy and, my level of knowledge, I was like, you know what? I would be pretty dang good at this too. Let me try it out. And, yeah, just took off from there.

Cam: When I went through my coach training, I mean, this is unbelievable. I, I struggled with whether I was gonna disclose, like here I am a, as an ADHD coach, struggling to disclose my ADHD. I wonder if, how people would respond to that, unbelievably. 

Marc: Yeah. 

Cam: And so again, confidence, shame, revealing. And I’m not sensing from you that there was any kind of like, were there any obstacles or things that you had to overcome in order to be out there and share.

Marc: To be completely honest with you, I mean, to this day, there still are. Even as I jump on this podcast, you know, there’s that imposter syndrome, right? Like what if New York times writes an article about me, how I’m fraud and not that this makes any sense, you know, that’s, if that would ever happen.

I most definitely had that And for me, it was critical to one connect with other people, like much like yourself and other people who are in this community that can help me navigate through that. But also for me, I just had to affirm. Myself that, this is absolutely content and work that I would’ve benefited from when I was at my, my mentally hurt space when I was 16 years old.

So looking at it as if I’m not talking to the person that will probably think this is dumb or stupid, things like that, I’m not talking to that person. I’m talking to the person who was like me in a similar place. So reminding myself of that is something that I’ve continuously had to do. And I progressed quite a lot with my inability to speak in front of people. But, to be honest with you, brother, I mean, it’s still a, it’s still a work in progress. I’m still looking at myself in the mirror and reminding myself that I’m enough and worthy.

Cam: Yeah, it’s a daily practice. Isn’t it? I think that a lot of people, we talk about destination thinking versus journey, thinking on the podcast. and, it’s sort of like a lot of people with, with a new diagnosis of ADHD. it’s, like, oh, I’ll take my meds. and I get to a place and I’m done. But this work in progress and it’s like, utilizing and reassessing these tools we have in place, like getting up and, you know, looking ourselves in the mirror and like, yes, those demons, those saboteurs, those voices are there. the more we practice in these areas, that are so giving. it really can start to quiet that, those other voices. 

Marc: 100%. Yeah. And, there’s also understanding that it’s a ridiculous idea to hold yourself to a standard of perfection at any point, no matter how self aware you are, no matter how. Perfectly you have your medication done and all the resources that you have I’m still gonna have moments in my life where I get a little bit disorganized or maybe I show up late to something and things like that.

But for me, it’s super critical that I recognize that one, I’m not defined by that. Two, that I’m somebody who brings quite a lot of valuable traits. Right. And I don’t have to be at this. Standard of perfection to share any piece of wisdom that I might have. Right. So it’s, Being easy. And self-accepting that to me, like we can talk about all the ADHD hacks from Pomodoro techniques to proper sleep and everything like that. To me, the biggest thing that we can learn is to look at ourselves in the mirror and see that we are special and bring so much good to the table. It’s like 50% of the battle with ADHD is building self confidence.

Cam: Right. So I wanna pivot to men in mental health? Right. This is your area of focus. And in your own words, what do you see as the dilemma there?

Like, why is it so hard for men to address, to speak of, to engage in, in topics related to their mental health? What do you see as the dilemma?

Marc: I, um, feel that as men when we think about masculinity and traditional masculinity, we think of uh, things like being the protector, the provider, you know, showing lots of strength at all times. And I think part of our issue, especially on the strength part of things, Is I feel that we have a false idea of what strength means, right.

We feel strength is something where we have to control our emotions. And be like this robot you know what I mean, where we go through something even a, as unfortunate as losing a close family member and just feel that we need to power through and act as if we’re all good. Right. And where that has led us is, we’ll frequently find ourselves at places as men where we will have our emotions.

So bottled up for such a long period of time. And then one day we just. right. And say things that we don’t mean and get ourselves in places where we’re struggling in life. We lose our jobs, you know, um, as men, you know, we have such high suicide rates, divorce rates, things like that. And for us it’s really just learning that.

It is in fact, okay. To be at a broken space. Right. And you’re not less than a man for that. And what’s gonna help you get out of that broken space is not pretending like as if you’re not there and is not acting like as if you’re all good. It’s reaching out to other men who are like you being able to give a phone call, talk about your problems and have that be heard and, respected and accepted that to me. The type of healing that we need. but to answer your question, I mean, we just have a false idea of what makes us strong and healthy as meant. And what we need to do is take that on, 

Cam: I do. And I’m also, I’m hearing your coach voice

Marc: Yeah. I got excited.

Cam: Yeah, well, and these important distinctions, I’m just gonna, reflect back to you. Like again, this false sense of what strength is. And just acknowledging, like, can strength. be something else, right. Can strength be vulnerability? And I think with ADHD, it’s like we do these sort of snapshot, quick takes it’s like a billboard driving by.

Right. We see it It’s like, oh, there’s strength. that’s what strength looks like Is that thing, that two dimensional thing versus, you know, to take time and what can it actually be to explore it? And look at a way that it’s not this idyllic Picture of, what it can be, cuz that’s what ADHD does. Is it sort of elevates it to this here it is.

It’s a snapshot. it looks like, some glossy kind of magazine. That’s absolutely perfect. no blemishes. And then the other one was, again, I love that language you just said at a broken space. that’s really cool. Cause that gives people a little bit of. wiggle room, it gives them some, agency in a challenging place. At least that’s what it does for me. 

Marc: 100% 

Cam: So then can you say a little bit more about what you’re doing in the sense of getting people together? I mean, this is what we’re learning about. Our group coaching. I’m doing a, a lot of different group efforts and there’s something magical. I mean, last night I was teaching a class and we’re week seven outta week eight, and it’s just taking off because on their own they’ve been accumulating this knowledge. They’re sort of exercising some language, some concepts, getting some distance from their add a little bit to see it objectively.

But then they’re resourcing each other. Right. And it sounds like that’s what’s happening in your group is that they can be a resource. And that just has a, an amazing effect, right? When we feel we can contribute in some way, it can have a, great positive feedback loop.

Marc: Yeah. It’s huge. Right. You know? Um, And there’s even something about, being in a zoom or in person meeting where you’re discussing different ADHD struggles problems that you’re going through in your personal life and right when you’re talking about it, and I’m sure you know this to your work and you just see like the other people’s faces and their heads nodding.

And they’re like, oh, I get that. You know, It’s that instant sense of relief that you’re not in fact alone. And there’s other people like you, because the thing is, is like, As men with ADHD, as people with ADHD altogether, really most of us have lives in which we are putting on a mask and a front almost 24/7.

And it, we feel that if we take that off, we’re gonna get looked at as crazy. Right. People are gonna judge us and think that we’re weird. So when you’re at a space in which there’s other people like you, who understand you and, will actually receive your, what you have to say in, in a way that I don’t know, maybe your corporate office doesn’t there’s just something that is just so incredibly healing about that, you know?

And on top of that too, since we all understand each other, there’s that level of empathy, you know, where we, We’ll encourage one another, share what we’ve learned along the way and see if it can help. It’s a beautiful thing. And the more and more that I, I experience it myself and be on the other end where I’m hosting events and things like that.

The more and more that I, I want for men to do things like this, you know, we need these safe spaces where again, we can just be fully vulnerable and instead of being judged, We’re encouraged, accepted as we are. 

Cam: I feel like we’ve just started talking here and, uh, we could keep going. But guess I’d like to finish up with, is there something that’s next? Like What’s coming up for you? What’s what are you excited about? What’s on the horizon for you, Marc? 

Marc: Yeah. One I’m, I’m really pumped to that. we reached 10 K, 10,000 members on our online support group. It’s given a tremendous growth and I’m, I’m wildly thankful for even people like you who are, helping, John and myself spread this message. I think that’s great.

You know, it’s funny, cuz I’ve been doing the, the work of coaching for about two, three years now. And it wasn’t until the lockdown started happening where I had the idea of like, why don’t I try like group community things and zoom conferences. And I tested it out and fell in love with it.

Right. So, As far as what’s next for me, I’m looking to do a lot more in person events. So for people in New York and New Jersey that’s something you will hear more of soon. And yeah. Honestly I can’t say that I have anything specific lined up, but what my future looks like is, way more online in person, community events and just providing a space in which people feel accepted and understood.

And that type of stuff just really excites me. So, yeah, I’m, I’m pumped.

Cam: You got me pumped 

Marc: Yeah. I mentioned that I, I did get diagnosed with, in intensive ADHD, but I do remember there being a little bit of hyperactivity mentioned there and, and, uh, you might or might not be feeling it. 

Cam: Yeah, I was, uh, diagnosed with inattentive and absolutely no I had 10 years of ambivalence, like you said, like you got that diagnosis and you were off to the races. I got the diagnosis and, I was not off to the races. So I was like that got my attention.

Marc: But it’s so different for all of us and that’s why we gotta, we gotta share our stories and you know, like, people that relate to that, you know, I’m sure that they benefit from me saying that, you know what I mean? So it’s so different for all of us. And gotta embrace our path, you know, but yeah, 100%

Cam: So Marc, keep doing the good work and thank you so much for coming on the podcast with me today. 

Marc: Thank you for having me. This is fun.

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