Special Edition

Special Edition

ExFiles: Stories That Matter

We love stories because they change our perspective. They give us a window into the lives of many through which we get to witness extraordinary evidence of human resilience. Noam Chomsky once said, “It is quite possible, overwhelmingly probable, one might guess-that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology”. What do novels do after all? They tell stories of people. They unlock our imagination to help us see that people’s narratives are strangely similar to ours or uniquely different from anyone we know.

My work as a speech-language pathologist has trained me to listen to my clients’ stories with deep interest and keen attention. I had to put in months and years in to learning how to ask open-ended questions and how to inquire into the lives of others to extrapolate the meaning of their experiences from a therapeutic point of view. We called it “taking a history”. It is all about getting people to talk about their challenges, gifts, aspirations, letdowns, and inner activism. For me, this process has been all about patience and curious investigation. Through their stories, my clients have helped me become a better observer, listener, and problem solver.

ExFiles is a series of one-on-one intimate interviews with my former clients. Of course, their names have been changed, but their stories are real. This is a personal tribute to my clients who have changed me forever! I am indebted to you!


Frank Darabont’s most prudent decision came when he spent just a $1 for one of Stephen King’s 1982 short stories Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption only to write a mind-blowing screenplay based on the story. Eventually, he directed it into the critically acclaimed and commercially successful film, Shawshank Redemption, which depicts how a wrongfully accused and imprisoned for life Andy Dufresne gets a new lease on life after breaking free from the indestructible shackles. No one needs to go to prison to know being in prison sucks. Today, my guest, Paul Hegarty, tells us why he relates to the struggles of the lead character Andy Dufresne and how in just a few seconds, he went from being a good samaritan to a victim with a substantial brain-injury that brought upon a life of struggle and despair. Just as Andy met Red, a fellow inmate played by Morgan Freeman who knows how things work and helps figure out a way to escape, Paul too met many people along the way who have helped him to rise above his challenges and restore his life into a joyful endeavor. Personally, I’m thrilled to have been Red! Paul’s story inspires everyone to search for the key so that we too can raise our hands in triumph when we get out!

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What’s the difference between blowing bubbles in the yard, watching a drunk shovel snow in a shopping cart, and listening to Rodney Dangerfield deliver a monologue? The first one is fun, the second one is funny, but only Rodney Dangerfield’s one-liners makes you laugh every time. It takes Executive Function skills such as adapting off-stage comedic talent to the stand-up comedy environment, restructuring the jokes, and adjusting your timing to succeed in the business of entertainment. But talented individuals with ADHD experience everyday chaos as their lives are riddled with a lot of mismanagement, impulsivity, and poor decision-making. This makes it difficult to let the talents be discovered or actualized.

Today, in a candid interview, my client, Karate (Kate) Wellington, talks about finding a home in comedy and entertainment and how her creativity has always managed to surface and give her hope in spite of the painful realization that ADHD is there to stay and Executive Dysfunction is a beast that needs to be tamed. See how Kate has come to acknowledge that the secret of finessing her progress as a comedian lies in mastering her Executive Function.

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Fame and success is not necessarily an antidote to self-doubt. Oscar-winning singer-songwriter, Sam Smith, once said, “I still doubt myself as a singer every day. Every time I step off the stage, I have ask someone what it was like. …I really think I need to work on it.” The young performer’s life has seen some ups and downs, such as losing anonymity and putting his foot in his own mouth in front of 9 million people by inaccurately stating a fact during his Oscar acceptance speech, for which he was heavily criticized. Reading about Sam Smith you can learn that if you channel that self-acceptance through artistic courage into creating personal and confessional songs, people will respond to it and you yourself grow from it.

Today, my client, Trevor Belmont, opens up to his vulnerabilities that have made his educational journey arduous as a young student with ADHD, depression, and Executive Dysfunction. This episode will give you an insight into Trevor’s process of reconciling with the fact that his talents and smarts were clogged in the funnel self-demonstration by his inabilities and weaknesses. And yet he has prevailed!

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People like Dr. Mae C. Jemison live by the dictum, “if you’re bored, you are not paying attention.” That philosophy has served her well as she is a former NASA astronaut and the first woman of color in the world to go to space. She could pay attention and direct her curiosity in whichever direction she wanted. Dr. Jemison got work done and kept on achieving. This was not the case for my client, “Scott Joplin,” whose learning struggles began as a child when he was diagnosed with not one, not two, but multiple developmental disabilities which made his learning very laborious and paying attention quite exhausting. Scott had no shortage of intelligence and creative imagination, but the access to his own full capacity was upstaged by his difficulty in expressing his comprehension and delivering work when needed. He needed someone like me to untangle learning from learning-to-learn and the results were outstanding! Scott is a charming, caring, and very successful computer scientist whose commitment to self-development has paid off.

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We love stories because they change our perspective. They give us a window into the lives of many through which we get to witness extraordinary evidence of human resilience. Noam Chomsky once said, “It is quite possible, overwhelmingly probable, one might guess – that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology”. What do novels do after all? They tell stories of people. They unlock our imagination to help us see that people’s narratives are strangely similar to ours or uniquely different from anyone we know. Introducing the Special Edition of my Podcast, Full PreFrontal, I am calling “ExFiles: Stories That Matter”. Come along with me and listen to the first episode as one of my clients, Lynn Seaward, shares the true challenges of Executive Function and how she has managed to rise above it!

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