For all of her 70 years, Sydney Metrick claims she has never been “normal.” In fact, the lakeside resident, coach, teacher and author – and misfit – says she was “all over the map.”
Metrick has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Described as an executive function disorder of the brain having to do with neurotransmitters, it is a chronic condition marked by persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and sometimes impulsivity – the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder of children.
“Wild things can pop into the minds of those with ADHD,” says Metrick. “Sometimes things that are inappropriate and ought not be blurted out.”
She likes to quote Sir Richard Branson, the entrepreneurial billionaire who founded the Virgin Group: “The most talented, thought-provoking, game-changing people are never ‘normal.’” Branson also happens to have ADHD.
Not only has Metrick figured out how to live with the the mental disorder and see its positive side, she also coaches others with ADHD to do the same.
“As a kid growing up in Chicago,” she says, “I couldn’t sit still for very long. I was clumsy. I even rode my bike with my eyes closed. I was a risk taker. Constantly criticized, I was given the message that I wasn’t good enough. My parents would say, ‘Why can’t you be like your friend Karen, next door?’”
While in college, Metrick flunked out after two years. She couldn’t hold a job for longer than one year, and her relationships didn’t last over two years – until now. (She’s been in her current relationship with Thomas Banks for 14 years, and they married last August.)
It wasn’t until she was pursuing a coaching career that Metrick received a diagnosis. “I was involved in the arts when a friend introduced me to a coaching community. During a coaching workshop, a student walked in and announced that he had ADHD. When he started explaining his symptoms I realized, this is me.”
Having studied various alternative healing arts, she eventually received her B.A. degree in Consciousness Studies, with a minor in Holistic Healing Practices. She went on to earn other degrees and certifications, becoming a life coach in 1998. “What impresses me about coaching is that it is solution-oriented,” she says.
“Those of us with ADHD need to understand that we have a different way of approaching the world. Once we figure out that we’re okay and don’t need to live up to other’s expectations, what changes is our understanding and beliefs of ourselves and our behaviors. Plus, we become aware of what works and what doesn’t work, and can stop doing the things that don’t work.”
Once diagnosed, Metrick got to work addressing the areas that kept her stuck in believing she was a misfit. As she came to understand ADHD from the inside out, including all of its challenges, she saw plenty of overlap with creative people and those with ADHD. For that reason, she chose to focus her coaching on artistic types.
Says Metrick, “People who have ADHD or other executive function disorders, and even people who are simply divergent thinkers, like those in the arts, have ways of being in the world that might make successes more of a challenge. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
“As an artist myself, we tend not to be linear thinkers; we see and understand things differently. Being left-handed, I had to figure out how to do things differently because the world is made for right-handed people. It’s kind of like that.”
Metrick has written four books, all having to do with celebrating or supporting life transitions, using creative expression or ceremony. Her website, artfulcoaching.com, lists numerous tips for those with ADHD, including time management and getting organized. Although she does much of her coaching work remotely, she makes herself available to local clients.
Having moved from the San Francisco Bay Area, Metrick and her husband have lived at lakeside since last September, which seems to suit the two of them just fine. Banks, another artist, finds his expression as an R&B and blues singer and performer.
“I love the abundance of artists here,” says Metrick. “It’s part of what makes this area unique. I see lakeside as a sort of farm and city, with all these little villages put together. For the most part, the people I meet are wonderful, some who’ve lived on sailboats, and all over the world. I find that we share many common interests and have time to hang out. We’ve left behind the life that identified us in order to make a fresh start. It’s easy to be happy here … and you don’t have to be ‘normal.’”
Metrick’s Open Circle talk, “Why Fit in When You Were Born to Stand Out (or, Normal Is Overrated),” takes place at Lake Chapala Society on Sunday, June 3, 10 a.m.