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A professional musician and former drummer for the band Everclear, Sean Winchester walks through the twisting, turning story of his life with ADHD. Following Sean up through school and into how he became a drummer, the emotional impact music has on his ADHD, and balancing that emotional experience with the rest of his life, he describes in detail what has driven him to where he is now.
About Sean Winchester:
Sean is a professional musician, drummer, and former member of the band Everclear from 2010–2015. He now teaches music – primarily drums.
In searching for information to find a deeper understanding of his ADHD, Sean found this podcast. Now interviewed as a guest on the show, he feels “this is the most important interview [he has] ever done in [his] life”.
The first episode that Sean listened to that caught his attention was episode 91: Sensory Processing, Filtering, and ADHD with neuroscientist Sabine Kastner
The podcast for him “is like a virtual support group”.
First diagnosed with ADHD at age seven, Sean was noted by his parents and teachers as someone who was unable to focus well, would misbehave, and generally “not following the herd”.
Placed on various medications and combinations thereof throughout his childhood, Sean never felt they did much to help him; he experienced anxiety and had trouble sleeping while on the medication.
Learning and ADHD:
Eric and Sean discuss the placebo effect and how, as people with ADHD, it can satisfy one’s desire for an answer to the question “why”.
Sean remembers how it had been previously discussed that a spectrum exists for those with ADHD, where each individual might display different traits and that individualizing treatments was the best way to manage ADHD.
In helping his girlfriend’s son, who has attention deficit problems, with his school work, Sean saw the same qualities he sees in himself. Sean once stayed up until one o’clock AM helping him write an English paper.
Learning about different treatments and how to apply them himself has changed Sean’s perspective on managing his ADHD – he’s now more forgiving of himself for his efforts in the past and more forgiving towards others that have tried to help him over the course of his life.
Back in his twenties, Sean, for a period of time, forced himself to believe that ADHD wasn’t actually real. Sean now asked to be a guest on this podcast as a way of reaching out to others who felt the same way he did throughout their lives.
Now, after leaving Everclear, beginning to build toward his reinvention as a person, and being very aware of his ADHD, Sean feels the happiest he’s been in years.
“High school was awful for me at first. […] High school basically was like throwing fuel on a fire as far as my rebellion.”
Having been kicked out of two different high schools, Sean would feel a sense of rush from being mischievous and receiving the attention that came with it.
Sean would steal money from his parents to buy weed, sett trashcans on fire in his school, and ended up receiving a zero grade his freshman year – mainly, he thinks, because the school didn’t want to drop him out of their system for fear of where he would end up.
When the police called his parents after detaining Sean for possession of marijuana, the ensuing shouting match between him and his parents resulted with him saying “well, I’ve always wanted to play the drums.”
From there, his parents had Sean work for them to earn money and, eventually, they bought him his first drum set.
“Instead of just tossing me to authorities or instead of doing something a little more extreme, they wanted to still help me. . .”
Music School and Professors:
In terms of school assignments, Eric is reminded of “soft accommodations” where one develops a relationship with their professor and works together with them to bend certain assignments to better suit their interests and, thus, their ADHD.
Remembering back to his days studying at Berklee College of Music, Sean focused on building relationships with his tutors so he could negotiate more time with them, as opposed to his professors. His music professors tended to be extremely unforgiving and inflexible – Sean figures that stemmed from their understanding of how hard it actually is to make it living in the music business.
Despite challenges with some of his professors, the extra effort with tutors paid off and Sean managed to make the Dean’s list every semester at college.
Starting to Drum:
Sean’s first drum set was a Pearl Export series. Since he was grounded, Sean spent every day playing his drum kit, which is where he started to understand his “ADHD superpowers” of hyper-focus and the role that emotion can play in motivation and attention.
“Having an emotional connection to the arts or to musical instruments is really what set me down a completely different path. It rewired my brain for real. It changed my moral compass. It changed who I was hanging out with. It changed everything about my psyche. It just completely opened up new parts of my brain I was not even utilizing.”
Eric relays his experience of playing music: feeling sensations like the electrical impulses in his brain and feeling that he is a part of the music. One of his goals this year is to make more time for his music.
Music is both Sean’s intellectual and emotional pursuit; he also feels he can watch his synapses connect while playing music – it’s a more rewarding experience than any other.
The realities of living and working as part of the music industry don’t always synch up in the best way with one’s strengths as someone with ADHD.
Balance can be a challenge: balancing playing music professionally and sometimes taking side jobs to make ends meet; balancing mundane day-to-day tasks with the fun of the music, etc. “If we’re only excited by the big activities, we put aside those things that help us live a balanced life.”
“You have to learn to create in exciting moments and then learn how to live comfortably until the next one comes along.”
Especially when one has experienced the thrill and excitement of a big break, it can be challenging to return to reality on the sidelines or to notice when the best choice for oneself physically and mentally would be a change of pace away from it.
Moving into Everclear, Sean allowed himself to take on a lot of stressful challenges and accept more in the way of mental punishment because of how large of a break it was and because of how much he did not want to lose his spot in the band.
Playing the music, touring, and recording all came in line with Sean’s strengths, but in attempting to appease the direction of the band, and Sean’s willingness to do whatever was necessary to bend to the will of that direction, lead him in a bad, unbalanced direction.
Ultimately, Sean felt his environment had become toxic. As a way to cope with it, he began drinking. Being surrounded by others who smoked, drank, etc. all the time while on tour certainly didn’t help break his dependency on alcohol.
Sean is now five months free from any smoking or drinking. In its place, his girlfriend and he both now attend therapy together.
Products, Services, and Other Links:
ADHD reWired Episode 91: Sensory Processing, Filtering, and ADHD with Sabine Kastner
Find and Contact Sean Winchester:
If you are interested in reserving a spot in the next ADHD reWired Coaching and Accountability Group group, visit coachingrewired.com.
Visit erictivers.com/audible for Carolyn D’Argenio’s list of her top Audible.com audio-book picks, complete with preview links.
If you like Eric’s idea of live streaming shows on the service Blab, Tweet at @erictivers and use the hashtag #blabrewired. You can also contact him via facebook.com/eric.tivers or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric is collecting videos describing people’s experiences with CHADD. If you are currently involved with CHADD, record a video however you wish (horizontally, please!) of you describing your relationship to ADHD and what CHADD does for you. Send it to Eric via Facebook, Twitter, or email here: email@example.com.
If you want you hear your question or comment on a future episode, go to erictivers.com/adhdrewired and look for the comment form, or click on the yellow button for either “Be a Guest” or “Record your question”.
Help CHADD, an ADHD organization dedicated to improving the lives of those with ADHD through useful research and support, by donating to their fundraising campaign here: gofundme.com/oneof15m.
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Third Monday of every month at 6:45 PM
(CHADD does not endorse this podcast)