It’s no secret that stories told through Still I Run are bound together with common themes, and as such, we as writers often find things in common with other community members’ stories. I had the privilege of learning about Still I Run Ambassador and longtime supporter Shoshana Gordon as part of ADHD Awareness Month. I jumped at the chance to write this as I share the diagnosis…and as I learned through her story, so much more. Shoshana embodies self-love, acceptance, and the unwavering power of knowledge and community.
Shoshana discovered her own diagnosis of ADHD through educating herself about her younger daughter’s ADHD diagnosis around six years ago. While perusing the evidence-base, Shoshana quickly recognized her childhood experiences reflected in the profile of girls and young women with ADHD. She remembered this persistent, almost nagging feeling of not quite fitting in among friend groups that persisted into her college years. Without knowledge of her diagnosis at that time, Shoshana eventually stopped trying to fit in with groups and began gravitating towards people who accepted her wholly and without judgment. It’s no surprise that the low self-esteem, poor socialization, and harsh self-judgment Shoshana felt in her childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood were not just square-peg-round-hole experiences – but a common struggle amongst girls with ADHD (as compared to their male and/or neurotypical counterparts).
Awareness and Evolution:
Today, Shoshana has a strong grasp on her diagnosis and can easily articulate the common symptoms of ADHD she experiences…but it was not always an open conversation. Before understanding and being able to speak more openly about herself and her mental health, so many facets of Shoshana’s ADHD felt more like failures to overcompensate for than opportunities to explore, share, and manage. For those with ADHD, procrastination, distractibility, poor time management, and difficulty completing tasks are a fact of life that can absolutely feel like failure when poorly understood. Coupled with a high degree of sensitivity and emotionality, it can be incredibly frustrating and anxiety-inducing just to get through the day. Thankfully, through Shoshana’s own initiative, she was able to learn more about herself (even identifying her most problematic ADHD-traits and seeking therapy) while simultaneously learning how to understand and support her daughter. The only disappointing part is the general lack of conversation surrounding mental health and ADHD that could have helped Shoshana understand herself and her needs sooner.
As a younger child, Shoshana did not enjoy physical activity but her story paints a picture of exclusion rather than lack of desire. Not fitting the mold of athlete, she found herself picked last for teams in Physical Education class and remembers the discomfort she felt in not just a leotard during her one-year foray into gymnastics…but the discomfort she felt in her own body. Typical of the 1970s and 1980s, gym class favored the inherently athletic or “sporty” and acceptance of different body types was near nonexistent. By 18, Shoshana’s discomfort in her body evolved into exercise addiction, which became both the beginning and most difficult component of recovery from her eating disorder. As noted by Dena Cabrera, Psy. D., “ADHD can often be a root problem of eating disorder behaviors, and treatment for ADHD can often help alleviate symptoms related to the eating disorder. For individuals who struggle with ADHD, food may become a way of self-medicating or exercising control in an environment that feels chaotic or out of balance.”
Finding Peace on the Road:
In college and amidst her eating disorder journey, Shoshana found race walking on the assumption she couldn’t be a runner because she “didn’t look like a runner.” In 2012, she eventually signed up for her first half marathon as a runner, which gave her a first look into the cathartic properties running possesses far beyond the benefits of being “purely for exercise.” Today, Shoshana feels running helps manage her ADHD, particularly when it comes to her difficulty focusing and rumination. As she discovered early on, running allowed her the space she needed to process her thoughts and feelings alongside the “feel goods” absorbed by movement in nature. Shoshana recounted a particularly moving story best told in her own words:
“If I’m stuck in an anxiety loop of ruminating thoughts and I go for a run, I always feel at least a little less anxious afterward. The feel of the ground underneath my feet, the scenery, fresh air and being with my dogs (who I often talk with while I run), allows me to focus on how I’m feeling in the moment and process why I’m feeling the way I am. One night, a few months ago, I was in a bad spiral of anxious ruminating and suicidal thoughts. I had never gone for a run at night, but I knew I had to run. I had to get myself back on track. I laced up my shoes and leashed the dogs and off we went. I ran, talked to the dogs, listened to music and cried for five miles. Afterward, I came home, crawled into bed and slept. That run was just what I needed.”
In addition to running, Shoshana finds peace and manages her ADHD with therapy and dedicating quiet time to activities that settle her mind.
Finding Her People:
It is no surprise Shoshana’s relationship with running and ongoing commitment to understanding herself, her diagnosis, and how they are interconnected led her to Still I Run. After discovering Still I Run through a collaboration with Momentum Jewelry in 2019, Shoshana became instantly immersed in the community’s energy and the sense of belonging it elicited for her. Soon after becoming an Ambassador in 2020, the community confirmed those feelings by supporting her through a difficult break up and caring for both her children amidst the pandemic. Despite not meeting many of the community members in person, she considers her Still I Run family as those she can count on in a crisis, mental health or otherwise.
Over time, Shoshana took on more responsibilities as an ambassador, became a Champion Ambassador, Still I Run Chapter Leader for Greater Portland, created a Hood to Coast Team SIR and joined the Team SIR running the NYC Marathon in 2023 (due to injury is now deferred to 2024)! Running races like the Hood to Coast relay even give her those “team feels” amidst a largely individual sport. In stark contrast to the unknown and un-belonging Shoshana often felt as a girl, the community fostered by Still I Run has fostered an uncensored and unparalleled sense of belonging.
More than a Label:
Through Shoshana’s exploration of her ADHD diagnosis, she hopes others can discover self-love while acknowledging their limitations not as failures, but rather unique characteristics to explore and better understand. Much more than a label, ADHD was an opportunity for Shoshana to learn how to care for her daughter, herself, and find those that care for her without judgment. Instead of being shackled by her diagnosis, it gave her the space to learn more about herself to not just care for herself but become better able to connect with and empower others to find growth through movement and community. As Lennon said, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”