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Zoë Kessler: Double Agent

Zoë's ADHD Pet PeevesIt’s not easy being a double agent: professional journalist by day, ADHDer by… well… ok, all the time.

But today, I had to sublimate my full-time identity to the professional journalist.

Mission: Possible?

The Mission: ADHD woman goes undercover to an ADHD Clinic to interview a psychiatrist specializing in treating adult ADHDers.

Agent Zoë?

Yes, Chief?

You’re there to interview him, not the other way around.

No problem, Chief.

Holy double agent, Batman!

Three years ago, I’d hoped to visit The Bilkey Clinic for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Now, I was going there not as an ADHDer, but as an infiltrator.  As…the media. Could I pull off the assignment without blurting out all my symptoms and begging for free treatment? Without pleading to know if I had any comorbidities I wasn’t aware of? There was only one way to find out…

Enter, Zoë Kessler, journalist

I arrived on time. So far, so good.

Ok, I slipped up when Sandra, office administrator, gave me directions to the washroom and I got lost. Even after she’d told me it was easier than it sounded. Not so. But she wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t confessed. Damn. Must maintain control, or I’ll blow my cover.

I was led to the “lounge” to wait for Dr. Bilkey. In the corner, a video of the doc was playing. Sandra asked if I’d seen it, and proceeded to turn up the volume. I cleverly avoided telling her that I had to prep for the interview, that I sucked at transitions, and if I didn’t have complete quiet I would probably freak out. I bit my tongue.

The second the door closed behind her, I turned off the volume. Smooth move, Agent Zoë.

Until Dr. Bilkey came in. His thick red locks got my attention as his head swiveled towards his muted video. Again, I kept my cool. I pretended not to notice Dr. Bilkey noticing. I smugly congratulated myself for not following my immediate impulse to make a joke. Take THAT, ADHDer! You WILL succumb to my alter-ego!

The battle of the Gremlins: ADHD versus journalist

Being a double agent isn’t easy. Trust me. As the interview proceeded, there sat two Gremlins, one on each padded shoulder of my tailored vintage jacket.

On the right, ADHD Gremlin tormented: “Don’t interrupt. He’ll think you’re doing it because of your uncontrollable impulsivity. Keep your mouth shut.”

On the left, Journalist Gremlin soothed, “Don’t be ridiculous.You’re a professional. You have to direct the conversation or you’ll be wasting both your time and his.  Interrupt. That’s what you do. It’s your job!”

Holy double-bind, Batman!

I slipped when the ADHD pressure got too hot.  I interrupted him to tell him why I had to interrupt him: to keep the interview on track. Silently, I willed him to decode my secret message:  “It’s not because I have ADHD! Honest! I’m just doing my job!”

I wondered: was he a spy too? Was he sizing me up? Plugging me into a diagnostic category?  Would I get flyers in the mail?

I resisted the urge to ask, “Well, doc? How bad is it?”

I had a job to do.

Wrestling with the Gremlin

I had suppressed the ADHD Gremlin. Until…suddenly, from out of a dark alley, ADHD Gremlin began panicking over my new digital recorder. Was it recording? How was the volume? Did I delete anything I shouldn’t have? Was the mic too far away?

A soft rap on the door startled me. I’d regained my composure, and kept the interview going, pretending I hadn’t noticed the knock.

Dr. Bilkey said, “There’s been a knock on the door. That means our time is over.”

“What? No five-minute warning?!”  I could hear the panic in my voice. Damn. I’m blowing it.

When he confirmed that, no, that was the signal that our time was up, I struggled to pull myself together. The ADHD Gremlin shouted, “What? Are you kidding me?! I can’t do this! I have trouble with transitions! I have to have time to wrap up! Don’t you know I have ADHD?!”

Recovering my cover…

Before I left the office, I asked to pet the resident therapy dogs, which I’d met earlier. No one was wise to the fact that I needed to calm down after “sudden transition shock.” Slick move, agent Zoë, slick move.

I arrived at my car in the parking lot. Well, not my car. Borrowed. I couldn’t use MY car, now, could I? I was under cover, remember?

The only glitch was the key sticking in the car door. Finally, after one tough yank, it broke free.

Then I had to search for it for 10 minutes because I was sitting on it.

…and losing it again

ADHD Gremlin whispered malevolently in my ear: “He’s watching you. He and his staff are lined up at the window chortling over your ADHD-ness.  He’s whispering into his secretary’s ear right now, ‘See if you can book her in for an assessment. Get her back.'”

I started the car.

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Zoë Kessler: Double Agent

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2010). Zoë Kessler: Double Agent. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 15 Oct 2010
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