About Merle Kaplan
As one of my wise friends always says, “We’re put on this Earth to help others.”
I believe that with every hurt we experience, a seed develops that can grow outward in a positive, beautiful way, or inward in a negative, life-choking way.
If I’m putting my faith at the center of my life, that is, my belief in a God who has good plans for me, I see things clearly and learn the lessons that life is trying to teach me. If not, those lessons keep repeating themselves. Again and again and again.
Before I knew I had ADHD, I repeatedly sought help from therapists, self-help programs, and psychiatrists to address my seemingly endless barrage of issues. I seemed to always be in the midst of some sort of crisis. I can’t blame myself for any of that now; I was doing the best I could with whatever tools I had at the time.
After my ADHD diagnosis six years ago, I abandoned my plan to work in the addiction field, and became obsessed with ADHD. I attended bi-weekly workshops at the ADD Center in Chicago, under the tutelage of renowned ADHD expert and co-founder of ADDitude Magazine, Dr. Peter Jaksa. I eventually started managing, writing materials for, and facilitating ADHD support groups that served as an adjunct to Dr. Jaksa’s meetings.
Recently I’ve worked with Dr. Marina Kostina, a sought-after speaker, author, and teacher who defines her niche profession as “a self-worth and net-worth coach.” Dr. Kostina has helped me understand how to align my career goals with my overall life passion and purpose. As co-author of the groundbreaking book, "The Golden Climate in Distance Learning", Dr. Kostina has taught me how to combine online activities and coursework with one-on-one coaching to streamline learning and maximize the rate of personal growth in my clients.
The good news is: I became (warning: bragging ahead!) an expert in many areas that trip up most people at one time or another:
First I fought and conquered an eating disorder that began in high school and lasted several years. The seed that flourished as a result? -- I’m qualified to help people with eating disorders and body image issues because I can quickly recognize the signs and symptoms, and have compassion and knowledge in this area.
A chaotic love life, borne out of a dysfunctional family life (two instances of undiagnosed, but way-obvious ADHD, three members with untreated drug addiction, one family member diagnosed with bipolar disorder with schizophrenic features, and, on my mom’s side (though I don’t think she meets criteria for ADHD), a scary lack of rules and guidance. I spent a combined fourteen years in 12-step groups working through my problems with codependency and sex and love addiction. The seed that blossomed from those experiences: I am well-qualified to recognize and intervene in the unhealthy thinking and actions that lead to destructive patterns of behavior in relationships.
When I found myself in debt years ago due to a bout with unemployment, an unpaid student loan, someone else’s vehicle I didn’t need and had nowhere to park but got stuck paying for, and the ravages of a former boyfriend’s gambling problem on my credit card which I’d unwisely shared with him, I started doing something I’d never done before--I began to worry about money. I sought help from several sources, and eventually learned how to budget by working with a Christian financial counselor who laid out the Biblical foundation for understanding money BEFORE instructing me to track EVERY SINGLE CENT I spent and meticulously write out my budget and all expenditures on spreadsheets (before everyone had a computer). The beneficial result of the counseling and this tedious practice (which I kept up for maybe three years until my debts were paid): I am pretty darn smart about money now. At least most of the time. My counselor, accountant and financial advisor Kevin Currid, said I’d “made the most progress” of all the clients he’d worked with at that point, and “could teach this stuff.”
Over the years, through extensive hands-on, scientific research performed in a laboratory (i.e. screwing up a lot and working with experts to help me stop screwing up a lot), I learned techniques and strategies (tools) to help me move forward and put my self-destructive mindsets and behaviors behind me.
I also co-founded the first-ever 12-step support group for video game addiction in Chicago, with my friend Adam Yala. Our story was featured in several publications, including the Chicago Tribune. Following the pattern of becoming an expert because I had no other good option, this achievement was the result of achieving “sobriety” from my compulsion to waste my days playing video games.
And then there’s my academic knowledge: A master’s in psychology from National Louis University and completion of the Addiction Studies curriculum at Harold Washington College, and a volunteer stint and clinical internship at Hazelden Chicago (now called the Hazelden-Betty Ford Center).
After working on myself and studying ADHD for years I developed a system which helps people with this condition transcend their self-limiting and self-destructive behaviors to create success at their workplace. Learn more about these amazing techniques in my online course "A Brilliant Mess"