How I Turned My Divorce & ADHD Into A Comedy Career

My ADHD is a superpower in creating comedy out of chaos.

Author in comedy bar, doing stand up Courtesy of Author | Marco Vasquez, Michele Traina

I grew up in North Jersey in an Italian Catholic home where not being able to focus was just a natural part of our genes. In the '80s and '90s, no one had heard of ADHD. It was just ADD and I was not a labeled kid. I did what I was told, and if I didn’t, I accepted the consequence and said nothing in return.

I was a good Catholic Italian kid who followed the rules. But I couldn’t keep still. I was constantly moving — tap dancing under my desk, leaping in hallways, making pictures of characters, roasting the 8th-grade bully who called me "ostrich" because my skinny neck was disproportionate to my 12-year-old body. 


There was a fire inside me to explore the world beyond Clifton, New Jersey.

I wanted to be a dancer, singer, actor, and dare I say — a stand-up comedian. My parents who met and fell in love at first sight were supportive, mostly because my father wanted to be an actor and my mom had aspirations of being a journalist. But having a son, my brother, popped up sooner than expected so they created a life for their family in North Jersey instead.

My parents have always been supportive of my choice to become an actor and comedian. They also always wanted me to meet a nice Italian guy who would "take care of me." That didn’t happen. I met a nice guy, but he wasn’t Italian and he didn’t drink coffee. My mother’s words, “That should have been your sign.” I bleed coffee and the experience of it is a big part of my family and childhood.


My ex-husband and I met in our early 20s and I, like usual, jumped the gun.

Again not labeled as ADHD at the time, I didn’t realize that sometimes I act on impulses. I met someone, fell in love, and was planning my retirement with him, at the mature age of 23. 

RELATED: 6 Small-But-Often-Overlooked Symptoms Of ADHD In Adults

At the time I was a touring actor on the road with children’s theatre and musical theatre and was starting to feel a bit unsettled and antsy. I realize now a big part of the reason why I like to be an actor is because there’s constant change in the job: new environments, new people, new opportunities to grow and build, and new ways to keep my attention and focus.


I didn’t realize in my 20s that this was a big part of my undiagnosed ADHD. I needed constant movement and exploration. I also needed to stop getting in my way. I would make decisions hastily thinking that it was the best decision because of fear and anxiety and then after I would make the decision, I would be in a pickle, like thinking marriage was a good idea.



My marriage was not a hasty decision. We were together for two years when he proposed, something I coaxed him into (If he reads this he’ll agree). Then, a year and a half later, we got married, and six months in I felt like we may have made a mistake. Everyone was getting proposed to, I wanted to have a family, and I wanted the next step. So why was I unhappy?

At this point in my relationship, I left acting full-time to study education and teach theatre so I could have a more "stable" financial life. The irony is my finances became less stable in the years to come with my divorce. And, as much as I loved helping children through the arts, I was always teaching in chaotic schools with very few resources and it was mentally draining. 


The traditional path took me down the road less happy. I was determined to get back to the beaten path and find my happiness again.

How I Turned My Divorce & ADHD into ComedyPhoto from author

I love love and that’s why I got divorced. My impulses to explore the world as I always knew I wanted to as a comedian, actor, and dancer, were biting at me again.


During the process of my divorce I moved back home with my parents, my 92-year-old Italian grandmother, my handicapped dog, and my, at the time two-year-old daughter who was being tested for Autism Spectrum Disorder because of specific "red flags" (the doctor’s term) that they were seeing. This was not on my vision board at 32. I felt like a shadow of my former self and I felt alone. 

I knew taking the divorce road would lead me back to the road I was meant to be on — the stage.

My life felt like a reality show. My 92-year-old Italian grandmother was stubborn. She was still pretty healthy, despite needing a walker and a diaper for some days, which she refused many times. I was potty-training my daughter and my nonna while trying to date again, finalize a divorce, sell my house, and find a full-time teaching job to survive.

RELATED: You Can Be Happy After Divorce — Just Don't Do These 13 Things


During my divorce, I worked seven jobs. I was teaching part-time at multiple schools, performing kid’s shows with a theatre company I started, and began bartending. Again, not ideally on the vision board but all part of the journey.

I am a huge Bravo TV fan and during my divorce, I would watch episodes of Real Housewives or Vanderpump Rules on my cell phone, because we didn’t have a TV in my grandmother’s apartment. My childhood home where I resided for four years after the divorce was a two-family house. My daughter and I stayed with my 92-year-old grandmother and my parents were below us. 

In 2015, I started performing a sequence of short journal entries called “Divorce Diaries” in Emerging Artists Theatre Company’s New Work Series.  I needed to get out what felt like a reality show of my life on stage. My ability to sit still in times of chaos and challenges was kicking in and this was where my undiagnosed ADHD was a superpower in allowing me to filter all my energy into a future business that would lead me back to where I belonged — on the stage, behind the camera, and a mic.

In 2020, after the world felt like it would never be the same, I received a diagnosis from my daughter’s doctor that she had ADHD, as well as a plan to help her through her challenges, that were much heightened than mine.


How do I make fun of this in my material? There’s nothing funny about watching your kid struggle or feeling like you gave a horrible gene to your kid that makes them feel impulsive, jumping out of their skin, and like they can’t focus. All I could do was hope, pray, and write from the experience.

Eventually, I found the humor in a lot of things with ADHD and how it's a superpower and not an excuse for "bad behavior" or for just being flaky.

I have had so many supportive teachers, colleagues, friends, and strangers who have rallied behind my daughter. Her process of maneuvering her ADHD truly is beautiful to see.

I have also had people reject, insult, and try to tarnish our ADHD Spirit. Those people motivate me more to "prove" their comments wrong about myself and my daughter. I was told my daughter couldn’t compete in gymnastics because of her ADHD nit when I found the right school she went on to place first in the state of New Jersey in Bars during her first year competing. She hasn’t not placed in one meet yet.


I was told I could never last doing a one-woman comedy show about divorce, yet here I still am having released a comedy special on Amazon Prime and a TV pilot that will be globally distributed. 

From the first inception of "Divorce Diaries" in October 2015 to the present day, it has evolved into a business, a brand, and a legacy. Between dating, co-parenting, comparing myself to other moms, and competing with comedians for a spot, the journey is filled with material for me to help others like myself. 

RELATED: 12 Tips On Dating After Divorce, According To A Professional Matchmaker


I tend to filter out a lot of frustrations through my comedy because it helps me stay focused and not take things personally. At times men have told me I man-bash because I roast some of the men I date. I disagree. I love men! I had the best father who showed me how a lady should be treated and I have yet to fall for a man that can live up to that standard.

How I Turned My Divorce & ADHD into ComedyPhoto by author

I also can be uber-sensitive around so many other areas in my life, which is why I create from it, rather than letting it hold me back. I struggle when overwhelmed and overworked and any little thing will distract me and take me from the main task that I need to focus on. I'm still working on that, but writing, performing, and any type of creating usually help redirect me. 


Currently, I landed an amazing gig as host of What’s Up NY, a lifestyle show on NY2C that I truly believe has helped me stay focused as a host, comedian, and human. We explore NYC businesses and experiences run-and-gun style, so my brain never has a moment to get distracted because we are constantly moving. I’m beyond excited to see where What’s Up NY, "Divorce Diaries," and future ventures bring my fabulously divorced ADHD self.

ADHD, much like divorce, is like a rollercoaster. It's fast, it has ups and downs, and I wouldn’t want to be on any other ride. 

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Michele Traina is a single mom, comedian, actor, dancer, choreographer, and the host of What’s Up NY. She has made guest appearances on Tamron Hall, Wendy Williams, Tea with Gary Vee, and Chippendales Las Vegas.