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Anxiety vs. Shame... with a little ADHD

Apr 9, 2021

I may have had an epiphany of my own when working with a client last week. He and I got very specific about how he was feeling and differentiated his anxiety from his shame. And, what I realized is that they have different behavioral levers and can cripple in different ways. I’m still exploring this. But I figured I’d share what I’m working on with my 24 devoted readers and you hundreds of bots that Google keeps telling me are real people trafficking my site every month. 


Anxiety is a sinister and crippling problem. I deal with it in a myriad of ways. Pharmacologically with my antidepressant and with benzodiazepines. I also use exercise, self talk, mindfulness, meditation, generally self care, and other ways. I’d estimate that about 80% of my clients also deal with anxiety. Over the years I think that has made me somewhat of a lay expert… if that’s not an oxymoron. I’ve also done some training in CBT which I have incorporated into my coaching for many years now. 


What I know about anxiety, particularly in how it affects ADHDers, is that we put things off because they make us anxious (and because of the ADHD reasons that we put them off.) But there are two competing anxieties at any given time. There is the anxiety of doing Thing A and the anxiety of not doing Thing A. Because our time sense is wonky, we aren’t good at the concept of “later.” So the anxiety of not getting Thing A done is relatively low as we put it off for a period of time. Meanwhile the anxiety of not doing Thing A slowly builds based on our theoretical knowledge that we should do it, that we might not have time (whatever that means,) there will be consequences eventually if it doesn’t get done. As the deadline approaches, our time sense activates, the deadline becomes real, our fear response kicks in, our lizard brain produces adrenaline, and that adrenaline produces dopamine in the prefrontal cortex. Boom. Attention. At least that’s how the ADHD side works. The anxiety side depends on the fear of not getting it done to eclipse the fear of doing it at some reasonable point. 


To understand that, It’s useful to think of this from a CBT framework of exposure therapy. Anxiety about Thing A exits. It increases as we initiate the activity. It peaks as we fully engage. It usually begins to recede as we realize Thing A isn’t as bad as we thought it was. But even if it is, the anxiety fades as we complete Thing A and then it’s gone once the task is complete. A total win. Anxiety Vanquished!


But what I realized is that once you get SHAME involved the dynamic is completely different. Shame isn’t alleviated by the performance of Thing A. In fact, the easier Thing A is, the more shame one might feel about not having done it sooner or faster or better. And that shave persists, even if the anxiety abates. Often that shame begins as soon as the Thing A hits the radar and isn’t done immediately. And as that shame grows, it gets out of control so quickly that there is almost no amount of positive outcome from doing Thing A that can counteract it.


LIke I said, I’m still working on the ramifications of all this and how to coach a client through it. But I feel it is important enough to start talking/writing about. I hope y’all found it interesting. I’ll keep y’all updated on where I go with this in the future. In the meantime, don’t shame yourselves. It’s not worth it. 



Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. In my humble opinion, an imperfect post posted is infinitely better than a perfect post that goes unfinished.



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Schedules don't always go to plan but that's okay.

Apr 02, 2021

If you are a regular, you know that I semi-regularly post one of my daily schedules. I don't often make them anymore. They are an example of a skill that I have drilled for so long that I have internalized it for all but the most intense days. This week is intense; not many clients/meeting, but soooo much to do. I need to maximize my productivity, which means making good decisions about how I spend my time and on what. So, I fall back on my tried and true scheduling.

This is a skill that I work on with MANY of my clients. And I always remind them that the metric of success is comparing your productivity to not having a schedule at all. I often post schedules that went pretty well. I'm taking this opportunity to post one that involves:
  • My having done some things the night before
  • Dealing with two serous tantrums by my six-year-old that were "unscheduled"
  • An hour long meeting that I didn't think I was going to have to attend... that I was wrong about
  • Some important revelations about priorities that caused me reevaluate why I had put certain things on this schedule in the first place
This schedule was for Tuesday the 30th of March 2021. My overall experience was this:
  • I got the number one personal thing done on my list
  • Once I reevaluated, I got a good hour and a half of work done on my number one work priority. 
  • Around three-and-a-half hours of meetings and two hours of parenting that feels really successful.
  • The only thing I really missed was not working out because my workout was gardening that got cancelled. But that was also an active choice later in the day. 
Of course I didn't make all these notes during the day. I made those today for your benefit, so that you could have some insight into my thought process. At not point did I feel like a failure because I wasn't following the plan. On the contrary. I felt like the master of my universe. I was completely in charge. I had what seemed like a great plan the night before. But the 2.0 version met my needs even better the following day even given certain curveballs. I encourage you to have the same attitude. 



Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. In my humble opinion, an imperfect post posted is infinitely better than a perfect post that goes unfinished.


Schedules don't always go to plan but that's okay.

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Personal Accountability

Mar 25, 2021

Accountability is a very important part of coaching. In large part is my job to figure out how much accountability to offer/provide. I think I’ve lost several potential clients lately because I’m very upfront in my consultations about not providing too much active accountability. My goal is for you to not need me. How can we get there if you are depending on me for accountability? It is always my goal to teach you to be accountable to yourself. Maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t that what we are all looking for? Not to say we don’t have people we rely on in many aspects of our lives. I think of it like a WWII bomber crew. (See a great, if schmaltzy movie, Memphis Belle.) We can’t “put those bombs in the pickle barrel” on our own. But don’t we want to be the pilot, the officer, running the show?


Of course we use experts and we outsource and we create a team if we can. That’s life in a highly specialized world. You might take a cooking class. I’ve taken classes in small business accounting, woodworking, Microsoft Excel. I have a gardening consultant because I can’t learn everything from books. I outsource my bookkeeping because that small business accounting class only served to educate me to the fact that that is not how my brain works. I have a tax attorney who does my taxes every year. Pre-pandemic I outsourced some of our laundry. 


On the other hand, I grow most of my own produce in the summer. I do a lot of my own butchering, I do a lot of plumbing, some small carpentry, painting, and a little bit of electric. The point being that I run the show. I make the decisions about what I do and what gets outsourced. And, these things change over time based on resources, both professionally and personally. 


But this isn’t actually the reason I wanted to write this post. I’m burying the lead. Check out this quote from a 20-year-old who I’ve been working with for about a year. Wonderful young lady. But she’s got a history of fighting me on making necessary changes until recently. But she’s really having some life-changing epiphanies lately. Maturity, perhaps? Anyway, the quote: “Being accountable to yourself goes hand in hand with loving yourself even if the answers you get don’t give you instant gratification.


That came straight from a place of pure honesty and power inside her. I don’t think I could ever have drawn that out of her by having been her surrogate mom for the last year. I’ve been honest with her, a little tough on her, very supportive, and positive about all the progress she has made. And, one day she comes out with this wisdom beyond her years and the intention to put it to good use. I’ve helped give her the tools, but she’s been on her own journey to be ready to right here, right now, ready to use them. She’s now devouring the tools I’ve taught and am still teaching her to manage her ADHD and EF challenges in a new way. I can’t wait to see where she ends up in this world.



Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. In my humble opinion, an imperfect post posted is infinitely better than a perfect post that goes unfinished.



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Defining Self Care

Mar 15, 2021

Self care is a buzzwork in our society these days. But some of us have been talking about self care for years, especially in the context of ADHD. I can’t speak to neurotypical folks. I’ve only been inside an ADHD guy’s brain. But I can tell you that ADHD people seem to have a particularly hard time with self care. I think there are many reasons that this is the case. We tend to have fewer hours in the day to be productive. (If you are familiar with ADHD, you know what I mean and I don’t have to go on a six paragraph tangent about it!) We also suffer from low self esteem due to the way that our ADHD negatively affects our day to day and big picture success. And, our struggles with the skills and executive functions of time management, initiation, follow through, consistency, and delaying gratification all make it harder for us to practice good self care. And fundamentally, self care might be not-so-stimulation and repetitive sometimes. 


But I had a really interesting session with a client about a month ago during which I challenged him to even question the concept of self care. He was going through a really difficult time in his life. He’s in the healthcare field and directly works with patients, but is not higher end of the healthcare pay/stability scale. So, work is very stressful for him. And, he is going through a tremendously stressful time with his soon-to-be-ex-wife. So, he came into a session and wanted to talk about his failures in the self care arena. He felt like he wasn’t living up to his own expectations (and his almost-ex-wife’s expectations) of how he was keeping the house. He wasn’t making the choice to spend the energy to make and eat the salad for dinner. He wasn’t coming home from work and folding the laundry and working out. He wasn’t meditating or doing any of the introspective practices that he’d done in the past. And, he was really beating himself up about it. 


Now, I’m a big believer in self care. Generally I consider sleep, exercise, and social interaction the winners podium of self care. If there were a B-team closely behind they would be eating well, some form of mindfulness practice, and managing leisure time and down time. Of course, managing work/life balance, addictive tendencies/activities, moderating screen time, and spending time nurturing our intimate relationships are also important parts of self care.


But like anything in life, self care can be situational too. You are not always going to have the time and energy to do all that you want to do in any arena. That includes the self care arena. Sometimes self care is making the salad and going for a run. Sometimes self care is having a can of Bernie-O’s right out of the can for dinner, lying on the couch, watching two episodes of “The Expanse,” and going to bed. I wouldn’t recommend doing that every night. But if that is what you really need on a given night, is that not the definition of caring for yourself? 


I always argue that self care should be one of your top two priorities. Self care and your kids. But, in these crazy times we live in, we have to compromise on everything, even our upper echelon priorities. So, be kind to yourself. Set a reasonable bar. Find creative ways to reach it. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you fall short. Problem solve, and consider adjusting the bar again if you need to. And, meet yourself where you are, not where you wish you were. Now, that sounds like self care to me!


Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. In my humble opinion, an imperfect post posted is infinitely better than a perfect post that goes unfinished.



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Being overwhelmed about writing this

Mar 2, 2021

When I started my ADHD blog I swore that I was going to be the person who posted on it weekly. I didn’t want to be the ADHD guy with all the ideas and none of the follow through. I have to say that I lived up to my own expectations. I practiced what I preached in my coaching practice and put structures in place to have topics to write about and behaviours to get it done. I’ve always been very proud of that.


And, then I got really, really sick in Nov. of 2019. And, was just in the process of bouncing back around March on 2020, when… Well, we all know what happened in March of 2020. And, with two kids, the youngest being a five-year-old kindergartener with significant mental health issues at the time, much of normal life, and business as usual ground to a halt. 


Then I believe in early December I promised you, the few but beloved reader of my blog that I was officially back on the horse. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. The aforementioned now six-year-old was in crisis and needed to be hospitalized for an extended period of time over the holidays and into February. And, the emotional, psychological, and logistical toll that took on our family and on me was/is hard to quantify except to say that it was enormous. 


I don’t want to go into that too much. I’m happy to share anything about me. But, someday that child will be an adult and this post may still exist in the “datasphere.” I want to respect my son’s future privacy. Just know that this has been a difficult time for me. And, as the pieces seem to be coming back together for him and for us and there may be a light at the end of the tunnel that might even not be the proverbial train… I’m starting to have the bandwidth to think about things that were on the front burner in October of 2019, like completely redoing my website, starting a new marketing campaign, finishing my first book, taking my business to the next level, etc. 


And, on slightly more mundane level, I need to get back into the habit of writing blog entries as a part of what I do. Yet, I find the whole prospect overwhelming. Yes, all of it is overwhelming. But just the piece of the blogs is, in and of itself overwhelming. Why? I think it is because there have been several times over the past 14 months that I have started to write again and been re-sidetracked. I feel a bit like sisyphus having had the boulder roll down on me a few times already. I feel like it isn’t good enough to write one post. I need to be sure, absolutely sure, that I can get back on a roll for good. 


But of course that’s just a branch of perfectionism. Yeah, it’s nice to not start until I’m reasonably sure I’ll have some time every week to devote to blogging. But if I go every other week for a while, or if I have to do shorter posts, or it takes me a while to get back up to speed… or if, God forbid, something else happens that knocks me off track. So be it. There is nothing lost by posting today. And, I already feel better having written this. I can feel the momentum building. In a matter of six paragraphs I’ve gone from overwhelmed to energized and hopeful… just by getting started! What do you want to get started today?



Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. In my humble opinion, an imperfect post posted is infinitely better than a perfect post that goes unfinished.



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Nutrition and ADHD

Dec 11, 2020

There was a good, not great, but good article in ADDitude this week about nutrition and ADHD. 


It made some really good points that are pretty well established. The ADHD brain does better with high protein and low simple carbs. Though there is some good evidence that that is good for most humans. It is also good for those of us who are prone to depression and anxiety. 

There are some other claims in the article that seem a bit extra-science to me. And, I noted there there didn't seem to be any studies cited. Let's me honest. The field of nutrition is one offers a new best think pretty often. But I do think that the carb / protein has enough research behind it. 

Omega 3's are also good for humans. But, there are different kinds. They are not without environmental impact. And, the benefits for ADHD are not statistically significant for those who are effectively medicated already. At least according to what I've read... though I will admit that was a while ago. 

So, if you want to go beyond eating lots of healthy veggies and a moderate amount of naturally raised earth sustaining protein, and a lower carb diet, I would do your research in PARTICULARLY REPUTABLE sources. 

I should also say, that I recognize that the previous proposal is made by a white middle class guy who used to be a professional chef. I figure it is on you to try to acquire the skills to cook healthy. But, it is on us a a society to make sure that everyone has financial and logistical access to the healthy food the need to thrive. And, frankly we do not do a good enough job at that. (Wow. It's hard not to let at least a little social justice talk sneak into these posts these days. Perhaps I need a spin off blog?)



Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts muh,  if at all. Please excuse typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. In my humble opinion, an imperfect post posted is infinitely better than a perfect post that goes unfinished.




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