Insights On Having and Coaching ADHD

By Pete Resch of Attention and Focus Coaching

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What It is Like to Have ADHD

OCTOBER 4, 2017

ADHD is like being a parent or going through a divorce- if you have not had the ACTUAL EXPERIENCE, you simply can't understand it. I think non-ADHDer's see it as a list of "symptoms" that show up now and again.

For instance, they might say that their partner is "late a lot". But they don't realize that being late does not just "happen". If I am supposed to meet someone for lunch and I am 20 minutes late, a non-ADHDer can easily see this as being caused by the fact that I did not get into my car soon enough.

While this may be true, the "cause" often started from the time that I climbed out of bed. Dr. William Dodson says that those with us with ADHD have different "nervous systems" than neuro-typical's.

I love that. So I am not late for lunch simply because I left too late. I left too late because of the nervous system that I live with every minute of the day.

I got up late because I ignored my alarm. Then I was immediately rushing to get ready for a phone call at 9. Then the call ran too long because.....well because I talk too darn much frankly. Then I spent some time getting myself organized for the day and got a bit "lost" in my to do's. Then my son walked in and we started talking about a problem he is having at work and well...... I talk too much.

Then I looked at the clock and realized that I was late for my lunch appointment which gave me great anxiety and "caused me" to drive like a nut and use language that would make a drunken sailor blush.

My ADHD did not "show up" when I got into the car. It showed up...um.... when I was born I suppose.

If my lunch partner is my significant other, it is quite possible that she will see my being late as rudeness. She might think or say, "IF you REALLY wanted to be on time, you would have been. You just did not care enough."

It is a mighty heavy cross that we bear, mates. That is why we need great self-compassion but that is for another post.

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"I Think that I Might Have ADHD"

OCTOBER 4, 2017

Often when a neuro-typical says, "I think that I may have ADHD", they are insinuating that:

  1. EVERYBODY has ADHD to one degree of another AND/OR
  2. ADHD does not EXIST (it is an "excuse" for bad behavior and laziness).

The longer that I live knowingly (as in formally diagnosed) with ADHD and coach people with ADHD, the more AWARE I become that lots and lots of people are conscious, subconscious or unconscious "deniers" of this often-exasperating condition.

It is bothering me more and more as time goes on.

I recently "re-connected" with a good friend of mine from college. We were once very close but we had not talked for several years.

He did not know that I was an ADHD coach.

He is a very successful medical professional. He was the most organized friend that I had at college. He does NOT have ADHD. His neurotransmitters work very nearly to perfection.

I was pretty darn insane in college. There was a whole lot of "self-medication" going on to say the least. My friend was NOT insane at all. He knew how to have "sane" fun but DID get a kick out of us knuckleheads.

In any event, he gave me the old, "You know I think that I have a bit of that ADHD myself." He then described some relatively minor thing that he had forgotten to do.

I did say to him at the time, "You, my friend, do NOT have ADHD. I promise you."

But later I became pretty aggravated that he had "insulted" those of us who struggle every day ADHD by saying what he did.

I recently saw a list of "life functions effected by ADHD" in Russell Ramsey's "The ADHD Tool Kit". It goes like this:

  • Consistently complete fewer years of school
  • Have lower levels of employment
  • Earn lower salaries
  • Change jobs more frequently
  • Receive more negative ratings of job performance
  • Have higher divorce rates
  • Have lower relationship satisfaction
  • Are at higher risk for psychiatric and substance abuse problems
  • Have higher rates of pessimism and lower life satisfaction
  • Are more likely to report impairment that interferes with keeping up with the demands of daily life

The above is a SERIOUS LIST and I have been effected by each of them at least a little. Some had been central to my pre-diagnosis history.

When people "downplay", "dismiss" or in any way "de-legitimize" the huge impact that ADHD can have on our lives, this is a great list to give them. It makes it "REAL" in my opinion.

Do not allow "deniers" to make you doubt that ADHD is "real"!!

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Depression/Anxiety and ADHD

OCTOBER 4, 2017

These are some observations of a student who I am coaching.

In general (and this is just my somewhat experienced opinion- my own experience and in coaching many college students), John's (name changed for privacy) combination of ADHD/depression/anxiety plus his "mellow" personality create the "perfect storm" for causing (sometimes extreme) "melancholy" at college which is what he is experiencing.

That makes studying on a regular basis extremely difficult; his "motivation" is already effected by his ADHD and the feelings of sadness make "motivation" non-existent some of the time.

Again, just my opinion- a semester or two of living at home while attending a community college may allow John to create the "study skills" (without the social anxiety of having several roommates- he is "hiding" in his room quite often) that he needs to succeed on campus.

I would love to work with John on Majors and Career possibilities this summer.

We ADHDer's are "motivated" by INTEREST while the "neuro-typical" is "motivated" by "importance". This is a Dr. William Dodson concept that I believe in strongly. It is a fundamental part of ADHD.

As a college example, it is "important" to do the homework in my syllabus so I go to the library and get the "dopamine blast" I need to do the reading and homework before the next class. Those of us with ADHD get no such "blast". Our dopamine "flows" when we are INTERESTED.

Reading for a test that does not occur for one or two months (that is like a year to our "warped" sense of time) is NOT "interesting" unless of course it is a subject or topic that is compelling to the ADHDer. Even though we KNOW that it is "important", our motivation does not "show up" and we can't understand why. Seeing other students studying without really having to think much about it makes us wonder "what is wrong with us". ADHD is a big part of that lack of motivation.

ADHD is not a challenge of KNOWING what to DO; it is a challenge of DOING what we KNOW.

Therefore, if we can create some "interest" in possible majors and possible careers, studying will be "easier" for Gabe. When he is INTERESTED, he can kick some you know what, I promise.

My question is this-why do colleges not require that students take CLASSES regarding Majors and Careers in their freshman year. That way there is at least a chance that the ADHD student can become "engaged" in his scholastic experience (maybe such a class could replace that Astronomy "requirement" lol)?

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Sleep and ADHD- A Personal Example

SEPTEMBER 21, 2017

The "foundations" of managing ADHD are:

  • exercise
  • nutrition
  • SLEEP
  • medication (if you so desire)

Sleep might just be the most important of the three.

Last Friday, I got up at 4:45am to work out at 5:15. That night, my wife and I finished binge watching a Netflix series. Typically we might watch the boob tube until 9:15 or 9:30pm.

But it was a Friday and we did not have to get up early so..... We were up until 11:30 which is LATE for me.

So I woke up at 4:45am on Friday morning and went to bed at 11:30pm on Friday night.

I felt like death for most of Saturday but got a good night's sleep Saturday night.

Yet on Sunday I still felt like I had a hangover. I have not had an "official" hangover for 19 years thankfully (I had MANY for twenty-five years prior to 1998). But I have learned that lack of sleep was the reason for about 30-50% of a drinking hangover (depending on the level of inebriation).

Okay back to the point- on Sunday I literally STILL felt like I was in left field without a glove. That was two days later. Cognitively I was worthless.

My fellow ADHDer's, GET PROPER SLEEP!! I should have listed it as foundational management STEP 1!!

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Acceptance of ADHD (and everything else that "IS")

JUNE 22, 2017

I recently read a quote by Van Morrison (a fabulous musician in my opinion and since this is my blog, my opinion matters lol). He is talking about the writing and making of music (and about living life): "There's always got to be a struggle. Sure. What else is there? That's what life is made of. I don't know anything else, do you? I mean if there is, tell me about it."

Those of us with ADHD often feel like our entire existence is a "struggle". Truly I believe that we DO struggle more than the non-ADHDer (excuse my grand generalization but I trust that you see my point). That is due to brain chemistry and our often "negative" life experiences.

But part of our challenge is to fully know (and believe) that everybody struggles!! We can CHOOSE to ACCEPT that our life is an "above average" struggle while remembering that life by its very nature is a struggle.

We can CHOOSE to not resist this fact. It is simply an "IS" from the Eckhart Tolle quote: "All Suffering is a result of resisting what IS." Life IS a struggle. Accept it and you will find much more peace in your day to day life. Resist the fact (like all others) that we all "struggle" and you will SUFFER.

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Feeling Versus Thinking From the ADHD Perspective

JUNE 22, 2017

The four psychological "functions" in Karl Jung's "typology" are: Thinking, Feeling, Sensation, Intuition.

Jung's "typology" is the basis for the Myers-Briggs psychological assessment.

My particular interest as concerns those of us with an ADHD diagnosis is the difference between the first two- Thinking and Feeling.

From "A Primer of Jungian Psychology":

"THINKING consists of connecting ideas with each other in order to arrive at a general concept or a solution to a problem. It is an intellectual function that seeks to understand things.

FEELING is an evaluative function; it either accepts or rejects an idea on the basis of whether the idea arouses a pleasant or unpleasant feeling.

Thinking and feeling are said to be rational functions because they both require an act of judgment. In thinking, one makes judgments as to whether there is a true connection between two or more ideas. In feeling, one makes judgments as to whether an idea is pleasing or distasteful, beautiful or ugly, exciting or dull."

I do not know what percentage of people with ADHD would fall into the category of FEELING versus THINKING but I would make a sizable wager that it is at least 85 percent. Further it should be noted that Jung is not even taking into account the "hyper-sensitivity" of (some, many, most??) people with ADHD (let alone if one believes in the concept of "rejection-sensitive dysphoria" as part of ADHD).

Read the above again carefully. "Thinkers" seek to "understand things". "Feelers" seek to "accept or reject" ideas based on whether they feel "pleasant or unpleasant".

Holy crap. No wonder school is so hard for us. We look at the Periodic Table in chemistry class and see which pairs of letters make us FEEL pleasant or unpleasant. And I swear I was doing just that in chemistry class. I liked Al much more than Zr- it just made me "feel better". If it feels bad, we REJECT the information. You can't "reject" information in school or at work. If you have seen "Out of Their League", it is like "crying in baseball'- you don't do it lol! But I think that we in fact do.

What kind of disadvantage does that put us at based on the way that school and work are "set up"? Does anyone at school or work ever ask you how you "FEEL" about an assignment or a Standard Operating Procedure?? Would it not be much easier to be "connecting ideas...to arrive at a general concept or solution to a problem"? Ah yeah- I believe so.

No wonder we are so moody. We are "judging" everything based on how it makes us feel. That is just wild. Does it not "ring true" and "resonate" with ADHDer's reading this? Again, it surely does for me. This is why I often say that "Deciding whether to go to the bathroom now or in 5 minutes is an EMOTIONAL DECISION for me." The preceding sentence is one of those "if I don't laugh I may cry" statements to be honest. It is EXHAUSTING to live like this!

EVERYTHING in my life is "viewed" through the "lens" of how it makes me feel. Let's use the definition of a noun as "a person, place or thing". Every person, place or thing that I will either experience OR even think about today (well maybe not those that produce a "neutral" feeling versus a pleasant or unpleasant feeling but those are few and far between) will be "judged" based on how they make me "feel".

Wow. No wonder I procrastinate. The things that I KNOW will produce a "negative" feeling will quite naturally be avoided. This is what Barkley is referring to as regards our inability to INHIBIT ourselves from the bright, shiny and interesting objects so that we may "attend" to the ones that give us "negative" feelings. Heck with that. Why would I do something that makes me "feel bad"?

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Low Frustration Tolerance and Entitlement

JUNE 22, 2017

David Burns is a Cognitive Behavioral psychologist who wrote a wonderful early "self-help" book in 1980 (now scarily 37 years old). It is called "Feeling Good". It is a very "readable" book about many Cognitive Behavioral Therapy concepts.

Being easily frustrated, per Burns, is a result of an "entitlement attitude". This attitude says that I am "entitled" to have the world not mess my day up. It is UNFAIR if my day does not go smoothly.

That phone call to the doctor which I have procrastinated for a month SHOULD (uh-oh distorted thinking!) go off without a hitch. I SHOULD not be put on hold. I SHOULD get an appointment within a week and they SHOULD not ask me ten stupid privacy questions (note- who would be pretending to be me to get an appointment at my doctor's office?).

Many if not most of us with ADHD struggle with low frustration tolerance ("LFT"). LFT has been the source of MUCH unnecessary strife in my life. Relationships at home and work (and the grocery store for that matter) have suffered due to my LFT insanity.

Most importantly, I have caused myself an extraordinary amount of self-flagellation and self-labeling because I could not figure out how to use a website or put a bike together or change my tire or finish a project. But this is just life for me.

I don't "deserve" for things to go smoothly. I am not "entitled" to have obstacle free days.

It really helps me to remember this as I am freaking out about some inane task or- much worse- freaking out at some innocent person.

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Why Mindfulness is so Meaningful To ADHDer's!

JUNE 22, 2017

I am reading Jon Kabat-Zinn's "Wherever You Go, There You Are". I recommend it highly.

In "The Non-Doing Paradox" essay, he states the following: "The flavor and sheer joy of non-doing are difficult for Americans to grasp because our culture places so much value on doing and on progress. Even our leisure tends to be busy and mindless."

When you add to this the perpetual "compulsive inner raciness" that goes along with having ADHD, "non-doing" becomes even harder. The fact that on many days we can be so unproductive makes us almost desperate to be "doing",

But this "mindset" is often even more counterproductive. It causes us to bounce from one task to the next to the next in an anxious manner. We can't DECIDE if what we are doing is what we "should" be doing.

Mindfulness helps us to "practice" settling the mind so that we can be "attentive" to what is interesting and important in our day (versus completing tasks that feel easy but are not productive- our "avoidance escape activities") . Practicing "non-doing" will help us to complete more of our tasks and projects.

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Children and Adults with Attention- Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
Edge Foundation
Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching
Jodi Sleeper-Triplett Coaching
Internation Coaching Federation