I can’t snap out of “ADHD” and it hurts to ask me to

Telling someone to “snap out of it” when it comes to their ADHD is one of the most hurtful things a spouse can say.
 
I read a post from a young wife this morning struggling to explain her challenges to her husband while awaiting final diagnosis for ADHD.
 
Of course many parents have shown similar resistance to their child’s diagnosis. So what gives?
 
👉 Is it fear your loved one will be considered different?
👉 Fear YOU failed if you can’t fix it?
👉 Afraid how it’ll make YOU (the partner look)?
 
Maybe it’s fear about your partner/child?
 
👉 Does it put them at increased risk in the world?
👉 What if I’m not up to this as their spouse/parent?
👉 What if I screw up and make things worse?
 
All kinds of things go through a person’s head when someone they care about is given a diagnosis.
 
Some of it can appear selfish on the surface. Some of it may be protective for a mind having difficulty grasping its role may be about to change dramatically.
 
Some of it can be old fashioned helplessness when faced with a big unknown.
 
Both sides require patience, understanding and honest communication about your hopes and fears.
 
If in the end if you’re able to work together – you win.

How do I figure out those nonverbal cues?

In my opinion, teaching kids on the autism spectrum to read nonverbal communication is as practical as teaching a blind person how to navigate a sightseeing tour. 

It makes more sense to teach them what information is being communicated nonverbally (e.g. emotions, boundary setting, interest) that they’re missing and how to get it using the strengths they have. 

People who are blind read through touch using Braille or through text to speech technology. I am verbal and ask a lot of questions. 

👉 “Do you have any feelings about that?”
👉 “Would you like to hear more about this or talk about something else?
👉 “How much more time do you have, I don’t want to keep you?”
👉 “I sometimes get a bit loud when I talk, it’s okay to let me know by ‘insert cue’.”

So I use that strength to ask the questions most effective at getting the information I need. 

It can be hard enough to keep yourself regulated emotionally, manage your anxiety and find the words to express yourself let alone decode the other person’s nonverbal communication.

Having workarounds that play to your strengths instead of stressing your already taxed weaknesses is ideal.

Paying attention can be exhausting when you aren’t wired to do it…

When someone says your name do they immediately get your attention?
 
For folks living with ADHD or Autism Spectrum Differences, switching your attention from one thing to another is a conscious act.
 
It’s like choosing to set down a hand weight and pick up a slightly heavier one.
 
Now comes the part where you have to maintain attention while the other person talks to you. Think of holding the weight as holding “attention”.
 
The longer you hold it the heavier it gets, the more tired your brain gets because you’re doing it intentionally NOT automatically.
 
Suddenly you can’t hold it anymore and you have to let go. This is “spacing out”.
 
This one issue is a major saboteur when it comes to connecting with other people.
Our attention doesn’t have the staying power to hang on long enough to connect with you.
 
You may think we’re being dreamy, uninterested or rude. None of which are true.
The truth it you’re dealing with someone who has a brain that’s not wired to automatically give and sustain attention.
 
So what’s the solution?
 
Frequent check ins. You’re familiar with the concept of “chunking”, yes? Breaking down large tasks into smaller more manageable ones.
 
Stop and check in every few minutes to make sure we’re following you.
 
Even better is when we take ownership as the person needing the accommodation.
 
I check in with a person simply to keep myself engaged because it gives me something to do. People with ADHD are action takers NOT sit still sponges you can simply pour into.
 
Action produces more dopamine which improves focus. So if I need to listen quietly I’ll likely be fidgety or squirmy in some way to meet my need for movement.
 
So I check in, use body language deliberately, ask questions, and clarify my understanding.
 
It not only helps the person I’m talking to feel seen and heard, it helps me break up the information coming in so my lousy working memory isn’t overwhelmed by it.
 
There are additional aspects to this strategy to help guide others into talking with you in a way you can best understand them.
 
Questions?

2 things everyone with autism needs to function…

With working memory as gosh-awful as mine, I look for ways to simplify things as much as possible.
 
The easier complex ideas are to explain to people the easier they are to talk about and help people understand.
 
Defining autism for example, has been tricky because there’s still debate about exactly what it is. So I came up with a definition that works for me and one I’ve used for years.
 
The way I define the autism spectrum is “the ongoing struggle to stay calm and focused with a globally disorganized nervous system.”
 
If you live with anxiety it’s difficult to plan, remember, take action, concentrate. But when you’re able to calm your anxiety your focus improves which improves decision making, concentration and organization.
 
When you’re emotionally dysregulated and enter fight or flight you don’t think clearly and everything is in panic mode.
Once you deescalate and calm down your focus returns and your thoughts become more reasonable.
Calm and focus are two experiences people living with autism and adhd need to work for continuously.
 
Through stimming, repetitive habits or thought patterns, avoiding or seeking particular sensory input (e.g. hugging, smelling, tapping, snapping, pacing) all to maintain calm and focus.
 
When your executive functions are particularly lacking you’re likely not calm and focused and needing some self-care or assistance to get things done.
 
That’s a solid criteria you can use before taking a test, making an important decision or having an important conversation, “Am I calm and focused?”
 
If not, “What must I do to become so?”
 
Do you need to stretch, run, meditate, lie under a weighted blanket, take a cold shower, etc.
 
Find your recipe and follow it often to keep yourself as engaged in life as you can.
 
Simple, straightforward, powerful.
 
Questions?

Comparison robs us of the wisdom you’re here to teach

Comparing your life to someone else’s robs you and the world of the lessons you’re here to teach.

I talked about this with my Inner Circle members this morning.

Thinking you have no right to your emotions because she has it worse than you do.

You may feel guilty sharing a positive experience in case someone is having a tough time.

The reality is we walk side by side in our journeys through life. This is where you can witness each person doing their unique healing work.

You will learn various lessons throughout life and every one who cares about you watches what you make of those experiences.

Your healing can be contagious as your courage, vulnerability and empowerment shows others what’s possible for them.

They learn from your healing.
You learn from theirs.

A variety of perspectives and experiences provides a more comprehensive understanding of how to approach any particular problem as you watch numerous others work to solve it.

One lifetime isn’t long enough to learn everything through experience. So we need to learn from each other.

This requires you to embrace the honesty of your experiences without filtering them through comparison (as much as possible).

Then when you’ve done your work, you show the world a way through as you discovered it.

Perhaps a road few dared to travel looks a little less threatening. Because you had the courage to take a chance on healing.

Patience is a lost skill…

Patience is a lost skill I’m finding.

I’ve been up since 4am. I had early morning tests in Chicago and had to catch a train.

A test that usually takes an hour took three for me. I’m a complex case.

The staff kept apologizing and I just laid there and took it in stride. They seemed surprised I wasn’t getting upset.

In my mind I saw absolutely no value in telling myself a story full of “shoulds” that would be upsetting but change absolutely nothing.

Instead I focused on my breathing.
I scanned my body for muscles I could relax.
I answered staff questions and occasionally listened to the traffic outside.

I wasn’t bored or impatient in large part because I wasn’t fixated on the idea that I’d rather be somewhere else or that things “should” be going differently.

Things weren’t bad, they were just different than expected. I can handle different.

I can focus on the experience I’m having, in the moment until it is passed.

When you think about the difference between the things you can control and the things outside your control.

The most powerful force in your tool box is your attention.

You pay attention and receive a direct connection to life unfolding in real time.
You notice more of the little things and they’re magnificent.

When you become skilled at this, being patient can provide you an opportunity to witness a whole lot going on around you. And within you.

What makes others happy doesn’t have to make you happy too…

It takes more strength and focus than you can imagine to remain optimistic when you feel like crap every single day for years.
 

That’s my reality and as I started today it was getting to me a bit. It happens from time to time, it ebbs and flows, it’s also temporary so I know it won’t last which makes it easier to sit with.

 

I spoke with my good friend Victoria Helle this morning. She’s brilliant and an exceptional human that I recommend you check out.

I share this to remind you that I’m not always positive. I experience all of life and want to know all of myself, even the hard stuff.
 
Because the lessons hidden beneath the deep work are so profound it’s worth every tear shed along the way.

What talking with Victoria helped me remember is how I too can fall into the comparison trap as I see others living “busy” lives and being active in a way I wish I could be.

Here was the epiphany. Just because they looked happy being busy in all those photos doesn’t mean I’d be happy living that way. I find greater fulfillment in having deeper experiences. Deep conversations, feeling deeply connected to people. These experiences don’t typically happen in the context of more, more, busy, busy.
 
I realized that my speed and bandwidth is quite different than what the “status quo” encourages and I lost sight of that.
 
It’s a real blessing to have good friends to offer a little perspective and a friendly ear right when you need it.

Want to get to know yourself?

Want to get to know yourself?
 
Spend time alone with your thoughts without distraction.
 
For people living with ADHD or ASD this is particularly difficult.
 
What you’ll discover first is a lot of noise running through your head. If your thoughts are anxious or self critical please know you’re dealing with the real time, fear based, feedback of the primitive mind whose primary objective is to keep you alive.
 
That’s why it’s primarily negative, to keep you alert for possible danger. It isn’t interested in telling you the truth, it’s concerned about what if’s and avoiding them.
When you work from that part of your brain your thinking like a lizard not a leader.
 
It’s important to balance courage and caution.
 
Ever watch documentaries about the ocean? The surface is where things are tumultuous, but go deeper and the waters are more still.
 
The mind works in a similar way. Which is why you need to go below the surface to get to know yourself.
Most people won’t do this. They look at the surface noise and believe they have all the info they need. That’s like slurping up the foam but skipping the beer.
 
You need to go deeper to find you.
 
What you find beneath the noise and the things you’ve been conditioned to care about or fear, are things that truly light up your soul.
 
The things that make you happy whether or not anyone else approves.
 
The things that give you a sense of purpose and direction in life.
 
I wouldn’t dare try and tell you in a post what to do to go deeper because this process is a vulnerable one and it helps to do it with guidance. Just knowing someone is there to reach out to to process with when things come up in solitude is HUGE!
 
Just know you are not alone in your desire to hide from thoughts that take the wind from your sails. But also know the ocean of your mind is much deeper and there are those of us who can help you navigate it more safely so you can experience who you are with much more love, happiness and peace.

Teach your child to accept consequences without arguing…

One of my parenting hacks is a way to help establish buy in from your children when it comes to accepting consequences.
 
The basic thinking is this. When you explain specifically that a certain behavior results in a predictable consequence, then it is solely within your child’s power to prevent it. Basic cause and effect, right.
 
There’s more. It’s also an agreement between you and your child. An agreement that if they “choose” to practice a certain behavior, you “promise” to deliver a specific consequence. Your child acknowledges their understanding of this “agreement”.
 
The promise you make to them is to follow through and deliver the consequence should they choose the behavior with full knowledge of the consequence.
 
The reason you follow through isn’t because you’re a mean parent, it’s because you value trust in your relationship with your child and trust comes from keeping your promises, honoring your agreements.
 
You promised a consequence and you don’t want them to see you as a liar so you’re keeping your promise. Tell them this with sincerity if they object to the consequence.
 
When you’re consistent with this approach you’ll likely see your child soften when you deliver consequences. They become more reflective knowing your intentions are about connecting with them not taking from them.
 
With my own boys, the time came when I wouldn’t have to say much.
I’d acknowledge they’re behavior and remind them of our agreement. They’d hand me the electronic device, etc knowing what the agreement was and why it was important to keep it.
 
Trust. No fuss, just integrity.
 
Parenting is bumpy, and it’s more important for your child to know they can trust you than it is for them to be happy with you.

Move your child from acting out to speaking up

When children don’t have the words to describe how they feel, their actions will show it.
 
It’s important to remember this when your kids act out.
 
I hear from so many parents that their kids are harder to handle during COVID because they’re inside more and there are fewer options for outdoor activities.
 
Being active is one of the ways we discharge anxiety. When I feel particularly anxious at the end of the day I know its due in part to not having moved enough during the day.
 
Parents having to work from home, plus remote learning has decreased parents time for self-care. Anxiety levels are higher and its being expressed through their children’s behavior.
 
We set the example for the do’s and don’ts of how emotions are expressed in our families.
 
Is it okay to cry when you’re angry?
Can you tell a parent you’re hurt by something they said?
When a sibling calls you a name, how do you respond?
 
This is all sorted out through the emotional intelligence modeled and nurtured by the parents.
It isn’t perfect by any means and we’re all gonna make mistakes, including some big ones we’ll need to apologize for.
 
What matters is knowing you and I need to take the lead on this.
 
How?
 
By helping them tune into their emotional experience when they act out. Here are a few tips.
 
You know the kids who behave while you’re in the room but fight when you leave the room?
 
They do that because they want you to stay in the room with them.
 
Point this out, but do it in an inquisitive way. You could ask, “Is it possible you guys just want me to stay in here with you for awhile?”
 
If they agree. Then you can discuss how they can use words to let you know that instead fighting with each other.
 
It’ll also give you a chance to explain how they can support you in getting your work done so you will have time to spend with them.
 
Second tip. Let’s say you have a child who gets bored easily and solves that problem by bothering a sibling in some other way.
 
This child annoys their sibling until the sibling snaps at them.
 
The question to ask is, “Is there something you’d like your brother/sister to do?”
 
In our culture people are reluctant to ask for what they need. Instead, they hint, suggest, beat around the bush and expect the other person to read their mind. Everyone suffers as a result.
 
We need to break that pattern and our children need it most of all. Let’s start changing this ASAP and let’s do it with them.
 
What do you need?