Why is it that we stray off the path we know – of best practices, best strategies and best resources? Why is it we struggle to recognize we have left the path and additionally, struggle to relocate the path once we have realized this? This challenge with generating valuable awareness at the right time is a signature ADHD dilemma and creates the biggest obstacle to meaningful change and even addressing our ADHD, including pursuing a diagnosis. This is the first barrier of ADHD – The barrier to new awareness.

Shelly and Cam discuss the first barrier and how it can manifest. Shelly recalls a story of Cam recently struggling with the first barrier and what he did to overcome it. This illustrates that the first barrier never goes away, but when we can anticipate the barrier with the ‘pause, disrupt and pivot’ process, we can navigate around it.

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi am Shelly 

Cam: and I’m Cam.

Shelly: And this is translating ADHD. This week. We are going to revisit the three barriers of ADHD because in typical ADHD, fashion cam and I presented barriers two and three to you and never did a full episode on barrier one. So today we’re going to dig into that first barrier. But before we do a quick reminder that we are still accepting applications for the agency coaching group that begins Wednesday, January 19th meeting at 8:30 PM.

Eastern spots are filling. So if you are interested in joining that group, we encourage you. Don’t delay apply. Now we hope to see you there. So Cam in order to discuss this first barrier, I think it’s important to give our listeners some context about where our clients generally arrive when they begin coaching. What’s true for my clients is that they’re generally newly diagnosed within the last three years. So they’ve been diagnosed. With that new information they’ve sought to create change. They’re not being successful in the ways that they would like to be with this new information. And so now they’re coming through my door.

 They’re often focused on the pain that they want to be free from. So here’s this set of behaviors. Here are these things that are not working for me. They’re not very oriented to what they’re moving toward and they’re often missing a lot of the ADHD impact in their lives. And so at this point, Cam, I’m going to hand it off to you and lets you tell everyone what is the first barrier and why was the context that I just gave important here?

Cam: So the first barrier of ADHD is to new awareness. So I love what you’ve shared there again, how our clients come and mine, come in a very similar fashion. They know that add is in play, but they don’t know the extent that it’s in play. And there often is free me from this situation.

I need relief. From overwhelmed. I need relief from disorganization. I need relief from indecision, so that one down and make these pain points go away, please. And can you make that happen? So they’ve sort of stepped over a little bit. That first barrier they’ve moved into a new awareness of oh, I have something now that I can call this, but then when they go to try to make the changes, they run into barrier two which is taking action.

I have a class it’s called foundations of habit development because before you can develop new habits and new practices, you have to be able to deconstruct. The ones that aren’t working, but in order to deconstruct the ones that aren’t working, you have to have awareness of those habits that are not working. And so this is exactly where ADHD impacts in our ability, not only to create the change, but to see the change that is possible. And so, yes, they’ve made this sort of step over and almost a regretful because it’s like, Here I am. I’ve got new awareness, but I have no agency or no practices to make the change I want to have happen.

And why is that? Why can’t I do what I know I ought to do going way back to our universal question in episode 10, Shelly. So this whole thing about barrier one. And awareness. We’ve been talking about all three of these barriers for the run of this show. But as you and I, as we’ve been talking about it, realizing, oh, wow, this is really something that we can articulate.

We can share with our listeners. And many of you are out there and you’re like, yeah, okay, you guys, this is great. You’re teaching us and sharing all this information. And we’re developing our keen observer, but I’m still not having a different day or the day that I want to have. Well, You’re in that place between barrier one and barrier two. And I would say it’s bitter and it’s hard, but it’s necessary, right? It’s necessary because this is the place of distinction. This is the place of nuance. This is the place of. Really understanding how your add comes into play. So you can start to sift and sort and distinguish. And as we said last week is really find those strength areas to leverage those and to mitigate the challenge areas right on the front side of that barrier is all or nothing.

It’s the valley. It’s the inner critic. So here getting over this barrier is absolutely necessary and it actually keeps many people from ever getting to an ADHD diagnosis. Our numbers are terrible. Shelly, like as a service industry of helping people with ADHD, it’s around 20% who are actually actively managing their ADA.

That means that a majority aren’t even getting to that first barrier to recognize, oh, it’s not just me. It’s some neurological challenge that is happening in the prefrontal cord.

Shelly: Yeah, Cam. And while we didn’t have this barrier language, when we started the show, He is the reason we started the show that we did. We looked at the landscape of what was already out there, and there’s a lot of amazing content people talking about their experiences. We call this normalizing and coaching and in the year or two, post-diagnosis finding some normalizing experiences that you can relate to recognizing that you’re not alone, that there are real reasons that you struggle in. The ways that you do is one of the most important things that an ADHD person can access, but what wasn’t out there is how do we connect people to this broader idea of approaching ADHD differently?

We knew that in our individual coaching practices, we were having a lot of success. We were finding repeatable ways of working with clients. To predictable outcomes. And we were curious about what makes this model work so well with ADHD and how can we expose more people to a learning action model when approaching their ADHD?

Because nobody else in terms of content creation is really talking about this as a primary subject.

Cam: You know, back to Mount Rainier and recognizing that ADHD is this challenge around connecting cause and effect, and that when clients are coming, they’re living in effect or their manifestation, and they’re not tethering back to causation, whether it’s ADHD in nature or something else. Why do we keep doing the same stuff over and over? And not creating change. And that’s again, this first barrier, 

Shelly: Yeah, so our clients come in effect and they’re not only not linking to cause. Sometimes they’re decoupling their effects from ADHD entirely in some interesting ways, either by discounting or dismissing this isn’t that big of a deal by connecting it to a story I’m lazy. I don’t have enough willpower. I’m not as motivated as other people.

And. There is so much behavior on board that they’re not even aware of. Cam, do you have this in your first few coaching sessions with clients where you help them see that so much more than what they thought they were bringing is connected back to the ADHD. even as they’re articulating their experience, they’re not really aware of this pattern or this particular behavior or this manifestation until we notice and name it and call it out for them.

Cam: again, don’t know another condition that shares this unique characteristic and creates such an obstacle to seeking real change. it’s a fascinating thing. And this is in the executive function realm around working memory. Attention of being able to tether back to an experience and look at it and break it apart and see what’s going on there.

What we wanted to do today, Shelly and I were talking about before the episode is really talk about how we help our clients navigate this first year. And it is, it’s starting to share their story, their experience and model, curiosity, and start to distinguish what might be ADHD and what might not. And that’s that leading with the curiosity is really, refreshing to have curiosity in the room, bring that keen observer and to just notice that’s that reflective practice, Shelly, to invite them, to have that reflective practice, to start to look at and consider, and as they do so. the cloud start to part, this is the fascinating thing the fog starts to lift. This happened in one of our group coaching sessions a couple of weeks ago, where as we’re coaching with someone, and they’re talking about an experience, the veil starts to lift and they start to make these connections. And this is another thing it’s going to go on for a little bit of a rant here This idea of well, it’s a dysregulation it’s you can’t do this. We don’t see that. We see that you can make these connections when we work together and start to look at something. You can start to see these patterns, the pattern of if I do X, Y, Z, then this happens.

Or if I do a, B and C that happens. So what you’re doing is you’re generating new awareness. what I do with my clients, what I did with you years ago was first sell you on the idea that awareness is valuable. Because again, remember our clients are coming with, you know, help me with the change, help me with the behaviors and thinking, just going to give me up checklist approach or some kind of strategy, and we’ll be on our way. And we’ve got to enroll them in this idea. That awareness is good. not all awareness is great, though. Right. That if you notice that you are anxious or. Well, The experience might not be great, but the awareness is excellent because you have a sense of, oh, this is how I show up in these certain conditions, starting to make these connections where there were, as you said earlier, these disconnections, the dismissing and breaking apart, the decoupling, we want a couple together.

See these patterns. So the web, then we can start to address the second wall, which is starting to create the change.

Shelly: Cam before we continue, I want to go back to that 20% statistic. Only 20% of ADHD, people are actively managing their ADHD. I think this is something that isn’t talked about very often in ADHD, content creation. And I think it’s important to mention that there is immense privilege in being able to address one’s ADHD.

There are tremendous challenges for those with economics. Barriers to accessing treatment. Coaching is not covered under any sort of insurance system. There are also racial barriers. One of the most surprising pieces of research I’ve ever seen on ADHD is that black boys with ADHD are less likely to be diagnosed properly because their hyperactivity is perceived as a behavioral.

Problem. Not a challenge of neurodivergence. I think it’s so important to call that out here because when we talk about awareness, it’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And even if you are in a position of privilege and you are able to access resources, that still doesn’t mean. It’s easy.

It’s a simple concept, but we’ve been doing every episode of this podcast in some way is about a Woking awareness about helping you, the listener make a connection that you haven’t made before. And that’s because this work never ends.

Cam: Right. So in the states here, the medical model of trying to navigate the labyrinth to move from. Uh, Primary physician to getting that diagnosis is just absurd. And I’ve heard from our friends in the UK with the NHS of just how difficult it is to move through that process, especially adult ADHD. 

Shelly: And there are places in the world that don’t recognize adult ADHD, Their medical system simply will not diagnose or treat adults with ADHD symptoms.

Cam: I think that’s a whole nother episode there, right around the hurdles and barriers to a diagnosis, 

And I think coming back to this barrier of awareness is that there’s an interesting thing. Like, Okay. coaches, you might think that, oh, well you guys don’t have that barrier.

That first barrier. Yes we do. Because we have ADHD. We have all three in play awareness action Learning is the awareness on the backside of any new action. And so we have it, I would say what’s different for us is that it doesn’t catch us off guard like it used to. I’m aware of it more.

I have more awareness of that first barrier. And so I can anticipate. When it shows up and to be curious about, when I bump into something Shelly, like a dilemma or I haven’t had an answer, it’s like, where am I in these barriers? is there some new awareness that I’m not seeing, that I’m not appreciating, got to kind of queue it up a bit in order to anticipate and develop work around there 

Shelly: Hi, Cam. I actually kind of want to tell on you a little bit if I can regarding this. Is that okay?

Cam: Please. I have no secrets. There are no secrets here anymore. 

Shelly: Yeah, I guess, now that we’ve gone on mushroom trips, this is pretty benign compared to that.

Cam: Oh yeah. Tripping. 

Shelly: No Cam I’m thinking of several months back. 

Cam: Oh, okay. Good. 

Shelly: So before I continue this story to give the listeners context, Cam always has his hands in a lot of pies at once. He teaches he mentor coaches. He has his private coaching practice. He has his work here on the podcast and our group coaching there. He’s always got a lot of irons in the fire.

A normal way of existing for you. And one that works really well for you most of the time, but several months back, you were showing up differently. And I noticed that I asked about it, what’s going on with you? And you said, I don’t know, but I know it’s something I’m aware of it too. So right there. That awareness that something is often there’s something to check in on is something most of our clients do not have on board when they first come to coaching.

And then the next week when we met, you’d figured it out. There was one particular set of commitments that you had agreed to that was not working for you, that you were not aware of. And it was having a big emotional impact, which is what I noticed. I noticed you showing up differently emotionally, you know, your usual chipper sort of goofy, demeanor was just gone.

The stress was there. And at the time you thought you were just Over booked. I’d committed to too many things when really it was one particular commitment was bumping up against some core value stuff for you. And you realize that you needed to make a pivot there when you had the opportunity to do so. And in the meantime had to do some work to figure out how do I meet this obligation and still take care of myself during this time.

Wanted to share that because we’re not superhuman, we’re not immune to this stuff. The biggest difference is we know a lot sooner. When to check in and we have each other and other coaches around us for support that are attuned to those sort of things. So my sort of noticing that and opening a dialogue about it.

Got you more curious, kind of got you to look beyond. I’m just over-scheduled because I’ve seen you over-scheduled before, and this looked different to me.

Cam: Yeah. Wow, great. Recall. Phenomenal. That’s a great story because it illustrates not just that first barrier, right? Because again, this sort of something’s off and listeners, it’s like checking in. It was more than just being overbooked or too many irons in the fire. Right. I made a commitment to something that just wasn’t working. And so again, this was the initiation of, okay, there’s some awareness here, but then it started the whole process of working the three barriers. Right. Of really getting to a place of awareness and taking action so that I could get to a better place. And I think here’s the thing with ADHD is we’ll often think, oh, I should be able to do this snap. Just quickly just shift the sense of urgency. Like it should have happened yesterday or Why can’t I just be over here? And this comes back to this process. It took me about a week, to really navigate those three barriers and get to the place of learning. The backside of, oh, okay. This is what I see is this choice is having a big impact on me. And then I took actions to mitigate that. and to make different choices in the future. Right. And I love what you said. There was like tethering back to my values. Last week, we talked about strengths and bringing your unique value every day. I was not able to bring my unique value there. So just checking in with what matters to me. And as you said, I probably spoke with four people that week. That I knew I could reach out and say, Hey, I want to share this with you, this dilemma.

And can we crack into it a bit, right. to again, get clear on what’s real. What am I making up in my head? Right? What am I fabricating? Which with ADHD as we get, and we go to a certain story, a certain one downplay. I have a history of, the avoider and the victim got into kind of a victim mindset.

I’m powerless, Shelly powerless here. When in fact, no, I’d lost touch with my agency there and I needed to reconnect with my agency and I did. And so that’s what happened and I love that. Example 

Shelly: Cam. I would also say there was an element of dismissal there. We talked about how our clients, when they first arrive, tend to dismiss things and you were dismissing, this is over-schedule. I’m just over-scheduled, that’s all it is. I just need to power through this time. And I was like, Hmm, I’ve seen that Cam before I’ve seen over-scheduled. I need to power through Cam. This feels different. So even then, for as long as you’ve been doing this work, how easy it was in that moment to just dismiss what was going on for you. As over-scheduled when in reality it had nothing to do with over-scheduled and everything to do with one commitment. That was not a good fit.

Cam: Yeah. And so I don’t regret that choice at all. but it’s coming back to the path that we were, right. the worn path get the language, right. Cam the worn path in the sense of where’s my value. And as you said, we’re wearing pads all the time. Going astray and off the past, we don’t notice that. Right. We don’t pick up on that right away. That’s that ADHD executive function breakdown that we will wander off with a big signal or a should. And just get off our path. And so this is the thing is that it’s not about staying on the path all the time. 

I love this analogy. It’s about staying in the saddle. A lot of my clients come to me and say, you’re going to teach me how to stay in the saddle, to get up and ride every day. And I love coming back to them say, well, what if we had a bunch of steps, tools, handy, step stools, that it was easier to get back into the. Would falling out of the saddle, be that big a deal, right?

Because it wasn’t so much the falling, it was finding that damn horse, again, finding that saddle to climb back on. And re-engage, so it’s not about staying on the path at all costs. That’s that vigilant hyper-focus locked on all the time versus presence, curiosity. And as we wander. We may meander off course and being able to find our way back to what works, what we know to be true. And this is the workaround this barrier. 

Shelly: Cam, I think it would be helpful to end this episode by sharing a completely different way in which the first barrier can show up. So in your case, you’re having your experience. Something is off it’s being noticed by others, myself included. And you’re start to check in on that. As others are noticing, this feels like more than over-scheduled.

You started to check in on that with yourself. What’s going on here. However, equally interesting is when we know exactly what’s going on, but we don’t know enough about it. This happened in one of our group coaching sessions. I was coaching an individual who has this time and space to work on a personal passion project. And every day she would set up her laptop and her workspace just so, to activate for that task. But then she’d sit down and she’d lose focus and the day would go completely sideways from. She’d get up to try and shake it off and reorient herself and end up on the couch, watching TV for hours. Well Guess what? When she sat down, the very first thing she would do is open Twitter and open some news sites. It turned out she’s deeply affected. By the state of the world currently very much an empath. And so this would put her in her limbic brain and the TV response was numbing out, numbing out after consuming news that bummed her out to this degree. And it was really funny. When we realized that’s what it was because she kind of laughed and said, that’s it, it’s really opening Twitter in the morning. That’s it? I thought that might be it, but that seemed too simple. What she was lacking was the awareness of how that one action didn’t just affect her in the moments.

It didn’t just derail getting started for a little while, but it affected her entire day. It shifted her mood in such a way that she lost that powerful connection to this passion project that she had first thing in the morning, and she was unable to regain it. And by disrupting that one tiny little thing, she had a completely different experience.

So listeners, sometimes it’s something bigger that we got to pick out for awhile that has layers like an onion Cam’s situation was a little layered. It was a lot layered actually. He was able to sort of peel away those layers in the time of a week, but a new client that might be a month before we really understand what’s going on there.

And sometimes it really is the deceptively simple thing? But it’s not as simple as we think it is. We just not fully aware we’re missing some contexts there that is important to have in place. 

Cam: Love that story. I think that listeners can really connect with that, right? This one move that has her shift, not only her intention, but her mood. And going into the limbic and the sense of tethering to the fear center of the brain. a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about the tone of your why. The tone of her why just shifted there, right. This passion project. There’s a powerful why. And just, again, in a moment we can shift to what’s the point, The world’s on fire. What’s the point. And that motivation goes to neal and as you said, numbing out for the rest of the day. in a way, like a soothing avoidance type behavior. So, Shelly, what’s the first move for them around this barrier this week? What would be a little exercise? 

Shelly: Hmm. Good question. So what’s a behavior pattern. That’s not serving. Start building awareness there because here’s the cool thing that happens. Cam and I talked about pause, disrupt pivot a couple of episodes 

ago when you build awareness in a safe space, when you’re far removed from that behavior. And you can get curious just as cam did just as our group coaching client that I just discussed did.

Then when you’re in that moment, there’s an opportunity to pause there that did not exist before, because you have a clearer sense of what’s going on. You have some language for it or a metaphor for it, or some other shorthand for it that allows you to pause and name what’s happening. And that is the point in which you are able to create change.

Don’t worry about the change part yet. Just worry about what’s a behavior. That’s not serving me. What am I curious about? What do I need to know or understand that I don’t know now about the way this behavior is playing out in order to be able to get to that place where I can pause before or during that behavior. 

Cam: Love that. And what you’re doing is your bringing curiosity into this gap of what we know and what we don’t know. And here’s the thing with ADHD 

is we will quickly fill that gap with. not doing what I need to be doing. What’s my problem. What’s the point, right? Is that we will quickly fill that in.

And then the emotional aspect will spike higher. That’s all. But if we can start with curiosity and compassion and love that Shelly space. space to be in this, with this in process, reflecting on it, gathering data that we can use going forward. We want to leave you with a sense of possibility and opportunity all this hard work.

We want to do it for some reason. Right. So you’re gathering great data that you can take forward for the next two barriers. 

Shelly: Well said, Cam so if you’d like what we’re doing here on the show, there are three big ways in which you can help with. The first is don’t keep us a secret, share us with other neurodivergents. You know, If you have a neurodivergent or ADHD support group work, share us there, share us on social media. That is the number one way that we are found is by referral number two, leave a rating or review wherever you listen.

This helps other people find our show and also lets other people know why we are different numbers. Is to financially support the show by becoming a Patreon visit the website, translatingadhd.com, click on the Patreon link in the upper right-hand corner. And for $5 a month, not only are you contributing to covering all of the costs of running this show, including our editing and our assistant, you also gain access to our discord community, where our listeners are working together to do their own understanding own in translate work as a community.

So until next week, I’m Shelly. 

Cam: And I’m Cam 

Shelly: And this was translating ADHD. Thanks for listening.

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