Navigating the First Barrier of ADHD

Episode 106

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Shelly and Cam revisit the First Barrier of ADHD – the barrier to new awareness – by illustrating a client’s own experience with struggling and eventually succeeding to generate new awareness. In Shelly’s words “to walk this world as an ADHD person is to walk this world misunderstood”. Because of the first barrier of ADHD, it can be extremely frustrating to know when we are struggling, and – when we do have this awareness, – it can be doubly hard to articulate our dilemmas to those around us.

In the client example, the individual moves through this process with vulnerability and curiosity seeking support from the people around him. He also faces the uncomfortable truth that he is not holding up his own rules for engagement. Instead of moving into shame, he does his own understand own translate work to get to a place of curiosity and agency. Notice the use of language the client shares in this episode. An eye-opening example of navigating the first barrier to new awareness.

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi, I’m Shelly.

Cam: And I’m Cam.

Shelly: And this is translating ADHD before we get started this week, a quick reminder that our agency coaching group is still open for registration. That group begins Wednesday, January 19th at 8:30 PM Eastern. And we will meet every Wednesday for the following seven weeks at 8:30 PM Eastern time as well.

If you’re interested in joining that group.Visit the website, translating adhd.com click on the group coaching tab and the information application are right there for you. We hope to see you there. So, Cam, what are we diving into this week?

Cam: I was waiting for you to look up, so last week we were talking about first barrier of ADHD, and you brought in that timely exam. Of how the first barrier can show up with my own dilemma, right? With ADHD. Part of the challenge is not knowing what’s going on.

just don’t see other conditions where like this, where it can really conspires. To throw a roadblock up us to see what we have to work on. We talked about getting taken off the path and not knowing we’re off the path and then finding our way back to the path.

How are we supposed to get back on the path if we don’t know we’re off it. So you brought that example of me with that challenge and like, Hey Cam, what’s going on? This is more than just being overbooked had me pause, disrupt that negative thinking and pivot to observer. Hmm. What is going on?

What is making this such challenge right now and got me to new awareness. So I thought that this week we would illustrate. A great client example this exact thing of a client coming in this of, dilemma and not knowing what’s going on, bringing curiosity and keen observer and a desire to dig in there to develop awareness.

So they could then find how they could create. 

Shelly: Hi cam. So where do you want to dive in with this client today? Tell us a little more about who this client is and where they were.

Cam: Yeah. So. As I do typically walking the dog, listening to the podcast this week and thinking, what direction can we go? And I just thought of this specific client literally, Shelly, got so excited. I texted him like, Hey, your story’s a great story. Can I put it up on the pod? He was like, yeah. Let me know when it’s up.

And when I can tell my, spouse, I’m doing great work here. And so, this was a long time client and we had moved to a maintenance phase. Right? My maintenance phase is typically twice a month. So we’re on this cadence of every two weeks. And I had noticed kind uh, moving away a bit or a little distancing around the work happening, but he came one time and it was like things are not good. And his words, I’m not sure if I’m having a breakthrough or a breakdown but it was getting his attention. And he had established this resource of a place where he could explore dilemmas. And I said, you know, of course we’ll, let’s dig in here. And he just said, you know, have established certain rules. Around how to show up at work, how to show up at home.

 does a lot of day trading and so around day trading. And one of his big things was to do emotional investing, based on fear or out. And so he established all these rules there and he realized Shelly, he was breaking his rules that he established So there’s that awareness of, okay, I’m not doing what I said I was going to do.

And so what’s going on there. So I just really appreciated the fact that even though that’s a statement that would get attention. I having a breakdown or a breakthrough, but he was bringing that curiosity, Or a recognition of, okay. If I dig in, more to be revealed here.

And I think that when we have ADHD, we often don’t see that as an option, especially when we do that defensive, dismissive stuff we talked about last week that’s where he was in his relationship with his spouse. He was reverting back to defensive, dismissing. And really contentious and adversarial with engagements his spouse, but he was able to see that outside of those engagements, he was recognizing, I’ve made progress and I’m slipping backwards or slipping sideways or something.

What is happening? And so what he did was he, re-engaged more with the coaching he reengaged with Melissa or lofts couples counseling program, which they’d already done, but they’re able to do it again. They decided to do it again together. And he went back to his physician to look at his titration of an antidepressant.

bring that up because it wasn’t just the coaching. He’s looking in all aspects of his life. And so again, what is this? This is bumping up against this first of ADHD that there’s awareness there. And he’s in a position of, okay, it’s here and I don’t see it, but I can get to it. And it’s worth digging in to make this happen.

So listeners, as you’re listening to this, you might not be in this position yet as Shelly. And I said, we’ve done a lot of work here. we are coaches and we’re trained in coaching, but we’ve also been coached. We’ve also done our other work. This guy has done that too. He’s done his other work. He’s done a lot of coaching.

engaged in so many different ways. And he had lost sight of that. Went off the. And realize that. And so what I want to focus on is he got back on path, how that happened. And so around navigating this first barrier. I think the striking piece here is his willingness to be vulnerable.

So that curiosity along with vulnerability, we talk about triple Ten ascending the 10 seconds, the 10 minutes of engagement and the 10%. So it’s like, can I be 10% more vulnerable here? And that’s the work he did with his spouse that he could have stayed with that defensive dismissive, he realized he had a partner there that could really give him insight in how he was showing up. But he had to engage in a different way with her. And what was fascinating was just recently, he said, what’s going on Cam. We’re having more moments, not as adversaries.

 So that defensive, dismissive just shuts down any kind of curiosity or thought that there might be awareness to be had here.

Shelly: So Cam really hearing good partnering. As part of this as well, partnering with you, partnering with his spouse. And I love that you bring up vulnerability is such a critical piece here because when my clients are in that place, showing up for coaching is excruciatingly hard. And I tell them when they do show up that they’ve already done the hardest part they’re here.

Because clients know what the coaching space is for. Hey, they know that if they come to coaching and they’ve got something like this going on, we’re going to dig into it and talk about it. There’s going to be vulnerability there. And so just showing up can become such. A hurdle to overcome just being willing to get that far.

But if they’re willing to get that far, that’s where the amazing work can happen. And it sounds like your client did this, not just with you, but with his spouse as well.

Cam: Right. And one of the hardest things to do is to shift from this defensive, dismissive mindset. Informed by context, right? The story we’re telling ourselves in that moment to keep us there, to pause, disrupt that pivot to this vulnerable, curious place.

Shelly: Um, 

Cam: And so think that as we were talking about this before the episode, back to this idea of self-reliance. we feel like, oh, this is my thing. I have to figure this out. How can I be more productive Cam? How can I manage my ADHD? And that whole notion with ADHD, if we have those step stools to be able to get back into the saddle, then falling out of the saddle in the first place not so bad.

And what this client had done was established some step stools, right in the coaching with his pharmacologist, his spouse and it set these up so that when he was off course, again, he’s getting indicators, but he’s learning to trust of, Hey, I’m off the path. and how do I get back on?

So just that acceptance back to this idea of accepting where you are. Cause that’s another thing we do is we will not accept. It’s like, no, I’ll just give me another moment. Give me another day if only the deal making we do. And so listeners the story about last week with me getting back on the past.

And my client today getting back on the path is letting go of this idea that you have to do this yourself like, okay, I’m Shelly Yon. There’s no one in my life that really understands me or gets me maybe not right now in your immediate circle, but there are circles that are out there. We’ve talked about finding communities of support That’s the brilliant thing. That’s happened, in the last 10 years in the world of ADHD, That there’s these places where you can go and be yourself. Shelly, you were talking about our agency class and people might be coming for agency, but are you noticing that the discourse that we’ve set up for one of our classes back to resilience. They’re on there. Chatting, engaging, developing community, out for each other. And this is not about, oh, sign up for one of our classes. No, it’s about finding positive supports that if you have people to walk with on your path and as you go and then have an agreement with them to.

If I tend to go away from these agreements or rules that I’ve created gently, let me know and I’ll know what to do next. And that’s what he did. And that was the interesting thing is I was working with him and listening to how the dynamic was changing with his spouse, I love this story because I’ve said this before spouses or partners are often these, truth-tellers.

it’s a little too much at times, right? It’s like, I’m like, My spouse will tell the truth and I’m like, don’t really appreciate the tone, but there’s some truth in there. And we said, it was like, this is a fast brain guy. And he uses the rocket as his example of like light the rocket. I’m just the rocket.

And one day he was like, cam, you know what I’m going to do? just, when I go home, I’m going to turn off the rocket am like thinking is he going to turn off the rock? And I’m like, okay. He’s designing his action. let’s go with it. Clients designing that action. And next week he comes back. He’s like, yeah well, my spouse, she was like, that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. You can’t turn off the rocket. It’s like, there some truth there.

Yes, you can’t turn off the rocket, but you can slow down. And he’s finding ways to slow the rocket down, to be present with that situation, to see how the rocket shows up in that situation and to engage his spouse. And he found that it was a process to navigate, to get to this, his words, open and honest communication. It was like Cam, had realized that I had to fight through this shame mindfield to get to that point. I could be open and honest. So there’s that vulnerability again, but it’s also trusting this individual and trusting that if we sit together and engage, we can get to a place of vulnerability, curiosity, and new awareness This is navigating that first barrier, finding someone that you can share. Share your feelings share what’s going on not there to like, set it up. So they’re not like well, have you tried this? Have you tried that right? The advisor, we don’t need that. We need someone to listen and hear what we’re saying.

Shelly: I think this is a good place to back it up and revisit our understand own translate because oftentimes looking at that model, my clients at least. Okay. It’s about doing their own understand work so that they can then translate to other. And that is true. In some cases we’ve done some episodes on self-advocacy.

We’ve brought lots of client examples that included translating work, but understand does not have to happen in a vacuum. And one of the coolest things that we’re seeing in our coaching groups is how powerful understand can be in a community of people who get it to walk the earth with an ADHD brain.

For however many years, you, listener, have been alive is too often be misunderstood. And so to be able to articulate to people who understand, who can see themselves in your experience in coaching, we call this normalizing and normalizing is a coaching skill that is about letting the client know that they are not alone in their experience.

And it’s powerful when we do it as coaches, but it’s so much more powerful when it happens organically in community. So listeners, what Cam is really talking about here is understand work with others. You don’t have to do that work alone. And there is power in articulating to other people And cam, I think that power of articulation plays out in two ways. Number one, is that normalizing factor that I just talked about, but the other is when we say things out loud, we can sift through them in a way that we can’t, when they’re still in our heads.

I have one client who describes his brain when he’s in the limbic, like a Whirlpool. And to think about a Whirlpool with a bunch of debris floating around in it. It can be really hard to sift through and pick out whatever it is you’re looking for, but you start to articulate it, take some of the velocity out of that.

Whirlpool things slow down. We slow down. You can think much faster than you can speak. So just by virtue of trying to articulate, you’re slowing down that vortex becomes Stiller water, and now you can see which pieces of debris are worth picking up and examining here.

Cam: So I so appreciate that because this was one of the feedback items that my client got was as he was trying to articulate how he was coming across to his neuro-typical spouse was in fragments The sort of fragmented approach. And often that’s, as far as they would get is like, you’re not making any sense. And, this is what I need from you, but you’re not making any sense. And that’s it.

Shelly: Cam you see me laughing? Because that is a conversation. My ex-husband and I have. Frequently and because of his brain and how it worked being so linear, logical, how it still works, by the way, I just use past tense. he’s still alive and, well, he’s just not my husband anymore. And this is not the reason that we split up, by the way, one of the agreements we had in our relationship was that I would say my piece and then we would break.

Because even when I wasn’t speaking in fragments, you know, I’m speaking with a lot of context and I’m pulling in this thing, that thing, the other thing here there, and everywhere, and he needed a minute to sort of sift through that in a range it’s in a way that made sense for his brain.

Cam: Love that you brought in your own experience there with that of you’re reaching for it. Right. We’ve just talked about, we did five episodes on context and how we’re wired for context. And as we are pulling in these seemingly disparate points of view to the neuro-typical, it makes sense to us, we’re grabbing these elements that are fitting our puzzle, but as you said, it’s this translation piece.

Being able to translate our experience to others. We can’t enroll others to support us if they can’t understand our dilemma. They can’t appreciate our dilemma. And that’s again, what was happening in this client’s example of first of all, limiting the adversarial moments with his spouse, right. of not engaging and seeing when he’s getting defensive, like what’s the position I am trying to defend here.

So as the rocket, the other thing is he would have. And this is something that happens in my own dynamic with my own spouse is trying to fix a problem. My spouse is sharing a story and I’m the coach. if I got my coach hat on, I’m like, How do we fix this dilemma? I’m going to be of service here to my spouse and help her out. And i’ll get this look. And I’m like, oh wait, you just wanted me to listen. This is one of those listening moments and the same thing for my client was this, you know, this is like this desire to the rocket to get in there and fix the dilemma. But that was not the value that his spouse was looking for. The value there and partnering was around just being present.

And listening. I mean, This is one of those basic human desires. We talked about needs. We all have a need to be heard. And that’s one of the most amazing things we can give someone. This is the time of giving, giving our attention Working on being present. So this guy couldn’t turn off the rocket, but he could get more present tuning in softening his focus and really being there.

And the language that came out of that, I love what you said earlier about. Take our thoughts and feelings and convert or translate, articulate into language, giving it words, it goes ahead and converts that energy into something that is shareable. Right And this last week he was talking about, you know what, it’s a struggle.

They have kids under six. And their living in COVID and schools and trying to get on just like anyone else. And he said, you know what we’re doing? We’re in the trenches, but we’re connecting in the trenches together. So it’s not Nirvana. It’s not all well, but this is measured progress in seeing that adversarial engagement and stopping his part made his spouse stop her part. When you show up differently, the other person will have to show up differently eventually. And that was the opening for change. it is hard for us to be present because of our ADHD, but it’s possible. I want to come back to what you said earlier, walking the earth with an ADHD brain.

beautiful. So beautiful in the sense of feeling misunderstood as we go through it, life is messy, right? we talk about, managing our add, it’d be great. If like we could treat these things in silos of attention and memory emotion. It’s a mess. It’s messy, it’s complicated. But if we stop and we identify people to help us with what is our path, where is our value, right. living in our values and living within healthy boundaries. we can find that way back to that path.

Shelly: Cam something interesting that you hinted at, as you were talking about your client, partnering with his spouse. When there is a dilemma or problem on the table, you mentioned the problem solver wanting to enter the room and you, and I certainly know that obstacle in that hurdle is coaches.

Sometimes we show up as coaches, when our loved ones don’t need a coach, they need something else. They just need us to listen or hold space or be present. But there’s another. Phenomenon that happens in that scenario that I see play out with my clients all the time. And I like to call it blame sponging.

You hear a dilemma or a problem or stress coming from your partner, your boss, a coworker. And there’s this immediate assumption. I must be at fault here you get into that defensive crouch about it. And I almost think that’s an episode unto itself.

Cam: I think you’re right.

Shelly: But I did want to throw that into the mix here. Part of the reason community and coaching are so powerful is there is a little bit of a disconnect there, meaning when you and I came together to record the podcast, and I noticed that something was off with you. I have nothing to be about that, but curious, I’m not your daily life partner. Yes, we have a partnership, but that partnership was not in any way being affected by how you were showing up your work was being done, your obligations for being met. So I had nothing to be there, but be curious, I have no stake in what’s going on for you other than helping you figure it out.

And that’s sort of a unique place to be with the coaching partnership. Is, we are partners to our clients and we are invested in their success, but we’re detaching from their outcomes necessarily. So that we can be curious, whereas a boss, a coworker, a romantic partner, your children, your parents, you are necessarily attached to these people and their outcomes.

And that changes the way these conversations place. Because it’s the difference between having a conversation where I as coach can help the client get up above it, whereas that same client then going and talking to their partner, they’re in this together. How can they come together around this in a way that works for both of them.

And I felt that subtle distinction was worth calling out 

Cam: Yeah 

Shelly: it’s what makes where we can temporarily set those things down is in a curiosity conversation.

Cam: Right. And coming back to what really matters here, right? Shazad Shameen of positive intelligence makes this distinction between your position versus your aspiration and often we will get defensive and dismissive, we’re going down to a position that we are defending, but to think about what really matters here. And when we asked that question we talked about the tone of our why, and bringing that tone of the wire in a precursor to set up any kind of dialogue, it sets a tone. And it’s a natural prioritizing agent, right? It comes back to what matters and what doesn’t matter, is one of those add things we can really struggle with, which path, where am I headed?

There’s so many paths to choose from coming back to what really matters back to your values, back to your add value, your strengths, your needs. Boundaries. So I love this conversation. I wish we could keep going with it, but we do need to finish up. So here’s the opportunity. imagining that you’re already coming up with lots of opportunities on your own, but like my client sort of look at where there’s a dilemma and where you might have judgment of yourself or others. When you say blame sponge. we either will kind of absorb the blame or toss it, right. blame toss, right? Oh, it must be over there. And so are you doing that? Are you dismissing you getting defensive step back and breathe? What’s it about what position are you defending? What is it that you’re having a hard time being with step back, get curious. And then what is it to bring some vulnerability to this dilemma or to show up as your authentic self, to lower the mask, to enroll others, to accept you as your messy self. 

Can you just be with me while I speak in fragments? Because that’s what I have to do right now in order to get to a place where I can articulate what’s going on for me. So what’s a dilemma who can be a resource there where you can create some community and in that ground rules of how to show up Shelly love what you said there – there’s that emotional investment that we do have, we are attached to outcomes with the people we love or we work with, or for, but being able to set that aside for a moment and do this understand own translate, work, and start to be curious about what’s the awareness that is just on the other side of that. Can I peek through and get a look at it.

Shelly: Well said, Cam. If you’d like what we’re doing here on the show, there are a few ways that you can support us. The first is don’t keep us a secret. Share us on social. If you have a neurodivergent support group at work sheriffs there, the second is to leave a rating or review wherever you listen. This helps other people find our show and lets other people know how we are different from the other ADHD content that is out there.

Finally, you can support us financially by becoming a patron. You can do that by visiting the website, translating adhd.com, clicking on the Patreon link in the upper right hand. corner And for $5 a month, you are helping Cam. And I cover all of the costs of producing this show, including editing and our assistance, and you gain access to our discord community, where our listeners are working together to do their own, understand, own and translate work.

So until next week, I’m Shelly

Cam: I’m Cam.

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

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Episode 106