You Can’t “Fix” ADHD

ADHD is part of us. You’ll hear a lot of people talking about how they can help you “fix” your ADHD but they always seem to forget that first part. We’ve learned over the last few weeks about the nature of acceptance, of embracing the parts of us that are hard and approaching them with curiosity and courage. What happens when you fully integrate all of ADHD — challenges and blessings — into your identity? What can you learn about yourself and the way you face the challenges ahead?

This week on the show, a meditation on fault, blame, and what it really means to fix ADHD.


Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello, everybody, and welcome to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright, and I am here with Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello, everyone. Hello, Pete Wright.

Pete Wright:
Hi, Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
How are you?

Pete Wright:
I’m so good. Can I tell you about the great joy that I have today?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, please.

Pete Wright:
I didn’t even realize how great this was, but for Christmas as a little family gift, one of the things that we added to our kitchen is not an appliance, but it’s a kitchen tool. It is one of those, the silver, aluminum, compressed, like nitrogen-compressed infuser things that they use for whipped cream like in Starbucks.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, right. Yeah. Yes.

Pete Wright:
Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. we have one of those.

Nikki Kinzer:
You have that?

Pete Wright:
We got one of those.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, fine.

Pete Wright:
My kids love it so much. They love it so much that now, around my house, we always have whipped cream. It’s a blessing and such a curse.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s on everything.

Pete Wright:
I realized I’m having whipped cream regularly on my coffee because it’s so great.

Nikki Kinzer:
Of course, you are.

Pete Wright:
It is a great cream delivery vehicle, and it makes me so happy. It is one of the little tweaks in my life this year that has made my life better is whipped cream on everything.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s awesome.

Pete Wright:
That is one of my choice this fine, fine Monday afternoon. We are going to talk about it. The way I characterize this in the little pre-write-up was a meditation today, that it’s a meditation. No, we’re not going to be meditating, but it’s kind of a…

Nikki Kinzer:
Medicating maybe, but…

Pete Wright:
We’re going to be medicating. It is a thought experiment, a thought exercise around ADHD.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
I’m excited to talk about this and see what you have in mind. Before we do that, head over to takecontroladhd.com. You can get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website, or subscribe to the mailing list, and we will send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook, @takecontroladhd, and if this show has ever touched you, please check out patreon.com/theadhdpodcast.

Pete Wright:
For a few bucks a month, you can support the show, get access to our online community of fantastic people who support us over on Discord, and you can also… You could be here watching the live stream with me and Nikki right now. Had you been in here, you would have heard a long discussion about Spark Email, to-do-lists, the value of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks movies over time, and just on and on. I mean, there’s just real gold in them thar hills at the live stream, so check it out, patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. We’ve got some new tiers coming up. We are on the cusp of releasing some new goodies that I am very, very excited about. What kind of announcements do you have today, Nikki Kinzer?

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay. I have three announcements. One is Study Hall.

Pete Wright:
Do we need to include like account count? What’s his name, the account counts from the electric company, whatever it is as we speak?

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, right. Yeah, yeah. Yes.

Pete Wright:
One.

Nikki Kinzer:
One.

Pete Wright:
ADHD announcement.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Study Hall, Study Hall, Study Hall. So Thursday afternoons, 1:00 to 5:00 Pacific, 4:00 to 8:00 Eastern. Come join us. Get some stuff done. It’s fun. Everybody is on video. If you don’t want to be on video, that’s okay. You can tell us what you’re working on in the chat. It’s just a good time. It’s a good time to get things done, and it’s like magic. So come visit us at Study Hall. I do want to put in the perk that if you are a supreme member of Patreon, the Study Halls are free, so something to think about.

Pete Wright:
Two. Two ADHD announcement.

Nikki Kinzer:
GPS, Guided Planning Sessions, my six-week workshop is going to be starting on March 1st.

Pete Wright:
I can’t believe that time is flying.

Nikki Kinzer:
I know. I know. We’re just starting to wrap up the first one that I started in January, and it’s going very, very well. So if you want some additional support around planning your week, we meet two days a week. We meet on Mondays and Thursdays, and we take time out to plan for your week. We take the time out to review your week on Thursdays, and then also to plan for the weekend ahead. So it’s a great opportunity to work with me and help… I help, I guide, I answer questions, but you also get the help from the people that are in the group. The chat is an amazing place. We save the chats, and then I give them to the group members in a PDF form because there’s just little nuggets of gold in these chat rooms. So please check that out.

Pete Wright:
Three, three ADHD announcements.

Nikki Kinzer:
Thank you. It’s wonderful. We’re going to do this every single time. I love it. Guess what’s coming up in March?

Pete Wright:
I couldn’t possibly. Wait. What is it?

Nikki Kinzer:
With Linda Roggli, ADHD Women’s Palooza.

Pete Wright:
Is it the ADHD Women’s Palooza?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, and I have the honor of speaking. I’m speaking about planning. Isn’t that funny because I’m doing this GPS thing?

Pete Wright:
Excellent.

Nikki Kinzer:
But I’m speaking about planning, and anybody that’s done or participated in the palooza in the past know that there’s going to be lots of different topics, lots of different experts, and it’s going to be online. This year, it is from March 8th through the 13th. You will see this in our newsletter where you can sign up and check it out. That’s it. That’s what I’ve got.

Pete Wright:
I love it.

Nikki Kinzer:
No more.

Pete Wright:
No more?

Nikki Kinzer:
No more.

Pete Wright:
The end of the ADHD announcements.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
Okay. Let’s talk about fixing ADHD.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay. Somebody listening to this right now, I 100% believe they need to hear this, and they need to hear it from both of us.

Pete Wright:
Okay.

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m going to go first.

Pete Wright:
Go first.

Nikki Kinzer:
You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed, and ADHD is not your fault.

Pete Wright:
You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. ADHD is not your fault.

Nikki Kinzer:
We’re done with the podcast.

Pete Wright:
Goodnight, everybody. Just make sure to tip your servers.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right.

Pete Wright:
Okay.

Nikki Kinzer:
Words of wisdom. No. I just really believe there’s probably somebody that’s going to respond to that. Maybe most people, right, because it’s so easy to feel that way.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. I know we have more to talk about.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
But then, I inserted a comment in here, and I think it’s really important. It was important when I first read that we were going to be talking about this some weeks ago, that we at least talk about why you might come to believe that there is a worldview that ADHD can be fixed, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Wright:
Because it’s very easy when you live in a world in which some people believe ADHD can be fixed.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
That you can start believing that it’s your fault for not having fixed it yet.

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Wright:
That is also not a thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-mm (negative). Mm-mm (negative).

Pete Wright:
So I’m so curious how your perspective is on this. I have some thoughts, but do you have any reaction to that, to that experience of people who believe that it is possible and somehow that there is blame to go around for not having jumped on board yet, or how in this context, not experiencing symptoms for a while is not the same as fixing ADHD?

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, there’s two components here that you’re talking about.

Pete Wright:
Yes.

Nikki Kinzer:
One is the thought process that somebody that doesn’t believe in ADHD has, right?

Pete Wright:
Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
If they don’t believe in it or they think it can be fixed, we don’t have control over what those people think or how… It’s going to be probably difficult to change their mind if that’s how they really feel. However, I do think that platforms like ours, podcasts, webinars, books, people, experts who are getting interviewed. The more we talk about ADHD and educate people with ADHD, educate our teachers is a big part of it too. We can start catching ADHD maybe earlier with children. All of that helps. It all helps, right, because it takes away some of the stigma and education. Somebody just may not really understand it. Not that they don’t believe it, they just don’t understand it. So if we can be a voice to that, I think is great. But I think you still have to… Just like as a parent, you pick your battles. Don’t get into a big fight with someone who doesn’t believe that ADHD exists. It’s not worth your time.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
I would move on from it.

Pete Wright:
I want to take it from just a slightly different angle, right, because my mother calls me on the weekend, and she… I said, “How you doing?” She says, “Well, not great.” I said, “Well, what’s going on?” She says, “Well, I passed out last weekend.” I said, “What are you doing? Why did you pass out?” She said, “I don’t know. I was in the bathroom, and I was washing my hands, and I passed out, fell down on the floor. Then, I came to, and I got up real fast, and I passed out again, fell down on the floor.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, geez.

Pete Wright:
I said, “Did you learn anything from the first time that you passed out seconds before?” She said, “Yeah, not to get up that fast.” So everything is fine. She goes to the doctor, and the doctor says, “Your adrenals have crashed. Have you been taking your adrenaline, your adrenal support medication?” She’s on these adrenal support pills. She says, “No.” Doctor says, “Why not?” She says, “Because I was feeling good.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
You see where I’m going with this?

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, totally.

Pete Wright:
Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
So anything that helps you mitigate your experience with ADHD will at some point or another make you feel pretty good, and you’ll feel like you’re on top of things. You might start to trick yourself and think, “Ugh, I think maybe I fixed my ADHD.” Right? That is the setup for crashing devastation when you realize… Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. When you realize very quickly that that’s not the case. Yeah, yeah.

Pete Wright:
I’ve been using of late, maybe over the last year, this house of cards man sort of metaphor for my own experience with it, and that’s the house of cards I’m talking about. Everything is very… It always exists at a state of tenuousness that it’s taken me many, many, many, many repetitions to realize that this is who I am. This is my identity. It is not fixed. It’s something that I adapt around, and so that’s something I want to just make sure is table stakes for this conversation, that it’s okay to believe at some point that you’re in control. It does not necessarily mean… and our experience says it does not mean that you are somehow cured by your ADHD.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, because…

Pete Wright:
You’re doing great, but…

Nikki Kinzer:
You’re doing great. You’re managing it. You’re navigating it or navigating through it.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, and that’s… Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
You’re probably getting good sleep. You’re probably eating well. You’re probably exercising.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
You’re probably doing all of the medication. You’re probably doing everything. It’s all lined with the stars, right?

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
You’re probably in a good job, good relationship. Absolutely, you can have all of these things and still have ADHD. My guess is that one or two days, or some situation, you’re going to feel the ADHD come back at some point.

Pete Wright:
Yep.

Nikki Kinzer:
Maybe not as loud, but you’ll see it, and you’ll be like, “Yeah, it’s still there,” but that’s okay. I mean, that’s okay, and I think that our goal is to want to…

Pete Wright:
Or maybe really loud, you know?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Pete Wright:
Maybe things fall apart.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, right.

Pete Wright:
It’s that, but you… Yeah. Every day, you’re proving that you can build back.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, yeah. I think that, like with coaching, when I explain coaching to new clients, I talk about three areas that I coach around. The first one is the awareness around how you’re ADHD affects you because ADHD affects everybody differently, so we want… We have a lot of things still in common, but there’s a lot of things that are different, so we… I’m listening. In our conversations, I’m listening to what you’re challenged with, what you’re doing well with, and pointing out this, “Well, this is your ADHD. This sounds like it’s the ADHD.”

Nikki Kinzer:
But the second piece to that educational part is not only understanding how your ADHD affects you, but it’s accepting that this is ADHD and that ADHD does not need to be fixed or broken. You’re not as circle trying to get into a square. So it’s important that we accept that, “Yes, the ADHD is there. It is going to be loud at times, and I’m going to have to figure out how to work with it.” But that’s where the third piece comes in, and that’s where you have the systems that we try to create, and the scaffolding that you need, and the strategies, and the reminders, and all of those things become very important. But when you get into the acceptance piece, what happens is you can do the systems and the strategies without shame. So that’s the key is shame, right, because so many times, we wrap around, “Oh, I don’t want to have to do this. I shouldn’t have to do this. Other people don’t have to do this. Why do I have to have clocks all around me? Why do I have to do this? Why do I…” Right?

Pete Wright:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nikki Kinzer:
But if we can accept that this is just… “This is how my brain is wired. I know that my short-term memory is not good or my working memory is not good, and this is what I need to do to help me. This is what I need to do to make the day easier on me.”

Pete Wright:
So we wanted to have this conversation, at least anchor it around some insights from others who have been on the show who are exceptional contributors to the ADHD body of knowledge.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, yes. So we’re going to talk about or talk of three of our favorite people: James Ochoa, Sari Solden, and Michelle Frank, who have both written books, great books, and have a focus on each of their books around acceptance and some really good points of how to get to this point, which I think is half the battle because we want to accept our ADHD. We want to accept anything that we’re dealing with anxiety, “I can’t see without my glasses.” Whatever is going on, right?

Pete Wright:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nikki Kinzer:
We want to get to that level of acceptance, which was really why I wanted to do this show after we talk to Dr. Dodge because those stages of acceptance is… They’re so important. So let’s talk about the James Ochoa, Focused Forward. He has a set. It’s almost like a worksheet that you could copy and put somewhere, which I think you should do because it’s a really… some really strong reminders. Accept that this is how your brain is set up. So this is what we were talking about before. “This is how ADHD affects me. This is the ADHD and how my brain is wired.”

Pete Wright:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nikki Kinzer:
Accept that your brain chemistry is the way it is. Don’t label it as something that is wrong, bad, or broken. Again, that goes to our point. ADHD is not something that needs to be fixed.

Pete Wright:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nikki Kinzer:
Accept the responsibility to understand and educate yourself. It won’t be easy, but could be interesting. I think this is important too because if you talk about… or if you’ve listened to some of Dr Hallowell’s information where he talks about ADHD, talks about how it’s an explanation, not an excuse.

Pete Wright:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nikki Kinzer:
So I think this is where this falls into is that I understand that these things are going to be difficult, and I do need to educate myself, and I do need to find ways that I can work… that work for me. James Ochoa and myself are big advocates of finding out what works best for you, and that’s taking the time to really understand yourself and how your brain works.

Pete Wright:
All of this gets to that issue of identity, and I think this follows up nicely to the Dr. Dodge experience with working on the stages of acceptance all the way through embrace, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Wright:
Let’s not forget what that means, and I think James is nailing it here. The responsibility to understand and educate yourself is an act of embrace, is an act of saying, “This is who I am. This is my identity, and I don’t… I’m going to change… take responsibility to change my own language to demonstrate that I know my relationship with ADHD. I know that I live with it. I know that I don’t live against it. I know that I don’t have it. I am it.” The sooner we can do that, the sooner we can get back to living.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right. Well, and the next point that he says is accept that you’ll always have to bring your brain back into balance. Well, this is a little bit of what you were talking about. Well, if I’m not experiencing symptoms, and then all of a sudden, I experience them, and there’s the shock of, “Oh, there it is. It’s back,” I think there is this… If you’re accepting the ADHD and knowing that I’ve got this, “I’ve got this right now, but it may shine its head at some point,” that you can come back to a balance. I think it’s a lot of just knowing that, “Okay. Here it is. It’s something that I probably just need to put to bed. I need to go to bed. I need to go to bed and start again tomorrow.” Right?

Pete Wright:
I need to definitely go to bed. Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
Or whatever, but it’s knowing that you can always go back to that balance and figure out what it is that you need.

Pete Wright:
Well, and that’s the gap, the gap that exists between the amount of surprise that you have that your systems have broken down and how quickly you can get back up and rebuild those systems. That’s resilience, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, right.

Pete Wright:
That gap is resilience.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
That’s what we’re shooting for is… Being more resilient means you have systems in place that allow you to have the shortest gap that you can muster between surprise when a system is broken down and being able to build it back up and make change quickly. That’s resilience, and ADHD people, we can do that. We can adapt and pivot very, very quickly.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
Can we do it with focus and attention? That’s the skill that we’re trying to develop, but we can change directions. That’s something we are good at doing.

Nikki Kinzer:
Really good at.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right. So there’s another point her about identity, and I do want to point this out. He says, “Accept that ADHD is not the main feature of your identity. It’s just something about you, far from the only thing about you.”

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
I think that’s really important is to understand that if your plan right now isn’t working, that doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean that you’re all of a sudden unkind or not who you are. Right? I mean, this is an ADHD symptom that’s coming out that you’re having a hard time with, but it’s not who you are. So it is important. Yes, it’s part of your identity, but it’s not everything.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
There’s a lot of things that put a person as a person, as a whole person, you know?

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Right, right. Like you may have brown eyes and a taste for asparagus. You also have ADHD, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right. Right.

Pete Wright:
Who has that taste for asparagus? That’s weird that I would say that because it’s not. No, that is a…

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s weird that you said that, but that’s okay. That’s right. We’ll go with it. It’s whatever, but it’s odd. Okay.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative). A trash vegetable. What?

Nikki Kinzer:
So moving forward, accept the possibility of treatment. From now on, you’ll be the most important member of your treatment team. I think this is really something that’s really hard for ADHD-ers to do, and that’s ask for help, especially because what I see in my work is that they don’t think that they should have to need the help for something that seems so simple. So then, they feel so much shame around needing that kind of help, and I would really just challenge yourself in knowing that you’re not alone, and executive functions… When there’s a deficit there, there’s a lot of things that are very difficult, and it doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence. So just because you need some help in some area doesn’t mean that you’re stupid or that you are lazy. All of these myths, and so really being open to getting help, and being open to listening to other ADHD-ers, and trying some of these things, connecting and seeing what works for you.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Right. He has this other point going on, right, that you accept that life has its ups and downs, that there may be… The way he says it, “Poetry in your quest for equilibrium.” Those words are really beautiful, and if I have… I mean, his own experience with ADHD is aspirational.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
I mean, what has come out of his ADHD? Not only is he a fantastic writer, author, contributor on the subject. He is a delightful therapist. He’s somebody who does just the great work of his life as a result of his introspection and investigation into ADHD. He’s also a wonderful inspirational artist.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
The joy that he brings into his life as a result of that exploration and acceptance of that identity is something to strive for.

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Wright:
For me, that experience is different, but gosh, I can only hope that there is one person out there who sees just some of the stuff that I do and says, “Oh, ADHD might have a cool angle for me too.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, right.

Pete Wright:
Like the way I feel about James, like that is just… It’s beautiful.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
It’s beautiful.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
If I can do just the ounce of what he is able to do and serve as a model, not a warning for others.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely. Right, right. Well, and his last point, I love too because it’s so honest. “Accept yourself.” Notice I didn’t say, “Love yourself,” or, “Try not to hate yourself,” or, “Repeat positive affirmations to yourself about yourself.” Nevermind all that. Just right now, for this moment, accept yourself.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Once you have that acceptance, then it frees up so much space, right? It frees up the shame, and it replaces it with hope. If you’re curious instead of being judgmental, you have opened up so many possibilities that you can explore in looking at, “What works for me? How does this work for me?” So I just…

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Acceptance is a huge piece to managing ADHD and navigating through it. It’s probably one of the hardest pieces, right?

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
it’s probably, and it’s an ongoing thing. it’s not like you just all of a sudden decide, “I accept this,” and everything is fine.

Pete Wright:
Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
The next area that I want to talk about is from the book A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD by Sari Solden and Michelle Frank. This book is written for women, and the Declaration of Independence is for women. However, I’m going to say this is for all genders, no matter what you relate to. This is just all people with ADHD because I think people forget their rights.

Pete Wright:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nikki Kinzer:
So, Pete, we’ll just go back and forth between these.

Pete Wright:
Sure.

Nikki Kinzer:
The right to have connection, even though you have challenges.

Pete Wright:
The right to pursue your talents, even though you have challenges.

Nikki Kinzer:
The right to speak, reveal your ideas, and be known, even though you have differences.

Pete Wright:
The right to claim and pursue your hopes and dreams, even though you have challenges.

Nikki Kinzer:
The right to take time and make space for yourself, even though you have challenges.

Pete Wright:
The right to live shame-free, be treated with respect, even though you are imperfect.

Nikki Kinzer:
The right to ask for help, even though you have strengths.

Pete Wright:
That’s lovely.

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). So many of these things, people don’t feel like they have the right.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
They think that they need to stay small or they think they shouldn’t be heard. Yeah. My hope for this show was just to remind people what their rights are and see that they can embrace the acceptance of ADHD and that… We’re not sitting here saying that it’s a superpower or any of that because I know that that can be a trigger for a lot of different people, but we are here to say that you can definitely live with it, be happy, do everything you want to do, and you can do it your own way. It doesn’t matter that somebody else doesn’t do it the same way. Hopefully, build a little bit of confidence in people too that it’s okay. You don’t have to think like me, and I don’t have to think like you. It’s good that we think differently.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
So there you have it.

Pete Wright:
Lovely, lovely. Thank you, Nikki. That’s a great idea, and I hope it touches somebody who needs to hear it this very fine day. Thank you all for downloading and listening to the show. We appreciate your time and your attention. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next week right here on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.