Shame, relationships, and ADHD as an exercise in getting back on the horse with Dr. Michelle Frank

It’s our last episode before the annual July break, and what a wonderful person we have to introduce you to this week! Dr. Michelle Frank joins us to talk about shame, our relationships, and the daily practice of getting back up on the horse with ADHD.

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It’s our last episode before the annual July break, and what a wonderful person we have to introduce you to this week. Dr. Michelle Frank is a clinical psychologist specializing in providing diagnostic and treatment services to individuals with ADHD. We love her work because of her focus on strengths-based approaches in helping clients learn how to live successfully with ADHD. She has extensive experience working with college students, adults, and families and she has a book hitting shelves July 1, 2019 which she co-authored with Sari Solden — A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD: Embrace Neurodiversity, Live Boldly, and Break Through Barriers — and she’ll tell you all about it today.

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Episode Transcript

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Pete: Hello, everybody, and welcome to “Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast” on RashPixel.FM. I’m Pete Wright, and right over there is Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki: Hello, everyone. Hi, Pete.

Pete: Hi, Nikki. This is it.

Nikki: This is it. It’s the end of June.

Pete: It’s the end of June. Hallelujah. Sweet, sweet vacation.

Nikki: That’s right.

Pete: Well, this the last episode before we take July and rest and recuperate. And we’re very excited about what is coming after the break. You know, we do this thing, and we plan. We gotta have some time to get our head straight, right, you and me, Nikki? We gotta do…

Nikki: It’s so true. We need time.

Pete: We have a lot of stuff on the list. And you know, what gets in the way of all the stuff on the list is producing this weekly podcast. So, we take a little time off and we do this. But I have to tell you that we can only do this thanks to the support of our patrons who help us to make it through the dark times when we are not actually producing shows. So, we encourage you if you haven’t yet explored the back catalog of this podcast, if you haven’t checked it out and see if there’s something in there that can help you and change the way you live, we sure encourage you to visit patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. It is thanks to your support and the growing community that we can get guests like our fantastic guest today, who is joining us to share her wisdom with you. Very excited about all of this. We have some announcements. Yes, Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki: Yes, we do. We have some announcements. So, the first one is group coaching, summer group coaching. Enrollment is open until July 1st. So, by the time this podcast goes live, you have about two days to enroll. However, that’s okay because even if you missed summer enrollment, we will have a fall group coaching coming up in fall as well. So, you know, just put yourself on the waiting list. But for more information about group coaching, definitely visit the website takecontroladhd.com. And I have another announcement. We have updated the weekly newsletter, which is very exciting.

Pete: Yay.

Nikki: So, yay. We did a survey a few weeks ago to kind of find out, you know, what people want, what they’re looking for in the newsletter to kind of, you know, make it more interesting, make it so people actually wanna open it, right?

Pete: Well, that’s useful in a newsletter.

Nikki: Yeah. So, of course, we’re gonna have the latest podcast news. But we’ve also included an additional blog post. So, you’ll have some additional content that, I try to basically go with the theme of what we’re talking about with the podcast. So, it’s just something additional that people can use as a reference. There is a Coach’s Corner in the newsletter now, where I’m going to ask usually around two to three questions about the topic, just to get people thinking and to get them to think about how this is relevant to them, and how they can apply it in their own lives. Of course, you will also be the first to know about events, offerings, things that are happening at Take Control ADHD. We’ve also added an extra resources area. So, if there are other places that I want you to look… You know, we recommend books, we recommend other podcast shows, articles, different things like that, that all are relevant to that topic, and that theme that week. So, if you’re interested in this weekly newsletter, please sign up. We will have a link in the show notes, right?

Pete: Sure.

Nikki: Right, Pete?

Pete: Why not? Yeah. We’ll do that.

Nikki: You’re in charge of that.

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: All right.

Pete: We will be sure to do that.

Nikki: Yes. Yes. Put that on your task list, please.

Pete: Well, now listen, I just wanna say, one of the things I love about the newsletter is that it is around a given theme. And you know, I get a lot of newsletters and they’re all so full of seemingly random things to my brain, that there’s no through line. And I don’t want 1,000 different tips and strategies. I want something that’s gonna help me change the way I think about one thing. I can’t do all the things in a week. So…

Nikki: You can’t?

Pete: Nikki, I’ve tried. I think my career with ADHD demonstrates that that’s all I do, is I try all thousand things at once.

Nikki: Right.

Pete: And it doesn’t work. So, I appreciate all the thought that you’ve put into the newsletter into making it work for my brain, and I hope that it works for other’s brains that are unique and special unicorns.

Nikki: That’s right.

Pete: Yes, that’s it.

Nikki: Love it.

Pete: Okay. We gotta talk about our guest here today. I’m very excited about this. For our final show, for the first half of the year, Dr. Michelle Frank is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in providing diagnostic and treatment services to individuals with ADHD. We love her work because of her focus on strengths-based approaches in helping clients to learn how to live successfully with ADHD. She has extensive experience working with college students and adults. It’s like she’s meant to be a part of our community. Who are we kidding here? And she’s got this book coming out. It is a radical approach for women with ADHD that she’s gonna tell us all about today. Dr. Michelle Frank, welcome to “The ADHD Podcast.”

Dr. Michelle: Thank you for having me.

Nikki: Well, it is a pleasure to have you here today. I just wanna give the audience a little bit of a background about how we met. I met Michelle at the Chat Conference. Actually, a few years ago, I watched her speak and then I watched her speak again last year with her and Sari Solden, and they were talking about this book that’s coming out in this year, right, in July. Is that still the case?

Dr. Michelle: Yeah, July 1st.

Nikki: Okay. Good. Well, great timing for you to be here then. And after I listened to her talk, I got brave and I thought, “Okay. I’m gonna ask this woman if she wants to be on our show.” What’s the worst thing she could do? Is say no, right? Not only did she say yes, but she contacted me very quickly after the conference and said, “Let’s do this. Let’s get this on the books,” which I was very excited about. And, you know, her presentation was untangling. I think, it was like women’s issues or…it had something with the word untangling? I remember that. Yes. There were three things that… Well, there were a lot of things. But there were three phrases that you said and Sari said, that really just resonated. The first one is you said, “You don’t need to fix yourself, be yourself.” You said, “You are diverse, not damaged.” And you also said, “It’s a human right to be happy.”

Dr. Michelle: Oh, good. I remember the three things that I said.

Nikki: Yay. Well, and unfortunately, and this makes me sad, but this just isn’t the reality. This isn’t what people, you know, think when they are thinking about how they relate to their ADHD or how they relate to the world with their ADHD. So, how do we get closer to believing these statements?

Dr. Michelle: I love the way you said that, because I think that is the crux of the problem. It’s not like cognitively in your mind knowing, it’s the believing, right, that heart-centered belief that, “I actually am okay and worthy.” And I think there can be a big barrier there. I mean, how many times, you know, have you heard folks or do you yourself say, “Right, you know, like, I know, technically, I’m, like, a cool person. It’s just I don’t feel like it, you know. I feel all these other things about myself, how do I create that space?” And that’s a lot of the work I do with clients in therapy, is trying to create some space from thinking and feeling, so we’re not fusing with unhelpful thoughts and emotions to the point where they become us. And so, you know, that’s a longer answer. But basically, I think it’s about getting as much input as we can to help correct old traumas, really, and old wounds around shame, judgment, internalized stigma, which essentially becomes internalized oppression. Really seeing more neurodiversity represented and talked about in media, at conferences and schools, having it be normalized and validated that we’re all different. And that’s a good thing, even though it’s also a hard thing. And then working individually on trying to rewrite those narratives.

And, you know, that looks like different things for different people, but I think it does mean creating a more empowering story for yourself, and then doing the things that help create, you know, what I call corrective experiences. I think so often, people with ADHD live with, you know, a lifetime, really, of experiences of shame, that’s incredibly corrosive and runs very deep. And as results, start pulling back from life, and creating smaller and smaller lives. And so, there’s less opportunity then for those negative beliefs, for those limiting beliefs, and that limiting, you know, sense of self in the world and that trust, there’s no room for that to expand and be corrected because we pull back. We hide, we put on the facade. We struggle with authenticity. We don’t connect as much. We don’t want people to see the mass literally and figuratively. And so, we do all these things that pull us back from life. And when we’re pulled back from life, then how can we possibly expose ourselves to situations and experiences that would help us believe in ourselves more? And so it becomes this really vicious cycle that takes time to correct. So, I think it starts with awareness and radical acceptance. But those two things without action are thoughts and they don’t exist in the world.

Nikki: So, radical acceptance, that’s part of the book’s title, right, that you’re gonna be launching here soon. What do you mean by radical acceptance?

Dr. Michelle: Well, so the book title is “A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD: Embrace Neurodiversity, Live Boldly, and Break Through Barriers.” I think I finally have that long subtitle memorized. But what we talk about in there, and that’s… The radical part of the book is this idea that, you know, you don’t have to, in fact, you can’t afford to wait to be fixed to start living your life. And while strategies are, you know, really essential, they’re necessary, they’re not sufficient in living a full life with ADHD. Because if you’re coming from a place of inner criticism and deep shame, your attempts at change are going to be sabotaged over and over by your own belief system. So, it’s not that we’re anti-strategy, anti-medication, anti any of this, and we really don’t think it should be all that radical.

But it seems to be that, in order to truly live well with ADHD, to truly help manage your symptoms better, you have to start by doing the deeper dive and coming from a place of accepting it, because so many people just want it to go away. So, they come to therapy, they come to coaching, and they come to an organizer, and they’re like, “Make me look normal. Make me normal. Can I just get over this already?” And ADHD is a chronic condition. And so just like MS, or diabetes, or fibromyalgia, the more you fight it, the worse it is. The more you try to fix it, the more you get in your own way. And radical acceptance, you know, it’s really the idea that you don’t have to like it. You don’t, you know, have to be all about it, but you do have to honor and accept your reality as it is. And when you do that, then you open up the freedom to change.

Pete: I mean, I hear that. And it’s hard to hear that because so much of what I have been taught is that I need to believe deeply in the impression that thousands of people who don’t know me very well, what they think about me. I need acceptance of people who don’t know me and give more thought to that, right? Because that’s really what we’re saying, when we talk about, like, what is the appearance of normal? Right? What is the appearance of neurotypical? And how can I fit into that? And stepping to the other side of that line requires a leap of faith that is all too close to impossible for me to understand. There is a fog, a black, deep, thick fog over there that is terrifying. So, when I imagine the act of adopting a sort of radical acceptance of who I am, I don’t know how to talk about that.

Dr. Michelle: I love that you call it a thick fog. Well, one, I think a lot of people are afraid it means resignation, which is not the case. Right. We have a responsibility as human beings to do our work. You know, we can’t just say, “Well, that’s it. I accept my ADHD and I just get to be myself, and that’s it.” No, no. That puts the consequences in the driver’s seat because ADHD life unmanaged, undiagnosed, untreated, can totally derail a life and derail the life of the people around you. It’s not that you don’t have responsibility to do the work, we all do, whether it’s ADHD or something else in life. We all have to do the work. It’s not resignation. What I really like is you said the dark fog. And what I think of is Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, right? The story of arc, and you’ve gotta go into the fog to come out on the other side. You know, the only way out is through, right? So, you know, Bukowski has a poem, you know, I think and it says something along the lines of, “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” And so, in that, that’s why I talk a lot about it’s about ADHD, but it’s not about ADHD because I think any of life’s challenges or even tragedies have opportunity in them to walk through the fire, to walk through the fog, and to forge a more meaningful path for yourself, because you have no choice. It’s like the great unknown is that space of vulnerability. That’s the edge of the comfort zone. So, it’s not supposed to be sunshine and beaches. Because that’s that cozy.

Pete: Well, and I guess that’s the conflict, right? That’s the inherent conflict, that on the one hand, as much as we all try to embrace and radically accept ourselves, there is a point where external pressures have a, you know, I’ll say in quotes, “a demand” on us to conform. And that’s where we have these, “Oh, I’ve gotta get on medication. I’ve gotta do these just radical accommodations now to help me get to the other side because I have to conform toward neurodiversity.” And that’s the part that’s so hard to just, you know, to embrace.

Dr. Michelle: There’s this huge debate all the time. Is ADHD a gift? Then I heard someone say, “If ADHD is a gift, I’d give it away.” You know, and it’s like, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to me how you see it, as long as your view is one that validates yourself and empowers yourself instead of constricts your life more. But you’re right. I mean, we do have to show up in the world every day, and our brains don’t always make that possible in a lot of ways. And so, it’s really, I think, also about a two-tiered approach. It’s two different tracks. It’s the emotional work. It’s building the relationship with self. It’s working on the underlying belief systems, and also at the same time, getting the executive functioning support and strategies. But, you know, what we found is when people, for instance, go into coaching, they come into therapy. They start going to groups, the follow through is really, really hard, if the self-concept is still really in the trash because, you know, you don’t trust yourself.

And so, you know, a good coach, a good therapist, a good, you know, supportive community will help you build the self-confidence slowly but surely to get there. But I think so many people want the quick fix. You’re right. It is like this double-edged sword. I mean, I’m thinking of some of the folks I work with who are grad students in Stanton, in very prestigious heights here, you know, research universities, and they have to fit in into a mold or they won’t get their Ph.D. It’s not a joke. You know, that’s real. And at the same time, they also deserve to feel worthy to work on their challenges from a place of wholeness rather than brokenness. Otherwise, who cares about the Ph.D.? What does it mean if you hate yourself? What does it mean, you know?

Pete: Right. Nothing. Well, and that is the pressure that comes with, I’ll say, the gift of having both authority over your ADHD and accountability over your ADHD.

Dr. Michelle: There you go. I like that.

Pete: Those two things together, we have to find a way to mediate.

Dr. Michelle: Yes. I like that. Can you say that again? You said authority over and accountability too.

Pete: And accountability for your ADHD, right? And that’s where accommodations come in, right? Everybody makes changes to fit into a construct. And, you know, sometimes making those changes is harder for others, but it feels to me, like the gap between those two is where the shame lives. Like, it is where I know that I have the authority to change my life and expectations from others, extrinsically to change my life. And I believe in a space of shame because I can’t close that gap. I don’t know how to do it.

Dr. Michelle: Yeah.

Nikki: I have so much to say. Oh, my gosh.

Pete: Go ahead. I just totally… No. You go ahead.

Nikki: Well, the first thing that I wanna say is I totally agree with Michelle that, you know, it happens to me too. Clients come and they wanna be fixed. They want their time management system to work. They want to organize their space. They want to get their life together, whatever it might be, but it is so true. It’s like you’ve gotta get that work done beforehand, before those strategies work. And recently, I even had a person who was interested in group coaching, and she had emailed me and said, “Well, I’ve already done all the emotional stuff, but I just want an accountability group.” And that’s great. I mean, I get that. But that’s not what this group is. And I said, you know, “Yes, we have some accountability in it where you have a focus, but we also talk a lot, a lot about acceptance and what ADHD is, and, you know, how it looks for you and limiting beliefs.” And I said, “You can’t get to the strategies unless you talk about those things. You have to talk about them. And I think clients are surprised when they look… They’ll reflect back on, ”Okay. What did I get out of coaching? What did I get out of therapy?" And when they say acceptance of their ADHD, I feel like we’ve won. Like, okay, we are one step closer to what you said, opening the freedom to, you know, that freedom to change. I love that. That’s such a beautiful way of saying that.

Dr. Michelle: I absolutely agree. I think I got an email from an old client a while recently, you know, that talked a bit about that. And, you know, they were talking about, like, the seeds that were planted and how that grew over time too. I think there’s this misconception that, you know, you do an eight-week session of something, and boom, and then you go on to the next thing. And as ADHDiers, that’s very appealing. But the truth is, we’re always doing the work. You know, like, I don’t know. I’m psychologist, so I’m all, “You’re growing or you’re dying,” you know.

Pete: Well, you know, and that’s what I wanted to say to Nikki’s point, like, I’ve done the emotional work. I just needed out there that, you’re never done doing the emotional work, right? And I feel like we can take that as axiomatic. Like, you’re just never done doing the emotional work. Do it on Thursday, you’re gonna need to do it again on Friday.

Dr. Michelle: And that’s, I think, what keeps the progress going. And that’s also the sort of vulnerability when you can do it with a safe person or a safe group. That’s the vulnerability where you really grow in courage. And when you have that, you’re able… You know, in my experience, personally and professionally, you know, on both sides of that dynamic, you’re able to start taking bigger risks in your life. And Sari and I, really, when we were writing this, we were like, “You know, what’s the goal of treatment? What is our goal?” Because a lot of people, you know, come in and really have very, you know, symptom management goals. And we need that. You know, like I said, ADHD symptoms, if left to their own devices, can wreak havoc. But you know, is symptom management really where we wanna live? That’s not a marker necessarily of health. That means, you know, unless we’re doing that deeper dive and working underneath, there’s still some core stuff going on. If you have a great time management system, that’s wonderful. That’s great. You might get a promotion from that. Your friends, your spouse, all of these people, those relationships are probably enriched. So, it’s not something small to get your time management right. I don’t mean to diminish it. But if those things are right, and at the end of the day, you’re crying yourself to sleep, and every single thing sends you into a shame spiral, and you don’t believe you’re fully, you know, worthy of big love and big dreams, and you’re not taking that class you really wanna take.

You’re not taking time for yourself because you’re spending all of your time trying to perfect your organization in time management, then how big and great and healthy is your life in the big picture? You know, any chronic condition, you can’t look at too narrowly. Like, we’re all human beings. And so, we have a huge hierarchy of needs. You know, I think even a lot of clinicians collude with this desire because they feel the anxiety of the client. You know, like, today I wanna fix this problem for the client, I’ve done it. You know, when a client comes in and they’re so distressed about their organization, you feel it, and you wanna go there. And what’s underneath that is usually really big. And what I’ve found too is the things that get in the way of applying helpful strategies are things like negative self-talk, are things like, you know, emotional regulation problems, and your mood is all over, self-care and burnout. And so, you’re not doing things to take care of yourself. You’re not doing things to fill up your life. Now you’re not sleeping. You’re running on fumes, all of these things. And so, if we’re not taking a step back and looking at someone as a whole person with their whole life, then I feel like we’re sort of colluding with this fantasy of the perfect fix and becoming a perfect person. And ADHDiers really have an idealized concept, I think, of what neurotypical or life without ADHD looks like.

Nikki: Well, definitely. I mean, I think, you know, it’s going back to what we were saying before, you know, thinking that, “I’ve gotta do it this way because that’s what neurotypicals are doing. That’s what people are doing around me.” So, there’s always this comparison that’s going on. And, you know, explaining that that’s really unhealthy because it’s not, and everybody does think the same. But then there’s also comparison with, like, other ADDiers too. They’ll see another ADDier, you know, doing something, and then they compare what they’re doing, and they feel less than. So, it can be this, like, cycle of just shame and, you know, thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side.

Pete: What I keep thinking about is something I don’t wanna lose, which is that, when I’m stuck speaking only for myself, when I’m stuck in that place of shame, I am more susceptible to my own dopamine-based instincts, right? When I end that shame space, I am much more comfortable saying, “Oh, man, I need to organize my DVDs. I really need to create a database by actor and director. And I need to spend the next 48 hours doing that without sleeping or eating.” But what is really happening here is that activity, it makes me feel like, to your point, that language that I have come to really sort of resent about ADHD being a superpower, it’s not. It’s a completely unfocused force of nature that is allowing me to stop eating and sleeping in order to do this thing, but I feel great. You know.

Dr. Michelle: I know. I know. And then you look at it the next day, and you still feel great about it.

Pete: Yeah. Now I feel great. What is possibly wrong with this? Well, I haven’t been to work in three days.

Dr. Michelle: Yeah. Exactly. Right.

Pete: But you know what? That’s an effort to numb the space between. It’s an effort to numb the shame that I feel for not being on top of things or as on top of things as I idealize the neurotypical brain to be. That’s what has just come together for me. So, back to you guys. That’s awesome.

Dr. Michelle: I love that. Numbness space between. Numbness space between. So, one of the biggest obstacles in treatment that I help people with is engaging in avoidant behavior. Because as ADHDiers, like you’re saying, we go for the dopamine hit. And that can take so many forms. And most of them are pretty dang avoidant of our real lives, and of being in touch with ourselves, feeling our feelings in those moments, sitting with discomfort, tolerating discomfort, you know, and then making a new choice in our behavior. I think avoidance is a huge issue for folks with ADHD. And, you know, Brené Brown’s research, I think you guys had an episode or will have one on her work. Really, the research shows, like, when we are in a shame spiral, we completely move away from a space of healthy behaviors, healthy change, and we get in our own way. In fact, our distrust of ourself goes up. And when that happens, if you’re not in a space of trusting yourself and feeling very good about yourself, it’s really hard to do the hard thing, to choose the hard thing. We want the feelings to go away. And we’re core emotional regulators to begin with. So, yeah. So, now we’ve got ADHD to the max, and it spirals on. I love that. I love that, what you just said, I repeat.

Nikki: Where would you help somebody… Like, when you said that you help them with disengaging, talking about engaging avoidance behavior, but probably wanting to disengage that behavior, where would you even start talking to a client about that? Is it about awareness? Like, are you…

Dr. Michelle: Yeah. It’s gotta start there. And I say this, like, with a very important caveat, that it doesn’t end there. Because I think, especially people with ADHD, have done probably years of different types of therapy and felt like, “I’ve got all the awareness.” But how? How? You know, how? And so, it doesn’t stop there. But if you’re not aware of it in the first place, and a lot of times we’re not… I mean, I’m an ADHD specialist, you know, I’m a psychologist, and you know, my husband the other day was like, “So, like, where’s your ADHD today?” And I was like, “Oh, it’s not fine.” Like, it is all over the place. You’re like, “Do you need to be pruning the plants again?” I’m like, “Yes. Why? Yes, I do. I absolutely do.” Because I’m in a plant phase. You see. I’m in a plant phase, you know.

Pete: It’s all plants all the time.

Dr. Michelle: It was something else two months ago. So, you know, I still don’t even see it sometimes. And that’s not out of lack of awareness. I have the awareness, or not lack of introspection. I have the introspection. I don’t always have the awareness in the moment. And so, it’s building the introspection, outside of the moment, and then talking about checks and balances to help build some accountability, some awareness in daily life. You know, whether that’s a partner or a friend, or an accountability group, or coming to therapy, and like reviewing, and then kind of looking at… You know, I don’t know who coined the phrase pseudo productivity, but I absolutely love it, floats around conferences a lot, right? Like, you know, the gardening, it needed to be done. You know, so it was productive, but it was not what I needed to be doing. So, it starts there, and then trying to create that awareness closer to the moment because…so right when we were talking about behavioral interventions, we talk a lot about the point of performance. You know, coaches and gurus, you guys are used to that.

Like, what’s the point of performance? It’s the moment when you engage in, you know, a changed behavior, a healthy intentional behavior, or the moment you engage in something you don’t want to. So, you know, is it like the moment you walk in the door, what cues you to sit down and turn on the remote? What cues you to, you know, have a healthy snack and go for a walk? Like, that’s the point of performance. And we’re on autopilot so much with the ADHD brain, right? And our perception of time in science tells us this is real, our perception of time is different. But we have to bring the awareness closer and closer to the point of performance. And that takes time. That takes a lot of talking through. That takes a lot of, I think, having a mirror from other people in your life. But having that means you’ve gotta be vulnerable in the first place to let someone else in. You know, so, it can be hard. But then from that space, you know, I work a lot on mindfulness, you know, being grounded, being in the presence, for a moment coming back returning to yourself, because ADHD life is falling off the horse. You become a pro at falling off the horse. And you’ve gotta develop, you know, your skill at getting back on. You know, what helps you choose the healthy thing?

Nikki: Well, and I just have to ask. You know, when you say, you know, learning, or what you’ve just said…

Pete: Oh, I love it so much. I love that it’s the act of falling off the purpose.

Nikki: The falling off the horse with a healthy choice, right, making that healthy choice. You have to believe that you can make that choice.

Dr. Michelle: Yeah. And that you’re worthy of it.

Nikki: And you’re worthy of it. Right. Right. Two very important things, that you believe it and that you’re worthy of it. Because how many times have we heard our clients say, “I can’t?”

Dr. Michelle: Oh, yeah, the I can’ts.

Nikki: I can’t. I can’t do this. And if that’s what you continue to believe, you’re gonna continue not being able to do it. So, believing that you can make a healthy choice, right?

Dr. Michelle: You know, words are so important. Our brains use them to categorize the world around them. And if we’re saying, “I can’t,” you know, our emotional brain is gonna respond chemically to that, and give us physical, emotional cues that we can’t. And then we’re gonna do the I can’t behavior, and now we’ve got a bigger problem on our hands. And now we’ve re-enforced the story of I can’t, and it just becomes another cycle. I’m a big, like, I can’ter. Like, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t even. But I think, you know, what I’ve learned to do is to let that voice be, not separate from me… You know, it’s a part of me, but it’s only one part, and to become more of the observer. Like, I’m saying, I can’t out loud 50 times right now. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I’m like, “Okay. I get it. You feel like you can’t. The truth is you probably don’t want to. But you actually can. So, how can you…?” And then I choose, you know, narrow it down as much as possible. And where’s the point of engagement? How can I engage in the healthy behavior, just a tiny bit in a way that is probably so uncomfortable, but is also approachable? Like, when we’re pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone, we don’t wanna flood totally into anxiety or we’ll shut down. But sometimes if we’re feeling a little uncomfortable, it’s actually a good thing. You know, and reframing that is important and helpful.

Nikki: I have a health coach that I’m working with right now. And we were talking about limiting beliefs, like the things that I say to myself. And I loved what she said. She said, “You know, the next time the limiting belief comes to you or whatever it is that…” She calls it a negotiator. Jane Massengill calls it a Gremlin. You know, so we all have these words for this, like, you know, this person that’s telling you something. She said, “Thank them. Thank them for reminding you how important this is.”

Dr. Michelle: Oh, I like that.

Nikki: Isn’t that great? Yeah. I liked it too because I thought, “Wow. Okay. I’m gonna do that.” And that completely puts things in a different perspective.

Dr. Michelle: Thank you for reminding me, yeah, how important this is, right, because you wouldn’t care if it didn’t matter.

Nikki: If it didn’t matter. Right. So, the next time you’re, you know, “Should I watch another show,” what matters exactly, you know.

Dr. Michelle: Right. Right.

Pete: Me watching the entire season of that show right now. That’s what matters.

Dr. Michelle: Yeah. That’s what matters.

Nikki: And sometimes, you know what? That is what matters. And that’s what you do, because I’ve done that before too.

Dr. Michelle: Yeah.

Nikki: And it’s okay. I don’t feel guilty about it, because I made the conscious choice.

Pete: Right. Noted.

Dr. Michelle: Right. Exactly. I think it’s really about intentional living. You’re intentionally choosing. You know, if you’re choosing to, you know, be pseudo productive, to procrastinate, but you feed in and actively choose it, and then actively own it and own the consequences. At some point, we have to be in touch with our own truth and the consequences of our choices, which is really hard to do. And I think a lot of people with ADHD are sort of afraid that it will take over. But if you’re truly being intentional, it typically won’t. It’s typically the numbing and the autopilot that gets us into the trouble. But if I say, “You know what? I can’t. Okay. I’ve tried a million ways.” You know, when we were writing the book, I had a few of these moments. And I couldn’t. And I’d try a bunch of different ways, you know, change my environment, do all these things, and it still wouldn’t go. And you know, that was my cue that taking a break wasn’t procrastination. It was actually self-care. And that I, dang it, I needed a day or two off. But I also needed to be transparent and honest then with myself, and with Sari about that. And then with Sari, I was able to process maybe some of the anxiety that was coming up about the whole book thing in the first place, that might have been getting in the way, right? Going back to that self-trust is sort of what is coming to mind right now. I think as people with ADHD, it’s really hard to trust ourselves. To return, to get back on the horse, to choose the healthy choice, to allow ourselves to make, maybe not the most healthy choice and let that be okay, and then tomorrow, try again. I think, because of a history of ADHD autopilot and what that meant, and all of the emotional baggage that comes with that, we’re terribly afraid of ourselves a lot of the time. And of course, choices made in fear are rarely the ones that move us forward.

Nikki: Tell us a little bit more about the book. It’s coming out soon.

Dr. Michelle: It is available for pre-order on Amazon now. And it’s really cool. It turns out, it’s really cool. It was hard. It’s a hard process. It took a long time. And the hardest part was actually, I think we had to cut about 50% of our content, you know. Had to learn with ADHD that you have a word count. You know, it’s a nightmare. But you know, it’s an act of love. And I think it’s really necessary. I think it’s the right time for this book. There’s a big part of me that wants to move away from gendered conversations, when it comes to pretty much everything. At the same time, this book is for women, because 97% of books out there on ADHD are written for men, with the perspective of men in mind. And few are really written with women as, you know, the primary audience. And, you know, of course, by women, we really mean anyone who identifies. But truly the book is for, I mean, I think anyone on a gender continuum could read this and find themselves in it. However, as you know, you know, Sari and I, Sari especially specializes in women. And she wrote the first book “Women with ADHD,” well, then it was ADD, 25 years ago. And so this is sort of, you know, it’s linked to that first book in certain ways, but it’s also new. So, it does talk something about gender roles, rules and expectations and, you know, women’s voice. And I think voice is a big issue for people with ADHD. You know, we live in an individualistic society, where asking for help is kind of like asking for a handout. And when you have a chronic condition, you need more help. And you already feel like you’re a burden just by, you know, having your challenges. And so, advocating for needs and asking for help, while seemingly simple can be very, very difficult. So, there’s a lot of communication-based stuff in this book. There’s a lot of stuff on relationships. But a lot of it, It goes back to this idea of untangling we had.

And actually, that was one of the first titles that we were working with. And it was untangling your core sense of self from your brain-based challenges and your old stories and wounds around shame. Because that tangle keeps you tied to deficiency in your life. So, New Harbinger contacted me and, you know, they were like, “What do you think about doing the book?” I was like, “Cool. Book.” And they were like, “We want a workbook.” And we were like, “Oh, work. We’re gonna need to start over.” And so, you know, I think it was an educational process for them too. You know, and they were really receptive to everything we said. You know, everything in this bit, it’s a radical guide for women with ADHD. So, every few pages, there’s exercises, reflection questions, prompts. There’s, you know, an ADHD-friendly, like, you know, bullet points at the end of each chapter. This is a book that’s made so you can take it to a coach, a therapist, a book club, work on it on your own in a park someday or with a friend. And really do the work because it’s hard to access a specialist. And I don’t think you always need to work with a specialist to do some ADHD work. But this certainly would be helpful, something like this. And so, it’s meant to be an active process. And it starts with that untangling, looking at where old shame-based narratives, limiting beliefs came from so that you can recognize them in the present. And then it walks you through, “Okay. How do you now do something different in the present?” And it has vignettes and stories and activities to help you do that. And then it’s sort of, like, looking forward, you know, revisioning dreams and passions, and like, how do you fill your life up? Not just manage ADHD. And so, there’s three stages, braver, brighter, bolder.

Nikki: Oh, I love that.

Dr. Michelle: Yeah. Yeah. And so, it’s really cool. I think it’s necessary right now. I think it’s timely. And I think it’s gonna be really helpful. There’s nothing else out there quite like it, truly. And they kept saying that. You know, they really were like, “This is very different from anything we’ve done.” But we wanted it to be readable. We wanted it, and we wrote it in one voice, that was really difficult, especially then when we had to cut half of it. But it reads truly seamlessly. I’m really proud of that. You know, even things like, how many spaces to answer a question to, you know, how long do we go without a break in text? All of that was intentionally designed for people who might read differently. We’d love to get it on audio, but since it’s a guidebook, they’re not quite sure how. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Nikki: That’s right.

Dr. Michelle: Yeah.

Nikki: It sounds wonderful.

Pete: Well, it’s currently number one pre-order in parenting hyperactive children category on Amazon.

Dr. Michelle: Well, there you go.

Nikki: There is a need.
Pete: We’re voting for you.

Dr. Michelle: There is a need in parenting hyperactivity. I don’t think it talks about parenting hyperactive kids, but it sure does I think help, one, you know, if it’s mom where the ADHD came from, you know, this book might be for her. But certainly, I think it does help. Honestly, I mean, it does have the gendered content, but if you take that out, I think it’s a really good primer for understanding the inner world of someone with ADHD, and honestly, I think someone with any other sort of neurodiversity, you know, who’s neurodivergent. So, you know, it’s a human book, but ultimately, they want you to be able to list your book in a category.

Pete. Yes. And here’s Amazon was really ready for you. Clearly.

Dr. Michelle: Yeah. They were ready in hyperactive parenting, yeah, radical guide.

Nikki: I love how you said, it’s a human book. I love that.

Dr. Michelle: I mean, you know, in the subtitle is embracing neurodiversity, and that’s what we want. We wanna change the conversation here.

Pete: Well, it’s lovely. And thank you so much, Michelle, for joining us today. Where do you wanna send people who wanna learn more about you? We’ll put the link to the book in the show notes, obviously. But where do you want people to learn more about you?

Dr. Michelle: Yeah. So, you can find me on Instagram @adhd_doc, adhd_doc. You can find out more about our upcoming events and read some of our blog posts at adhdradicalguide.com. And we also have this little practice website is soldenfrank.com.

Pete: That was the first time we’ve had a guest, I think, in almost 400 shows where their first plug was Instagram.

Dr. Michelle: I love Instagram.

Pete: So, hip.

Nikki: That’s awesome.

Pete: That’s awesome.

Dr. Michelle: I do. I love photos. So, it’s like, perfect.

Pete: That’s awesome. All right, that will be the first link in the show notes, adhd_doc. Absolutely. Thank you so much, Michelle.

Dr. Michelle: Thank you.

Pete: This has been great. I hope this is not the last time that we see you. Will you come back to talk with us?

Dr. Michelle: Oh, yes. I’d love to be back. It’s a wonderful conversation.

Pete: Thank you.

Dr. Michelle: It was so fun.

Pete: And thank you, Nikki Kinzer. As always, we sure appreciate all of your time and attention downloading the show everybody. Thank you so much for joining us for this conversation with Michelle. Thank you for your patience as we go into hibernation for a little bit. We will see you again in August. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer and Michelle Frank, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll see you next month on “Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.”

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.