Day Zero

How many days since YOUR last ADHD incident?

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There are signs in certain kinds of organizations that document the last time staff their experienced an incident. Any sort of incident that leads to work stopping counts, and as soon as it happens, the sign gets reset and everyone starts over at Day Zero. “This facility has worked [0] Days without incident,” the sign says.

If there’s anything in our lives that can cause work to stop unpredictably, uncontrollably, sometimes even unconsciously, it’s ADHD. What do we do so that we can reset our own sign to Day Zero? This week on the show, Pete and Nikki take an incident response approach to ADHD with a focus on mindfully controlling what you can control, not lying to yourself, and moving forward. Every bad day has a day zero right around the corner.

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Episode Transcript

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

Nikki: Hello, everyone. Hi, Pete Wright.

Pete: How are you?

Nikki: I’m doing great, how are you?

Pete: So tired. I’m kind of on fire. I’m in fireworks mode. Do you wanna know why? Because I do everything, I preach, I tell… I’ve been doing this podcast for a long time. We talk about it and it seems…

Nikki: [crosstalk 00:00:34] yeah and very long.

Pete: …like yesterday about…I woke up way too early for some such stupid reason I don’t remember yesterday. And so all day I was thinking, “Today I have to do right by myself, today I have to do the things that I know will help me get to sleep tonight so that I have a great night’s sleep because I need to wake up tomorrow strong, I’m doing the podcast, I’m feeling good, like I need to feel good tomorrow.” All day I’m saying that to myself, right? It’s the inner voice, “You’re gonna sleep great tonight. You’re gonna sleep so good. It’s gonna be a juicy, juicy sleep.” And then, I stopped drinking coffee in the morning, right? I had my coffee during my “CBS Sunday Morning” program and that was over, had another cup during breakfast, 10 o’clock I was done drinking coffee. No more caffeine for me, no. Sugar, I was done with any sugar by 2. I was practically a monk by 2 o’clock all day. Tea, I had tea, I had the nice green tea before bed, got in bed, I read a book like you’re supposed to. I didn’t think about work, then I just sat up and stared at the dark until about 3 o’clock. Just stared at the dark thinking.

Nikki: Oh, no.

Pete: Thinking about how I can’t go to sleep. Well, I guess I’m not sleeping. Oh, too weird, now all I can think about is sleep.

Nikki: Oh, how stressful.

Pete: So stressful. Six o’clock the alarm goes off and we have this new thing where my wife and I trade-off kid duty in the morning. So, 6 o’clock the alarm goes off it’s my turn to get up and do the duty. And I was a zombie. I was a zombie. So, I have been jamming the coffee this morning. You can bet that, I’ll tell you that right now. And I am very excited to be here. We’ll see just how coherent I am in the next 20 minutes.

Nikki: That’s right.

Pete: How are you, after my little rant here?

Nikki: You know, you’re going to be mad. I slept well. I slept really well.

Pete: Weird flex but okay. Yeah. No, I’m proud. I’m happy for you. I’m happy I have to, I can’t let my grief bring down the rest of the world. No, that’s not what I do.

Nikki: No. Well, I hope you get a better night’s sleep tonight.

Pete: You know, I stumbled on, you know what I like to do with these live streams. I like to…In these podcasts, I like to think about ADHD in a new way and see if it helps me relate to the world in a different way. And I stumbled on another one that I just want to share. So, we’ll call this a think piece today and I hope if somebody can get something out of it that’s useful beyond my brain, then I’ll call that a giant win. We’re gonna be talking about day zero, the ADHD incident response plan. Oh, I’ll tell you…

Nikki: That sounds like a movie.

Pete: I have been down a rabbit hole of terrible, terrible things to get here. I’ll save you some of that. Before we get started, 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’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook at Take Control ADHD. That’s a great way to reach Nikki and me. And you know what, this show, it really is brought to you by you. And every time I log in to our fantastic Patreon account and see more people who have come to us and have said by way of their support, “Hey, you guys have touched us. You have changed the way that we operate in the world with our ADHD as a result of what you guys have done over the last 10 years.” And you’ve done so by supporting us with your hard-earned dollars.

We know that making these sorts of even little financial decisions it’s hard. And I just can’t tell you how much we appreciate you stepping up to support us so that we can do more of this. Every donation means that we can make a choice about what we are doing elsewhere and doing more here. And that’s the nature of trade-offs. We really appreciate you helping us be able to make trade-offs in favor of the ADHD group and the ADHD podcast. What you get over at patreon.com/theadhdpodcast, you get access to our fantastic Discord server. It’s an online community where people talk about the most amazing things and they help each other. They support one another. They share tools and resources and books and good NES playlists. The music is fantastic. So, you get access to that.

If you subscribe at a little bit higher level, you get access to a monthly workshop that Nikki and I do this month. What did we do this month? Goes live actually as we record this, it’s going to go live this morning. This was on openness and vulnerability and processing out loud. This was you and I-

Nikki: There you go.

Pete: Thinking hard about some of the stuff that came out of her interview a couple of weeks back with Brett Terpstra and we learned a lot of lessons and we wanted to share some more with you there. And so, you get monthly workshops just like that one with us. You get Nikki’s fantastic worksheets and forms that help you live your life better from daily planning to student success, to you got the works. It’s all available for download for free and easy right there by supporting us at patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. Mostly what you’re doing is helping us do more of what we love to do here for this community. So, thank you for supporting us, for showing your faith in us by joining this community, patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. All right, Nikki Kinzer. All right, let’s get busy. Let’s get down to work.

Nikki: All right, day zero.

Pete: So, do you know these, you know these signs I was in that, I had a client experience a couple of weeks ago. That’s when I started thinking, but that’s probably three or four weeks ago now. Where I walked into a manufacturing floor and they had this sign up and it was the days since incident sign, right? It said this facility has worked, you know, number box of days since incident. Are you familiar with these? Did you ever have these in the HR department?

Nikki: No. No.

Pete: No.

Nikki: But I didn’t work in an environment that that would be necessary.

Pete: Right. Right. But interestingly, as I start looking at these things, I’m finding signs like these for all kinds of different environments, right? Banks can use them for deposit areas, you know, any place if you want to put a sign up that says, this is the last time, the most important metric that we have. This is the last time that that metric happened. We can put it on the wall and use a little dry-erase pen and change that number every day and it becomes a little ritual. And in this case, I walked into this location and I thought, I saw the sign said, this facility has worked zero days since incident. And for some reason, for the first time in my life, seeing that sign, and of course, I have been exposed to that sign before. I’ve seen that sign before in my life but for the first time in my life, I stopped and I thought, what does that mean? What does that mean, incident in this place? Like who was involved in this incident, right? It’s like everyone’s working along just fine and then yesterday something happened.

Nikki: Something happened.

Pete: That was…

Nikki: And now you wanna know what it was.

Pete: I’m dying to know what it was. Something happened that was serious enough to be classified as an incident.

Nikki: An incident.

Pete: What is that incident, Nikki Kinzer? Someone screwed up, someone got hurt, someone lost something important, someone broke something that was heretofore unbreakable. What helps? What is the thing that happened? Is there somebody in the hospital right now because of an incident? And I was deeply moved. I was, dare I say, paralyzed in the car. Like I got back in the car after my shoot and I sat down and I couldn’t let go of this. I couldn’t start the car, I just sat there for probably 10 minutes thinking what happened.

Nikki: What happened.

Pete: Yeah. And it’s that sense, I walk around the parking lot and I think maybe there’s evidence here. Maybe somebody tracked something out, here and it’s the incident. So, I was really moved by this whole concept and I’ve done a little bit of incident response work at the university through FEMA. You know, they come through FEMA, they come through and they do trainings and, you know, they do city trainings where if something happens in the city, you know, what organizations need to respond. And you know, for us it was typically lockdown, emergency response and you know, shelter in place, those kinds of keywords that you hear on the news and those sorts of things. So, I ended up trying to refresh my now couple of years old training and went to osha.gov and got very, very lost in the OSHA, means of egress and emergency action plans and fire prevention and the hazardous materials plans and personal protective equipment plans, this separate plans for occupational head and foot protection on and on and on and on. I mean it’s page after page after page of process and guidelines for how to deal with these things in the field. What creates an incident. And all…

Nikki: Well, I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking the whole time, I wonder what happened over there. I wonder what their incident, was it hazardous? Was it fire? Was it…

Pete: Yes, yes. Well, and in this case, it was a machine tools facility. And so, that I automatically go to some fairly dark places with that, I’m wondering like somebody is missing a toe or a finger or a foot. Like this is really what is going on and should I send flowers? Like what is the thing that I need? So, all of these plans assume a day zero, right? That something happens and triggers a response to action. So, voila, Nikki Kinzer, here is an opportunity to think about my ADHD in a new way, right? What is my day zero, right? I get thrown sideways all the time by my ADHD and I usually think about it in terms of like triggers and accommodations.

Like something’s happened, I’ve practiced it a lot, there’s a muscle that triggers and I think, “Okay, this is bad, I need to do something else to make it good, right?” I’m doing it wrong, do it better. And, but you know, does day zero, does this give me an opportunity to look at my world, at the experience of my days and my work a little bit differently? I think it does. I think it does and I hope it does for others as well. So, to have this conversation with you, I thought we might take a very generic, simple incident response plan and see how it maps to having a lousy ADHD day. Starting with this plan is courtesy of Eyesight, this is the company, they make the software that helps big companies and government agencies to manage their incident casework.

So, they are very experienced with this. They have software that goes very, very deep and they happen to have this just here’s a very high level five points you need to think about very broadly to make sure that you’re handling your incidents appropriately.

Nikki: All right, give me the incident.

Pete: All right. Step one, here’s the plan.

Nikki: Plan?

Pete: We’re gonna start with the plan.

Nikki: Yeah, yeah. You’re gonna give me a simple plan.

Pete: I wanna give you the plan, a simple plan. An accident or incident response plan should include the steps to take when a workplace incident occurs, including step one, check that all employees are safe and address any injuries or illnesses immediately. For simple cuts and bruises or other minor injuries basic first aid treatment may suffice, for serious injuries or illnesses determine the level of emergency and contact an appropriate medical professional.

Nikki: Okay.

Pete: So, I know, I read that and I think this metaphor is going nowhere. When’s the last time your ADHD has caused like cuts and bruises?

Nikki: I kind of, I’m actually with you on this.

Pete: Oh good.

Nikki: Yeah. Are you safe, Pete?

Pete: That’s what I have to think about, right? This is a real perspective reset for me, you know, like am I and the people involved with me safe, right? How many incidents am I involved in which my ADHD related lapse put someone else in imminent danger? It’s approaching zero, right? I say approaching because I don’t know 100% and that makes me uncomfortable-

Nikki: For sure. Right.

Pete: But it really is like, mostly, the people that I am working with are safe and that’s great. Now, what if I’m not saying this has happened, but I’m saying I’m imminently intimately related to it. Maybe it’s happened that the incident is you have to pick up your kiddo and a teammate to get them to swim team practice on time every other day this week, and what if you’re in the middle of a storm and you didn’t get that done, and what if the kids are waiting at school and you missed their calls? What if that happens, right? Are they safe? Can you step back when you regain composure and answer that question, are they safe? So that’s step one. That’s kind of a cliffhanger, right? It’s a cliffhanger because we’re gonna come back to what happened to the kids later.

Nikki: Well, yeah. Are they safe?

Pete: I’m not gonna tell you that yet because it’s a cliffhanger. Nikki, I don’t know if you heard me just say that. This is a cliffhanger.

Nikki: I did. I did. I’m just still wondering about the kids.

Pete: We’re gonna do a call back later.

Nikki: Okay. All right.

Pete: Number two, if there is a serious injury or fatality, I hope there’s not a fatality. Report the incident immediately to the appropriate authority. Reporting requirements may be different for in each State in the U.S., in Canada, reporting regulations differ by province, know where to report.

Nikki: I’m kinda taking this maybe in a different way like I’m not looking at just like that the…I’m not looking at fatality as like dead or alive, like it’s not, am not looking…

Pete: That’s good because that’s what it means.

Nikki: I know, I know, but I’m almost looking at like serious injury. I’m kind of looking at mental health more than physical health. So, you know before you’re asking are you safe? While you may be safe physically, but you are starting to go down in a spiral. And then if you’re in this…if you’re here in number two, I don’t…I’m taking the fatality out because that’s just too dark for me to carry.

Pete: Okay. Yeah. I think that’s why.

Nikki: But, serious injury could be, you know, is this like a serious spiral that’s putting you into a depression?

Pete: Okay. You did take it in a different direction than I expected. I read this different, see, I would include all of that in the first one, right? If you’re safe. But here I’m really focusing on report the incident immediately. I was landing on communication and that’s one of the things that I end up forgetting to do, especially if you’re stuck in that. If you’re going deeper as you’re talking about like that’s where I’m gonna lose the thread and forget to talk to the people who need to know. You know, am I in time to reach the kids? Can I call the teammate’s parents and let them know what happened quickly? And honestly, it’s not a fatality but hurt their kids are stranded out in front of the school without a ride to get to swim team that I’d committed to do. And so, you know, am I able to live sort of authentically with myself and tell the truth that I had a lapse and I’m gonna, you know, what am I gonna do now, right? That’s kind of where I read this one. Is communication, right? First, are we safe? And then in communication with what happened, how it happened can come later. Just what happened.

Nikki: I agree, I mean, especially when you’re…It’s kind of like I see part one and part two, that part one, that’s how I’m kinda defining serious injury and then part two is, are you communicating? So, yeah. I totally get it.

Pete: So, number three, assess the scope of the incident. Determine which employees were involved or affected, the nature of injuries or damage. All right. So, step three is your reality check, right? I look at this as verifying the swath of my destruction. So you know, you’re in the ADHD store if you don’t quite know, I have your wits about you, who knows what’s you’re leaving…the path of destruction you’re leaving behind you. Doing an assessment and I don’t mean like a formal, here’s a report or a form you have to fill out, but just being mindful of what happened can mean everything from reviewing your own work, to like reading what you wrote, to verifying an email you thought you sent, did it actually get sent. And this is where some of the technology accommodations that I talk about come into play.

For instance, you know, I’m not crazy about Google as a company these days. I struggle with some of their decisions as a company, but I pay for their business-class email service because it’s bulletproof, right? If a message is in the sent mail, I know it got sent, if it’s in my archive, I know I processed it, that the digital document locker I use is synced so that I can retrace scans of important work quickly. And all that means that even if I can’t remember something, if I check the technology and it’s all there, I recognize it’s an ADHD incident, right? It’s a thing where the way I relate to the world broke for a period of time and I have to figure out, I have to retrace the breadcrumbs that you know, fall into place to help build that bridge, which you know, that leads to step four, right?

Identify any witnesses and document their information. This will help to decide who to interview and if and when an investigation is initiated. I don’t know that this one necessarily applies as well for me. For me, I wrote down accountability partner you know, I don’t know, maybe this is where you look at your accountability partner. For me here, this is about rebuilding trust, right? This is about going through the steps of everybody involved in a lapse and make sure that they know you’re aware of what happened and that you are taking action to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Now, let’s look at an example of the kids at the school. I mean, maybe, in this case, that’s going to look like talking to the kids and saying, you know what, I screwed up, I own this, I screwed up. I was doing something else and you know, time and space got the better of me and I wasn’t here when I committed to be here. It means talking to the mom or the other parents and saying, “Hey, I screwed up, time and space got the better of me and I left our kids at the school and I know I put them in a risky place, but I want you to know I want to do what I can to rebuild trust here.” And go through those motions to make sure that you’re able to continue to participate if that’s something that you want to do.

Nikki: Three and four when we’re talking about assessing and also rebuilding that trust. I also take it as self-awareness. This is really where you’re looking at what happened and you are seeing, you know, this is how my ADHD affected this and these are the things I need to do. Whether that is apologizing to those kids or whatever to make it better. And then also I think going and looking at it and saying, “Okay, how do I prevent this from happening again?” So then it’s that acceptance piece of it could happen again. And so how do I make sure, or what kinds of structures do I put in place to be as comfortable as I can to make sure that this doesn’t happen again? Hoping that it [crosstalk 00:20:32]

Pete: Right and I think that’s a great way to put it, right? And not only to be as comfortable as I can making sure that won’t happen again, but as comfortable as I can making sure that I’m comfortable making those commitments again.

Nikki: Well, that’s exactly it because maybe that is the thing that you have to change. Is that maybe there are certain times of the month that it’s not a good idea for you to do it every other week. So, if you’re really busy at the beginning of the month or the end of the month or whatever that is, I mean that could be an accommodation saying, I just don’t think this is, it’s going above my boundaries of what I can do during that time. So, absolutely, I like that. I definitely think [crosstalk 00:21:11]

Pete: It’s true, for me, step three is about the like doing what I can to make sure I’ve made a case that the tools and technologies are working or that they did work or where they didn’t work, that I understand exactly what happened. And step four is all about, you know, making that human relationship, right? That I’ve used all of the data that I’ve investigated here and I’ve now…I understand now how to talk about it. Because sometimes something happens or a bad ADHD day happens and I don’t know how to even talk about it. It’s too much of a puzzle to me. I’m too overwhelmed with just an emotional storm. Yeah, that I can’t actually look at it clearly. And then finally, step five, no matter how trivial the incident or accident may seem, every incident should be documented in a detailed incident report. Now, again, do you need a form? No, you don’t need a form. You might want a form, maybe we’ll throw together a form. But for me, this really highlights the importance of a journaling practice. Yeah. I write about my worst days as often as I write about my best days and some days I just snap a photo of my desk and it’s just a disaster and that’s enough to remind me, “Hey, this was not a great day.”

Nikki: But on the other hand, maybe you snap a photo and it was a great day because you got a lot done and this is just what it looks like. Who knows, right? I mean…

Pete: Right. Right. Right. That’s exactly it. And so, that’s why I look at like the key to using these events as you know, particularly difficult days, but all days is a trigger. It’s just a trigger to find a moment of mindfulness and to document what happened and how you feel and how it turned out and you know, just even if it’s just bullets, it doesn’t have to be even full sentences. It can just be a few words that demonstrate that you were thinking about it and that you know, this happened and how are you gonna go about resolving it? You know, this comment struck me in discord, a comment that came in over the last week and I just wanna read a little bit that anonymized here, but it struck me. “I know it’s important to not make it harder than it is, i.e be so disappointed with myself every day. Yesterday, I went through my day and wrote about what I did do and how each thing was moving me a little bit forward. It was better than what I was doing naturally looking at all I hadn’t done.” Yes, absolutely to your point. And then they continue, “I sometimes doubt I have ADHD, so when I’m in that crappy mental place, I don’t always believe it’s ADHD. I think it’s just me sucking at life.”

Nikki: Damn. Breaks my heart.

Pete: Ugh, it does and it does doubly because I think, you know, I’m sure people out there are saying, “Oh yeah, yeah, I totally get that. That’s Monday day one, right? 8 o’clock. That’s how I feel.” It’s very familiar and very resonant. I think that the act of practicing writing down your experience with ADHD gives you a sense of perspective, right? My hunch is that you’ll find more often than not that it’s not as bad as it felt in the moment, right? That the kids are okay. They took a lift and got to practice on time. The report is late. It got filed. That was a bad day. It was a bad day. And you know, then there are days that are genuinely terrible. You have a string of bad days and you lose your job, you lose your marriage, you lose your home. All of these things that we have seen clearly and cogently reported in our community, they’re very real and they’re inescapably tied to ADHD experience for a lot of people and that’s hard.

But you know, this is where the zero-day thing comes back to me and hits home that every bad day has a next day after it, right? Every bad day is a chance to take an eraser to that stupid dry-erase sign and rewrite your future rather than living in the past. It doesn’t say 1,500 incidents in the last 365 days, right? Nobody records like that on your inspirational sign. It says zero days since last incident and this is your chance to move forward. This is your chance to learn from yesterday, to start again with a gift of perspective. And that I think is important. The long arc of history moves to soften the peaks and valleys in our lives in a way that our memories of a hard time in general, it makes them less hard and individual days are completely erased. They’re just gone. Use it as a way to move forward.

Nikki: Oh, I love that. You know, you’ve always used the analogy of a river of when you’re talking about Patreon, right? Like when you get on Discord, don’t go up the river because it…

Pete: It could be overwhelming. Yeah.

Nikki: Yeah. Well, I saw a quote that was about a river and it’s similar to what you’re saying here. Rivers don’t flow backward, they only go forwards. Now, forget about the past and just look forward. Look into the future. And that’s exactly what you’re saying here. So, I love that. I love it, Pete. Thank you.

Pete: Well, exactly and you know there is a real benefit to looking back when you’re in your darkest moments because again, it gives you the opportunity for perspective. It says, “Okay, I remember I’ve had crappy days before and you know what happened? I lived.”

Nikki: I was able to get myself out of it. I was able to move forward. And it doesn’t matter how slow that process was or anything but you were able to do it, absolutely. And there’s people there to help you and I think going back to that communication piece if you’re really feeling in a bad place, reach out. Reach out to people that you trust, that love you, that get you, and you’ll know that you’re not alone.

Pete: Yeah, absolutely. So, thank you for the opportunity to wax a little bit philosophical as usual. I guess that’s what these Pete episodes turn into from time to time.

Nikki: I love it.

Pete: I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you, Nikki, and thank you, everybody, as always for downloading and listening to this show. Thanks for joining us in the Discord community, you guys are fantastic. And I’m gonna go take a little bit of nap and raise a glass of coffee to another great week. Thanks, everybody. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next time right here 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.