Comparison, Guilt, and Shame with Michelle Frank

Dr. Michelle Frank is a clinical psychologist specializing in providing diagnostic and treatment services to individuals with ADHD. Her work with clients is all about finding strengths-based approaches to learning how to live with ADHD. Last time she was here, she helped us work through shame and how it impacts relationships. As it turns out, there’s more guilt, shame, and relativism in ADHD than we thought. So, she’s back to help us take our understanding to the next level! She works with college students, adults, and families and the book she co-authored with Sari Solden — A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD: Embrace Neurodiversity, Live Boldly, and Break Through Barriers — was released last summer.

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Episode Transcript

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

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello everyone? Hello Pete?

Pete Wright:
How are you doing Nikki Kinzer?

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m doing pretty good on this side this day.

Pete Wright:
This day?

Nikki Kinzer:
This day.

Pete Wright:
So where we are, we’ve totally given up on identifying days. That’s good. I’d say that’s satisfying. It’s satisfying. We just got the word that we are stuck until like July 6th and now, they’ve extended the stay at home, so great. That’s awesome.

Nikki Kinzer:
Really, I have not heard that.

Pete Wright:
Our fair governor Kate Brown yesterday. That affects you too, Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
I thought that she was going to try to open some stuff around May 15th.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow, okay.

Pete Wright:
It’s the-

Nikki Kinzer:
You have the latest news.

Pete Wright:
The long March to the sea. That’s all we’re doing is just the long March. But that’s okay because we have a delightful guest who’s going to keep us in good spirits by teaching us wonderful things that we need to learn about our ADHD. Before we do that though, head over to takecontroladhd.com and 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 at Take Control: ADHD.

Pete Wright:
And if the show has ever touched you or helped you make a change in your life for the better. Or if you just like hanging out with the guests that we have on this show, like today’s guest who is amazing, you should head over to patreon.com/theADHDpodcast for just a few bucks a month. You can join one of our tiers and access our online community of ADHD, wonderful ADHD patrons who shared their stories and support with one another, through our online discord community or our online Facebook page just for the group.

Pete Wright:
You can watch the live stream of the show each week as we record it, and you can get access to the podcast and your very own members’ podcast feed a week early before everybody else and it doesn’t even have any ads in it. So, it’s all great news and I will say, I made a pitch last week that we had a new product coming to the store and it’s here. So, if you want to get your very own nonmedical grade masks, sporting the ADHD logo stuff, you can do that now. But it’s a little bit tricky. You have to go over to our merchandise page before I think probably 10:00 AM Pacific time each day.

Pete Wright:
They restock each morning, so if you go later in the day, they’re probably out of them. Frankly, it is a very complicated time for people who are manufacturing masks and especially logo march masks. They only get about a thousand a day, for everyone that they are providing mass for. So this is the deal. You show up before 10 o’clock you place your order, it takes two weeks to 20 days to get your mask with the logo stuff on them. I will tell you the masks are $15 and for every one mask that you buy, the nonmedical grade mask, they will send a medical grade mask to direct relief, which will be distributed to frontline healthcare workers.

Pete Wright:
It is a great way to give back to the community in just a small part. If you’re feeling like me a little bit lost, I ordered five masks or everybody in my family and just feel like it that it’s going to do us some good and I love those squirrels so, so much. So, head over to takecontroladhd.com/march, takecontroladhd.com/march if you want to get in on one of those masks. You just have to click on the design and then select the masks and you’ll see in there. There it’s easy to find though. Thanks everybody.

Pete Wright:
Dr. Michelle Frank is here. She’s a clinical psychologist specializing in providing diagnostic and treatment services to individuals with ADHD or working clients. Is all about finding strengths-based approaches to learning how to live with ADHD. The last time she was here she helped us through all of the things we needed to know about shame and how it impacts relationships. And unfortunately it turns out we weren’t finished. There is more guilt, shame and relativism to talk about in ADHD than we ever would have expected to.

Pete Wright:
So, she’s back to help us level up a little bit. Her book, last time she was here, her book was about to come out. This is the book she coauthored Sari Solden, A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD: Embrace Neurodiversity, Live Boldly, and Break Through Barriers. So many words for me to put in my mouth. It is now out and you can go get it. Link in the show notes. Welcome back Dr. Michelle Frank.

Michelle Frank:
Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.

Nikki Kinzer:
Welcome.

Michelle Frank:
We were talking about different avenues and I had some inspiration here from one of our members of discord. They were having a conversation around feeling guilty for having fun or being happy during the pandemic when so many people are negatively affected by COVID. That was one thing that I thought would be a good thing to address. But it was also a couple of other things is feeling strange about when they hear about what other people are doing. So, whether they’re having fun or they’re getting like things really organized and cleaned out and they’re doing all these projects at home, but they’re just staying at home.

Michelle Frank:
So there’s kind of this like guilt, right, of I should be doing more kind of thing. And then there was also some conversation around what’s normal, what people should be doing. And notice I use the word should right in quotes. So it got me thinking about a show, and a topic, and how could we kind of wrap all this stuff into one? And what kind of came to me was this like cycle of comparison, guilt and shame.

Michelle Frank:
It’s like the comparison kind of comes first, right? You’re looking at what everyone else is doing. The guilt kind of starts to set in because you’re not doing that. And then the shame comes in by, “Okay, I must be a bad person because I’m not doing that.” Is that you guys understand where I’m coming from?

Pete Wright:
Well, and it’s funny, it’s very timely too. I just opened my news reader this morning and read this article that just popped up about COVID snitching, people who are so, they are so frustrated by what they see with people like flouting recommendation, stay at home orders. They’re going out, they’re not wearing masks. They show up at events, that they’re starting to call the police when they see like groups of kids outside their house or-

Nikki Kinzer:
Social policing. Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, social policing and I thought it was interesting because that’s what I would call it, right? Social policing. But they did call it COVID snitching.

Michelle Frank:
That sounds way catchier.

Nikki Kinzer:
It really does.

Michelle Frank:
I would click that, I would click that.

Pete Wright:
Guilty as charged.

Michelle Frank:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
But there is this other sense that I find myself dealing with and I don’t know, the ADHD part I struggle with a little bit because I might have a feeling of guilt that I’m not getting enough done or shame that I’m not, living my COVID quarantine life to its fullest extent. But I also have this darker side that I preseparate on the Shodan Frieda, the look you who are opening your state today. Like, I don’t want more people to die, but I also do want you to get a message and that feels really dark and it’s one of those uninterruptible patterns that I find I can get myself in.

Pete Wright:
And that sort of leads to more guilt and more shame and more comparison and guilt and shame and that cycle. So, there’s my three and a half cents.

Michelle Frank:
That’s a good point. I’ve even found myself feeling like getting sort of stuck and feeling of like, not being a good enough therapist or feeling like a fraud because some days I’m not doing the things I know to do to cope well. I know all the things and then don’t always do the things. So, I guess that’s just to say I’m not sure we can ever fully escape that voice. It’s about getting to a place where, we don’t get onto the train car with and take it crosscountry. It gets quieter, it gets softer.

Michelle Frank:
It has less of an influence on our mood and what we choose to do or not. But, can we ever get right rid of that voice? I don’t I think so. I think we can learn how to do it differently.

Nikki Kinzer:
So, let’s talk about that. But I guess before we talked about the how, I am curious to know, and Michelle, you and I were talking about this via email, kind of back and forth, a little bit about the psychology behind what we’re experiencing with COVID and its effects on mental health, because we are certainly seeing that. So, I’m curious from your standpoint, what’s happening here?

Michelle Frank:
Oh, what isn’t, right? So, a lot is happening and I think we’re starting to talk about mental health. And we’re going to continue to have to, because it’s going to be a pertinent issue for some time. Not that it wasn’t before. Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
it’s going to get bigger.

Michelle Frank:
Yeah, it’s going to get bigger. What I’m seeing is a lot of folks who were struggling with anxiety or depression or loneliness, body image, eating stuff, anything you were struggling with before, probably going to come up. There’s a phrase, stress and regress, right? Like we all sort of regress a bit under intense stress and when there’s a lot of change that we feel we can’t keep up with.

Michelle Frank:
So, we’ve definitely seeing arise in anxiety, in depression, in loneliness. If you’re at home with your family, where there’s a lot going on in those dynamics. All that’s coming to the surface if you’re quarantined together. Right? So, there’s a lot going on that end. But even from the perspective of just like your day to day average Joe, or Josephine’s mental health, and daily functioning. Let’s be clear, we’re experiencing a global community trauma and it’s one that is ongoing.

Michelle Frank:
And typically, we integrate and make sense of and make meaning from trauma and once it’s over, but this sort of just keeps unfolding and there’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with that. And the human brain and body definitely don’t appreciate too much uncertainty. So we’re all being thrown into a stress response. One model I like to think about is, it’s called a window of tolerance. So, I want you to imagine like a yellow bar or a Lego and that has window of tolerance, zone of tolerance written on it.

Michelle Frank:
In that space, we are safe and social. We connect, we can be creative. I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot of people saying they’re creative blocks lately. If we can problem solve, we feel clear and good. Now, right above that stack a red Lego and on that written hyper arousal, that’s fight or flight. That’s anxiety, anger, irritability, increased heart rate.

Pete Wright:
I call that home.

Michelle Frank:
It’s a sympathetic nervous system response to get you moving in response to a threat, or to go home Pete. And so then underneath the yellow block there’s a blue lego, and that’s hypo arousal. That’s free. And that typically happens when fight or flight don’t work or when we can’t escape the stressor, like nothing’s working. And so, we start shutting down. On an extreme level for folks have experienced trauma that looks like dissociation and then very serious depression. But, for those without those predispositions or past experiences that might look like [inaudible 00:13:02], not feeling present, just collapsing on the couch with overwhelmed.

Michelle Frank:
Now, I don’t know about you, but this three tiered structure looks a lot like daily ADHD life too. Doesn’t it?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I was just saying, I don’t even know what to call that vacation home I guess. Yeah, I go back and forth. It’s so rare that I’m actually making that yellow block. I would just swing from place to place.

Michelle Frank:
It just makes me think that, it makes perfect sense. The ADHD brain struggles to regulate arousal States, and it struggles to regulate the emotion States. So it makes perfect sense that the ADHD brain would do a lot of bouncing in this band, we’ll call it a bounce house now. It went from Lego structure to bounce house. But everyone is experiencing some form of this. It might be, sort of stress response lights. And some people really are just chilling out in the zone of tolerance, but for a lot of folks to kind of bounce back and forth all day long, and is our bodies and brains trying to make sense of what’s going on.

Nikki Kinzer:
Is it common then for, I mean, I would think that this is probably common even outside of COVID, but I’m just curious, for ADHDers to compare themselves when they see people in the yellow, and they think, “Oh, that’s where I need to be.”

Michelle Frank:
Gosh, there’s research on the increased negative self talk, and negative thought patterns that happen for folks with ADHD that is very real. But I don’t know about being you guys and your experiences. But, in my personal experience and with my clients, I hear a lot of comparison to this bar of ideal expectation that is set around neuro-typical functioning, and idealizes it.

Pete Wright:
Yes. Yes. Oh my gosh. That is exactly it. That’s the comparison thing because I’m idealizing not just behavior, but identity. Right?

Michelle Frank:
There you go, there you go.

Pete Wright:
That’s it. That’s it. Oh, you just put that together. Add another a block.

Michelle Frank:
Add another block, identity.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Michelle Frank:
Exactly. And there ends up being a lot of self statements like, “I am not good enough. I am too much. I am irresponsible. I’m a burden. I’m not a good parent. I’m a failure. I’m stupid. I am not a good partner. I’m not a good friend.” Like it just goes straight to I am, and then it becomes all consuming. One thing goes wrong and then boom, I am bad.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. If I look at somebody on social media, Instagram, whatever, who is making good use of that, “Oh my gosh, they wrote another novel.” Then I start to misappropriate the behavior for the identity. And so, I’m thinking, “Well, if only I could write a book and focus on a book, then I would be a better person.” Because I can’t, I must be a failure.

Michelle Frank:
I must be bad. I must be awful. I’m going to die alone.

Pete Wright:
And I don’t even need to say those words because I’m saying, “Well, they wrote a book,” that feeling, I don’t even need the negative self talk anymore. It’s like a shortcut around the words themselves for me to feel crappy. This is great.

Michelle Frank:
Totally, totally. You know what’s interesting is research on comparison. It really fascinates me because it is something we do. It makes evolutionary sense. Like we’re always scanning the environment, other people to make sure we’re okay. Oh, they got sick after they ate that. Don’t eat that. That’s helpful. But they wrote a book during a global pandemic and I didn’t, not helpful. Research says that we are terrible, terrible, accurate observers and compares. We always compare ourselves to above average metrics or characteristics even when, and this is the funny part, even when those traits are not desirable. So, if you say, compare yourself to someone who acts rudely, has rude behavior, even that we will overshoot.

Michelle Frank:
We’re just bad at it. But we take it for truth.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. Right, right.

Pete Wright:
Well, if you think about that, like in mass media, I think about that when I look at anytime I happen across a true crime story and I think, Oh, I could’ve stolen more than that guy. Or like, if only he tried harder, he could have done more damage or something like that. That’s totally true. Why would I do that? Why would I do that? That’s nuts.

Nikki Kinzer:
You’re in constant competition.

Pete Wright:
Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. It is so interesting though, Michelle, when you said they take it as true, like it is the truth, and I see it time and time again, especially with women, and around being a parent, mothering and I’m a stay at home mom. I should have the house in order. I should be doing this. I should be doing that. Well, my neighbor who’s neurotypical, she seems to be doing just fine, but in reality she’s not, she’s also a huge mess. Right? But she maybe isn’t… I don’t know. I think I should probably use communicating it. Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
But they don’t necessarily see it. I don’t know. But it is, it’s taking something that’s so true and it’s so self-sabotaging. It just doesn’t serve you in any way. So, how do you even get to a point where you see that?

Pete Wright:
Regnize it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Where you recognized, wait a minute, this may not be what I see or think may not be true.

Michelle Frank:
I think when it starts to feel bad, that’s good sign to just stop and set. I do think it’s important to get into a space of discernment, and ask yourself what is the essence of the thing I think I want. So, perhaps I want the tidy house like my neighbor has. Perhaps I want, the fit body likes the girl at Pilates class. But what is the essence of that, that I’m actually looking for? Is it living up to an external mandate that’s just made up or is it that a tidy house would feel like clarity and a fit body would feel like energy and strength?

Michelle Frank:
Because from there you can say, “Okay, what does it look like to feel clarity for me?” What does it look like to feel strong today for me? And we can reorient from the inside out. We all tend to orient first from the outside in. Again, it’s that social referencing we do, to make sure we’re doing okay, but research has shown us we’re really bad at that, so we might as well take a different route, when that brings us more joy.

Nikki Kinzer:
I really liked what you said. What is clarity for me? I think that for me is a really important part of adding that to your internal conversation. I love that.

Michelle Frank:
It’s not going to look the way it looks for any other person, regardless of their you space on the neurodiversity spectrum.

Nikki Kinzer:
And also, I think comparing, I see this time and time again too, comparing yourself to other ADHDers. Well, they have ADHD and look at how well they are put together. So again, I think going back to what is it for me, what works for me? What do I need?

Pete Wright:
I don’t know how, just a shout out to our community because I don’t know how the ADHD group doesn’t have more of that. When I’m hanging around on our discord group, I don’t feel like I’m comparing myself to other ADHDers in that community. But as soon as I go out and look at other people who are somehow appear so miraculously successful with their ADHD, then I start to really think about that.

Pete Wright:
That is crazy talk. Why would I be, even if I were standing next to me, if I had another me right here, it would be ridiculous for me to try to compare myself to that guy. That is like climbing a ladder with no rungs because we’re just trying to get through the day. And I feel like it’s important to acknowledge that. And so, I think about the word that really stood out to me is discernment. Because that is like we’d love to say a muscle, right? That’s a thing we have to learn to do. And it takes practice and it takes daily effort and heavy lifting to figure out, am I lying to myself today about my own reality?

Michelle Frank:
Right. Right. Reinventing our voice and rewriting the narrative takes practice. We don’t just wake up one day suddenly with nothing but positive self talk in our mind. We have to seek that out. That our brain naturally goes towards finding the bad stuff so we can protect ourselves. And then we ended up in this space again, the stress response, they end up in this space of overprotection. And we can’t be in protection and connection at the same time.

Michelle Frank:
You can have boundaries. You can’t be over protected and guarding against all of these negative thoughts. All of these external messages about how you should or shouldn’t be, and still thrive.

Pete Wright:
Can I ask you a question? You’re talking about a stress response, right? And I know that there is a clinical discussion around stress response that we’ve been having, but is there such a thing as a trust response? Like conditioning yourself to look at the world in such a way or to respond to stimulus in such a way that says, “Hey, I’m going to be okay when I look at this thing. I’ve achieved the space of being in a trust response. I’m going to trust that this is okay.”

Michelle Frank:
I love that trust response. Science would say that’s, so we would call the ventral vagal state. That’s that safe and social space ultimately. And it takes practice. It takes practice recognizing, accuse of safety. You have to look for those, instead of just, what in this moment is proof that something’s wrong or I’m doing something or I’m not good enough. What if we look for proof of the opposite that actually we’re safe and okay. It kind of moving into that space, writing them down if you have to.

Michelle Frank:
Like keeping a log of what are the signs and cues that I’m okay?

Pete Wright:
That’s it. Is figuring out how to define for me, what makes the world an okay place to be in right now? What makes the world a place that’s more calming, not more anxious, because I’m really good at the other stuff. I’m really good at living in the red brick, but I’m often not so good at putting on a roll Prince record and like chilling with a guitar and loving it. Like I’m just not good at that. And I was good at that when I was a kid, but I’m, I’m not good at sitting still anymore, and recognizing the icons, the objects, the signals that everything’s okay.

Michelle Frank:
Yeah. I think art, music and nature are really good at getting us there. And then like we slowly add in trusted people maybe later, like maybe it starts with your pet on a nature walk and that’s where you feel safe, but then you can slowly kind of branch out. But it’s interesting what you say like you feel that, that’s taken away. And I wonder if part of it is that as we get older we just keep internalizing these mandates about what we’re supposed to be and we’re supposed to be productive and work a certain way, and look a certain way and do things a certain way.

Michelle Frank:
It’s not okay to just be, and you were in a state like then when you’re listening to Prince records and Sean out with your good, you’re just being. And that’s so wrapped up in doing that we forget about being, and that in and of itself is worthy.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. That’s beautifully said because that is so true. I think that people then feel guilty about doing the guitar, and playing music because they think that they should be doing something else.

Pete Wright:
Well, because I mean look at the practical reality is the second I sit down and press play, and start strumming along or whatever I’m doing and just being, I’m also somewhere in the back of my mind being late for something else or suddenly being aware that I’ve dropped the ball and I’ve let somebody down. Like that is also a contingent state of my reality with ADHD. And so, that’s the muscle. Like figuring out a way to recognize those signals and let them be loud enough that I can silence the other stuff is the real challenge.

Michelle Frank:
Well, and I’d have to say Pete, that would be the question too, if how true is that all the time. Because you jumped to the conclusion that I might be late, or like I’m late to something, I should be doing something else. But is that really true? Maybe at that moment at eight o’clock at night it really is okay for you to be doing that. So, second, not second guessing, but-

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I do this all the time, Nikki, and yet it’s so astute. I will sit down and think that I’m okay for a hot second and immediately I’ll just be in a space of late, late for what? I can’t answer that. Behind on what? I don’t.

Nikki Kinzer:
I don’t know.

Pete Wright:
I’m sure there’s something right? That maybe is the thing. This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to sit down with, I’m going to keep my little field notes with me, and when I come up to that feeling of, “Am I late,” I’m going to write down what it’s for. What am I late for? What am I behind on, and is anybody’s head on fire if I don’t do it right now. Because I don’t do that enough. I usually just count on, “Okay, I’m missing it.” And I think I miss a lot of stillness as a result.

Michelle Frank:
Yeah, we don’t drop into the emotion of it either, like we’re afraid to sit with that discomfort that’s coming up. But if we sit with it for a minute, we can usually untangle from it pretty quickly and get back to peace. I was talking to Duane, the president of ADDA, Attention Deficit Disorder Association the other day, and we were actually talking about something very similar and he said, “Michelle, get out your calendar.” “Okay, Duane.” And he said, “All right, I want you to find one hour in the next three days where you do absolutely nothing and I want you to schedule it and make client appointment.”

Pete Wright:
Oh, Duane.

Michelle Frank:
And I was like, “Well, I mean, I do that. I schedule like me time.” He says, “No, no time to do nothing. Nothing.” Naval gaze or whatever the phrase is. Nothing. Like stare at a wall.

Pete Wright:
It is really telling that you had to actually reach for Naval gaze, whatever that is.

Michelle Frank:
Exactly. Point in case. I don’t know how to do that. Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Michelle Frank:
That felt so foreign. But I’ve been practicing it for a little bit now, and I got to tell you, I really, really like it. Because often as these other things creep in, the sheds creep in. Well, Oak I’m laying here, I’m watching a show, but I really should be doing some pushups or-

Nikki Kinzer:
Laundry.

Michelle Frank:
Straightening up the laundry while I’m sitting. Like no, just stop. Just stop, I don’t know who says this quote, but it’s don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way peace makes you move. And I liked that. I think it helps to seek out the joy, like move the way that brings joy. Because joy isn’t, it isn’t a dopamine rush. It’s not, it’s not, not me now. It’s not an adrenaline hit. It’s presence. It’s like-

Nikki Kinzer:
That moment.

Michelle Frank:
Presence in the moment. I think that is a much better compass for what good and what comes from within than trying to stay away from what doesn’t feel good. I guess it’s easier to orient from a place of this does make me feel good in a way that’s like good, good, not just immediate gratification good. It’s easier to start there than it is to back up from I feel bad now I have to undo. Kind of work my way out of the shame spiral and then start again.

Nikki Kinzer:
So, I’m curious, because you have said just in the last a couple of minutes, two words that are really interesting to me, untangling and shame. Which is a part of your book title, right? So, I am curious, I know in your book I’ve read it, there’s a lot of different questions, a lot of insightful questions and exercises for people to do. With where we’re going, with what we’ve been talking about and what we’re going on. How does that apply in this situation? Like how could somebody go pick up your book and actually use it for what we’re talking about?

Michelle Frank:
The book talks a lot about untangling from shame messages in a more general sense related to living with ADHD. And it starts with helping you break down where some of those messages came from in the first place. Where did you first experience the message that your differences were ‘bad’ or not okay. Or that having unique needs was not something that was okay to assert and set boundaries from. Where did these messages originally come from? Because again, when we pause and we notice I’m feeling shame and we sit with it, a lot of times the past is coming into the present.

Michelle Frank:
And it can be so helpful just to say, those are recognized. This is not that, I am here now, right? Like I have a new choice now. I am an adult now. I have agency in this moment. And then it’s dropping into the body and doing a body scan scene. What do I say I feel, where do I feel it, and what information does that give me about what I actually need? So again, it’s really a big, big pause button. It’s a huge process of slowing down, and becoming the observer of the experience rather than living in it and from it. When we are in the experience of I’m not good enough, I’m too much. I’m forgetting something, I’m a mess up.

Michelle Frank:
We get flooded with emotions. And it’s just like a waterside, just spiral right on down. Those thoughts just get worse and worse. More and more mean. And the emotions follow. Okay? So, we have to pump the brakes on that. By pausing, taking a few breaths, getting present with what we’re experiencing and then by naming it, name it to tame it, calling out the thoughts, calling out the shame. I kind of start to see it more like one part of our experience. So we’re not fused with it. We’re taking a step back so we can be the observer and say, “Okay, what do I Michelle want to do with this moment?” Instead of feeling like our hair is on fire because we’re so flooded with emotion that it’s just totally become us. So, we have to kind of pause so that those emotions come to a more workable space so we can make some new decisions.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay, so that’s good. So when you are flooded, you can’t make those decisions. So, that’s why you’re saying you have to pause and really take a step back. And I like what you were saying before too of remembering that where the messages came from isn’t true now. Like you have the power to change that story. Like you have that, I feel like that’s a really strong message to be able to walk through that and not just accept that, but because my second grade teacher said this, that doesn’t apply to me now is a woman in my 40s. I say my 40s cause I’m not, [inaudible 00:34:21] getting worried.

Michelle Frank:
And from that space we can say, okay, we can get back to that personal values question of, okay, well what does it mean to have a space that feels good to me today? Not hyper organized Pinterest board, beautiful, but we can get back to like, okay, what really matters to me? When we’re flooded with emotion, when our minds are going 50 miles a minute down, like negative self-appraisal railway, literally, like resources are draining from our frontal low. We’re not there. Right? We’re in the red or we get to the blue Lego. We’re not capable. We have to slow it down.

Nikki Kinzer:
So how does that look, it’s pretty common for somebody to say, “I’m so overwhelmed, I just shut down.” That’s a very common thing for people to feel like when you were talking about the whole Lego thing in the first place, this is ADHD, right? We kind of can see that. So, when you are in the shut down, the blue Lego, how do you create that space?

Michelle Frank:
How do you get the bounce back in your house?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Well, I feel like it is so easy for me to get lost in the sea of unrealistic expectations in the world. And what I’m sitting here musing on that I’m struggling with is, I also like my initial instinct is turn off every screen, like don’t take in any external signals for a while. Right? Shut it all down. And, I live in a world that is connected this way. And my job is singularly requires of me to be connected in this way if I am to put food on the table. And so, I’m trying to find the balance in my head. Like, what does it look like to have bounce in my house and to be enabled to live as a modern contributor to a struggling economy, right?

Pete Wright:
In such a way that I can both wade into what I know is the sea of unrealistic expectations and also be strong enough in the present in the me, and the who I am in my own identity. That I don’t need to compare it to somebody else’s. And maybe that’s the, I guess that’s the brass ring, right? Like, how do I get to a point where I’m so comfortable as me that I don’t need to see me in you.

Michelle Frank:
That brings up so many thoughts for me. It’s like that ADHD thing when 10 thoughts hit at once, that’s happening.

Pete Wright:
I don’t know anything about that.

Michelle Frank:
At all, at all. First of all, we’re interdependent beings. We always have the need to see ourselves and other people and have them reflect us back. We don’t escape that. We shouldn’t escape that fully. Social referencing can be helpful when it’s not taken to the destructive place you’re talking about. But I think part of it is also surrounding ourselves with the people who we can say, “Hey, I could use some affirmation, or I could use a moment to vent.” Those people in our lives who reflect us back positively.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, that’s a really good point. And I think that that twist is important to me. That it is not so much people that I need to see myself in other people. It’s surround myself by the people that I want to see myself and other people. That drive me to something new and that I am grateful that they might see a bit of themselves in me.

Michelle Frank:
There you go. Or provide an act of service where like acts of service tend to get us out of our own minds and like sort of back into that sense of shared humanity. It can be really helpful. Nikki, you mentioned like that overwhelm that happens in those moments too. How do I get the bounce back? I think it’s important to remember that emotions really are that energy. They’re like chemical, and electric impulses running through our brains. And so, they need to move, they need to be honored and dealt with, and then like we need to keep moving.

Michelle Frank:
When we really shut down is when we push it all away. We push it all the way, but it-

Nikki Kinzer:
Because, you’re not dealing with it.

Michelle Frank:
You’re not dealing. So of course it’s too much. But the thing is, for people with ADHD, even a little bit can feel like too much, right? It’s not quite the same as if we were talking about someone who’s neuro-typical. Because with ADHD, a small thing can send you into complete overwhelm and it’s not proportionate in a way we’d expect. So, it does look like, again, slowing down, breaking it down to the smallest possible piece.

Michelle Frank:
And I just really loved the question, what is the next right action? What is the next best thing? Maybe it’s just go get a glass of water and then you make another new decision. But how do I create some movement? If you’re in total shutdown, one, you do need to think about how can I feel like safe in this moment? Would it feel good to have a cup of tea or a walk or a shower or talk to a friend or curl up and just take a half hour break? Or would it help to do some jumping jacks or have a dance party to some music, and literally get some energy flowing again.

Michelle Frank:
But in each year I struggled to take breaks I’ve noticed because it feels like we can’t afford to, because of all the stuff that’s not done. All of the time that we were losing and the sense of urgency, that’s what’s us always. You alluded to that Pete, that sense of like just urgency that’s lingering. So, taking brace can be really difficult and feel pretty uncomfortable. But I’ve found that they’re really, really important. And it comes down ultimately just giving yourself permission to do it. A lot of us talk ourselves out of doing the things that are good for us because, “How can I do that when.”

Pete Wright:
Oh my goodness. Michelle-

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow. So much.

Pete Wright:
What are you doing?

Michelle Frank:
Sorry. I know. I know.

Pete Wright:
I can see it the brain goes completely fireworks and then you drop these bombs and I’m going to be thinking about this all day. Thank you.

Nikki Kinzer:
This is a great, great topic. I’m so glad you were here to talk to us about it.

Pete Wright:
Well and so, ably navigated what I went into this, this morning thinking how are we going to shape a conversation around these three unrelated things, Phillips head screwdriver, a coffee cup and cell phone. And yet you managed to do it. Like it’s just delightful. You’re amazing. Thanks so much. Now you’ve moved since the last time we had you on the show? Where do you want people to go find you?

Michelle Frank:
Yeah, located in Denver now, at Enrich Relationship Center of Colorado. So my professional website is enrichcenter.org. You can shoot me an email, drFrank@enrichcenter.org. You can also find my in series work at adhdradicalguide.com we keep posting blog pieces or media pieces, stuff like that there. That’s where you can find me also at, ADHD_doc on Instagram.

Pete Wright:
There you go. There’s a waiting into the, say apparently I can’t go there anymore because I’ll start comparing myself to you or maybe you’re exactly who I need to be comparing to myself about that. This has been great. Michelle, thank you so, so much for joining us-

Michelle Frank:
You’re welcome.

Pete Wright:
… and joining our community and thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this show. We deeply appreciate your time and your attention. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer. I’m Pete, right? We’ll catch you next time. Right here on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.