At the Corner of ADHD Avenue and Panic Street

We’re on the edge around these parts, pressured by the environment, the overwhelming weight of politics in the US, and all the associated symptoms that come with it.

Pete’s been pretty open about his brand of COVD experience. He thought it was over only to discover last week that there are new, surprise issues cropping up and what the medical team is asking of him has sparked some inescapable ADHD behaviors leading to one of the darker weekends of recovery. What happens when your ADHD symptoms run into your healthcare requirements and spark panic? That’s this week on The ADHD Podcast with a personal story from Pete.


Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

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

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello everyone. Hi, Pete.

Pete Wright:
Hi. How are you?

Nikki Kinzer:
Hi.

Pete Wright:
Feeling good?

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh am I?

Pete Wright:
Feeling strong? Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
I am. I’m feeling pretty good. [crosstalk 00:00:29]

Pete Wright:
You just you sound great. Oh, yeah. No, you look very… You look sharp. You look like you’re on top of things. You look like your mindfulness-

Nikki Kinzer:
Positive energy.

Pete Wright:
is on lock right now and you don’t even need the zoom touch up my appearance feature. You’re just, you’re radiant-

Nikki Kinzer:
Thank you.

Pete Wright:
this election week.

Nikki Kinzer:
I like the touch up feature though. It does make me happy.

Pete Wright:
I’ll tell ya, I look like dirt. Look at this.

Nikki Kinzer:
No you don’t.

Pete Wright:
God, I look old. I feel old.

Nikki Kinzer:
You do have some foggy glasses though.Old glasses though. I don’t know what’s going on with that.

Pete Wright:
I know. Is that weird? My sweaty eyeballs.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, sweaty eyeballs.

Pete Wright:
So sweaty.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s a little weird.

Pete Wright:
It’s not great.

Nikki Kinzer:
You got to get some new eyeglasses, I think.

Pete Wright:
Well mostly, I had a rough weekend. I had a really rough weekend and it’s something that’s constantly on my mind, this what happens when ADHD meets other partner complications. And so I thought we would take a little time to talk about that today and anchor that in my stupid weekend experience and see how that works. And so we’re going to talk a little bit about anxiety and ADHD and panic and then we’re going to talk about Gestalt therapy, believe it or not. We’re going to bring it all back around to Gestalt therapy and I’m excited to talk about that. Before we do, head over to takecontroladhd.com. You can get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list and we will send you an email each time a new episode is released.

Pete Wright:
Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook at takecontroladhd.com. And if this show has ever touched you, oh, we sure wish you would head over to patreon.com/theadhdpodcast and check out our member program. For a few bucks a month, you get to join our online community over on Discord and our member group over on Facebook. You get to watch the live stream of this show as we record. You can hear all about my foggy glasses because of my sweaty eyeballs. We did a whole bit on that, tight five, on sweaty eyeballs before the show started. You get to hang out with us in our online server and meet an incredible community of ADHD people who are amazing and have been there for years and want to help and support one another and grow. It’s just amazing. Thank you all for your continued support. Oh, by the way, as we record this, it’s November, which means you get to join us for happy hour, which is coming up, another wonderful member event coming up the first Wednesday of each month, patrion.com/the ADHD podcast, to learn more. Okay, so Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. Where do we start?

Pete Wright:
Well, okay. I don’t know. I’ve talked a lot about my health. I’m sure people are so sick of Pete talking about his health. That’s all I can think about right now is that, oh, it’s another episode of Pete talking about his health. So I’ve talked a lot about this whole post-COVID health. It’s not great. It’s really hard. And so I try not to talk about it as much as I… Believe it or not, I actually try not to talk about, but this weekend was a real low point for me just in my body and in my head. And so the background is, it turns out that it looks like my vascular system right now is more impacted than we had thought and there’s poor circulation and really weird, gross swelling. It’s just awful.

Nikki Kinzer:
In your feet?

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Yeah, can’t walk. Swelling in my feet. It’s like nine months pregnant swelling.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, that’s miserable.

Pete Wright:
It’s just you can’t walk around. And so two weeks ago, my doctor said, “Here. I want you to get a blood pressure cuff and I want you to take regular random measurements of your blood pressure over the next 10 days and let’s just see what’s going on with your circulation.” And it did not take 10 days to discover that I’m super hypertensive right now, dangerously so, and that we need to start some intervention. And they’re talking about things like the COVID related stuff. They’re talking about all the COVID related buzzwords. But the bottom line is, and the way my doctor put it, it looks like your circulatory system is doing a lot of work for your heart, and we need to give your heart a break and your circulatory system is having a tough time keeping up. And so there are lots of other sort of reasons that this may or may not be happening, but the bottom line is we have to change it. Continue collecting data and make some changes.

Nikki Kinzer:
Collecting data.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, it’s terrible. It’s terrible.

Nikki Kinzer:
What kind of data do you have to collect?

Pete Wright:
Well, blood pressure still, multiple times a day, heart rate, obviously constantly, and pulse oxygen, blood oxygen level. And so that’s the same stuff that I was doing when I was deep in it in July. And so we’re back to that because I get to this point where that is just physically exhausting.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, yeah. I can imagine.

Pete Wright:
It’s just you’re constantly panting with that experience. You’re constantly feeling like you just ran a race. And so I’m doing the dishes, all I’m doing is standing and moving my hands and my pulse shoots up to like 110, 120 sustained for that experience. And you just can’t stop, can’t stop panting. And so then you go and you take your measurements and that’s when I had this sort of awakening yesterday where I was… I know we’ve talked about this before. It’s been a long time. But when I went through grad school, my hyper-focus sort of back of the mind activity to keep me going during my studies was to rip CDs, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Wright:
Because this was a long time ago when I went to grad school and so iTunes had just come out and I was very excited about taking all my CDs, my massive CD collection, and digitizing them all as MP3s. And so I would do that in the background, and that would be a little… It would take sometimes 10 minutes to rip a CD and so I would have 10 minute sprints. Switch CDs, do another thing. And I realized this weekend, that is the same muscle that is constantly hitting, being triggered, for my ADHD for this, for starting to measure the data. I am perseverating. I am hyper focusing on data and trends so much now that I have too much data. But what happens is that becomes a deflationary, a never ending cycle, as negative thought experiences, because then you can’t get to a spot to where you break that cycle. Right? It is so difficult to find the trigger to get out of it when you have to keep coming back, doctor’s orders, doing that work.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, I was going to say, it has to be very different when it’s health-related verses… I’ll talk to clients about time tracking, right?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, sure.

Nikki Kinzer:
And collect the data of how long it takes for you to do something. Don’t change your routine. Don’t change anything you would do, just without judgment, just collect the data and we’re going to look for trends and patterns and things like that. But in this situation, all of that really goes out the window because there is a lot of judgment because it has to do with your health, so you have to pay attention to what the numbers mean and I can only imagine the anxiety-

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
that it’s stirring up every single time you have to document something.

Pete Wright:
So all of that, it’s a constant reminder, a doctor’s orders reminder, of where you are in this space. And because I have a legendary anxiety around needles and the cardio phobia, and all of these things, it became… Yesterday was that sort of break and right around 3:30, I just lost it. I just came off the rails. I’m just sitting here and I’m just in tears and I just couldn’t function and all night long, it was this just sort of cycle of sort of this sort of prison of that experience of being inside of that, of feeling, like really feeling like my heart was three or four times its size, feeling discomfort in my chest thinking, “Oh God, now I’m terrified of waking everybody up and saying, ‘We need to go to the emergency room.’” What is that? Of course, we’re going to wake up and go to the emergency room.

Pete Wright:
I was just trying to hide so much of that experience from family and kids and I just was paralyzed by the stuff that lives constantly in here. And I couldn’t stop focusing on the stuff that lives constantly in my body. And it was finally around 5:00, 5:30 this morning that I was able to let myself go to sleep and I felt my heart rate. But I felt like the Hulk in the Hulk movies. There’s always this scene where it goes to a close-up on his heart rate, on his heart monitor on his wrist and then to his eyeballs and then they get big and green. That’s what I felt like, like I was constantly looking at my heart rate monitor because I thought I’m going to have a heart attack right now.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s a long time from 3:30 PM to 5:30 AM, you were dealing with this kind of panic.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, yeah. Sweating, just like in a ball, in a fit. And of course, I feel like I can’t talk to anyone. There’s pain in my chest and up my neck. There’s the terror of going to the hospital. Do I have insurance coverage? Of course I have insurance coverage, needles and drugs. It’s an anxiety house of cards.

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Wright:
So pivot, I started thinking about the language that we tell ourselves, and it actually took me back to our joy triggers presentations coming up this weekend because we’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the triggers that get us out of the cycles of that we perseverate on.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
And I couldn’t find one, I admit it. I couldn’t find something that would release me from this. I tried watching funny shows. I tried the things that would normally sort of surprise me out of it. And it was rough, which was frustrating. But I ended up, I had the great fortune of producing a podcast interview between two other people on Dodge Rea’s new podcast, The Change Paradox. He was interviewing Carleen Britton, who is a Gestalt therapist. Do you know anything about Gestalt therapy?

Nikki Kinzer:
I do not, never even heard of it, so you’ll have to explain to us what this is.

Pete Wright:
Well, Gestalt, it’s a German word and it means shape, right? What is the shape of a thing? And I use the term colloquially all the time. It’s a reference to academic discussions and things that are more than the sum of their parts. What is the Gestalt of this idea or something like that. But Gestalt therapy is… I have very little experience in it, so this was an interesting thing to watch her and listen to her talk about it. I’m going to go ahead and just read the intro paragraph from Wikipedia, because I thought it was a great way to summarize it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Sure.

Pete Wright:
Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy, which emphasizes personal responsibility and focuses upon the individual’s experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person’s life and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation. Developed by Fritz Perls and Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the forties and fifties, and was first described in the 1951 book, Gestalt Therapy.

Pete Wright:
So it’s super attentive to the current, sort of, worldview of the client, of the patient, and what they’re going through and how it works. Well, at the end of all of Dodge’s interviews on this podcast, he turns over the show to the guest to lead a 10 minute experiential exercise. Sometimes it might be a meditation, might be just a coaching exercise, but he steps out of it and just lets the guest roll with it. Well, this time Carleen said, “I need a buddy. I need somebody who can do this with me.”

Nikki Kinzer:
And this was just last week?

Pete Wright:
Yeah. This was just last week, right.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay.

Pete Wright:
And she said, “I need somebody who can do this exercise with me because that’s just how Gestalt works. You got to go to know,” she says. “You got to be in it to understand how the dialogue works, because what we’re doing through experience is trying to retrain the way we talk to ourselves, the self-talk that we use and we have to do it in partnership.” And Dodge said, “Well, I’m a therapist. I might not be a great person to use because I know the gag. I know how it works.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
And plus, he says, “I’m constantly being vulnerable on my own show and I think it’s going to be too much. Maybe Pete will do it.” And I felt like Mikey on the old Life cereal.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, Mikey will like it.

Pete Wright:
Give it to Mikey, he eats anything. And so I felt like that. And so I said, “Okay, here we go. I’m going to Ted lasso__ my way through this. I’m just a vessel of positive energy and I’m going to say, yes. I don’t know what I’m getting into. Let’s try it.” And so she says, “Okay, this is an exercise in two parts. I’m going to be your accountability partner, or your therapist, whatever, role I’m playing here, but I’m going to be that role. You’re going to be telling me” what your experience is and the thing that you want to change right now in your life, where you’re feeling stuck, whatever you’re looking to sort of get over.

Pete Wright:
And I said, “Well, I need to get fit again. I’ve been unfit for a long time. I’m really unfit right now. And I need to find this place in my head where I’m not afraid to go out and exercise.” And she said, “Great, we can do this. By the way,” she says, “you’re going to hate me in part one of this exercise.” I said, “Okay.” And then we started the exercise and she asked me, “What are you going through?” And I said, “Well, I’m struggling to get fit. I’m looking to rehabilitate after COVID.” And she said, “You’re great.” And I thought, “Oh, okay, good. Well, I’m trying.”

Nikki Kinzer:
You can do this, Pete.

Pete Wright:
You can do it. No, you’re going to be fit. You’re going to be a star. You’re amazing. You’re amazing. You’re totally going to get over it. Yeah. Yeah, I can see how it’s scary, but you’re totally going to nail this. You’re going to do it. Does that sound familiar, that language, that self-talk?

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, it sounds so familiar because I mean, I say it to my clients. “You’ve got this, you can do this.” But part of it, I think, because I mean, I have mixed feelings, because I think that part of it, you want to hear somebody say that because you are doubting yourself and so having somebody just say, “I believe in you. I think you can do this.” There is some real value there. There’s something about that that’s like, “All right. You’re right. I can. I am stronger than I think I am.” But then at the same time, you can’t just leave it at that either. “You’ve got this, this is great,” and then just assume that they’re going to figure that out just because you said it was great. There has to be something more than just, “You’re great.”

Pete Wright:
Yeah, right. Well, and the value of the, “You’re great,” when it is paired with something else, which is part two of this little exercise. And the first part was she just… I told her after a couple of exchanges, it was very, very quick, and I said, “I don’t know what to do with this.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, what are you doing?

Pete Wright:
“I feel like you’re a robot lady. I don’t know how to do this. I could ask Alexa to give me this kind of advice.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, that’s true.

Pete Wright:
What are we doing here? And yet the things she was saying, they’re exactly the things I say to myself too. I can do this. I can get over it. I can do it. I’m going to be a star. I’m going to do it. But none of them really dealt with the context of what I was experiencing.

Nikki Kinzer:
What was really happening.

Pete Wright:
Right. I didn’t know what that was.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, what was keeping you stuck.

Pete Wright:
Exactly. [crosstalk 00:18:27] So the second she says, “Let’s do it again,” and this is part two. And she asked me, “What are you trying to do?” And I said, “Well here it is. I’m struggling.” She said, “How is it for you?” I said, “Well, it’s hard. It’s hard to get up and get out of bed and feel like every ache and pain is a cascade of physical ailments.” She said, “Yeah, it must be really scary.” “Oh yeah, it’s terrifying. I feel like I’m made a glass.” And we go down this road where now she is not just telling me how great I am, she is first reminding me of my experience, my context, and it took no time for me to be in a space of understanding now, why it’s so easy for me to be stuck in my head around going out and getting fit. And it’s not just I’m lazy or I’d rather play video games.

Nikki Kinzer:
Or you don’t have the willpower.

Pete Wright:
Right, don’t have the willpower. I absolutely do. Willpower was not even part of the question.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, right.

Pete Wright:
But what we got to very quickly was I’m terrified. I feel like I’m made of glass and that is a very different experience. But without knowing that, it’s hard to take, “You’re great. You can do it,” seriously. Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, right. Absolutely. Yeah, so what you guys did in that second part was really get to the root of what was really going on and then once you really understand what’s going on, then the conversation completely changes. Right? I mean, it’s not about being great. You’ve got this. It’s a different conversation altogether.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. And you know what’s funny about it? It can feel just as good. It can feel just as rewarding to come to terms with understanding the why about my experience, about why I’m relating to my universe the way that I am, the why I’m not getting up and getting off the couch and going to do this thing, as it is just to know that somebody believes in me.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. And actually, as you say that, I wonder if it’s because you have more of the context wrapped around it, it takes away that pressure too, of I know I’ve got this, but I’m still not doing it.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Because you can go into that shame spiral so fast. I know I want this. I should have this. I need this. I know I want it. I’m not doing it. Right? Shame, shame, shame, shame, versus at least now you can acknowledge there’s something to this. This isn’t something that’s just a decision that you’re making because you’re lazy or because you just don’t care. Yeah. No, I can definitely see what you’re saying. I also relate it to the world that we live in right now with the pandemic is that I think when we were talking about stress expectations and we were talking about, we’re not putting in context what is going on in our outside world and what we should really be doing or not doing, I feel like this also gives you that context too. It’s like, wait a minute, there’s more than just this going on.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Yeah. So I say all that not to devalue the kind of rah rah that we need.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, right. For sure, we need that.

Pete Wright:
We need cheerleading.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, yeah.

Pete Wright:
But I do think that there’s something to explore and I think it would be worth continuing a conversation about this because I think, and from my experience with Carleen and the way Carlene was talking about this, how she set it up was you can ask this of others. You don’t have to go to a therapist to actually do this exercise. You can work with your accountability partner and you can teach one another how to interrogate the deeper issues by this little give and take exercise. And what’s so amazing is even if it’s in your head, it’s completely artificial, the first part, there is a level of robotic ridiculousness that sets you up for having the conversation more deeply, immediately after. It is an incredible setup and I think for me, just having gone through it, it was very brief and I think it was incredibly powerful little experience and I think worth exploring further.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely. Something that it reminds me of, just to tie it back into ADHD a little bit too, is that in one of my groups, we were talking about the different messages that we get from people, the you messages of you do this, you do that, but there’s also this message. It’s the message of somebody thinking that they’re giving you really good advice by, “Well, have you thought about just putting together a to do list? Have you thought about just using a planner? Do you have timers?” So here’s this person who is probably unintentionally trying to give you advice or give you something that they think is going to be helpful, but in the back of your mind, you’re like that robot. Yeah, of course, I’ve talked about these things. I’ve heard about these things. I’ve tried these things. But it doesn’t get to the root of the ADHD. It doesn’t talk about ADHD and how that makes it difficult. And so just to be able to see how… I can see how this relates to that, right?

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
How that is a pretty fair comparison of, “Oh, you’re great. You can do this.” But yet there’s some real fear, especially with your health and anxiety around what that looks like and I like how you say, not that I like it because I don’t like that you feel this way, but just that you feel like glass, because that really puts how fragile you feel in that environment.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you. I think, for me, that ADHD connection is it became clear first thing this morning, as I wake up after a few hours of sleep and I realize the language I had been using all night was no, you’re going to be fine, you’re going to be fine. I was not getting any more fine, but what it was, was I feel like glass and I feel like any sign that I am fragile or hurting causes me to feel more fragile and in greater pain. And it wasn’t until I started thinking back to my experience with Carleen that I realized this is an introspection issue.

Pete Wright:
I don’t know why I’m feeling this way yet and I need to ask better questions. I need to let myself talk more. I need to develop a closer relationship with the things that are causing my spirals and hyper-focus issues and exhaustion and figure that out first, and I wasn’t doing that. So I don’t know. These episodes, these peat episodes, these feel sort of gross [inaudible 00:25:57], but I just woke up and I thought, if any community might get a little something out of this, it’s going to be our community.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, absolutely.

Pete Wright:
They’re amazing.

Nikki Kinzer:
[crosstalk 00:26:07] is gross. I appreciate you putting yourself out there and talking about your experience because listeners have to realize this just was an experience that you had five hours ago. This isn’t something that… I mean, I know you had the exercise was a week ago, which was probably really put there in your universe on purpose because you were able to reflect back at that at some point early this morning. But no, I really appreciate you talking about this and being so open about it and I appreciate you bringing up this new thing. I’ve never heard of this type of therapy before and from all of the things that we talk about with limiting beliefs and changing that conversation we have and then asking different questions, it’s so relevant.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
So no, I really appreciate you doing this. Thank you, Pete.

Pete Wright:
Well, thank you, Nikki, and thank you everybody for hanging in with us and joining us on the show. Thank you for your time and your attention. Don’t forget if you have something to contribute to the conversation, we’re always over in the Show Talk Channel on our Discord server and you can join us right there by becoming a supporting member at the deluxe level, patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright and we’ll see you right back here next week on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.