December 18, 2018

Crucial Info My Doc Never Told Me

This episode is all about your frontal lobe and executive functioning and why you should care about both. It’s life-changing information regarding adult ADHD that my doctor never told me!


[00:00:00] Welcome to the I Have ADHD Podcast where it’s all about education, encouragement, and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carder and I have ADHD.

Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor, and challenges of adulting, relationships, working, and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain, unlock your potential and move from “point a to point b.”

Hey, what’s up. It’s Kristen Carder and you’re listening to Episode Two. Thank you so much for joining me today for pressing play and choosing to take a chance on this podcast. I know that there are a billion podcasts that you could choose from and you chose this one. So, thank you so [00:01:00] much!

I wanted to let you know that I really struggled to record this podcast today. I just felt like episode number one was very scripted. It took me so many takes to get a version of it that I was willing to put out there in the world. And honestly, I’m just not used to being so scripted. It’s just not me. It doesn’t feel authentic or real, but at the same time, I’m really concerned about wasting your time and I’m really afraid to do something that I’ve never done before.

I’ve never podcasted. I have no idea what I’m doing. I am a very Type A personality. I know you don’t know me that well yet, but I am just really afraid of messing up and, so, because of that today, this morning, took my kids to school and then I did everything I could to avoid recording this.

I did a lot of work for my day job. I was on Facebook [00:02:00] so many times. Watching videos, sending videos and memes to my sister. She knows that I am avoiding something hard when she gets like so many memes from me on a Monday that it’s just very obvious, because I love Mondays. I feel like it’s a fresh start to the week. I feel like it’s kind of like a reset, and I get to accomplish a lot and I love my day job, so I really enjoy it and I enjoy kind of crushing it there. But at the same time, when I have a project that I am afraid of, I can avoid it like an expert. And, I bet that you could, too!

So, I just wanted to say that last episode, which was episode number one, I was very cautious and very scripted and it just did not feel real. And so I am [00:03:00] going to take a different approach and it might take several tries, several episodes before I really find my voice with this podcast, but I hope that you will just hang out with me and come along for the journey. I love listening to podcasts while I’m getting things done around the house and in my car, and relaxing, and really, I listened to so many podcasts. So, if you’re the kind of person that enjoys kind of learning and just hanging out with people in your ears, in your ear, while you’re getting things done, I hope that I can be that for you.

I am just you know, I’ve never done this before and I think that I struggle with the thought of it not being perfect. I also struggle with the thought of somebody I know listening to this and being like, “Girlfriend, come on, you need to stick with your day job.” So, apparently I’m pretty prideful.

I wanted to chat today [00:04:00] about executive function. Executive functioning is crucial and it’s not something that any professional told me about and so it was something that I had to learn on my own, which is I think absolutely ridiculous. It makes me angry when I think about my diagnosis experience. First at age 21 with a family doctor and then again at age 30 with a psychologist, and neither of them gave me information about what it means to have ADHD as an adult.

And so I went through my days thinking that I had the inability to pay attention. Which is a very narrow description of ADHD. And, um, if you don’t know that that is just one very small piece of ADHD, then there is no way that you are [00:05:00] going to be able to reach your potential because it’s, it’s like if you don’t know that there’s an issue then you’re not going to find a solution for that issue. Right?

So here’s what I wish that my doctor and my psychologist had told me when they diagnosed me and treated me, by the way:

I wish they had told me that, yes, I do have this difficulty paying attention to what’s important. So, I have trouble and ADHD brain has trouble paying attention to the things that are most important. But in addition to that, we have an underdeveloped frontal lobe. Now, why does that matter? The reason why that matters is because the frontal lobe is what manages your executive functions.

Now what are the executive functions? The executive functions are a set of mental skills that help you get things done. [00:06:00] So they control your ability to accomplish tasks. To follow through on what you say you’re going to do. To set and achieve goals. Basically all of the things that it takes to be an educated, successful adult. So, not only do we struggle with it, but the part of our brain that controls the executive functions is underdeveloped.

So, if you’ve read Dr. Amen’s book, Healing ADD, (which is a really, really good book), he shows pictures of brain scans of ADHD brains and compares them to brain scans of typical brains. And you can see that the frontal lobe of the ADHD brain is smaller, underdeveloped compared to that of a typical brain.

So what does that mean? It means that ADHD is so much more than a simple inability to pay [00:07:00] attention. That is such a small and narrow perspective of the disorder. It is so much more than that. Our frontal lobe, which allows us to be successful adults is not fully developed.

So, the executive functions. Let’s talk about those. What are they, why do they matter and how do they affect us?

The frontal lobe controls the executive functions. Here are examples of some of the executive functions:

Number one, prioritizing and planning.

If you’ve noticed throughout your life that you struggle to put things in order of priority. If everything feels like an emergency. If everything feels like it has to be done right now so overwhelmed by the thought of all that you have to get done, and so really you probably just avoid doing all of it and end up being unproductive. That is your executive function struggle with [00:08:00] prioritizing. We also struggle with planning with looking into the future and setting goals and saying, okay, this is what I want my life to look like. Or, this is what I want my job to look like. Or, my relationship with my husband, or my relationship with my children, or my relationship with my mother.

So planning goes beyond like what I need to do for the day. It’s also being able to look into the future, and, whatever make plans. I don’t know a better way to say that. I’m sorry.

It’s the ability to look ahead and make plans to be the person that you want to. Additionally an executive function that is severely underdeveloped because of ADHD is getting and staying organized. We have a lot of trouble managing all of the things in our lives. That can apply to our schedule, our calendar, our, um, you know, mail, clutter, paperwork, home, our closets.

I have a closet. So, my house is very, very [00:09:00] neat. My husband is a neat freak, which I am so thankful for and he’s really taught me how to stay organized, but I do have a closet of shame. Literally, that’s what we call it. It’s the closet of shame and it is the closet that everything that doesn’t have a home goes into the closet of shame. And so, when my kids are looking for something random, I always tell them, check the closet of shame. And I will tell you what that door is always closed. If somebody comes over and that door is open, I am 1000%. Mortified. Nobody gets to see my closet of shame. It’s like a Monica closet, if you are a fan of the TV show Friends, I, 1000% have a Monica closet. Someday maybe I’ll show a picture on my Instagram, if you’re very lucky. Oh my gosh, you can follow me on Instagram if you want to @KristenCarder. Um, but I’m not making any promises about sharing that photo of the closet [00:10:00] of shame. Once in a while it gets organized and then we refer to it as the closet of pride. My kids they’re little, ten, eight, and four, but they just love to determine on their own, whether they call it the closet of shame or the closet of pride.

Okay. So getting and staying organized is very, very difficult.

Next is task initiation. That is what I struggled with today. Starting a task that feels hard and overwhelming. A task that I don’t really understand all of the steps or I’m overwhelmed and I don’t really know what to do next. I’m going to avoid that and if you have ADHD, you are going to avoid it as well. I have to do a lot of self-talk. A lot of times out loud to get myself to do the things that I know I need to do, but that feel really, really hard. So, for example, when I used to do my taxes on my own, which I don’t anymore, hallelujah. But when I did that was a very overwhelming [00:11:00] task that I didn’t really know how to do it. I was afraid that I would mess something up and be like thrown into prison. And so I would avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid. I would have to talk myself through, you can do this. This is important. It has to be done. It’s April 13th. You know, if you don’t hand this in, you will have a penalty. Um, so if you have those kinds of tasks that you avoid in your life… Welcome to the club!

That’s very, very normal. And in the future, we will talk about ways to overcome the fear of starting something that feels overwhelming and hard.

On the flip side of the the next executive function that is really deficient because of our ADHD is task completion. So, basically you start a project, but you don’t finish it. How many of you, um, you know, have started to clean the garage and you’ve gotten halfway through and you don’t finish it? Or, you’ve [00:12:00] started to paint your bedroom. You’ve gotten halfway through and you haven’t finished it. You’ve started to even make dinner and you just don’t follow through and finish.

This is very, very difficult for those of us with ADHD. Remember, our frontal lobe is underdeveloped. It is not fully formed. We literally have a smaller frontal lobe than that of a typical brain. That means that these executive functions are going to be affected by our ADHD. It is far more than a simple, inability to pay attention.

Next up is the sense of time. Dr. Russell Barkley, who I adore, says that those with ADHD that’s you and me, we are blind to time. We suffer from time blindness. It’s not that we simply can’t manage our time. We don’t understand time. We don’t know what it means [00:13:00] between, you know, an hour and five hours we’ll get lost in something and time will go by so quickly. Or, we will think, “Oh, I only need 15 minutes to get up and get ready and get out the door.” And so, because of that, because that’s not actually true, we actually need an hour and a half, we’re always late to things. We really struggle with persisting towards a goal, right? So like, I need to get up, get ready and get out the door, but there are all of these distractions and so I am pulled in different directions and so we struggled to persist towards the goal. But, also, we struggle to feel that urgency of, “I need to get ready and get out the door by this certain time.”

My husband, when we have to go somewhere together is constantly reminding me of the time. He is, um, he’s like the pusher. He access my frontal lobe sometimes. I’m so thankful for him, but he really helps us [00:14:00] go places on time. Um, and I’ve also figured out some other hacks, which we will talk about in the future, but time management or sense of time. Time blindness is huge for those of us with ADHD, another huge part. And maybe you struggled with this a lot as a kid, emotional self-control or regulation.

So those of us with ADHD, you and I, we struggle to understand and regulate our emotions. This means that we feel emotions the same as everyone else, but we have trouble understanding them and self soothing, calming ourselves down, feeling like we can get things under control. We really, really struggle to, um, Approach our emotions from a very logical standpoint.

And so a lot of times we’ll get [00:15:00] frustrated and explode. Um, this can result in fractured relationships. This can result in. Um, unemployment, this can result in a divorce. I mean, if we do not learn to master our emotions, we are going to hurt a lot of people. We’re going to steam roll the people in our lives.

Um, and also depending on your personality. So I’m a very aggressive personality by nature. So I do. Steamroll people, but if you are a more introspective, dramatic personality, you might tend to lean more towards anxiety, depression, um, avoidance of people, or feeling like the world is out to get you. I just want to encourage you that struggling to manage your emotions as an ADHD ear is not.[00:16:00]

It’s not fun, but it is normal. And it’s because of your frontal lobe. It’s because of your, brain’s inability to self sooth. So don’t feel like a terrible person, but do understand that this is something that you might always struggle with. And so you should really reach out for some. Lastly on my list of executive functions is the working memory.

Basically, that’s remembering to remember the important things of life. Um, so it’s not necessarily like we went to Disneyland when I was five and I remember every single detail. It’s more like I have a dentist appointment at 1130 and I really don’t want to go. And so I’m not going to remember it. I have to pick up my kids from school.

You know, at three 30 and I get involved in a project. To pick them up. Um, it’s the [00:17:00] normal things of life that are important, but maybe not urgent. And so we really do struggle with those things. Um, we also struggled to remember what we deem important and what I mean by that is. If we have a goal, like I want to make a million dollars.

Right. And I actually do want to make a million dollars. I think that would be amazing. Do I think about it every day? Do I, um, persist towards that goal? Do I plan my life around it and make sure that all of my choices are pointing me in the direction of that goal? No, that’s not something that comes naturally to me.

So when we have goals, we have a really hard time. Remembering them and persisting towards that. So those are the main factors of executive functioning, prioritizing and planning, getting instinct, organized task initiation and task [00:18:00] completion, time management, or sense of time, emotional self-control and remembering to remember or working memory.

Those are the things that you and I struggle with on a daily basis. So if we’re not told which I was not, that ADHD is more than an inability to pay attention. We’re not going to be on the lookout for these other deficits. We’re not going to know to. Strategies in place to make sure that we can be successful in these other areas.

So what happened to me was I was diagnosed at age 21. I was medicated with a stimulant, which was wonderful. I absolutely loved it, but I still wasn’t a successful human because I still didn’t know how to keep a planner, how to clean my house, how to keep a job, how to. Towards a goal, how to set goals for the future and make sure that I reach them, [00:19:00] how to, um, think about my life regarding like vision and strategy.

So I really took a very, very long time to mature. I feel like I didn’t really land as a fully formed human until at least age 30. Um, which is really annoying. Right because, um, as an achiever, someone who is very driven, I felt like I floundered and I couldn’t figure out why. And now looking back, I know it’s because I didn’t realize that these executive functions were so deficient and so important.

So if this is the first time that you’re hearing this, I just want to say you are normal. You are a normal person with ADHD, and you’re going to need some. Every single day to make sure that you become the most successful version of yourself. Do not think that you can go about this life without [00:20:00] getting.

Dr. Russell Barkley says that ADHD is like diabetes. It needs daily management. So we, you and I have to think about ourselves in a logical way. We do not have a brain that is going to allow. To manage our life well, and because of that, we need additional support. So today, what steps can you take to put systems and strategies in place to make sure that you are managing your executive functions?

Well, if you. Any help with this, you can hit me up on Instagram at Kristin Carter. You can join my Facebook community. I have ADHD support for adults and you can visit my website. I have adhd.com. I would love to be able to offer you the support and guidance that I never got when I was diagnosed. I hope you have a great day.[00:21:00]

Hey, if you’re enjoying this podcast, would you do me a huge favor and leave a review on iTunes? It’s estimated that roughly 5% of American adults have been diagnosed with ADHD. That means that there are well over 16 million of us ADHD peers out there in need of support and guidance. If I’ve offered you any value at all, would you leave a five star review for this podcast so that other adults with ADHD can find it and listen, and be encouraged as well.

If you have negative feedback, I would love to hear from you, but don’t leave that on iTunes. It’ll mess everything up as far as numbers and the algorithm. So unless you want to mess everything up for me, email me your negative feedback@kristinatihaveadhd.com. I would love to hear from you.



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