I HAVE ADHD PODCAST - Episode #251

February 20, 2024

The Importance of Autonomy as an ADHD Adult

I’ve got something incredible to share with you. As an adult, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Did you know this?! Pause. Breathe. Let that soak in.

Many of us grew up in situations where we didn’t feel we had autonomy or the right to self-govern. We didn’t feel like we were in charge of our lives. So, in adulthood, we struggle to recognize that we have control over what we say yes and no to.

Why is this a problem? Because, as adult ADHDers, it takes us so much mental and emotional energy to do things we don’t want to do.

So, you stay stuck in a job you don’t like doing tasks you don’t enjoy. You feel burnt out. You spend your weekends unable to do things around the house because you’re exhausted.

I’ll let you in on my little secret. I give myself an ‘out’ for everything.

I tell myself I don’t have to do anything. It takes away any obligation and resentment so my brain can truly determine if it’s something I want to choose to do.

Next time you are resisting and dreading a task and procrastination keeps nagging at you, ask yourself that question. Challenge yourself to consider what will happen if you don’t do it. Is that what you really want?

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Kristen Carder

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 Carter 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? This is Kristen Carter and you are listening to the I have ADHD podcast. I am medicated and caffeinated. I am regulated. I’m here with my nine year olds, and I’m ready to roll. How are you?

Welcome. Come on in, grab a cozy drink, or go on your walk or unload the dishwasher use me as your body double. We’re gonna have a great time together today. I as you know, I was sick last week. And then it’s just gone around my whole family. Maybe I was sick two weeks ago. And it hit my little guy. So he is here with me in the office today. He’s been walking on my walking pad or watching his little YouTube videos. And it’s giving me a look. But he has been sworn to silence he will be quiet throughout the next 30 minutes. While we chat today about you being an autonomous adult and having agency and choice in your life. It’s gonna be a really important episode. I might say that every time I apologize if I do. I actually do believe it though. Before we get started, though, I have not asked you this in quite a long time. But I am going to shamelessly ask you, if you would mind just given us a little five star rating. That would be so help for it would be so incredibly helpful. You can do it while you listen while you multitask. Especially if you’re listening on Spotify, or Apple podcasts, it would help me so much if you would just find that rating button and press those five stars. If you have the capacity, you can write a review. But I mean, honestly just clicking that rating button. It’ll take you maybe seven seconds if you would just do that that would help me out. So, so so much. I’m not sure what’s going on. But ratings are coming in quite slowly reviews are coming in great, which I appreciate y’all. But those ratings My goodness, I don’t know what’s going on with all this. I know everything changes from year to year but listenership doing great ratings, not so much. So would you click that button for me, it would help me so so much.

Okay. I can’t wait for you to hear what we’re talking about today. And I also want to let you know that when I talk about this within my community, it can sometimes be very activating. And I just want to let you know, in advance that this could be a topic that stirs something up in you. And if so that’s so important for you to pay attention to, it’s actually a really good indicator that there’s something here that’s important, okay. And if that is you, if you notice yourself getting activated, I really encourage you to pause and breathe. Maybe take a break, take care of yourself and come back to the episode if you want to. And don’t come back to it if you don’t want to. Okay, so we’re talking today about the fact that we are adults who don’t have to do anything that we don’t want to do a trigger yet. Some of you might already be upset. Taking care of your health isn’t always easy, but it should at least be simple. Like why isn’t it more simple. And that’s why for the last two years, I’ve been drinking ag one persistently, pretty much every day. It’s just one scoop, mixed in water once a day, and it makes me feel so much better. I’ve noticed improved focused, better mental clarity, better concentration. And what I just learned about it is that it supports healthy hormone production, which is so important to me now that I’m in perimenopause, I truly do feel so much better. And that’s because each serving of 81 delivers my daily dose of vitamins, minerals, pre and probiotics and more. It’s just like a really powerful, healthy habit that’s also powerfully simple. And it has to be simple, right? Because I have ADHD. If it’s not simple, I’m telling you, I’m not going to do it. That’s just the truth. This is so simple.

Now you all know that for decades I have reached for the coffee pot The instant that my eyes open. And when I introduced the I use the word habit very loosely the habit of drinking ag one. I’ve done that later in the day. But to my absolute shock, I’ve been able to change that. Now I drink ag one first thing in the morning, which is recommended for optimal nutrient absorption. I literally picture my like gut and my cells just like absorbing all of the goodness first thing in the morning. And I’ve got to tell you, I do feel a difference, I fill up my shaker with extra cold water, my eyes are not even open yet, I add one scoop of ag one, I shake it up good to go. It takes me 30 seconds max from start to finish. And I am not exaggerating it. It’s so simple, or I wouldn’t do it. And it’s helped me feel so much better, especially in the mornings. If there’s one product that I had to recommend to elevate your health, it’s a G one. And that’s why I’ve partnered with them for so long. And exclusively, they’re the only product that I’ve allowed to have ads on this podcast because I believe in it so much. So if you want to take ownership of your health, start with ag one, try ag one and get a free one year supply of vitamin d3 k two and five, free ag one travel packs with your first purchase exclusively at drinkag one.com/ihaveADHD, that’s drink agone.com/ihaveADHD, check it out.

This is a really important facet of understanding your autonomy and your agency and your choice in the world. That as an adults, you get to decide what you do and what you don’t do. And you never ever, ever, ever, ever have to do anything that you don’t want to do. Now, the reason why this is so important, I think personally, and this is just my personal opinion, is because so many of us grew up in situations where we didn’t feel like we had autonomy or the right to self govern, we didn’t feel like we were in charge of our lives, we didn’t feel like we could really differentiate from our parents. Or maybe we felt like we had to mimic everyone at school in order to fit and we just didn’t feel like we could be ourselves. We didn’t feel like we could be in charge of ourselves. And we didn’t have a sense of control. And now in adulthood, oftentimes, that the outplay of that what happens in adulthood is that we don’t feel like we have control over what we say yes or no to. We don’t feel like we have control over our schedules. We don’t feel like we have control of our lives, we feel like we are always obligated to other people, including our partners, our kids, our friends, our kids schools, our jobs, our co workers, our boss, like we’re just obligated, obligated obligated to everyone else, and we don’t we often as adults with ADHD don’t feel a sense of control. Here’s why that’s a problem. It takes us so much mental and emotional energy to get ourselves to do something that we don’t want to do. Think about something that you don’t want to do versus something that you do want to do. How much harder for you as an adult with ADHD with low motivation skills with low dopamine amounts. With task initiation deficiency. How much harder is it for you to get yourself to do something that you don’t want to do? Something that you feel obligated to do something that you feel is just like the dumbest task like pointless? How much harder is it for you to get that thing done? It’s so important that you understand that there is a cumulative effect on our bodies, when we are constantly forcing ourselves to do something that we don’t want to do, and it does inevitably lead to burnout.

Now, burnout might look different for different people. I have a lot of people in my focused ADHD coaching program who are on medical leave for burnout. There are a lot of factors that go into it. But I would venture to say that one of the factors that goes into burnout is the fact that we do not feel like we have agency or autonomy or choice, and that we’re constantly obligated to the people around us and not making decisions for ourselves. This is an important thing to talk about within the context of ADHD, especially for those of us who grew up in families where we didn’t have a lot of agency or control where we really weren’t able to self govern, or maybe in schools where we felt like we had to just To go along to get along, and we had to mask our true selves in order to fit in and avoid rejection, okay?

There’s only so long that we can live counter to who we truly are an ADHD ear thrives when they are aligned, an ADHD or is allergic to not being aligned. And so this is really, really important. So I just want to review two terms that I’ll be using throughout this podcast autonomy is the right to self govern the right to be in charge of yourself, you are a separate person, from your spouse, you are a separate person from your mom, you are a separate person, from your colleague who performs the same tasks that you do, you are separate, you are different, and you have the right to self govern. And the right to be in charge of yourself. Agency is the sense of control that you feel about your life. And I have a question, do you feel as though you have agency in your life? Do you feel as though you have the right to be in control of your own life, I just taught a course on self trust within the focus, ADHD coaching membership, it was a beautiful course is available to you into your one. Anytime you are ready to hop in and join us in focused, it will be available to you in tier one, meaning you’ll get access to it right away. One of the key takeaways from that course, is that most of my clients, I mean, there were 800 Something clients that went through that course, most of my clients and so I think that’s a pretty big snapshot of the ADHD community do not feel like they have agency in their lives. This is a big deal.

This is one of the fundamental foundational aspects of being a grown adult. And some of y’all forget that you’re grown. And so this is your reminder that you are a grown adult, you are autonomous, meaning you are different from the people around you, and you have agency, you have control over your own life, meaning I get to choose what I want to do. And when I don’t want to do, I get to be in charge. Alright, how you doing, we’re just gonna do a little check in here. Some of y’all are feeling a type of way. That’s okay. So okay, I hear I sent all of the habits I sent them, and we will get to some of them. But I just want you to notice the resistance that you’re feeling if you are feeling resistant, notice it. What’s so important to remember and to keep front of mind if you can is that as an adult with ADHD, you have an interest based brain. That means that something that you want to do, that you’re interested in, that you care about deeply, is going to be more compelling, and easier to do, usually, then something that you think is stupid, that you think is pointless, that you feel obligated to do, or that you just simply just don’t want to do. If you don’t want to do it, it’s going to be really, really hard to get yourself to do it. And this is where the emotional and mental and physical drain comes in, where we continue to try to coerce ourselves to do things that we don’t want to do. Because we quote unquote, should do them because somebody else wants us to do them, or because we’re not willing to leave a job and go find something else. And so we stay in a job that we don’t like doing tasks that we don’t enjoy. And we just try to get ourselves to do that every day. Because that feels easier than the fear of trying something new.

It takes so much coercion and convincing to get yourself to do something that you don’t want to do. And it is exhausting. And that is exactly what leads to shutdown. That is exactly what leads to not being able to function after work. That’s exactly what leads to on the weekends. You’re just like, why can’t I do anything around the house because you are recovering? For in some instances. I’m not trying to say every single time but many times it’s because you are recovering from the emotional, mental, physical, maybe even spiritual exhaustion of trying to convince yourself day in and day out to do something that you don’t want to do. This is not what I want for you. This is not what I want for your life. This is not a fun way to live now. I understand that depending on where you are in the world, your economic status, your marital status, maybe some of you are single parents, there is a level here of privilege, where somebody with massive amounts of privilege will be able to just snap their fingers and say, don’t want to do it don’t want to do it don’t want to do it. And nothing major will change.

Whereas someone with that maybe somebody trapped in poverty, somebody who is in an abusive relationship, it’s going to be much harder. So I do want to add in that nuance, I do want to say that I understand I coach people from all different parts of the world in different, you know, economic standings and different relational patterns. But regardless of your privilege, regardless of what you’re working with relationally, you are still a grown adult, you do still need to recognize your autonomy, meaning you are different from everyone else around you, you do need to recognize your agency, meaning you do have some choices. You do there are some choices, maybe not as many choices, maybe not fun choices, but there are still choices. One of the things that I know about myself is that I did not grow up in a family that celebrated my autonomy, or celebrated my agency, or taught me how to be a strong, independent adult, separate from my family. So much of my own relational patterns, were geared towards making other people in my life happy with my choices, spending my time the way that other people wanted me to spend my time. Even like the college I went to, or my career choice, like, things like that, I wonder how much agency I had in that looking back. And what that led me to was living as an adult who really wanted to please people with the choices that she made, really wanted to please people with the way that I spent my time and really feeling like my choices had a big impact on other people. I always wanted to do the right thing. And I felt like the right thing was to keep people around me happy. And so many of my choices reflected that, that I would spend my time to keep people around me happy because apparently, I was I had the power to do that, which is false. It’s not my job to do that. But anyway, okay. So one of the things that I’ve transitioned to in the last five years is, I give myself an out for everything. And I do this for my kids too. I tell myself, you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to do anything. I do not have to record this podcast, I do not have to stay married to my husband, I do not have to parent my kids, I do not have to wake up that when you know when my alarm goes off in the morning, I do not have to do it. I am constantly giving myself an out.

Now what this does for my brain, if I don’t have to do it, then I can play with do I want to do it? What do I actually want? I don’t actually want I am so curious, if you just went through your day saying I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to do this. Now. What that does, is it takes off the obligation. And I’m telling you living under obligation is no way to live. This is what will cause us burnout. This is what will make us feel powerless. This is where resentment comes in. Okay. And if we take that off, and we say, I don’t have to do anything.

If I can tell myself, I don’t have to, then my brain can start to process. Well, I actually kind of want to. So I did this when my kids were little and I was a very overwhelmed mom with three little boys. Oh, my goodness, OMG, it was hard. And one of the things that I used to do is say, I don’t have to do this. I can leave right now. I could leave today. And then I would start to think about what that would mean. Do I really want to leave? Do I want to be the person who leaves? Do I want to not watch my kids grow up? Do I want to like what is this what I want? And that helps me so much to say no, I want to be here. I want to be the primary caregiver. I want to make sure that I see them every day that I’m home with them as much as possible. Like for me in that time. I was home with them. And that was a core value of mine. So have Being out of saying I don’t have to do this, I could leave today gave me the ability to think about what I wanted.

I’m curious in your situation, if you could just look at your life and say, I don’t have to do any of this, I could walk away from all of it. What would come up for you as far as what do you want, you don’t have to wake up and go to your job, your grown adult, nobody gets to tell you what to do. You do not have to parent your kids, you do not have to stay married to your to your partner, you do not have to do that volunteer thing, you do not have to work out, you do not have to eat healthy. You don’t have to go to sleep, you don’t have to wake up, you don’t have to do anything. You get to self govern. And so what I’m asking you to do is to play with this because as someone with ADHD, you need an out. You need to be able to tell yourself, I don’t have to do this. Remember, many, if not most of us who have ADHD have coexisting Oppositional Defiant Disorder, meaning we don’t want to take orders from anyone, including ourselves.

Even an order from myself to myself, feels rude, it feels coercive, it feels like a demand that I want to avoid. Like, don’t tell me what to do. You don’t get to tell me what to do. I think that for me personally, the reason why this feels so strongly for me, is because I didn’t grow up with a lot of agency, I didn’t grow up with a lot of control, I did not grow up as someone whose autonomy was celebrated and understood. And so now as an adult, where I do have more power, of course than I did as a kid, that all of the opposition comes out. And even if it’s something that I want to do that I’m like, You should do this, I’m like, I don’t want to do it. And then I have to have this conversation in my head with myself, okay, you don’t have to, you don’t have to work out. Let’s think about though, what will happen if you don’t work out? Is that something that you want, and that’s fine, if you choose not to, okay, whatever. I want you to understand ADHD or that Oppositional Defiant Disorder is very closely linked to ADHD. And there’s a lot of overlap.

And if you just feel like everyone has a demand for you, or there are so many obligations that you’re fighting against, I want you to understand that one of the ways through this is to really remind yourself, you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to do it, you don’t have to do it, you don’t have to do it. Okay, now, you will often make a conscious choice to do something, even though it’s not fun, even though you don’t want to do it. Right? Even though it’s going to be painful in the moment. Because when you look at your life, and you say for so for myself as an example. When I look at my life, I want to be someone who can move her body. Like I want to be able to go out and hike, I want to feel like I love that like sort of sore feeling that your muscles get after you workout. That’s a really wonderful feeling. I love the way that I feel when I moved my body. I love how I sleep better at night. And so I will often do something that I don’t want to do. Because I’m very connected to the why. Right? Write? I understand why I’m doing it. I want to hike out in nature because it helps my mental health and I feel better for the rest of the day. I want to move my body because it helps me sleep better at night. I want to be someone who ages really, really well and is able to hike and do whatever she wants to do well into her 60s 70s and 80s. Seriously, 80s 90s like, let’s do it forever.

Okay, so I often in the moment, I never feel like going out for a hike. But I’m like, Hey, this is something that is tied to our values. This is something that we want long term. We are going to feel better after let’s just go ahead and do it. And most of the time, yesterday, I couldn’t get myself to do it. And that’s okay. Like when I can’t get myself to do it. I’m just like, okay, you don’t have to do it. And then this morning, I remembered how I felt at like five o’clock last night when it was like finally getting dark. And I was like, dang, I really wish I’d gone out today like it was a sunny, sunny day and I really wish I had gone out and felt the sunshine on my face and moved my body. And this morning I use that to help me move. I was like hey, remember last night you didn’t feel so good. Let’s let’s give it another try. Today.

Another example is this week my husband is traveling, and he usually does the morning time with the kids. And so it’s on me. And listen, it is not my ministry. This is not, this is not something I’m good at. And it’s not something I want to do. And I gave myself an hour, I don’t have to wake up with my kids like my my big kids who are out the door by seven, I don’t have to wake up with them. And then I started thinking, do I want them to wake up and be alone? Do I want to run the risk of my one kiddo who struggles to get up not getting up and me having to drive him to school? Is that what I want? Well, no, that’s actually not what I want. So I don’t have to set my alarm for 630 and get up with them. But I actually want to because I don’t want the other option, which is they get up there by themselves. I’m not really sure if they’re getting out the door, I wake up at seven to find or seven, whatever, to find that my one kiddo didn’t make it. And now I have to drive him and get the other one.

Right. So recognizing my choice, giving myself that out of you don’t have to set your alarm, it’s totally fine. If you don’t like they can get out the door on their own, which is true. Recognizing my choice, my agency my autonomy in that allowed me to say no, I want to do it. It’s, it’s just easier for me if I just get up and do it. And I did it. I am doing it. It’s terrible. Another question that I love to ask myself is, is it true that you don’t want to do it? So when I say that I don’t want to record a podcast, and I’ve used this example before, I’m sorry, if you’re just like Chris, and stop talking about it. But honestly, I hate recording podcasts. This is the hardest part of my job. I work almost full time. I have a pretty successful company. I’m talking to people every single day about ADHD. I have a lot of tasks.

This podcast is the hardest thing that I do. It’s by far the hardest thing. I hate doing it. But do you know what I love? I love having done it. I love having a podcast. I love connecting with you listener like I love it. Nothing makes me happier. So how is it that something that I hate doing is so tied to an outcome that I want so badly? So every single week, I have this back and forth with myself where I’m like, I don’t want to record the podcast and then I ask myself is okay, you don’t have to you 100% don’t have to. Nobody’s gonna die if you stop recording your podcast. But is it true that you don’t want to? Do you truly want the outcome of you not having done it? And I’m telling you, I do have to go through this rigmarole every week? And the answer is always no, I don’t want the outcome. It is not easier for me to just not record it. It is not easier for me to save it to next week like Crosby is here with me today. He’s sick. I could have easily been like, this isn’t a good week. I’ll just do it next week. But then I was thinking is that what I want? Do I want next week me to have to take care of this. My whole team would be totally fine. If I was just like, Guys, it’s not happening this week. They’d be like noted. We’ll take care of it next week. But that’s not what I want. I don’t want next week me to have to do this. Like she gonna be mad to me like really? No, I have to do to your Okay. giving yourself permission to say I’m not doing it is so important. Now, I wonder if you’re having the experience or like the Yeah, but of okay, Kristen, if I tell myself that I only have to do what I want to do that I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to do. All I’m going to do is sit on my couch and play video games. I’m just going to eat ice cream all day. I’m just going to sit on my couch and play video games. And what I’m asking.

What I’m curious about is, is that really what you want out of your life? Remember, you have to go back to your why an ADHD brain needs a good solid, why? And so yeah, sitting on your couch playing video games would feel really good for like three or four days. And then what? Like, where’s that going to lead you? Is that what you really want? So you won’t have an income. So how are you going to eat? Or what’s your relationship with your partner going to be like if that’s what you do? Is that what you really want? And so just coaching yourself having a little bit of self talk or journaling time on, hey, you don’t have to do anything. Okay, great.

Now, what do you want to do? What is the outcome that you want? I I, when I was doing the self trust calls and somebody said like, Okay, well, what I want is to go lay on a beach and not talk to anybody and just like, chill. And it’s like, okay, well, first of all, you can do that you are an adult, go do it. But how long is that going to be fun for? Like, honestly, I’ve got about four days in me of laying around. And then I’m just like, okay, like, this is not what I want out of my life. Because humans love to create and produce, we are beings with purpose. And so yes, the relaxation is so important. But what we really want out of our life is to fulfill our purpose. So what’s, what’s that? Right? So here’s what I want you to do, I want you to, if you can, if you have the capacity, is to start talking to yourself like this, Hey, you don’t have to do it. But let’s talk about what will happen if you don’t do it.

Okay, so maybe the outcome, if you don’t do it, is that someone will be disappointed. Okay, that’s fine. Let them be disappointed. But maybe the outcome, if you don’t do it, is you’ll lose your job. Is that something that you want? Agency and autonomy, self governing, the foundation of that is, what do I want. And if you don’t know what you want, it’s time to start to tune in and figure that out. Because if you don’t know what you want out of your life, you are going to be scheduling yourself at the mercy of other people. I want you to start looking at your calendar or your list and just saying I don’t have to do any of this. I’m a grown adult, I don’t have to do any of this, I get to choose. Okay, so what do I want to do? What don’t I want to do? What is on my list or my schedule or my calendar because of fear, fear of what other people will think listen is probably not a great thing to have on your list. What’s on my list because of obligation that I feel obligated to make somebody else happy? at my own expense? What is on my calendar? Because I feel guilty saying no. Those are the things that I want you to immediately eliminate.

Okay, we can start with eliminating those things first. But it’s okay, if this is a slow process, it’s okay. If you are listening to this and you’re like, shoot, I don’t really even know what I want. And then you you start from there. Okay. How do I figure that out? That’s, that’s the question. Okay. Let this be a slow process. I know that depending on your socioeconomic status, your marital status, if you are a single parent, or if you have little kids like all of these things, it, it might be a harder process for you or an easier process for you. But I want you to know, it’s not impossible. And I want you to start thinking about it as a long term goal. So in five years, what if five years from now, you that version of you, only has things on their calendar that they want to do, they’re only showing up to do things that they want to do that they feel aligned with that our values base that they’re committed to, there’s no fear, there’s no obligation, there’s no guilt, there’s no coercion, there’s just alignment and doing things that feel super, super desirable.

Now, again, remember, even working out or eating healthy, they don’t necessarily feel desirable in the moment, but the long term outcome of it is what we want, right? Always remember that you have a choice. You are autonomous, meaning you’re separate from other people, you don’t have to do what other people do, you can figure out what you want to do. Remember that as someone with ADHD, you have an interest based brain that means that the things that you don’t want to do that you feel are stupid, that you’re not interested in are going to be so much harder to get yourself to do and then that can lead to depletion to exhaustion to even burnout. Okay, so remember that, and remember that this is a this is a long process. This is not like, Okay, well, I’m gonna clear my calendar today, like, start to do an intake of what do we feel like I have to do? How can I get myself to really understand that I don’t have to do anything because I’m a grown adult with autonomy and agency. How can I really connect to the things that I want to do? And do more of that?

Listen, I believe that we adults with ADHD can start to make big changes in our lives. When we connect to what we feel called to do, what we want to do what we’re compelled to do. And we start to say no to everything that just feels like a full body. I don’t want to bleed. So make me do that. When your body has that reaction, it’s important to listen to it. It’s so important. It’s so important. Okay? Who is this a good thing? All right. I hope that you loved it. Please don’t forget to click that rating button and listen, if you don’t want to do it. You don’t have to do it. It would be helpful to me. But listen, I can handle myself. If you want to do a great if you don’t, that’s fine, too. I’m gonna see you next week. Okay, bye.

Hey, ADHD, or I see you I know exactly what it’s like to feel lost, confused, frustrated and like no one out there really understand the way that your brain works. That’s why I created focus. Focused is my monthly coaching program where I lead you through a step by step process of understanding yourself feeling better and creating the life that you know you’re meant for. You’ll study be coached, grow, and make amazing changes alongside of other educated professional adults with ADHD from all over the world. Visit Ihaveadhd.com/focused to learn more.

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