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So many of us adults with ADHD are walking around feeling ashamed of our symptoms and behaviors. Shame can be limiting and debilitating. I invite you to let go of shame and change your thinking so that you can begin to make positive changes in your life! Warning: I get super vulnerable in this episode.  

[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.”

Hello and welcome to the I Have ADHD Podcast. You are listening to episode number five today. We’re going to talk about the shame. We often feel as adults with ADHD, and I’m going to get really vulnerable with you. But first I’m going to read the review of the week. Obviously this podcast is just starting out.

So your [00:01:00] reviews are so crucial. My friend, they matter. So, so, so much. So here’s a sweet review from Chris and Tony. They say, I love listening to your podcast, Kristin. I love how personal, real, and informative it is. Can’t wait to hear more. Thank you so much, Chris and Tony for taking the time to write a review and you listening right now, my friend do me a huge favor.

Write a quick review, and I would love to read it on the show next week. Now today, we’re going to be chatting about shame and I’m going to be sharing my own journey of overcoming shame as an adult with attention and executive functioning issues. Now I’ve learned so much about my own ADHD and how to manage it in the last five years.

And I’ve created a lot of new neural pathways and have really been able to. Methods and systems that have allowed me to be successful. However, that does not mean [00:02:00] that ADHD doesn’t get the best of me sometimes because it does. And just learning about ADHD and its effect on your life. Doesn’t wipe away a lifetime of feeling ashamed for not being normal or not measuring.

But I believe that one of the keys, maybe the key to being successful with ADHD is being able to work through the shame that we feel for not being able to keep up, stay organized, be consistent beyond time, engage socially or remember. What we said we were going to do, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. For some reason we think we should be able to function just like people with typical brains do.

And we often hold ourselves to the same standards as our neuro-typical counterparts. And then we allow ourselves to feel shame when we inevitably don’t function like everyone else. Can you [00:03:00] relate? What are the things that you allow yourself to feel shame for? As a kid? I felt ashamed when I spoke out of turn or was obnoxious or was quote unquote too much in certain situations.

So, not only do I have ADHD, but I’m also kind of a lot. If you’re a fan of the Enneagram, I’m an eight with a seven wing, which means I’m aggressive, confrontational. And I like to be in charge, add ADHD into the mix and also throw in growing up in the eighties and nineties. And you’ve got a recipe for shame for feeling that you’re too much or that you just don’t fit in as a teenager and college kid, I felt shame because I just couldn’t get my act.

I went to high school, right outside of Princeton, New Jersey and college, right outside of Philadelphia. And my friends were mostly academics, even though I was smart. I just totally floundered in school. My story is probably similar to yours. [00:04:00] I did well at the subjects that I enjoyed until they got complicated or the projects were too involved.

And the subjects that I didn’t enjoy, well, they were a disaster. My parents and teachers and professors, they all knew I was smart, but they felt that I was lazy and they often reprimanded me to just pull it together and listen, I don’t blame them for it, but it certainly didn’t do me any favor. How many times did I show up for class unprepared, um, millions and every single time I felt ashamed.

My grades ranged from a plus to F and I began negative. Self-talk what is wrong with you, Kristin? I can’t. You just be like everyone else. You’re such an idiot. That didn’t go away. When I got my diagnosis at age 21, a lot of things improved with meds, but my executive functioning skills were still a disaster until I learned [00:05:00] that they could be trained and improved and they have improved a ton, but I do still struggle.

So think about your own life. What does your shame about your ADHD symptoms? Tell you. Here’s what it told me when I listened to it. Kristen, you’re unreliable. You just can’t get it. Right. Everyone notices. And they’re so annoyed with you. Your friends can’t stand how you’re always late. Your clients are so mad that you messed up the schedule.

Again. Try harder, Kristen. But wait, actually don’t bother trying harder because you’re never going to get it right. You can’t, you can’t be consistent. It’s never going to happen. So just give up. You might as well just watch Netflix today. We’re so mean to ourselves. If I continued to allow myself to believe these things, [00:06:00] I would still be 100% stuck.

I would not be making progress in my life or in my day job. I know this for sure. So I wonder are you feeling stuck if you are. I want to invite you to consider the unkind, the things that you’re believing about yourself. Start paying attention to the thoughts that come into your mind, even the negative things that people have said about you that are now on repeat in your head.

Things like, oh, you’re so messy. You’re always late. You never finish anything. Are you letting yourself believe the bad stuff? Are you allowing yourself to feel shame every time you act like you have ADHD?

Hey, I wanted to pop in here just for a second to let you know that this episode is brought to you by my brand new website, I have adhd.com. I designed this site [00:07:00] for adults, with ADHD who feel a little lost and are looking for some direction on it. You’ll find free resources, a link to my Facebook community, and a roadmap to help you move from point a to point B.

Remember, I’m not a doctor psychologist or a psychiatrist. I’m just a person with ADHD who has figured out how to achieve my goals and live successfully with this disorder. And I’m convinced that you can too, so make sure to check out I have adhd.com.

I’ve learned in the last few years, that feeling shame is a choice. Thinking negatively about yourself as a choice, you don’t have to do it now. Maybe it’s an unconscious choice, but it’s still a choice you can choose to think differently about yourself. You can choose to think differently about your ADHD symptoms and impairments.

You don’t have to feel shame. I’m not sure when it happened, [00:08:00] but a little while ago I made a decision. I decided not to feel shame for by obnoxious ADHD symptoms. Am I always running out of time and running late? Yes. Am I constantly wasting time on social media to avoid my difficult. Yes. Am I naturally messy?

Yes. Do I leave cabinets open all the time? Yes. Do I snap at my kids? Yes. Do I suck at keeping up with laundry? Hell yes. Do I send impulsive texts and emails that I later regret? Yes. Is my husband better at housework than I. Yes. Yes he is. But do I feel badly about any of these things? No, not anymore. I refuse to let myself.

And I’m convinced that this is one of the main reasons why I’m able to make positive changes in my life, because I don’t feel shame when I fail. I [00:09:00] just get back on the horse and try again. Now it’s not that the shame or the bad thoughts don’t come. It’s just that I don’t let them stay. I don’t let my ADHD symptoms mean that I’m a terrible person.

And I don’t expect myself to be the same as my neurotypical friends. This means that I reach out for the help and support and accountability that I need and that I know that I deserve. I used to feel like I should be able to keep up with everyone else without extra support, without medication or supplements or accountability, but not anymore.

There’s no shame in that for me anymore. A couple of months ago before I went back on ADHD prescription medication, I was at my net natural path doctor and I was checking out and the bill came to 120 bucks. And for a second, I almost put all of my supplements back and ran [00:10:00] away. My thoughts began to race.

I can’t believe I have to spend this much money to feel good and to function I could probably do without these. Ah, I feel so guilty spending this money on my mental health, but I only allowed myself five seconds of those thoughts. And then the true and the right and correct. Self-talk kicked in. You’re not okay without these Kristin, it’s totally fine to need help.

120 bucks is a small price to pay for functioning during the day and sleeping well at night, your family needs you. They need you to take these supplements. If you had diabetes, you wouldn’t think twice about spending the money on maintaining your health. So I handed my debit card over to the cashier and I walked away with what I knew I needed in order to function successfully.

I see shame can be dangerous. Not only does it hold us back from making progress, it can also convince us not to get the help or [00:11:00] support that we need and deserve. Okay. If I’m going to be really honest with you, there is one area of shame that I’m currently working on, and that is dealing with how my ADHD symptoms affect my kids.

I have three kids in school, which means constant paperwork coming home, constant homework to be supervised constant dress up days to be remembered. I mean, why we have to dress up as old people on the hundredth day of school is freaking beyond me, but whatever, like I said, I’ve improved with my executive functioning and my attention a lot.

So most of the time I do a good job of managing it all. But when I’m stressed out with work or feeling overwhelmed with life, sometimes things slip a couple of weeks ago. I forgot to send my youngest son Crosby to school in his pajamas for his Christmas party. I actually forgot about the Christmas party altogether [00:12:00] and was probably the only mom who didn’t send in a snack contribution.

When I arrived at drop-off, all the other kids were in their queue. PJ’s with snacks in hand and Crosby was in his stiff Catholic school uniform with nothing but his backpack. And I went home and cried. See, I’m not immune to shame, but instead of letting it ruin my whole day, And instead of worrying about what his teacher might think of me, I decided to write an email and tell her the truth.

I know I’ve shared this before, but I’m sick of taking the fall for ADHD when something goes wrong because of ADHD, it’s ADHD, his fault, not mine. I refuse to feel shame about it. So I want to read you this email that I sent across V’s teacher, because maybe it will inspire you to blame ADHD on ADHD in your life too.

So here’s the email. Good morning, Mrs. Miller. [00:13:00] I want to apologize for forgetting that the Christmas party was today. I know that you sent home three notes. And I still flaked on it. I hope that Crosby isn’t upset about wearing his uniform today. I feel compelled to tell you that I suffer from a neurodevelopmental disorder called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and that makes it very, very difficult for me to manage all of the nitty-gritty things in life and especially extra or peripheral things like a Christmas party.

Please don’t take my lack of involvement as a sign of disinterest. I appreciate what you do. Crosby loves your. And is learning so much. I am sorry that he showed up in his uniform without a snack to share. I am so happy that he has this experience with you and your class this year. Sincerely and gratefully, Kristen.

So it was as easy as that I dropped Crosby off at school at 8:00 AM felt embarrassed and horrible and ashamed came home and cried to my [00:14:00] husband. And then I made a choice. I wrote the email at 8:45 AM. I blamed ADHD for ADHD, his behavior. And I moved on with my day. No more shit. Years ago, this would have wrecked me.

I would have been done for the day for the week, maybe, but not anymore. I consistently make a choice to not let shame control my feelings or my actions. So what if you just decided to stop feeling badly about how your ADHD presents itself? I’m not saying that you turn into an irresponsible a-hole, but I am saying this.

What if you just refuse to feel shame about the way your brain naturally works, keep trying make progress. Don’t allow yourself to feel the crippling negative shame about your shortcomings. If you tell shame to shut up and leave you alone, you’ll be willing to try and fail and try and fail and try and fail until you [00:15:00] succeed.

I am totally in this journey with you. And I know that you can make progress. That’s it for this episode. If it resonated with you, please let me know. I’d love to hear about it. And I can’t wait to talk to you again next week. 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 years 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. It’ll mess everything up as far as numbers and the algorithm. So unless you want to mess everything up for me, [00:16:00] email me your negative feedback type. [email protected] I would love to hear from you.

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