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E30. Try This When You Have a Setback

Welcome to ADHD Crash Course! Today we're going to talk about a concept called re-entry. This is an analogy I use for setbacks that we have. Let's imagine that you have been making some changes. Maybe you're making habits, maybe you're managing your time differently, and you've been making some changes in your life to help you roll with life with ADHD.

Something happens, life gets in the way. Say you have a child home sick for a week, or you've gone on vacation. You have house guests staying with you, and for some reason you have gotten away from those changes that you've made.

Something else has pulled your focus, pulled your attention, and those changes are no longer changes that you are rocking. This is inevitable, when you're making changes something gets in the way.

I think what happens a lot of times is that we, tending to be black and white thinkers and not being as flexible in this area, say, "Hey, I messed this up. I'm starting all the way over. Why can't I make any changes that are consistent and sustainable?"

We can be really hard on ourselves. I want to give you an analogy if this happens to you. Not if, when, because let's be honest, this is life. No matter what we're doing, this is life. I think what happens a lot of times with ADHD is that we put a lot of meaning on these things. We assume this is us dropping the ball again. We assume this is something that's not going to work for us.

We aren't very flexible in the way that we think about it. Maybe we don't have a lot of trust in ourselves to be able to enter back into things. This ends up being a doomsday feeling for us when we've abandoned something we've been working on. I want to give you a different analogy. I want to give you an analogy that can help if you apply it to this situation.

I want you to imagine that you're just coming home from a trip.

You finally get home. It's been a great trip; you've been at the beach, you've enjoyed your family, and it's been restful. You come home after being away from your home at the beach for a week. Maybe you have a few minutes where you just collapse, you walk in the door, you rest for a minute. However, you have a lot of work ahead of you. You're going to expect to "re-enter" your life. You're going to have a little re-entry phase. Even though you were just gone for a week, your mind was somewhere totally different. You've been gone.

You've not been able to go get your groceries, your clothes aren't washed, and you haven't been able to check your calendar (because all you had on the calendar was your vacation agenda). What's waiting for you is life. You expect to have a re-entry buffer to get back to life.

If you have kids, you are most likely not going to roll in at 12 o'clock Sunday night and expect that everybody's getting up for school and work the next morning. This is because you know that there is a certain amount of time that you need to do things like go get your groceries. There's no groceries in the house, you need to unpack, you have to wash your clothes, maybe you need to check your calendar and see what's actually going on.

You have no idea! You haven't looked at this all week. You've been enjoying the fresh air, ice cream in the little downtown, and chilling out with your coffee on the deck. It's been vacation, you've been gone.

It wouldn't be particularly reasonable of you to say, "Why didn't I buy these groceries while I was at the beach? Why did I not pay all these bills? Why did I not wash my clothes?" You're expecting that because you've been away, you are going to have to re-enter and spend this time getting back to your normal life. It probably doesn't make you doubt yourself, judge yourself, or assume that you're never going to be able to get back to your regular life. You just plan for this. You know that that this is true.

It's helpful to apply that same analogy to times that we get off track with the changes that we want to make. Everyone gets off track. It doesn't mean that you're done with the changes that you want to make!

If you have ADHD, you're probably going to take more of these "vacations" from the changes that you want to make or things you want to do than a neurotypical peer. That's probably going to be true for you, but it doesn't mean that you're not going to make these changes.

There's a couple of things with ADHD that may make us really misinterpret some of these normal bumps. A lot of us struggle with transitions in general, meaning transitioning from one thing to the other. That can be transitioning our focus in a micro sense from one task that's right in front of us to another, but it also transitions in a more global sense. It involves life transitions, whether it's that transition from vacation to back home, or from home to vacation. We're not the only people that struggle with these kinds of transitions.

This often impacts people with ADHD. It's important to be recognizing that, giving yourself that extra buffer, and knowing that transitioning can be tough in that more global sense (as well as in a smaller sense or a micro sense of day to day tasks). These big transitions can be tougher to navigate. Understanding and giving yourself that grace for this might be harder for your brain type.

Like I mentioned before, sometimes we struggle with this cognitive inflexibility while seeing things as black and white. We see that either we're nailing these new changes, or there's just no hope and we're done with it. We should be encouraging ourselves to stretch that thought a little bit, to stretch our way of thinking about this a little bit. This can be done by using an analogy, like the one that I used about the vacation and being on a trip.

It's not so black and white. It's not so good and bad. It's not success or fail. Us being able to stretch that and be a little bit more flexible with ourselves also makes a big difference in being able to sustain something long term.

Another factor with ADHD and why we often really misinterpret these normal bumps in life, is that many of us have fragile trust in ourselves. It makes sense when you think about living for many years with unsupported ADHD. The majority of people I work with are diagnosed in adulthood. Even for people who are diagnosed much younger, our knowledge of ADHD and how it impacts our lives has evolved so much in the last years. Supporting ADHD, the evidence is starting to indicate, is much more involved than just medication.

No matter who you are with ADHD, you likely have under-supported ADHD in your life. That's not to blame you or anybody else around you. It's just to make the point that whatever evidence that you've collected throughout your life about what's possible for you, is very likely outdated.

If I'm working with someone, and they are making these huge changes in their lives, they're starting to get traction and they may hit one of these "vacations". Something happened in their life (like their kids are home sick for the week), so it's not so surprising that it is really emotionally difficult for them to say, "Oh, I had this traction, and now it's gone".

They assume that because this has been a pattern for them before they had support, that this is just the past repeating itself. They assume that they're not capable of making real change in their lives.

That's not true. That is outdated evidence. Now it's time to collect new evidence. The more you know and understand about your brain, the better support and compassion you can give yourself. That makes a huge difference in what's possible. It makes a huge difference in being able to re-enter with things that matter to you. It makes a huge difference so you don't feel like you're just blown out of the water by any of the bumps.

In fact, when I'm working with clients and we're talking about the changes that they're going to make or things they're going to do that week, one of the things I always ask them is, "Okay, what do you think will get in your way?" In doing that, you acknowledge, "Things can get in my way, things can happen, life can happen." Then you can make a plan for what's next, and how you're going to prevent that from happening.

Honestly, another part of that is how you're going to re-enter when you have taken a "vacation" from something that matters to you. Making that a part of your process, when you're thinking about changes you want to make, can be an important way to support yourself for the long term in making changes. If you find you're being hard on yourself and thinking, "I am so inconsistent, I need to be more consistent," I'm just going to encourage you to view this a little differently.

Consistency is not particularly easy for us because we take more of these vacations, planned or not. We take vacations from the things that matter to us. It does not mean that we don't come home. I love to travel. Lately, I haven't done as much of it with all that's going on in the world, but I am somebody who loves to take vacations.

I also love coming home. I will always come home, because I love my home. If you find yourself taking some unplanned vacations from things that matter to you and your priorities, realize that you will come back home to them. It doesn't mean that all is lost and that you fail. You will return to this and give yourself that buffer to re-enter.


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