PROGRESS, not Perfection

The Long Road Back:
Learning patience – Recovering Resilience

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Self-Health & Walking a Mile in Another’s Shoes Series

A Little Background click picture to visit source click picture to visit source

“The journey toward resilience is the great moral quest of our age.”
~ Andrew Zolli, co-author of
Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back.

Bouncing back myself

Regular readers know already that, between Christmas and New Years, I was mugged at gunpoint getting out of my van in front of my house, and that the thugs shattered my dominant hand. 

That left me pretty much helpless – and unable to work – until the cast came off in the second week of March. 

Since I work for myself there is no regular paycheck if I can’t do the work, so it’s been a scary time.

Only once my cast came off, about 75 days later, am I finally able to really concentrate on jumping through all the hoops necessary to put things back together – a DAUNTING idea! (See When Fear Becomes Entrenched & Chronic for just HOW daunting!)

Not only do I need to recover my sense of safety and security in my world and get back to work, I need to recover my STUFF!

  • The band of thugs made away with my purse, containing my make-up and favorite hairbrush, my brand new iPhone, the keys to house, car and storage space, and a-whole-lot-more, and my wallet (with all forms of identification, the plastic cards one uses for money these days, and all the merchant cards one shows to buy much of anything anymore).
  • They also grabbed my tote containing a number of things, the most devastating to my ongoing functioning being my datebook and address book.
  • It ALL needs to be replaced – starting with figuring out who and what I call to DO that – along with everything that expired while I was incapacitated (like my car insurance and tags, for example), and making sure all my regular bills are paid through the end of March.

If you’re one of my few neurotypical readers, you’re probably not envying my process, but my ADDers (etc) r-e-a-l-l-y get what a terrifying process that is!!

Spending a few weeks with my friends in Little Rock has been very healing, and getting back at least partial use of my dominant hand has made a huge difference.

Yet, I still have a long way to go before I will be able to say that I have climbed out of the hole I found myself in rather unexpectedly, almost three intermidable months ago.

I feel SO far behind, wondering if I will EVER be able to catch up!!

Since I promised to let you know what I am doing to continue to heal and how its going, I’ll check in every week or so with an article that will be a bit like a diary of my progress, coupled with any related insights, thoughts or ideas about executive functioning as I step back from the PTSD edge.

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Monday, March 17: I will NOT Should on Myself Today

mghSickBedI started feeling a bit under the weather yesterday – drippy and raspy – but I hoped the symptoms were allergy-related.  After all, attempting to catch up on over 75 days of cleaning exposed me to more than a little dust!

I took an allergy pill, some vitamin C and zinc, busied myself with more sedentary decluttering (like dealing with a backlog of mail, email, filing and blog housekeeping), and put myself to bed EARLY.

No such luck!  I woke up with a horrible head cold, with a sore throat and a voice that sounded like a man’s, feeling like even a trip to the bathroom might be a bit of a stretch.  NOW WHAT?

My Kingdom for some Resilience!

Have you ever noticed, for those of us with Alphabet Disorders, how impossible life seems to be, once we’ve taken the time to prioritize a To-Do list, if we are forced to reconceptualize mid-stream?


After we recover from the deer-in-headlights moment when we realize that our day is NOT going to go as planned, we then have to make some (oh, no!) fast and furious DECISIONS:

  1. what we are going to do about the sudden change in plans
  2. how we are EVER going to get back on track
  3. who needs to know
  4. what we plan to say to them — and
  5. how we are going to recover and respond when they have a problem with the news.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but most of my clients (and I, myself) never seem to master the “Don’t blame the messenger but there’s been a change of plans” default that most of our neurotypical buddies slip into when they call in sick, or apologize for the fact that a report is going to miss a deadline, or that a project is careening wildly toward the over-budget line.

I think I made the point best over a year ago, in an article entitled, The Procrastination Puzzle & the ADD Brain-style:

Like ducklings in a pond, we’re paddling furiously to keep up with the swans.  
They glide, WE thrash and splash.  

© Rodrigo Argenton:  Wikipedia

© Rodrigo Argenton: Wikipedia

REASONS, not excuses

You know, I’ve always believed that, because Executive Functioning Disorders are invisible, it’s difficult to impossible for anyone to keep in mind the implications.

While I do still believe that the invisible nature makes it more difficult for others to understand (much less empathize), since spending a few months relatively helpless, with my dominant hand and arm immobilized by an overtly visible CAST, I’ve come to believe that most people don’t think about implications PERIOD.

They simply want what they want in the way that they want it (and WE end up feeling deficient when we aren’t able to give it to them).

I can’t tell you how many times in December and early January I was requested to sign my name or write a check – or to hold something that would clearly not be a good idea for a woman with a bright red cast on her right arm to attempt. (Yeah, they have colored casts now, and I thought red would draw the most attention and result in people taking a bit more care around me, since the consequences of further damage were so daunting).

Even the Officer who took down the Police Report insisted that I add my signature to the paperwork reporting the incident.

  • When I pointed out to him that, since my right hand was my writing hand, and since my right hand was smashed and seriously starting to swell, it would probably be impossible for me to DO that, he did not seem particularly pleased with me.
  • He responded with, “Use your OTHER hand” (in that tone of voice we’ve all learned to despise – the one that might as well be adding “Dummy!” to the end of the comment.)
  • Now, I gotta’ ask you, what’s the point of a signature if it looks like it was scribbled by somebody ELSE?  Yet, in the moment, I didn’t ask him that particular question, I simply did the compliant thing and felt like an idiot for not thinking of it myself.

I believe our “defensive default” develops as a result of hearing, throughout our lives, how very much we COULD do something we say we can’t seem to manage (regardless of the legitimacy of our reasons) . . .

  • “if we really wanted to,” or
  • “if we TRIED hard enough! or
  • “if we’d simply DO it already and stop making excuses!!”

Lessons Learned and Growing Edges

I know that in MY life (and those of the clients I’ve coached in the past 25 years), we’re complaining and explaining hoping for some help to SOLVE the problem, not to get out of the search for a solution or to avoid being responsible for a solution.

Yet it seems that it’s a rare individual “on their team” who can hear it that way, and it’s a rare individual on ours who ever learns to reproduce that “charge neutral” tone of voice that others seem to pick up by osmosis — that tone that describes an event as simply “what’s so” without defensiveness or extraneous explanations.

Giving in and giving up

I’ve learned that, sooner or later, most of us stop trying to figure out WHY something that seems relatively easy for the “vanillas” (unflavored by ADD or any of the Attentional Spectrum issues) is difficult to impossible for us.

Eventually, a great many of us simply accept whatever explanations those others had shoved down our throats most of our lives: sadly internalizing their seeming belief that we ARE, in fact, lazy, stupid or crazy!!

  • I’ve observed that accepting that indictment is the beginning of the end of hope – accelerating the already swift slide into depression, accepting less from life than we deserve and could have.
  • I’ve learned that accepting that indictment is the root cause of the defensive tone in our voices – as well as the source of our urge to over-explain, that others seem to believe is a sign that we are fabricating an excuse.

But I STILL haven’t learned HOW to share the news that things have changed, the many times they do – and how to calm down enough to change my game-plan before it is too late to recover (when even more events domino down the tubes as the result of the sudden change, creating a repair deficit situtation.).

So, waking up sick has me reeling, even though only my mechanic Rick knows anything about my plans for the day.  Rick has been kind enough to agree to keep my van safe inside his Shop since December, after changing all the locks and the ignition. Since the thugs stole my keys, they could easily steal my van, otherwise — and I haven’t been able to drive until the cast came off and I got the all-clear, only last week.

Rick mentioned, when I called him last Friday to let him know that my cast was finally removed so I could drive again – and that my license plate renewal tag had finally arrived – that my van had been in his Shop for three months now, so he would have to charge the battery before I could pick it up.

LOGICALLY, I am fairly certain that he was sharing the time frame simply to explain why he needed advanced notice if I expected to drive away, not complaining about how long it had already been that my van had been sitting is his Shop (especially since I was paying him for the service).

So it is completely illogical that I would feel fear at picking up the phone to let him know that I will not be picking up my car today — that I simply don’t feel well enough to jump through all the required hoops to renew the insurance that expired while I was incapacitated and print out a Proof of Insurance card, given that most of the items necessary to DO that have more than a few in-order-to tasks attached. (See Open Loops, Distractions and Attentional Dysregulation for what’s so hard about THAT)

  • I find myself silently enumerating all the reasons WHY I won’t be able to do so, preparing myself for push-back that is, logically, probably not going to come (not that THAT particular insight reduces the urge to prepare a list of reasons, just in case!)
  • I find myself thinking that I DID, after all, say Monday or Tuesday, so maybe I don’t have to make a call at all?
  • I have learned, however, that avoiding making a call one day only makes it harder to make myself pick up the phone the next, yet I still feel the tractor beam toward avoidance, even as I type this sentence.

I ALSO find myself more than a little relieved to note the time – too late to catch him before The Shop is closed – relieved for a moment, that is.

Uh-oh! NOW I have new decisions to make – none of which seem any easier in my currently lousy state of “I feel broken” self-esteem:

  • leave a message today, or wait to call Rick “in person” tomorrow, when I’ll have a better read on the state of my health?
  • crawl back in bed, falling into the healing arms of the insistent call to sleep, or try to handle insurance reinstatement before I do so?
  • try to guess my password for the insurance site and maybe get it done online, or accept the probable reality that, since the insurance actually expired while I was incapacitated, I would need to reach a customer service rep and explain why “I let it lapse.”

Empathy or Censure?

Some of you reading are nodding your heads in recognition. You’ve been there.  You go there regularly.

I’m sure some of you are shaking your heads from side to side, too, never having experienced decision anxiety for such a seemingly simple list of decisions – only a bit dismissively. Thanks for reading and attempting to understand anyway.  REALLY!

The rest of you reading probably get it only too well, but you fervently hoped that someone like me would have figured out how to move beyond ADD/EF Challenges after 25 years as a helping professional in the field.

Sorry Charlie!

In the absence of some kind of “cure” that nobody seems to be looking for, ADD will always be ADD.  NONE of us can expect immunity from its Challenges, no matter how much we know about it or how long we work with it.

  • Don’t set yourselves up for feeling like you’ve “failed” when you can’t do the impossible.

The best ANY of us can do is to remain aware of our “ADD tendencies” and to do the very best we can to predict them so that we can work around them — realizing that, in some circumstances, our best will simply not seem good enough — and that beating ourselves up about that sad reality will only shut us down and make things WORSE.

  • We must ALL, ADD/EFD/TBI or not, accept the reality that accomplishment will always remain a moving target – a factor of how many balls we are already juggling when a new one gets tossed our way.
  • Just because others chime in to tell us what we SHOULD be able to accomplish and attempt to tell us how we SHOULD go about doing so, doesn‘t mean that it’s a good idea to do it to ourselves!!
  • The best thing we can do is to continue to affirm the truth: This too shall pass – as we look for a relatively level spot to place our next foot forward.

noShouldsSo, right this very moment, I am attempting to remind myself that I’m already juggling a lot of balls I haven’t had to juggle at the same time before, whether anyone else realizes it or not, doing my dead-level best NOT to freak out and should on myself TODAY. 

How about you?

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IN ANY CASE, do stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series (one-on-one couples or group), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end (or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page). Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!). 

I’m thinking I’ll be ready to get back to work with a limited number of clients by the end of March or the beginning of April – and I’ll tell you honestly whether I can or cannot offer what you need.  (Former clients who have been waiting patiently since the mugging will get first dibs on my [reduced number of] appointment slots, so be SURE to let me know if you’re still interested in working with me)


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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

11 Responses to PROGRESS, not Perfection

  1. Pingback: The Backwards To-Do List | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: How to STOP chasing your tail | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Pingback: Body Doubles for Activation & Accountability | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  4. Madelyn, This really made me think. How many people have ever made a complete list of all the things that need to be done given your situation? Maybe that would be a good question to ask at a conference and see how many people come closest to the number of things that need to be done.

    All the telephone calls (that you can’t make because you don’t have a telephone or the numbers to look them up because maybe one can’t recall names at the moment), on-line information. Just the basic needs in life need to be met. It’s not just one day of telephone calls … it’s repetition as though nothing else gets done and everyone makes mistakes … but Lord don’t let those mistakes be us! It’s an endless nightmare, with request after request from everyone in business.

    Most people wouldn’t even know where to begin and would freeze up immediately. Many have the support of others to pick up the pieces (but they are counting on several other people) … and here you are struggling alone to recover physically, emotionally, and put all the pieces of the puzzle together in the midst of the recovery. (Actually, not in the midst … immediately after injury right out of the emergency room!).

    Last summer when my husband had the motorcycle accident I froze up, simply because my sibling where there to help for the first time in my adult years (because they live far away out-of-state). They did everything necessary (took care of towing, insurance, hospitalizations, keys, clothing, camping arrangements, traveling arrangements, problem solving everything). I guess I was “frozen” in a state of shock, or was it “frozen” with the focus only on my husband and not on all the things “I usually need to do”. Damn, I didn’t bring them home with me so the list goes on … Oh, I was blessed to bring my husband home with me though!

    I didn’t know what it was like when my adorable sister brought my toothpaste and toothbrush to the hospital! Awe, just those simple things … and how much they count! I realized in a time of need, if we were close enough we would help … and this time we were together many years later. I was not only surprised, it was such a relief but I found myself mentally going down the list of things I should do.

    So, as I’m thinking if you listed everything since December I’m sure you’d be far over the 500 “done” list, and over 1000 “to-do” list and I bet that’s not exaggerating! It seems like you do one thing, then there’s 10 more things for one simple task that is no longer “simple”. Then you have all the physical problems, and all the emotional stuff compounded with PTSD … and weather that is too cold, too icy, too snowy, but it’s finally SPRING (at least on the calendar!).

    Thank you for another great post. Take care and stay safe, Edie


    • HOW validating! I feel so gotten (except for the part about the “done” list – lol – not yet, anyway)

      You really seem to intuit the implications of my situation, Edie — probably because you have been there yourself in many ways. We are a lot alike, I believe.

      I’m not sure if it was the comment above or another (can’t scroll to see what YOU wrote without losing this comment), but your description of what YOU went through following your husbands motorcycle accident made me shudder in recognition. I wish I could have been there for YOU, but it’s heartening to hear that your family stepped up for you.

      We so often forget that the caretakers need taking care of too. Not only were you suddenly dealing with a bazillion details that didn’t have to be handled until the accident, you had to keep “regular” life running for you and your husband AND deal with your own fears for his recovery (and that maybe you wouldn’t be able to do everything required).

      The ONLY “good” thing about being in the position of helper vs. helpee is that the helper can walk away and at least TRY to take a break from the situation – so I hope you allowed yourself those little breaks (and I hope all is healed after the accident).

      Thanks again for taking time to reach out to ME!


  5. O Madelyn…I’m so sorry to hear the horrors that you’ve been through – mental, physical, and material! It’s no excuse, but I’ve had my head down and tail up since Christmas. Your posts have been sitting in my inbox to visit once the wave of work had subsided (happened this week), and I have had time to catch up. I wish I had been able to say ‘thinking of you’ sooner, and to send virtual hugs your way…not that that would have been much good, given the virtualness of them, the space you were in and are coming out of, and the fact that you couldn’t access a computer.

    I cannot imagine what you have been going through, although your wonderfully written and researched posts help to explain the neurological reasons behind many of the experiences that you are having. Your 8 items for your survival and recovery are also enlightening (from When Fear Becomes Entrenched). From observation, there seem to be several points that require you to step back from your ‘self’ and to ‘notice’ objectively what is changing…until you reach the point where you recognise you can “consider …[yourself] high-functioning once more”. Do you have a way to help you ‘step outside yourself’ and look in? Or does that process itself itself fill you with fear? When do you feel your ‘best’ at the moment? (I hope you don’t mind me asking the questions).

    I feel that it took a great deal of courage to share what you are sharing, and just reading the comments folks have made, you continue to be a voice and presence who is “helping others to cope”.

    Go well Madelyn. And I know it’s easy for me to say and possibly less easy to do, but, go easy on yourself as you heal. You don’t need to jump back on the horse…he or she will still be there, hitched to the work rail, once you are ready.

    Let me know if there is anything I can do. Sending strong, peaceful thoughts your way. All the best, Hazel xx


    • Hello stranger – so GOOD to hear from you!! No shoulds, btw. I understand “busy” that keeps us away from all our friends throughout the world, sometimes for weeks or months (or years?!) I’m simply thrilled you returned.

      Many of my ADDers, I’m guessing, get stuck in the “meant to but didn’t and now don’t know how to re-engage” trap. It gets me too, more than I would like to admit. NOT “logical” – but certainly what we do sometimes, huh?

      I dimly recall I have more to say & want to answer your questions, but I need a refresher glimpse at what you wrote to move forward.

      Check back in a bit, Hazel, if this reply is all you see – I can’t respond very well from this screen, and I’m not sure how the “notification of reply” works. I MUST get a couple of calls, etc. made before I can continue, however — later tonight!

      I’ll be back!


    • Part TWO to Hazel: in answer to question #1
      Do you have a way to help you ‘step outside yourself’ and look in? Or does that process itself itself fill you with fear?

      The “can’t quite seem to control it” mind rant that keeps me from falling asleep DOES make me fearful. Last night, for example, I became terrified at how many things were still slipping through the cracks and the idea that more hatefulness would domino from what I am yet unable to get back in place.

      I finally got up at 7 AM, threw some bedding on the couch, opened up iTunes & set it to play some of the most recent interviews on The Brain Science Podcast — in an attempt to occupy my mind so I could stop freaking out. Apparently it worked like a charm — I drifted away somewhere in the middle of Michael Merzenich’s latest (and NOT because he wasn’t interesting, btw)

      UNFORTUNATELY, that meant that most of the daylight hours were behind me by the time I awakened. ::sigh:: Yet ANOTHER day when the offices and stores I needed closed before I could get to them.

      My more conscious technique is usually calming and centering (journaling, list making & scheduling in my DayTimer – i.e., conscious reflection & planning).

      HOWEVER, since the thugs stole both my journal and my datebook, It’s not quite the centering process I yearn for currently, as it is a trigger as much as a technique (and least right now).

      Recovery will be a process — since my systems and coping techniques have been in use for decades, attempting to change them NOW (and for this reason) would probably end up being yet another trigger. My ADD brain would probably BOGGLE with changing everything at once anyway – AGAIN. (Click on ABOUT Boggle if you’re not sure about that term.)

      God wants me to learn patience with myself, I guess!



    • Answer to Hazel’s second question & response to comment at end
      When do you feel your ‘best’ at the moment?

      When I recognize myself – i.e., as former skills & procedures come back online.

      Since I was unable to do so for 3 months, blogging or writing (books etc.) is the most “normal life WILL return” affirming activity I could do. And it always helps anyone struggling to take the focus off yourself and try to be of help to someone else.

      HOWEVER, the time involved can also be a sort of protracted avoidance activity, becoming part of the problem – which it has been for me, btw.

      I feel that it took a great deal of courage to share what you are sharing, and just reading the comments folks have made, you continue to be a voice and presence who is “helping others to cope”.

      Thanks – I must admit that I wondered about how things would land and what THAT would mean — but obviously I chose to do the “courageous” thing and do it anyway. I’ve received a lot of support in response, but the jury’s still out re: whether it will negatively affect my ability to make a living.

      I won’t know until I can announce that I am “BACK to work.” Right now, the phone is the stopper. I am healed enough psychologically to do what I do — and in fact, it would be another normalizing activity.

      HOWEVER, for a bunch of odd reasons it is turning out to be a HUGE hassle attempting to hook up the replacement to my brand new iPhone that was stolen. (not sure how much of it is “user error,” since I didn’t get a chance to really learn how to use it before it was stolen).

      Since my temp phone (aka “burner”) is so truly LOUSY re: connection and voicemail notification, I don’t feel it wise to attempt to coach or train on the darned thing. (worry-worry-worry!) Three months is a long time to be out of work!!

      And THEN, of course, there’s always ADD affect that complicates all, sans systems — negatively impacting my sleep disorder. <==link

      Thanks for asking!


  6. busydarling says:

    Hope you get back in the rhythm soon!


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