Now Presenting: ADHD

Deviation Limbo

December 30, 2022 Jaye Lin Season 1 Episode 3
Now Presenting: ADHD
Deviation Limbo
Show Notes Transcript

Is this something you resonate with? Being in a situation where barrelling forward with the plan creates distress and anxiety, but pivoting and changing plans feels wrong? Where you are determined to continue with the plan, even though it feels sucky and unsustainable? If you do, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and what Jaye calls Deviation Limbo.

Jaye Lin
Instagram: @jayelinftw

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Hi. This is Now Presenting ADHD, where we look at common ways Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can present in individuals, explain what the root causes can be, and connect the experience to real humans. I’m your host, Jaye Lin. I’m an ADHD coach, instructor, and generally nice person.

This is still a new podcast. I released one episode in early November, and one special presentation episode at the end of November, then nothing for the following month. With the conference in November, a trip back to see my family in the bay area, and the holidays, it’s been difficult to find time to conceptualize, record, and edit an episode. Add in coordinating schedules with other coaches, some of the busiest people I’ve ever known, and it seemed to be a near-impossible task. 

I wanted to match topics to specific guests, but doing so would mean waiting for their availability way ahead of time, coordinating schedules, finding a topic that fits the guest lineup, writing a podcast episode, and then hoping that the guests would be able to have meaningful input. It was a lot of executive function, and a lot of unknowns. Plus, almost everyone I asked to be a guest on my show displayed some form of anxiety about how they would be perceived on the podcast, and as a people pleaser, their anxiety created a good amount of my own anxiety. 

I knew it would be easier to record and produce episodes on my own, allowing me the control and time to release episodes more consistently, but every time I considered changing the plan and structure of the podcast, I felt bad. Very bad. Like deviating from the plan would ruin everything.

Is this something you resonate with? Being in a situation where barrelling forward with the plan creates distress and anxiety, but pivoting and changing plans feels wrong? Where you are determined to continue with the plan, even though it feels sucky and unsustainable? If you do, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and what I call, Deviation Limbo.

Have you ever made a plan that you were convinced was the perfect way forward, that you were completely excited about, only to find yourself dragging your feet and dreading it while in the actual process of doing the plan? What do you think changed about it from you being excited to you being filled with dread? Depending on the situation, there could be many things that contribute to this change in how we feel about a plan. Maybe it seemed easier in concept than it was in execution. Maybe we thought we would enjoy it more than we seemed to when we got started. Maybe a bunch of roadblocks popped up that are unexpectedly unpleasant. Maybe the relationship with our collaborators has turned sour.

In many of these situations, there are pivots we can take to remove the dread and make it something we’re excited about again, but with ADHD, that can be difficult to even think about. ADHD creates dysfunction in our executive functions, one of which is cognitive flexibility.

Cognitive flexibility is what allows humans to make pivots and changes in thinking. It allows the possibility to change our minds, to pivot course when the unexpected happens, and generally, to adapt our behavior in changing environments accordingly. Those of us with ADHD have dysfunction in cognitive flexibility, and generally have a harder time than neurotypicals in situations where cognitive flexibility is normally in play, like conceding in an argument, when an unexpected wrench gets thrown into our plan, and when our experiences don’t match expectations. So when conditions lead our plans to feel underwhelming, unfulfilling, and unpleasant, it’s sometimes common for us to barrel forward with it, begrudgingly, instead of looking for ways to make it less unpleasant.

But another thing about ADHD is that it’s harder for us to do things that are unpleasant. So while we are unable to make changes to the plans due to cognitive inflexibility, we are also unable to thrive within the plan, because it’s such a trudge to get through it. And with that, we find ourselves in a limbo, where we aren’t able to move forward, and we also aren’t able to make pivots in order to create a new path forward. We’re stuck.

And then what happens? Enough time can pass with that limbo that now it truly feels impossible and illogical to move forward at all. The project, the plan, all of it, just stops. And then maybe we move onto something else. Maybe this repeats. Maybe it repeats indefinitely. Has this happened to you? If so, how does that make you feel? How does it make you feel about yourself? When this has happened to me, I’ve felt pretty crappy. Like I keep having good ideas, but I never finish them. Like there’s no hope for me to have success if I ever have a good idea again. The shame and catastrophizing can go pretty deep.

That shame can lead us to be even more inflexible in plans, actually. If I associate myself with being flakey and unreliable, even with good ideas, then going forward with plans can always have a baseline dread built in, because of my self doubt. Factor in the way I feel others perceive me, and that baseline dread shoots up even higher.

The thing is, though, that we ADHD folk aren’t actually inflexible at all things. In fact, we are known to be fairly spontaneous at a lot of things. Think about when a strategy needs to pivot in a video game, or board game, in order to win. We are actually very good at doing that, even more so than neurotypicals sometimes. Or when someone tells us what the plan is, and we find a more optimal solution. We can be very good at changing course in certain situations.

So what’s the difference between situations where we are unable to change strategies, and when we can easily change strategies? I find there to be two major factors that affect how easily we change course. The first is shame, and the “shoulds”. Telling myself I should stay the course. That it’s the right thing to do. Changing a podcast structure in the second episode is just not right. The question to ask in this scenario is “what makes it wrong?”. It’s early on enough for there not to be a huge shift in how the podcast is perceived. Many TV shows have different sets, dialogue structures, even cast members in the second episode versus the pilot, and that seems to be fine. Some of my favorite podcasts have changed hosts and even titles after an initial release. Transitioning this podcast’s structure will allow me to consistently release an episode every two weeks, and maybe even more frequently. Sure, having different perspectives can be a benefit to having guests, but it’s not guaranteed that their perspectives will be different from my own, and it’s even possible that their perspectives are not views I feel comfortable showcasing on my podcast. And what then? To be honest, when first conceptualizing this podcast, I intended to have it be ten to twenty minutes per episode, which is the length I prefer to listen to with my own ADHD brain. But when recording the first episode, there were so many great tidbits from guest interactions that I didn’t feel good about cutting it down to less than 40 minutes. A change in structure allows me to return to my original goals, while not sacrificing much quality. While the initial reflex is to keep going with a plan, it starts becoming clear that the impulse to do so is a distortion from my cognitive inflexibility and shame of previous behaviors, and not a feeling that is based on much logic.

The second factor that affects changing course is excitement. Adrenaline can boost our executive function due to an increase in norepinephrine and subsequent dopamine, and without negative feelings attached to that adrenaline, we can become slingshots of productivity, as evidenced with hyperfocus. We rarely hyperfocus on things we don’t like doing, unless it’s a cognitive distortion, and we don’t actually dislike doing it. We can create a boost for forward movement if we can identify the factors that create negative feelings for us, question them for cognitive distortions, then remove or lessen the factors that are actually getting in the way for us to find enjoyment or fulfillment in the process. 

I love doing this podcast. I have tons of topics written down that I would like to explore, and I would get a lot of enjoyment out of getting those out there in the world quickly, especially if it doesn’t create a lot of strain on my bandwidth or wellbeing. In fact, being able to churn out a thoughtful episode quickly was so exciting for me that I will have written, recorded, edited, and posted this podcast episode within the span of two days, even with the existing obligations I currently have in my life. That, my friends, is utilizing the best parts of my ADHD brain to achieve my goals, and for me, there’s no feeling that is more gratifying. I genuinely wish for you all to experience that feeling for yourselves.

You’ve reached the end of our episode on Deviation Limbo. To recap, cognitive inflexibility and shame about our previous track record can sometimes put us into deviation limbo, where we aren’t able to move forward with a plan because of our lack of enjoyment and interest, but at the same time, we feel discomfort at pivoting from the plan. We can get out of deviation limbo if we question whether our dread of doing the original plan is due to real-life reasons, or if they are based on distortions caused by our negative feelings about ourselves, then create productive excitement over what we can do to achieve the goals of our plan in a different way. We can allow our ADHD brains to contribute to our achievement rather than get in the way of it, by using productive positive adrenaline and excitement to fuel our focus and dedication. And lastly, get ready to hear me talk a whole lot, as I’m transitioning to a solo podcaster structure.

If you found this episode enjoyable or informative, please tell your friends and family members with ADHD, and/or give us a review wherever you get your podcasts. If the concepts in this podcast resonate with you and you’d like to join the Now Presenting: ADHD learning program that inspired this podcast, go to my website at If you want to read transcripts or show notes, find out more about me, Jaye Lin, or give suggestions on future episodes, please go to our website, That’s the acronym for Now Presenting: ADHD, Or you can follow us on Instagram, at NPADHD. Thanks for listening, and we hope to see you again soon!