Michelle Swerin: Anxiety, text therapy & meditating on our laundry pilesMay 16, 2023
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Episode 137 with Michelle Swerin.
“I can't tell you how many jobs I had as a teenager. I mean, easily 20. I was never fired, I just lost interest really quickly.”
Michelle is a licensed therapist, certified meditation teacher, and certified instructional designer. She is also a neurodivergent mother of two and the founder of Create Space Health, a telehealth clinic focused on incorporating meditation into mental health therapy.
Michelle saw big changes in her own life when she began practicing meditation. Since then, she has become a certified meditation teacher and has been able to merge her clinical training and meditation experience into her practice to help those struggling with mental health challenges. She is passionate about bringing mindfulness and meditation into the clinical space, where she believes it can have a larger impact on the treatment of mental health disorders.
Michelle and I talk about ADHD-friendly approaches to meditation, and we also talk about high-functioning anxiety and the negative effects of masking, and how meditation and mindfulness therapy can help.
This interview was also recorded the day after Michelle and I hosted an Instagram Live on “Advocating for Neurodivergent Mental Health Care” — it was a fantastic conversation, so if you love today’s episode, I highly recommend you check out the recording.
Special offer for Women & ADHD listeners: 6-week Neurodivergent Affirming Support, Sensory Stress Regulation, or Mindful Meditation text support programs for $99 (regularly $225) with code: ADHD
Oprah’s The Menopause Talk
Michelle Swerin 0:00
We need to normalize like, I'm meditating, not in this like perfectly Stark, beautiful white room. You know what I mean? Like I'm literally sitting on top of a pile of laundry that I've been meaning to do for two weeks, you know? And I'm going to take this five minutes to focus somewhere else, I still can choose to do that.
Katy Weber 0:30
Hello, and welcome to the women and ADHD podcast. I'm your host, Katy Weber. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 45. And it completely turned my world upside down. I've been looking back at so much of my life, school, jobs, my relationships, all of it with this new lens, and it has been nothing short of overwhelming. I quickly discovered I was not the only woman to have this experience. And now I interview other women who like me discovered in adulthood they have ADHD and are finally feeling like they understand who they are and how to best lean into their strengths, both professionally and personally. Before we get started, I'd like to share with you this highly relatable review from a listener called podcast junkie UK on the Apple podcast platform in the UK. It's entitled, earth shattering. I am the classic 40 year old mum who couldn't cope with the pandemic that you talk so much about on your show. I'm the childhood overachiever who has always felt like a failure. I have a PhD but feel unemployable a history of losing my glasses, my keys, and sadly, quite a few of my friends with drama and overthinking at every turn, quote unquote, oversensitive, clumsy and chaotic. I buy thank you cards and then don't send them and then feel a whole world of shame. I have about 30 alarms going off every day to remind me to do stuff. I've struggled with depression and anxiety but always thought there was something else going on something not quite right about me that I couldn't put my finger on. It hit me a few weeks ago that I have ADHD. And I quickly found your podcast, which I've been binging ever since my kids could probably perfectly recite the intro now and roll their eyes and laugh every time they hear it. It has gotten me through the tedium and stress of a recent house move and given me so many pangs of painful recognition, as well as laughing along about the funnier side of this disorder. Thanks so much for this huge archive of gems, keep them coming. You're really helping me to unlock so many mysteries about my life. And listening to your podcast has given me the certainty I need about this diagnosis whether or not I ever get officially diagnosed. I'm so glad I found you. Well, thank you podcast junkie. It's so meaningful to me that you took the time to write this review to articulate your lived experience. I love the thought of keeping you company through all of the tedious tasks of domestic life. What you've described is the journey of so many of us out there. So I'm glad we're all finding each other and feeling less alone and hopefully a little less broken. Speaking of finding each other. If you're looking for a safe, inclusive, friendly and supportive group of women with ADHD who will have your back please come join us and the women and ADHD online community. I always say that finding our people is an important part of this treatment plan. And I'm so grateful for this online space. It is a wonderful place for us to connect, ask each other questions, share our strategies and advice or just vent and share memes. We have regular virtual get togethers and monthly live sessions with ADHD experts. Our next one is actually coming up this Sunday with therapist and author Anita Robertson, who you might remember from Episode 130 of this podcast, she'll be hosting a live presentation and q&a on communicating our ADHD needs with our partners or family members, something many of us struggle with you'll also have access to our large archive of recordings of past experts. So come join us over at women and adhd.com and of course that link is in the show notes. Okay, here we are at Episode 137, in which I interview Michelle sworn Michelle is a licensed therapist, a certified meditation teacher and certified instructional designer. She's also a neurodiverse mother of two and the founder of Createspace health a telehealth clinic focused on incorporating meditation into mental health therapy. Michelle saw big changes in her own life when she began practicing meditation regularly. Since then she's become a certified meditation teacher and has been able to merge her clinical training and meditation experience into her practice to help those struggling with mental health challenges. She is passionate about bringing mindfulness and meditation into the clinical space where she believes it can have a large impact for her neurodivergent clients. Michelle and I talk all about ADHD friendly approaches to meditation. We also talk about high functioning anxiety and the negative effects of masking and how meditation and mindfulness therapy can help. This interview was also recorded the day after Michelle and I hosted an Instagram Live have you on the topic of advocating for Neuro divergent mental health care? It was a fantastic conversation if I do say so myself. So if you love today's episode, I highly recommend you go check out the recording of our other conversation. And of course, you can find that link in the show notes. Alright, enjoy. Michelle, thank you so much for joining me, I am so excited to get to have this chance to talk to you again. Because yesterday we had our Instagram live together. So if you're listening to this podcast, make sure to go check out the link in the episode show notes because Michelle and I did a fantastic Instagram live together, where we spoke all about advocating for Neuro divergent mental health care and what that means and so but I very excited to have Michelle on this podcast so I can hear about your own personal story. For sure. Yes, thank you for having what's happening in your life at the time that led you to start to connect the dots and put two and two together and seek out the diagnosis.
Michelle Swerin 5:59
Yeah, I was 35 years old. And like many women, my, my journey started with my kids. I'm a therapist. And so I had been a therapist at that point for about 10 years. And I always knew there was, you know, continuing to manage the anxiety continuing to manage some trauma stuff from the past. But you know, that not putting two and two together with the ADHD diagnosis piece until I started to explore what was going on with my daughter, specifically my oldest daughter when she went to kindergarten. So she had always been kind of mirroring myself back to me throughout her entire young years, she was very emotional, very sensitive, very sensory sensitive. And, you know, being a therapist, I'm really tuned into this stuff. So we've got the calm down corner, and we've got, you know, the sensory tools to just be like, supporting her with all of these big feelings that she has. But then when she went to school, it kind of became this element of okay, I can't be there all the time to support her and manage those pieces. And not that I was trying to be a helicopter mom when I was when she was a toddler. But you know what I mean, just that support pieces in this constant, because she's at school and this whole new world, and seeing kind of the breakdown that she would have after school every day from holding everything in. And having that bring me back to that feeling of like, the mask at such a young age, just like, Okay, I'm going to hold it together, I'm going to be like the perfect student and the perfect friend and all of this stuff. But then I'm going to come home and I'm going to have like a little meltdown Gremlin app, getting off the bus every day. And then then it started to translate to getting on the bus and being overwhelmed by the idea of having to go and put that mask on every day. And my socks need to be exactly right. Otherwise, it's going to be a meltdown before the bus because I don't want to go on the bus, you know. So seeing that and wanting to help her navigate that in an effective way where she feels supported. She feels like she can understand what's going on. Because part of that scary feeling is like what's wrong with me what's going on that overwhelmed like just confusion of like, what's causing this and why aren't other kids feeling this, you know, and then preventing the shame. Because as a therapist, and as just a woman who has dealt with mental health issues and traumatic issues in my life, just the damage that holding shame and can do is just incredible. And I wanted to prevent that in any way that I could for my kids. So I started exploring, you know, just symptoms wise what this could relate to and kind of talk to her pediatrician about the sensory pieces. And then my nephew also had, he's quite a bit older than her he's about to turn 15 She's about to turn 10. So I had seen his journey of ADHD and seen some comparisons there. And like we talked about yesterday at the live, you know, seeing then how that translates to how you look at your whole family tree history. Like can name the people who had ADHD that you know, didn't go through a formal diagnosis, but you can just tell from those common patterns and behaviors. And so then I was like, Okay, well, I should probably explore this a little bit more myself and especially then clinically diving into it more once my kids were diagnosed. One kind of understanding that I cut from the clinical lens to just like the that ADHD could have been the root cause of a lot of the other things I experienced from anxiety to some elements of depression to even I had been through a binge eating disorder treatment, and had always been like, does this fully fit me or not? Like, I would always be like, I'm a subjective binder, not an objective binder, because it would be because I don't actually binge. But when I eat anything, that I feel like I shouldn't, or maybe I eat too much, because I'm impulsively eating quickly, then I feel like crap about it, you know? So I went through this whole treatment program feeling like is this even really what fits for me? Fast forward, you know, four years at that point? And I'm like, Oh, wow, nope, that wasn't what that was. It was really just my ADHD and action and coping with the ups and downs and the all or nothing cycles with foods. So yes, still, like a disordered form of eating but a very common form of eating in our culture in our society, but being able to navigate it with the lens of ADHD has been much more effective than navigating it through a misdiagnosis. You know. So that was a long winded way to say, my kids and exploring my family, and then how that kind of all unraveled as far as me examining all of my historical pieces related to mental health too. So.
Katy Weber 11:25
Right, yeah, talk about like, we talked about how life changing this as and how profound it is, it's like, how do you even be able to describe nobody seemed, it's really difficult to articulate to somebody who doesn't get it? How much of your life seems to have been affected by this and right, and it's just like this, this that, Oh, my God, this too, like, I've just felt like, everything from, like, nursing and the sensory stuff around like, touch being touched, like, as with kids, and just all of it, like, Yeah, it's crazy. You I really, really related to what you were talking about, with the holding it all together and coming home and just exploding either in tears or in rage, both of my kids had that a lot. And I was sort of, I never really, you know, I just thought, well, they're really good kids, and they need to, you know, when you come home, it's a safe place, and you need to unwind and, but it wasn't like it. You know what, that was never something I really connected to the ADHD and anxiety piece until I was diagnosed, I was diagnosed before my kids. And that's when I, you know, had the opportunity to look at all of their symptoms, and their similarities to me. And that was a huge one was just how much they were masking at school, and then unraveling as they came home. And then the teachers were like, I don't know what you're talking about. They're great kids, they're so well behaved like they don't fill the ADHD stereotype at all in the classroom, either of them. And so the teachers are like, no, no, I don't know what you're talking about. I'm like, You are seeing such a different kid than I am. And another thing I noticed, too, with the masking which, again, I'm like, where is this coming from? This idea that like, neither of my kids would ever tell a teacher that something was wrong, or that they didn't understand something? Or that you know, could neither of them would ever, like ask a teacher to repeat something and I see it more. It's, it's my, my daughter is able to kind of manage and figure stuff out my son, I feel like it is to his detriment that he really is worried about, you know, getting in trouble. In school, so much like, to a degree that is not normal, like I just sort of feel like is is also advocacy just drilled out of our children? Or is there something more at play here? Like, I feel like the anxiety is so much higher? And I'm like, Where does this originate? Where is this coming from? Because both of them I was expecting an ADHD diagnosis when I had them both assessed, but they also both came with a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis.
Michelle Swerin 14:09
So did mine both both of mine, too. I think that's pretty common. And I would think that maybe fast forward a period of time and supports and you might see the generalized anxiety go away, like for my for my oldest daughter, and actually for myself, too, when we treated the ADHD with, you know, supports ot therapy, meds we do we do meds at our house that reduced the need for anxiety, meds or interventions or supports, it's still there, you know, but it definitely improved that greatly kind of reinforcing in my mind that it's very much related, like ADHD being the root cause but then when you were talking about your kids, too, I just was thinking rejection sensitivity, dysphoria, and how much of that is tied into our nervous system because basically A when we can interpret any threat to our social connection, as like something that's going to trigger our nervous system. So if like innately we feel like okay, I can't be, I can't do this problem wrong, or somebody's going to judge me or I don't want to go be that kid who is always asking the teacher something, because then she might judge me, you know, that kind of like that internal dialogue that we were talking about yesterday, that's so much louder, so much more reactive, kind of more sensitive to the degree that rejection sensitivity, dysphoria brings out where like, it's more reactive than the proportion of what somebody's trying to put out or make us feel usually, you know, and so then that, that translates to our nervous system being that much more activated, and ties back to that whole sensory regulation piece. So
Katy Weber 15:53
and then the, like, subsequent exhaustion, which is, you know, why kids, I think, have those meltdowns at the end of the day, because of how hard they're working mentally and physically to maintain that mask.
Michelle Swerin 16:07
And then hopefully, they're coming home to a safe place where they know that they're going to be socially accepted no matter what meltdown they have. And so where they can let it know out.
Katy Weber 16:19
Yeah, yeah, I remember when we were trying to decide what medication to try with my teenage daughter because everything felt so intertwined, right. So it was like, we were like, is it? Do we tackle the executive dysfunction? And that's going to help with the depression and the anxiety? Do we tackle the depression, which might help with the anxiety and the executive dysfunction? Or do we give her anxiety meds, and like it was sort of like, which, you know, it felt like kind of Whack a Mole. We didn't know what to try first. So we tried ADHD medication, because it sort of felt like the easiest one to tinker with. And it's been amazing. I mean, she's responded really, really well to it. And us, we've seen such an improvement in terms of her social anxiety as a result, which amazes me because I'm, you know, it's it was I was really, that was the thing I was really worried about, I was like, I don't care if her room is clean, but I just want her to feel like she's, you know, in high school and making friends and feeling comfortable and all that stuff. So, yeah, parents like normal
Michelle Swerin 17:19
social experience, but then also the balance of like, I tried to, like, empower them to accept and embrace this bring difference to you, like that neuro affirming neurodiversity lens of like, okay, this is why I might be reacting differently like that. And there's nothing wrong with that. It doesn't have to be fixed. But yet, I also know that when I feel that it doesn't feel good, so trying to like support the balance between those two things to you know, building the self compassion, but also the self acceptance, and then also the advocacy advocacy. It's like, oh, it's a lot.
Katy Weber 18:00
Yeah, I know. Well, and not only that, but then there's like, all of you know, these, like, huge think pieces about anxiety levels, post COVID. And in young people, and so then it's like, well, am I miss reading that? Like, is this just something that's related to COVID? And it's not ADHD? You know, I feel like I'm always coming back to those questions of like, is it something else, you know, I was, or even just with my own ADHD, I was watching, like, I don't know, I was like, scrolling tick, I was scrolling Instagram. And there was a video for Oprah. She's doing some kind of special on menopause that's coming out. Or maybe it's already out, but she was talking about menopause and like feeling so fuzzy headed and her memory and just losing all focus that she was like, listing off ADHD symptoms. And so I was like, wait a minute, is this just better? But like, I feel like I'm constantly questioning what is this right, and then, you know, so I, you know, do it with my kids to,
Michelle Swerin 18:55
I feel like that relates so much to the internalized shame and self doubt that throughout our life is reinforced. And so, like, from a clinical like their therapists perspective, I think that's the importance of really thermal intakes and evaluations and assessments. Because when you go through those, you're looking at your lifespan, you're looking at patterns over your lifespan, you're looking at also just your cognitive function, like your actual brain response and functioning and memory functioning, and all of those elements that don't lie to a degree, you know what I mean? So, I think and it also hopefully would rule out other causes of the symptoms like complex trauma or like hormonal factors or sleep issues even. And so being able to find someplace where you can get that, like very thorough assessment, I think can help with some level of combating that self doubt because I would say that I do relate to what you're Saying like continuing to, like have that self doubt creep up, especially as like in the world as diagnosis go up, then people start questioning the diagnosis itself even, you know. So like, we were sensitive to like hearing that and internalizing that, but I do feel like I feel a little bit protected in a way that because I'm so clinically informed about it. And because I feel confident in the diagnostic process that I went through that I still can't come back to be like, No, this is what's going on. It's understandable that I that those doubts come up, but you know, feeling more rooted in that, you know, but I can relate to and I know a lot of people can, especially people who don't pursue formal diagnosis, you know, but because I don't feel like that's needed, if you're feeling like you're supporting your own development and other effective ways. But I think it can help with that chronic, doubting yourself piece. And, and that's why I always like
Katy Weber 21:01
to ask my guests about, like, you know, looking back over the course of your life, what were some of those indications that the signs were there all along, because I feel like, for many of us, it isn't just something that happened, you know, in the last six months, it really is looking over the course of our entire life, and putting together this understanding of what it looks like and what it looks like, as we were children. And but you know, it's also, again, like many, many women I spoke speak to on this podcast, would, you know, didn't fit the stereotype in terms of you know, doing was struggling in school, right. And so the, when you bring in the masking of doing very, very well in school, and being this perfectionist and having these really high expectations, and you know, there isn't a lot of outward indication of ADHD. So it really comes down to like understanding your own lived experience within this greater context of an ADHD brain and how you approach problems.
Michelle Swerin 21:59
And your experience. Yeah, because that's another big factor, too, is like, Were you in a family where they were in tune with your internal experience or not?
Katy Weber 22:10
You know, yeah.
Michelle Swerin 22:12
So yeah, but yeah, for me, it's it's almost laughable. Now. It's, it is laughable. We have laughed a lot about it. Like, how did we not know this? How did we not recognize this sooner? Like I it's like a family. It's been a family joke forever, like, fact that I lost mittens by the dozen, you know what I mean? Like, literally came home every day not having my mittens, you know, like, how are we going to buy another pair of mittens. Or, like I was a huge daydreamer a huge like doodler. But I still was able to get my work done and focus on that stuff, because I loved school, especially when I was really little until I burned out in ninth grade is when you're right when you're supposed to be focused on your academics for college admissions, if that's your goal, so, but that was kind of a big indicator was like a lot of all or nothing, a lot of perfectionism, a lot of being distracted in my mind, and even hyperactive in my mind, but on the outside, not presenting that at all presenting like very perfectly on the outside. And I talked to some of my clients about this too, like I, I don't like to just completely stereotype it to a gender difference. Because there are there are plenty of boys and men who might not fit the stereotypical lens of what they researched as ADHD, being that hyperactivity bouncing off the walls type of thing, but in the previous stereotypes and research that was kind of the thing like, Oh, who's the boy in the class who's like, running around literally jumping off the tables, you know, like that, let's go get them assessed for ADHD. Did you also look at the girl who is the perfect student, the perfect, like, helpful friend, like the epitome of like, perfectly behaved, and that is the girl that needs to be assessed for ADHD. And I think that that can be a different experience for a lot of girls. And maybe some boys have that experience too. So again, I don't want to make that just a gender thing. But to a degree as far as social norms go, that's kind of what I would, how I would distinguish it and how I saw my kids and what my experience was. So that's why I'm maybe a little more bias to that part two, because we're, we're all girls, I have two daughters so
Katy Weber 24:36
well, I think one of the things that always certainly prevented me from ever thinking I had ADHD, and I'm sure with a lot of women with internalized hyperactivity is just the fact that I didn't realize my internal experience wasn't a universal experience. So So I would talk about like, I remember having a joke that I would always say about overthinking and how you know, I've always been told overthink and then I would always my reaction to overthinking would be Hmm. Maybe I do overthink, I should read a book about overthinking. I wonder what's out there about over there? How do I stop overthinking? What do I do to over stop overthinking? Is there a way to under that, you know, and just I would just go on and on and on. And I would kind of make this joke about overthinking because I figured everybody must think that way. Right? And you know, now realize, looking back how many blank stares? I got what I say no. But I think a lot of us don't realize that this isn't necessary. This kind of internalized hyperactivity isn't necessarily universal.
Michelle Swerin 25:36
Exactly hyperactivity, but also dysregulation that word that we talked about yesterday, like having either being extremely overwhelmed a lot of the time because of like, not being able to navigate all of these up and down emotions and physical sensory things that are dysregulated in us. And so that kind of like a constant state of overwhelm, or the all or nothing cycles leading to the burnout. I think that's another big one. Yeah. So I think that it's yeah, it's about the regulation piece, too, for sure. Not just the hyperactivity piece, which regulation might line up more with, like that focus or distracted piece, too, you know, because to a degree, if you're dysregulated, you can't focus we literally can't tap into the prefrontal cortex in our brain that helps us focus.
Katy Weber 26:24
Right, and I fit Yeah, I feel like, like I said yesterday, like the the question, What is wrong with me? If that's something you ask yourself on a regular basis, that might be a tip off? So now, you know, you had mentioned in some of our one of our correspondents, I think you had mentioned that when you told your therapist, that they were really shocked, right, like it was just they did not see this coming? What's that been like to unpack? Are you still seeing the same therapist? No, I don't I ask that
Michelle Swerin 26:53
I'm not seeing that therapist anymore. Now. Surprise, surprise, no, but I mean, I did see that I did seek out that therapist for something specific that they were more trained in, which was around trauma. So I think that maybe that's part of what was missing there is that they didn't have the background training in ADHD, they were very focused in trauma. But on the other hand, I feel like some be like that is something that needs to change in our field in general, like if, if you have a if you have a focus on trauma, you should definitely have more recognition of ADHD. They are very, they're going to be very related. There's just so much about being neurodiverse. That creates us more vulnerability for trauma. But yeah, so but just going through that it was it was very, it was interesting, because my therapist was a little bit older. And they had still the very much DSM focused viewpoint of ADHD. So they really didn't get it, they're like, you're gonna assess for that. That's like, what's making you think that and I would, you know, kind of share about some of my experience, and they would be like, Okay, I think that they like literally thought that my test would come back negative. But it Yeah, it definitely came, they kind of put all the puzzle pieces together for me. And a lot of it even related to then the regulation piece, the emotional regulation, because I used to always think like, yeah, what's wrong with me and my emotional responses in my head, just like so much bigger, it seemed like, then other people are so response reactive and impulsive to that, that feeling of like time blindness that comes with emotions, too, when you're like having a really hard moment. And you're like, you can't see beyond it, you know. And so that is one of the ways that I think it's shaped me and even kind of tied into the how I wrapped up that therapy and moved on to like other supports was just that tie in of like, okay, this, this made me more vulnerable to my responsiveness to some of these traumas. And so I can have compassion around that, but then also have a whole new context of compassion and tools to pull from that helped me just like, pause and be mindful. And that's where I actually don't have a therapist right now. I do, you know, clinical supervision. So I feel supported in other ways, but I credit that partially due to my meditation practice. That's been hugely transformative in my management of my ADHD. It just, it allows that pause that wasn't there before accessible before. And then the shift that can come after that, like, pause and then use my tools and resources to shift. That's what meditation does for me for managing my life. But you know, specifically my ADHD and how it impacts you know, every part of my life. So
Katy Weber 30:00
You were a meditation expert before your diagnosis Correct.
Michelle Swerin 30:03
I was a mindfulness expert I, in grad school, I studied all about mindfulness and integrated it a lot with art therapy and health behavior changes. But it wasn't until I was diagnosed that I pursued meditation training more I had done meditation on and off, I was what they call it, crisis meditator. My mentor is, was David G. I did this training through one of his programs. And he says that, you know, 95% of the world that who was meditating are crisis meditators, where you, which is where I think a lot of us could relate to, okay, I'm feeling stressed, I'm feeling like, I don't know, nothing else is working, okay, I'm going to do a meditation, I'm going to try this. And it can be effective for that. But some, especially for an ADHD person, I feel like that would not be an ideal time to meditate. It would be a lot harder, like, I would, I would suggest regulating and grounding first before doing a meditation in that scenario, but, but I think learning about that, then yeah, made me a lot more passionate about the mind body nervous system connection, and then explored a lot more training around meditation and brain based hypnotherapy is something I'm trained in as well. But to me, that's basically just brain based deep meditation. It's basically like learning self hypnosis.
Katy Weber 31:26
Hmm, amazing. I thought you had been certified before ADHD, because I'm always amazed at how many of the ways in which we like intuitively work with our, our brains before we even really understand. You know, and I was, for me, I was a binge eating recovery health coach and yoga instructor and I'm like, oh, yeah, that tracks.
Michelle Swerin 31:49
They go, Yep, pretty much I can relate to that. Mine was like, I'm an art there, I was an art therapist, I am an art therapist, I still integrate it where I can, but you know, basically integrating that mind body creativity piece outside of the box thinking. And also just the fact that I'm a therapist. A lot of people are attracted to that field when they have ongoing things themselves that they've kind of really built their empathy muscle really strongly over their life with. And then also a ton of focus. Yeah, for me on emotional eating, and body image and self care as well. And anxiety. So yes, all of those things I was intuitively drawn to to.
Katy Weber 32:33
Yeah, I think also with therapists and mental health counselors and social workers, like there's the empathy piece, but I think there's also like, the puzzle solving piece or the problem solving piece too, because I feel like I'm like, minds and personalities, and people are in trauma. Like, it's just so interesting, right? Like, for me, it's like, that's my hobby, is figuring out brains and my own brain and like, that is like, for me, it's endlessly fascinating. And I'm, like, you know, that makes total sense, why we would want to talk about all this stuff.
Michelle Swerin 33:10
Exactly, exactly. Because we always felt like, understanding our own brain was like, a little bit out of reach. So we just keep exploring, that's, that's probably one of my favorite things about ADHD is like, this potential of ideas and learning and exploring and excitement around that, like continuous Lea, just give me all have the information and let me you know, create something new with it and connect those dots and help people with it to it because we've because we've experienced so much in our life that we had been challenged with or you know, had emotional wounds from honestly. And so then I think it makes our our empathy, a lot stronger to we can relate to a lot of those experiences.
Katy Weber 34:06
Yeah, absolutely. No, I want to get back to meditation too, because I feel like meditation. I love that I've never heard of that term crisis meditation. It really does explain a lot of that frustration and kind of eye rolling. It's just not for me mentality that a lot of people with ADHD do have around meditation. For me, I felt like I feel like yoga has is my meditation. And I've always liked the fact that there's some movement in there. Because one of that's one of the things that just sort of helps me in terms of getting back to the breath and all of that stuff. So but talk to me about like, I'm fascinated by this idea of like, being regulated before you really even can develop a practice and talk me through that. What would What's your meditation advice for somebody with ADHD who is just spinning out of control.
Michelle Swerin 35:00
If they're in a crisis moment, yeah, I would say, if you're actually in that crisis moment already, I would suggest looking up grounding tools, polyvagal, exercises, things that basically connect, you know, tap into soothing your poly vagal nerve, which is the nerve that connects our brain to basically every other part of our body and our nervous system. So it's like the main communicator of our nervous system to our brain. So finding exercises to explore that resonate for you, because I feel like, across the gamut of all people, yes, but especially for neurodivergent people, we're kind of picky sometimes. And something's either gonna really resonate, or it's gonna really be like, oh, gosh, that felt gross, I never want to do that again, or that felt like it was unhelpful, I never want to do it again, hence, that aversion to meditation sometimes, like you're talking about, but I think there's lots of different options for sensory regulation. And so, you know, looking up those tools to help you just ground yourself, soothe your nervous system. And that will help basically move, send that message up, where you can move your brain from where it is either in fight or flight, or if you've been more triggered than that you're in freeze or flop mode, and calm it to the point where you can get back to the rest or digest mode, which is where you're feeling more calm and regulated. And then either go about your day, because you'll probably already be feeling better than the or if you want to dive into a short meditation at that point, as the other part with with neurodivergent, ADHD people that I feel like starting small in a way that's actually small, because we like to say, oh, yeah, I take small steps, I set small goals, I set SMART goals. And then actually, it's like, I my smart goal is that I'm going to meditate three times a day for 30 minutes. It's like, okay, No, that isn't this model. So, learning to accept and be more open to much smaller goals, like, I'm going to literally meditate for 30 seconds a day, I'm going to, you know, build up to doing this consistently, but for a way shorter period of time and see, explore different techniques and methods that might feel good to me, and try to try to personalize it, because that's the only thing that I feel like some people are kind of aversive to, to was guided meditation is very much more effective, I would say for ADHD brains, because it guides you through and gives you that focus. But we also have that internal resistance, like, don't tell me to breathe, don't count for me. I want to breathe my own way, you know, and don't tell me that my mantra is to be peaceful and calm. I want my mantra to be XYZ, you know, so I think that, you know, taking from it, things that resonate with you, and then building your own actual personalized practice, and getting support with how to do that I think could be really helpful. You know, like, that's my my practice Createspace health, that's one of the things that we're working on building is like, tech support around creating your own meditation or mind body practice, and tech support around sensory and stress regulation where basically, it's like, you get some some ideas around that texted to you. And then you can text us back and back and forth as much as you want kind of like in the moment support when you want it or need it around, building those specific practices so that there's just more flexibility in that. So that's one of the ways that we're trying to help people personalize it, you know, be able to tap into what actually resonates for you and make it work for you and your brain and your body. And all that because that's the other thing is we're we I'm trained as a trauma informed meditation teacher trauma informed mindfulness instructor. And that's the other key is being connected to this idea that you have choice. You, you are the one who says, I'm willing to do this, I'm willing to go there and my brain or my body. And if we're not, like, tapped into and engaged with that, as an ADHD person, we're probably not going to do it then. But also, we need to be in that place of consent in a way where it's also safe for us if we've had trauma, because mind body stuff can then trigger and bring up other stuff that maybe we're not like equipped to handle in that moment by ourself. So I think, you know, just going about it in a way that it's going to be possible to empower industry. realizing your approach basically is one of the biggest things and getting to know your sensory, getting to know your, how you respond to certain feelings and things and temperatures and sounds. It's something that we're like kind of trained to ignore. Like even I, I asked, I was at my sister's yesterday for dinner, and I asked my nephew, like, Oh, do you? Are you? Are you sensitive to sensory stuff? And he was like, what? Like, what do you mean? I was like, like, Do you not like how your tags feel on your shirt or something? Sometimes he was like, Yeah, but I don't guess I don't really pay attention. And I made me remember and think about like, yeah, how much we're trained not to pay attention to that stuff, you know. So just getting back in touch with your awareness of how these things make you feel, because we've been told that our response is too much. And so then we think, okay, it's not valid then. But actually, no, this is just, I'm wired differently. And my nervous system responds differently. And getting to know yourself again, in that way where you can then hopefully, be more aware of it more accepting, more compassionate, but then also build tools and systems that are actually going to be effective for you and practices that are gonna be effective.
Katy Weber 41:17
Yeah, so well said, I remember teaching both of my kids at a very young age, teaching them the Ojai breath as a way of not realizing at the time but as a way to regulate right and so, so the Ojai, just for anyone listening who doesn't know the Ojai breath is a very common breath in yoga and I use it a lot with the extended exhale, which is another kind of way to hack the Pali vagus nerve. And, but basically use kind of exhale like you're fogging a mirror, open your mouth and try to exhale like you're fogging a mirror. And then when you've once you've mimicked that breath, that exhale, then you close your lips and you exhale that way. So as you're technically exhaling through your nose, but I see it's like just brings me so much joy. I see my son do it all the time when he's upset as a way to regulate and just get his, you know, just get himself together. And those are those moments where I'm like, it's those like you said, like, it's those little moments throughout the day. It doesn't involve like getting out of fancy pillow and sitting down and putting on incense and music and doing I mean, that's great if it's helpful and sets the mood Absolutely. But we do have a tendency to be like, I can't do it unless I've done all of these ad steps.
Michelle Swerin 42:31
All the planning all the lists all of the perfect plans. Yes.
Katy Weber 42:37
Right. And and even I've even find that with yoga too. Sometimes I make it too overcomplicated where I'm like, You know what, I need to just do it right now in the kitchen while I'm waiting for my coffee to bro. And that's that's my practice for the day.
Michelle Swerin 42:51
We've been trying to integrate more brief, like bite sized practices, even like on our social media for people to tap into that too. And when I first started doing that, I was like, we need to normalize like, I'm meditating, not in this like perfectly Stark, beautiful white room. You know what I mean? Like, I'm literally sitting on top of a pile of laundry that I've been meaning to do for two weeks, you know? And I'm going to take this five minutes to focus somewhere else, I still can choose to do that.
Katy Weber 43:26
Oh my God, I feel like that is like the best ADHD mascot, right? Just sitting in like lotus pose with your eyes closed on top of a huge pile of laundry. Oh my god, I love it. It's just like five figures ZAN. That's awesome. The texting thing sounds awesome, too. That's sounds very ADHD friendly. So So tell me about Createspace? What's the genesis of the it's completely a virtual practice now at this point, right?
Michelle Swerin 43:57
Telehealth practice. It's been about 18 months since I broke out on my own private practice. And then I was, it's been about seven nights now, eight months or so since I integrated with my co founding partner. And that has been amazing. Speaking of recognizing our own strengths and challenges with ADHD, and just in general, as humans, we all have pros and cons. But that has been a game changer is having a partner who can balance out areas that I struggle more with, and being able to just have that accountability and that partner and that person to bounce things off of and who also identifies as neurodivergent but not in the same way as me. So, so maybe you'll interview her in the future. I won't share her story, but it's It's been just a really helpful to have that balance. And we have been exploring a few different avenues as any ADHD person would, you know, when you talked about the previous indications of ADHD before my diagnosis to I can't tell you how many jobs I had as a teenager, like, I mean, easily 20, I would have to, like get on a notepad and figure it out. But so many jobs, and not because I was fired, I would have never been fired from a job. But I just lost interest really quickly, or like, you know, wanted to do something else new and fun and quick, you know, so that was one piece, but then that translated to college, where my guidance counselor told me, like, you have hit the record for the, for the highest amount of people, the highest amount of officially changing your major, like plenty of people change their major a ton in their head. But I feel like an ADHD person goes the distance. So like, I'm gonna go to my guidance counselor, and I have this plan and completely changed my major, like 10 times. In grad school, I finished three tracks of the grad program, art therapy, clinical therapy, and marriage and family therapy. So you only need to do one to get a license. But you know, I wanted to know it all. So, that translated to when I was building the practice myself, I wanted to do all the things, you know, I actually got my certification as an instructional designer, because I wanted to learn how to teach in a helpful effective way for neurodivergent brains. And also like, through a universal learning lens. And, and also like, effectively through electronic means, because I knew that at least in this world, like at least part of, if not most, of what I'll be teaching will be electronically. So when I first said, I'm gonna go do this, that was kind of the core of what I was imagining was that I was going to build courses and trainings and tools that kind of helped, that helped that learning and effective ways for diverse learners around mental health issues around mindfulness thing, meditation, integrating art therapy where I could, and then I was like, and of course, I'm gonna do therapy too, because I'm a therapist. And then of course, I'm gonna, you know, design all these tools myself and like, put them out to be sold and all of the things right. So then, que my partner and we were able to, you know, formalize it a little bit more basically just say, Yes, we can get to all the things. But let's, how are we going to plan this out by quarter and actually execute. And that's where we've made a lot more progress, I would say, I'm being able to develop these programs in these trainings. So we've officially developed the Tech Support Program, which is a six week model, where you get curriculum texted to you via a HIPAA compliant, texting, because even though it's not therapy, we're still, you know, want to be using confidential private technology that secure. So you get you get a curriculum that's sent to you. And then we'll, you know, we'll do an initial text where we're just like, you know, how do you want support? What's your style, you know, what can we how can we help you like, integrate these tools. And the main topics we have right now for tech support is sensory sensory regulation with stress regulation, and meditation, like learning how to build a mind body meditation practice over that six weeks, I tried to personalize it for you. And then neuro affirming care, just like learning what neuro affirming is learning how to integrate that into your life with self compassion. So that's those three programs. And then we also actively take ongoing therapy clients to that we've focused a lot on anxiety and neurodiverse populations, ADHD, and that's kind of the main two that we've been focused on. And then we're doing more product tool development over time. The baby that I'm excited about in the future to that we've done a lot of like prototype and stuff around is called Breath board. And it's a multi sensory art tool that helps you do a lot what you're talking like where you get the with yoga with you integrate the movement piece. This is that idea of integrating some other form of engagement, like it's a multi sensory art experience where you can put cards in and trace your breath. So it's like literally drawing your breath and engaging with art material. was in a way that helps you explore in different ways. So that's another piece that we're building. But it's all in pieces, right. But we're, we're excited because we were open for business. And we have been getting therapy clients first. And then we built the Tech Support Program, and then we'll go from there. So
Katy Weber 50:22
that sounds amazing breath board. Oh, my goodness. Well, I can't wait for that. That sounds so cool. And right up my alley, and I will be the first in line for that one. So keep me posted. That's really cool. But you also have some in person stuff coming up, too, right? It's not just didn't I see on your website that you've got some like art therapy classes coming up? So inferior? For anyone who's in the Minnesota area? We're in Minnesota, are you
Michelle Swerin 50:49
we are in a suburb of Minneapolis shore view are we partner with a couple different places that are in Madhumita and White Bear Lake. The a couple different ot clinics that were doing workshops or trainings are getting, you know, parent caregiver referrals, basically from kiddos who are going there for ot reasons or ADHD, we want to support the parents and the family more. So doing some in person in that way. But yes, we're also doing an art affirmation summer camp, and a self care and neurodiversity summer camp. So working with kiddos in those ways, and then from there kind of expanding workshops in person as well for for women and kids, for the most part is where we were we focused the most.
Katy Weber 51:40
So that sounds amazing. I mean, this is one of those things, I feel like I've said, I'm on on like, repeat all the time, which is like, why don't we learn about executive function at a very young age? Like, why is this not explicitly taught to us in school, but just even like self care, right, these things need to be explicitly taught and explained. And, oh, that's amazing. Like, I know, you're inspiring me to be like, I feel like we need you know, we need like, executive function boot camps for kids. That's such a great idea. Oh, my goodness,
Michelle Swerin 52:18
just like there's there's a lot of social skills groups for different neurodiverse populations. And I feel like this goes right along with that, whether it be executive functioning and self care, integrated, or even self talk specifically, you know, bringing that internal experience outward, and helping our kids do that advocate, you know, kind of learning how to connect with our kids and have those discussions proactively so that maybe there are more chances to make those connections and support them with what's going on internally. Because we leave a lot inside. So get having the tools and the support to figure out like, hey, how do we how do we help them? Let some of that out and practice that. Yeah, and their own self care, but also in our relationship, like relationship care. And connecting to Yeah,
Katy Weber 53:09
right. Well, and I think also getting really curious about what's behind behaviors, too. And I think sometimes, I mean, as parents, I get it, we're exhausted, you just want your kid to do the damn thing and not give you talk back. Right? Like, when you're in the moment, I've never that parent who's like, let's get curious about why you don't want to do this thing, right? I'm never gonna do that. But I think that's so helpful to real, especially when it comes to like hygiene or bedtime, or some of the, like, real demand avoidance issues that we have with kids, where it's like, Okay, what's happening? Why, you know, why do you not want to get wet? Why do you not want to get out? Right? Like, you know, what, is it a temperature issue? Is it A, is it a, you know, there's so many transitions, they're like, really, that's been so helpful to me to develop this language around sensory and regulation, and all of that, where I'm really get curious now about like, rather than just being like, you're being disobedient, you're bad, really being like, Okay, what's what's happening here, you know, and always assuming that the child wants to do, you know, wants to behave, wants to go along with it, like they're not, it's not their natural state to be defiant. So what's happening here that's leading to this friction. And I feel like for me, as a parent, it has helped me just, it's helped me be so much calmer with my children, because I don't look at this as a battle of wills. I look at this as like information, right? And it allows us to get curious, so it's really I feel like that stuff has helped me parents so much better.
Michelle Swerin 54:46
100% I agree. And I think meditation and mindfulness is what helps me do that. And not only like does the regular practice literally build the part of your brain where you can tap into that resiliency more and that sense of calm Like I can handle this more, but also build compassion, that curious curiosity and compassion, those are both mindfulness elements, you know, and it's about, like, reorienting to this moment with awareness of like, what's actually going on for me and them. So like, I know like before my diagnosis and when they were really young, and it's just so much louder than not that our house is plenty loud now, but, you know, there's just a lot of sensory overwhelm that comes with being a new mom, and just kind of a shock to the system. And I would get so overwhelmed by it that I couldn't recognize, you know how to pause and be able to say, just name it like, I am overwhelmed or that screaming is making my ears throb or whatever it is, it's like you can't even like think clearly because you've literally already dysregulated your nervous system to the point where your brain can't tap into the problem solving or the thinking clearly. So the context of sensory regulation and nervous system regulation is huge to me, and being able to then communicate that to my kids in those moments. Like, when when there is like a screaming thing going on about not wanting to shower, because of all the sensory things you're talking about, you know, and it's one of those days that, okay, maybe I didn't meditate, maybe I am going to lose it right now. But being able to, even when I'm feeling escalated like that be able to look at her and think what is making her dysregulated right now, instead of like, why is she screaming and what is going on? And I you know what I mean? So like, having that context to anchor me is enough that like, even though I'm escalated to, I have literally yelled like, I am having a sensory overload right now, you know what I mean? Like? So, like, having that language and that framework and being able to then share that with them and communicate in those terms, where it doesn't have to be like, You are making me crazy right now and all the shame that comes with that. But it can be like, you're overwhelmed. And it's making me overwhelmed sensory wise, and like, what can we both do to like, take it down right now and actually take a breath or whatever we need to do to regulate. We literally have since before my diagnosis to but we've tapped into it more from like an aware standpoint. But we have a thing on the wall that says calm down cares. And it's like the reminder of like, what can I do right now if I'm raging out or I'm, like, very overwhelmed, or just because we I can't think clearly to think about what my options are. So it's nice to have that visual of like, okay, here are some of my options. And one of them does in our house include a yelling closet. You can go and scream in the closet.
Katy Weber 58:05
I had one of those when my kids were younger. It's just we didn't officially call it that. But that's basically what it was. It was my car. Right? Oh, man. Wow, okay, well, this is God. I'm so grateful for this extra time with you. I feel like I'm plus now that we've been talking about burnout too. I'm like, Oh, God, he just gave me like 12 more questions. I want to ask you about that. Because I do feel like sometimes we rely on burnout as well as like, the crisis red light, you know, where it's like, we get to that point where that's the only way we can stop ourselves.
Michelle Swerin 58:43
Go go go until I crash, like literally shop until you drop but for everything in life.
Katy Weber 58:54
Yeah. And then there's a big question mark of like, why are we also depressed and anxious? Okay, so I can't I don't want to let you go before asking you if you could rebate ADHD to something else. Would you call it something else? Yeah, I know, we had talked a little bit about fast.
Michelle Swerin 59:09
Yes, I still really like I love like acrostic poems still. So I had to stick with the abbreviated ADHD because it's because that's the other thing. I was like, well, I won't remember what to call it if it's not ADHD. So I came up with accepting differences happily daily.
Katy Weber 59:31
Oh, I love it. I totally agree. I feel like we should keep the acronym because one of my big complaints about vaste is that it's an already existing word. So you could never just type it into Google. And you would always still have to use ADHD and you'd also be like, what was that new word again? Oh, I don't know. Let me just so I'm a big fan of keeping the acronym. So accepting differences happily daily. I like that. was a difference. Yeah. Okay, differences.
Michelle Swerin 1:00:01
Yeah. All the differences, all the brain differences, all the body differences, all the emotional regulation differences, the happily was a stretch because I was like, you know, I was gonna be happy about it but I was like, but if you're regulating and accepting, then you're more likely to be able to tap into that calm happy spot. So
Katy Weber 1:00:21
yeah, I think more of the the Buddha on top of the laundry pile.
Michelle Swerin 1:00:27
Exactly. And, and the daily part was key to me too, though, because there's something about that, that we have to keep coming back to this because our brains need that to like, our brains don't form habits, the way that neurotypical brains form habits, we can't just automatically assume that if we've done a thing for six months, that we're going to keep doing the thing if we forget it one day. And so being able to come up with ways that support that like daily consistency and support and empowerment and awareness, you know?
Katy Weber 1:01:00
Hmm, I like that. All right, let's get deep. Awesome. Well, thank you, Michelle, this has been so fantastic. And I will definitely have a link to our other conversation. I highly recommend everybody. Especially if you love this, we talk so much more about neuro affirming mental health care, what is it even what does that mean? And we really sort of dig much deeper into therapeutic methods. For neuro divergent clients. It was a fantastic conversation. So thank you so much for your time, yesterday. And today. This has been really great. I'll make sure to put links to your website and the work that you are doing. But yeah, thanks so much. It's been wonderful.
Michelle Swerin 1:01:40
Yes, thank you. Thank you so much.
Katy Weber 1:01:48
There you have it. Thank you for listening. And I really hope you enjoyed this episode of the women and ADHD podcast. If you'd like to find out more about me and my coaching programs, head over to women and adhd.com. If you're a woman who was diagnosed with ADHD and you'd like to apply to be a guest on this podcast, visit women and adhd.com/podcast guest and you can find that link in the episode show notes. Also, you know, we ADHD ears crave feedback. And I would really appreciate hearing from you the listener, please take a moment to leave me a review on Apple podcasts or audible. And if that feels like too much, and I totally get it. Please just take a few seconds right now to give me a five star rating. Or share this episode on your own social media to help reach more women who maybe have yet to discover and lean into this gift of nerd of urgency. And they may be struggling and they don't even know why. I'll see you next week when I interview another amazing woman who discovered she's not lazy or crazy or broken. But she has ADHD and she's now on the path to understanding her neuro divergent mind and finally using this gift to her advantage. Take care till then