Today’s episode is special. Usually, I talk to guests who I have never met in person before. Today, we will interview Rebecca Champ, one of my most important friends. I have known Becca for 8 years now, I would like to share with you her energy, intelligence, compassion and humility.
In the first part of the show, Rebecca teaches us everything we need to know about ADHD. But this episode is not just for ADHD-ers! In our conversation, we addressed issues such as shame and guilt, perfectionism and procrastination. Rebecca also shared with us how the biggest set back of her life changed her, and how pain teaches us to set boundaries.
ABOUT THE GUEST
Rebecca Champ is a Clinical Psychotherapist and Coach, and the Executive Director of ADDapt Ability.
Following her partner’s diagnosis of inattentive ADHD in 2007, Rebecca trained as a professional Coach, and in 2009 launched ADDventure Within.
Rebecca works as a mentor for students with disabilities for the DRC at the University of Cambridge, and has designed and presented training for mentors in Understanding and Working with ADHD for the University of Cambridge and the Disability Support Service at Kings College London. She has also facilitated the redesign of a group ADHD programme for the Sutton Adult ADHD/ASD Assessment Service at Southwest London and St. George’s NHS Trust. Since 2014, Rebecca has been a member of the Advisory Board for the UK Adult ADHD Network (UKAAN). Rebecca also provides courses and workshops for professionals working with ADHD.
In December 2010, Rebecca initiated the Adult ADHD Action Campaign for Cambridgeshire, highlighting the need for support and services for an existing community of adults with ADHD. This resulted in the establishment of a pathway within the NHS for adults with ADHD, and the official opening of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Adult ADHD Clinic in November 2013. She continues to support the clinic, and works to establish an appropriate support service for Adult ADHD to be implemented by relevant authorities in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area. She also facilitates the active Cambridge Adult ADHD Support Group.
Life SKills for ADHD Course: http://bit.ly/ADHA_LifeSkills
ARE YOU ‘ONE OF US’(Emotionally intense)? 😉
Yes, absolutely. I’ve always felt emotions a lot stronger than others, particularly around me, friends, peers, work colleagues, all of that kind of stuff from a very, very young age.
I always kind of had a high awareness of not only my environment but other people and empathy towards them, which on the one hand has really drawn me to be around other people and do things with them. But on the other hand, it can be quite difficult to live with every day.
My passion for things and my interests often run very close together. So when I am interested in something, I tend to be very excited and passionate about it.
WHAT WAS CHILDHOOD LIKE FOR YOU?
So up until the age of 12 I thought that I was just like everybody else or, well, should be just like everybody else. But I felt very misunderstood. Some people really liked the high energy and creativity that I brought to things and joined in and were really inspired and encouraged by that. But lots of people felt very threatened.
At the time I think it was just uncertainty about when people would change or what I had done to upset people
They would make fun of me or be sarcastic or criticize. They felt very, there was a lot of snide remarks. When I contributed ideas, I was made fun of or rejected or isolated from the group. So I wasn’t bullied per se, but it was that kind of behaviour.
I would also do things that were sort of spontaneous but not necessarily socially acceptable at different times. So I’m a natural performer and I would often sing or randomly dance or run around or things like that in times and places where it was not considered an appropriate thing to do.
My imagination was really encouraged by my parents, the really positive thing about it, but what made that difficult was I didn’t really kind of grow out of it. So it became really hard to repress or stop as I matured or as an adult.
Peter Pan was my hero. Nope. At the age of 12, consciously stand at my window and wish that I could go away with Peter Pan. So, yes. He was my hero.
WAS IT HARDER FOR FEMALE ADHD-ERs?
Fewer girls are diagnosed because most of our behaviors are socially acceptable for girls. Not that they’re okay, but we’re, girls or women or females are allowed to be more emotional. There, if you’re daydreaming, you’re scatterbrained. It’s kind of okay in terms of gender and it’s when girls are aggressive or driven or things like that that it becomes negative. So any kind of high energy that translates and expresses that way because of the ADHD tends to be what is attached or repressed in women.
WHAT IS ‘EXECUTIVE FUNCTION?
When ADHD was originally formed as we know it today, so that was by Russell Barkley’s Executive Function Theory in 1997, they thought that there were different parts or sections of the brain that rule, that were sections that controlled what I’ll describe in a minute as executive functions. Now, with neuro-imaging, we realized that the brain works in networks, so it’s not actually a single part of the brain, but lots of different areas of the brain that control cognitive processes and these processes are things like planning, prioritizing, organizing, and making linear progress towards goals. Okay. And there are some people who have a natural access to this because of their neurobiology. A majority, actually the large portion of the population find this easier to do.
CAN WE HAVE ‘TOO MUCH” EXECUTIVE FUNCTION?
I think we can try and do processes too much because we think it solves particular problems. Part of the reason that ADHDers struggle with these processes is A, that our brain is designed differently. But the way that people who are naturally good at this, the actual physical process for doing it is designed to take advantage of the fact that they can do things in order. So making a to-do list, running an organizational system, linear planning, all of those ways of achieving your goals are advantageous to that brain type. What ADHDers struggle to do is to use the process to achieve the goal because the process is not the best one for their brain. It requires more effort for their brain to use that particular process.
So for you to plan to go on a trip, you would use a process like a to-do list. It would be more difficult for me to use that same process to go on the same trip. I could use a different process. So if I was planning for a trip, for example, I would collect together all ideas of the things that I think I would need. They would be in no order, they wouldn’t be prioritized or they would all be important, but I wouldn’t have an order to do them in.
Most people who are naturally good at using their executive function would do a plan.They would do a plan for a week or so before. They would know when they were ordering things, tickets, booking things, all of that kind of stuff. They would make a list of things that they needed to do before they would go, which would be related to a time in which they were going to do it and would have a priority. What was most important to what was least important or what order it needed to be done in.
My preparation doesn’t look like that at all. It looks very, very different. I do things much more randomly.
If I’m not careful, I tend to leave things that are complicated or have many steps or maybe I’m not quite sure about or have a decision-making process until the last minute,
A list it doesn’t come out of my head in any way. It’s just a bunch of ideas, interconnected ideas about things, that then need to have something done with them.
HOW CAN WE ENHANCE EXECUTIVE FUNCTION?
Learning mindfulness is worth its weight in gold because if you developing a sense of curiosity about what’s happening and what you are are doing things and being able to look at why you are not doing things, without self-judgment .
It makes a massive difference in terms of being able to make better decisions.
WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF SHAME AND GUILT IN THE ADHD MATRIX?
There’s a lot of guilt and shame due to a lot of stigma, having grown up with stigma and misunderstanding in childhood and a lack of self-understanding because no one taught them about themselves and how they work and why they’re different and how to use that or discover their strengths and make use of it.
There’s a lot of shame because clearly without any other evidence, they believe that it’s their fault that they should be able to do what everybody else can do.
WHAT IS A COMMON MYTH OR MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT ADHD?
One of the biggest myths is that we can’t pay attention.
It’s not true at all. But with us, attention is very closely linked neurobiologically with interest.
If we are interested, we can pay attention to things for ages sometimes to the exclusion of anything else. We can hyper-focus so we can be very productive if we’re in hyper-focus.
That doesn’t mean we can’t focus, but we have to understand that that’s how our neurobiology works and we need to make the most of what our strengths.
It is actually really important for someone with a ADHD to be able to find a way, a method that works for them so they can do the things that are hard for them.
PROCRASTINATION AND PERFECTIONISM
Both procrastination and perfectionism are signs of history of a lack of connection and relationship.
In my work, we refer to that as relatedness. Because of a history of misunderstanding and not feeling connection and valued, then individuals develop the need to be perfect and to achieve the best in order to be sure that they are valued.
Relatedness is one of the three psychological needs required to have a strong sense of self and be self-determined.
Perfectionism and procrastination are often about fear— the fear of making mistakes, fear of being wrong, fear of the unknown or a lack of clarity
It is really important to have a process where you learn that you are enough, that you learn to develop what you can do instead of focusing on what you can’t. And that’s what helps to move towards success.
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS, BECCA?
Success is having a sense of satisfaction in terms of achievement. Knowing that you set out to do something and being able to see evidence and results that that’s what you achieved. And that you were effective in doing that and therefore you can feel that sense of ownership and worth in what you’ve done.
DOES ANXIETY COMES WITH BEING CREATIVE?
Yes, absolutely, being a creative and intense person is living in an uncertain space. Creativity is uncomfortable, uncertainty is uncomfortable. And when we feel things intensely or we’re creative, we see and experience things outside the norm or beyond what other people don’t see because of our perception.
There’s a dissonance between your experience and what you see and feel and know and what others see and feel and know and that can heighten the feelings of difference and disconnects you with other people. That increases the anxiety.
Creativity means doing something that may not work. That is risky. And agreeing, voluntarily being in that space of creativity is uncomfortable.
HOW DO YOU PUSH THROUGH YOUR CREATIVITY BLOCKS?
I try and remember why I’m doing it.
I try to stay very much in the present moment because if I think too much about the future, it becomes really scary and overwhelming. You may have big plans, but actually all you can do is the next step. The more clear you can be about the next step and be in a space of experimentation with that ,and recognize, yeah, this is uncomfortable and just play with it.
if you have bad days you’re going to, just take it a bit slower or leave it for a day or so and then come back to it.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST SET BACK OF YOUR LIFE?
I can share with you an environmental setback. In 2015 my husband experienced a double stroke. The second stroke impaired his physical mobility on the left side of his body. We are still in the process of recovery and working with the physio, but that changed all the expectations about my role, my sense of identity, my relationship, everything. There is a lot of grief and a sense of loss.
ADHD is a struggle with structure. I think when I set my sights on something, I become very, very attached to it as a frame for how I want my world to work. And when it’s something fundamental like that, it becomes very hard to let go of it. Even if the things that you have are different and in some ways better, it’s still very hard.
WHEN AN UNEXPECTED LOSS HAPPENS LIKE THAT, HOW DO WE MOVE ON WITH LIFE?
we still need to interact with the world at the same time.
What can help is to be as present as we possibly can, be as engaged as we possibly can. In fact, using the intensity that we experience to fill that moment with as much as we can, to make that the most real moment.
If you’re consistently choosing to do something that moves toward where you want to go, even if you didn’t know where that was or don’t know where that is now, just being as present as you can.
You can do things that have meaning for you and continuing to seek out what gives you a sense of satisfaction and completion and value.
Remember that all emotions are teachers. Pain is just as much a teacher as anything else. Pain helps us to construct boundaries. It informs you of your self care, what you need to do to help yourself. It also highlights what you want to fight for.
Emotions are powerful, they’re also interconnected. You can’t turn off sorrow and still feel joy. You can’t deny pain and still feel excitement.
If you push the pain away, it doesn’t actually go away. It will come back.
It wouldn’t hurt if it wasn’t important. And learning about what about that is really, really useful in terms of what we decide to do in the future.
ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10, JUST HOW WIERD ARE YOU 😉 ?
I have to say I have a good solid eight.
I know I’m different. You can’t hide from yourself that you’re different.
FITTING IN AND HIDING
But I’ve worked really hard to fit in. My father was in the military so we moved every three years and it really put me at risk in terms of relationships. I became really codependent with my family because they were the only relationships that I had that were constant. I became afraid of rejection from people I met, from people I wanted to be friends with. It meant that I gave up a lot of myself. I conformed, hide who I was in order to not threaten or make other people uncomfortable.
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF RESILIENCE?
To sum it up: no matter how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up that matters. We’re always going to fall down.
What’s important is to focus on: How can I support myself? How quickly and easily can I get back up? How efficiently can I get myself back to the stage where I can do my best work in ways that make me feel proud?
A BOOK THAT HAS CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
Alan Watts’s book: The Wisdom of Insecurity.
It encapsulated in a very accessible way the importance of being in the present moment, why it’s valuable. Change is a constant and the more comfortable we can get with that, the stronger we’ll be.
A POEM THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU?
WHERE DO WE FIND YOU?
I’ve got a group course for the program that I’m working on, which is called Life Skills for ADHD.
It’s a live course. Currently it’s only available for people in Cambridge and the Cambridge area, but I am in the process of writing a manual for those who can’t make the course or those who have done it and want to learn more, who’ve worked with me and want to learn more.
I’m training mentors and academic supervisors at the University of Cambridge to work with students with ADHD in terms of helping them to achieve their diplomas and their PhDs and Masters.
I’m also starting a PhD, hopefully in the next six months, to gain an academic base for the model and for the process, so that it’s possible for me to be able to take it into educational environments and professional spheres.
anyone can find me at my website, www.Rebeccachamp.co.uk. And I’m always happy to hear someone’s story and see if there’s any way that I can help.
Life SKills for ADHD: http://bit.ly/ADHA_LifeSkills