All Things Private Practice Podcast

Episode 13: Superpowers & Kryptonites — Neurodivergent Entrepreneurs

February 07, 2022 Patrick Casale Season 2 Episode 3
All Things Private Practice Podcast
Episode 13: Superpowers & Kryptonites — Neurodivergent Entrepreneurs
Show Notes Transcript

Superpowers vs. Kryptonites - Do you ever wonder why your brain works the way that it does? Sometimes you have bursts of creativity and then other times you are depleted, isolated, and feel alone.

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In this episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast, I talk about my own experiences as a therapist and entrepreneur with ADHD and ASD—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the unseen.

Entrepreneurs and Neurodivergence tend to go hand in hand. It can be really painful to make sense of why your brain works the way it does and why things can feel so DAMN complicated, messy, and chaotic.

Tapping into your superpowers, normalizing your struggles, and knowing that you're not alone are unbelievably important parts of this journey.


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Season 2, Episode 3 – Superpowers & Kryptonites – Neurodivergent Entrepreneurs.

PATRICK CASALE: Hey, everyone, you are listening to another episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast. I am your host, Patrick Casale. I’m going to be talking today about being a neurodivergent therapist, an entrepreneur. It's something that is near and dear to my heart. I have been diagnosed with ADHD and knew that for years. But recently, did another psych eval just because I noticed some things and have done a lot of work in my life, and got diagnosed with autism. 

I want to talk about these experiences because I think that there are superpowers, and there are kryptonites in terms of being neurodivergent in a neurotypical world. A lot of entrepreneurs are neurodivergent, HSPs, highly sensitive people. They either have been diagnosed or experienced ADHD, maybe ASD, autism spectrum disorder. And it's probably been a blessing in a lot of ways for you, and it's probably also been really painful and really detrimental in a lot of ways too. And it may have felt like, as an entrepreneur, you get these bursts of energy and these wonderful ideas, and you just get so creative, so fast. And then, all of a sudden, you deplete yourself, you go all in, that hyper-focus, and maybe some fixation, some tunnel vision, and all of a sudden you come out of it. And you're just absolutely exhausted. It happens to me all the time. 

I'll be thinking about something. My wheels start turning, my mind starts working, and I'm like, “Oh, this sounds amazing. I need to create this.” And I start working on it, and I can't see anything else for a long amount of time. And then, all of a sudden I'm like, “Holy shit. My brain is not working anymore. I have zero energy. I am depleted, and I have no thoughts. I can't even write content. I can't even think straight. “And that, again, is like a blessing and a curse because I can get really involved in something, and get really creative and make some amazing stuff happen, but there's a cost to it. I think for people who are neurodivergent, we don't always see that. We get so excited about these new ideas and it's really stimulating. And we really start to pursue them. Maybe we get bored after a while. We're like, “Oh, this is exciting. I really want to create this.”

You work really hard involved in the project or the idea, and then, after a while, you're like, “This isn't really interesting to me anymore. This isn't exciting anymore.” And that can bring up a lot of shamefulness of like, “Am I ever going to be satisfied? Am I ever going to feel fulfillment or contentment?” I know how hard that is. If you're struggling with similar concerns, feelings, or emotions, you're not alone. I feel that very, very often where I get excited, I want to be in movement, I want to create, I want to be outdoors, I want to travel. That's really important to me. And at the same time, there’s a cost to that. It feels like maybe you're chasing something or it's just not ever good enough, too. 

And for those of you who are neurodivergent, I think it is about protecting your energy too. Sensory overload is real, and networking is a big part of business ownership, and really trying hard to protect that energy, not trying to plug too much into your schedule, not trying to overdo it, bouncing from one thing to the next, because you can get caught up in that trap, and all of a sudden, again, depletion, and crashing, and that's really hard. Another thing I experience, and I'm sure a lot of you do too, if you have similar struggles that maybe you haven't been able to talk about, or haven't really realized yet, is loneliness and isolation. As an entrepreneur, you're working in your business a lot of the time. You maybe are a solopreneur and it's just you. Maybe you're a private practice owner, and you're seeing clients all day, and you haven't talked to anybody, but there is an intense loneliness that comes with being an entrepreneur and someone with neurodivergence too, because I think that there's a disconnect from a lot of people. And a lot of us don't really like artificial relationships or small talk. And these deep conversations that we do enjoy when we're connecting are so exhausting.

I think if you're a therapist, the energy absorption is really hard. It's hard for everybody. But I think for anyone that has any sort of neurodivergence, it is really hard because you're absorbing energy all day. You're giving a lot of yourself away in therapy sessions, and you're listening to a lot of trauma, you're really being present. And that's hard for us because eye contact is challenging for me. When I'm in a therapy session, I'm trying so hard to make eye contact and be present, and really all I want to do is be scattered and looking all over the room, and looking down. It's really intense, especially, over screen time, Zoom and telehealth, and all of the things that we're doing these days. I think it is about trying really hard to have some adaptation in your practices and your businesses of, this is how I rest, this is how I recharge, and this is how I need to take care of myself. 

A lot of us probably need some grounding work throughout the day to regulate our nervous systems as we're working in our businesses or having a lot of contact with other people. I know how hard it can be to try to mask yourself and come across as neurotypical, and just experience conversations in a way that feels like it's not socially awkward. I just know how much energy that takes and how painful that can be, and how that can lead to intense feelings of loneliness, shamefulness, and isolation. And it's a struggle. I think all of the things that go into being a successful business owner and entrepreneur also can be our kryptonites, because at the end of the day we seem to really have a hard time with our sense of self, and connection, and just really feeling really emotionally exhausted a lot of the time. But, it's not all bad, right? I think that if I didn't have a brain that operated the way it operates, I wouldn't have created some of the things that I've created, because I will get, like I said, that burst of energy, that excitement, that creativity, and all of a sudden the content that I create is amazing, and people resonate with it, and they share, and they message me in. They're like, “Hey, I couldn't have said this out loud, but I appreciate that. And that's not the reason I do it, but it's cathartic to get it out, and it feels really good.”

I've shared my stories of struggles with gambling addiction, and impulsivity, and mental health my entire life. I think we destigmatize and work through shamefulness when we talk about this stuff because we're not alone and you're not alone if you're experiencing any intense struggle with ADHD, ASD, or any sort of neurodivergence. I think it's just really important to talk about it and to find support with people who really get it, because there can be a lot of shamefulness when you try to bring it up, like, this is how my brain works, this is why I feel so scattered, this is why I feel so rigid, this is why I have tunnel vision. I watch TV shows on repeat, on loop. I have been watching Brooklyn 99, New Girl, and Game of Thrones for the last two years over, and over, and over again, or Lord of the Rings movies over, and over, and over again. And it can be really hard to break out of that loop and that kind of hyper-focus of like, this feels comforting, but I also can't turn it off. It's just one of those things.

And that can impact business too. We can get into those patterns when we're working in our businesses, where it's really hard to turn it off, and we can get really upset and emotional when we have exhausted ourselves. I think that leads to that feeling of I'm not good enough, I'm lazy, and that shame spiral starts, when in reality all we need to do is give ourselves a break, and take some time, and recharge however we need to recharge. I think we all should be working in our own therapy too. That's been so critically important for me throughout my development and just understanding of a lot of diagnoses in general. When I got my ASD diagnosis, it made a lot of sense. It was painful. It was very emotional, but it was also validating. I think that's also created this acceptance around it of saying, “Yeah, this has been a struggle.” Loneliness, disconnection, not being able to pick up on social cues very often, really feeling like even when you're in a room with people who care about you, that you're alone, and just really having that feeling of disconnection, that's hard. 

When I got the diagnosis, I thought, “Okay, that is hard to take in.” It was hard to think about childhood experience and why things went the way that they did, especially, socially. But then it was like, “Oh, this is so validating because now I have an answer and it makes sense.” My brain works a certain way, and I absorb a lot of energy very quickly, and it is hard for me to have certain social interactions, even if to the outside world it doesn't appear like that, because masking is real, and if you have ADHD, ADD, or ASD, you've probably been masking your entire life or told that your behavior was unacceptable, you were unruly, you were maybe destructive in school. Or maybe for women who often get overlooked with these diagnoses, you were just anxious, or you were being needy. In reality, your brain was just working so fast that you couldn't concentrate, and you weren't stimulated enough, and it shows up in different ways. 

Like, my wife, I think has ADHD, and her craft room that she makes earrings in and everything else looks like a tornado hit. And mine is very rigid and organized. I think that's more of the ASD component of, everything has to be kind of black and white, rigid, and focused. I think that these things are just things that we have to learn how to manage. And for business owners, I just want you to hear that because although I don't consider myself to be wildly successful, I do consider myself to have become a successful entrepreneur. Starting my private practice four or five years ago, transitioning to a group practice last year, we've got 11 therapists and a psychiatric provider. I now have the podcast. I have the coaching business, the Facebook group, I'm hosting retreats internationally for entrepreneurs to build their businesses. 

I just want you to know that it is very possible to struggle with these things. Those things are not going away anytime soon, but at the same time, you can still have a really successful business and life. It just takes a little bit more effort sometimes to be able to handle these things and juggle, and also, really protect your energy. For my Ireland retreat, and I'm looking forward to it in March, I've got 12 therapists and their families coming, but I have to mentally prepare now because I know how exhausted I'm going to be with all of that social interaction and all of that energy absorption. And as someone who can come across maybe, I don't know, maybe not the right way, maybe a little bit like, it can feel like disrespectful in a way, I can be very short, I can be very like blunted, but I think in reality, it's just more so that I don't like artificial conversations, and maybe a lot of you can relate to that. 

I don't do a good job of trying to get out of those. I'm like, “I've got to go.” And I just walk away trying to get better at that. I just want you all to hear this because a lot of entrepreneurs probably have some sort of neurodivergence, the creativity is there, the wonder lust is there, the desire to do something new, or different or exciting is there. The desire to be creative is there, to work outside the box, to break the mold, so to speak, and really harness that, because those are your superpowers. Your brain is your superpower. It may not feel like that all the time, but I promise you that if you can really just learn how to use the energy you have and the way that your brain works, you can do so many creative, amazing things. And just allowing yourself to be different too. I think that's really important to just say, “Yeah, I am kind of weird in social situations.” That's real. I can't go to the grocery store without getting really overwhelmed. I have to move a lot to kind of regulate my nervous system. 

I think that we just have to play to our strengths, and also, understand how to cope with the things we struggle with in a way that feels good for us. And those superpowers are real. You might be able to multitask and do so many different things, even though it looks like you're not really paying attention. Like, when I'm in meetings, sometimes, I'm not looking at the person talking, I might be on my phone, I might be answering emails, I might be having conversations with people in my group practice, but ultimately, that helps me focus. The distraction and all of the different stimulation helps me focus. It's not that I'm not paying attention. It's not that I'm trying to be disrespectful. It's just the fact that my brain works that way. And that's how I have to kind of make sure that I have the most attention and focus that I can have. When you're feeling those bursts of energy, go with them, roll with them, really enjoy them and try to be really creative. But at the same time, I think it's about understanding that there's probably going to be a recharge period that comes after that where your brain then is like, “Okay, I'm done. I've done enough, and I can't do anything more.” And allow that to be the case.

Don't shame yourself and just say it like you're lazy, or you're not being productive, or what's wrong with you? Why can't you focus on A, B, and C right now? It's like, well, you don't have any fucking energy to focus on A, B, and C right now. And that's okay. You've used it all. I think implementing some mindfulness practice is important and really being aware of how your body is feeling throughout the day when you're working in your business and stepping away when you can, trying to break that tunnel vision, and trying to regulate your nervous system. I'm working with an IFS therapist right now. She's really great. I've really benefited from it. And she suggested to me, she's like, “I don't think you've ever learned how to be playful as a child, or as an adolescent, or as an adult. I think it's really uncomfortable for you.”

It's like, “Yeah.” I mean, growing up the way I grew up and the way I experienced life, it’s really challenging to have that emotion or even on the outside show happiness or joyfulness. I think a lot of people are kind of blunted or flat when you may experience and have ASD. And she said, “I want you to go on a website for autism resources, and I want you to just pick something out that stands out to you that's childlike, and I want you to buy it.” I found this weighted sloth on the website. And I was like, “I love sloths.” Because I almost think about the fact that I go, go, go, go, go all the time, and I'm perfectionistic, and high achievement-oriented, and I never give myself a break. And in reality, I'd love to just be like not moving, chill, hanging from the tree, like no energy whatsoever. I feel like I want that to be my spirit animal, but it's not. 

But I had a hard time buying it. I think that it felt shameful, it felt kind of stupid, it felt like childish, obviously. And a good friend of mine decided that she was going to purchase it and send it to my house. I appreciate that if you're listening Tara, but it has been so helpful. I put it on my lap during sessions, I put it on my lap during coaching sessions, and it helps regulate because it's weighted, just like a weighted blanket. Try to figure out ways that you can do that. Allow yourself to have some playfulness, especially, if you're feeling like it's really hard to connect to the world. I know what it's like to feel that way. There's a lot of intense loneliness and it can feel torturous sometimes when you want to be connected, but you just feel like you can't access that. 

If you are an entrepreneur, if you're working in your business, if you don't have a lot of contact with other people throughout the day and you're starting to feel that, really try to reach out, really try to connect to people who may get it. I think that's important too. Obviously, doing your own therapy is important as well, but just surrounding yourself with people who maybe also share some neurodivergence, because I think there's a connection there. Even if you feel disconnected, you might still be able to feel like at least they get it. I think that's normalizing and it helps with the human experience in general.

Again, kryptonites and superpowers, pay attention to them, pay attention to the things that drain you. And sometimes the things that drain you are the things that also energize you at the same time, which feels really polarizing. I think trying to channel that energy, and not use it all in one place and that might mean visual cues or reminders to step away, and take a break, or do something outside, or something to that extent, so that you're not hyper-focused, going down the rabbit hall of like, “I'm going to create this course today, and like all my energy's going to be there, and I'm going to ignore everything else in my life.” And then, all of a sudden you're like, “I don't even know what day it is.” Anyway, I just wanted to kind of shift and do something different on the podcast today just because I've been talking to a lot of colleagues about neurodivergence, now that I've openly stated that I have ASD or that I am autistic. I'm getting messages a lot from people, like, “What is this like? Is this something that you would share? My friend feels this way, and my colleague, my sister, my brother, my son.” Which is great. It's a bit overwhelming, but at the same time, I think it's, again, normalizing the fact that we all struggle, and that's been the goal of this podcast, is not only to highlight the successes, but to also name the struggles, because they exist. 

I think on the outside looking in, a lot of people would look at my life and the businesses I've built, and like, “Wow, everything looks so glamorous. Everything's so great. You travel so often, you've done all these cool things.” And it's like, “Yeah, there's such a other side to it that people don't see that is just exhaustion, and sometimes a lack of self-care.” I know a lot of therapists don't practice what we preach. I'm well aware of that and I can be guilty of that too, but there is a cost to the other side of it. And I'm really trying harder to have more awareness of when I'm feeling a certain way, again, regulating the nervous system, taking breaks, and just not beating myself up for feeling a certain way. If I'm tired, you're tired, your body needs to recharge. It’s not that you're being lazy, it's not that you're not working on something. It's just that you're tired. Same thing with, if you want to go outside and take a walk if you want to go play, if you want to go play soccer, any of the things that work for you. If you want to work on a puzzle or watch a TV show, just allow yourself to do the things that you need to do to recharge.

You can't be an entrepreneur, you can't be a business owner if you can't show up and have energy to do so. It's really hard, especially, when you are the business. As a private practice therapist, you are the business, you're the therapist, you have to show up for your clients, and vice versa. And if I'm in coaching, it's the same thing. I don't want to show up to a coaching session and not be able to focus or give that client my attention, because they paid for my services and I want to be able to support them, and that's all aspects of life. Just try really hard to be mindful of that. And you're not alone. I think that a lot of entrepreneurs experience a lot of what we're talking about right now, and it's okay. It's not something to be shameful about. I want you to just try really hard to talk about it with people who you feel safe with, even if you feel disconnected from them.

I have a lot of friends that care about me and I appreciate that. I'm very grateful for it, but it's very hard to take that in a lot of the time. And I imagine some of you feel that way and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with that. I’ve deviated from the normal course of the podcast, but I think that I really just wanted to talk about this and if this relates or resonates for anyone, please reach out. I'm happy to talk, I'm happy to support. If you're a entrepreneur who struggles with ADHD, ASD, ADD, I'm here. There's great resources out there. I think that Joel Schwartz runs the Neurodiversity Affirmative Therapist group. It's a great group too. Join that, be a part of it, get some resources there too, so that you don't have to feel alone. You could just lurk. You don't have to participate, but you're not alone. And if you're an entrepreneur working through this stuff or any stuff in general, mental health-related, or just life-related, you're a fucking badass, and give yourself some credit, because life is not easy. It's full of challenges, yet we can create such wonderful things that bring us so much joy, fulfillment, excitement, and help so many people. I think that's really just a wonderful testament to the human spirit. 

I hope this was helpful. You can always find me at allthingspractice.com for coaching, consultation, business growth development, private practice startup. I have a four-month coaching program for private practice therapists starting in April and more international retreats to come. The next one will be in Spain. If you are a private practice therapist, please join the All Things Private Practice, Facebook group. We'd love to have you there. And we will be releasing episodes every single Monday. We will see you next week.