I have issues with people telling me how to feel about, well, my issues.
I’ve always been my own harshest critic; no one can rip me apart as violently and vehemently as I do to myself. While I’m known at work and amongst peers for giving people ample chances (arguably more than they deserve) and being compassionate and nurturing, I rarely extend those niceties to myself.
Someone else might be having a hard time, but me? I’m just a fuck-up.
To be fair, I’ve never fully bought into that – it’s a dark, passing thought that luckily has never found enough purchase to grow roots and blossom into a full-blown mindset. But it’s a thought that, throughout my life, has recurred with fair frequency, and among the ADHD community, I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
So I understand and appreciate when people try to spin ADHD as a gift, I really do.
But I’m not sure I fully buy into that, either.
I don’t know, at this point in my life, if it’s possible to separate who I am as a person from my ADHD. So much of how I think (literally), and how I react to and interact my environment is so deeply entwined with my neurotype that it can’t be considered a separate entity, though I do sometime use othering language (My ADHD makes me…, Because of my ADHD…) It is who I am, and I have made some sort of peace with that, but I don’t buy into the boundless, unconditional positivity that people want to force on me.
Some people are proud; that is an inextricable part of their unique personhood. Pride is a wonderful thing – self-reliance and strength. But pride can also be self-sabotaging, making you incapable of admitting a wrong, or asking for or accepting help. Some people are strong-willed, and admirably stand up for their beliefs and refuse to cow to the demands of others, but in excess this can become obstinance and rigidity, and make people incapable of learning and growing.
My point is, we are spectral – everything we do and are exist along a spectra of values. Pride is wonderful until it becomes vanity; a strong-will is admirable until it tips over into bull-headedness.
And there are a number of qualities I associate with ADHD that can be useful, wonderful, brilliant, and sometimes are — but sometimes aren’t. Sometimes they’re too much — too, too much — or just not enough.
I often love my hyper-focus; when I am really into something, I am driven to excel in it, or to learn everything I can about it. Fixations sometimes arise out of the blue, and they are exciting, and unexpected, and I love discovering new interests and new activities to engage in. But when I’m in full hyper-fixation mode, my internal sense of time stops; as far as I know, I could have been engaged for thirty minutes or three hours; I really have no innate sense. I often hyper-fixate at the expense of other things – things like basic hygiene or household maintenance or sleep – and while I’m not a risk-taker, I’m creatively impulsive, so it’s incredibly difficult for me to not, say, decide I’m really into painting and then go a drop a ton of money on supplies for a hobby that may only hold my attention for a few weeks.
I love the intensity with which I love things. Mundane things, things that would probably be described as routine or possibly even dull, make me transcendentally happy; I once read something by Emerson where he described being “glad to the brink of fear,” and that resonated with me deeply. I seldom feel contentment, but I often feel waves of intense happiness and joy in the present moment. On the other side of this, though, is that I feel unpleasant emotions equally intensely. Small inconveniences can make me rage. Perceived slights can send me into anxiety spirals (I’ve learned, in adulthood, that this might be something called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria). The ups, in other wards, can be downright euphoric, but sometimes I’d rather have less intense “highs” if it meant tempering the “lows.”
I still want to remain positive. I still want to believe that this thing that can sometimes feel like such a heavy burden has, within it, something that can buoy me up. Something that is a Net Good, and not just a zero sum total of positive and negatives. When I think of it in those terms, I am left with a few things.
I am left with my compassion; my understanding that sometimes, even the seemingly half-assed attempts that others may sneer it is the hand-to-God best someone can do. I understand that sometimes the weight of existence is already the heaviest load someone can handle, and in those moments, if I cannot lighten the load, I at least know not to add to it. I understand intimately that different people have vastly different needs and capabilities, and know that equal treatment is not the same as equitable treatment (and I always try to be equitable). I try to be patient even with the people who most try my patience; they are usually the ones who need it most.
I am left with my sense of humor; my brain traces through-lines and finds connections in the most bizarre places, and I am constantly amusing myself with roundabout trains of thought and musings that probably seem like non-sequiturs to anyone not privvy to my internal monologue. I find myself having to preface a lot of things I say with, “Ok, so I was think about X, which made me think about Y, which called to mind Z,” and while that might get tiring, I still love the connections my brain makes, and I love my sense of humor.
I am left with my creativity; the unique thoughts I bring to the table, the idiosyncratic way I process and use language and syntax, the things that draw my eye and interest and set my perspective apart. For all I lament about lack of time to hone my skills, I love the raw material. I love what my potential for creativity is.
We all have to come to terms with ourselves, with who we are and the way we are wired.
This is me. I am not a burden, but sometimes I am burdened.
I am not a blessing, but sometimes I am blessed.
I am a balancing act. And I still need practice.