ADHD and other letters: on forgiveness

I think one of the hardest things about having ADHD – especially prior to diagnosis – is that you lose faith in yourself. This applies to any condition that includes “executive dysfunction” as a symptom, but throw in the ADHD brain’s inability to perceive or estimate time, and it’s a real doozy.

Because you know what you need to do to change.

You just don’t do it.

In reality, you can’t do it, but it doesn’t feel that way a lot of the time because there is no visible, physical, insurmountable barrier.

I know what I need to do – to be productive, accomplished, punctual – but I just don’t do it. I know the decisions I have to make. I just don’t make them. I know the actions I have to take. I just… don’t take them.

It’s made so much worse – so much worse, indescribably worse – by the fact that executive dysfunction is almost impossible to explain. The transition from “thought” to “action” is so intangible, so steeped in lionised notions of willpower and determination, that people who don’t have this particular problem can’t wrap their heads around it.

Almost a poetic irony, since executive dysfunction is profoundly neurobiological in nature.

But every time you come up with new plans, new information, new ideas, all bubbling enthusiastically around the problem, and this time, it will be different –

And then it’s not.

It’s not different at all.

It’s the same failure. The same disappointment. Every. Fucking. Day.

And a chorus of imagined voices asking why, why, why, a deafening mental roar of judgement and anger –

And then one day you lose faith.

You stop believing you can fix it.

Sometimes other people will say wonderful things about you, about what you’ve done, and you realise that the rest of the world sees you in a profoundly different way than you see yourself – and that the empty hours when you’re stuck and trying and horrified at yourself, well, somehow you manage to squeeze the things that matter into the other hours.

Maybe it’s not as much as you think you could, or should do. Maybe it’s not as much as other people do – people who understand time, people who can focus, people who can simply decide to do something.

It’s so strange that there are people who think you’ve achieved something. They see what you do, and for them, it’s enough. They funnel their vision back to you, and even if that’s not everyone, even if there are still people who matter that judge you for having so much trouble, it matters that there’s a dissenting voice, something to break the consensus of whispers in your head.

For the people who think it’s enough, the people who see your slow crawl and cheer like it’s a rocket launch, for them, you can keep going. Even if it’s just one person, that’s enough. You might think you’re constantly disappointing them. You might have lost faith in yourself.

But they haven’t. Not everyone. I think you can borrow that faith for a while, use it in place of your own, like borrowing a car while yours is in the shop.

I don’t know how to believe in myself sometimes, but I know how to borrow the belief of others. They don’t seem to mind.

Thank you, to everyone who lets me borrow their belief in me. I hope you know who you are.