Hey, ADHDers, don’t let others — or yourself — hang guilt around your neck.
by Stacey Turis
I was on the phone with my mom the other day when she asked me the question she had been wanting to ask me for the four weeks since my daughter’s 504 Plan was put into place.
“Did you turn in that paperwork?”
I sighed and replied that I had not turned in said paperwork — back-up documentation to add to my daughter’s file for the district. I guess it wasn’t a fire for me because they had already started the accommodations.
Even though I knew I’d eventually locate and turn the paperwork in, I was hoping for a polite e-mail from the school reminding me that they were waiting on the documentation so I’d get stressed out enough to take care of it.
That’s how ADHDers work. Never, ever give us an open-ended deadline, and always give us reminders — just not too many reminders, because that will have the opposite effect and soon we’ll get annoyed with the pestering and find things to dislike about you. The way you chew ice cream (why?) or how you breathe heavy when you talk on the phone.
Mom then whispered, “Don’t you feel guilty?” I guffawed because of her serious tone and the silliness of her question. “Why would I feel guilty? Because I haven’t turned paperwork in to a receptionist who is going to turn around and put it in a file? Um, no.” She replied that if she hadn’t done something she was expected to do, she’d feel guilty. I could tell she was concerned for my psyche. I thought about that for a couple of seconds and agreed. There is some validity to the guilt thing. It’s a great motivator, but not for an ADHDer who lives her life not living up to expectations. When I say not living up to expectations, I mean multiple times a day.
I used to feel guilty about everything that I wasn’t on top of. One day I woke up and realized that I was miserable, and, if I continued to live that way, I’d be miserable for the rest of my life. As much as I want to, I’ll never really be on top of anything that is expected of me — not the necessary stuff like paperwork or the downright offensive stuff like cookie decorating parties. I’m trying to get my little ADHD family through life with a smile on their faces; everything else is achieved by just barely coping.
That day, I officially let go of the guilt. All guilt. I banned it from my life. And guess what? I’m a gazillion times happier, and that’s the only thing that has changed. I’m doing (or not doing) the exact same things I did before, but now I’m happy instead of miserable. I’m free!
It’s a little crazy, though, because when you first let go of guilt, you kind of miss it because 1) feeling guilty beats feeling nothing at all and 2) guilt is a great way to impose punishment on yourself. ADHDers are notorious self-punishers with low self-esteem. Don’t even try to throw us a compliment; we’ll quash that thing in a second flat and put ourselves down to counteract it.
It wasn’t an overnight process because I felt guilty about not feeling guilty. But I eventually started to enjoy my guilt-free life—at least free of the self-imposed guilt. Those around us take some training, too, especially if they use guilt as a disguise for manipulation.
On occasion, someone still tries to use the ol’ guilt-trip manipulation on me, and it’s not pretty. I protect my guilt-free sanctity with a vengeance. If you make me feel guilty, I’ll call you out on it right then and there, eyes blazing. Only I’m allowed to make myself feel like crap!
Don’t let anyone put guilt on you. Guilt is not a good motivator, unless you’re doing something illegal or unjust. Otherwise, it’s an unnecessary soul-sucker and you don’t need it. Your soul-getting-sucked days are over. It’s time to make your life yours — stop listening to the chatter around and inside you that tells you you’re doing it “wrong” and you should feel “bad.”
Now go look at the crap on your desk and send it love, because it’s your crap and it’s organized how you like it — in guilt-free piles.