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“My ADHD Makes Me the Anti-Villain of My Own Drama”

“I am a life-long anti-villain. I always mean good, but sometimes things go terribly wrong and I hurt and upset people who mean a lot to me. I’ve lost the respect of bosses, clearly a few exes, and colleagues by doing things ‘my way’ even when that makes no sense to them.”

The 12 steps of AA are, I’ve found, helpful and sometimes cathartic even for those of us who are not members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Case in point: I recently decided to follow step #8 and make amends with those whom I’ve harmed. So I called my ex-girlfriend to clear the air, two years after my run-away ADHD symptoms sunk our relationship. She spent the next 30 minutes demonstrating to me exactly how “hell hath no fury.” She was so mean! Still, I got the closure I needed — and perhaps more stress than I bargained for.

Though I’m under no false belief in my own perfection, it’s never easy hearing from people who don’t see me as a knight in shining armor — or even Oscar the Grouch in a trash can. That phone call dredged up old, familiar feelings of self-loathing; I was the bad guy all over again. After a few days twisting in the winds of self-pity — and investing $3,000 in a van just to give myself something to do — I resolved to work through my feelings in a more productive way.

Meditation is nice. There’s just one problem: I don’t have the patience for it. So, instead, I switched off my screaming phone and settled in for a Pixar movie marathon — watching and fully enjoying films designed to give life advice to children who want ice cream but can’t have it, and adults, like myself, who also desperately want ice cream but now can’t afford it because they bought a stupid van.

As I sat there still wallowing in my own self-pity, I came across a line in “Wreck-It Ralph” that brought me great solace: “You are the bad guy, but this does not mean you are a bad guy.” It stuck with me as I pinged along to Penelope’s races and all that lovely bright dancing candy.

I realized, then, that I am often the “anti-villain” of my own personal drama.

[Do I Have Hyperactive Impulsive ADHD? Take This Test]

An anti-villain is a character who starts out as the hero with noble and good intentions and goals, but ends up doing damage by following unconventional and unintentionally destructive means to meet their heroic goal. They shift from hero to villain in the process but still see themselves as that shining knight right up until it’s too late.

I can count many times in my life when I’ve been an anti-villain. I always mean good, but sometimes things go terribly wrong and I hurt and upset people who mean a lot to me. I’ve lost the respect of bosses, clearly a few exes, friends, and colleagues by doing things “my way” or saying hurtful things when I’m just trying to be funny even when that behavior makes no sense to others.

My impulsive actions under extreme pressure and confusion, such as my recent idiotic decision to remove all of my things from my girlfriend’s flat despite plans to come back on weekends, often aren’t seen the way I intend. In this case, it got me dumped, so now I’m sad — and so is she.

Kids and adults like me — still learning to anticipate and resist their ADHD impulses — are not bad. In fact, we are some of the most empathetic, loving, and kind people you will meet. The problem is that it’s awfully hard to recognize all of those great qualities when we are making another knee-jerk decision or continuing to talk when we should be listening. When this inevitably happens to me again, I resolve to bust out the ice cream and a good kids movie with an inspiring story line before I act.

You’ve got to take care of yourself in the middle of a crisis, especially one that’s been building up for a long time. It’s not selfish. It’s self-preservation and introspection thanks to a big oafish cartoon character who says important things like, “Turns out I don’t need a medal to tell me I’m a good guy.”

ADHD Anti-Villan: Next Steps


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Updated on April 7, 2021

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