I’ll Be Kinder and Gentler — to Myself
Before my ADHD diagnosis, I poked fun at my forgetfulness, my trouble in school, my faults, myself. Now that I know these characteristics are symptoms of a condition and not personal failings, I am kinder to myself.
I’d spent a lifetime behind a screen of witty self-deprecation. I made people laugh. It was a part of my personality — the quips popped from my mouth in a narrative I couldn’t control. But, at 45, freshly divorced and struggling, I found myself in a therapist’s office. In our third session, she asked, “Why do you treat yourself so unkindly?”
Ultimately, she diagnosed me with ADHD, and the pieces came together. I’d always been a jokester, blurting out zingers to explain my “inner dummy,” to name it before anyone else could. I laughed at myself for forgetting things, for taking the same college math class six times before finally, barely, scoring high enough to get the credit. I quipped about the mistakes I made, even in the classes I was good at.
As I married, had kids, and began working, the smoke screen of slapstick stayed intact. Behind it, I struggled with anxiety and extreme sadness, with angry outbursts and a bleak sense of failure. I blamed myself for not being good enough. I saw the jokes I told about myself as painful truth.
When my therapist identified the real issue, everything changed. Now I take ADHD medication. I set up systems of organization — calendar alerts, specific places to put keys, purse, and phone. These are all critical for me to function well.
I haven’t stopped joking about myself. Being goofy and self-deprecating isn’t bad. I’ve struggled and succeeded. I’ve fought battles most people don’t have to fight, and I take pride in that. But I curate my own narrative now, editing the way I speak about myself. The jokes I tell are still rooted in truth, but not the kind that hurts.