“ADHD Cancel Culture is Strong. I Am Stronger.”
“When I’m told I’m either too much or not enough, I remember that I am not perfect, but good enough. I remember that I am brave. That I am tender. That I am creative. That I am not a problem to be solved. That I’ve been canceled before, and I’ll probably be canceled again. But I can take it.”
Here it comes: another friend giving me the silent treatment. I’ve been here before, but it still feels sudden and raw. It still hurts, though not as much as it did when I went through this as a child. I know what it’s like to have people shut me out, block me, ignore me, write me off, and talk about me but not to me. For me, cancel culture is not a new thing. I have been canceled all my life.
Recently diagnosed with ADHD (at 38 years old), I have been looking back over my life and taking stock. Today, I see everything through a different lens. I understand now that beyond the pain of others saying that they couldn’t stand me – a pain ignited by rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) — I couldn’t stand myself most of the time (and still can’t). Being in my head is like being in a broken computer game from the ’80s: streams of neon lights ricocheting off the walls of my neurodivergent brain, patterns of half-finished coding, and working in overdrive just for a glimmer of nonsensical light to break.
To Those Who Will Never Cancel Me
When I told a close friend about my diagnosis, we both chuckled. It was not a surprise to either of us. She said she was drawn to people with ADHD and that they “drove her crazy,” but she still loves them so. She, like the few others who have stuck with me through the years, display unusual amounts of grace and compassion. They see deeper than the outrageous things I sometimes say or do. They know how my social anxiety shows up during the functions they invite me to, and that I forget so many things they tell me.
My husband is one of those people with limitless grace. He has withstood my RSD and the emotional dysregulation that floods my brain. He has also withstood my OCD, anxiety, depression, and hypervigilance. When others have thrown me away, he’s scooped me up off the floor and wiped my tears or given me space to rage through the pain. He truly sees me.
But I see him, too. He also has ADHD, though we have different symptoms. Sometimes we laugh about how we found each other in this life and how we are forever grateful that we did. Even though our ADHD symptoms often collide and our communication can get tangled up like old telephone wires damaged by storms, we are united in love and dedication. We help each other navigate this strange neurological land. And after becoming parents, we want to do everything in our power to show our children that there is nothing wrong with the way we were made.
[Read: “I Can’t Handle Rejection. Will I Ever Change?”]
Surviving Rejection, Cancelation, and ADHD Stigma
After my diagnosis, I came to understand that some people will always be committed to misunderstanding me. They view their assumptions about me as absolute truth. I have chosen to cut off contact when this is the case. Despite the sting of rejection, I try not to go around defending myself too much or justifying to others why I am the way I am. I’m learning, slowly, to stop apologizing.
I’m learning how to be kinder to myself. I try not to beat myself up when I fail in the workplace, when I start another project that will go unfinished, when I unintentionally offend someone, when I forget important things, and when I make so many other mistakes. I remind myself that there is a real and neurological reason behind this. I give myself the grace and understanding others cannot.
When I am overwhelmed by how the simple aspects of life are so much harder for people like me, I remind myself how far I’ve come. I remind myself that having a husband who loves me for me and a few close friends who I can truly be myself with is more than enough.
When I wonder again why I had to be born this way, I pause, take a breath, and remind myself that it’s not my fault or anyone else’s — because there isn’t anything wrong with me. Some people will simply choose not to see that there is so much gold to be found in people like me.
[Read: Coping With the Stigma of ADHD]
When I’m told I’m either too much or not enough, I remember that I am not perfect, but good enough. That I am brave. That I am tender. That I am creative. That I am not a problem to be solved. That I’ve been canceled before, and I’ll probably be canceled again. But I can take it.
Cancel Culture, RSD, and ADHD: Next Steps
- Free Download: Understanding Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria
- Q&A: My Fear of Rejection Keeps Me Socially Isolated
- Read: How to Break the Habit of Internalized Criticism
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