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This reply was originally posted by user Amouseumiss in ADDitude’s now-retired community.
I’d like to add on to what Penny has said, and elaborate a bit on your concerns re that she’ll use it as an excuse. I don’t have children, but I was diagnosed with ADHD this year. I’m 30 and a female. Also, apologies in advance if this gets rambly. I had a well thought out reply nearly done, then safari froze and forced me to reboot, losing my reply, and subsequently my motivation to try again. This is, therefore, partly an exercise in not throwing in the towel when my iPad makes me want to ragequit and sulk.
Anyway! Enough whining. Now it’s story time. As I mentioned, I wasn’t diagnosed till this year. Growing up, my difficulties with completing schoolwork (mainly math), chores, self-care, etc, were chalked up to purposeful inattention on my part, because my parents didn’t know I had ADHD either. Simply put, they thought I was choosing not to do things, because I didn’t want to, on purpose. To them, I could control the ‘wanting to’ and I wasn’t. I was being lazy, I should know better at my age, I should try harder, etc. it all boiled down to, “You’re making excuses, stop and do the thing.”
I also have a vision impairment that’s left me legally blind up until a few years ago. (It’s a long story involving developing cataracts and four retina surgeries). Growing up, my parents taught me I could do nearly anything a sighted person could do, with some sccomidstions.
While I’m thankful for this attitude, it also has a downside. Any time I expressed that something was hard, I was just told I was making excuses and if I tried harder. I could do it. Now, let me be clear. My parents were always accommodating of my vision impairment, but once that was accounted for-i.e. I had large print materials, for example—any further difficulty I had was assumed to be a voluntary choice on my part.
I think, looking back, that my parents might’ve shared your concern re a tendency to give up or surrender to the difficulties. Unfortunately—assuming that was their motivation—the attitude that, if I just try harder I can do anything a sighted person can, turned into, if I can’t it’s my fault, I’m using this as an excuse not to do my best, and I’m a lazy, bad person because of it.
Also, I applied that to other disabled people, particularly in college. Because I could make straight A’s, I just thought doing things at the last minute, hsving to force myself to do the readings, homework, etc, forgetting things, losing things, and stressing constantly was normal. If by some chance I didn’t worry bout Ms,in an A on things, both myself and my parents suddenly took that as a sign that I didn’t care enough.
I applied that to my disabled friend who made Cs, thinking that they weren’t trying enough and were using their impairment as sn excuse. If I can do it—even if I’m miserable—you can, too, and if you’re not, or I’m not, it’d our faults, because we’re choosing to be this way. Further, I thought acknowledgement of difficulty = making excuses and not wanting to try. If I was really trying, I thought, it wouldn’t be hard.
Now is probably a good time to mention I struggle with anxiety and depression, too. My brain is just a whole barrel of fun. Also, my parents have since gotten a lot better about telling me as long as you do your best that’s all that counts.
I know that was the message they meant to send throughout my childhood, too, but since I tended to do well academically, barring subjects which held no interest for me, and given that they’re both in their sixties and so don’t know much about ADHD, they just assumed my difficulties were my doing, as I said earlier.
ADHD has been described as the lack of an ability to Can. For me st least, that’s very true. I can sit here and tell myself all day to work on my dissertation chapter, but unless there’s a looming deadline, it’s really, really hard to even start, let alone stick with it for any length of time. My brain is just like ‘hah hah nope.’
Now, to someone without ADHD what does that look like? It looks like I’m saying oh I have ADHD I can’t do my dissertation chapter, I’m going to write forum posts instead. By extension, that probably looks like I’m being a lazy bum, but maybe that’s the RSD/Depression talking. What’s really going on? I want to work on this chapter. I know I’ll feel better if I do. But the thought of actually doing it, is just…ugh. So much ugh.
So, now I have a choice. I can say I have ADHD so I can’t do this, bam, full stop. That’s an excuse. Or, I can say, I have ADHD, and that makes this hard. It’s okay that it’s hard, it doesn’t make me a bad person, or somehow less capable than my peers, it just means I need external motivators because my internal motivation system is busted. So, I accommodate myself. I set timers and try not to feel guilty on days when I meant to get started at 11:30 and oh look it’s after one p.m. I try not to feel like a chronic time waster.
And sometimes, I do have to say, I have ADHD and right now I can’t do this. That’s okay, because later, ADHD or not, I’m getting this done.
I think the line between reasons and excuses can be pretty fine. As a multiply disabled person, I’ll freely admit that there are days when I’ve thought, it would be great if I could just stay home, on the internet, all day, and just do fun things. But then I think, everybody has days like that, it’s okey to feel that way, but eventually you have to do something about it.
Also, I want to be frank, and I hope this doesn’t come off badly. My vision impairment, ADHD, anxiety and depression, are problems. They’re big problems. Getting my PhD would be a whole lot easier if my eyes and my brain worked like everyone else’s eyes and brain do. That’s—partly—why I have disabilities. So, if your daughter says her ADHD is a problem, I think that’s fine. It is a Problem, and it isn’t wrong to acknowledge that. I think that was part of my parents’ trouble. They couldn’t acknowledge that my vision was a problem, do when I started to, they saw that as me making excuses, when what I was trying to do was find reasons for why things were hard. But to my parents, it seemed like I was doing exactly what you’re concerned about your daughter doing.
I still had every intention of doing the thing, I just wanted to know why it was hard. To be honest, I’m still not sure why my attempts at saying, X thing is hard because of my vision, or I can’t do Y thing because I don’t notice that I need to, we’re seen as excuses. In my mind, what I wanted from them was an acknowledgment that yes this is hard and that’s okay, and here are ways around it so it’s less hard.
What I got was, “Yiu just need to do it anyway, try harder, don’t use your disability as an excuse not to do the thing, you never did that before,” etc etc etc.
So now, when I have days where I lose my keys, my pens, my flash drive, or I finally eotk up the motivation to do something only to get derailed and I want to quit, it is really, really hard not to feel like if I just tried harder I’d be fine, and here I go again uding this as an excuse not to be a normal person.
It’s kmportsnt, I think, to remember that reasons aren’t excuses, and I think that’s hard for folks to grasp.
Now, from some of what you’ve said, I’m going to ask: do you have ADHD too? Because if so, a good way to keep your daughter from throwing up her hands and deciding to never do anything because she has ADHD, would be to use yourself as an example. Acknowledge that things are hard for you, too, that sometimes you don’t want to do the thing either, but here’s how you work around that.
Personally, I wish I and my parents had known when I was a kid. I think a lot of my self esteem, and anxiety issues, would be better than they are. I think being able to acknowledge that it’s okay that this is hard, it’s okay I have those feelings, would’ve been helpful for me, and will be helpful, I think, for your daughter.
On that note, I really need to write the rest of this chapter!
Best of luck,
A Mousey Miss
P.S. I apologize for any typos. Unfortunately, I lack the time to make any more edits, necduse, dissertation chapter must be written.
Thanks for the understanding,
A M M