“The Trouble with My Fail-Safe Coat”
Screwing up and disappointing others is so much a part of the everyday ADHD life experience that I think, by the time we’re adults, we’ve fashioned a protective coat around us as one of our principal coping skills.
Rehearsals for my solo ADHD play kept going through April, and although I’d taken my daughter’s thoughts to heart, it was still difficult for me to believe that anything good was going to come out of all the work Margaret (producer and wife), Mark (director and friend), and I (writer, actor, and chump-change-loser-mental-case) had put into the project. Because, at the core, whatever was going to happen really depended on me.
Screwing up and disappointing others is so much a part of the everyday ADHD life experience that I think, by the time we’re adults, many of us have fashioned a cushioned protective coat around us as one of our principal coping or survival skills. Stitched together out of all the myriad failures that we catalogued and kept, its insidious message is simple and debilitating: Of course we’ll fail. Look at the evidence. What else did we expect?
This protective fail-safe coat’s negative message is warm and comforting because we can step back from ourselves, look at the evidence and stand on the sideline with all the other smart people we imagine judging us and shake our heads and say, “See? I told him he should have stayed home and kept his mouth shut.”
Imagining success when you know you don’t have a prayer is impossible.
I was thinking about quitting, it was easy to imagine failure – been there, done that – when one day in the middle of a mid-rehearsal, self-questioning, stammering fit it hit me: I don’t know I don’t have a prayer. I don’t know anything. One of the many things ADHD has taught me is that the only thing certain is uncertainty.
That’s when I started pulling off the fail-safe coat. It hit me that without ADHD I wouldn’t be doing this play at all. And when I realized that no matter how my ADHD, hypomania, alcoholism, word-retrieval and short-term memory issues, and a stammer that can come on like a freight train when I get at all tense might have limited me in the world, they’ve expanded my world a million times more.
These disabilities, disorders, or whatever you want to call them, are not things I’d wish on someone else, but they’re mine, and fine by me.
And, as a dad, if there’s anything I can pass on to my two ADHD kids from my experience it’s this: As long as you accept them and use them as an integral part of yourself, ADHD and any of its comorbid pals won’t stop you from doing anything in life you want to do, they’ll just make it a lot more interesting.