When the Bully Who Does the Most Damage is You
“Why am I so stupid? So lazy? So crazy?” Before my ADHD diagnosis, I beat myself up over daily mistakes. Now I’m repairing the damage done, learning to go easier on myself, and quieting my inner bully.
We are all different. We come from different cultures, families, schools, and careers. We look different and have different brains. “Differences” of any kind tend to attract bullies, who prey on insecurities and fear. For me, the biggest bully I faced was myself. I was constantly calling my brain stupid, or lazy, or crazy, or all of the above.
Here’s how the conversation usually played out:
When My ADHD Made Me Feel Stupid
Why can’t you remember when your mother was born or find your hometown on a map? How could you forget your own children’s birthday? C’mon! How are you supposed to make friends when you forget what you were talking about just two minutes ago? And you never get jokes, any jokes!
I tried to help you. I stayed inside studying for hours — trying so hard to remember things that the other kids got in minutes — but you blew it every time.
When My ADHD Made Me Feel Lazy
Why do you make the family leave for the day when you can’t take the noise? Kids make noises! Why do you forget to take the laundry out of the washer — every single time? Post-It notes and reminders are everywhere, but the dirty clothes are forgotten every single time! Remember? Of course, you don’t!
When My ADHD Made Me Feel Crazy
How do you explain starting 15 hobbies and never finishing any of them? You tell people you want to change the world. Seriously? You can’t even remember to take out the recycling. How can you save the world? You can’t even save yourself! You are crazy!
How I Went from Stupid to Empowered
The bullying went on for years until I decided my brain was broken. I wanted to be normal and I thought a psychiatrist could fix it. So I went for tests and a couple sessions of counseling. I loved the comfortable leather couch in his office and the peaceful paintings on the wall. On the day of my diagnosis, I remember feeling happy and excited. The psychiatrist is going to fix me! I thought I will finally feel normal!
With a worried look on his face, my doctor delivered the ADHD diagnosis. I was elated and relieved — yes! finally a diagnosis. I wanted to hug him, but I restrained myself.
He seemed confused by my joyful reaction but started explaining the diagnosis and how medication could help. Predictably, I stopped listening. It was all blah, blah, blah after he mentioned medication. Yes! I thought. I’m getting a magic pill. It’s going to fix it all!
A little while after leaving the office, reality set in. The new information flooded through my mind, triggering a roller coaster of emotion. I felt cold and lonely, panicky and defeated. I didn’t listen closely to the doctor. I really wished I had. I was scared about the medicine. What did he say it would do? What if it doesn’t fix me? I allowed my own thoughts to beat up my brain all over again:
I hate you! It’s official. We have ADHD and it’s on paper now. I always knew there was something wrong, but how do I explain this to friends and my family? I am stupid. I am lazy and I’m definitely crazy. What do we do now?!”
Then something unexpected happened. My brain fought back for the first time: “STOP, just STOP! Don’t talk to me like that. ADHD isn’t the worst thing in the world. We just can’t focus on things we don’t like but so what? Doesn’t that happen to a lot of people?”
You are not stupid. You graduated from university with good grades. You are a talented graphic designer. You do what you love. YOU ARE ENOUGH.
You are not lazy. You might forget things, but your house is sparkling clean. You built a business. You had fun with your kids. Because you constantly need stimulation you took them hiking and cycling, swimming and boxing! YOU ARE ENOUGH.
You are not crazy. Okay, it was a little impulsive to quit all those well-paying jobs when you couldn’t make big changes, but you always stayed true to yourself and your values. As Steve Jobs said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Finally, I felt at peace. I had vanquished my biggest bully and myself the way I am.
Today, I try to model personal growth for my two children. I try to remember that there is nothing broken. Nothing to fix. I have so much more empathy and I’m happier, too. I AM enough.
Postscript: I recently participated in a storytelling workshop held in a café in Budapest, Hungary, where I live. Click here to see my “Stupid, Lazy, and Crazy” video.
Updated on February 14, 2020