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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 So 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!

[Get This Free Resource: How to Rein In Intense ADHD Emotions]

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 ADHD 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!

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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?!”

Don’t Think Why Am I So Stupid Anymore

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.

[Read This Next: How ADHD Ignites Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria]

Updated on April 3, 2020

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  1. Joanna,
    What a beautiful and encouraging article! I am a fellow ADHD’er (unofficially diagnosed) and It’s been an excruciating journey at times – Trial and error to say the least. After fighting with my brain for over ten years; from Straterra, to Wellbutrin, to anxiety medication, to fasting and diet changes, to downright giving up, I’ve inched my way to acceptance of my brain and it’s “pros and cons.” It undoubtedly begins with our ADDItude towards our brains that will turn the tide. Your article definitely helped me turn another inch corner towards changing the way I see my Brain. And not seeing it as my enemy and seeing it as my helper and friend. It’s our MINDS (not to be confused with our Brain) that become negative and harsh and the “Bully” as you state it… it’s a tough battle but one worth fighting. I am so empathetic to everyone who is suffering due to not knowing how to approach their brain. Yes, it may become an enemy in the beginning, but keep seeking, keep searching, and never give up trying to make peace with yourself and your brain. It’s a powerful and beautiful tool. It needs your love and understanding. Your care. Your positivity. It won’t be easy, but it’s about your genuineness towards mending fences. Try to understand yourself. Articles like your Joanna is what will help someone go that extra inch and having faith the there are more pieces to the puzzle coming down the pipeline.

    Beautiful Article!

    Sadao

  2. I wish I could believe this. But I got my diagnosis two years ago, and I’ve hated myself even more ever since. I’ve learned coping strategies, but they’re just not working fast enough for what I need to be doing to be independent. I feel utterly broken and just don’t want to be here anymore. I feel like I’m in hell.

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