It’s easy to follow the creation of the ADHD mask. It starts when we are young. Our behaviour is questioned, isolated, centred out for ridicule. We learn to hide things, first our pain, then our desires. Finally we suppress our goals.
Our pride dies. Not a painless death, but the long drawn out tortured agony of a thousand deaths. Each time we think we have done away with it, we find ourselves feeling a bit of pride in the way we’ve handled something or accomplished some small task.
Then we think we’re on the right track, finally making progress, soon to join the ranks of the successful and take our rightful place where we’ve always felt we’ve belonged.
Then we slip again. We let someone down. We forget to do something. We get overwhelmed by the things we have taken on and suddenly drop most of the balls we were keeping in the air in a spectacular display that looks like an atom made of hundreds of neutrons, protons and electrons imploding.
Or we try hard to hold it together, but as we take on more in our professional lives, our home lives or our social lives, we let the mask slip a little in one of those settings. We don’t notice it, but others do. Usually it’s the home life where we let our mask down. It’s the place where we feel the safest, and so it should be. But if we arrived at that home with our mask already in place, letting it slip is revealing a whole new person to someone who has never seen the ADHD person behind that mask.
We think that our mask is valid. After all, we created it, it’s a manifestation of ourselves. But it was created as a response to external pressure, built up to present a facade that we hope will cover our flaws with a veneer of contrived characteristics.
A friend of this blog, Drew, emailed me late last year to tell me about his mask experience. He said that his wife had left him. One of the last things she had said to him before leaving was “I can’t trust you!”
Drew tells it like this:
“She never knew ME, she fell in love with my mask, and when I couldn’t keep the mask in place any longer she left me taking all of my family and friends with her.”
He told me that it has since taken him two years to make two friends who he says have seen behind the mask without abandoning him.
I want to be the first … okay, the third, to tell Drew that I am his friend. I want to let him know that he doesn’t have to hide. And if he wants true friends, spend some time without the mask. A few friends who won’t bolt when the going gets rough is a far superior social support group than a huge congregation of pals who have never seen the inner workings of the over wound and ungoverned clockwork mechanism of the ADHD mind.
Wear your mask when you have to, but when it comes to friends and family, love needs a clear picture of you if it is to be true. Unleash the inner you on the world. Those few that are left standing to admire what they’ve seen are your friends. You don’t need to do anything more than accept them, they’ve already accepted you for who you are.
And by the way, Drew, we’re still standing here … ’nuff said, my friend.
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From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: January 31, 2012 | World of Psychology (January 31, 2012)
Last reviewed: 30 Jan 2012