There are people who insult with intent, and there are people who insult with the best of intentions.
And there are people who insult because they had the best of intentions but have become frustrated with the lack of progress they’ve made on “fixing” the problem.
People who insult with intent are just people who don’t have the ability or ambition to better themselves, so they choose to belittle those around them in order to feel better about themselves. It’s a sort of bell curve deal where they try to lower their perceived grade of those around them so that they will actually seem more competent and capable. Those are the obvious insulters.
The next group are those who try to make you feel better but should have left well enough alone. “I think everyone has ADHD,” is my favorite example of this. I’m trying to educate the world about a mental health issue and I run into people who just seem to want me to “feel normal,” like it’s okay, like I fit in ’cause I’m not really that different.
My usual response to this is to calmly and firmly describe my disorder. I point out that I am well aware that all my symptoms are normal for most people, they are just extreme in my life. All people have experienced suddenly stopping and wondering what they were doing or what they were “getting” from the room they’d just entered. I experience that ten times an hour.
True, I’ve learned not to let on; I don’t get upset, I don’t give up. I’ll try calmly to recall the missing info, retracing my steps to where I was when I first thought of going to “get” or “do” whatever it was I was getting or doing.
The last group are people who want to help you get things (your life, for instance) in order. They really believe that if they just tell you to pay attention you’ll suddenly smack your forehead with the palm of your hand and say “Of course, pay attention, why didn’t I think of that before?”
After they’ve told you to pay attention about three hundred times, in ways that are rapidly getting less and less polite, they finally explode with “Are you brain dead?” or some corollary of that statement.
I appreciate that they want to help. I admire the perseverance that got them to the point where they blew up. But mostly I appreciate that they are experiencing a level of frustration that is starting to approach my own.
Don’t ask me if I’m brain dead. Don’t call me an idiot. Don’t tell me I’m infuriating. I’ve told myself these things repeatedly. And believe me, I care a lot more about what I think of myself then I care about what you think of me.
Your insults won’t help me, and I’m beyond letting them hurt me anymore.
There are three good ways to kill a birch tree. You can cut it down. You can girdle it (strip the bark off the trunk). You can prune it ‘til it can no longer support itself.
The three ways of insulting an ADHDer are just the same. Blatant insults are like cutting us down. The dismissive insults are like girdling; you see a piece of bark hanging from a tree and you just reach out and pull it off. And those who would try to teach us are like those who would prune a birch tree into some pleasing form, only to discover that they’ve cut us in so many places that we cannot hope to flourish.
So instead, how’s about being the kind of person who just appreciates the shade and the bright and cheery appearance of the ADHDers in your life?
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Last reviewed: 20 Jul 2012