“I’m so sorry!!” I looked at the clock behind the receptionist. Late again. How many times today had I had to apologize for being late? Car seat in tow along with another child running around somewhere, I looked back on the day thinking of how I could have possibly done things differently. I had made Herculean efforts just to show up! Yet still, I felt the need to apologize because I had made one mistake, misplaced one thing, had a diaper change come up that I hadn’t planned for, or whatever. My inner critic would insist, “You can’t keep being late for everything!! It’s so rude.” Cold wash of shame.
I’ve started challenging the shaming messages that come with having ADHD. Shame can become a habit, and mine is pretty ingrained. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t totally comfortable with this video from Jessica McCabe. I had never considered how apologizing for my inability to be neurotypical impacts my feelings about myself. “I’m sorry,” implies that I’ve done something wrong. I didn’t care enough. I didn’t try hard enough. Truth is, I try so hard. It isn’t enough, but that doesn’t mean that I’m to blame. I deserve credit for my efforts just like everyone else. Just because I start the game with two strikes against me doesn’t mean I’m not worth having on the team.
With ADHD, and a mother of children with ADHD, I’m not going to manage my symptoms and my children’s symptoms perfectly. Even neurotypical moms of young kids have trouble keeping a schedule. Shame is not a healthy way to manage symptoms. At the same time I know how much my ADHD impacts the people I love and the relationships I care about. In fact, my inabilility to manage my ADHD perfectly causes me to socially isolate myself to avoid damaging those relationships.
“Oh, there’s a babyshower next week,” or “My son has a birthday party tomorrow,” or “maybe I should set up some playdates,” or “I should sign up to bring cupcakes to the ward party next week.” Those all turn into another list of things for me to fail at; presents I forgot to buy or wrap, another appointment to put on the calendar that I will probably show up late for, another group of people to apologize to. I’ve thought about quitting the choir I love because I’m worried about being late. I don’t want to take risks because I know I’m most likely going to fail. Those failures don’t just impact me. They impact everyone who is depending on me. That makes me feel awful!
As I’ve thought more about the ways that the shame around my ADHD has drained my life of the joy and happiness, the more I think Jessica McCabe is right. I need to stop apologizing for being ADHD. Instead, I’m going to start thanking my friends and family for their patience and love in spite of my disability. To all those who have seen the value in me in spite of my ADHD, I say, thank you! Thank you for seeing me for who I am and loving me anyway.
I started a bullet journal last week. Jessica McCabe has a whole ton of Youtube tutorial videos on why this style of planner is great for ADHD. You can access them here. It has really helped me so far. I can’t believe how much I have been able to get done! I’ve started thinking, “Wow! I could start looking like that Mom (fill-in-the-blank) that has it all together!” Then I have to remind myself that I’m me, and that’s the best. I don’t have to be together and organized to have value. If this planner helps me to be more productive, that’s awesome, but it doesn’t define me.
I find myself grappling with the structure of the planner. My perfectionism starts rearing up. In fact, my daily schedule today doesn’t include my blog post I’m writing right now. I’m cheating on my schedule! I have to give myself permission to color outside the lines because that’s what I do. That’s who I am, and I’m giving myself permission to be who I am, just maybe with a couple of extra tools to help out.
Jessica McCabe’s videos have done so much to help me and my kids. I suspect Devin thinks she’s hot. He seems especially keen to watch her videos. All three boys resonate with what she has to say. We watched this video on Sunday. It’s about using a glitter bottle to calm the brain down during an ADHD meltdown. They all want one now.
So if you hear fewer apologizes and more thank yous from me, know that its intentional. I’m choosing to have more compassion for myself and choose self-love and gratitude instead of shame! Hopefully I can pass on this habit of positive self-image to my boys. I’m way too hard on them most of the time. They struggle with the same stuff I do, but the habit of self-flagellation is the only strategy that I’ve consistently used to manage my symptoms. When I think about it, its not that surprising that they have self-esteem problems. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Fortunately, its never to late to start being a good example to them! I’m so grateful for my Savior who is guiding my recovery. I know that together, we are unstoppable. Salvation is real. Hope is not in vain.