ADHD and Shame

Words by Tamsyn (they/them), 19 NSW

  • Tamsyn sucker punches shame. 

                                                                                                                 Smashed phone (Again)

Missed train  

Almost all my mistakes, broken phones, crashed cars, and lost keys, can be linked to ADHD. 

It’s an interesting neurological condition as you’ll find it harder to do simple things most people find easy. While at the same time excelling at things that are typically difficult.

                                                                   forgotten assignments 

The conflict being a constant strive for perfectionism with a brain that makes that very difficult to achieve practically. This leads to a feeling of incompetence. Feeling like a fuckup with a cold lump of shame in your throat. 

               Slept in                                                                                                   late to an appointment


A particular challenge of mine is driving. There’s just something so unnatural about it that doesn’t mesh well with my brain. It’s the perfect level of boring for me to lose concentration. That and poor spatial awareness leads to misguided, anxiety-ridden, disastrous parking attempts. I’m not a reckless driver. I don’t speed purposefully, and I follow the road rules. I’m just very bad at it. So, when I hit a guy’s taillight in the train station parking lot after promising myself I won’t screw up again I just feel a sinking feeling of failure. For me, shame is the sound of crunching metal. 

  • Crashed car – pole.
  • Crashed car – garage door.
  • Crashed car- another pole.
  • Hit a wheelie bin.
  • rear ended a guy. 

It’s the shame that eats at me now. When I had to get “extra spelling help” in primary school and when I crashed my car for the 5th time in a year. The moments when you’re crying a tiny bit outside of  service NSW trying to figure out if you have a licence and the guy that failed you twice is the only one there. The ADHD flavoured Not Good Enough.

That feeling comes from within, but its origins are from outside expectations of how you should be. No one else lost their licence, no one else was 45 minutes late. It’s hard to not beat yourself up over these things. 

To succeed under capitalism, you have to show up on time with clean teeth and a clear mind, not 15 minutes late spitting toothpaste froth in the gutter on the way in whilst panicking about how late you are. 

I dislike the narrative of ADHD only being a disadvantage – a shortcoming to functioning normally in society. 

Living with a tendency towards mistakes, you adapt. When expecting disaster, you eventually thrive in uncertainty. I’m now unusually calm under pressure and highly resilient to unfortunate circumstances. 

The only way around shame is self-acceptance and self-compassion. Things that are just impossibly difficult but are worth it over time. Despite my poor time management, lack of organisational skills, forgetfulness, and busy mind I know I must be kind.

The thing to remember is that your mistakes aren’t who you are, they don’t make you a bad person. Shame is a good tool in small amounts but constantly subjecting yourself to that is unproductive and just makes you feel like crap for nothing. 

So, next time I’ve forgotten about that pathology appointment I was meant to fast for I’ll try to keep kindness in the forefront of my mind. 

Nip the self-loathing in the bud, kick shame in the balls and remember how cool and capable you are!!! Life is hard and the world is mean enough, you may as well be kind. 

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