Unlocking ADHD writer Jnanee Krishnasamy examines the issue of shame and rejection and the role it plays in some of the dilemmas that adult ADHDers face in daily life. She shares insights on how we can provide support to help those with ADHD unlock their potential.
Shame is a perfectly normal human emotion. All humans feel it (except maybe sociopaths, but that is another story).
ADHD folks are all-too-familiar with shame. We tend to ruminate over our past and present in vivid detail. We feel inadequate when we remember our past failures. In addition, we would have angered and disappointed people with our failures.
When people get angry with us, it is a form of rejection.
Rejection is a deeply painful sensation to begin with. Some say that rejection is worse than death. Rejection brings about shame. ADHD folks commonly have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD), which intensifies the feeling of rejection and shame.
Our past failures may have contributed to our present state (to varying extents), and some of us may feel shameful about our current difficulties (e.g. unemployment, financial issues).
Naturally, we fret over the future. We think about all sorts of disastrous scenarios and the shame that they might bring. We think about ways to avoid failure. We think about asking others for help and support…but we hesitate. Our formal diagnosis was meant to be a tool in our arsenal to plan our future. Instead, it has become a black mark.
Why are we afraid to ask for help?
The Fear Of Appearing ‘Entitled’
Millennials are frequently accused of being ‘snowflakes’. The label refers to oversensitive, attention-seeking young people who are unable to navigate life’s problems, and feel that life owes them benefits.
The accusations are not entirely unfounded. Just as it is human nature to feel shame, it is human nature to take advantage. There are people who capitalise on social media campaigns for name, fame and money. Even in our everyday lives, we encounter colleagues who routinely go on medical leave even if they’re well.
We also encounter people who use their hardships as an excuse to be nasty to others. Whenever they make mistakes, their hardships are their go-to excuse.
A person with ADHD will need a supportive environment. This involves accommodations by their family, friends and workmates. Unfortunately, ADHD is an invisible condition and appears easy to fake. Thus, people may think that our ADHD is an excuse for entitlement. It is easy to forget that we cannot consciously control our neurotransmitter system – just like how diabetics cannot consciously control their sugar regulation systems.
It can also be embarrassing to ask others to make adjustments or put in extra effort, when they have their own workload to deal with.
Every individual and workplace has their own ‘capacity for care’. When someone’s ‘capacity for care’ is exceeded and we seek their help, it is reasonable to be referred elsewhere. Some are really unable to accommodate neurodiverse folks. Some people and places can accommodate, but do not wish to. Some people can be really unkind.
We’re hesitant to ask for help as we fear rejection. Even if our requests are met, we’re worried about simmering resentment underneath. These feelings bring us shame. If we don’t ask, we struggle anyway. People wonder why we’re struggling, express their disappointment (sometimes brutally) and then we feel ashamed.
There are also people who believe that ADHD is over-diagnosed (or even nonexistent). We know they are out there, and fear that these people will accuse us of creating a “label” to excuse our inadequacies.
We’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.
The Sweetness Of Independence
It is crucial to remember why we ask for help. We want nothing more than to be productive members of society. We work far harder than neurotypicals to achieve the same level of success as them. As ADHD folks, we are frustrated at the idea of depending on others. We crave independence and the self-fulfilment that comes with it.
It is important to realise that everyone makes mistakes, and everyone should learn from them (brain chemistry aside).
At the end of the day, no man is an island. Mutually beneficial partnerships are crucial to success. It is entirely possible to have a mutually beneficial partnership with a neurodiverse person.
An ADHD person can still have an excellent attitude and work ethic. If that person is given the right tools and the environment, they can contribute immensely to society.
One need not look further than Richard Branson (the billionaire entrepreneur) and Michael Phelps (the Olympic swimmer) – two wildly successful folks with ADHD and the tools to succeed.