Many of us with ADHD are inherently optimistic, hopeful even. We just assume things will work out. And this is a positive thing, right up until we believe it will, without any influence from us. Here are a bunch of lies our ADHD brains come up with and also the truth of the matter.
1. “I’ll remember that.”
This is a classic one. The truth is that we really probably won’t remember whatever it is. At least not until it’s too late. Our short term memories are generally pretty poor so it’s much, much safer to write whatever it is down.
However, stress can also affect memory, so if we reduce our stress, say by not needing to remember things because they’re written down, we might find our memories get a bit better. Which comes in handy when you need to remember to write the thing down between deciding to and opening the notepad app on my phone.
2. “I’ll take care of that when I have more time.”
We, as human beings, consistently overestimate how much time we will have ‘later’. With ADHD, being challenged in estimating anything to do with time, we will accumulate a growing pile of things we’ll get around to “when I have the time”. That time will never come unless we make the time for it. This can take the form of increasing the efficiency of our day-to-day activities, designating specific time, working just 15 mins of time on the project per day.
This is also connected to the basic principle of trying the same thing expecting different results. Waiting for something other than ourselves to change, we will be waiting a long time.
3. “This will only take 10 minutes.”
Speaking of time blindness, this lie can have two facets. The first is we plan for something to take 10 minutes when it will actually take three hours. And the project is delayed, and the paper is late, and we miss an appointment. The other is when something will actually take 30 seconds, but we build it up in our minds to be 10 minutes, which is way too long, and so we procrastinate.
Eric Tivers has some stellar advice on becoming more aware and accurate when it comes to time. Check it out.
4. “This time/next time I’ll be able to do it.”
Again, this statement is missing a key element. If it went something like “This time I’ll be able to do it because I’ve hired a coach.” then it would have a chance of being true. If nothing changes, nothing changes. You have to try something new to expect something new to come of it.
And by the way, “try harder” isn’t a good enough addition to this lie.
5. “I just need to try harder.”
What did I just say? Willpower is all well and good, but if willpower alone hasn’t been enough up until now, there’s no reason to believe it will work this time. For a long time, I believed I didn’t have any willpower. This was because I didn’t have any strategies that made my willpower effective.
6. “I’m just lazy and/or stupid.”
So... I’m not certain I agree with using the word lazy at all. The dictionary definition is “unwilling to work or use energy” which doesn’t sound that terrible to me. I think a lot of people are unwilling to work, at least the jobs they were able to find, and considering the number of things being asked of each of us on this planet, same goes for using energy.
When applied to ADHD though, setting aside the specific definitions people mentally have for this word “lazy”, often we are willing to do the work, we just have no idea how to get something done, until the last minute when we get a boost of adrenaline and dopamine. We also spend so much more energy doing things that others find easy and simple that yeah, we are unwilling to use energy we don’t have on some things, like showering daily or eating healthy.
Repeat after me: “I am not lazy or stupid; my brain is different and I need different solutions to do things.”
7. “I’m imagining all of this; I don’t actually have any challenges.”
This is a lie the vast majority of those with mental health challenges will tell themselves. Others, who do not stumble where we stumble and find it hard to understand inability where they possess the innate ability, influence us to sometimes doubt our own experience.
When this lie appears, it’s time for a reality check. Would I sit on my bed, staring at the carpet, unmoving, bored out of my mind, because I can’t figure out the next step in getting dressed for the day, on purpose? No? Then I guess the only explanation is my brain doesn’t function as most brains do. Fancy that.
8. “I don’t need help.”
Buddy, pal, my dude, come on. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is an island. We all need some assistance at some time or another. When we attempt things we are not currently able to do alone, we run the risk of creating a bigger problem later on. That might mean having more invasive help forced on us later.
9. “If I stop the internal negative dialogue, I won’t do anything.”
This is a tricky one. Five out of the five people I’ve spoken to about this have told me they have some form of negative dialogue going on inside their heads that essentially threatens and yells at them to do things they don’t want to do. A colleague of mine even calls it bullying, a form of self-bullying she does to negatively motivate herself to get unpleasant things done. Most of us aren’t even aware this is happening because we have been doing it so long.
I want to tell you that you can safely stop bullying yourself and that nothing bad will happen. However, it isn’t that simple. Most people can do this and feel much better as a result. If on the other hand, someone were to stop doing everything because they stopped bullying themselves, this very likely means something other than ADHD is at play.
Depression, an Autism Spectrum Disorder, severe anxiety, or something else that is making daily activities impossible. I’d never advocate bullying as a good option for motivation and my suggestion, purely as a coach, would be to make sure someone trustworthy knows you are going to try something new so they can act as a reality check in case some different interventions are needed.
What other lies have you told yourself?