I was wondering if you could help me sort something out with my friend S. My life has gone through the wringer the past 2 years, in terms of friendship dynamics turning scary and unhealthy, being assaulted/ stalked, my emotionally abusive/ homophobic parents, and the basic drama of becoming an adult. My friends have been an incredible support for me, and balance the acts of being there for me and still just hanging out and having fun.
I’ve been in therapy for these issues, and am working really hard on my anxiety and depression. I am working hard to ensure that my stalker (who has a history of violence and threatens harm to himself and others) does not threaten my physical or mental safety. I am proud of how assured I am in how to do self-care and how I am able to doubt myself less. My biggest issue has been trust issues and worrying that the people closest to me don’t believe me.
S. has been there for me, even when we were in different countries this past couple months. Now that we are back in the same place things have gotten… weird. Her new attitude is “question everything”, because she wants to be a teacher and apply that philosophy everywhere. Yet to me, her questions don’t seem to be coming from a place of wanting to know or understand, but to get me to self reflect. She has also said it is important for her to question me so I can “have a better understanding of the larger situation”, especially because I tend to “overreact”. It may sound dramatic, but I feel like I’m being interrogated a lot of the time. I don’t want a life coach that inadvertently victim blames me (which is why I go to my super lovely therapist), I want nerd out with my friend.
I told S. that I love her ability to ask good questions, because it means we have really excellent dialogues, but that sometimes just jumping into questions about my personal issues without starting with validation or support is too much for me, and she responded with “I can’t change who I am.” She also brought up my previous request for verbal affirmation, and told me it was annoying to tell me she loves me all the time.
I love her to pieces. She has been an incredible friend. But this new shift in how she communicates/ treats me is bringing up major trust issues, yet I feel like I am asking for way too much. She has also been talking a lot to my friend G. about me (something she told me, not something I am “overreacting” to), and all of a sudden G. isn’t talking to me. My immediate move has been to step back and let them initiate contact, because managing this group dynamic feels really hard on top of taking care of myself.
I don’t want to change her, but I also want to feel safe hanging out with her. Is this my anxiety/ just my problem? Or do you have any suggestions for scripts that I should use? Are there any paths of action to get my relationships with S. and G. back to mutually healthy places? I really love them and our histories together, regardless of the tensions now.
– Questioning the Questioner
You are already handling this like a boss, taking excellent care of yourself, and your expectations are not the problem.
“I told S. that I love her ability to ask good questions, because it means we have really excellent dialogues, but that sometimes just jumping into questions about my personal issues without starting with validation or support is too much for me, and she responded with “I can’t change who I am.”
You: “Friend, can you please stop doing the thing that hurts my feelings?”
You: “I don’t want a life coach, that’s what I have a therapist for. I just want you to be my friend.”
Friend: “THAT’S JUST THE WAY I AM. BTW, I am going to go talk to our other friends about you and tell them your business so that they won’t hang out with you.’
Scripts you could use with S., maybe, if you ever feel like talking to her again:
- “Why do you think your role in my life is to question my perceptions and experiences?”
- “I’m not overreacting, I’m reacting.”
- “Why are you working so hard to be right about things that aren’t really about you?”
- “What gives you the impression that I don’t understand the larger situation and need your tutelage?”
- “Did you think I was asking for advice just now? I wasn’t.”
- “Does ‘question everything’ mean browbeating me about painful experiences? Because that’s what you are doing, and it sucks.”
- “Were you always this much of an asshole?”
I think there is room in friendships to say, when someone is obviously struggling, “You seem really unhappy and off, and you aren’t behaving like yourself, is everything okay?” but I don’t think you can be friends with someone if you don’t recognize that they are the boss and experts in their own lives. You don’t get to police other people’s emotions!
Here’s what I think happened:
- S. went away and believes that she grew up a whole bunch.
- You stayed home and grew up a WHOLE bunch.
- S. thinks she is the only one who grew, and she’s trying to maintain old roles where she was the leader/boss/authority, and doing the exact opposite of what you should do to comfort someone who has been a victim of stalking and abuse.
- S. is like one of the countless “drive-by detectives” or “post facto management consultants” who gets anxious and upset when they hear about something bad happening to someone else and put all of their bad feelings on the victim to solve by answering a bizarre series of questions. Inadvertent or not, it is victim-blaming and it perpetuates the abuse that victims have suffered, and it sucks, and S. needs to knock it off, forever.
You are not asking for anything unreasonable. I think your decision to disengage from S. and G. is a wise one. If S. stays in your life, it will most likely be as a “small doses” friend, not someone you can confide in or trust. You’ve come too far and dealt with too much this year to have time for crappy friends.That’s a shitty development on top of what sounds like a really hard year, but you are doing excellently at being nice to yourself and standing up for yourself.
I’ve spent the past year struggling with moderate depression and a
lack of motivation and productivity in my graduate program. This was
exacerbated by a difficult breakup and an (unrelated) change in my
living situation. Long story short, I sought help with my school’s
mental health resources, and after many months I decided to try
medication. Depression’s gone, side effects tolerable, I’m really
happy. However, I continued to have issues with procrastination,
particularly in grad school – for example, I’ll spend a full two weeks
not doing anything and feel horribly guilty, and when I do start a
task I distract myself constantly. I’m working on some strategies in
therapy but still struggling. After some followups with my
psychiatrist she diagnosed me with adult ADHD and prescribed another
medication. ADHD is definitely not something I had ever considered as
applying to me, but having done some reading, and thinking back to
childhood, I’ve probably always had it, but managed to get by fairly
well somehow until recently.
So my issue is: I was emailing a long time friend and former roommate,
who lives in another country. We email frequently, several times a
week, and she’s been great support throughout my depression. I told
her about the ADHD and she said she was skeptical. I explained that I
have most of the symptoms and included a link to a relevant article.
She responded that she thought that that article described basically
everyone who’s not “in love or doing their dream job”, that it’ll be
nice if the meds work for me, but she’s not convinced.
I’m really hurt and angry. I’ve been practically unable to get any
work done for the past year and this diagnosis gave me intense relief
from the self-hatred that came from just thinking I was lazy and
didn’t belong in grad school. I had even expressed this to my friend,
and that is how she responded. I’ve experienced similar auditing
behaviour from the other friends I’ve told, just not as blatant- a lot
of “wow that is not what I would have guessed”, “I wouldn’t have
thought that you would have ADHD”, etc. How do I handle this? I’m
inclined to think that it is a lack of understanding of ADHD. But I’m
really hurt by my friends’ attitude that they know better than my
psychiatrist, or myself, for that matter. Advice on how to respond
would be really appreciated, because I don’t want to get snappy and
defensive with people but that’s how I feel like behaving right now.
Mental illness, brain disorders, and neurological differences that affect the brain and emotions carry such stigma that even treating an issue successfully can call down a hot wet bullshit rain from people who claim to care about you. The story you are telling your friends is basically, “I was suffering a lot, so I went to the doctor who found the reason and treated me correctly.” Why does that story need to be defended?
The following part of the answer is not ADHD-specific, because the scripts work for all kinds of situations where one might disclose a diagnosis or previously invisible disability to people in their lives.
When disclosing to someone who is generally a positive force in my life, I personally have found it helpful to translate initial “But I wouldn’t have guessed that you have _________” or “You don’t seem like someone with _________” or “You are much too young/smart/pretty/good at things to be _____________” reactions as:
“I am trying to hard to reconcile my mostly positive impression of you with the highly negative, stigmatized (perhaps scary) perception I have of people with __________. Since I am trying to resolve this cognitive dissonance in your favor, I’m going with wishful thinking and denial.”
Yep, many people react as if denying the possibility that your brain could work differently from other people’s is a compliment to you. Because that’s how scary/negative/skewed/narrow/ableist their imagination is about people who have (whatever you have).
Then you get the people who are immediate experts on your condition because of a thing they read one time, the people who want to immediately fix everything, the people who wring their hands and want you to comfort them about the issue that you are having, the diet and healthy lifestyle police who want to figure out how getting this was all your fault for not doing everything “correctly,” the blowhard who wants everyone to be so tough they don’t need medication…a rogues’ gallery of helpiness.
Once I can parse/translate their reaction as being about them and not really being about me at all, it doesn’t feel better, but it reminds me that I’m not the one making it weird by seeking health care for a health thing.
Of course it feels horrible and makes you defensive to open up about something that you probably have your own lifetime of culturally-received stigmas and fears about, and the other person derails the whole thing and erases you and your experience in favor of their perception of you or their need to be an expert. A conversation that starts as “Hey friend, here’s what’s going on with me, I’d like you to know and possibly give me support and encouragement while I deal with this new and confusing thing” turns into an argument where you feel like you’re on trial for your very existence. Not only are your friends not supporting you in dealing with a hard thing, they are making medical facts that affect your daily existence debatable and forcing you to “prove” that this is happening at all. And if you, heaven forbid, “become emotional,” or have less than a perfect grasp of every single part of the science at your fingertips to be presented on demand, in their mind you both a) lose the argument b) start to display some of the negative qualities they associate with your diagnosis. It’s a fucking perfect and insidious double-bind, where, which is it, am I not really (diagnosis), or not logical enough for you because of my (non-existent) diagnosis?
We have got to stop doing this to each other. If someone tells you about a diagnosis they have, and it takes you by surprise, maybe be quiet for a minute and let your mouth catch up with your brain. Maybe a good initial script is “Wow, thanks for telling me. How are you feeling about that? Are you comfortable telling me more about what that’s like for you?” and then you can let them take the lead from there.
In the meantime, here are some scripts I’ve found helpful in pushing back against pressure from friends and family to just not be ____________, thanks.
- “I was surprised, too, but my doctor made a good case, and so far their suggestions are working.”
- “I was skeptical at first, too, but I trust my doctor, and the meds are really helping so far/I’m looking forward to feeling better when the meds are just right/kick in.”
- “It hadn’t occurred to me, either, but once my doctor and I examined the facts it made a lot of sense.”
- “I was in a bad way for a while when I didn’t understand what was going on, so it’s a relief to have a name for it. As for the rest, my doctor and I will figure out how to proceed together.”
- “I’m glad your cousin’s wife’s pet monkey was able to beat _______ with diet, exercise, and ritual poo-flinging, but my doctor and I have it under control for now, thanks.”
- “It’s pretty new information, so I’m not 100% sure how I feel about all of it yet.”
- “I have a doctor. What I need right now from my friends is just your company, not for you to try to fix it.”
- “Until my doctor and I have figured out what is going to work best, I need to just shut down outside recommendations – I literally can’t process them right now.”
- “If you’re interested in reading more about it, I can direct you to some resources, but it sounds like we should change the subject for now.”
- “There’s a lot of stigma around people with ___________, and that’s making it more difficult for both of us to process this. Can you put that aside for now, and just see me, your friend?”
- “I’m letting you know what’s going on with me, not asking for advice or inviting a debate.”
- “Fortunately I don’t need you to believe it or understand it in order for it to be true.”
- “I found out that my brain works a different way than I thought it did, or from how yours does. Why are we arguing?”
- “Do you realize that I just told you about a hard thing I’m dealing with, and then you came back at me not to ask questions but to spew opinions and judgement all over me? Not cool.”
- “I think you meant that as a compliment, but it doesn’t feel like one. Whether I fit your imagination of _________ or not, I still have ___________.”
- “It sounds like you have a lot of opinions and feelings about this. Let’s table this discussion for another time, I’m not really in a place where I can or want to absorb all of them.”
- “I’m confused. Say my doctor and I were totally wrong about this. What are the consequences to you, exactly? Like, honestly, why do you need to be right about something that’s not your health to the point that you are browbeating me like this about it?”
You do not have to engage them or explain things or justify yourself to their satisfaction. You can call them out for making you defend your life. You can bail on conversations you don’t have the energy for, and it doesn’t mean that you’ve lost the point. As much as you can, put the problem and the weird feelings back on them to handle. Mention your doctor a lot. A lot a lot a lot.
I hope the meds work great for you and that your friends stop acting like buttheads soon.
Moderation Note: Thanks for a lively and supportive discussion. I suggest that you continue it at the forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com, which has a volunteer team of mods.
238 thoughts on “#662 and #663: “My Friend, The Skeptic.””
Ugh, sending Jedi hugs to both LWs. It’s so hard to deal with shitty life events and THEN on top of it, having to deal with friends not getting it, not wanting to get it or making that shitty life event all about their shiny new worldview/skepticism/RATIONALISM/pick ya poison.
I’m having a similar-not-identical issue at the moment with someone whom I would have once considered my closest friend, who is also my housemate. She was very hurt that I didn’t immediately tell her when I was sexually assaulted last month because “we have been friends for six years.” When the friend whom I HAD told instead (and had deputised to tell her, because I just couldn’t deal) said that I felt like I was needing space to process and figure out what happened and be confused and not entirely OK and not have anyone tell me what to feel or what to do about it, my friend’s response: “sometimes [easypeasysleazy] needs someone to be firm with her.” Once I was feeling a bit better I called her out on making something traumatic that happened to me, all about her, and things are. Awkward.
People who call themselves your friends and then don’t believe you about your own life and/or don’t think you can run your own life are gonna straaaaaain the hell outta that relationship, because when you’re going through shit your energy reserves will be depleted and you will be busy putting out the emotional fires of whatever trauma or hard thing you’re dealing with, you just don’t have the time or staying-awakeness to deal with that friend-shit on top of everything else. Or you’re gonna be so tired of being badly treated and beaten down by the trauma, mental illness, whatever that you’re gonna arch up. “You know what? This is bad enough, WITHOUT your ‘help’.”
I am so sorry you were assaulted. That’s awful. You seem to be handling it in a major bosslike manner, so keep rocking on with your bad self.
As to the not-really-friend who thinks you need someone to be firm with you, I think my response would be, “Wow, that’s exactly what my attacker said.” And then let it be ALL the awkward. But I’m not a nice person sometimes.
“As to the not-really-friend who thinks you need someone to be firm with you, I think my response would be, “Wow, that’s exactly what my attacker said.” And then let it be ALL the awkward. But I’m not a nice person sometimes.”
O.O I shouldn’t laugh at that, but I can’t help it. That is a fantastic response.
Jesus fuck, that is exactly the kind of thing I wish I had been able to say to the “friends” who were questioning my rape/defending my rapist all those years ago. Perfection.
I snorted, with a smile on my face too. Its an absolutely perfect level of snark for a comeback to a disbelieving friend.
Also, easypeasysleazy, I’m sorry you went through this. Continue to take care of your good self.
WTF! Way to be a sucky friend, that-person. eps, I agree with Drew, it sounds like you’re handling this like a badass. Way to be awesome! Sorry that you were assaulted and that your one friend sucks. I am glad your other friend is cooler and that you are awesome.
The response to the ADHD diagnosis may also be because a lot of smart people struggle with procrastination and related issues, and actually may have undiagnosed ADHD themselves — but the usual cultural narrative is that they’re just lazy, need to push themselves harder, etc, and it drives a lot of people away from seeking psychological or psychiatric help for what they perceive as their own personal failings. In short, LW’s friend may be thinking “how dare she give her problems a real name, she just has motivation problems like me” and projecting her own denial onto her friend out of self-defense (“if her problems are psychological, maybe mine are too…”) Not that LW is responsible for any of her friend’s baggage, but that might explain the response.
Person studying math with something closely resembling ADHD here: This rings true, and I’ve heard someone basically say that explicitly: “Don’t we all have a bit of ADD here”.
Thing is, I can really empathize with this because there is no solid, clean boundary between being neurotypical and having a disorder, and in that sense, they aren’t completely wrong.
So, I really like “Possibly, but for me, it’s strong enough to be a big problem without meds” as a response in that case.
Other people may have days where they slack off because they just can’t concentrate, but they didn’t develop dysthymia (as did I) because being able to manage their own life seemed like a hopeless enterprise.
And that distinction is what makes it a disorder.
THIS! Which, lets be clear, does not in any way give those people the right to talk to the LW that way, nor make the LW in any way obligated to put up with it, but personally I find that thinking about it this way makes it easier not to take it personally.
And I don’t know the gender of OP#2, but I’ve found that it seems to be really hard to diagnose girls with ADHD. My daughter has it, and spent 2 years being treated for bipolar disorder instead because her doctor was very reluctant to say it was ADHD. She started a medication last year (after getting a new doctor) and everyone (family, friends, teachers) noticed an *immediate* difference. She even said herself “Wow, now I know what concentration feels like!”
So there were a lot of expressions of surprise and disbelief when the diagnosis got mentioned.
Yes! I’ve heard from a dear friend who was also diagnosed with ADHD while in grad school about this, i.e., that ADHD manifests differently in many women (and here’s an article on the subject, including a discussion of its being diagnosed later in life: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/adhd-is-different-for-women/381158/). A lot of medical testing and diagnosis still centers on cis-gendered men’s experience so that, even as media focuses (marginally & not necessarily benignly) more on mental health issues, that focus isn’t generalizable in the broadest sense. Of course, there is no one, all-inclusive picture of what ADHD looks like, even for cis-gendered men.
And I’m so sorry, LW, that other people are imposing their ideas about what ADHD looks like when responding to you. Even if it’s well-intentioned, it’s still no good. I think the Captain’s scripts are great for stopping those speculative trains in their tracks. Depending on the communities you might be addressing, it may or may not help to call in the science on the subject. I think there are real plusses and minuses to that method–one big minus being “why the H do you think you know this better than me in consultation with a doctor??!!?!?”–but for some it can be a quick and effective way of shutting down hurtful speculation.
Wow. Ummm… A lot of those symptoms cover me. I desperately want to be tidy, but I seriously struggle to keep even small spaces tidy. I lose things regularly. The biggest thing for me is the sense of overwhelmingness. I keep forgetting important things I should be doing. While I have a good memory for a lot of things, I have a really poor memory for other things. I’m surprised I’m still managing, with a toddler at home!
I think you’re exactly right. That is mostly how I have interpreted many of the responses I’ve gotten. Most of the responses were from people I know in school, who also struggle a lot with motivation issues. Which, totally is understandable in my view. It just got to a point where I was feeling really kicked-whilst-down. In fact, just this morning I opened up to a fellow grad student, and immediately she shook her head and made a face and said “I don’t think you do have ADHD” and made some noises about American doctors overdiagnosing/oversubscribing or something. I patiently explained that it all makes sense for me and I’m really relieved and happy to have an explanation for my brain.
And what makes it harder, is exactly as you say – many of these people possibly have attention issues of their own, and could even have undiagnosed ADHD. So I’m trying to be open about it as a way of gently telling people that “Hey this is a thing and lots of people have it and they don’t even know for years and years!” and also “While we all exhibit behaviours like this sometimes, in some people it’s serious enough to be chronic and debilitating, and there are ways to address this”.
Teleopsis, I’m sorry your friends are reacting that way. Reminds me of when I was more or less bedridden with severe depression and several people said things like “but you’re not the type for depression!” Well, fuck you, it seems that I am!
I’m glad you’re open about it, even though it’s hard, and I hope getting a proper diagnosis and treatment will make your life better.
I think you see a similar thing with anxiety. Since everyone has anxiety and some anxiety is helpful certain people cannot understand why others need treatment for it. In both cases it follows the “this is something that is getting in the way of my life and I can’t change it through conventional method” sort of prognosis. Most people who understand, either have a similar experience or are very empathetic. I think ADD/ADHD both suffer because of how Ritalin is known in popular culture; either something college kids use recreationally and being over-prescribed to kids. That baggage is really hard to shake!
I think you’re totally right about the extra stigma related to people abusing ADHD meds. When people hem and haw about how ritalin is abused as an upper, I tell them that the first time I took it I fell asleep in class. That’s usually enough to make people realize that the way medication works thereputically is very different from how it works recreationally.
Taking anything for mental health is so misunderstood by the general public. The amount of people worried that medication is going to completely change their personality or drain creativity or make them into a zombie, really limits the amount of help they will ask for. They assume that docs will immediately medicate them and not listen. It took me a long time to find a good balance in my medications, but I’m so thankful for it. I of course know that a lot of the work I did was important too, but it’s like it gave me the chance to do that work, instead of being bogged down underneath depression/anxiety!
Truth. I had a hard time taking *my own* anxiety seriously until my first panic attack, and I had even been in therapy for a couple of years at that point.
So many mental health conditions are essentially extremes of normative human behavior or emotions (sadness, anxiety, attention, even some ASD characteristics). It can be hard to understand that there’s a line where it’s no longer “normal”, and that line isn’t universal.
Yes, this so much! A number of years ago, I wanted to get tested for ADHD because I’ve always had some issues with attention. Almost everyone I told doubted me for the reasons you describe, and I didn’t end up pursuing it (I was also in high school, with parents who weren’t interested in getting me tested because in their view, it wouldn’t change anything – I was already performing well in school). Since I’ve now made it through undergrad and my first semester of grad school without any significant hitches, it’s possibly that my naysayers were right – but I wish that some of my family and friends had more respect for it as a diagnosis. I sometimes find myself having to defend ADHD as a real condition, or as something that for some people deserves medication.
S can’t change how she is… except when she chose to change to someone who “questions everything”. Ugh.
The friends here are NOT THERAPISTS and NOT IN THERAPEUTIC RELATIONSHIPS and therefore should NOT DO THERAPY, but, even if they wanted to they’re screwing the pooch. We therapists know that the real work happens in the context of a supportive relationship with mutually agreed-upon goals. If you don’t have that relationship, you are not going to accomplish a goddamn thing and may even do harm.
(And a tiny wave to #663. I get that reaction a lot too, and I agree about trying to remember that it’s a twisted sort of compliment. I tend to explain my ADHD to the dubious as, “I was a girl, it was the nineties, and I wasn’t binging off the walls, so nobody picked up on it when I was a kid.”)
Yeah, “funny” how she can’t change who she is, and yet she purports to question everything.
Yeah. Thinking Friend might want to spend some time questioning why she feels compelled to question other peoples’ lives in ways that those people have made clear are unwelcome and hurtful.
Jealousy, sadness. Fear that her own issues won’t be sorted out. Unhappiness and difficulty being accepting that someone listened and cared about LW when Thinking Friend has tried for years to have someone listen/hear. Loneliness. Frustration. Oh, I dunno…Milions of reasons why someone might do this kind of thing, why they might find someone else’s increased comfort a difficult mirror to their own discomfort or insecurities. Ask me how I know. *sigh*
This x 1,000,000. Aside from not being effective as a means of helping someone learn, as a counsellor, it is also horribly unethical, as she is actually doing harm to you, and ignoring your requests to stop.
Also, what the hell type of teacher is she trying to be? I can’t think of many places where people look for patronising asses to teach them.
I think, unfortunately, she thinks of herself as superior to you, which has only come out now, since, as CA says, you’ve grown a whole lot, and she can’t accept that. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do, personally to change this; you’ve already asked bluntly for it to stop.
Please remember: you don’t need to answer a single question put to you by her. It’s incredibly uncomfortable leaving a silence like that (believe me, I know), but as CA says, let it be awkward. You’re not the one making it awkward, you’re just looking after yourself by not answering intrusive, painful questions which your friend has no right to ask.
“I can’t think of many places where people look for patronising asses to teach them.”
Really? I sure as hell can.
I agree 100% with the rest of your comment though 🙂
“I can’t think of many places where people look for patronising asses to teach them.”
It’s called law school.
That seems unnecessary. Some of us have very good friends who teach law when they’re not defending the indigent. But that’s less interesting that cheap shots, I guess.
LOL, you know it. I had a professor in law school who: a) drove an antique Bentley to school every day; b) wore a little bow tie; c) was a libertarian; d) had divorced his wife to marry a student. Yucko.
As a law grad, I can confirm that both MellifluousDissent and Don Whiteside are correct: I had quite a few profs that would fit into one of those two categories, broadly speaking. I don’t think anyone is saying that law profs are all the same!
I’m glomming on to the “she thinks of herself as superior to you,” part. I think this is at the root of it. I had a friend, who was a good and very supportive friend while I was leaving an abusive relationship. Opinionated and bossy as hell, but I needed that in the situation. Only once I was out and safe, she still wanted to tell me how to run my life, always found something to argue about any time I saw her, and every. single. time. would find a boundary to violate. She was like a dog peeing on my territory. She’d even say, “I know you told me you don’t want me to bring this up, but. . . .” It took me several years to extricate myself, hoping she would change, and feeling guilty because she had been a good friend before. You’ve done a lot of hard work, and you deserve to prioritize yourself, your health, your happiness, your friendships, without wasting energy on a soul-sucking relationship with someone who doesn’t actually love you and seems to want to sabotage you to keep you needy. Ugh.
“I know you told me you don’t want me to bring this up, but. . . .”
I haaaate when people do this. Hate it. Hate. It. Because it’s so utterly disrespectful and dismissive.
My very favorite response to this I learned in high school, and applied it as a broken record: “Then don’t.”.
“I know you don’t want to talk about–”
“Then don’t bring it up.”
(I have also found I don’t care. (Delivered in your best Regina George voice) to be a really useful shutdown in cases where I feel backed into a corner, along with I really don’t want to hear it.)
I had a friendship which, whilst nothing like LW’s with her friend, did fall apart when I grew up a bit. In the end I couldn’t deal with her attention seeking ways, particularly the way she would put me down to make herself seem better. (Not to mention how she kept trying to sleep with my boyfriends to prove she was more attractive than me.)
In the end I told her that I had outgrown the friendship and that I thought we should stop being friends. Our mutual friends declared that I was being melodramatic and we would be bestest friends again within 3 months. That was nearly 12 years ago now. I have never looked back because for me, there was nothing positive in the friendship. It is something I have always tried to tell my sister too. It is okay to walk away from a relationship of any type if it is having a negative effect on you.
My mantra is “The only person whose company you are guaranteed to have for the rest of your life is your own. You have to look after yourself first.”
I had a friendship of 12+ years fall apart because I decided that I would not take the crap being shoveled at me by friend’s s.o. For a while everyone was telling me that I should just buck up and take it, that such a long friendship deserved my effort (nothing said about friend’s effort… hmmm….) but the s.o.’s behaviour became worse over time to me (I’m a little proud that I received the “cut direct” from them at a convention… who even does that anymore!?). And unfortunately friend was on the side of their s.o., so it was an unredeemable loss.
It’s been 2 years now and I still feel nothing but relief (and a little annoyance at friend) that I don’t have to deal with the toxicity of that individual in my life. I didn’t realize my shoulders were up around my ears at every interaction until I was able to relax.
I totally agree. I’d also add it’s fine to downgrade friends when they maybe haven’t done something unforgivable but have proven that they can’t be trusted in the inner circle any more. I have a formerly dear friend who I realized always wanted to call the shots; for example, she would poo-poo my suggestions for dinner in favor of a place she wanted because it was ‘more healthful’ and then proceeded to eat an entire bottle of the restaurant’s high end version of nutella. Granted, I have no issue with nutella (god forbid!) but I over time I found my suggestions and opinions weren’t ever getting air time. I still really like her, but we don’t hang out very much any more and when we do it tends to be more things like going to the movies.
I second the “you don’t need to answer questions” advice. I’ve found that not-so-painful questions that go in that direction can also be worth not answering. It may seem harsh, in that it’s a negative reaction to a question that doesn’t seem bad, but for some people, getting an answer to the first question on the subject makes them feel like they’re allowed to keep probing and probing like it’s an oral defense, and the early answers give them material for more questions and judgmental comments.
THIS! Seriously, with some people you just have to declare entire broad topics off-limits in all ways, shapes, and forms. It feels super weird but I promise it’s worth it.
I’ve learned through painful experience that I cannot have even the most basic, innocent seeming discussions about my health or weight with my mother; she takes any type of discussion on those subjects as license to question and criticize me over my choices.
“S can’t change how she is… except when she chose to change to someone who ‘questions everything’. Ugh.”
Indeed. In your shoes, dear LW, when she says “I can’t change who I am,” I might say, “It’s interesting to me that you say that. It seems to me that you’ve changed a lot recently.”
And S can’t change who she is, but letter writer is supposed to change based on S’s skilful questioning? No thank you.
Ha, your last paragraph! That with “not binging off the walls” changed to something like “actually talking to people” is my explanation for why I only got diagnosed with AS as an adult.
And +1 to everything else you said.
Yeah, my first thought when S said that was: “Are you sure, S? Have you tried? What is your evidence that people cannot change themselves? Have you examined the evidence to the contrary? Is this an assumption that perhaps ought to be questioned?”
LW#2, I’m also in grad school and have low-grade anxiety, also identified by a therapist. Here are some scripts I use when people say “It’s not mental illness, it’s just grad school”:
“Grad school is really hard, it’s true, which is why it was important to me to get professional help.”
“My therapist/doctor told me that this is a very common diagnosis for grad students.” [if true – I know less about ADHD than anxiety.]
“Grad school is definitely part of the challenge I’m facing right now. This diagnosis has helped me identify a different but related challenge.”
“Many graduate students have mental illness, but only some of them get help. That help improves their studies.” [This is statistically true on my campus, at least — students who go through counseling services are more likely to graduate successfully.]
I’m sorry that you’re facing this criticism from your friends. I wish you the best in your studies.
(Tangential note: I found it VERY helpful to make friends with other grad students who also have mental illness. They’ve become a really strong source of support, positivity, and advice for me.)
I love how people treat “grad school induces things that sound like mental illness symptoms” as a reason not to get treatment, and not an indictment against grad school.
I read a piece a while ago in the Cambridge student newspaper, arguing against people who’d suggested that Cambridge should have reading week, like many other schools. The thrust of their thinking seemed to be that taking breaks to “relax” and “reduce stress” was for LESSER people, not those destined for greatness, and the world demanded people who could handle that sort of fast pace anyway. The idea that people might do even better if they were properly rested never seemed to cross the author’s mind.
I’m a current student at Cambridge, it’s an ongoing argument that the Students Union has decided to get behind. The place is toxic for mental health. The idea seems to be to push you until you have a breakdown and then recover in time to do it all over again the next year. Not sure where I stand on the whole reading week, it’s a nice idea but it would just be used to give us more work. I think they need to find a way to make the environment less intense and stop pushing people to breaking point rather than just give them more recovery time once they’ve already started to suffer.
I’m constantly having to explain to other medical students that actually I’m not just lazy, I’m missing lectures because depression makes it hard to get out of bed. The amount of them that immediately ask if I’ve tried x,y & z is astounding. There is a certain amount of curiosity as medics but a lot of it seems to be just trying to deny that I can have a mental illness AND be part of their cohort. Because obviously if I was ill they could tell all the time and it wouldn’t be that subtle?
*hissing, backing into corner, back fur up*
I wrote an article about how the environment of my alma mater created an unnecessarily stressful environment that had long-lasting effects on my mental health, and I got a whole slew of comments about how YOU KNEW THAT WHEN YOU AGREED TO GO THERE and YOU COULD HAVE SWITCHED SCHOOLS and CLEARLY YOU ARE JUST NOT MEANT FOR A REALLY TOUGH SCHOOL and STOP WHINING. One, no I didn’t know it would be that bad, two, I didn’t know I had a latent mental illness when I graduated high school, three, so you’re saying that only healthy people should be allowed to have that kind of opportunity?, and four, because clearly leaving a school that you worked for four years to be good enough to be accepted to is totally not a loaded decision at all, amirite?
(I get a nasty amount of pleasure from the fact that most of the people I know who actually went to that school or similar institutions who read the article more or less all responded with. . . “Yeah. I might not have phrased it like that, but. . yeah.”)
Good god, reading all these comments makes me so glad my uni is like, so chill. I’ve got so much free time (yet I learn a lot, it’s not like I just don’t do anything) and the stress I’m in right now regarding papers is totally my own fault, not because there are unreasonable demands. Jedi hugs to all of you who have such stressful experiences! 😦
This kind of attitude is deeply dismaying to me, because it’s firmly entrenched in the medical school community– and it leads to medical students and residents trying to keep (and expected to keep) superhuman hours. It leads to errors (understandable human errors!) that kill people.
The opposite is the aviation industry– there are strong protections to try to insure that pilots are well-rested and not expected to perform grueling feats of endurance while flying. Accidents still happen, but statistically they are very rare. Flying is safer than ever today.
Doctors aren’t setting out to hurt people (quite the opposite), but that crab-bucket, we-did-it-so-you-have-to-too mentality is nothing but poison.
This sounds a lot like my experiences. I’d had mental health problems in the past so I even made a plan with my then psychotherapist when I was preparing to move on to postgrad studies at Oxford, but still totally underestimated how awful it was going to be, and found less support than I needed (lots of “it takes time to adjust, I’m sure you’ll be fine in a few months” including from a psychiatrist – guess what, I wasn’t fine in a few months!). I dropped out. Turns out that actually people I knew did have an idea of how awful it was going to be, but didn’t tell me!
Also it varies by department a lot – one of my friends there changed programme, to something related but organised by a different department, and she said it was astonishing how, even with covering tough material, there was just so much more support. It doesn’t have to be this way!
To the LWs and commenters with similar situations, huge jedi hugs and I hope the Captain’s scripts help.
For some reason I am not surprised.
(I did a one-year Master’s degree at Cambridge and “driving students into nervous breakdowns is a feature, not a bug, the good ones will cope!” was basically the general impression I left with. I also nearly ended up there for undergrad and when I was there again later learned that the oops-I-have-an-undiagnosed-disability-and-no-idea-how-to-deal issue that made me bomb the second half of first year, which meant I had to resit a bunch of exams and take a course extra the next year to make up? If I’d been at Cambridge, I might have failed out of uni at that point.)
This article might help if you are at Cambridge or Oxford in the UK, or any other similar high-pressure university: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/oct/06/cambridge-university-student-depression-eating-disorders
As a mental health professional I have this deeply-seated hatred for the UK school system, and Cambridge and Oxford are just the toxic stars on top of the toxic tree. One of my best friends went to Cambridge and the things the place did to her make me want to burn down the whole goddamn university.
Even if grad school causes ADHD-like symptoms in people who don’t have ADHD, don’t those symptoms need treatment? A lot of the behaviors related to procrastination and poor time management are related to other clinical issues like anxiety and depression, but even in otherwise healthy people, procrastination is tied to beliefs and behaviors that can be changed in therapy. A good counselor can help with both study skills and analyzing obstacles, like fear of failure or difficulty self-regulating.
I’m going to grad school this fall and am really nervous because I didn’t manage my time well in undergrad, with disastrous consequences. I spend a lot of time reading and listening to podcasts about procrastination and study habits and there’s so much to learn about emotions and self-regulation. Healthy people could benefit from therapy techniques and reduced stigma too.
Um. . . if you don’t mind sharing where to find some of those materials. . . it would be deeply appreciated by some of us. . .
Sure! I’ve mostly been catching up on the Procrastination Research Group’s iProcrastinate podcast and its recommended reading/research at http://www.procrastination.ca. Most of the podcasts are interviews with researchers/authors in the field, and each episode has corresponding notes with links to readings and publications like “The Procrastinator’s Digest,” “Commit to Win,” and “The Power of Habit.” When I get home from work I can check my bookmarks for more.
This is a great site too! http://www.additudemag.com/webinars/
Some data confirming what we already know: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/mental-health-issues-among-graduate-students
This is a great site too! http://www.additudemag.com/webinars/
This. OMG, This.
(Thankfully, MIT is starting to talk about this, for undergrads at least.)
They’re talking, yes, but while there are a lot more services available to undergrads, I’m not sure the environment that drives the need for those services has changed much. I went into my misgivings about that particular institution in the article I mentioned above — it’s up on xoJane.
(My experience is about five years old at this point, so grain of salt/block of salt.)
Good for you for stating things so clearly! “Maybe it IS just grad school. Even if that’s true, nothing I’m doing right now will get in the way of that…and if there IS something wrong, it may help. Thanks for your concern; my doctor and I have got this one.”
The ‘this stress is normal’ script drives me crazy! I saw a grad student recently who told me she had once mentioned anxiety to a tutor when she was an undergrad and gotten that response. Surprisingly enough, by the time she reached grad school, her anxiety was getting seriously out of control. I wanted to cry when I realised how many years had been wasted when she could have been getting the support she needed.
It can definitely be hard to distinguish between ‘normal’ stress from a stressful situation and stress which has gone beyond that. And as a teacher, it’s hard for me to make that call in my students. Which is why I don’t try to. My line is if it is affecting your life then it’s worth getting help, and I’d always rather point someone towards a counsellor than tell them to get on with things alone. The worst thing that can happen as a result of that is that a student with ‘normal’ stress will have one session with a counsellor who will put their anxieties in perspective so they feel better.
As a tutor, I’ve packed many a grade twelve student off to university with “always do your reading before class, and if you are starting to feel bad or stressed or very very sad, GO TO THE COUNSELLOR, even if you think you’re no worse off than anyone else or it’s no big deal, as that is why they are there”.
I went to a competitive grad school after two years of a soul-sucking job, with no break in between for self-care. There definitely seemed to be an assumption (especially during our first year, which was spent abroad) that you are a grownup now and this program is serious business and therefore this institution does not need to provide you any kind of emotional support. (Which put it one step down from my soul-sucking job, which at least had a damn EAP!) In place of a decent student support staff member, we had a career services director whose idea of helpful was to tell me, about four weeks into the two-year program, that if I didn’t already know exactly what job I wanted at exactly which organization after I graduated, I probably didn’t belong there with all the other brilliant shining stars and should consider just going home. I do not recall any kind of mental health services being available on campus either there or at our US campus (which was a small satellite campus in a city 45 minutes away from the main campus). But we needed them. Badly. After I graduated, I jumped right into a soul-sucking internship and from there to soul-sucking job No. 2. Six months out of school, I broke down. It took two years of therapy to feel like a human being again.
I got my feet back under me, have a close network of friends from my time in school, and don’t regret it looking back, but typing all that out made me at just how little support we got. I once burst into tears in my Spanish professor’s office ahead of a speaking examination because I unwittingly broke a pre-test rule, and I still remember her and the program director gaping at me and then her shaking her head and sadly musing on how the students “are all just so overwhelmed.”
Agree, btw, with Muffin’s comment that fellow grad students who have dealt or are dealing w/mental illness can be so supportive. I cemented at least two good and ongoing friendships with classmates for this exact reason.
“It’s not mental illness, it’s just grad school”
I said that about myself for an entire semester, and it turned out to be a B12 deficiency, one symptom of which is depression. Don’t listen to those “It’s just grad school” people, even when you are one of them.
I really wish I’d had these back when my mother was so very invested in not having a disabled daughter.
They’re also a great reminder that I can have boundaries, and am not required to be Educational Dog and Cripple Show 24/7/365. You are awesome, Cap.
However, I continued to have issues with procrastination, particularly in grad school – for example, I’ll spend a full two weeks
not doing anything and feel horribly guilty, and when I do start a task I distract myself constantly. I’m working on some strategies in
therapy but still struggling. After some followups with my psychiatrist she diagnosed me with adult ADHD and prescribed another
medication. ADHD is definitely not something I had ever considered as applying to me, but having done some reading, and thinking back to childhood, I’ve probably always had it, but managed to get by fairly well somehow until recently.
Um so, I just read this and felt like I could’ve written it myself. Then I did some googling (because I’m avoiding writing a brief and because once I’ve thought of something I can’t just file it away for later I have to investigate NOW) and well. Every page I looked at seemed to give me the same ‘your responses indicate you should seek professional advice’ result. And now I’m writing myself a script to take to my counsellor in a couple of weeks so I can’t file this afternoon of self-analysis as ‘too complicated to follow up on’.
So if anyone else has gone through something like this ‘holy sheet, I’ve never considered that but wow that really speaks to me’ experience, I’d welcome any comments. How did you avoid the temptation to think that you’re just trying to medicalise your own laziness/disorganisation? Particularly when at the surface level you deal with it okay, it just feels so much harder than surely it is supposed to be?
LWs – apologies for intruding on your thread. Please know that I read your letters and was blown away at just how well developed and sensible your existing approaches are. Please keep on with your awesome selves, you are doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.
I can’t speak to “holy sheet, I’ve never considered that but wow that really speaks to me” experience since I was diagnosed with ADHD as a small child, but I can speak from the perspective as somebody with adult ADHD.
The temptation to think that you’re just trying to medicate your own laziness and disorganization is indeed quite strong, but the key to remember is that it’s not laziness. A LOT of people (myself included) who had/have ADHD often are really self-deprecating about it; it comes from years of people telling us we’re lazy when we’re trying our hardest. It comes from years of being accused of not putting in enough effort when we can’t possibly be trying any harder. Any psychiatrist worth their salt will tell you that it is not laziness. The especially good ones will help you work through those feelings of inadequacy, even if it’s not easy.
I also can’t speak for medication (since I’m not currently on any), but another thing any good psychiatrist will do is help you develop coping strategies, regardless of whether or not he gives you a prescription. It’s not about working harder, it’s about working smarter. The ADHD brain is still hella equipped to handle stuff, it just has to do it in a different way. Your psychiatrist should help you find a way that works for you.
If the “but I’m just lazy and I made up this condition to excuse my laziness” feelings get too strong (and they may, because society is still really shitty about handling ADHD), I recommend seeing if you can find a support group or other person with ADHD that you can talk to. It can be incredibly alleviating to share your experiences, and it’s a good way to remind each other that you are, in fact, a great and awesome person and you’re also not alone in your struggle.
At any rate, I greatly encourage you to get an appointment with your counselor as soon as you’re able. Worst case scenario, he says that he doesn’t think it’s the case, and that’s cool. If it turns out it is the case, meeting with somebody is the first step at working towards a solution.
I don’t have ADHA, but I have Major Depressive Disorder which makes it difficult (at times impossible) for me to concentrate on tasks, even stuff like reading. The laziness thing? SO hard to grapple with. Even knowing that I’m sick, it’s a symptom, it’s normal for me to be unable to do things, I still wrestle with feeling lazy and useless all the time. Having a therapist or support group to talk you through stuff is critical.
Somebody with ADD once described it to me as “I can put all kinds of neatly organized thoughts into my brain, just like anybody else, but then my damn brain ups and dumps out all my file drawers.”
OP #2, my ADHD epiphany came after I ended my PhD struggle — where I was unable to write anything for 2 years, a 3-month deadline yielded a 160-page master’s thesis, and I am so happy to hear that you’re getting help before you reach that point (I suspect that oh-so-many people with undiagnosed ADHD never do). I intend to return so that I can address the both OP’s letters (both of which were awesome; you guys are going to do great), but I have to admit that I may get distracted and forget.
Saffie, I will think about your question, I think it’s a good one. I wanted to suggest a couple of books for any women who might be trying on the idea that [procrastination/difficulties with organization/compulsive interruption of others/getting lost within the details while also sensing a big picture nobody else sees/pain and misery with writing which — eventually — turns out brilliantly] might have something to do with ADHD: Sari Solden’s Women With Attention Deficit Disorder is a must-read for all women with ADHD or who suspect they might have it, and it is the ultimate “OMG, that’s ME!” experience for women with primarily Inattentive-type ADHD. Something that struck me in this book was her explanation that women with strong home support structures often aren’t “symptomatic” until they’re adults, living on their own, possibly with partners and children. I also found Understanding Girls with AD/HD by Nadeau, et al. very helpful in looking back at my childhood and recognizing signs of ADHD as it shows up in girls; this book has more description of hyperactivity than the Solden book. (Some things I learned: estrogen is a major culprit, so it often shows up around age 8-10, in prepuberty; chattering is a form of hyperactivity, so even though I was completely sedentary and low-energy, the sudden flipped switch of talk-talk-talking in 6th grade turns out to be a symptom.)
Thank you for the recommendations! I’ll check them out.
I didn’t tackle post-grad, but my entire year long honours thesis was written in the two weeks before the due date and yep, nobody ever called me on my miserable procrastination because the end result was relatively high quality.
Whoops, got you and OP2 mixed up.
Solden talks about the discovery process, and about the fact that it usually *is* a process, from initial recognition to embracing of “I have ADHD.” This is true for me. I have danced around ADHD recognition for years. My stepchild has struggled with it while remaining undiagnosed, and something I read while researching possible explanations for his difficulties really resonated with me (to wit, folks with inattentive ADHD store info all over their head, in unexpected places; because of this, they see connections others don’t; because of this, linear writing is excruciating; and because of this, when they do write, their work is usually worthwhile and interesting). Despite that, everything I “knew” about ADHD clearly had nothing to do with me, so I set it aside, with just that tiny seed germinating inside me. Recently, when child was assessed and convincingly diagnosed, some of the results & explanations explained SO MUCH about my school experiences, and I said “hey, maybe I have ADHD?” It was intense and exciting, but there was still a large part of me that said “naaaah, you just don’t know how to organize stuff or ideas, and you’re a lazy procrastinator.” The book about ADHD in girls helped lay groundwork for proving ADHD in my youth. And then…then. Sigh. The women & ADHD book. I picked it up, and couldn’t put it down. I lost the other book I’d checked out from the library at the same time (organizing for ADHD people), and just generally walked around in a fog. This book was describing my experiences and my innermost thoughts. It was describing me. And, in fact, this took some of my therapies (EMDR, bodywork) to a whole new level, as I was able to start forgiving myself for not living up to my (and others’) expectations and to show sympathy for the struggles of my younger selves as I attempted to navigate this world with my different wiring. Eventually, this led me to start thinking, “Hey, what if I were to make changes in my life such that my ADHD is more than a handicap? What are the advantages my wiring gives me, and can I pursue a career in something which puts those differences center stage?” (Example 1: I see things others don’t, I make connections and see possibilities others don’t. This can be demoralizing when everybody around me thinks I’m tilting at windmills. But, it makes me well-suited to be a therapist, just for example. Example 2: My nervous system is super-sensitive; I feel pain intensely, I feel everything intensely. This has led to disability and years of physical therapy, as well as frustration and dismissal of my pains on the part of family and friends. But it also means that my hands are super-sensitive, and I have a deep awareness of how things inside the body work; to reclaim this aspect of my wiring, perhaps I could be a kickass bodyworker.)
Wow, this became an essay, sorry. Saffie, another thing Solden talks about is those negative messages that we internalized: that we’re lazy, unmotivated, messy, etc. I think that section of her book could be helpful in answering the little voices that pipe up saying, “you don’t get to claim a medical problem when you’re just a moral failure.”
What in interesting comment, ttwig, please don’t apologise for it being an essay!
(While I do sometimes procrastinate – I’m doing it right now, dammit – the other symptoms you and others are describing don’t really apply to me since I’m generally organised and motivated. But I’m wondering if this couldn’t be something my sister would recognise – she’s been prone to many things I see people talk about here since she was a child and is struggling especially hard right now. I’ll see if I can talk to her about it so thanks for all the awesome comments!)
It’s nice to see another therapist out there who has been diagnosed with ADHD! Sometimes I feel like the only one, but as you said it really becomes an advantage when making mental connections and understanding how a mental health diagnosis can be “invisible” and still affect your daily life.
A book that I found helpful, and that my neurotypical mother also found helpful, was You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy? by Kate Kelly, Peggy Ramundo, and Edward Halowell, M.D. The descriptions of how ADHD symptoms can manifest differently for different people helped me normalize my experience and feel less like a failure. For my mother it helped her understand the reasons behind some of my quirks and less like I was being disabled AT her.
OP #2 – I was diagnosed when I was 7-years-old, more than 20 years ago, and I still get people disagreeing with my diagnosis. Most recently my primary care doctor told me that because I was calm in the office she didn’t think I had ADHD, I’m “just a perfectionist.” I told her I’d rather have a psychiatrist’s opinion. There will always be people who say things like “you’re too successful to be ADHD!” or “I think you’re exaggerating.” Possible responses include:
“I wasn’t asking you, I was telling you.”
“I’ll take the trained professional’s opinion.”
& “People with mental health diagnoses are capable of being successful.” (discrimination much?)
Whoa, therapist with ADHD party. The only time it was ever addressed in grad school was someone asking, “How do you plan to maintain focus for a whole 50-minute session?” and me panicking and trying to explain hyperfocus. >.> I have some resources to look up, apparently.
(It’s driving me nuts in my current job search, since I’m not a full psychologist yet and all the jobs I’m finding are for employment counselling/social work type jobs, with lots of paperwork and phone calls and tight deadlines, and I just know I can’t do that. I need the support structure of other people to help me with my admin work. It feels overwhelming and discouraging.)
I’ve always kind of suspected I could be an ADHD-type person but since I’m already doing treatment for anxiety I haven’t worried about it that much. I never knew about the getting lost in the details while seeing the big picture that seems less obvious to others thing. I am completely like that
You know, I just started medication for my ADHD a few months ago, and so far, it’s working well. One of the most surprising things has been that my mood is better; specifically, I’m less anxious. I never realized how anxious I was until I wasn’t anxious anymore. The medication basically lets me stop fighting with myself, and it turns out that all that fighting and self-loathing was producing a lot of tension and anxiety. Who knew, right? You might talk to your therapist about it.
You know, I have heard this from more than a few people, now. It’s so interesting (and maybe a little infuriating) that people believe that psychostimulants will automatically make people more anxious, so if you have issues with anxiety you shouldn’t take them, but it seems to often have the opposite effect in people with ADHD, probably because it allows you to focus?
Very interesting, part of my anxiety is what you described too. I likely will bring it up. Thanks for sharing your experience.
The medication made a big deal to me not just in itself, but because it made it so very sparkling clear that something biological was going on. The difference between days when I remember to take my medication and days when I don’t are so stark in terms of what I can do that I have to acknowledge that inability, or lessened ability. If I’ve taken my medication then I can look at a dish, think, “I should take that to the kitchen,” then pick up the dish and take it to the kitchen. I might even then do the dishes! If I haven’t, then I simply can’t connect the thought to the action, and nothing gets done. (So in a time like this where I have a major depressive episode and bad functioning despite my meds, people ask what they can do and I say, “Please do my dishes.” My mom comes by once or twice a week and washes them for me. I’m still sometimes humiliated that I can’t do something so basic, and so triumphant every time I remember to do it myself, which is twice in the last six weeks.)
I hope your counsellor can give you some good tips on what to do with your suspicion. A lot of counsellors aren’t qualified to diagnose and would have to bump a client up to something like a psychologist or psychiatrist, but it depends on where you are.
The dishes thing! Omg, so much recognition! (And we even have a machine to do our dishes for us!) Our that stray sock not getting thrown in the hamper.
I should probably make an appointment with some kind of mental health professional.
Over at The Toast they have the ‘shudder of recognition’ tag and I am getting that ALL OVER this post.
Me too! I’m trying to figure out the first step to take to get evaluated and see if I have ADHD. So many comments here have resonated with me!
omg the dishes… I installed a dishwasher, and yet the piles of dishes on the counter are such that I have to run it twice in a row to clear them when I’m finally able to tackle the task! (and let’s not even discuss laundry at all!)
Thank you so much for this. It’s like you’re repeating my brain processes back to me and that the meds make a noticeable difference for you is giving me a lot of hope.
(I feel you on the dishes pride. I don’t even need to be able to do the dishes regularly – I’d settle for being able to make the connection between ‘all my clothes are dirty and I have work in the morning’ and ‘pick them up and put them in the washing machine’.)
My counsellor is a psychologist, so she can’t prescribe drugs, but she stays in touch with my GP so between the two of them hopefully they can figure something out, if that’s what it turns out is going on.
. . . is it a thing with ADD or ADHD to be able to see all the tasks, but to not be able to put them in an order?
(Is it bad to think, “hmm, I have always assumed my debilitating problems with focus/procrastination had a different cause, but maybe it is worth looking into other things?”)
Oh my gosh yes. Even if it’s only two tasks. “I have to do two things, but I don’t know which to do first, so I’ll sit here in a paralyzed stasis until one or the other becomes terribly urgent!”
I am literally sitting in front of my work computer with two things that have to be done in front of me, and they are both super important and both need to be done immediately, and as always, my ability to figure out what to do is basically zero.
Or the fun of actually starting a task, only to come upon another task so you stark doing that,and then a third task so you switch to that, until it’s four hours later and you have 20% of five things done instead of one thing done 100%?
I read a cool short story years ago about a family whose house burned down, and they were staying with neighbours. One of them had grabbed the dirty clothes basket on the way out, so the mum of the family they were staying with decided to do the laundry and ended up doing 20% of five different chores while the dad provided humorous commentary to his son. I thought he was an asshole at the time for not helping. Now I think he’s an asshole whose wife had ADD, and that the author sucks for making that into a joke.
Continuing on the dishes theme, the thing I tell people about when they ask what ADHD means for me is when I was in my bedroom and picked up a dish to bring it to the kitchen. I went into the living room, where I saw clothes that needed to be put in the laundry hamper, which was in my bedroom–but it was full of clean clothes that needed to be folded and put away, so I did that. Then I spent ten minutes petting my cat. Then I took the dish back into the living room, saw my laptop, and faffed around on the internet. Then I mentioned to a friend on IM that I’d meant to do dishes, and carried the dish into the kitchen and set it on the counter, whereupon seeing bread made me want to have lunch, which I did. An hour and a half after first picking the dish up, I washed it.
This describes me + household tasks, also. Last fall I read Sari Solden’s book and the article in the Atlantic about how girls were underdiagnosed, took both to my therapist, and we both had a giant moment of recogntion. OH. I’m in the process of getting hooked up with proper treatment. SOOOOOOON.
This whole comment thread makes me wonder again whether I might have ADHD. It’s just that I know I have AS and I know AS can also cause these issues so how do you tell the difference my god.
For super fun points, you might have both! :D?
Yeah, I should clarify – I definitely have AS, as that was pretty certain even without taking executive dysfunction into account. (Also, I have a diagnosis and getting it was a real hassle so noooot giving it up anytime soon). So the options on the table are AS and ADHD or only AS, no ADHD, and surprise surprise most of the stuff about ADHD seems to be about it in allistic people…
So I’m ASD and Major Depressive Disorder: both of these UTTERLY fuck with my executive function. My baby sister is ADHD. We live together. A recent frustrated argument with a psychiatrist lead me to delineate the differences as WE experience them, in terms of executive dysfunction:
Sib will look at a plate. She will think, “this plate is dirty!” then she will think “I should clean the plate!” and then she will think “how long do I have before I have to leave the house to do the tasks I have to do?” and then maybe she will look around the room and see her phone and go “I wonder if I have text messages” and then she will look up from checking her text messages and see her guitar and go OH I WANT TO PRACTICE GUITAR and then she will finish working on the guitar and she will remember that she has a rehearsal for her play in twenty minutes and then she will get distracted thinking about how bad she is at managing time and then she will end up remembering she needs to put socks on – and so on, and the plate will remain unwashed.
I will look at the plate. I will think, “this plate is dirty. I should wash it. While I’m at it, I should wash the other plates.” And then I will check tumblr instead, because tumblr is RIGHT HERE and requires no effort whatsoever and the dishes are over THERE and to do the dishes I have to get up, walk over there, empty the dishwasher, remember where all the dishes go, rinse the excess food off the dirty dishes, arrange the dirty dishes in the dish-washer, wash the dishes that will not fit in the dishwasher, put away food on the counter. At any point my brain may literally go DZZDT at figuring out how to actually cause this thing to happen. I may walk into the kitchen, stare at the dishes for a moment, and then go to the bathroom and sit back down on the couch because I know how to do those things but I have forgotten how to make my hands pick up dishes and wash them. The dishes will not get washed; instead the knowledge that I SHOULD be washing dishes will lurk in my brain while I do other things. (“Other things” may in this case be “lie on couch with stim-blanket and stare at carpet”.)
The end result is the same: the dishes don’t get washed despite there being no “good” reason; the malfunction is even the same, basically, in that it’s a disconnect between thinking and doing. It just . . . goes in very different routes. Sib even has had occasional situationally-depressive-like days which she describes that are much more similar to my experience of executive malfunction, which she finds very different from her usual.
I am increasingly wondering if I might have/be ADHD as well as being autistic, too. Although who knows what my executive functioning and distractibility would be like if my body was capable of sleeping efficiently.
Thank you Marwen for putting up that comment. Both of these situations sound familiar to me. My general feeling is that what happens to me is that all the tasks I need to do are superimposed in my head in sort of a knot, and in order to do ONE task I have to untangle it from all the other tasks. That knot never goes out of my head, but the front part of my brain is still picking up cues of new things that need to be done and rapidly shuffling between them.
“I need to write this report/finish those articles/work on revising my thesis –>
sits at computer –> sees dishes around computer –> I should do dishes –> opens dishwasher –> sees socks –> puts on sock –>
I need to write this report/finish those articles/work on revising my thesis –>
go to computer –> what’s on tumblr –> sees open dishwasher –> unloads dishes –> sees stuff on table –> I should wipe down the table –> where are the rags –>
I need to write this report/finish those articles/work on revising my thesis –> go back to computer –> Tumblr –> dishes –> also what about that rag. . . ” ugh.
THIS is why I HATE that question in job interviews… You know the one, where they ask about how you time manage?
Because I DONT. If I dont have the space to focus on one thing (and let myself be procrastinated away from it by FB / CA etc), then nothing gets done. Gah.
“How do you manage your time?”
“I work best in situations where I can focus on one thing at a time until it’s completed or awaiting a next action. I collaborate closely with my peers and managers to prioritize tasks and projects and schedule my time accordingly. Interruptions are expected and I make certain I have time blocked in the day so I am flexible enough to meet them and provide the best [product/customer service/etc] possible.”
This is exactly what my daughter has described on mornings she forgets her ADHD medication.
Oh, man, I had a tiny breakdown over my unwashed dishes last night. I see myself here.
***How did you avoid the temptation to think that you’re just trying to medicalise your own laziness/disorganisation? Particularly when at the surface level you deal with it okay, it just feels so much harder than surely it is supposed to be?***
Hi, are you me?
I have anxiety. When I was in school I used to think that my anxiety was stopping me from being a good student. I used to think that I was just lazy and high-strung and I just needed to chill out and focus. Later I realized that on an unconscious level I *really really* didn’t want to be in school, and that a lot of my anxiety was a product of that. So in my case I think that it was some of both? There was a more general problem which has persisted somewhat now that I’ve left school, but it was exacerbated by the situation I was in, where I was trying to force myself to work on something I didn’t find at all fulfilling or worthwhile. This was an important thing for me to realize, and since leaving school I have instituted regular check-ins with myself about my direction in life and whether I feel good about where I’m headed and the impact I’m having on the world. This in itself has helped me quite a lot to control my anxiety. Yay!
But all of this is by the by. In the moment, when I was so stuck and confused and way too close to it to see where the problems lay and had no idea what to do, I just up and decided one day that I wasn’t doing great, and that I could be doing better, and that maybe I would go to see a doctor and get their advice about what to do. In any case, I figured it couldn’t hurt anything. One important thing that I did was this: I made myself promise to listen closely to what they had to say and to think carefully about the advice they gave me…but I also gave myself permission to throw out any advice which didn’t chime with me and which I didn’t find helpful. By going to see a doctor, you aren’t deciding to abide by their advice, and you aren’t necessarily deciding that what you have is a medical problem or a mental illness. You’re just getting an outside perspective. Remember that the doctor isn’t an absolute authority on anything — you get to make the choices about how/if you want to diagnose yourself and how you want to approach and solve your problems.
Also, you can get as many outside perspectives as you want. If you have friends or family members or mentors you trust, bend their ear about this and see what they say. I didn’t have a lot of these at the time, so I mostly went to like eight different doctors, all of whom gave me different advice, and it was a really helpful process and I’m so glad that I did that. I have made use of this approach later on when dealing with other (unrelated) stuff: when I feel like I’m too close to something and I can’t figure out what to do, sometimes talking with several other people about it and getting their advice helps me clarify my own thoughts, even if I don’t choose to do what they suggest.
Good luck, friend! You seem super smart and I know you’re going to figure out how to handle your stuff in exactly the way you want to.
Huh. I am…right there with you. I think I had some misconceptions about what ADD/ADHD is. Because I have profound problems with procrastination and distraction. I somehow mostly hold it together on the surface but it is a major drain on most aspects of my life. Um, and also just now I did some googling and got the distinct impression I should maybe look into this.
I’m sorry people are being arsehats to you LWs but thanks for alerting me to the concept that ADD isn’t actually only about really loud energetic misbehaving children.
The name doesn’t help much. These days there’s ADHD and ADHD (Inattentive Type). I have the latter, which meant that instead of squirming and running around during a boring lesson, I just disappeared into daydreams and was even quieter and better-behaved than your regular child.
Sometimes I tell people, “I have inattentive ADHD. It’s like ADD, but the picture quality is fantastic.”
OH MY GOD THIS IS A THING. Oh man. I don’t even have words. I just – I think this thread is going to change my life. 0.0
THIS. Everyone in my life claims I can’t ever have ADHD because I wasn’t hyperactive as a child. But I have literally all of the other symptoms… Oh dear. Now I might have to get over my phobia of doctors and do something about this…
Also I am laughing so hard at the picture quality quip.
My daughter wasn’t hyperactive either. But she was very emotional and constantly, constantly socializing. She couldn’t turn it off. Her classmates and teachers all adored her, because she was funny and chatty and charming … but she could never STOP chatting and being friendly and focus on doing anything. Every year I’d have the identical conversation with her teachers: “[Daughter] is so smart and creative and helpful and friendly … but she never does any work.”
I took until her sophomore year of high school to get her on medication – and it would have been her junior year but I had to have her held back because she failed 7th grade so badly.
Yeah this is me. The second reason I always figured I probably have it. I cannot listen to lectures unless I write everything down to focus myself. By middle school I had perfected how to listen just enough to answer the teacher’s question designed to check if I was paying attention even though I hadn’t actually heard her question and had to infer what it probably was.
I also routinely ignore people who are talking to me because something that was said made me start thinking about something else. I’ve somehow trained myself to noncommittally respond so that they can’t tell. People who know me well (mainly my sister) will notice when I’m just saying uh huh and not actively listening anymore and call me out on it.
*ding ding ding* Was an excellent student until I developed physical problems that meant that I literally couldn’t take notes, or couldn’t take enough of them to keep my brain focused. In combination with fatigue issues, this leads to falling asleep in embarrassing situations, and makes it really hard to take in information. Typing is better than nothing, but still nowhere near as food for me, personally, as taking notes by hand.
I came to the realisation a year or so ago that I definitely do have an autistic spectrum disorder, but have not yet plucked up the courage to discuss this with my doctor. I’ve told some friends (um, mostly with the unspoken assumption that this is Official, I haven’t really admitted to only being self-diagnosed), and most of them have been great but a few have been “are you sure? I don’t think you’re at all like a person with autism.” Despite hitting like 98% of every classic trait of autism in adult women. So like I don’t really have a helpful point here, I just wanted to comment with solidarity as someone else going through this. *hugs*
Self-diagnosed too. I am also visibly fatter than society has decided is okay, so my experience with physicians actually helping me with the problem I have, not the problem they have decided that I have…
Jedi hugs, and hang in there.
I hate so much when doctors do that. “You say your scalp is itchy? Have you tried losing weight?” GAAAH.
Or turning back to the autism topic, it’s just so lovely when the adult who has identified you as the problem sits you down and tells you solemnly that you need to get along with people more. That’s nice. Know what would be even nicer, grown-up of my bullied and excruciatingly lonely past? AN EXPLANATION. I already know the problem, dumbass. SOLUTION PLEASE. (Not that I dared say that to an authority figure at that age…)
This was me, too – I think it’s a pretty common narrative for smart women who have attention issues. We are able to pull off decent work in the end, so we just chalk the weeks/months/years of distressed floundering up to character flaws.
My solution to the riddle of “but do I REALLY have a problem” has been to decide that I do not actually care if my ADD is “real.” I identified problems in my life, and those problems were causing me real distress. The medication I’m on helps with those problems. At this point, the difference between “medication fixes my ADD” and “medication makes me less lazy” feels like semantics. My life is better because I am on medication. That’s enough justification for me.
And to be clear – as is obvious from this thread, some people find it very important to make this distinction. I’m certainly not trying to argue anyone else OUT of caring that their ADD is a real, biological issue. I just found it very liberating to let go of worrying about it.
The first time I started thinking that I might have some kind of attention deficiency I talked to my mum and she was like “but you always did well in school” or “but you’d pick up a book and not put it down until you were done with it, you can focus”. Then I read that this kind alternating between no focus and hyper focus was pretty common in ADHD.
and also the ability to hyper focus on something you find interesting at that exact moment, combined with a complete inability to focus on anything else?
Wow. Um. This entire discussion is basically putting the past 20 years into a whole different perspective.
Yeeeeep. Like you suddenly start researching the heck out of something that piqued your interest? Or once you do get working on a thing/reading a thing you’re supposed to read you actually cannot hear anything around you? One of the reasons I’m not cut out for science. I will turn off my timer while I’m reading or writing and not even notice that it went off and I turned it off and fuck up my experiment by doing other work too seriously. I have to put it across the room to force myself to stop hyperfocusing.
Argh. Can’t be diagnosing myself with a new thing — can’t! But I recognise the hell out of this.
The huge evidence against me having ADHD when I first told my parents about it was this time when I was 4 and my mom brought me along as she volunteered in a first-grade classroom. They gave me paints and paper and stuck me in the corner, and for four hours straight I did nothing but paint, picture after picture, heedless of the noise and bustle around me.
Aaaas it turns out, it wasn’t a good example of how ~mature~ and ~intelligent~ I was, it was a warning sign nobody knew how to decode.
“Pulling off decent work in the end” really rings a bell for me, and now I’m really thinking. All throughout my school career, I was always the kid who got “very smart, needs to apply herself” on report cards. I procrastinated and churned out last-minute work on almost every assignment from age 7 to 17, and then in university it was even worse. It was impossible to motivate myself to do anything there, especially since I was paying for it all myself. If I had been accountable to my parents or someone, I could’ve forced myself through it, but as it was I just dropped out. I didn’t find university fulfilling or worthwhile AT ALL, and the more I think about it the more I realize how incredibly stressed and depressed I was there. And somehow I’m only realizing this four years afterwards 😛
I still have problems with motivation. Even if something is a huge problem, I will actively sabotage myself by not dealing with it. The past four months I’ve started living on my own for the first time, and realizing more and more that I have no idea how to take care of myself. Sigh. I guess it’s time for a doctor’s appointment to figure some shit out.
*jedi hugs* if you want them.
This stuff is really, really hard. Personally, getting help from a doctor when I was having, uh, even more trouble than usual managing my life was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Self-care is strangely difficult – I soooo hear you on the self-sabotage – but I believe things will get better for you!
Personally, I don’t think medication can fix character flaws. Therapy can sometimes and personal growth. But if medication helps you to get things done, then whatever the obstacle you had was (whether it is ADD or some other label), it was not a character flaw. I mean, we don’t have be nice pills to fix jerks or recognize the value of other people pills to fix insufferable prats. It’s kind of like how I don’t understand why people refer to medical treatments as just being a crutch. Oh, you are comparing this treatment to another treatment that allows people to get more done. I’ve never used crutches myself, but they seem so darn useful. When my brother broke his leg, he used a crutch, and I’m glad he did. Crutches are great things.
On a less related note, I really like the Captain’s advice and scripts. They work for more than just mental health. I’m chronically ill and also physically disabled, and it turns out you get a lot of similar reactions as described for people with mental health issues. Including people doubting your diagnosis or symptoms. And, of course, the people who think you can fix any problem, physical or mental, with just the right lifestyle, which happens to be suspiciously like whatever it is they personally like. The people who think they are experts at being healthy, simply because they are healthy and thus they must know secrets to not being sick and it has nothing to do with genetics or luck.
And… huh. I should go research ADD more. I know that I (and my father) have an attention abnormality. We hyperfocus, sometimes to the point of it being dangerous. Like, my partner had to forcibly get my attention once because I was thinking about something while we were walking down the street with no sidewalks and there was an oncoming car. I’m sure my brain had “think about oncoming car” in its mental queue, but it had kind of forgotten to bump it in priority, so I wasn’t aware of it yet. And I know hyperfocus can be a symptom of ADD, but I didn’t think I had the other symptoms, and maybe I don’t, but I should probably research it. I’ve just been running with, “I have attention surplus disorder”, but that doesn’t actually involve any treatment, and who knows, maybe there is something that is known and could make me more functional.
It does sound like myself and many grad students I’ve known, but I don’t think that means ‘it’s just laziness’ or that we’re all aweful people who don’t deserve to be there. Grad school is a really stressful and unnatural environment, and people can exhibit all kinds of coping mechanisms to deal with that stress. Which isn’t to say that a few don’t actually also have a condition like ADD (which the LW will have to figure out themself with the help of their doctor) – but my point is I don’t think it’s a choice between either you have a medical condition or you’re ‘lazy and disorganized’. Even if you don’t have a medical condition it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible weak person or something. ‘Weird’ behaviour can be a normal response to ‘weird’ environmental conditions.
I’ve also met a lot of grad students that were dealing with huge anxiety and pressure and prefectionism as undergraduates, and didn’t really deal with it well at the time. Then along comes the far less outwardly structured environment of grad school and it’s like a part of their (our) brains just goes ‘OK, thank God that’s over for now’ and kind of shuts down and enforces a break. It can take a lot of time to figure out some kind of middle ground between the not-very healthy overwork and the actually probably more healthy but impractical and excessive ‘brain on strike mode’.
Argh, I feel like “part of their (our) brains just goes ‘OK, thank God that’s over for now’ and kind of shuts down and enforces a break” pretty much describes what happened during the second half of my master’s, ESPECIALLY when I was doing my thesis. It was like I suddenly became incapable of doing all these things that shouldn’t have been that difficult (reports, making deadlines, etc.) The aggravating thing was that my inability to work came AFTER my complete breakdown — it was like I used up all my coping skills to get through that one crisis, and the next year I was just totally sapped dry and doing just enough to get by.
GUILT CITY, in other words.
THIS OMG. I had a breakdown which I took steps to manage, but then I had physical medical issues and then my mom passed away over the period of several months, and after that I can’t work. It feels worse somehow to have gotten through stuff, taken steps for treatment and then you still can’t work. I’m hoping my situation will improve a lot when I don’t hate my job anymore and I’ll definitely choose something with more structure and team work
Iiii have so been here. A bit different, because for me it’s AS rather than ADHD and I already I knew I had AS, I just didn’t know it can entail big, big (so big why so big) executive function problems. But oh man, the “oh crap this is… actually a real problem? it’s not just me being lazy? NO SURELY IT IS ME BEING LAZY” thing, I have been there.
Some mantras that got me through:
– Laziness is a choice. Laziness is going “well, I could do X at this point, it is completely within my capabilities, but I don’t want to so I’d rather not.” If I’m going “I could do X, I need to do X, I really really want to do X but I am attempting to make myself do X and it’s. Not. Happening,” I am not making a choice. It might look as though I am, I might even think I am. But if X is not feasibly within my capabilities – even if there seems to be no reason it shouldn’t and I have no freaking idea why I can’t do it – it is not a choice and I am not lazy.
– on that note – I don’t know if this is the case for you, but for me, whether or not I procrastinated on something had basically nothing to do with how much I wanted to do it. And I don’t just mean “wanted to do it because shit, I need to finish this essay” but also “wanted to do it because it sounds fun and I’d love to go.” I have ended up crying my eyes out in my room because I’d been really looking forward to an event for months and it was the only chance I’d ever get to go and now it was on and I would not be able to go because for no explicable reason I could not put my shoes on because the mental effort involved was so far beyond me that they might as well have been on the moon. This is honestly a memory I cling to because it’s so clear-cut on the “wow, whatever’s going on here it can’t be laziness” front. If you have any similar ones, they can serve as good touchstones.
– even if it is laziness and lack of organisation, beating yourself up is not actually a way of addressing these things. Like, at one point when I was fretting about maybe I just don’t have enough self-discipline, a friend of mine said “Well, even if you don’t, what are you supposed to do about it? Ninja training?” And this has really stuck with me, especially since I’ve read about research into how willpower is a finite resource and expending some now means you have less to work with later. IDK about medication because as far as I’m aware it’s not an option for AS-induced executive dysfunction, but honestly I think a lot of the strategies I use to deal with things are just sensible ways with coping with any sort of problem you’re having: if you’ve tried and failed to make it go away via willpower in the past then accept it for what it is and work on ways around it.
– again, not sure how applicable since meds are an option for you and you say you deal with it okay at the surface level which could mean all sorts of things, but…
I think the “but no we’re just lazy! we just need to try harder!” can be oddly self-protective at its core. Because if you’re just lazy, that means that there is nothing *actually* wrong with you. That means it’s all within your control. That one day you will finally manage to *stop being lazy* and then finally you will be able to live your life the way you WANT to and do all the things you want to and everything will be perfect sparkly sunshine rainbows forever. Ahem.
Accepting that no, there are real issues here, can be so hard and so, so freaking painful. Because it means giving up on that dream of the perfect future. It means accepting that your inexplicable difficulties with Doing Things, And By Things I Mean Anything are not going to magically vanish. That you are going to be dealing with them for the rest of your life. And so your brain goes “noooo we do not accept this it’s laziness I tell you!”
Like, when I realised that my executive dysfunction issues were due to AS and that they weren’t going to be going away anytime soon, it felt like the world had ended. I think I spent most of that day crying.
But… in the end, you’re much better off. Because that sparkly sunshine rainbow future was never going to happen, and you’d just have spent your entire life waiting for it to kick in already. I’m six years post that realisation and in so many ways my life is so much better than it was and I am so much happier than I was. I might even be happier than I’d imagined being in the sparkly sunshine future because the journey I’ve been on has taught me so much about accepting myself for who I am and what I’m capable of, figuring out what it is I want instead of what I’m told I should want, about being disabled and how this can be such a powerful identity and the community it can give you… I’m still not completely sure I can hold a full-time job but now I’m sure that if it turns out I can’t I will find a way to cope with it and still make the best I can of life.
um sorry that got a bit philosophical. I just… I really want to reassure people who hit this that it’s not the end of the world and you can still live a good and happy life even if your issues never go away because I had such trouble with that myself.
I’d been put back on antidepressants and I was looking up my meds on Wikipedia when I tumbled down a rabbit hole of links and landed on bipolar disorder type II. I learned what hypomania was and thought it sounded awfully familiar. Unfortunately, my symptoms got to extremes and I landed in a mental hospital before I was able to get a proper diagnosis. Since then, I’ve been able to get much better treatment and medication.
I apologize if I’m covering things already in the thread, unfortunately I don’t have as much time to read through it today as I might like.
I think one of the things that’s helped me a lot in the whole “medicalization” debate is the fact that *medication is not magic*. (A thing I didn’t know until I was actually on the drugs myself.) Nor is therapy, nor CBT, nor whatever treatment you want to take – it’s not magic. There is no superdrug that will erase procrastination and focus issues for all time.
What getting treatment DOES do is makes it possible for you to try hard, to do things outside of your comfort zone. It’s so easy to get discouraged and depressed and just complete disengage with the world, when you feel like you can’t do the things that are expected of you. Treatment helps with that. Treatment means that you can get up the courage to face the hard stuff that you’d long written off as impossible.
People will talk about medication like it’s magic, especially people who literally don’t know anything about ADHD other than what’s written in the popular press. They talk about people just using ADHD treatment to become superpeople or whatever, and that the underlying disorder is just laziness or disorganization and they could also just get over themselves. But you don’t become a superperson. You’re you, and you still have dishes to wash, and bills to pay, and laundry to do, and work to get to. Life goes on even with drugs. Just…maybe a less stressful one.
So if anyone else has gone through something like this ‘holy sheet, I’ve never considered that but wow that really speaks to me’ experience, I’d welcome any comments.
Yes, this was me! In my case it was also complicated by the fact that depression and anxiety, which I almost certainly also have, present nearly identically to inattentive-type ADD. None of the antidepressants we tried really did much and when various life triggers came along to make it much worse I was despairing of ever getting back to competent-human-feeling, when I ended up coming across one of those neat little checklists and mentioned it to my doctor. And she good-naturedly considered me having lost the worksheet she gave me to fill out as a flag that I was probably on the right track with this ADD notion 😉 One thing I will say is that unlike antidepressants, where you have to wait 6-8 weeks and then see if maybe you’re feeling better, or maybe it was just less rainy this month or confirmation bias (and sometimes they do have dramatic effect! but even successful meds are often more a case of “eh, I think I feel less crappy now?”), stimulant medication hits in about half an hour and it will likely be very, very obvious if it works. To throw an interesting little monkey wrench in my own diagnosis, it turns out there has been some successful research in using stimulant-class medications to treat depression, which makes a lot of sense though I understand why it’s not going to be the first line of defense. Patient presents with constant fatigue, does not seem to be anemic or otherwise have anything else obviously wrong with her. Give patient amphetamines. PATIENT IS NOT SO DANG TIRED ANYMORE. :-b And from the patient’s perspective, it really doesn’t matter whether my meds are treating depression or ADHD; it’s treating the symptoms rather than fixing some underlying cause in both cases and it is treating them pretty effectively.
How did you avoid the temptation to think that you’re just trying to medicalise your own laziness/disorganisation? Particularly when at the surface level you deal with it okay, it just feels so much harder than surely it is supposed to be?
I was talking about this last time I visited my family, and my cousin summed up the effect of ADHD meds perfectly — he tried them for a semester and that winter he made just the best doodles in math class! Because the meds don’t know what you’re supposed to be focusing on; they just let you do it. I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t go on the stereotypical manic cleaning spree so many people have when they start ADD meds. But now I actually think “hm, I have spilled something on the stove; I should wipe that up before it gets cooked on and will be 10 times harder to scrub off”.
Being on meds means that I remember to write things down on my to-do list and then actually keep it up to date, and so when I forget things they’re nearly always written down in one place for me to go look up again. It means annoying things are still annoying and I will still sometimes come up with five other less urgent but more fun things to get done instead so I feel productive, but it means I am aware that I’m supposed to be doing something else and what that something else is rather than having forgotten about it entirely or decided that it’s no use to keep banging away at this report when I’m getting lost in thought every five minutes. It also means that I have the energy to get more coping mechanisms in place to help me through rougher times, or even just times of more boring work.
One of my friends is struggling with this and I just tell her if/when she gets on medication/correct therapy, developing all these life skills and not being “lazy” and learning how to manage like an adult (this is what we call it; no judgment on anyone else) is going to be so much easier. (Watched this with my brother.)
Like; she’s trying to do it otherwise (as are you, I presume) and it’s not working, even though it works to just try for most people. So – medication. Most likely, the medication will allow her to start developing the skills she needs (and if she’s truly just lazy, the medication won’t change that. But if you’re trying and you feel bad and you feel frustrated all the time – you’re not lazy. You’re trying and what you’re trying is not working. Try something else if you can!)
Okay wow, you guys are the best. I’m actually sitting at my desk at work right now almost crying at the outpouring of support here. I’m reading all your stories and going ‘Wait, that happens to other people too? That’s a thing? I had no idea!’
It looks like comments exploded while I was asleep so I can’t reply to everyone individually, but thank you all so much. Thank you thank you thank you.
“How did you avoid the temptation to think that you’re just trying to medicalise your own laziness/disorganisation? Particularly when at the surface level you deal with it okay, it just feels so much harder than surely it is supposed to be”
I struggle with this a lot. But one thing that really helped was having a supportive partner. A while back we were hanging out with some friends, and one of them made a comment about how I didn’t do homework because I was lazy. My partner immediately and angrily said “Baytree is NOT lazy!” If she hadn’t been there to say that, I would have agreed that it’s laziness…. even though it’s not.
Another thing that helps for me is to mentally go over every single thing I’ve done that day, no matter how inconsequential it seems. What makes me feel like a lazy failure is having not finished anything – listing the things I’ve done even if they’re not finished forces me to realize that I’ve worked hard, just not efficiently.
I do not have ADHD, but you may find some comfort in knowing that people with ADHD have atypical reactions to methamphetamines. (I know several people who got themselves diagnosed after they took speed at parties and watched other people zooming around while they suddenly became calm and focused.) ADHD is not extreme laziness/disorganisation, it is an actual difference in brain wiring with measurable chemical effects.
Story time! I used to think ADD wasn’t a real thing. For me, it was the result of a traumatic experience–I was wrongly diagnosed with it as a child when in reality, I had anxiety and depression, and the meds I had to take for my “ADD” made me feel much worse. It took having a few friends who spoke openly about the impact ADD had on their life for me to realize that my own experience didn’t invalidate other people’s.
You know what, though? Even when I was firmly (and wrongly!) convinced that ADD was Not A Real Thing, I never told anyone that their diagnosis was wrong or that they shouldn’t do [thing that worked for them]. Because I realized it was none of my business. I’m not sure where the urge to give armchair medical advice to others comes from, but even if you don’t understand or agree with someone else’s decisions or evaluations of what’s going on in their life, that doesn’t give you the right to invalidate their feelings. I’m not trying to excuse my past ignorance at all, by the way. I’m just baffled that people think that interfering in other adults’ medical business is ever an appropriate thing to do.
Hi LW2! Solidarity fistbump, pal, your story sounds SO FAMILIAR to me.
I was diagnosed with Adult ADHD last year after dealing with depression and anxiety for the two decades before that and the difference that the ADHD diagnosis and treatment (medication, meditation, therapy, HabitRPG) has made to my life has been PROFOUND. I hope that your treatment helps you too because, let me tell you, being able to do things is marvellous.
But, ugh, yes every person and their dog wanted to tell me I couldn’t possibly have ADHD. The most memorable – and annoying – was a friend with mental illness who described me to their psychiatrist and then felt the need to tell me that their psychiatrist (who has never met me) does not think that I have ADHD.
For me the ADHD diagnosis came on the heels of me dumping the psychiatrist that diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder so it was a couple of months of me telling people I had been diagnosed with one thing and then undiagnosed by a different doctor and diagnosed with something else. This actually worked in my favour because I was able to laugh of the label, point out that I am the same person with the same collection of symptoms regardless of whether a doctor thinks I have BPD or ADHD or both or neither AND since the treatment I am on right now is MAKING AN AMAZING DIFFERENCE I am going to keep doing that regardless of the opinions of people who aren’t my doctor.
The good news is that eventually everyone who needs to know will already know. In the meantime I recommend “Well my doctor thinks I have it and the treatment is working really well!”
What kind of psychiatrist is that even who gives an opinion based on hearsay, basically. That’s unethical. (Also your friend acted like an ass.)
That jumped out at me too. I can’t imagine a good reason for psychiatrist to give an opinion on the diagnosis of someone they’d never even spoken to.
It’s possible that the friend reported back what they thought they heard, rather than what the psychiatrist actually said. It’s also kind of irrelevant; either way as you say, the friend was being obnoxious. What could Elise even do with that information? Some psychiatrist she’s never met disagrees with her diagnosis? And?
Oddly enough, I’m betting that her friend’s psychiatrist didn’t even say that and the “friend” made it up completely in order to justify their personal opinion.
I’m going to have to borrow some of those scripts for my family members, whose response to any new diagnosis of mine tends to be “no you don’t!” or “how can you have that?!”.
ugh a big part of the reason I can’t imagine getting screened for ADD is because my dad basically cannot handle admitting that I have limitations.
Maybe don’t tell him if you think screening will be a good thing for you?
I’m just going to say that my parents get a somewhat curated version of my life – some things they don’t need to know. If letting them know something is a major barrier to getting help and being functional, it’s always an option to not tell them, especially if you’re over 18/out of the house.
But if it’s not an option to not tell, then best of luck finding something that does! 🙂
I definitely second the “curated version of one’s life” thing, if that’s a possibility for you. It’s still a struggle, because my mother wants us to have this ~lovely, close relationship~ where I tell her everything, and…that’s not compatible with my mental health, but at least I can be clear for myself what I can and can’t safely share with my parents
Thanks for your comments, Adventures with Rachel and shehasathree. I think the confusing part for me is that in a lot of ways I have a very good relationship with my parents. I’m living at home again now (due to various logistical issues that I handled badly) and it’s actually quite pleasant for the most part. That being said, it makes it more complicated to select exactly which pieces of information are good to share and which are not. (Particularly with my uber-conservative father, who can’t deal respectfully with any suggestion that people are not in complete control of their.)
Sorry, please ignore the no-doubt-confusingness of my comment. I really need to get better at working out how the treading works and reading comments in their original context before replaying, rather than just going by email comment notifications!
OF THEIR LIVES, sorry. dang it.
Oh, that makes sense. I think it kind of works both ways, though, no? As in, I am the curator of the exhibition that is my life, and I invite people to view it under my gentle guidance.
Listen, this is not my business and please feel free to throw out any advice I give you, but my old roommate had a similar situation (her family kept telling her what meds she should and should not be on, what dosage she should or should not be taking, and which diagnoses her doctor had gotten right and wrong, etc.) I always told her that her health and specifically mental health treatment was not their business, not even a little bit, not at all, and she was allowed to refuse to tell them about all or any part of her treatment plan. Every time I told her that, she said “you just don’t understand my family, we’re very close” and I said “I understand that every time you talk to your sister you yell at her and then cry after you hang up. It makes me sad to see you so upset.”
Since we have moved out and stayed in touch as friends, she has cut off her family’s access to the details of her mental health treatment plan, and is much happier. They know that she has a therapist and a psychiatrist that she trusts, that both of them work closely with her primary care physician, and that her team has developed a program that is helping her through an extremely difficult time…and that’s all her family needs to know. That’s all I know too, and I like it that way. I just want to hang out with her as a friend.
So maybe next time it comes up, or there’s a new diagnosis, you can just tell your family “Thank you for you love and concern, but my diagnosis and treatment plan is between me and my doctor and I don’t feel comfortable sharing it with anyone else. How about all this snow, eh?”
It’s hard to enforce boundaries, and sometimes it isn’t possible due to age or insurance or other situations. I hope that you can find a way to work through this with your family.
Thank-you. It is definitely a work in progress; my mother, in particular, is very slow to learn. I have had the “that’s between me and my [health professional]” conversation so.many.times.
One of my family’s favorites has been, “But you’re too young to have that! That’s impossible.” Less about mental health and more about physical, but still…
I have a congenital heart defect so I hear that often. Sometimes from other patients in the cardiologist’s waiting room. Birth wasn’t too young to have this, why should 42 be?
Wow — LW #1, I knew someone once who behaved exactly like the person you’re describing. So gross! I no longer speak to this person, but looking back I know a lot more now about how I wish I’d reacted to all the weird victim-blame-y stuff he had to say. Here are some scripts I wish now that I’d had in my back pocket:
“Actually I feel totally fine about how I handled that situation and I’m really not looking to reexamine my choices.”
“You know, I’ve thought really hard about that stuff already on my own and I’ve made up my mind about how I feel about what happened. I don’t think I’ll benefit from talking about it anymore, and I really don’t want to.”
“I really don’t want advice about that. I know what happened because I’m the one it happened to, and I feel good about what I’ve decided.”
Of course, my case was a bit different in that I am speaking of someone whose opinion mattered very little to me, and with whom I was not looking to maintain a friendship. So I was mostly concerned with getting him to shut up and go away…whereas you seem to want to salvage things if you can.
Hrmm…it seems like you’ve tried to explain to your friend that she’s hurting your feelings, and like she kinda just didn’t care so much. Am I reading that wrong? If that is what happened, then I think you can definitely find way better friends than her. If there’s a chance that she didn’t understand you or that somehow, like, she was distracted at the time and what you said didn’t really register with her as a headsup that she was being an asshole, maybe you could try being really, *painfully* blunt?
“It really hurts when you don’t believe me about what I say happened.”
“I am the expert on my own experience, and I need you to believe me about what went down. It’s really hurtful that it seems like you can’t take my word for it.”
“It really seems like you’re actively looking for ways to doubt what I’ve told you and to criticize how I’ve reacted. Why are you doing that? And could you stop? Because it makes it really painful and stressful to be around you.”
This sounds so awful, and I’m so impressed with how well it seems like you’re handling it. Keep being awesome.
Just wanted to say what an excellent comment this is, soukup!
LW #662 – your friend is not being a good friend right now. It sounds like you have been great at Using Your Words and asking S. to knock it off, but she not only hasn’t stopped, she’s doubled-down and started telling you that you need to do the very thing that you’ve said hurts you. You have said that your major issue is with trust, yet she’s riding roughshod over your boundaries, doubting your word, and exploiting your vulnerability by shutting down your requests for support and love (not to mention apparently talking about you behind your back with at least one mutual friend). I am finding it really hard to think of a positive explanation for S.’s behaviour – it just feels mean.
Maya Angelou wrote “when someone shows you who they are, believe them”. S. is showing you that whatever’s driving her “questioning” behaviour is more important to her than your feelings, and by saying that you overreact, she is also telling you that she doesn’t believe what you’ve told her about your experiences. It might be down to the magical thinking that makes people believe that if they can just find the “thing Person did wrong”, whatever happened to Person couldn’t possibly happen to them, because they would make sure not to do that thing (even though the thing doesn’t exist). But in the end it doesn’t really matter why S. is doing it – she’s still hurting you.
You obviously have a long history with S. and I can understand why cutting her off is not easy. I think you’re wise to take a break from her and G. at the moment. If they do get back in contact, you could use the scripts soukup has given above to make it clear that your experience and actions aren’t up for discussion. It’s also okay to walk away from the conversation every time S. starts her “questioning” – you don’t have to sit there and take it and you don’t owe her any answers. S. is being a bad friend today, and you don’t have to accept Bad Friend S. just because in the past she was a better friend.
Your question made me think of a very powerful post by Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, and particularly this:
S. is treating your life and your hurt as an intellectual game. That’s not okay.
> S. is showing you that whatever’s driving her “questioning” behaviour is more important to her than your feelings
I would go further and say that S.’s ego is more important to her than your health and personal safety.
These are awesome scripts.
Hang on, LW 662, your friend responded to your need for support and affirmation, rather than unasked-for, inept cross-examinations by telling you “it was annoying to have tell you she loves you all the time”?
Wow. That part really caught my eye, for some reason.
I’m also surprised (not really) that she responded to you with “that’s just how I am.” I mean, if your philosophy is “question everything”, you’re also examining your self and your perceptions and reactions… right?
On LW1: this is sheer armchair speculation and you know S. far better than anyone here does, but has S. ever had a stalker experience or other experiences comparable to the ones you’ve endured, or directly witnessed some of the worst incidents that happened to you? Or were they friends with your stalker or parents or other abusers?
I ask because “overreacting” feels like something you say to someone when you are convinced in your own mind that whatever has happened to them is no big deal – that either they’re exaggerating what has happened to them or they are so oversensitive that they’ve misinterpreted innocuous situations in the worst possible way. This feels like the sort of thing someone does when they’ve either a) never gone through comparable experiences and don’t quite believe in their heart of hearts that such things happen to people in their circles or b) don’t want to believe a bad thing about someone who has been rotten to you, and would prefer to believe that you’re overreacting than accept what you’ve said and be put in a position where they may feel ethically obliged to burn bridges.
(I’m particularly annoyed on your behalf that S. is insisting you need to develop an understanding of “the larger situation” – as though there were some objective viewpoint that could be adopted where abusive behaviour towards you suddenly made sense and was alright. Ew, ew, no.)
The other thing that jumps out at me about S. is the point you make about her being very engaged with the idea of being a teacher and wanting to apply that to her whole life. I had a friend who was very similar and in our circles we ended up saying that he had a “Socrates Complex” – he was so love in the idea of being a Dispenser of Wisdom who helps people to Know Themselves by asking them the Tough Questions that he’d never turn it off.
There is something to be said for interrogating your own preconceptions and assumptions, but it needs to happen as and when you personally feel up to it, and you should never feel obliged to flat-out deny your lived experience or allow yourself to be gaslit after the fact. And by applying a teacher-perspective to their whole life, S. is effectively appointing herself as teacher of everyone they encounter. That’s an incredibly arrogant step to take; you’re not in school and you don’t have to consent to be in a teacher-student relationship, and it sounds to me like S. has a shitload of things to learn herself.
I think a lot of the “but you don’t look sick” (like you have ADHD/a depression/a real trauma reaction etc) happens because of the fundamental attribution error (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error) and a natural tendency to believe that you’re seeing the most typical, most representative aspects of a thing. So if I’m super depressed all the time and drag my sad self out of my horrible wasteland once every third week to have coffee with a friend and be normal for a few hours, that friend could be very surprised to hear I’m depressed, because she doesn’t realise that she’s only seeing me when I’m NOT being “typical”. But smiling ONCE doesn’t unmake a depression.
I’ve had doctors and psychologists be surprised when I’m on time for my ADHD appointment, because I told them on the phone that I’m chronically late. They really should know better, but even they expect to see literally every part of my problem literally all of the time. But being on time once to a very expensive appointment is not the same as being on time every day for work or class. And even though I’m on time for some appointments (especially the first one) in some circumstances (extremely important, one-of-a-kind stuff that I’ve been planning for weeks) that doesn’t mean I can always be on time for everything.
“Well, that iceberg doesn’t look very big, I myself have a rock about that size.” They’re not realising that they’re not seeing the whole thing, or even the most representative part. And so, they’re surprised when you tell them that the iceberg is huge. It doesn’t look huge, and you can’t just assume things about people, so they couldn’t have assumed that a seemingly small obstacle that doesn’t look bigger than anyone else’s is actually large enough to sink the Titanic. They’re surprised because it IS surprising.
So, I think that a surprised first reaction is okay. I watch for the second reaction. Do they believe me, the actual lookout on the ship, or their own random opinion from the shore? They don’t have to realise I’m right about the iceberg, but they have to let me turn the ship. They are not allowed to complain and demand that I keep going towards the iceberg until THEY can see that it’s an iceberg and allow me to avoid it. I’m actually on the ship, they’re not. If I’m wrong, I took an unnecessary detour, but if they’re wrong, I drown. They’re not allowed to risk that just because they want to debate who’s right.
I will move heaven and earth to be on time for a doctor’s appointment, because along with the ADHD I have anxiety and a general fear of authority folk. If I’m late then everything is doom. My chronic lateness shows up more around when I get to work, since there’s no set time for me getting there and my boss is laid-back about such things.
I love your analogy, mind if I borrow it once in a while?
Go ahead! I was really satisfied with it to be honest, I think I’m going to keep using it 😉
It really is a great analogy!
Thanks for the info about fundamental attribution error, that really helps me make sense of some of my experiences. I came down with some really uncomfortable chronic health problems (with a side helping of emotional problems due to feeling like complete shit all the time) about two years ago. I still feel kind of hurt that even though I have explicitly told them what I was going through, even my coworker who had dealt with SIMILAR chronic health problems of his own literally said “but you don’t look sick”. Thing was, I was using every last spoon to act fairly normal during work, and then almost all of the rest of the time I was laying on the couch at home. It made me wonder what my coworker did when he was at his sickest. Did he cry at work every day or something? In real life it was probably the same as me, where he powered through and people didn’t really realize what a hard time he was having even though he felt just awful on the inside.
Now that I am doing a little better I am dealing more with the fact that my disorder is hard to explain and doesn’t have hard and fast rules for how to manage it (it is a stomach motility disorder so I manage it with diet, but what is bad one day is fine another and it can be weird to navigate with other people so outwardly I pretend the rules are stricter than they are) so the scripts that CA put up for the second LW are super helpful to me, just letting people know that my doctor and I are doing the best we can with this. Just today, however, someone was hurt that I only ate a tiny portion of soup that they brought to the office and I tried to explain that I usually try to eat 2 small lunches, but it still made me feel weird so I waited until they left to eat any more lunch. You would think I would be able to not give a care after 2 years of being the weirdest picky eater, but nope.
That is an AWESOME metaphor.
A chronically late person with executive functioning issues who nevertheless managed to be on time to 10 out of 11 appointments in the past week.
People who put themselves in the role of skeptic* are very subtly manipulating the dynamic so that they are are superior to you, put in a place of judgement above you. You have PROVE yourself over and over to maintain the friendship. Here’s the thing, IT’S NOT THEIR JOB to judge you. It’s not their job to determine whether you’re really in emotional pain, have a medical condition, been hurt in a relationship, etc. A friend’s JOB is to support you and love you and work with you until you feel better.
LW1: She may be an excellent fake intellectual and a good teacher, but she’s a crap friend. And what’s worse, she wraps it up as some sort of noble personal trait and further shames you for asking her not to do it. And then there’s the compound interest of her sharing private information with other people. You say that part of your (richly deserved) issues is that you have trouble trusting the people around you. YOU CAN’T TRUST THIS PERSON.
LW2: It’s not your friend’s job to determine whether you really have a medical condition. She’s not a doctor. She’s supposed to say, “That sucks, is there anything I can do?”
Bottom line: Neither of you have to prove shit. Find another friend who doesn’t feel the need to put you through some bullshit scientific process in order to empathize with you.
*or conspiracy theorist, life coach, amateur personal trainer…
I can offer the side of the “fixer” in the friendship. I had a friend whose life was by her own admission a bit of a mess. I took it upon myself to try to fix her. In the name of fixing her, I was quite a lot of an arsehole at times in an attempt to “wake her up”. As it happens I was having my own therapy at the time and fortunately I had the realisation that I was trying to fix issues in my own life, by getting her to fix them in hers. E.g. She was very disorganised and unreliable. I was too, but not to the same extent as her. On realising this, I took all my focus off her issues and applied my attention to my issues. If I found myself thinking, “If only friend would do x it would all be ok”, I would immediately look to where I had to do x in my own life and then went and did it.
I am very grateful to say that our friendship has recovered. I no longer think of my friend as “broken”. And you know what, she has completely turned her life around without my help. But even if she hadn’t that would be fine too.
She would be perfectly within her rights never to speak to me again after some of the arsehole things I did. The fact that she still does is a testament to her kindness and forgiving nature which I am very grateful for.
The OP doesn’t have to wait for their “fixer” to see the light in therapy. (She may be waiting a long time!). Taking a break from the friendship and using some of the Back Off phrases from the Captain are exactly what is needed in terms of self care.
Kittentastic, the fixer-fixee dynamic is DEFINITELY a thing to think about. I myself very much struggle to stay in neutral territory between the two. I don’t know that this is relevant to LW #1, because LW sounds like a BAMF who is good at articulating what they need and don’t need, but I have often found that when I was relaying my problems (mental illness, disorganization, loneliness, etc.), I thought I was being honest and creating intimacy, but the other party thought I was asking for help/writhing in agony/near-disaster/asking to be “fixed.” I have found it very tricky to negotiate relationships with people who have an inclination to fall into “fixer” mode — mostly people who have things together slightly more than me but are worried they might not be as on top of things as they would like to be. Unfortunately I think one thing I have had to learn is just . . . not to share as much, to not create the opportunity for this dynamic to arise.
As someone who also DOES the “fixer” thing (giving advice is addictive like coffee and sugar cookies mmmm), I feel like the question I need to figure out how to ask people when they are telling me a problem in their lives is something like, “well, how do you see yourself in that situation?” or “what do you think about how that came out?” Basically something that doesn’t just ask what happened but how that person experienced what happened. If someone got fired because they stood up for themselves at work, maybe they are actually more proud of the latter than they are sad about the former, and it would be crummy to undermine that personal triumph by focusing on the thing they’re not actually as concerned with.
A lot of times when I’ve been telling a story (in my characteristic flustered and hand-wavey way) about something I’ve done, people with a “fixer” inclination have assumed an interpretation that reinforces me as the “broken” one when my personal takeaway was something quite different.
Me: “I ended up not being able to bike the whole way, so I caught a train in B town and then camped in C town, and it was raining so hard that my tent started dripping on me, so I had to soak up the water in the corners with packages of tissues and wrap my sleeping bag in garbage sacks that I luckily had purchased in D town. . .”
Friend: “Oh my god, these things don’t happen to normal people.”
I was telling that story because I felt kind of good about my spontaneous travel plans and my resourcefulness in unexpected and awkward situations! But Friend heard it as evidence for her theory that I’m irresponsible and don’t have much foresight, and her response kind of hurt my feelings. And once that kind of dynamic of I’m-more-together-than-you is set up, it’s. . . hard to reset.
LW #1, you sound awesome, and I want to learn your awesome word-using ways. Maybe additional scripts could be:
“Hey, why don’t you ask me how I feel about that, instead of assuming [I feel embarrassed about it/I should have done something differently/I want to discuss that]?”
“I’m actually pretty proud of how I dealt with this situation.”
“How I’m dealing with my life may not be what you would do in the same situation, but it works for me.”
This dynamic is RUINING my relationship with my mother! Just once I would like to rant about something without her turning it “what I am doing wrong in my life” Example, I have gerbils and allergies to many beddings, and trying to find a bedding I can breathe around is interesting. When I shared a problem I had last week it became “maybe you shouldn’t have gerbils…” This can be applied to my non traditional job (author), as well. Sorry for the rant.
I’m starting to wonder if the reason I hate being vulnerable to people is that I grew up around a lot of fixer-types.
Projection is a great thing. Whenever I find myself busting into a rant about how someone JUST NEEDS TO DO X or GODDAMN X AND ITS EVIL WAYS, I find it helpful to do a post-mortem of, “Okay, how is my relationship with X, and do I need to take my own advice?”
LW1, I used to be best friends with someone exactly like this. I hung on to the friendship for much longer than I should have, but I finally had to accept that she was a low-dose friend and now, many years after I decided that, she’s basically become an email/facebook friend as we don’t hang out anymore. It started when we both went to college and I had gone away to school for a year, then my mom got cancer and I didn’t go back to that school. She was a late bloomer, dating wise, but once she bloomed she was very much into experimentation, which included a lot of cheating on various boyfriends. She had sex long before me and would constantly talk to me, in detail, about her sexcapades, which I didn’t mind as I was happy to be an outlet, resounding board and friend, but what I DID have a problem with was when she would tell mixed company that she “couldn’t talk to (faerywhisper) about sex because she’s was a virgin.” Yeah… One of my friends who I met through this friend told me the first thing she ever knew about me was my virginity status because this “friend” of mine would constantly harp on it. She was constantly saying things to me about how I should run my life or how I should handle this or that and really NOT being a great friend. My mother died of cancer, and at one point after my friend had, once again, told me how I should live my life, I actually told her that I didn’t need a new mother and her response was something along the lines of “well clearly you do because of the way you are acting.” I didn’t need a mother, I needed a FRIEND.
For me, it all came to a head after she had been diagnosed with bi-polar. Unlike LW2’s friend, I did not doubt the diagnosis (to be honest, it kind of explained a few things), but mostly I tried to be supportive. She had been told by her doctor that alcohol did not mix well with her medication for her bi-polar, but she was pretty heavily into drinking in those days and would go out multiple times a week. I started to notice that whenever we went out drinking together after she got on the medication, we would get into fights. The final straw was after a night out with her boyfriend, a friend of his and her where they got into a fight and she almost left me stranded in a city a few hours from where I was living at the time. Needless to say, after that experience, I started to distance myself from her. I was in therapy at the time and my therapist suggested we only participate in activities together that did not involve alcohol. We did that for a while, but after that night, our friendship was never the same and I felt like I needed to distance myself from her for my own mental health. She’s doing better now, from what I can tell, but I can’t seem to bring myself to want to really try again to regain the friendship we had.
I say all this because, while I think you’re right that you should take some time away from S and G, I would say Captain Awkward made a good point when she said “if you ever feel like talking to her again” in her response to you. The thing is, with distance you may gain even more perspective than you already have (and you have a good one now). You may see things about your relationship with S you didn’t notice before that was unhealthy for you, and it may make you second guess whether it’s worth pursuing after some time apart. Losing friends is hard, especially as you get older because the chances to make new ones don’t come up quite as easily as they did when we were in school, but it’s also important to note the quality of the friendship versus the quantity.
Wow, your friend was AWFUL.
Hey LW2, I also have adult ADHD that was diagnosed in grad school. I have so, so much sympathy for you. My situation is slightly different because I had suspected I had ADHD since I was 8, but my mom refused to get me assessed, and convinced me that I was just lazy. When I did get diagnosed, most of my friends were like, “uh, it took you that long?” But my maternal family texted the way your friends have, and people who only met me after I started meds are often very surprised/skeptical.
The Captain’s scripts aren’t bad, but honestly, what works best for me when people become ADHD truthers is just to shrug and say, “Okay, but this works for me.” Then if they respond with more doubts, “that’s fine, but this is working for me.” Then the next time i see my doctor I tell her about all the microaggressions and her righteous indignation reassures me. Also, I don’t know your gender, but remember that those assigned female at birth tend to be under diagnosed, not over. Ditto for anyone with inattentive type.
Here are some other things I wish people had told me about adult ADHD in grad school: 1) be prepared for a lot of adderall jokes, regardless of whether people know you have ADHD. Related, people may ask to try your meds. (Don’t share, you can get in serious trouble.) 2. Meds help a ton, but you’re also missing out on a lifetime of practice with study skills. Your school probably has resources for practicing study skills and productivity. You might find that while they weren’t very helpful before, once you have meds, those techniques work better. 3) when I first started meds, I was so amazed by my ability to work that I would work for hours without a break, ending up exhausted and utterly brain-dead. Remember to take breaks! Also, remember to eat; stimulant meds can suppress your appetite. In general, I found that being on meds made it more important for me to keep a schedule for eating and sleeping, not less. 4) professors are often terrible about accommodations, sometimes refusing to offer the suggested accommodation at all. Also, some schools won’t even believe you have ADHD unless you take an assessment that is several thousand dollars and not covered by their insurance. So if you think you might need accommodations, talk to your schools disability services office as soon as possible.
Anyway, this is all just my personal experience and everyone’s experience is different. No matter what, I hope that the meds work out for you and you have the same positive experiences in grad school I have had. I wish you all the luck!
Unless you were born with indeterminate genitalia before the advent of DNA testing, you cannot be “assigned female at birth”. You are just fucking female. Whether or not you choose to grow up and be a woman is another thing entirely. Female/male are not words that describe gender, they are words that describe your biology. See my first sentence.
I realize that you were probably trying to be all SJW, but you have what I consider to be a VERY serious vocabulary problem. A human that is female can be a woman, a man, genderqueer, or whatever else they please. What they cannot do is become biologically male, because that would entail changing the DNA in every single cell of their body, and good luck with that, I won’t be holding my breath.
For those children born with indeterminate genitalia, doctors and families used to choose a gender based on whims and hand-waving. THEY ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE WITH ANY LEGITIMATE REASON TO SAY THEY WERE ‘ASSIGNED’ A SEX AT BIRTH. With absolutely everyone else, their sex – their chromosomal makeup – was simply acknowledged. Nowadays those (very, very rare) children are given a simple test to find out their chromosomal makeup, provided they are born in a place with that kind of resource.
If someone dislikes the gender role society wants to pigeon-hole them in, that does not in any way give them cause to claim that they were somehow assigned the wrong sex at birth. They may well have been assigned the wrong gender, but that is a completely different thing.
I’m not a big one for tone policing, but there’s a constructive way to point out a possible error made by someone whose overall comment was made constructively and in good faith, and that way is “I think you’ve made an error, don’t you mean ______?” and not derailing the thread to call someone a SJW (which is a term I despise) or rant at them.
“She has also said it is important for her to question me so I can “have a better understanding of the larger situation”, especially because I tend to “overreact”….
“I told S. that I love her ability to ask good questions, because it means we have really excellent dialogues, but that sometimes just jumping into questions about my personal issues without starting with validation or support is too much for me, and she responded with “I can’t change who I am.”
LW1, whenever I hear the “that’s just how I am” coupled with the “you’re being dramatic” it earns an automatic “Bye Felicia”
“I can’t change who I am.”
Hey, remember Pulp Fiction and Mia Wallace and the mother of all syringes? That’s the effect this sentence has on me. It’s one of the biggest, baddest red flags I know of, to the point where I just don’t understand why it doesn’t come up more in analysis of destructive/abusive/unhealthy relationships.
It’s a lie. People change every damn day. We are built for change. Our brains are so malleable it’d be impossible not to change. If we weren’t, we’d all still be pissing in diapers and throwing tantrums to get people to buy us candy.
This phrase is emotional judo. Not only is the person who says that telling a lie, they’re also accusing you of hurting them: my identity is precious to me and you are trying to tamper with it. Their response to a request for a simple accommodation is to imply that you’re trying to uproot their entire identity.
“Can you pass me the salt?”
“Do I look like a salt-passer? How ever dare you.”
“Dude, I’m just asking you to pass the salt.”
“STOP TRYING TO CHANGE WHO I AM!”
People who use this phrase are saying that your feelings and desires are annoying to them while simultaneously blaming you for voicing them. It’s a silencing tactic of the most egregious kind. Even if it were impossible for people to change who they are (and it’s not) that’s not even what you’re asking them to do. You’re asking them to slightly modify the way they behave around you. To treat that as a request for them to completely overhaul their static, immutable, set-in-stone identity is ludicrous. Bad juju. Do not trust a person who uses that phrase as a response to a reasonable request, or even an unreasonable one.
My ex used to say “I’m just selfish” like this was a biological attribute that he was completely unable to change, like his height or the colour of his skin. Now I look back on that and think “wow, why on earth did I ever put up with that?”
That’s pretty much how I learned it too. You don’t get to be a veteran of abusive relationships without recognizing a pattern or two. “That’s just who I am and it’s never going to change” is a pretty bold gambit. Sounds a lot like “take it or leave it.” And you don’t quite want to leave, that’s a little drastic, so…
But what it really means is “your feelings don’t matter enough for me to make even the smallest accommodations and I’m perfectly fine with that.” When you put it through the translator correctly, the whole leaving part suddenly seems a lot less drastic.
I agree that it means take it or leave it. I don’t think its necessarily “your feelings don’t matter enough for me to make even the smallest accommodations and I’m perfectly fine with that.” because, well, its not on you to judge the size of the accomodation you’re asking for. That’s up to the other person.
In the salt passing example, sure, passing the salt is not a big deal just do it. But, there is also “can you act less gay”, “can you try being less transgender, for your mother’s sake”, “can you try being less loud(*)”, “you should be less angry(**)”.
(*) because when someone like you dominates the space it makes me uncomfortable
(*) because noise hurts my ears
(**) when you catch me insulting and belittling you
And, some of these are really hairy. For some people, loud is a thing they just do by accident (I have noise sensitivity, so, its very hard for me to be around loud people). For other people, being loud is a way of relaxing or taking up space that society systemmatically tries to deny them. I can’t judge which category someone’s loudness is coming from, and it may be hard for them to judge why I’m asking for less noise.
“Be less angry” is particularly difficult; was my anger justified? If so, then asking me to be less angry is pretty awful (“let me put you down without reprocussions”). But, of course we disagree about if its justified or not.
I guess what I mean is “Please accomodate my feelings at the cost of sacrificing who you are” is a sentiment that ALSO comes up a lot, and I think “I won’t change that aspect of myself” is a pretty reasonable response when it comes up. I have recently said “I can’t give you the behavior you need in a friend, because my anger is part of who I am. You deserve to have friends who meet your emotional needs, so we shouldn’t be friends”. I don’t want to make people feel afraid or uncomfortable, but I’m also unwilling to give up the one emotion that has protected me from abuse in the past.
So, yes, “take it or leave it”. If it was big enough to ask them to change, you probably should lean towards “leave it”. Its ok to leave. You need this in a friend, they can’t provide it, its ok that not everyone can be friends.
It is tempting to say “only abusers say X” or what have you, but, to be frank, they often use the same language that people who use their words do.
“well, its not on you to judge the size of the accomodation you’re asking for. That’s up to the other person.”
It is up to the person asked to make an accommodation to decide whether or not they are willing to make the accommodation. It is up to the asker to decide their own reaction if the request is denied.
Saying that it is up to the person asked to accommodate to be the authority on whether or not a request is too large or unreasonable or otherwise shouldn’t have been asked is a slippery slope. It is a basic component of gaslighting and other forms of manipulation and abuse to tell or imply that someone’s needs are invalid.
The examples you gave of “act less gay” or “don’t be transgender” are abusive, manipulative, oppressive statements. “Be less angry” in the context you mentioned is an abusive silencing tactic. None of these are really requests for accommodation.
“your feelings don’t matter enough for me to make even the smallest accommodations and I’m perfectly fine with that.”
I think I would modify that to read, “Doing/Saying/Being X is more important to me than your feelings,” Which is absolutely true in the examples you gave as well as the examples of abuse that earlier posters in this thread are referring to.
“Be less angry” is a pretty hurtful and pointless thing to say regardless of whether you personally think the anger is justified or not. It’s not your business to try to logic their anger into an explanation that makes sense to you. You can’t even necessarily expect them to be able to understand or control it either; if we could all magic away our negative feelings there’d be a lot less sadness and anger in the world! What you can ask is that they express that anger in a way that doesn’t also hurt you, and I am 100% on board with the script that it’s ok for people (e.g. me) who are uncomfortable being around loud angry people to not be close friends with those people.
LW1, “just who your friend is” right now is “being an asshole,” in that she deliberately invites herself into situations where she apparently can’t help but to crap all over your feelings. Do create distance, and keep it up as long as she continues to be like this.
Courtney, I can’t nest the comments anymore but, my point is that I don’t think its obvious what’s a reasonable accommodation and what’s an abusive request. The person who asked me to be less angry certainly meant it as a request for accommodation; my anger scares them because it leads me to make choices in my life such as cutting people out of it, and its not fair for them to be in a friendship that scares them. Hell, my sister asking me to be less trans for my mother’s sake, from her perspective it was a request for accommodation; she’s tired of the arguments and the noise, she loves her mother more than anything and just wants mom to be happy again. It was impossible for either of these people to judge the size of the request they were asking, and in both cases they were asking to fulfill an emotional need.
In the case of my sister, when I walked away I did mean “being myself is more important to me than your feelings”. In the case of my ex-friend who can’t handle my anger, their feelings are still super important to me. I can’t change, but I can go away. Even if going away isn’t what they wanted. I mean, perhaps its a moot point, since I was out the door anyways. But, I do still care a LOT about their feelings even though I will not change this aspect about myself for logical reasons. And, I also don’t think its obvious that asking me to be less angry is abusive. Yes, it is a big red flag. But, an abuser being angry frequently or in a scary way is ALSO a common pattern. So, I hope in this case that neither of us were abusive, just merely not good friend-fits for each other.
Anyhow. LW1, we all agree that you should consider the option to walk away. Its ok to walk away. Its good to walk away when two people’s friendship styles clash, and on top of that we all support you that S.’s friendship style is not compatible with MOST people. But, even if S’s style was compatible with most people, you should still feel justified in walking. It is not working for you, you’ve tried to fix it, there is no way to fix it.
I still don’t think its a great idea for us on the internet who have never met S to attribute specific feelings to them, nor to generalize about what someone’s feelings are when they say “no, I won’t change that”. I don’t think its always obvious how big what we’re asking is, I think there are a lot of ways you can feel when you say “no, I won’t change that”. When someone does say that though, it does mean take it or leave it, and you should probably lean towards leave it.
Saying “I hear what you want, and I have a reason for not giving you what you want, and I understand if that means what I lose is your friendship, because if what I want and what you want aren’t compatible, it’s okay for both of us (or just one of us) to let this go”
“I can’t/won’t change who I am.”
Also, there is a difference between “I have more privilege than you and am asking you to subordinate yourself to me if you want to hang out with me” and “I am asking you to surrender some of of your privilege so we can be friends without a huge giant power disparity.”
In much of the USA:
Please stop being so gay= accept a place of lesser-human for me.
Please stop being so homophobic= accept my full humanity.
Please don’t question decisions my health care professional and I make together= acknowledge my full humanity and decision making capability.
I can’t change who I am= my desire to play devil’s advocate* about something I know nothing about overrides your desire to make decisions and be left in peace.
*inaccurate, since a devil’s advocate is someone appointed to help strengthen an argument.
This is super well said and also reminds me of something my sister told me just this afternoon: She was at a carnival party yesterday and one of her more-than-a-mere-acquaintance-but-not-quite-a-friend-either who was there, too, kept using “gay” as an insult. She asked him to not do that. He’s apparently very religious and also generally judgmental which is why he wanted to start some kind of argument with her about it. My sister noped out of there real fast but we later wondered how it is that he – when he, from past interactions, seems to actually like her quite well – can’t seem to stop using “gay” as an insult just to be considerate. Like, by all means, be a horrible bigoted homophobe but dear lord how difficult is it to not use one expression that makes people you supposedly care about feel bad? :[
I also laughed very much about your “salt-passer” example. I think I’ll be using this the next time I hear that horrible “That’s just who I am” argument, it’s a bit silly yet conveys its meaning pretty clearly.
Oh man, I love that salt analogy. You’re right, that’s pretty much what it boils down to. People tie behavior to identity so that they can make it about YOU hurting THEM rather than the other way around. In their own heads as well as yours. We will do some truly stunning mental acrobatics in order not to have to admit to faults or change our behavior.
There’s a great lyric from a Sharon Robinson song I love for situations like this, “My friends, be not afraid; we are so lightly here.” Like, our behavior, our deepest darkest stuff, is actually worth a much lighter grip than we generally use for it. The self-identified non-salt-passer is not going to lose a core part of their identity if they give in and pass the salt. They’ll mostly just have a more pleasant dining experience.
See also, Phe-Phe from the Real Hotwives of Atlanta. I 100% agree with you that “that’s just who I am!” is a huge warning flag – I’ve never known that phrase to precede anything good, it’s just a warning that you’re about to have your feelings trampled on by someone.
There are certain things about my personality that I don’t like – I find being kind and pleasant something I have to work at – but Lord, do I work at it. It may just be who I am, but that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of trying to control it.
So what is S going to do when she is a teacher and a student opens up to her about problems in a relationship, with parents, or with a bully at school? “Question everything?” LW 1, remember the good times, but if you need to bail off that friend-ship because of who she is now, know that it is valid and your past relationship does not dictate your present one.
That’s just what I was thinking!. S needs a major refresher in “respectful discourse” (which is the current district buzzword I am happiest about!). Either S can turn on and off her questioning depending on the situaion, and is just choosing to be intrusive and obnoxious to LW1, or “who she is” is just an ass. Either way, LW1 is better off without that friendship.
Wow, these friends sound terrible.
LW 1, I had friends like that. I cut off contact because who needs that shit? They don’t change. And when you TELL someone they are doing something that is hurtful to you, a FRIEND would stop doing that thing. When my friends told me they needed me to do/stop something, I did/stopped it. Because they were my friends and I want them to feel comfortable around me. I’m evil but I’m not a turdgoblin.
It broke my heart a little to see you hedge a bit and say, “it may sound dramatic” “I don’t think I’m overreacting”. I . . . I used to do that. I catch myself doing that still. It’s something I’m trying to stop. Join me in this. Come to the dark side of what feels like arrogance but is actually a healthy way to be! You’re not being dramatic. You’re not overreacting. Your concerns are perfectly reasonable. And you know what? If a friend of mine found something I was doing that irritating, even if it wouldn’t bother me if I was in her place, I stop fucking doing it. I sure as hell wouldn’t start talking to our mutual friend so they’d pull away from you. This friend of yours sounds incredibly toxic and nasty.
LW2, I was diagnosed with moderate ADHD and a mild form non-verbal learning disorder (NLD) as a middle-aged lady a couple of years ago. I suspected the ADHD but the NLD was a bit of a shocker. The people who act like ADHD isn’t a thing need to encounter a clue. I have zero patience for it. Some of the crap I’ve heard: “Oh, using meds is a crutch, you just need to eat a whole food vegan diet”, “It doesn’t exist in adults”, “you don’t have ADHD because you wouldn’t be able to do the job you have” (yeah, thanks, will take the dx of the neuropsychologist with 15 years experience who administered tests on me for eight hours, thanks), “you’re just bored/brilliant/reacting to our society” (LOL WAT), “you’re trying to medicalize everything,” “it’s selfishness/laziness”.
So now I really don’t bother telling people. I don’t even start with the NLD, because. . .well, anyone who knew me as a kid would actually not be surprised if they saw the signs of NLD. But the shit I’ve heard about ADHD and depression (another thing I have dealt with) just makes me think I should keep it to myself.I don’t tell family or friends. I know what kind of bullshit I’ll get. Which I suppose is isolating but it’s demoralizing to hear, over and over again, how you really don’t have x condition, that you’re probably just dramatizing it, etc. And it’s exhausting to hold back my temper after the 100th time I’ve heard this shit and not say, “ORLY? You know you’re right! I’ll go with the opinion of the douchecanoe who has zero training or clinical experience in the field instead of the woman with 15 years in the field and who has her Ph.D. What was I thinking! IT WAS PROBABLY THE FUCKING CHEM TRAILS. WHERE IS MY TINFOIL HAT?”
I have no patience for this stuff. I wish I had an answer for you. I have great friends, they are good people who mean well, but there are some subjects that I just do not broach with them. I can count on one hand the number who I felt I could a) tell and b) who believed me. Those friends? I will keep in my life, somehow, even if I end up living on freaking Mars.
“But this new shift in how she communicates/ treats
me is bringing up major trust issues, yet I feel like I
am asking for way too much.”
“I don’t want to change her, but I also want to feel safe
hanging out with her.”
Wanting to feel safe hanging out with a friend is NOT asking for too much! You ALWAYS have every right to say ‘no thanks, I’m not interested in talking about this any more – did you see that new tv show/newspaper article/book?’. If she can’t handle you being the one to set the limits about what in YOUR personal life is OK to discuss, then that’s something she needs to deal with herself, without bringing you into it.
Also, it’s tempting if you feel like you have problems trusting people to feel like that means you should force yourself to fight that impulse, but sometimes people really are untrustworthy. And it’s always fine to slow down and let people _earn_ your trust, through their actual behaviour.
LW2 I think the comments suggesting your friend may be reacting in sort of self defense may be spot on. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve been that friend who’s reacted poorly to a friend’s diagnosis, not ADHD specifically, but my poor reactions (which probably sounded similar to your friend’s) have 100% had to do with me, not my love or my level of trust in my friend’s judgement or life experiences. When I let my mouth (or fingers on my keyboard) loose before my brain catches up, Ive expressed thoughts like “but my life is hard and challenging tooooo! Why do you get a name for your problem that comes with an explanation for your troubles, medicine and potential solutions?”- almost like a twisted sort of jealousy that turns into me being unsupportive and unkind rather than examining the bizarre thing my brain is doing making your problem about my problems. I don’t know if it helps at all to hear another proposition on how your friend’s lack of support is about her and not you, but here it is, just in case. Hopefully her brain catches up and is able to separate supporting you dealing with a difficult time from her own struggle around the idea of an ADHD diagnosis, whatever those may be.
this. All the way. And there’s not just jealousy but fear as well, that we WON’T be understood or diagnosed and will drift or struggle forever and they’ll sail on by, and it’s so so hard because these are people who probably WOULD understand and listen, but the green eyes put them off, and we can’t be jealous so it’s a bit like anger.
Ugh yes. “Your problems sound like mine, so why do you get to be broken enough to be officially worth fixing when I know I’m not?” is a line of thought that’s gone through my head pretty often when friends are diagnosed with depression. I mostly manage to direct it at friends who are not (yet?) diagnosed though.
S sounds like a shitty friend. If it was a romantic relationship, I’d say break up, because you can break up for any reason. Friendships are also a relationship, and I do think one can break up for any reason, but I’d try small doses first.
As another advice columnist says, “Friendships have a lifespan.” When I found myself wanting to punch my fist into a locker (and I’m more of a flash-and-it’s-over temper) then it was time for the lifespan of that friendship to come to an end. You may love her dearly, but I can bet you don’t like her very much right now. Time to let the friendship ebb back. Maybe in the future you will both find enough in common and can re-kindle your friendship. For now, you need to find a TeamYOU. Do you feel she meets that need?
I have some sympathy for the friend saying ‘I can’t change who I am’, because it’s not fun to feel like that at all. And at least it’s honest – you could kind of take it as saying ‘this is what I’m offering, you can take it or leave it but it’s all I’m offering’. But it probably means that you guys would BOTH be better off avoiding certain conversations.
Or in the worst case, it might even mean that you’re just not that great a match as friends at all.
But if you do want to see if you can make this friendship work, it sounds like it might be good to look for areas where it does work well for both of you and focus on those – e.g., if analyzing a movie you both saw is great for both of you, but talking about personal issues in you own lives brings out a mismatch between what you _need_ and what she’s willing or even able to give, then maybe you guys are good watching-movies-together friends but not talking-about-my-personal-life friends.
LW 632, I am so sorry that someone in your life is using “I’m a teacher” as an excuse to ignore your boundaries. In fact, that person being a teacher is a little unsettling to me because one of the things that matters most to me is making sure my students feel safe.
LW663: As somebody who’s also been struggling to get through grad school while coping with some mental health issues, I would like to offer you all the sympathy and jedi hugs I have available. Seriously, that stuff is not fun. Here’s hoping the diagnosis and treatment help you out.
Letter writer 663, I guess I’d point out that your friend’s reaction is probably not personal. Chances are your friend just has a different worldview than you and your psychiatrist. For example, imagine a friend who believes that all decisions are made by the human soul. Now imagine you tell this soul-believing friend that you’ve been to a psychiatrist to treat a chemical imbalance, and your friend responded “That’s nonsense, human souls are not made of chemicals!”
That might be frustrating and upsetting to you, but they aren’t saying that to hurt you, it’s just conflicting worldviews. It doesn’t really seem to me that there’s any benefit in having a debate.
The sort of behavior that S is described as doing makes me feel so uncomfortable. It’s straight-up manipulation–sure, manipulation toward a rosy-eyed vision of the future, but manipulation nonetheless.
Other people–even (especially?) your friends–are not your pet projects to tinker with or “fix” unless they explicitly consent to that arrangement. It doesn’t matter that you think you’re doing what’s best for them. The point is that’s not your decision to make.
Augh. It just makes me feel icky.
LW 662, I had a friend like S. once. She loved delving into All My Feelings about things, and then would get into this agonizing (for me) back and forth about “but why do you think you have a right to feel that way?” and “actually, I find you to be very rigid about social norms” and no matter what was going on in my life, she always had this way of making everything my fault.
Yet, by the same token, when she was angry about something, or upset, or bothered, she would punish me by storming off, or shouting something cruel at me with no explanation, or refuse to talk to me for days, and whenever I asked for an explanation for the behavior, it was always “I don’t want to talk about it,” or “I can’t articulate why I was mad at you in that moment, I just *was*.”
She had started out as someone I considered to be a good friend too. But here’s the thing – good friends don’t just have your back for a while. Good friends have your back all the time. They don’t get to be good friends for a period of time, and then use that goodwill to coast on a wave of treating you like shit. If someone treats you badly, and you speak up, and they tell you “that’s just how I am” and “you’re overreacting,” then they are no longer acting like a good friend. They are acting like a gas lighting friend.
In the case of my (former) friend, I think she had this skewed notion that it wasn’t enough just to be my friend, she had to establish a role for herself as a force for what she thought was the betterment of my character. She wasn’t just like this with me; she was like this with many others. Her friends were always being corrected and lectured at, and one by one, many of us grew tired of it.
My point is, this seems like S.’s internal struggle with her own demons. She’s trying to prove something to herself – maybe it’s a self-centered fixation on her own worth in the world or something. Either way, it’s not your problem, and you shouldn’t have to deal with her bullshit.
“They don’t get to be good friends for a period of time, and then use that goodwill to coast on a wave of treating you like shit.”
Oh, wow. I really needed to hear that today.
Jedi hugs to you, Anonchalance.
Wow, Guava, I feel as if I knew the same person. Mi’hija, dear friend, as long as I presented problems she could fix, or showed insecurity she could waft away with Glorious Latina Wisdom. One day I decided to sing at an open mic — she showed up, and sat in the audience with a fixed, set face. How could I have summoned the courage without her buoying me up? That’s when I knew I was not a friend, but a foil.
You are so right about the “foil,” Cady. I think they are very competitive and need to see themselves as superior, and in order to do that, they shoehorn you into the role of inferior. My ex friend wanted to do everything together, wanted to have all of the same friends, wanted to like the same boys as me…and everything was OK just as long as all of those people liked her a little bit better than they liked me. The boys could be my friends, but they had to be in love with her. The girls could hang out with both of us, but she had to make sure to tell me about their critical discussions about me and my issues that happened behind my back. And it was always couched in terms of How Much I Care About You, As Your Friend.
After a while I started to feel like her shadow, and she started to beat me up for being tentative, hypersensitive and a ‘follower.’ I hit my breaking point after she wrote me a letter in which she completely tore apart every aspect of my character, because I told her I didn’t want to go on vacation with her. It was so petty and mean. There was a paragraph-long rant devoted to my ‘addiction’ to diet soda. I burned that letter in the sink and flushed the ashes down the toilet. NOT A FRIEND.
Medical deniers are abusers. Fifty years ago diseases like multiple sclerosis and ovarian cancer were assumed to be “psychogenic” (ie. all in the patients, dim little head) by these pseudo-skeptics specifically because they were seen as women’s diseases, and lupus got (and still gets) a ton of side-eye because it’s more common in blacks than whites. Now it’s ADD/ADHD, ASD, food allergies, and CFS/ME.
They aren’t skeptics. They’re abusers.
This is for LW1 mostly. LW2… I so feel you and I’m in a similar position (currently reading and replying to Captain Awkward comments while my book and notebook lies next to me and an advisor meeting looms ahead). Someday I hope to feel my own way through this to the point where I can offer sage advice to another person struggling with it, but today is not that day. May we both prevail.
Dear LW1: Oh man, you’re awesome. I get the impression that you’re much younger than me (from your “learning how to be an adult” statement – though I guess we never STOP needing to learn that), but I’m just getting to the point where I can articulate my needs and take action on them. IMO, you’re adulting real good, LW1. Real good.
“…She’s trying to maintain old roles where she was the leader/boss/authority.” I echo the Captain’s advice, especially this bit. That’s the first impression I got while reading through this – that’s she’s used to you being the one that struggles and her being the one that gets to be understanding and quietly superior. And that “this is how I am” is an old, tired tactic I’ve seen over and over from people getting called on their bad behavior. I’m not sure why it’s so effective, but it can be. I remember when I was 19, dating a military dude, and suggested we go running together as his presence would motivate me. We weren’t five minutes in before he told me to “move your fat ass!” I immediately stopped and in the ensuing discussion about words and their effects, he insisted that this was “the way he is,” and that he was just plain ol’ incapable of NOT calling me a fat ass while we ran.
And the latest permutation of this behavior, just this week: A former friend who I let get away with way too many mean jokes about women’s bodies before I began avoiding him. When he sought me out and demanded an explanation, I used My Words and told him: this stuff you say is hurtful and I don’t feel like steeling myself every time I hang out with you. “Well, that’s the way I am – I’m politically incorrect!” I cut him off and said that “politically incorrect” is just a more acceptable term for “hurtful.” I said we should call it like it is: Hurtful. MEAN. He backed off, but not before telling me that I should have told him this instead of just avoiding him. (I rolled my eyes and walked away instead of mentioning that not only did I tell him every time he did that, but that had every reason to avoid telling him since last time he’d been upset with a woman, he said she “looked like a potato.”)
And that sounds like what your friend is doing. Accusing you of overreacting” is a way of putting the onus on YOU to change your behavior – hell, more than that – to change your NEEDS so that she doesn’t have to change her behavior. It’s not like there’s one right way to think about your life and your needs and she knows what it is and you don’t. Like my former work friend, now sulking and feeling mistreated instead of being grateful for the feedback that will decrease the loneliness he always complains about, your friend has chosen to reject your very simple request and instead insist that you do all the changing. Old roles. New, self-aware, self-accepting you might not have room for these old roles in your life. But I bet you have room for new friends on new equal footing!
Argh. Just argh.
The good news is that some of this gets better with age and as more of your acquaintances discover their own medical issues (physical and mental).
My acquaintances and I find ourselves happily discussing what medications do and don’t help. There are great things about being an adult
Big hugs to you both, LWs.
“Skeptic” is not the same as “asshole”, but plenty of people have to figure that out for themselves. It’s like playing Devil’s Advocate — as far as I’m concerned, evil generally does fine on its own and doesn’t need an advocate, and it’s a way to turn your painful life experiences into a fun mental exercise for the other party. Actual skepticism does not generally require an audience (or victim).
People to whom I am a fun mental exercise are not my friends.
I look at scripts and actually started making some, but seriously LWs, you are not in the wrong here — people you care about are hurting you because they are not LISTENING to you and don’t appear to want to. You can Feel, Felt, Found them to death (slimy tactic taught to telemarketers worldwide that fakes empathy) but quite frankly, this shouldn’t be your emotional work. It should be theirs.
Now sometimes it’s just a really fucked-up slip of the tongue (I have PTSD and I had a close friend say “But what war were you in?” and wow, that is really not okay) but if they’re your friend and you point out just how fucked-up that thing they said was and just how much it is affecting your everyday life, they’ll apologize and listen. A lot of this is rooted in ignorance and this really weird belief that certain things, especially ones we’re still learning how to diagnose more correctly (and are backed by avalanches of research and doctors) aren’t… actually… real. And that is shit. People get a lot of weird ideas in their heads (“Cancer didn’t exist until we started using nuclear power!” or “Animals don’t get mental illnesses!” Nope and nope, by the way) and when confronted with someone who suddenly requires them to revise those ideas, there’s some serious cognitive dissonance.
For the friend who is now not talking to LW1 second-hand… honestly? Is there a way to say “Hey, this person is spreading some really gross gossip about me, and is especially denying that My Life Experiences have not happened, and I am really hurting and need a friend. Do you have time to get coffee?”. Because sometimes people forget that high-school nonsense doesn’t stay in high school, but quite frankly, someone deciding to tell your friends that you’re not actively in DANGER FOR YOUR LIFE is pretty fucking irresponsible.
LW1, I dated someone who after initiating a break-up kept doing things like hugging me extra long, or picking me up and twirling me around, or volunteering to patch my jeans and embroidering a heart on the inside of the cuff, or “rescuing” me from other potential suitors. (Ex not wanting to date me hurt, but Ex not wanting to date me, yet visibly Firthing me and trying to keep other people from dating me messed with my mind.)
At some point I said, “I find your actions really confusing. I am trying to get over you, since you don’t want to date anymore. But when you pick me up and twirl me around, you’re doing something you used to do when we dated, and it makes me think you don’t mean what you say. Could you not do that for a while?”
Ex responded, “But this is how I am! I’m physically affectionate with my friends. If I have to think about how I behave around you, I think it will ruin my ability to be friends with you.”
To which I said something like, “I don’t think this ‘being friends’ thing is going to work.”
Candidly, it felt hard and terrible to set that boundary and to lose all contact with someone I cared about. But Ex was respecting neither my desire to heal nor my understanding of what I needed in order to heal. Ex was treating my needs as less important than being able to act without thinking about it.
I felt for years as if I were to blame for ruining that friendship, because I didn’t recognize “This is how I am!” as foisting all the emotional work of our interaction onto me.
That is not friendly behavior!
“If I have to think about how I behave around you, I think it will ruin my ability to be friends with you.”
Well when you put it that way it sounds super problematic.
As I was reading this, a song came up on my ipod that includes the line “lord knows I can’t change sounds better in the song than it does with hell to pay.”*
People who say “that’s just how I am” in response to requests to stop acting like a jackass assume it’s some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card. They conflate who they ARE with what they DO and act like that absolves them of all responsibility or guilt. And they get away with it a lot, they push all the offense and guilt off onto the people around them.
But of course it’s not true that who you ARE is the same as what you DO. So if you’re the kind of person who would rather continue telling racist jokes in public places because you’re just so edgy, man, that’s just who are (true story!)…well, you have no one to blame if people refuse to go out in public with you (also true story!). You can claim that you can’t change your actions because it somehow violates your soul and innate personhood, but you also have to accept that no one else is required to put up with you. If being a judgmental ass is “just how you are,” then other people get to decide that refusing to put up with a judgmental ass is “just how they are.”
So, LW1, let me join the others in confirming that you’re not asking for anything ridiculous. Respect for your (entirely reasonable!) boundaries is the bare minimum you can expect from a friend. S is telling you, loud and clear, that she is more interested in judging your every feeling and action than she is in caring about your well-being or respecting your clearly stated boundaries. I think you’re right to pull back and get some space. You sound like an awesome, insightful person who is making great strides in overcoming a horrible series of events, and you deserve people in your life who see that and are genuinely supportive and respectful.
*in case you’re wondering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMB7EDkIwTQ
“But of course it’s not true that who you ARE is the same as what you DO.”
I vote we embroider that on a pillow! You are AWESOME!
In the past I’ve been guilty of the “is ADD/ADHD a real thing?” skepticism in my private mind, but I can’t imagine ever saying that to someone who’d volunteered being diagnosed with it. And, after living with someone with very severe ADHD I’m now both very clear on its existence and also how unfortunate the cultural perception of the illness is. There are people who abuse ADD drugs, it’s true, but I don’t totally understand why that’s led us (in the US at least) to decide that anyone who uses them is just lazy/looking for a leg up. My ex-partner was in Law School and he needed those meds, which thankfully he had. He likely also needed other forms of help–extra test time, etc.–that he was too afraid of being judged to ask for. There was such a perception at Well Known School that the students who got extra time (after a medical diagnosis) were “gaming the system” and getting an unfair advantage, he was concerned it would hurt him in the future when his classmates were his colleagues and earn him a reputation as a “gunner.” Even with the meds he still had a very difficult time organizing/focusing on more than one thing at a time or for any serious duration (which was part of what led to our break up, tbh) and I get so mad now thinking about how needlessly awful (above and beyond the way law school is already awful) his experience was because the stigma involved in asking for the resources to which he had every right was too great to risk.
It’s really horrible that we punish people for their coping skills and refuse to believe that they may need medication or therapy or ____ because we’ve never had the chance to witness them in a full-on flail. It’s like people think they’re Asshat Holmes, appointed by the Skeptics of the World to suss out the nefarious doings of the recently diagnosed: “My Dear LW, you don’t look like my stereotype of a person with a ‘real’ illness, therefore, you must be making it up.”
I love all those scripts. I am disabled, an expert patient, and yet I still get taxi drivers who think they know better. If I had a pound for every time I heard “have you tried glucosamine”… Well, you get the idea.
I thought I had all the scripts I needed, but those are a great arsenal. Thank you.
Ugh, S. sounds like a friend from college I recently reconnected with. He’s such a nice person and I’m sure he does not realize how frustrating it is, but for whatever reason his way of having a conversation is to question everything the other person says. I find it really baffling because he’s not a combative or aggressive person, yet every conversation with him, no matter what it’s about, ends up devolving into me having to defend what I’m saying. I think it’s just a weird rhetorical habit he has that he doesn’t even realize he’s doing.
I’m a bit of a lurker here, but I had to chime in:
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like I can’t say it enough. I’ve never been able to pinpoint all the frustration I feel at not being able to feel like I’m meeting my potential. I’ve always told myself I’m just too lazy or need to work on my self-discipline more, but now I can see that it’s not just that!! I think my eyes almost popped out of my head when I realized that all the ADHD stuff was describing my life.
Then I sent that Atlantic article to my mom and she had the same reaction. A little backstory: me and my Mom have been going through a bit of a rough patch lately and there’s been some disconnect. I was a little hesitant to send the article to her because I was afraid of hearing that I just needed more self-discipline. Nope. She got it. She really got it. Her next question was about when I was going to see a doctor because the sooner the better.
Then I realized that all her ‘nagging’ (reminding me to do stuff. I’m 24 and live on my own. It’s embarrassing.) was just her way of coping with me being how I am. And her talking about self-discipline was her trying to encourage me the only way she knew how. I think we might be almost over that rough patch.
Thank you, Captain Awkward and fellow commenters! Seriously, thank you!
I have an appointment with my GP tomorrow 🙂
I hope your appointment goes well!
I saw myself in a lot of that article too and it’s something I’m going to look into also.
Jumping in on the “situations in which ADD/ADHD is underdiagnosed” bandwagon — a lot of people have mentioned the issue of underdiagnosis in women and girls, which is definitely a real thing. It’s also, from some reading I’ve done in the primary literature (can’t find the citations at the moment — gee, what a surprise), seriously underdiagnosed in very smart people. The psychiatrist I saw when I was in grad school said he saw a lot of female grad students who were being diagnosed with AD(H)D for the first time, due to it being more often overlooked in girls and the fact that the girls and young women in question had always been smart enough to get by despite the attentional problems. It was the new and unique demands of grad school that made them realize there was a problem.
LW #2, I don’t know your gender, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this phenomenon extended to people other than cisgender women and girls. Especially considering that there’s a fair bit of comorbidity for depression and AD(H)D for people diagnosed as adults. The attention issues from the AD(H)D feed into the depressive rumination, negative self-talk, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, etc.
My tendency when handling people who respond the way your friend has been doing is usually a carefully written, fairly long Email of Infodump (if I don’t see them in person very often, or sometimes even if I do), because I’m a science nerd, and also because I’m one of the people the Captain mentioned in her response to LW #655:
Those emails tend to follow the outline “Here is what’s going on in my life. I’ve been feeling X, and have done Y. The effect has been Z. I need Q from you, not W. (New paragraph) Here is the current state of knowledge on these issues, as shown by these journal articles. Here is how all of this fundamentally works in the abstract. And here is how it particularly affects me.”
People who were skeptical or denialist about my initial depression diagnosis quickly learned to keep it to themselves unless they wanted a 10-minute treatise on neurochemistry complete with diagrams of synapses and the molecular functions of the relevant proteins, followed by an explanation of how my meds affected the system. Once was usually enough to hear me talk about how folic acid is necessary for serotonin synthesis but can’t cross the blood-brain barrier unless methylated, and how 70% of people with depression have a version of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, the enzyme responsible for the methylation, that doesn’t work very well, which is genetic and means the brain isn’t chemically capable of producing enough serotonin, so how exactly was your friend’s awesome juice cleanse supposed to fix that? Can Goji berries actually change my DNA? (For anyone who wants to use this, I recommend practicing pronouncing the name of the enzyme. That on its own induces glazed-over eyes in many cases.)
This is beautiful and has me wondering about how my own methylation is holding up. Kudos!
Other Becky this is fantastic. As a former physiology teacher, I wish I could high-five you through the internet.
While I understand that maybe she didn’t go about it in the best way, maybe LW#2’s friend is concerned about LW#2 being taken for a ride with the ADHD diagnosis. I presume that LW#2’s friend isn’t a doctor, but ADHD meds (e.g., Adderall) are highly addictive. The concern is a legitimate one. The friend supported her through the depression diagnosis, I doubt this is a mental health ableism thing. Issues with procrastination (especially when coupled with perfectionism) can be caused by anxiety and fear of failure. If LW#2, say, grew up with a narcissistic parent or was shamed or punished as a child for not being perfect enough, it might be a learned leftover coping mechanism. We can’t really know that from the letter, but maybe what feels like dismissal is actually (perhaps shittily-worded) genuine concern.
Eh. . . my mom (and other people who love me) has a LOT of genuine concerns about my life, varying from my mental health to my fatness. It’s still my life and she still needs to mind her own business. LW2 has heard the friend’s concerns once and decided they are not relevant, so the friend needs to stop bringing them up. The LW is allowed to decide the addictive potential of their prescription is worth the added quality of life.
Besides, nothing about the conversation the LW relayed indicates anything that even sounds like concern — it’s just judgy crap. It would be one thing if the friend was giving some kind of specific information that could be acted on (and I do have friends/acquaintances who have warned me about certain common drugs for certain mental health issues) but the conversation as it’s been given to us doesn’t even sound like it’s coming from a place of care for the LW.
Also, I disagree strongly with your implication that people who accept one diagnosis are guaranteed not to be ableist about another. Though this is anecdata, I know of several individuals who were diagnosed with bipolar rather than the schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia, even though the second may have been more accurate, because the mental health professional involved was concerned that the stigma/judgment of the latter diagnosis would have a hugely detrimental effect on the patient’s life. Not anecdotally, I believe there have been several studies that show that most people hold a much more negative view of people with certain diagnoses (again, schizophrenia, BPD, etc.) than they do of people with “milder” disorders, such as generalized anxiety and depression.
Stigma and prejudice are very nuanced — they don’t work the same for every diagnosis or every person with the same diagnosis.
*I think this can be very tricky to do in a way that’s not disrespectful of another person’s agency, but in this case it was basically just the person saying “I had this bad experience with this drug, and I read that this side effect can be a pretty common occurrence,” not laying judgment or criticism.
Intent is not magic. It does not matter if the friend is *concerned*, what they are doing is ableist. Strangely enough, doctors generally understand how medication works, and the person with the diagnosis gets to make the call on whether they trust their doctor.
It’s not up to friends to police their friends health issues. Unless your friend specifically asks for your opinion, it’s a very safe bet that they have put more time and thought into this than you have, and you are [i]not helping[/i].
The fact of the matter is that ADHD is the diagnosis that is trendy to disbelieve, and it is incredibly disrespecful to join in the chorus of disbelief that the LW is going to have to live with whenever they choose to share their diagnosis (see above for people living with ADHD who have given up telling anyone because of so much concern trolling).
And the nice thing about the likes of Adderall is that it’s generally pretty clear cut – if it’s not appropriate for the person taking it it will be a stimulant. If they find it makes it easier to concentrate and be calm, it’s working, and it’s an appropriate medication for their brain chemistry.
ADHD is such an unnecessarily emotional issue for people. It’s no more “trendy to disbelieve” than it’s trendy to “believe”(?), but people fight over it nonetheless. It’s right up there with breastfeeding and circumcision in terms of “shit people make their business but probably shouldn’t”.
I didn’t see anything suggesting specifically that the friend repeatedly discussed or brought up ADHD, just that they emailed frequently and had this discussion when LW #2 shared her diagnosis with her friend. So what? I don’t think the friend is going out of her way to be an asshole about it or fight some sort of principled war. That doesn’t make me part of the ranks of any nay-saying oppressive chorus.
“ADHD is such an unnecessarily emotional issue for people.”
Wow, it is so not your place to determine to what degree someone should or shouldn’t be emotional over an issue that effects them personally.
“It’s no more “trendy to disbelieve” than it’s trendy to “believe”(?),”
You’re literally commenting to a post with multiple real-life people talking about how they’ve had their experiences invalidated by people who refused to accept their ADHD diagnoses, and arguing that… what, these experiences aren’t significant because sometimes people DO believe in ADHD? What?
“It’s right up there with breastfeeding and circumcision in terms of “shit people make their business but probably shouldn’t”.”
Which is exactly what the LW’s friend is doing, and why their doing so is wrong…
“I don’t think the friend is going out of her way to be an asshole about it or fight some sort of principled war.”
…aaaaand the fact that they were not trying to be an asshole, or even actively trying to be helpful!, does not mean that they were not being an asshole. The LW was hurt by their actions. It is not your place to determine whether or not the LW should be hurt. It is unhelpful to point out that their friend was probably not trying to be hurtful. And, yeah– barreling in here with all these reasons why the LW really might NOT have ADHD and did she consider her friend was just trying to helpppppp IS adding to an unhelpful, exhausting, oppressive chorus that neuroatypical people have to deal with over and over and over again throughout their lives.
Re: laziness and neuroatypicality – The record for the 100m hurdles (12.21s) is different to the record for the 100m sprint (9.58s). Does this mean the hurdlers are lazy? No, it means they’re running a different race.
If you aren’t neurotypical (whether for reasons of autism spectrum disorders, or attention deficit spectrum problems, or mental illness of any variety) you aren’t running the same mental “race” as a neurotypical person – even if you’re exactly alike in every single way aside from that (race, background, gender, social status, comparative economic status, educational levels, sexuality etc etc etc). They’re doing the sprint, you’re doing the hurdles, and the obstacles in your way are put their by your brain.
Thank you so much for that metaphor! I fucking LURVE it. And I’m so going to use it.
LW #1 I wanted to address your letter because it resonated with me a very specific way. It’s totally fine for S to have a new world view and way of approaching her own internal thoughts/beliefs, however she’s going about it in a very jerky manner. I’m really into scientific skepticism and very much take a ‘question everything/evidence based” path when thinking about and acting on the world around me. However just because this works for me does not mean it’s going to work for everyone or that I’m allowed to be unsupportive to my friends if their views differ from mine. None of us can control our thoughts but we can control our actions – and right now S is acting in a really unacceptable way towards you.
I don’t have any friends that share my core beliefs (in the skeptical/athiest/quasi materialist way) and it doesn’t wreck anything because we’re all kind and supportive to each other. Not saying that we don’t get into lively debates sometimes! But we use those lively debates to understand how we each think so that when the other needs advice or a shoulder to cry on we know how to help and support them the way that they need.
I’d suggest using phrases like “Wow, I feel like this is turning into an interrogation” “You know seeing the ‘big picture’ isn’t going to make what happened to me any better” “This line of questioning isn’t really helpful” and then deflecting the conversation. If nothing is working you’re not over reacting to walk away or downgrade to a low-dose friend – you deserve to feel loved by those around you and having a friend that makes you question everything for her own satisfaction doesn’t sound like a good situation.
It’s also possible that she’ll grow out of it if you distance yourself for a while, the ‘rational thinking’ movement tends to churn out some really obnoxious new converts that calm down as they settle in to their new worldviews.
Good luck LW!
And there’s a big difference between “I read this really interesting article earlier today. Let’s talk about it.” and “Let’s debate your personal experiences. The way you feel about x thing that happened is wrong.”. It’s one thing to analyze a topic where there are facts, and observations, and you’re not analyzing one of the debaters; it’s another to analyze someone’s internal state of mind to tell them their emotions are wrong and that you know their thoughts better than they do.
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