Don’t Fix Me!

I recently caught the end of a radio interview with someone whose wheelchair mobility was limited by lack of access to buildings in the community. To those who thought his disability needed to be fixed, he said, “Don’t fix me; fix my environment.”

The disability of ADHD is invisible to most people. The presumption that my less visible disability needs to be fixed is offensive. Here is what I wish to say to those who want to fix me: “Fix your presumptions about me instead.”

Someone recently wanted to fix the pace of my deliberation over a major decision, which was more in his interest than mine. “You have trouble making decisions,” he said. During that same period, more than one person said to me, “Don’t rush a big decision just because someone else wants you to.” I don’t think the first person intended to shame me. He just didn’t understand me and didn’t know that I’m accustomed to being misperceived (Still, being “invisible” doesn’t hurt less just because it is familiar).

My invisible disability puts me at risk for being manipulated. I protect myself by kindling the fire and poking the logs longer than most might in similar situations. I’m not insensitive to the effect on others, but my first priority is to make wise decisions. Once I’ve burned it all up, I’m resolute and ready to move on. My pace doesn’t need to be fixed.

Adults with ADHD encounter other adults who want to fix them. That often includes their spouses and even some well-meaning mental health professionals. You wish that others would be more willing to understand you. But first things first: You need to understand and accept it before expecting others to. That includes understanding and accepting its effects on others. Then maybe…just maybe, they will be more inclined to try to understand you instead of tyring to fix you. 

Living well with ADHD is not about fixing something that is broken. It is about understanding the disorder, accepting its effects without being defensive, sharpening the tool as needed (with medicine, coaching and good mental hygiene), and embracing your dream. It is much more interesting and useful to focus on what you want to do with your tool, your brain, than just sharpening a tool that you don’t use. It only needs to be sharp enough to do what you want to do with it.

Any notion that I need to fix you ought to offend you. Just as my office building is wheelchair accessible, I want my curiosity and patience—as a psychotherapist and support group leader—to be accessible as well. I try my best to abandon any presumptions, especially for those who have had enough already!

Don’t let anyone fix you! I’m reminded of how Billy Joel, in his early years, would end his live performances with fists raised in a boxing pose, yelling out to his worked-up audience, “Don’t take any shit from anybody!”

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