The 5 steps to deal with letdown when you have ADHD

There is an article on the Untapped Brilliance blog called ‘ADHD and Letting People Down.’ It talks about why classic ADHD behaviour like forgetfulness, low motivation and missing deadlines can mean, despite your best intentions, that people in your life feel let down.

But what about when people let YOU down? When you are living with ADHD, you are more likely to tolerate people continuously letting you down for 3 reasons.

  1. ‘Well, I am not perfect either.’

You might brush the letdowns aside and say, ‘Well, I am not perfect either.’ However, letdowns aren’t equal. You arriving 10 minutes late isn’t the same as your partner cheating on you. Yet many ADHDers feel they can’t ask for better until they are ‘perfect.’

  1. Short memory

You have a short memory and forgive easily. Which is awesome! The down side is that people think it’s okay to continue letting you down because you haven’t said otherwise.

  1. Boundaries

Setting and maintaining personal boundaries is a challenge when you have ADHD. Having strong boundaries requires you to be assertive and say a version of, ‘Hey, this isn’t cool.’ This can be hard if you have low self-esteem as a result of living with ADHD. Tolerating others’ poor behaviour seems safer.

Feeling let down is painful and disappointing. It can leave you feeling like you don’t deserve better or that somehow you caused this to happen. If the person who let you down is someone you love or hold in high regard, the pain feels greater. The pain can also be amplified if lots of people were witnesses.

Feeling let down can be triggered by a seemingly small event, like a friend saying a rude remark, or not saying thank you when you put a lot of time and energy into doing an act of kindness for them. Or perhaps a bigger event like not getting the promotion after your boss strongly hinted you would, or your friend starting to date the person they knew you liked.

These are things you weren’t expecting because friends are ‘supposed’ to be kind and loyal, and bosses are ‘supposed’ to be people of their word.

You can also feel let down when the same thing happens repeatedly. For example, if a friend cancels last minute once, ‘Well, these things happen,’ but if they do it many times, then the hurt of the letdown can increase as you realize they are unreliable and disrespectful.

Here is a 5 step plan to deal with the feelings of letdown.

  1. Feel the feelings.

Allow yourself to feel your emotions – sadness or hurt or anger – and acknowledge them. Don’t dismiss or judge yourself for having them. If at all possible, do this away from the situation and person. This way you won’t impulsively do or say something you might regret later.

  1. Process

Process the event by talking to a close friend, writing in your journal or seeing a therapist. This helps you to think about what happened and also to get some perspective. Is there another way to interpret the behaviour? You aren’t trying to excuse them, just consider if there is a different angle you might not have thought of in the heat of the moment.

  1. Forgive

Forgive the person. You aren’t doing this so that you can go back to ‘normal.’ You are forgiving them so you can feel better, neutralize the negative emotions and start to move forward.

  1. Take action

What actions would be helpful for you to take to resolve this situation? Talk to the person to clear the air? Set clear boundaries to avoid it happening again? Sometimes it’s not possible to involve the person directly so the actions you need to take are behind the scenes to protect yourself from future hurt.

  1. Ask, ‘What was the good in this situation?’

Whenever you feel let down, ask yourself, ‘What was the good in this situation?’ When it still feels painful, it’s hard to think of anything good. But in time, even a week later, you can start to see a few good things. Perhaps you had a supportive friend, or you took an action you were proud of. When you have ADHD it is easy to focus on one negative thing and let it dominate your mind. Rather than focusing on the negative, actively thinking of the good helps you to feel empowered.

Have you felt let down recently? What helped? Leave a comment below!

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Comments

  1. Matthew Arntzen says:

    Number one and two: Feel the feeling and process. I had been told for decades – by family, friends, coworkers, pastors, bosses and others in authority – don’t trust your feelings or don’t feel that way. So I never got to step two. Even today, after having gotten the ADHD diagnosis at the age of 58 (I’m 63 now) people attempt to tell me the same thing.

    I stopped listening to those people. I acknowledge my feelings now. After all… by resisting the feelings I just got to perpetuate the feelings and make them more powerful than they need to be.

    Many thanks for the wonderful article and have a very merry Christmas and happy new year!

  2. Great article Jacqui.

    I have had a hard time, in the past, coming to terms with being let down by many people.

    It’s not easy to overcome but therapy helps a lot. You do good work.

    Have a lovely Christmas and New Year

    X x x

    Val

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