I have a best friend who was severely affected by the UK lockdown, like many parents were, when their child’s school closed. At that point, I wasn’t a foster parent, but I was working from home teaching through my computer. My neighbour asked if her daughter could come and stay with me. Her daughter is a lovely individual and not much trouble, so I said yes, without any concern.
However, after a while it became a bit much because I was very aware that while I was doing my job and teaching on camera, there was someone in my house that I couldn’t see. It made me feel self-conscious and that was on top of the fact that I couldn’t do other things that I’d usually be doing in the afternoon (when I finished) like writing, reading, or cycling on bike. Ok, I could have done those things, but it would have practically meant ignoring her (or going incredibly super slow on my bike).
Anyway, I became increasingly frustrated with this situation. My best friend is an incredibly selfless person, she goes out of her way for me, so I just didn’t know how to approach this subject with her. Eventually she told me last minute that she accepted doing one extra shift a week at work and I ended up blurting out how I felt in a text.
“We become that in our head about other people’s emotions, we forget or get mixed up about what it is we are feeling ourselves.”ADHD Girl
She was completely understanding, saying she would sort out her mother looking after her daughter, but I felt absolutely terrible. After all it wasn’t my friend’s fault that the schools had closed, and I could understand that it was frustrating for her too. It took me weeks and months to get over the guilt of having said I couldn’t cope anymore. Meanwhile my amazing friend not only treated me the same as ever but bought me a gift to say thank you (a beauty and the beast Swarovski crystal rose).
That’s what having ADHD can be like sometimes; it means we are so busy feeling other people’s emotions, that we sometimes put them ahead of our own. It also explains why we are so worried about getting it wrong, we don’t want to upset or offend people because we are super sensitive to their feelings.
It’s also why one of my forthcoming novels focuses on a person who is overwhelmed by guilt and filled with self-loathing. If we feel like we’ve let someone down, the regret we feel cannot only be intense, but it’s like we can feel their pain too.
Empathy is a double-edged sword, because it means we are caring and it’s actually what makes us creative too. Being able to see things from several different perspectives. However, it can also be a curse where people can take advantage of us easily and we get overwhelmed.
“You can’t fix people and it’s not your job to!”ADHD Girl
Ultimately, we’ve got to be so careful in not taking on too much of other people’s issues or feelings, it’s almost like the opposite of projecting, which I would have thought is internalising. The bottom line is we can’t fix other people’s feelings, though we can be kind and do what we can for them when possible. While in some ways we are responsible for other people’s feelings in the way we treat them (especially as parents), it’s got to be a shared responsibility, because you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.
I guess what I’m saying is this; don’t get lost in someone else’s feelings. With ADHD, it’s so easy to do, but we can’t carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Also, we’ve got to be kind to ourselves too.