I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the term masking, but it’s very common where ADHD is concerned. Maybe you have heard of it but think it only applies to children? Spoiler alert; it doesn’t! Let me break it down for you; masking is where somebody hides their internal struggles by pretending they don’t exist and fitting in with the crowd.
It sounds bizarre as some of you are probably thinking well isn’t that just adapting their behaviour to their environment, well yes, I mean everybody does this to a certain extent. The biggest difference is the amount of effort it takes to adapt the behaviour to the situation is immense.
Lots of girls with ADHD in a classroom environment mask because when you get treated like everyone else despite the fact you are struggling you just internalise that struggle like it doesn’t matter.
I actually didn’t realise I mask until a few weeks ago, yes that’s right, adults can do in too.
In fact if you were missed for having ADHD as a kid, good chances are you were forced to mask and because you’ve been doing it so long it has become your normal. Let me ask you a question; how hard emotionally do you have to work emotionally to do what seems to come easy for other people? If the answers yes you might be masking.
Anyway back to me, because well I know me and I don’t know you, not specifically anyway (no I’m not big headed in real life!!). I got diagnosed with ADHD at the age of ten, this was back in 1998 so not a lot was known about it back then except that a lot of the children who had it were ‘naughty’ in a classroom environment. So yeah because mine got picked up I was like there is no way I mask because I’ve known I have ADHD for longer than I’ve not known I’ve had it. Boy, was I wrong!
I’ve already touched on before that parenting is hard, well fostering is parenting but with the dynamics of everybody else having a say on how you raise the kids, which is fine, but it can present it’s own set of challenges.
For a long time what I was doing is telling everybody I was fine, that the children were behaving that it was all sunshine and rainbows where really that wasn’t the case. Why is it not matter how we get? The instinct for self-preservation to pretend we’re ok never quite leaves us.
When this was pointed out to me, I started to reflect on how much I had been struggling, but also letting nobody else see it, was I invincible? Did I want everyone to think I was this perfect parent? Well no because I know there is no such thing, so why would I let nobody see that I was struggling, seriously why? There was no logical explanation, then I found it.
Yep you’ve guessed it! I had been masking! The thing is why you have ADHD growing up, even if you’re aware of it or not, you quickly learn that all your needs are not going to be met by another person or society. I mean you could say that about anyone really, but the point I’m trying to make is this; ADHD is hard and we live in a society which promotes a dog eat dog mentality. Everyone is obsessed about being better than everybody else!
Now, I don’t really care about what people think, I’ve reached an age where I’m satisfied with who I am and only want to compete with myself, but I guess on some self-conscious level I still feel the need to hide my vulnerable side. Now you can argue that ADHD is not a vulnerability, but it’s still something which makes you different, that stops you from being this incredibly well put together strong person that you’ve always wanted to be.
The only thing is, and this is me driving it home, I realised that in masking, I really was doing myself a disservice. Life is hard! It’s not like not everybody knows that! Sometimes just getting through the daily crap is mind numbingly boring but still stressful. So why an earth was I trying to prove that my life, that heck any aspect of my life was like something out the beginning of a musical number. If people can’t see how much you are struggling then it gives the impression that everything comes easily and hardly anything is easy when you have ADHD.
Something to think on ADHDers, you only get one life, don’t spend most of it hiding your struggles, because sharing them doesn’t make you weak and a problem shared is a problem halved.