ADHD and Culpability

I’m not exactly a Mumford and Sons fan, but Pandora just decided that I might like to listen to them. I was completely tuned out until that chorus of that one song grabbed my attention again – “It was not your fault but mine. And it was your heart on the line. I really fucked it up this time, didn’t I my dear.”

It is not our job to accept culpability for the wrongs of others. But it is our obligation to accept culpability for our own wrongs.

For me, even before diagnosis, this was one of the most important realizations that I ever had.

That my energy was all going out. That it was exiting my body every time I sought to lay blame upon another. And I laid blame all over the place, all the time. It seemed to be a reflex, something that required little thought. Because it didn’t. This is why actors rehearse. You rehearse until the lines and the movements become natural. Some actors, having approached that narrow boundary between nature and nurture, begin to find parts of themselves on the other side of the line. Vivien Leigh traversed these boundaries when she played Blanche DuBois. She herself said of the experience “I had nine months in the theatre of Blanche DuBois. Now she’s in command of me” and that playing Blanche “tipped me over into madness.” In fairness, it should be mentioned that Leigh was said to have bipolar disorder and her symptoms seemed to include a type of break from reality – I don’t mean to deny the power of a genuine illness, or simplify it’s impact in an unfair way.

It’s just that sometimes, even in the course of being ourselves, we become someone else. Our personality and our potential are obscured by excuses, and blame, both of which can be distilled to one simple term: Lies. When we tell lies to others, and to ourselves (and about others, as well as about ourselves), we are at war with reality.

Many years ago, I made a decision to rehearse reality, instead of making war with it. Instead of reinforcing behaviors that were only harming me, and the people around me.

A disorder like ADHD can be the origin or the catalyst for certain behaviors – but we still bear some responsibility for our choices. If it is within our abilities to make a change to a harmful behavior, I believe it is our duty to do so.  I know that this is a challenge when the disorder itself is one that can impair empathy, and thwart attempts at reflection (to name just a couple of the challenges involved), and again, I don’t mean to oversimplify a complex disorder and all of its possible manifestations.

But sometimes even a simple apology is a great place to start:

“It was not your fault but mine. And it was your heart on the line. I really fucked it up this time, didn’t I my dear.”




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