Friday, May 1, 2009

It Has Nothing to Do with Willpower

The idea that makes my heart sink the most when it comes to individuals with AD/HD, or mental health disorders in general, is that these people could overcome problems with motivation if they just mustered up enough "willpower". Ugh. Even with all of our knowledge, I continuously hear reports from parents, teachers, spouses...even my clients themselves...saying, "I have seen them do it before so I know they can if they really want to."

If only it were that simple. Remember the commercial for the depression meds where the little rock is being followed around by the gloomy rain cloud? Well, picture that rock as a brain, and that cloud as the disorder. That is what it is like for people suffering. Just like a cloud, some areas are denser then others, and there are even parts where you can almost see the sun shining through. These are the moments when the affected person can motivate him or her self enough to attend to their responsibilities. There are good days and bad days. And the bad days have nothing to do with laziness or lack of willpower.

One thing that I think makes it hard for people to really get this...I mean truly get that individuals with mental health disorders don't have the benefit of others seeing their cloud. As difficult as I am sure life is for someone with a more visible handicap, one thing they have in their favor is the fact that it is visible. When we see someone approaching an entrance on crutches, we hold the door for them (at least we should). On the other hand, if we smile politely at someone who is depressed and they frown and avert their eyes, we assume they are rude and maybe mumble something under our breath. If an AD/HD child who turned their homework in the day before doesn't the following day, we assume he is being defiant.

I admit I am guilty of this too. I automatically have sympathy and respect for any client that walks into my office, but in my daily life I make assumptions about people's character flaws when I really have no idea what is going on under the surface. It's human nature.

So please, try and take a step back now and then when you feel yourself getting impatient with a loved one or stranger who appears to be rude, defiant, or angry. They may be suffering more than you will ever know, and most likely feel ten times the negative feelings toward themselves that you feel. Take solace and celebrate the fact that you are mentally healthy and spread those positive feelings around.

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