You Don't Get My ADHD


She Took The Joy: Why The Words We Use Cut Deeper for ADHDers

People lash out when they are dismissed, and it’s always interesting to hear which hill they choose to die on.

I’ve heard many stories over the years, from colleagues, friends, clients, about the things that people will say when they know it’s over.

But the best one has to be when I was recently told it was wrong of me to ‘intentionally purchase the loudest keyboard on the market’.

Recently when I was moving to my new office, I bought a load of new IT equipment — some of which had to be returned but that’s another story entirely. Turns out, even when buying through Amazon, the sellers can be selling utter shite, masquerading as quality IT products. But I needed stuff and fast. I bought desks, kitchenware, and a few other bits. One of these bits was my new keyboard.

I love a chunky keyboard. When I use a flat keyboard, such as a low-profile model or a laptop keyboard, my hands ache. A chunky keyboard encourages me to use my ‘piano fingers’, which is a healthier position for my hands and makes the ache much slower to develop.

When I was purchasing this new keyboard, I did it quickly — but the design filled me with joy.

Rainbow Backlighting

Crisp white keys

Chunky keys like the 1990s

It was my ADHD DREAM keyboard. And when it arrived, it clicked and clunked in a satisfying way. I don’t do a lot of typing, but I knew that it would fulfil my ADHD/Autistic joy meter to the top time and time again.

So you can imagine the spiral that ensued when I was told that my keyboard was ‘wrong’.

You see, one of the most damaging parts of ADHD is the emotional dysregulation that comes with it, which is separately labelled as Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. As the name says, when we are rejected or when we perceive something as a rejection, it leads us to feel dysphoric. According to the Meriam-Webster dictionary, dysphoric means “very unhappy, uneasy, or dissatisfied marked or characterised by dysphoria”.

What it looks like, is a very quick, internalised spiral of intense emotions. For me, it can take me from ‘I am on top of the world’ to ‘I am a really shitty person and immediately want to die because I am so awful and the world would be better without me’ in about 5 seconds. Hearing those words from a person about an object that had been set to bring me so much joy, it broke me. I concluded the meeting, delivered the deliberation and results, and ended the call. I thanked my HR provider for her help, I sent the documents to the person, had payroll issue a final payslip and P45.

And then I sobbed.

I sobbed and I sobbed til the tears ran out. I called a client/friend and sobbed. And then I got on with my day.

But now, I’m selling the keyboard, because I will never look at it the same. It’s just not going to be the same for me.

Those words were intended to trigger me. But they did so much more than that. This person had been provided with some pretty comprehensive training around neurodivergence, which covered all the bases. So now I have to wonder, did they ignore the training? Or did they intentionally manipulate their learning to hurt me in that moment?

My guess is that they probably just didn’t think.

We could all learn from this though. I do try to assume that, when giving feedback, everyone has RSD. What if we did that?

What if we assume that our words can be perceived as hurtful, and choose to deploy tact, kindness and diplomacy at all times? What if we intentionally decide to interact from a place of love, even when we are experiencing extreme, negative emotions. What if we look at the anger, frustration, sadness, hurt, and turn that emotion to intense compassion for the other party?

The words we use can do more than just upset someone. To you, its just a keyboard. But for me, that interaction has had consequences:

  • I’m getting rid of the keyboard
  • I’ve reflected on myself and whether I am a completely horrible or unreasonable employer
  • I’ve had my brain give me the highlight reel of ‘every single bad thing I did ever since the beginning of time’ against which I’ve then graded the keyboard and ranked it against other things to compare it, which has then led me to relive all the bad things that have happened in my life
  • It has destroyed my confidence in my abilities as a communicator. If they felt unable to approach me with this, am I actually terrible at communicating despite all the inner work I’ve done on this?
  • If my employees are holding in things like this, what else are they holding in, and how can I trust that they aren’t keeping things from me?

To you, it’s a throwaway comment about a piece of equipment.

To me, it’s a symbol of everything that I’m failing at in life.

Choose your words with care, with compassion, and with love.

2 thoughts on “She Took The Joy: Why The Words We Use Cut Deeper for ADHDers”

  1. I’m so sorry about your keyboard. Was just trying to explain this to therapist & SO the other day. They do not understand how easy it is to tarnish my joy. Didn’t realize it was related to ND, because I was being told I was “just too sensitive.” It’s really helpful to see this isn’t just me.

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