Just try harder. You’re not good enough, and you’re lazy.
That is the message people with disabilities of all kinds get so often in life when we don’t meet other people’s expectations: just try harder. Whether we are told that flat-out, or whether it’s just the message we pick up on, we hear that we are not trying hard enough and that we are not good enough. We all sense it, and it hurts.
I was reading through some old correspondence, and found some things that used to get me all fired up. Maybe you can relate. People just do not understand chronic illness or chronic pain. They don’t understand what it’s like to raise special-needs kids, either. But they believe they know all about all of the above.
There are some who take it to a whole new level. Our family has had to deal with a few of them. Maybe you have, too.
They claim that all children are the same, that my kids, my husband, and I are “normal,” whatever that means (we’re sure not neurotypical, I can tell you that). They deny the existence of ADHD and its challenges (that’s another post for another day), say that my fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions are “all in my head,” and that it takes just as much energy to cook and clean house all day as it does to sit at a computer and move my fingers.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but those things are absolutely not true. Everything they say boils down to “Just try harder. You’re not trying hard enough.” What I hear on the end of that is, “In fact, you’re not good enough.” Someone might not ever say that, but we sense it anyway, don’t we? There may even be punishment coming, real or implied. Just try harder, or else.
Over the years, parents who have chronic illness and parents of kids who have special needs have worked through a lot of things. We have learned many ways to cope, to help our children heal. Part of it is just TIME PASSING. Part of it is working our TAILS off as their parents.
In some areas, our children function a lot better now than they did a few years ago. In some, they may never improve. If your child has autism, Aspie traits, attentional issues, or any other condition like this, you know that is true for your child, too.
Of course seeing them improve in some areas doesn’t decrease the frustration any, because when they do, the people who claimed that the kids had no problems go, “See? We told you they were normal kids!”
“See? We told you that it was just bad parenting at fault and now that you’re doing your job as a parent, they’re getting better!”
“We were right. All it takes is hard discipline.”
“All they needed was to just try harder.”
Please ignore my flat forehead. It’s just the result of beating my head against brick walls for so long. Now, when someone insists on being a brick wall in my life, I just wish them well, spin on my heel, and keep making progress in the right direction.
Story of overcoming
A professional I know told me a story that illustrates this perfectly. A young man had been told his whole life that he just wasn’t trying, even though he knew he was. He was trying hard! Then, he went through a program of physiological activities that changed his brain for the better.
By the end of it, all those things he’d been having trouble with before just clicked into place and suddenly were a breeze! Instead of congratulating him on the progress he had made, acknowledging that the physiological activities had made such a difference for him…
All of his friends and family said, “See, we TOLD you that all you needed was to just try harder!” He had been trying as hard as he could all along, until he got that therapy. After that, the things that had been so difficult for him became much easier, and at the end of it he wasn’t trying at all, but he was doing them well.
This kind of paradoxical thing is what we have to deal with every time one of our children gets better at something. “See, we told you that you just weren’t trying hard enough!”
Aw, go Thank you. Have a nice day.” Snagglepuss and I exit stage right, even. How do you handle it when people tell you you’re not trying hard enough?