When I was a teenager, I never ever did my homework. Ever. My parents encouraged, bribed, punished, diagnosed, medicated, but throughout junior high and high school, my grades never rose above a C. More than anything, I really wanted to get stuff right, and get good grades, but I couldn't. And much the way I hated myself for being too large and not sexy enough, I also hated myself for being too lazy and not smart enough .
Ignoring homework until I was about to fail was not a sign of poor work ethic - it was a sigh of a disability and internalizing ableism. I did very well in college and I work basically all the time now - I really like work, a lot, these days. I'm not lazy, though I constantly berated myself for laziness, even after I was diagnosed with ADD.*
Now past the days of homework, I'm over hating myself. But I'm not over my disabilities, and the paperwork at every junction of adult life is a challenge that often feel insurmountable. I cannot sustain my attention to finish up more than one page of paperwork at a time, so, I do it immediately or put it off. If I don't get it done immediately, my anxiety explodes and keeps me from looking at, thinking about, or working on it.
While I finally force myself to fill out my name, social security number, and other apparently relevant details,, I'm constantly berating myself: why didn't you get this done earlier how do you know that's right what if you make a mistake what if you lie what if you get in trouble what if what if what if. Filling out forms for anything - taxes, student loans, health insurance - becomes almost unbearable, something to be procrastinated as long as humanly possible no matter how crucial it is.
Adult life with official forms papers and documentation is not accessible or accommodating to my disabled self. I have little recourse, respite, or understanding. As with the homework I didn't do, my problems with paperwork are read not ad a societal fixation on over-documentation, but as a problem with me. Completing forms in a timely fashion is framed as a virtue, so difficulty completing such work is framed as a flaw. Paperwork's not too frustrating, encumbering, confusing: I'm too lazy, worthless, careless.
The tyranny of forms is not, of course, limited to this particular axis of disability: paperwork also works on behalf of cissexism and race and many other axes. It's a force of the kyriarchy in more than one way. Nor am I the first to point out the disabling effects of ADD/ADHD; this writing is particularly inspired by a couple of posts:
Whether or not you have a diagnosis, most neurotypicals will assume that your symptoms are a moral failure – that things don’t get done because you don’t care enough to get them done. That you forget things because you don’t care to remember them. That you get distracted from doing something because you don’t care to apply yourself to it. But these are all far from the truth. ADHDers do care, but wishing won’t change neurology. We can develop coping skills, but those only work so far. - Lisa Harney, ADHD Isn't Trivia
I never intend for things to get this way. I ignore something for one day, and pretty soon it's eighteen days later and I still haven't done it. Then my responsibilities become wrapped up in so much guilt and helplessness that I have to ignore them because I'd rather feel good about myself. -Allie Brosh, ProcrastinatorAlso check out Kinsey and Isabel on the topic.
Paperwork is a form of institutionalized ableism. Paperwork keeps folks who have issues with anxiety, ADD, and likely other disorders from living, from working, from getting the care we need to treat that which disables us. It makes paperwork a daunting, insurmountable task - and its incompletion perpetuates guilt and sends it further away from actually getting done.
Paperwork is to a certain extent necessary, and to advocate its end is not helpful. Society is, as always, very concerned with its own existence, and how to best document it. And so, I can't advocate for its ends - I can only explain how I experience it as problematic. Furthermore I must admit that I don't know how to accommodate this problem beyond simple suggestions - less complexity, more available and non-shaming assistance with forms.
I don't exactly know what to do. I just think that functioning should be less contingent on how well we fill in forms; I think our basic rights to exist and live and be healthy should be less dependent on whether we have our papers in order.
*Not ADHD - I've never had hyperactivity.