ADHD and Emotional Rejection

One evening when I was about four years old, we were going to eat lasagna, my favorite dish back then. I helped my grandmother with the cooking and I spend 30 minutes staring at the over, waiting till my favorite meal would finally be ready to eat. Then, the oven beeped and my father opened it to get the lasagna out, but he dropped it. The whole kitchen floor was covered with lasagna and he said now we could eat fries that evening. But I cried. I got extremely sad. About the lasagna that had been waisted, about the oven dish that had broken, about the floor that turned completely red.

I could not stop crying. The sadness I felt was real and completely taking over. Nothing could change the way I felt that evening, nothing could cheer me up, I could just cry. My parents did not get this emotion, they did not understand it and when they noticed I really did not stop crying, no matter what they did, they got angry, they punished me for crying. That evening I cried alone in my room until I fell asleep.

There were two things happening here. One, I was experiencing an extreme emotion, an emotion created by my ADHD devil. For me, the lasagna on the floor was a disaster, the end of the world, a sadness that took over entirely. But secondly there are my parents, who did not know what this accident meant to me, who never understood how small things can feel extremely big for me. So whenever I was extremely sad about something small, they did not know what to do with me, they did not know how to calm me down, and this always resulted in them getting angry. Their last resort was always anger, and often they this came too soon, but this in another topic.

What has been happening since I was very young was, that the moment I would express my emotions, I was punished for them. Simply because my parents could not understand what I was upset about, and there was not way to stop them. This did not only count for sadness, anger also followed on excitement, fear, frustration or disappointment. I have been punished for every kind of feeling I had, just because it often was caused by something small, something that doesn’t bother other people.

In school the same thing was happening, although the anger wasn’t expressed through beating, bruises and pain. In primary school we always celebrated Christmas with a breakfast or brunch in the classroom. Everyone would bring the food that our parents made for that morning and while we would eat, we were singing songs and some of us would do a little performance. In 1st grade, there was a girl that had started playing the violin, and she figured the Christmas brunch was the perfect occasion for her first performance. However, she was terrible, all the notes the played were off, whatever she played was extremely out of tune.

False notes and hypersensitivity create the same feeling as scratching nails on a blackboard do to neurotypical people. I felt every note she played as a pain, traveling through all my nerves. Halfway through her first song I could not take it any longer. I ran out of the classroom and started crying on the stairs in a corner of the building no one ever came. When my teacher found me, she asked me what was wrong. I answered that the music was too bad, that it was painful, that I couldn’t listen anymore, that I had to get out.

My teacher of course, did not understand. She had also noticed that the sounds produced by the violin and the girl were not very pleasant to listen to, but she did not feel the pain that it had caused me, she did not understand how for me it were not just the sounds, she did not understand how the sounds had been traveling trough my nerves, how the sounds had created an unmanageable pain in my entire body. She told me to stop being such a wuss. She told me how extremely unfair I was to the girl, how mean I was for leaving the room. She told me how I had to go back and apologize, listen to the next song. She thought I was overreacting and that I, like the other kids, should be able to pretend it was ok, be able to sit down and listen till the song is over.

My emotions have never been understood by other people, because they are different that other’s peoples emotions. My experience is different, and unfortunately no one ever figured this could be the case. The people around me never understood that I see and feel things different as they do, they never understood that I have a little ADHD devil that is able to blow up the input or to see only parts of it, often the parts that are not recognized by other people. They never understood how I felt things, and this always resulted in anger or being called selfish, weak or unable to listen and behave.

The misunderstanding resulted for me in a feeling of rejection. Even when I was young, I always felt like my emotions were not allowed to exist, that I was never allowed to feel what I was feeling. And even when I was about 4 to 5 years old, I knew that I had to start hiding, I had to start hiding what I actually felt for myself and the rest of the world, and this is kind of what fucked me up in my adult life.

I have become too good in hiding. When I was a teenager, I found out, there was no way to figure out what emotions where “normal” and which ones where blown out of proportions. I think I started to really give up on emotions when I was trying to find help for the abuse that was going on at home. I once spoke to a teacher about this, the teacher that was also the counsellor at school. I told her about the physical and metal abuse that had been going on for years. I told her that I could not take it anymore and she told me that she could not believe this was the truth. She told me how she knew my parents as nice people, how they told her how I always make things up, how my emotions are unreal, how I was seeing a different world that is unreal. Without any questions she told me how I was wrong, she told me I was making things up and it was very wrong of me to make up this story about my parents. Even when I showed her my bruises, she was sure I made them myself, to make the story more believable.

From this moment I stopped. I stopped feeling and I stopped trusting myself. I started to ignore everything, I started to tell myself that whatever I felt was wrong, whatever I felt was just a misconception of what was real. For a while I did not understand anything anymore, I started to become crazy. Whenever my father would beat me, I started to wonder if he actually did it, I started to wonder what had really happened, I started to question how I got my bruises. I started to think that whenever I got hit by my father, it was not real, I started to believe that I was making up these things, like a dream, and meanwhile actually hurting myself. I was completely lost.

In my twenties I had a lot of conversations with my grandpa about the abuse, and this made me realize that it was actually true, I finally started to believe again that what I had felt was real, that I did not make up a story, but this did not make me have trust in my feelings. Whenever I feel sad, angry, excited, scared, frustrated or disappointed I believe it is not a feeling that is allowed to be there. I still always believe my feelings are not appropriate, fake or too extreme.

When my grandpa died a year ago, I did not allow myself to feel sadness. When I found out I have Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a genetic disorder that comes with high cholesterol levels, mostly the bad kind, and early cardiovascular disease, I did not allow myself to feel disappointed or angry. When I met my boyfriend and figured out he was a very good match for me, I did not allow myself to get exited. Even when I was away from home for over 12 hours every day, because of my family I had to take care of, working out and my job, I did not allow myself to feel tired.

The many years of rejection of my emotions have made me extremely hard, hard to myself. I have lost the trust in myself, I no longer believe that anything I feel might be real or true. I have taught myself a way to just hide everything, because I believed that everything should be inappropriate, and this is the worst thing I did to myself. After years of hiding everything I am now back to feeling everything, I’m back to my uncontrolled extreme emotional experience, like I used to have when I was a kid. In all these years I did not learn how to control emotions, how to make them less extreme. I have no idea how to feel without loosing control. I did not learn anything from hiding everything and I feel like I’m all the way back to the start.

Luckily, this time there are no people around that do not understand me. This time I won’t get rejected for all the things I will feel. This time I will be able to feel everything, and instead of trying to hide my emotions, I will be trying to look at them, see where they come from, see what they mean and then judge them. I think it is important to feel every one of them, but in a controlled way. Instead of making them disappear, instead of ignoring and hiding, I have to let them be without exploding. Whatever I felt as a kid, no matter how weird or inappropriate, I did feel for real and I was never wrong to feel whatever it was I felt.

The problem is not that I feel, the problem is that I can not control my reaction. I have been taking away the feelings but this has taken away a big part of me and in the end it broke me. I took the easy way until I could no longer take it. Now it is time to stop cheating, let the feelings be there and work on the real problem, the reaction. Because as an ADHD brain it is not wrong to feel things other people don’t feel, it is normal, it is how our brains work. We just have to figure out a way to control the reaction we have on these feelings, he have to control the output, in order to not be rejected.

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