Last year we took a poll during one of our webinars. We asked: “What are the biggest issues you want us to address?” Number one? Procrastination. No surprise.
And we’ve been working on a Procrastination video for a while now. (Insert your own procrastination joke here.)
Second issue? The tornado of emotions that erupt when you, or a loved one, receives the ADHD diagnosis.
We’ve been asking a lot of experts about this furious funnel of feelings that can send an already racing mind into a tailspin. And, man oh man, do we have some stories to tell.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU MUST BE KIDDING”
You probably have your own story. Do you remember when you first started down the road to a diagnosis? Maybe your doctor asked, “Have you ever considered you might have ADHD?”
Or a friend asked you not to laugh it off, “Seriously. I’ve done some reading. It would explain a lot.”
Maybe you were waiting at the hairdressers, leafing through a magazine, and there was a fun quiz. And the fun quiz left you with a sinking feeling.
Or, like me, maybe you were looking over the results of the testing that the school suggested might benefit your child. The test indicated Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As I read the list of symptoms it sounded like my life story—including every report card I ever had.
Do you remember the wild swirl of emotions in those early days?
CAUGHT IN A TORNADO – AND STRUCK BY LIGHTNING
When our documentary ADD & Loving It?! debuted, one of the first e-mails we received was from a viewer who had decided to PVR the program because, as he said, “I always felt like I might have a bit of that A.D.D. stuff.” When he got home at 1:00 am, after working the late shift, he “decided to watch 5 minutes of it… Four hours later I finally reached the end of the program.”
ADD & Loving It?! is one hour long.
He explained, “It took four hours because I kept having to stop and rewind because I couldn’t hear what you were saying over my own crying.”
He had been crying with laughter. Relief. Sorrow. Regret. Anger. Doubt. Alternating waves of fear and hope. Stunned by the possibility. Then craving to know more.
OUT OF THE BLUE
Receiving any diagnosis from a doctor can trigger a surge of emotions. “Seriously? I need bifocals? At my age?”
Most medical diagnosis are bad news. Last month a loved one of mine was told she has an inoperable condition. One comforting thought is that this person has had 91 years and a very full life. Another is that they will be able to manage the pain. Another is that we have time to say goodbye.
We’re making the most of these few positives.
At some point we all face a final diagnosis—we don’t like to think about it, but we know it’s coming. Whereas ADHD… well, for adults, that one usually comes right out of the blue.
THE MANY STAGES OF GRIEVING
As Terry Matlen, author of The Queen of Distraction, told us, her first reaction was denial. And her second, and third, and…
“I don’t have ADHD! I’m just lazy. I don’t have ADHD. I just have problems. I’m quirky. I never fit in. I never fit in as a kid; I’m not fitting in as an adult. So that’s the way it goes.”
In our new video Now You Tell Me?! Surviving the Emotional Tornado of an ADHD Diagnosis, Terry admits her denial was so profound, even a diagnosis from a doctor didn’t convince her.
So she sought a second opinion. And was given the same diagnosis.
So she sought a third opinion. And again received the same diagnosis. “ADHD of the Predominantly Inattentive Subtype.”
After seeing a fourth expert, Terry decided she needed to see a fifth expert.
At that point, with the score of 5-0 in favor of ADHD, Terry moved to the next stage. Which for her, was relief.
Linda Roggli, author of Confessions of an ADDiva, talks about seeing four experts before she accepted the diagnosis. At first she was heartbroken: “Now you tell me? Why didn’t someone spot it sooner?” And “If only I had known…”
She was filled with regret over how her life might have unfolded, had she known earlier. “I don’t get a do-over.”
Oh, I know that one. “If only I’d known sooner.” Which is particularly painful if people have suggested you should get tested and you’ve resisted for years and years.
For Alan Brown of ADD Crusher it was his doctor who resisted the idea of ADHD. When a colleague in the advertising business talked about his own diagnosis and urged Alan to get tested, Alan’s own doctor dismissed ADHD as an invention of the media and advised him to do more crosswords. Alan laments, “So another 5 years went by thinking, ‘Oh, it’s a myth created by the media.’ Until one day when he was reading the Village Voice. The back page had a little announcement from the Manhattan Adult ADHD Support Group, ‘Presentation Tonight. Doctors: The Ones Who Get It; The Ones Who Don’t.’”
DOES THE TORNADO EVER END?
The early days after the diagnosis are intense. So intense that some people simply stay in denial, too terrified to consider the implications, unaware there is hope—and plenty of tools that can help. What a tragedy. But then…
I’ve found that even now, when I have a bad day, I’m back into the tornado. But it’s no longer a Category 5 Storm. It can take the wind from my sails but it doesn’t knock me flat.
The fastest way out of the storm? Feeling it fully.
Understanding that this how I feel right now. And reminding myself that this too will pass (even if it’s never soon enough for my liking).
This is why we made Surviving the Emotional Tornado. Because receiving an ADHD diagnosis may feel like the end of the world, but as the experts explain, that feeling is completely normal. It’s a part of the process.
Experts like Alan, Linda, Terry, join the coauthors of Driven to Distraction, Dr. Edward Hallowell and Dr. John Ratey, and others are a like a Disaster Relief Team, guiding you through the tornado, as quickly as possible, with minimal ‘storm damage.’
It’s such a gift to be able to identify disruptive and destructive emotions so that I can recognize them and move on. To be able to avoid or defuse the triggers that can sabotage our progress send us back into a tailspin…is so great.
As I said, even now, 15 years after my diagnosis, I can still slip back into those feelings of regret or sorrow. So making this video has helped me again and again.
There’s sage advice that allows me to forgive myself—and others—who “should have recognized this long ago.”
And now is not then. Now I have the diagnosis, I have an explanation I can work with. Before, no one knew what was ‘wrong’ with me. Now I can see it’s not a bunch of character flaws, but rather, as Dr. Ari Tuckman points out, “Oh, this is a neurologically based information processing disorder or weakness. And a lot of really smart people have come up with really good ideas and good treatments and focus strategies that help other people with this condition. If they help other people maybe they will help me too!”
Which, I hope, is what this video will do for you.
Please comment below to share how the “Emotional Tornado” was for you. What were the emotions you felt? What made a difference for you in moving forward? Or what happened that caused you to become stuck?
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