I’ve written a lot about my emotional ups and downs. As Dr. Kathleen Nadeau notes in our video on Emotional Sensitivity, it sometimes seems as if every emotion comes with the word ‘Very’ in front of it. (The fact that she’s referring to teenage girls with ADHD in no way threatens my masculinity.)
My moods are too often driven by my failures and successes or, perceived failures, which are many, many more than my actual failures. And, there are few successes after which I actually pause, notice, acknowledge, and celebrate. And by celebrate, I don’t mean having a big chocolate cake.
Okay, I shouldn’t have written that. Back after I’ve had some cake.
* * * * *
Back. No cake in the house. I forgot, Ava is feeding us healthy food.
Wait, there’s some amazing healthy cookies in the fridge!
Be right back after a cookie. Okay, two.
* * * * *
Back. No cookies. Someone ate them. Why are you looking at me?
It could have been David. Or Ava. Or the kids. Or a burglar.
Rather than get side-tracked and trying to blame someone for the perfectly natural disappearance of a lot of cookies, let’s move on.
I want to talk about success. Self esteem! Positive emotions! The kind that last and stay with us… longer than the taste of those cookies…
Sorry, I’m back. As I said, I’ve written a lot about my own emotional ups and downs… As the mood struck me. (Badda-boom!)
And I tend to notice every failure, mistake, or problem and quickly forget, or fail to appreciate, my successes. Anyone else do this? Only focus on the negatives? And dismiss the triumphs because they aren’t world-changing, or, ‘That was easy for me. But my taxes are still not done!’
If you’re like me, you find your emotions are like a tornado, changing, mercurial, rising and falling, exploding and then fading away, a whirlwind of moods, each one intense but quickly passing, like tropical downpours, then I heartily recommend our video Emotional Sensitivity. It also gets into physical sensitivities, the odd quirkiness that most of us don’t realize is connected to our ADHD mindset, and our inability to filter out ‘background noise’, whether it’s actual noise in a busy sports bar, or the small but infuriating stabbing in the neck from that tag on your new shirt.
Being accused of being ‘too sensitive’, ‘too touchy,’ and ‘over-reacting is annoying. It makes me want to rip someone’s head off, which, yes, might be over-reacting.
What Triggers The Sudden Mood Shifts?
For me, the biggest trigger for a sudden crash in my mood is when something goes wrong. The odd thing is, the smaller the upset, the more it seems to bother me.
Having someone crash into our car? Whatever. They’ll fix it.
Someone didn’t like one of my blogs? OH MY GOD!
If you’re like me, it doesn’t take much to throw you off.
And if you’re like me, you love chocolate cake. Sorry, that was bad. I feel awful. Now I’m fine. (See how my moods change like a kaleidoscope of colors?)
As my mood goes, so goes my self-esteem, at least in the long-term.
Sure, I can shake off one or two or, okay, fifty mistakes, and it sure helps that I forget things quickly, but eventually the thousand tiny pinpricks and annoyances wear me down, feeling doomed, destined only to repeat the past.
“I’m kidding myself if I think things are improving. Look! I can’t find my phone! I should just retire, watch TV, read free magazines at the library, and never speak to another human being as long as…Oh, here’s my phone! It was balanced on the staircase railing again. Let’s go!”
Five Steps Forward, One Baby Step Back, & I Collapse!
Little screw ups can have a big impact on my mood and self-confidence.
Conversely, getting stuff handled, even little things, has an inordinately large impact on my mood.
Checking my pockets to make sure I have everything as I leave a room. Making a list to ensure I don’t forget a piece of equipment. Setting a loud timer so I don’t burn dinner. Breaking big tasks into nice, do-able chunks. (For 36 of my favourite strategies, check out our video ADD & Mastering It! and the free cheat sheet found here.)
Tiny Victories Win The War
Is it just me, or is there something odd about discovering that the solution to emotional issues around ADHD are often to be found in simple, practical strategies?
No big epiphany or sudden realization. Just setting a shiny antique ashtray stand by the front door where I drop my keys, phone, wallet, and coins as I arrive home, and suddenly I’m no longer cursing, “What an idiot I am! I had my car keys two minutes ago and now I can’t find them!”
It’s hard to measure the impact of these little strategies. How do you measure the amount of sadness or frustration you’ve avoided? How much do you enjoy not having something go wrong?
The only answer I’ve found is to stop, pause and take stock with my wife, or my coach, and notice how things have been going lately.
And when I look back and remember how life used to be, it’s clear my base level of calmness is much greater. I can see that yes, I’m spinning my wheels less. I’m getting unstuck much faster. I’m letting go of ‘upsets’ more quickly, and with less drama.
I’m sure that if I had a better memory, and a stronger sense of self-awareness, I would fully appreciate how much these strategies have changed me.
Are you noticing changes too? Are you able to see how things are getting better? Or does it feel like nothing is changing? Because I know there are times when I think I’m right back where I started… and I dismiss all the ways life is easier, richer, and less chaotic.
But if I just check in with Ava, she is able to point out where things are better, and the places where I’ve made progress. The fact that she’s still with me is a sure sign I’m improving.
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