ADHDers feel a lot sometimes, and nothing at other times. I’ve learned to make peace with all of my feelings (or lack thereof).
by Stacey Turis
I have a weird relationship with my emotions. As a member of the ADHD Tribe, emotions are evolving things for me that change a lot depending on what’s going on.
Generally I find myself in one of three phases, and each requires a different to-do manual. Sometimes, I’m numb, unable to get even a glimpse of what it means to feel happy or sad. Other times, I’m so fully engaged with my emotions, I can taste the colors of my feelings. Most of the time I’m observing my emotions as they float through me in their own version of a thought bubble.
Completely Numb In this phase, I don’t feel emotions at all. There is no sadness, there is no happiness, there is no attraction, there is no aversion. I don’t have a connection to things around me, and if something catastrophic happens, I doubt I’d be able to find some tears.
As an empath, and someone who is highly tuned in in to what I’m feeling — as well as the feelings of everyone else in the room — my numb state is sometimes welcome, sometimes uncomfortable. Where normally my gut is giving me boatloads of information, in this state it is an empty box, with small gusts of wind blowing some trash in the corner.
I used to think I was a serial killer in the making — or at least a terrible person — when I went into this numb state. I’ve come to realize that’s not true; I’m not bad at all as far as people go. Instead of looking at this state as something my brain is “doing” to me, I now know it’s something my brain is trying to tell me. More often than not, it’s saying one of two things.
Brain: “I told you to slow down! I’m going to have to terminate all emotions until you get yourself back together. For three weeks, you shall be called Spock.”
Brain: “Dude. Your neurotransmitters are out of whack. I’ll make you uncomfortably numb until you seek out stimulation to get your juices flowing again.”
Fully Engaged As a seeker of everything that means something, this is my favorite phase. It’s the most intense emotional state and I fall into it less frequently than the others. Whether I’m insanely happy, or desperately sad, I’m feeling something, and that means everything to me. I’ll roll around in the emotions, soaking them up and breathing them in. I know it’s a passing fancy, but I fully appreciate the act of feeling and being alive. Passion is my best friend here. You just don’t know if she’s going to show up ready to ravage someone with a wild lovemaking session or throw a table lamp in his direction.
Brain: “Go ahead and do a Flashdance chair routine.”
I ignore my brain when I’m in this phase because neither one of us knows what’s going on. At this point, I think my brain has given me free rein to the heart, kind of like hoping the spaghetti sticks to the wall and we all come back in one piece when it’s over.
Casual Observer This is where I usually hang my hat. I consider the ability to just observe emotions a gift for ADHDers, because it’s a resting place between the two extremes. I have some freedom as a casual observer, because I don’t get caught up in being attached to emotions, but I do get to watch my own stuff being played out. It’s like I’m watching it on a screen: I see it happening and I feel it happening, but instead of grabbing onto it and holding on for dear life, I observe it and learn from it. I look at emotions as something curious that should be investigated and appreciated but not held hostage. Things, feelings, and people can change from one second to another. If you don’t let go, you’re holding on to yesterday’s news.
Brain: “Whoa! That was some serious jealousy that just spiked through our body. Where in fresh hell did that come from?”
By recognizing the emotion, you’re breaking the speed at which it comes at you. You’re taking away some of its power without rejecting it; rejecting it is the quickest way to be overcome by it.
We will always have emotions, and we will all handle them in our own way. We can accept them and co-exist peacefully, or we can fight them and feel out of control. It’s the same amount of work, but the outcome is the difference between authentic living and simply existing.