Emotions & Shame

Mindfulness Quiets the Negative Voices in My ADHD Brain

A grandmother with ADHD is reminded of the power of mindful meditation in quieting negative self-talk and shame.

Thoughtful senior woman looking out the window wondering whether she should pursue an ADHD diagnosis as an older adult after age 50
Thoughtful senior woman looking out the window wondering whether she should pursue an ADHD diagnosis as an older adult after age 50. newsletter

I was pumped! I had been invited to “Grandfriends’ Day” at my granddaughter’s Montessori school. We were supposed to arrive between 8:15-8:30 a.m., but rain, a wild goose chase to find breakfast (thanks to my fallible GPS), and the laggard app I had to download to pay for parking made us late.

My granddaughter assured me that she had been late to school on other occasions, but my Screaming Meemie voice rose in my head. “You can’t even get your granddaughter to school on time! You will embarrass her in front of her friends! The other Grandfriends will stare when you walk in. You’ve already missed the band concert that started at 8:35. You blew it again!”

My head was pounding as we dashed through the puddles, and Lilly headed for her classroom. I was so upset with myself I could barely breathe. The elementary teachers hosting the event were cordial and helpful, but I could not allow myself even the tiniest bit of grace.

“If Only” The Words That Slide Me into Despair

Attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) deserves most of the credit for my shame: If only I had gotten up a little earlier. If only I had downloaded the app the night before. If only I had thought about breakfast. “If only” — the words that start my ADHD thought whirl and my subsequent slide into despair. It’s familiar territory.

I have fallen into self-loathing hundreds of times. The scenery changes; the feeling does not. It settles, heavy on my shoulders, draining my energy and optimism. Thank goodness I have learned to quiet the Screaming Meemies and herd them back into their dark, underground cages. How? Meditation for ADHD.

[Self-Test: ADHD Symptoms in Women]

Recovery starts when I remember that there are two (figurative) parts of my body: the “Ears Up” section above my earlobes, where the Screaming Meemies hang out. And the “Ears Down” section: everything below my ears, which includes the rest of my body. My heart is there; my solar plexus, and my legs and feet. This is when I breathe deeply, calm down, and come back to myself.

I remind myself that there is a lot more of me in the “Ears Down” section than in “Ears Up.” I remember that my brain controls both sections, but the image of myself regrouping in my physical body quiets my soul.

It doesn’t always work. The voices can break through, throw me into the emotional gutter, and  high-five each other over their success. But they also know my “Ears Down” self will regain control, and I will once again become my usual self.

Silence the Rant with ADHD Mindfulness

Many of us in the ADHD world operate outside our bodies. We are too concerned about what’s happening “out there,” in the bigger world. We worry about the opinions of others (usually negative ones). We set timers so that we will meet an acceptable standard. We hurry and bustle to keep up. That’s when we bump into furniture and have to apologize.

[Free Resource: Make Mindfulness Work for You]

In the process, we lose ourselves, as I lost my emotional center on Grandfriends’ Day. But I can reclaim myself with a few deep breaths or by noticing my body in space — feeling my back against a chair or seat. Some people call that ADHD mindfulness. I call it a miracle. The trick is remembering to do it.

Grandfriends’ Day was less embarrassing than I had feared. The band concert was just a warm-up. I made it to the gym in plenty of time to hear the speech from the headmaster and a sweet, off-key song from the first-graders. Most important, I was able to spend time with my favorite granddaughter (OK, my only granddaughter!). That kind of attention is what we live for. Now, “if only” I had packed a usable pair of shoes instead of two left ones.

[Free Resource: Get There On Time, Every Time]

Linda Roggli is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), award-winning author, and founder of the ADDiva network for women 40-and-older who have ADHD. You can reach Linda at addiva.net.