Do You Ever Feel Like Your Mood Falls off a Cliff?
Living with rejection-sensitive dysphoria — the soul-sucking downside of attention deficit.
I wrote recently about the first thing William Dodson, M.D., says everyone with ADHD has: an Interest-Driven Nervous System. The second thing he says everyone with ADHD shares is an emotional response called Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria. I kind of don’t want to write about it, because there’s that impulse to skip past the hard stuff and focus on the fun stuff. But it’s hard when your mood falls off a cliff for what seems like such a little thing.
If you have this thing, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, imagine (or remember) yourself as a teenage girl whose stomach is churning because there are so many choices in her closet and it’s impossible to choose an outfit and the wrong combination could give her away as being different and bring the harsh and ultimately life-ruining judgment of her peers.
Or, a boy who lashes out at his brother’s friends because it seems like he’s never getting a long enough turn in the video game and it’s not fair. Or a child who squeezes into a corner behind the door and cries at their own birthday party because things are not going the way they imagined. Or a grown-up who throws a party and can’t seem to be in the moment to enjoy it.
It’s what, eventually, makes you lose interest in that job you thought you wanted. Or hit “close window” instead of “submit” because you are not confident you’ll win that award. Or fall into a funk and turn into a jerk when that guy/girl you like likes someone else. Or talk yourself out of liking that guy/girl as you eat/drink your troubles into oblivion. It’s yeah, didn’t really want that; those grapes were sour anyway. It’s what keeps you stuck. Or going around in circles. You get so tired of this feeling you want to give up before you even start. It’s one reason why people with ADHD don’t achieve their potential. It’s why an older man will decline an invitation to socialize because he’s realized, or decided, he’s “not good with people.”
It helps to know RSD is a thing, if for no other reason than to be able to go, “Oh, now my brain is doing that thing it does.” It helps to know that social skills might not come as naturally to you as they do to other people. And it’s okay to get some help breaking down the details so you can understand the rules.
Acceptance of the downside of ADHD also helps you accept the upside. And, fortunately, in keeping with my theory that the nature of ADHD carries the seeds of its own cure, there are at least two wonderful upsides:
1) Forgetfulness can be a blessing when it comes to bad moods.
2) Some sparkly distraction will surely come along soon!