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The Day My Emotional Trash Can Overflowed

I packed down my feelings until I could smush no more. Then, in one particularly emotional coaching session, my psychological trash can overflowed — big time. Here’s how I’ve learned to dump the garbage thoughts more regularly.

Sometimes we’re busy. Sometimes we’re lazy. Or just distracted.

Whatever the excuse, the psychological trash cans that house all of our most negative thoughts, hurt feelings, and regrets begin to burst at the seems. The lids pop off, exposing some nasty stuff we’d rather not deal with. Most days, it’s just easier to pack down more negativity than it is to visit the dump.

We ask ourselves, “Why on earth did I let it get this full? Why didn’t I stop when the lid wouldn’t shut anymore?” Trash is everywhere, you’re sweaty and frustrated, and you still have to drag the mess outside to dispose of it all. Sound familiar? That’s where I’m at in my life right now.

I never saw myself as the kind of person who slapped a good face on things and kept going. I always thought I took charge of my emotions and managed them well. So imagine my shock when, during a couple’s coaching session with my spouse, I broke down and started crying. It wasn’t just the frustration of the moment. It was a few years’ worth of frustrating moments: we had experienced job loss, loss of a home, fighting with our families, fighting with each other, new health diagnoses for both of us, loss of friendships and, of course, the general baggage one acquires over a lifetime of living with an untreated disorder. The guilt, the shame, the unmet expectations — they all came spilling forth. I began to sob openly as we discussed our frustrations and I realized that I hadn’t let myself cry or grieve ANY of these things.

I’m so thankful that we had the good fortune and wisdom to know when we needed help, and the resources to get it. Our coaches, Carolyn D’Argenio of Uniquely U Coaching, and See in ADHD‘s Jennie Friedman have been amazing supports and invaluable resources for us. These ladies got real with us really quickly. They suggested I go to therapy, and with reluctance I went.

[Free Download: 11 ADHD Coping Mechanisms]

Now, I’m not the easiest person to coach. I have an idea of the way things should be and sometimes you cannot shake it out of my stubborn head. Enter Carolyn. She’s not intimidated by me, and what’s more, she’s not afraid to burst my bubble or piss me off if it means she is helping me heal in the end. Sometimes dealing with me is like dealing with a kid with a splinter in his foot who’s screaming and flailing like a fool rather than just letting you pull it.

With her help, these are a few of the strategies I’ve learned to keep my emotional garbage from piling up:

1. Find a willing set of ears — In fact, find more than one. Talk your way through the feelings you are trying to stuff. Remember, your emotions are there for a reason, and they are not going anywhere until you address them.

2. Confront the problem head on — What are you afraid of? Once I was afraid that if I started writing I wouldn’t find anyone who would read it; yet here you are (at least I hope you made it down this far). Don’t be afraid to prove yourself wrong.

3. Write – Some thoughts are too tender to articulate out loud. I’m not saying you have to start a blog, if your feelings are too delicate to share with the public, journal. If you don’t enjoy writing, record yourself in the car. Or just talk out loud to yourself when you’re home alone.

[ADHD Coaches: The Basics]

4. Establish healthy new habits as you clear the negative space — Have you ever de-cluttered, only to fill the same space with even more useless junk? I’m over here raising my hand with you; I am SO guilty of this. Don’t do that to yourself emotionally. Find new ways to deal with your problems so you don’t become overwhelmed like this again. Learn how to notice when things are heading in the wrong direction — I use selfies (Self-Care Selfies). You know when you are off your game, don’t ignore that feeling. That is how we get overwhelmed to begin with.

5. Be gentle with yourself, above all. As a society, we glorify tough love and hard work. Obviously, we are not exactly reaping the benefits emotionally. We are overworked, underpaid, and less satisfied with the work we are doing than ever before. I lay some of this chronic unhappiness at society’s door. But we also have to own our recovery as individuals. Just because something is popular doesn’t make it effective. Learn to respect your emotions and your physical body.

These are just a few of the tactics we can use to begin cleaning the garbage out of our lives and keeping it out. Have you ever faced a situation that left you feeling stuffed? Tell us about it in the comments!

[Your After-Diagnosis Survival Guide]