‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

So in that delicious quiet surrounding me– no distractions, no worries- I decided to surprise my family by making something special: a spinach lasagna, using a Rachel Ray recipe, for dinner the next night.

Those of you who have followed my blogsand other writings all these years might remember that when my kids were little, every night was a tailspin into desperation: what should I make for dinner? And worse: what can I make that everyone will eat?

Neither of my two kids liked the same foods. One loved pasta with meat sauce; the other would gag from it. I’d have to have plain with butter for her. One loved chicken casserole; the other despised fowl and deemed it properly named. On and on it went for many years until I threw in the towel and gave them a choice: they eat what I make or they cook their own meals. It worked. My oldest started cooking at age 11 because she got bored of the cold cereal option on the rotating nights of meals she found disgusting.

Fast forward to last week’s Thanksgiving dinner.Wait, no…the night before, when even the mice weren’t stirring. I started assembling the lasagna at 9pm, following the recipe word for word. Easy enough, right? You basically have the spinach and cheese filling, tomato sauce and various kinds of cheeses, plus the noodles. Good ol’ Rachel favors oven ready noodles for this particular recipe, so I felt certain that this would be the easiest lasagna ever (I’ve been experimenting for 3 years, looking for an easy vegetarian lasagna that didn’t taste like ketchup on latex.

Well, this recipe put me straight over the edge. My math skills are less than stellar so when I read that I had to add ½ of the 1.5 cups of mozzarella cheese, I had to pull out my calculator to get it right. I still didn’t get it right. Then again, ½ of 2.5 of…something and again, it threw me off.

Two things never fail when I attempt lasagna:

  1. I can’t figure out what order to layer the ingredients and always end up with the wrong thing on top and
  2. I *always* forget an ingredient.

Both of these things happened that night. An entire container of cheese laughed at me on the counter after I’d placed the casserole dish into the oven (can you believe I remembered to pre-heat it? Bravo, Terry!). And of course, the ingredients were not in the right order. But who would know besides me?

I also realized I’d run out of aluminum foil, so I was sure the edges would burn. Thankfully, they didn’t. Because I think I undercooked the darn thing.

Finally, the time came to serve my hungry familythis Thanksgiving treat (we had turkey earlier in the day, but that’s another story).

The lasagna looked great!I had some simple sides to go with it, minus the garlic bread I had forgotten to buy. I set the dish down on the table where the hungry family wasted not a second to dig in, while I turned to toss measuring cups, spoons, spatulas, and 127 other items into the sink and came back to a very… silent… kitchen table.

Uh oh.

I looked from one set of eyes to the next and asked- well…did THIS one come out ok?

Silence. Eyes averting.

One daughter saidshe preferred cottage cheese to ricotta but it still came out…..(quietly) “ok.”

Daughter #2 simply took one biteand walked away, mumbling something, then pulled out a (I kid you not) Stouffer’s Fettuccini from the freezer. Granted, this is my special needs kiddo and she rarely sits through a meal, anyway. So who knows what she was really thinking. Wait. I think I know.

The rest nodded kindly, knowing how SENSITIVE I am about how well or unwell my food is received.

I took a bite, finally, and my tongue, jaws and taste buds screamed out: DRY RUBBER. I thought about Daytona Beach briefly, but then came to the realization that I was reminiscing…and not in a good way…back to those days of trying to please my kids with my cooking. As I thought about it more, I remembered the term that Dr. Bill Dodson coined:  Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, which basically means that those of us with ADHD often experience extreme feelings of emotional pain and sensitivity when we perceive being rejected or thinking we’ve fallen short. Mind you, the key word is “perceived.”

No one criticized my meal, which by the way, took three hours to prepare (no joke). My friends, you have ADHD; you know what I’m talking about.

So I decidedthat what I have is Food Rejection Dysphoria. (Dysphoria: nouna state of feeling very unhappy, uneasy, or dissatisfied- Merriam Webster).

Those many years of making mealsthat ½ of my family rejected, had taken a toll on me. Even though it was nearly 20 years ago.

In all these years of working with women with ADHD, I found I wasn’t alone (I wasn’t diagnosed until my kids were older at which point, they’d learned to find their way around the kitchen themselves if they wanted a meal they enjoyed). Many women with ADHD struggle in the kitchen just like I do.

What is the point of all this?Past hurts can return with a vengeance. In my case, I thought I’d had this ADD “thing” figured out, but at times, like last week, those personal PERCEIVED failures can come out and bite me. And generally, it happens at times like this- holidays, special occasions or times when I want to shine, not falter.

How about you?What triggers a drop in your self-esteem? What do you do to pull yourself out of that hole? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

And while we’re at it, does anyone have a good recipe for spinach lasagna?

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