Just a few weeks ago, this country, this entire world, was shaken by the Boston Marathon bombings. The media is having a field day with this story – you can’t seem to get away from it.
I happened to be online, reading Facebook when someone posted the horrific news. I was horrified, sickened and worried about what would unfold. Of course, everyone was shocked and terrified by this tragic story, but I found that I could not take my eyes off the news or turn off the radio or stop myself from reading online news feeds. The videos were repeated over and over again until I could memorize the faces of the people running past the finish lines- some in horror, some not even aware of what was happening.
Most people seemed to be able to fit this new piece of terrifying history into a place in their brain and move on with their daily lives, for the most part. I, however, could not remove the frightening images and fear that left me breathless for days.
You see, lots of people with ADHD have an intense emotional reaction to things- we feel “too strongly.” Not in a negative way, but in a neurobiological sense. Certain commercials can bring immediate tears to my eyes. Soulful songs can bring a lump to my throat. As a teenager attending my first symphony, I was overcome by emotion, dabbing my eyes throughout the concert. Hearing of children with special needs struggling in school due to uninterested or misinformed staff makes me pull together a rally in the capital to fight for their rights. In fact, the reason I went into social work a billion years ago, was because of my intense need to fight injustice in this world.
At the time, I didn’t know I had ADHD. But I understand now that I feel things so deeply that if I don’t do something proactive, I literally feel sick.
For those of us with ADD, a comment that can sound like a mild criticism can set us into a tizzy, causing us to obsess over our perceived shortcomings. A book with a sad ending can make us plummet into a bad mood, or worse, for days. Yet, a sunny day after a long gray winter can make us feel indestructible and on top of the world, because deep feelings can go both ways. I remember weeping and I mean weeping when my oldest daughter walked down the stage with her newly earned college degree under her arm. The intensity of my feelings can just get the best of me, sometimes. Which is why I rarely go to the movies, and flat out refuse to watch violent TV shows.
I’m not sure how much of this is the neurobiology of our ADD brains, our sometimes lack of impulse control (emotional, in this case) or if it’s a trigger, a memory of early screw-ups that makes us more sensitive and vulnerable.
What about you? What triggers your deepest emotions? How do you deal with them?