ADHD and disappointment
Hi ADHD people out there!
It’s tuesday, which is my day off from work, and the day of the week I usually plan to do a quadrillion things, only to end up doing either none of them and being frustrated, or attempting to do all of them and being dead on my feet, but not done. I’m actively working on getting out of that pattern, but today is one of those days, and I’m hoping to get at least some of my stuff done. Actually, as an update for last weeks post: In the end, husband and I built the sideboard/cupboard/whatever together, on saturday and sunday, and it wasn’t fun. Shoutout to the big swedish furniture store, where the building manuals are arguably the best to ever be done. I mean, they’re still annoying as heck, but after having tried to assemble another brands furniture this past week, I have a new appreciation for theirs.
Either way, I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the January Stuff. For example, I haven’t gotten very far in terms of cleaning the house. Oh well. I will do it eventually. Today, my mind is busy with something else. You see, there is a memory from my days in Kindergarten (in the US absurdly known as preschool). You see, it goes like this:
My childood was over all kind of happy, but we had some problems, a big part of them monetary (even though my mother still insists that we weren’t poor, we certainly felt like it… or maybe our parents just liked to tell us “No, we can’t afford that.” on basically everything). One day, my mom bought a certain kind of candy, that we children loved, but hardly ever got, because it was brand candy, and too pricey for us. Think: Special treat you get maybe once a year. She packed the candy into my brother’s and my backpacks and sent us to Kindergarten. We were of course under straight instructions to not touch the candy until after breakfast (or lunchtime… can’t really remember). So, I was super excited for that. But. When the time came, and wanted to eat my candy, it turned out, it was gone. Somebody else had taken it out of my bag, and it was nowhere to be found. My Kindergarten teachers, who very much did not like me, or my brother for that matter, were very unsympathetic, accusing me of having eaten it myself, and telling me to calm down, it wasn’t a big deal. And no, they wouldn’t investigate who took it.
This, to me, was a deeply emotional experience. So much so, that to this day (and I’m turning 30 this year) I still get this intense emotional flashback anytime I think about it. I was so, so, so disappointed. And humiliated. It was the worst feeling in the world, and arguably still is to me. Looking back today, I can acknowledge that it was likely my younger brother who took the candy from my bag. It makes sense. He knew it was in there, he loved that stuff just as much, and got to eat it just as rarely, as I did. And we had some strong food envy going on in our family. (Not because we were starving, this is just a normal thing for most families with more than two kids.) I get why he might have done it. I mean, in all honesty, back then my brother was a lot more vulnerable than I was, and I’m honestly glad the story doesn’t end with him getting caught. The Kindergarten teachers would have had a field day. But still, this feeling of intense, overwhelming, all consuming disappointment when something that was supposed to be a great thing, a relief from everyday not-so-greatness that was the norm for ADHD kids in educational institutions in Germany back then, was suddenly taken away.
And it’s not just for myself that I feel that. I remember an instant, later, when I had graduated to secondary school, and my brother was in primary. There was an incident that still causes a massive emotional reaction anytime I think about it. It involved my brother, who thankfully had good friends, but was nonetheless not a popular child in school (this goes for both of us – my sister sadly had the bad luck of not having found that life-long best friend in Kindergarten), a girl he had a huge crush on, and a gummy dinosaur. My brother loved these things (probably still does… I should get him some), and my mom had packed some into his lunchbox for school. I remember, it was so cute, my brother asked her to put in an extra one, so he could give it to this girl he had a crush on. But when he tried to give it to her, the gummy dinosaur had a bit of butter on it, because it was packed in the same box as his lunch. I don’t remeber if this actually happened that way, I wasn’t there after all, but I imagine the girl rejecting my brothers sweet offer, and the other kids making fun of him. I kind of think that’s probably what happened, because I remember my brother being super upset about this. This incident, and the disappointment my brother must have felt, that I am basically projecting on him, still makes me miserable when I think about it, today. Some 20 + years later.
So I can’t help but wonder: What is that? I mean, I can kind of see it tying into the entire ADHD and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) thing. But I don’t know. It might also not have anything to do with ADHD at all. Maybe it’s just part of being human. Maybe these are parts of a hypersensitive personality I might have had as a kid. Who knows? Not me.
But it bugs me. I want to know more about this. I want to know why, even though these things happened a long, long time ago, and were relatively normal parts of growing up, in retrospect, they still linger in the back of my brain. Waiting to be pulled out at any second, when my brain decides it’s time for a bit of toturing myself. It doesn’t make sense. And it makes it hard for me not to project on other people (see: my brother), which sometimes leads to me doing things that are really unwise (like assuming I know what a child feels in a certain situation and trying to intervene, even though it’s none of my business at all).
And also, I wonder if other people experience the same thing. Specifically, I wonder if my brother has the same, almost traumatic, memories of the scene with the gummy dino. Has that moment shaped his relationship with girls? Or didn’t it register to him as such a big deal? Am I stil feeling bad about something that didn’t even happen the way I remember it?
To answer these questions, it would of course be easiest to ask my brother. And my sister, for that matter, since I’m positive she had lots and lots of those moments. But it’s not all that easy, is it? Because, having ADHD and dealing with RSD, it’s incredibly hard for me to be open and vulnerable with other people (I even struggle with being vulnerable around my husband, sometimes). It’s hard to open up, when you’re expecting to be rejected. And in all honesty, I’m not sure I’m there yet. I’ve gotten better at handling disappointment, I think. But also, I’ve gotten better at avoiding it. I don’t set myself up for the possibility of rejection. Which, I’m realizing right now, leaves my life without a lot of people in it. It also means I miss a lot of joy, I could get if I wasn’t so keen on avoiding disappointments.
I wonder if this is a common thing among ADHD people. I mean, there are lots of reasons we might become isolated. There’s the simple fact, that tending to relationships and trying new things, and even just doing things that bring us joy, requires a lot of executive function, which we don’t always have. Then again, some ADHDers are supposed to be super extroverted, self-assured people. So where does this difference come from? And does fear of disappointment play a role in there at all? Does our individual ability to handle, and process disappointment?
So I’m genuinely asking: What do other people think about this? Do you experience these same things? Do you have any idea, what this is? I would love to know.
Have a nice week! (I’ll go ahead and do something nice now, since writing this has left me feeling awful.)