One contractor suggested it would be cheaper and faster to cover over the old roof tiles.
Then someone explained that if we did it the fast, cheap way, I’d never know if the boards underneath were rotting. I’d just be covering up the problem, which could lead to even more expensive repairs down the road when my roof sprung a leak.
Makes sense, I thought.
It also happens to be a great analogy for dealing with negative feelings.
Negative feelings are like my roofing job: if you tile over them without examining and repairing them, sooner or later, you’ll crack.
I’ve always believed that repressing or denying negative feelings contributes to physical illness.
Sure enough, I found my belief substantiated by Dr. Gabor Maté, author of Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It. Recently, I read Maté’s best-selling book When the Body Says No.
Maté focuses on hidden stress. He argues that hidden stress may ultimately erode our immune system to the point where we become physically ill.
A lifetime of undiagnosed ADHD is a veritable petri dish for hidden stress.
After all, if we can’t identify the source of our stress (invisible ADHD), what else can we do but suppress it?
For example, do any of these situations sound familiar?
- Hiding ADHD-related job stress from your boss to look more competent
- Swallowing relationship stress in an effort to make it “work”
- Suffering social stress because you can’t figure out the rules when getting together with colleagues or friends
- Denying the stress of strained family relationships because you don’t know why they’re strained or how to fix them
If you don’t know ADHD is at the root of these issues, you may have a sunken treasure chest of ADHD-related stress without realizing it.
In a chapter called The Power of Negative Thinking, Maté reinforces the importance of acknowledging and dealing with so-called “negative” feelings.
Along with a late ADHD diagnosis, many of us experience a huge amount of emotional pain. Grief, regret, guilt, sorrow, fear, anxiety, and loss are all commonly experienced feelings.
No wonder I get so many comments from the newly-undiagnosed desperately trying to deal with or quell their overwhelming negative emotions.
It’s human nature to avoid pain. We ADHDers might have a lot of co-existing conditions, but masochism isn’t (generally) one of them.
Still, I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t encourage you to boldly face the negatives head-on.
If the best approach to life and to treating ADHD is a holistic one (and I believe it is), it doesn’t make sense to force ourselves to constantly think “positively.”
Genuine positive thinking begins by including all our reality. It is guided by the confidence that we can trust ourselves to face the full truth, whatever the full truth may turn out to be.
This is doubly true for us. After all, untreated ADHD has led to a loss of self-trust in the first place.
Maybe our diagnosis is the perfect time to begin to re-build self-trust, starting with the faith that we can handle the implications of our diagnosis.
So do yourself a favor: be fearless! Go ahead and enjoy the elation and relief that comes from your ADHD diagnosis, but also acknowledge the hurt and fear that comes up too. After all, isn’t mental health and a more balanced life what we’re after?
If you’re having trouble recognizing or dealing with negative emotions that come up after your ADHD diagnosis, here are a few suggestions.
Remember: life isn’t static. As bad as it might get, you won’t always feel like this; that’s not possible.
Find a therapist or counsellor who can help you process your feelings and move on.
If you’ve repressed negative feelings, watch your dreams.
Dreams can show us what’s going on in our subconscious mind so we can deal with it. A Jungian psychoanalyst or dream analyst can help if you’re having trouble deciphering your dreams’ messages. (Hint: dream symbols often use puns and obvious visual references. Try to think outside the box. You’re good at that, right?)
Look for overreactions: if you’re overreacting, you’re being triggered by something from your past. Ask yourself what the current situation reminds you of? Is it an ADHD-related wound from your pre-diagnosis days?
Now that you’ve been diagnosed, it’s time to let go of old wounds and trust in your new path of learning about ADHD and ADHD treatment.
All the best on your journey, and don’t be afraid to cry. You’re waterproof.
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Last reviewed: 3 Apr 2013