ADHD Emotional Dysregulation

This is my number one problem with ADHD. In the before times, when I wasn’t taking anything for it, I had these huge emotional swings that were epic and daunting for those around me. I could go between deliriously happy and epically angry in about 30 seconds. I thought I had something else going on, some emotional issue or personality disorder. It was scary sometimes how I could not control myself no matter how hard I tried.

I had to be left alone when I came home from work. I could not talk to ANYONE until I was changed, sat quietly by myself, and calmed down from the overstimulation I was getting at work most days. If someone tried to get my attention, it was very likely that I would explode in a rage that made no sense. I just walked through the door; how was it possible that I could be THAT angry about anything??!! But I was. I only allowed myself to express two emotions in this state…rage or extreme sadness. But rage won out most of the time.

I was married to someone who believed that feelings were a waste of time and they did not bother to try and understand me. I was dealing with emotional abuse that I refused to see for a long time. I was accused of being too sensitive, too much, not enough, etc. This only set off my emotional dysregulation more.

If you add that crazy dysregulation to the mix that also includes OCD and PTSD, I was a messy, walking disaster who was trying to live my best life. At work I tried to be outgoing and productive, but at home I was a raging demon. Interrupt my Sunday football games? Prepare to be deaf from the screaming that leapt out of my throat like a velociraptor. Dare to wake me up too early in the morning? Prepare for unparalleled rage that felt like a huge fire hose jumping out of my hands and spewing crazy amounts of hate everywhere. I don’t know if anyone close to me truly understands how much anger I used to have on a regular basis.

Me outside of the house and me at home…for real

I don’t find myself fighting that anger as much now, but the sadness does try to grab at me from time to time. We call that “wandering in the pricker bushes” here, meaning that I’ve gone off the walking path and I’ve gotten myself stuck in a painful situation for no apparent reason. Sometimes I say asinine stuff and my wife asks me what I mean, or why I’m saying that. Once she does that, I realize that I’ve gone on one of these unauthorized journeys into the pricker bushes. And then I have to (out loud) tell myself repeatedly that I am literally fine and there’s nothing here to be worked up about. I can usually calm down from there and get back on the path to happiness without this crazy idea that something is terribly wrong and I just can’t bear it.

The other crazy ADHD thing I experience is Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) and this thing is a beast. It’s like being rejected literally makes me feel pain inside. If I say something dumb and it’s obvious people think it was dumb, or if I finally work up the nerve to ask someone to do something and they can’t, it’s like I want to burst into tears and run away. I dealt with this a lot as a little kid who didn’t seem to know what to say. I once found a chart about equivalent ages between people with ADHD and people without. It was stunning for me to realize that I went to college with the executive functioning of a 12 year. Combined with the emotional stunting from trauma, it’s a wonder I made it through college. This chart below shows how the brain development is stunted in those with ADHD.

What’s the most crazy thing is that I was able to sort of hide these problems from everyone around me that didn’t live with me for a long time. Everyone thought I was perfectly tame and likely very…vanilla most of the time. The people that lived with me knew otherwise. I try not to feel guilty about all that I subjected them to, but sometimes it’s hard. I am very grateful now to be married to the most amazing woman, who goes out of her way to try and understand me when I seem to want to self-destruct for no good reason. She asks good questions that take me out of that weird place where I don’t feel right and I’m really sure what’s going on. And I’m eternally grateful for adderall. It has changed my life and given me some functionality when I thought all hope was lost. Medication isn’t the answer for everyone, but it definitely is for me.

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