We called our hallway The Hall of Frames. Mom covered the walls from top to bottom in framed family pictures. We teased her for it, but it was really quite artistic and beautiful.
My brother—with his volatile temper—battered his drum kit in rage. Everything vibrated in the house, and those frames shook on their nails, pattering against the shared wall between the hallway and his room. His rage hammered that percussion. That percussion hammered my rage. Always outward, his fury overflowed; the hole he kicked in the kitchen wall, the keys he lost when he threw them over the fence, the throbbing veins that erupted in his neck during a tantrum–all signs of tumult that overboiled and spilled all over the family.
He likes to remind me I wasn’t innocent. He’s right. While judging him over every outburst, my own fury simmered just beneath the surface. Mine erupted, as well, but it took on a different character. I cried in my bedroom—my nose crimsoned and eyes puffed to squints. I starved myself. I scrutinized my body, my face, my hair, behind the locked bathroom door.
People with ADHD feel.
People with ADHD feel deeply, and they are ostracized for it. I cannot count the number of family events in which the family reacted against my brother because he “ruined” everything with ill timed tantrums. Knowing what I know now about overstimulation and it’s impact on the ADHD brain, I understand that those outbursts could have been avoided, had the adults in the family understood the complexities of my brother’s neurodiversity. In my own case, people criticized me for being too hard on myself. One misstep in a dance performance, and I heaved with uncontrolled sobs. Why can’t you control your emotions?! Stop letting it get to you!
Then, church happened. The fruit of the spirit is self-control. I tried so hard to repress all that big feeling. An active volcano cannot be stopped. I freely gave my heart, and when rejected, I grieved as though someone close died. Christians told me God wouldn’t let me find forever love until I stopped needing to find it. For your information, holy rollers, it is physiologically impossible for the ADHD brain to distance itself from desire, from emotion, from sensation—good or bad. I feel deeply. I felt deeply, I was told it was a weakness, and only now do I realize that it’s my greatest strength.
My feelings generate love. My feelings generate grace. My feelings generate words that heal–that liberate–myself and others. They wouldn’t, however, if I continuued to repress them, if I continued to believe they were evil or defunct. If I had to survive life under that kind of pressure—the pressure in the pot kind, with no release valve—I would likely bust holes in walls or tax my own nervous system in wild hysterics.
It’s not healthy. The feeling part is healthy. The refusal to feel is not.
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