I read a recent article in Attitude magazine that has my brain spinning. It covered three features of ADHD that it envisions as unifying. The first two—interest-driven attention and emotional hyperarousal—I have thought about a great deal. The last one, Rejection Sensitivity, has caused me to revisit a lot of aspects and events of my whole life. People with rejection sensitivity, like me, are prone to feeling they are being made fun of, mocked, laughed at, criticized. This feeling, as I can personally relate, is visceral; it lives in the body, almost like one of those creatures from the movie ALIEN. Everything can be all right one second, and the very next I can be spiraling down into deep shame and alienation. I have done MASSIVE amounts of personal growth work on this tendency, that seems hard-wired within me, but it is still there, lurking like an evil entity, waiting to hijack my consciousness and ruin my day.
Some people with this tendency get angry, and stay angry, a lot. They have had such a consistent and potent sense of rejection, alienation, and criticism, that their motto is a giant middle finger to the whole word. F-you is their rallying cry and their solace. My brother falls into this camp, and he has raised that middle finger to boss after boss, girlfriend after girlfriend, and in his sixties now, continues on this path. Others, like many of the students I work with, just give up. They never seem to win the fight, and end up feeling relegated to society’s sidelines. I have tried to compensate for this tendency by becoming a people pleaser and an overachiever. I have tried to figure out what people value in others and then tried to become that. Linked to this tendency, I have tried to amass achievements so that I would be above criticism, beyond reproach. However, rejection sensitivity seems has not gone away; I still have days when I spend hours fearing some criticism, or rejection by others. It is my personal sword of Damocles; I am just waiting for that day I am sure is coming, when someone will finally lop off my head.
What really knocked me over about the article in Attitude magazine was that this tendency can be reversed with something as simple as medication. Now, you have to take two medications to have a good chance this approach will work, and even then it is only effective for 60% of people. However, those in whom it has succeeded have been amazed how easily they have been able to sluff off criticism, and to simply live a day without feeling that they are being rejected.
Now, I am not planning on taking any more medications than I already do. After a few months during which I almost died and having been on IV drips for every medication under the sun, I am in no hurry to add to my personal pharmacopeia. Simply knowing that this tendency is a brain-driven condition has helped me to ease up, to stop the insanity of beating up on myself and to realize that this tendency is in my body, and in many ways has a life of its own. I have been meditating more extensively and been much more able to let these feelings, as strong as they are, pass through me. I am sure I will write more on this topic as it is one with which I seem to be engaging on a daily, and even a minute-by-minute, basis.