After convincing a television network to commission an upbeat and humorous documentary about writer/actor Patrick McKenna getting diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood I was thrilled.
When my co-producer/editor/wife Ava managed to line up interviews with a slew of the top ADHD specialists in North America I was beside myself.
Oh No. Oh, Yay!!!
When we went to New York to interview Dr. Ned Hallowell and he had to cancel because Oprah had called at the last minute and wanted him to appear on her show, I was despondent.
When we were able to interview him at a later date, I was beyond excited.
When the first edit of the interviews came in at over 2 hours, instead of 44 minutes, I was beyond upset.
Every sequence or line that had to be cut was painful. I bemoaned each trim, “But that’s so good! People need to know that!”
Once Ava had reduced it to the right length, 44 minutes, I was over the moon.
When the network said the program had to be 42 minutes long to allow for an introduction, I was furious and despairing.
(Can you sense a pattern here? An endless, high-frequency sine wave of highs and lows.)
The Calm Before the Storm
With the documentary, Add & Loving It?!, delivered we assumed we were done. There was no air date, but the network assured us they’d provide 4 months’ advance warning to do publicity and promotion.
Out of the blue they called to say it would air in a few weeks. With such short notice I was devastated.
But then a slew of media outlets were eager to interview Patrick and me. Wow! I was over the moon.
When the program debuted I was incredibly nervous.
When the reviews came in I was ecstatic and relieved. A job well done…
That sense of accomplishment lasted 2 days.
The Tidal Wave Hits
The network started forwarding emails from dozens, hundreds, and eventually thousands of viewers clamoring for more information, sharing their personal stories, and thanking us for saving their marriage, career, or even their life.
That roller coaster of emotions I was experiencing went into overdrive.
Other people were in crisis and we felt overwhelmed and unqualified.
TotallyADD.com Goes Live! Phew!
The launch of our website, which we assumed would provide everyone with the resources they needed, became an ongoing enterprise full of highs and lows, frustrations and thrills. (Who knew learning 10 types of software to run a website could be frustrating?)
Once PBS picked up the documentary, traffic to the website skyrocketed. Success!!
8 Funerals and No Weddings
In the middle of all this came eight funerals and four house moves.
Oddly enough, those big things were less stressful than smaller setbacks and frustrations.
It was often small things, unexpected glitches or mistakes, or people helping with unexpected acts of generosity that sent my emotions ricocheting up and down.
From panic to euphoria to hopelessness to giddiness. One minute disheartened and ready to quit. The next energized. It was rewarding, fulfilling, and great fun. But emotionally exhausting.
Somewhere in the middle of this, as we were interviewing dozens and dozens of doctors, specialists, researchers, authors, and adults who live with ADHD, the subject of ADHD and emotional sensitivity came up.
Or rather, over-sensitivity. Over-reacting to situations or just to our thoughts on what the situation was.
As Dr. Kathleen Nadeau told me when we interviewed her, “I often describe girls and women with ADHD struggling with…being hyper-reactive. I don’t mean hyper-reactive in a physical sense. They’re not going around punching people in the nose. They’re hyper-reactive in that they may get very excited, very hurt, very upset, very disappointed….
Many young girls have even less control over their emotional reactions. You can sort of put ‘very’ in front of every emotion that they feel.”
I didn’t say anything at the time, but a thought flashed through my mind, “Maybe it’s not just young girls.”
ADHD and emotional sensitivity came up again and again. It popped up when I interviewed Dr. Ari Tuckman, Dr. Stephanie Sarkis Dr. Roberto Olivardia, Dr. Tony Rostain and authors Gina Pera and Linda Roggli.
All talked about emotional sensitivity, over-reacting, the waves of despair or bursts of anxiety that suddenly knock us flat, and then just as quickly pass…
Eventually, other ADHD experts — Terry Matlen and Barbara Luther — talked about physical sensitivities. The aversion to loud noises, bring lights, unexpected or light touches, and strong tastes or smells.
This is big! Very, very big!
It was clear that emotional sensitivity is a real problem for many adults with ADHD.
Gradually, tentatively at first, I began to sense it might also be a problem for me. The more the experts talked about how it shows up, the more I recognized myself.
The odd thing was, I didn’t over-react. I found it interesting and saw a whole new area where I’d been struggling without knowing it.
When coach and trainer Barbara Luther revealed that she relies on friends to tell her whether a new movie will be ‘safe’ for her to see, as in not too scary, violent, or gory, it began to come together.
I’d always disliked horror films. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to add to their own anxiety. Why would you find people being stabbed anything less than horrifying?
Was I missing something? Or just overly-sensitive…
We need to do a video about this…
Eventually, the subject came together in one of our most popular videos, ADHD & Emotional Sensitivity.
It starts by showing why we can have as much trouble managing our emotions as we do managing our focus, and what we can do to create calmness in a world that seems increasingly tumultuous.
The most surprising part of the program may be the discussion of physical sensitivities, which are easier to manage. Like Barbara Luther, I don’t watch horror movies.
If you or a loved one tends to over-react, if everything is extreme, dramatic, and ‘OMG’, you’ll love this video. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll scream. You’ll shout. You’ll be angry. Relieved. Empowered. Hopeful. Sad. And glad.
Very, very, very glad.