I had an interesting day a couple of months ago at a conference in Arizona. I wanted to talk to a speaker, and the topic was significant to me personally. It meant a great deal that I could only have 2 minutes of her time to share this vital message about me. Something I have been working on for a while. I was promised that I can have a few minutes with her, and her assistant was going to make sure. I waited patiently after the presentation for others to finish talking to her. I patiently waited. Then the assistant told me sorry she is leaving and do not approach her during the next couple of days at the conference.
That hurt. Another broken promise. Another situation that proves to me that I am not important. Another slight at me. What matters to me is not relevant to others.
It was tough for me to sit patiently and wait to have those few minutes. It took a great deal of effort to not visibly show my frustration and impatience visually via. My heightened anxiety about talking to the speaker about this important thing amplified my reaction to her “slight.” I was deflated. I stood there in a daze. People spoke to me, and I couldn’t put words together. My mind was numb. Something didn’t make sense, and I was confused. Rejection is a normal course for me. Why was this different?
The confusion I had was that I realized she didn’t slight me on purpose. She was tired and had to go home. The slight was not personal, and I “perceived” it as personal. It’s a habit. That was why it was confusing; this was the first time I was aware a “slight” was perceived and not a shot at me. That awareness really derailed me that night and the next days.
I “removed” myself from people in a crowded room. The same people who wanted me around and were happy I was there. I stayed out on the outer fringes of the crowd, an outlier looking in. I was asked to come in, and I politely refused. I put up an invisible wall between me and everyone, more like a thick clear glass you have in prison when inmates talk to visitors. I put up a barrier to protect me. But to protect me from what? I knew I didn’t need the barrier. It was still up, must be a habit, maybe my instincts. What did I need protection from?
Normally, I would just walk away and confirm the slight was personal, accept it, bury it and move on with denial. Walk away from the whole conference.
I was aware the slight was perceived and not intended. I realized my Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) took over and wanted to persist. I knew it was starting to take over. I tried hard to prevent it, to resist it, to overcome it, but I didn’t know-how. I was confused because I knew what the problem was, and I didn’t know how to fix it. I was confused. I realized I have accepted RSD. RSD is part of me and my ADHD, and it has controlled my reactions in the past for my protection.
It took over, again. The difference this time was that I was aware it was RSD, and I tried to not let it control me. I decided to stay and attend the event, knowing the feelings and related emotions were there and slowly building into a negative ruminating snowball.
I noticed and noted this build-up. I knew the feelings were going in the wrong direction, into the negative self-talk, and likely trigger an ADHD symptom. I made the decision to step away from the conference and go do my mindfulness meditation. My intent was to calm my mind before it ramped up to infinite speed and take over my negative talk. My intention was to return to the event and be with people I like and enjoy. Who enjoyed my company.
I was able to calm my mind to manage and note my feelings and emotions in the present moment. I returned to the event. I still had a sign on me that said not open, so people respectfully kept their distance. This time, I understood why, because I was aware. I was not approachable, visibly, and energy-wise. They saw I was distant and purposely distancing myself. They tried to come in, I acknowledged them, and they walked away. I didn’t get upset with them. I didn’t blame myself that I suck, I understood the afternoon was not feeling rejected. That afternoon was confusion, being confused.
I was confused about how I was aware RSD can derail me so easily, knowing it was RSD and not me. How can I better manage this in the future? At the same time, I was confused because I was looking at this in the present. I was looking at me from the outside, in the present moment. I was looking at me without judgment and without my usual negative bias. I was able to see me; see him! I saw him, looking around confused, lost in a sea of people with whom he has always felt safe and accepted. He looked confused because I can see he wasn’t burying his emotions to cover and pretend. He looked lost because he doesn’t know what to do now, how to behave among people who care, being vulnerable and rely on others.
He didn’t know how to behave when he is aware of the emotions and feelings are not factual, not valid, and not allowed to control his behaviour. He doesn’t know how to behave without barriers and false masks because he is starting to take control now. He is also afraid.
He doesn’t know how to move forward because he is standing up to his old self, his old self that protected him, his old self who also bullied him. It’s a new world, a new life, a new perspective. This new mindful ability to see “me” from the outside and without judgment is unnerving and unsettling. It’s new. It’s scary, scary because it will be hard to blame me for everything now. It’ll be hard to create strategies because I was bad all the time. I guess I’m giving myself credit now, for the first time. That is frightening. Believing I am not at fault.
This was the first time I observed me without judgement, without bias, without negative self-talk. This was the first time I had compassion for me. The start of me liking me, loving me. Fuck, loving me! That is the scariest part. This is a first. Mindfulness has allowed me to see me and start my journey of self-compassion and love.
Why is that so scary? It is scary because it is a change. It will take a massive shift in mindset to fight off my old habitual self. I have to learn new ways to be kind to me, that is not natural. To me, it isn’t. Yet.