Navigating ADHD: My Story of Masking to Vulnerability

Written By admin

July 9, 2024

Hey there, lovely readers!

I’m so glad you’ve stopped by. Today, I want to share a story that might resonate with many of you—especially if you’ve ever felt like you’re bouncing between staying small and oversharing in social situations. As a therapist with ADHD, this has been quite the journey for me, and I’ve learned a lot about boundaries, regulation, and that pesky visitor I like to call the “Share Gremlin, a term I picked up recently at a women’s circle!

The Awkward Silent Stage

For a long time, I was the quiet one in the room. Maybe you know the feeling? Sitting in meetings, attending social gatherings, or even in casual conversations, I often felt like my thoughts and contributions weren’t valuable enough to be shared. I masked my true self, trying to blend in and avoid awkwardness. Which ironically, probably created more awkwardness! I stayed small, afraid of judgment or, worse, of being invisible if I did speak up. This stage felt safe but oh-so-lonely. It was a place where I didn’t risk rejection, but I also didn’t connect deeply with others.

The Leap to Oversharing

The Share Gremlin is that little voice that creeps in after a bout of oversharing. It’s the one that whispers, “Why did you say that?” or “Now everyone thinks you’re too much.” This gremlin brings with it a vulnerability hangover—a deep sense of shame and regret about having shared too much. For those of us with ADHD, managing this can be particularly challenging because our impulsivity can lead us to speak before we’ve fully considered the impact.

Then, there was a shift. This appeared to happen suddenly, but in truth it was a slow process of unmasking that occurred. In my quest to break out of the “small” box, I found myself leaping to the opposite end of the spectrum. Suddenly, I was oversharing. Every thought, every feeling, every detail of my life was laid bare in an effort to connect and be seen. The trouble is, this often left me feeling exposed and vulnerable in ways I wasn’t prepared for. Enter the Share Gremlin.

Impulsivity: The Double-Edged Sword

Impulsivity is a core characteristic of ADHD, and it can be both a gift and a curse. On one hand, it can lead to spontaneous creativity and genuine expressions of enthusiasm and a lot of fun! On the other hand, it can result in speaking without thinking, sharing too much too soon, and experiencing that dreaded vulnerability hangover. A nod to Brené Brown for that great term.

Impulsivity can make it hard to strike the right balance. In social settings, I’ve found myself jumping into conversations with a flurry of thoughts and stories, only to later wonder if I’ve said too much. This spontaneity, while often endearing, can leave us feeling exposed when the rush of excitement fades and the Share Gremlin comes knocking….or just barges in!

Finding Balance: Setting Boundaries and Regulating

Learning to navigate between staying small and oversharing has been a crucial part of my personal and professional growth. Here’s what I’ve found helpful:

1. Recognize the Patterns

The first step is recognising when you’re staying small or oversharing. This self-awareness allows you to take a step back and understand why you’re behaving this way. Are you trying to protect yourself, or are you seeking validation? Which part of you feels the need to hide, and which part of you desperately wants to be seen. They both deserve equal loving attention.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques can be incredibly helpful. By staying present and grounded, you can catch yourself before you fall into the trap of impulsive oversharing. Take a deep breath, and consider if what you’re about to say is something you’re comfortable with everyone knowing.

3. Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is essential. This means knowing what parts of your life you’re comfortable sharing and what’s off-limits. It’s okay to keep some things private. In fact, it’s healthy!

4. Pause Before Speaking

A simple but effective strategy is to pause before you speak. This moment of reflection can help you decide if what you’re about to share is appropriate and aligned with your boundaries. It’s also helpful to breathe and allow your thoughts to slow down, our brains work faster than our mouths at times!

5. Trust the Process

Trust that you are right where you need to be. This journey, with all its ups and downs, is part of your unique process. Trust in yourself and the universe, knowing that every experience is shaping you. Honour your pace, and celebrate your growing awareness and ability to notice these patterns.

6. Seek Support

Talk to a therapist or a trusted friend about your experiences. Seek out peer support groups for other neuro spicy folk that get it. They can offer perspective and help you develop strategies for finding balance. It’s also comforting to know you’re not alone in this struggle.

7. Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself. We all have moments where we wish we’d handled things differently. Instead of beating yourself up, acknowledge the learning opportunity and move forward with a bit more wisdom. Embracing your difference and accepting who you are is a huge part of the work.

Tales from My Own Journey

Let me share a little story from my own life. In recent months, I’ve been attending various events that require a lot of sharing, but specifically deep vulnerable sharing. This was always the most challenging for me. Determined not to stay small, I started sharing insights and personal anecdotes. Part of me felt great, and even proud of myself—until the next morning when the Share Gremlin visited. I replayed every word I said and felt a wave of shame. But then, I took a step back. I reminded myself of the value in what I shared and gave myself credit for stepping out of my comfort zone. I reminded myself of my growth and let that share gremlin know that standing into my power, being my authentic self, is more important that what anyone else thinks of me.

Embracing the Journey

Finding the balance between staying small and oversharing is an ongoing journey. It’s about embracing our imperfections, learning from our experiences, and growing in self-awareness and self-compassion. For those of us with ADHD, it might be a bit more challenging due to our impulsivity, but it’s entirely possible with patience and practice.

Remember, you’re not alone on this path. Whether you’re dealing with the Share Gremlin or trying to find your voice, it’s all part of your journey. Trust in yourself, trust in the universe, and honour your pace. Celebrate your awareness and the progress you’re making.

Until next time, take care and mind yourself!

P.S. I’d love to hear your stories and strategies for finding balance. Feel free to share in the comments below!

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