ADHD and Sense of Time and Trauma

time
trauma
anxiety
depression

#1

Hi,

Slightly sensitive topic in some regards. Please proceed with caution as I need to mention depression and childhood trauma. No details shared however.

I was wondering if anyone else has issues with handling depression/anxiety as part of their ADHD? I feel somewhat alone in this as I have some severe childhood trauma, which I have tried going to therapy for several times, however the one key thing that seems to repeat is that 'time will always help the healing, that it puts distance between it all. However I have a very bad sense of time. From the usual not being able to internally keep track of 10mins time as my mind seems to have no concept of it all, to events in my past feeling simultaneously like yesterday as well as a lifetime ago.

The main issue I am trying to poorly explain is that I have memories, both good and bad that feel like they were only moments ago. Despite the fact that it happened anywhere from last week to 20 years. This does also seem to stem into friendships, I have had childhood friends that have drifted apart from me, because it’s natural and its life and people change, yet I have this jumbled sense of time and memories of being close that feel like yesterday so it hurts that say a friend from primary school is no longer in contact even though I never really quite stopped thinking of her as my best friend. This is not to say that I think that it should still the the case, as I know the answer logically is that we live in opposite sides of the country and have very little in common as adults so naturally we won’t be as close as we were when at school. But when I am depressed my brain seems to revel in making me remember that and feel bad. Which yeah is a symptom of the depression, not so much the ADHD, but I wonder if the ADHD inability to properly perceive time is helping focus that depression and the recursive loop it can get into with past hurt. So in the extreme case when for example a certain smell triggers a traumatic memory, as smells and sounds are the best memory joggers after all, I find myself right back to that moment say some 20+ years ago that is traumatic. Then in the worst case scenario I then have to what I have dubbed rebuild myself from that moment going though my life point by point until I get back to where I am now. When I’m having a tough time that is annoyingly a highlight reel of all the crappy times, when I’m in a better state it’s a best of showreel. Either way I have to in my head consciously think of all the stuff that has happened to me from then to now to get my brain back in the present. As otherwise I am stuck and feel like I am still there in the trauma. This went particularly bad a couple of years ago as thanks to a breakdown caused by overwork and to be honest denial of my ADHD, I sought help from the NHS mental health clinic in my area. Instead of helping they retramatised me as they made me relive my childhood trauma over the phone when I was on my own in the house and then couldn’t guarantee an appointment to see a councillor for another month. I went catatonic and was no longer able to work as I couldn’t get myself back to the now in the way I had done before. After some very expensive private therapy I was back on mostly an even kilter and had also started on Setraline from the doctor as that was the only help they could offer, as they were only allowed to refer to the NHS faculty that treated me so badly. (I did also lose my job which also put an end to a career in an industry that I had spent the last 9 years training for, but that is another discussion.)

Ugh anyway I am sorry for ranting I just needed to put it out there. I guess TL;DR vrsion: does anyone else find the lack of time perception that can come with ADHD problematic when dealing with depression etc? Or is this just an oddity I have…?


#2

I don’t know if it’s the same for anyone else, but I find my memory very unreliable for good memories and too reliable for bad ones. I’m not sure if that’s a function of ADHD memory or all memory though. I don’t have traumatic childhood memories like I’m sure you refer to, but i definitely think I have a sort of PTSD from school bullying/social difficulties/successive failures throughout my life. Very often I will be reminded of incidents that happened back in my primary school days with shame and sadness as if they had just happened. Or I obsess over one mistake long ago. I find it difficult to remind myself of all the successes I’ve had, or my good qualities. I do not suffer from depression as you have described, so I have no advice. But i do think time perception and memory are off with ADHD, and it can be difficult to deal with. You are not alone.


#3

Hi,

I don’t know if the issues with time perception are a factor, but I do know that I also have trouble with some childhood trauma and often felt that the memories were so fresh. I finally (more than 10 years after the trauma) sought therapy, and ended up connecting with an amazing therapist and was diagnosed with PTSD. Thankfully my therapist specialized in EMDR therapy, and has made a huge difference in how fresh those memories feel.

I’m not sure if these feelings and struggles are due to my PTSD or my (potential, still undiagnosed) ADHD and issues with time perception.

To make a long story short, I don’t know if you have the same struggles that I do, but I want you to know that I understand and feel/felt the same. I hope that you are able to find peace with your past, and heal and that with the right support, both medical (doctors, therapists etc.) and loved ones anything is possible. <3


#4

I can relate to what you posted although we may have different traumas. Some of mine were from my later childhood, some from teenager years( depression and anxiety) young adulthood and both real and perceived failures, I have failed relationships, and have gotten fired many times. I am really good at interviews because I have so much practice going to them! After struggling with a very negative supervisor who tried to talk me into quitting my job , tons of frustration, anxiety, 2 headaches per week ( migraines) tried neurofeedback for ADHD … thinking of trying meds. I totally get the description of “ loops” of time and yes my sense of time is different to say the least. I struggle with getting to places on time as well. You are not alone!! I’m sending you a virtual hug. It helps me to know Im not alone either. I’m unemployed- got fired from my job and career that I was in for 13 years. I got diagnosed with ADHD / depression later in adulthood… learning and seeking help/ improvement …” better late than never.” could be motto of my life . I’m learning also that unless your therapist knows how to address ADHD , regular therapy alone will help up to a point but then not everything is addressed. That’s it for now. Keep in touch.


#5

Oh yeah its crappy I have a child hood trauma that my parents don’t even know about since at the time I kinda got it into my head that this is normal, its just a game, its uncomfortable but it will stop soon. It caught ups to me when I was in grade 6 and was the reason I started feeling self conscious it felt like everyone knew and was judging me it makes me angery how easily it is to forget my passwords but those memories keep opening up like a sore wound I try to ignore it and a bunch of other memories but they just keep coming back when I’m at my lowest or I’m actually having fun or feel comfortable where I am. I always hated how I’m friends with someone first and somehow I end up being abandoned, I end up as second best and all I do is grin and bare it. Even through my trauma I grin and bared stuff and now I really wished I hadn’t


#6

Hi Vox,

I was reading your message and really feel I need to respond, because you sound so much like me a year ago. First of I want to tell you that having memories continually coming up and ruining good times, or making hard times even harder, is something I can really relate to. It is so hard and I am so sorry that you are experiencing this. Also I want you to know that you are not alone, I know that (at least for me) hearing that can be a bit of a double edged sword. I’m happy to know I’m not the only one struggling, but sad because I would wish this pain on anyone else.

Secondly I want to share with you what has helped me to find some semblance of peace in my life. I found a really great therapist who specializes in trauma counseling and EMDR therapy. This helped in ways I could have never imagined, but I had to be ready to do it, and maybe you’re not there yet. THAT’S OKAY. It’s a tough road of recovery, and it can be so scary, so be gentle with yourself, and when you’re ready, know that I believe in you. You can do this, you can be okay again.

Last thing I want to tell you, is honestly so important. If you ignore everything else I’ve written please READ THIS!

Whatever happened to you, whatever trauma you experienced, it is not your fault. And if you’re anything like me right now you’re thinking “But…but I did this, and I didn’t do that. I should have fought, or screamed or done SOMETHING” but it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do. It doesn’t matter how you reacted, it doesn’t matter if you were a child, and adult, or if you’d been in similar situations before and “should have known better” No matter what you’re circumstances it’s not your fault in fact just like ADHD is a brain issue. You’ve heard of the “fight or flight” response right? Basically in fight or flight you’re brain quickly analyzes a dangerous situation and determines which action is most likely to result in your eventual safety. This process is done subconsciously and is entirely out of your control. Now what you may not of heard of is the “Fight, Flight or FREEZE” for a long time freeze was not recognized as a stress response, because it often appears as compliance, or even “just smile and I’ll get through this” You’re brain has decided, for whatever reason, that fighting or running are not viable options for you at that time, there for you automatically freeze. This can be seen as literally freezing, or “going along” with something so as not to anger the person who is hurting, thus potentially making them escalate their violence towards you. This response has saved my life, and possibly yours. This response is a complete automatic response, entirely beyond your control, and was what you’re brain felt was the safest option at the time. It DOES NOT mean that you are at fault for “grinning and bearing it” You are not the problem, you are not broken. You are beautiful, and you deserve happiness and some day you will look back and realize that it’s been months since you last thought about your trauma. If you ever need to talk feel free to message me! (Is that a thing on this site? I’m new and don’t have all my trust level points yet.)

Sending all the internet hugs and love to you. (And to all of us who have experienced trauma of any kind in our lives) <3


#7

So sorry to hear that. You are not alone!!


#8

I think people who have ADHD brains and/ or trauma can get what I’d call “ flashbacks” of things that happened in the past or even recent past. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Find a trustworthy person who you click with. That’s all for now. Wish you the best. I care. I hope this helps!


#9

Hi everyone, I see alot of stuff I relate to in this thread, I have childhood trauma that resulted in PTSD. My mom is a narcissist with borderline personality disorder and I was her scapegoat. This programmed me to believe I’m pretty much worthless and I’ve been self sabotaging for 29 years…couple that with adhd and yeah it isn’t a pretty picture if u take it at face value lol… but if you look a little deeper there’s actually an intelligent compassionate beautiful person here who completely forgets that all too often…I’m trying to remind myself more.

I do not have the same loss of time issues you do. I do have issues with emotional connection to the past and when thinking about traumatic events they provoke the same emotions now… I buried a child when I was 20 and it still bothers me today but I think it’s pretty normal TBH…just bc the situation is over doesn’t mean it’s not gonna hurt but I don’t replay my life in a timeloop or feel like it was just yesterday either … My biggest issues with loss of time are around getting stuck doing something I enjoy and losing hours…like I started watching a YouTube video on the how to ADHD channel at 10ish this morning which led to me finding this forum…it’s currently 12:34 pm where I am and I haven’t moved or gotten out of bed bc I’m still here in this forum lol…but things like cleaning my home or applying for jobs that I know have to do never get done…I suppose I focus fine when I’m calm enough and it’s something I enjoy but I have super hell with things I don’t find stimulating


#10

I do also get lost in thi gs I enjoy. Hours go by and I won’t noticed the sun has gone down when I’m engrossed in a project I like. But when I need that super power it’s gone of course!

I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your child, that kind of pain is not deserved on anyone. I genuinely don’t know what else to say in that situation, my heart genuinely grieves for you.

There is advice I would like to impart regarding the self confidence. It is one thing I have always struggled with and still do. I never found the ‘look yourself in the mirror and give yourself a pep talk’ method has worked for me. (Mainly as I still havent gotten to the point I can look myself in the eyes comfortably for very long)

Instead I have found that describing myself as if I was describing a friend helped. It seems super silly at first as you kind of talk about yourself in the third person. However I have noticed that is it always easier to see the good qualities of others, as if it was pinned to their back, but then that makes it hard to see it on yourself. What I found really helped was to write a letter to myself. Describing the good parts of me and what I was proud of. I then posted it as well. The ADHD brain of mine then helped me forget that I sent it. So when it arrived it was a great way to get some perspective.

Anyway, try it or not. I just wanted to suggest it, just in case it might help. :slight_smile:


#11

Trauma is a proper beast in its own right, with or without ADHD. You’re not alone in having a rough go of it, or in having no sense of time around the traumatic event.

My own experience with post-trauma is that, over time, you relive the trauma less often. It never feels any further away in those moments when it bubbles back up, though. When it comes up, it may as well be happening now. I’ve snapped out of those “reveries” with sweaty palms and racing heart as if it had just happened in real time and not 4, 5, and 11 years ago. This is a common feature of trauma even for neurotypical brains.

The trouble with having ADHD in addition to trauma, in my opinion, is that the constant free-association of thoughts makes it so easy to find yourself starting on that spiral again. You never know what innocuous, unrelated thought will start that chain that takes you right back into that moment all over again.

I was seeing a therapist for a while. He taught me to focus in on my body when I felt those moments coming on. Basically, to recognize the start of the stress response. Focusing on the physiology of the experience takes away a lot of the power from the memory and keeps me from getting completely lost in reliving it. The next step is to recall a moment when my physiological state was opposite to what I’m feeling now–a happy memory, basically. Remember the physical feeling, and then watch as my current state changes from fight-or-flight to relaxed.

Ymmv, but it works pretty well for me. I hope it helps someone here, too.


#12

I too have been told by my therapist to concentrate on the phsycial response in the body. The one thing I would like to add that I learned recently was of your panic/anxiety is above a tolerable range so on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being full on panic if it’s above 7 then it’s going to be hard to think straight. So it’s better to use a distraction technique to snap yourself out of it. Mine is to play a video game, it gets my brain to focus on something else, a story or building sim works best for me. Then that way I can then focus on the calming down, then when the panic is below a 7 I use the focus on the physiolical repsonse and observe the feelings as that’s how resilience is built up.

Thank you for sharing. I to get that innocuous thought triggering something. But it does get better with training, practice and importantly therapy.


#13

Hi I’m so much alike you all. I’ve been through hell as a child. Time is hard. But one thing that have helping me out to understand the situation is the concept of Gaslighting. When you have suffered trauma in your family and your memory is a mess you might really have been going through a mental abusive horror and Gaslighting usually explains it so well the how’s, the why’s and the what’s…