So glad to finally find a support group that understands how I feel (maybe?) Sorry this is super long, I wanted to be thorough and not leave anything out that I felt was important. Can you tell I’m not good at that? I’m like a hoarder but with words.
My ADHD journey has been long, meandering, and still very much in progress.
My ADHD Journey (TL;DR at the end)
[TW: bullying, rejection, abuse, suicide]
I was diagnosed at 6, but after Ritalin and Dexadrin made me irritable, anxious, and jumpy, my parents took me off it. I was in CBT with a very well-meaning therapist, but since not much was known about ADHD at the time, there wasn’t much she was able to do.
How my parents coped
My parents meant well, but my mother’s personality did not mesh well with my ADHD. She was exacting, a perfectionist, and the polar opposite of ADHD, which inadvertently made me feel deep shame at my shortcomings (even though she claims in retrospect that wasn’t her intention). I felt hopeless, because I was everyone’s worst nightmare: an extroverted ADHD brain.
School was kind of a mess. Despite spending more time out of class after being kicked out for blurting out answers, being distracted in such a way that it distracted others (like fidgeting), and myriad other things, I was at the top of my class, so doctors were reluctant to take my diagnosis seriously. I was bored in school because I found it too easy, but I made so many careless mistakes that my teachers, who didn’t understand my situation at all, punished me by denying me academic acceleration. Seeing others get acceleration while I was denied it (despite asking for it) made me feel even deeper shame and failure. This caused my issues to spiral out of control.
Since my city has school choice, a behavioural evaluation had to be submitted by the teachers in addition to my grades, so I was denied admission to every high school I applied to. As a result, I had to go to an “alternative” school for kids with severe learning disabilities and conduct issues. I was the only “smart girl,” and my intelligence and academic achievement were the only things I felt I had going for me, so my impulsivity and insecurity caused me to inadvertently and obnoxiously rub it in. My mother told me there was no such thing as “dumb,” or “learning disabled;” that people who didn’t do well in school simply weren’t trying hard enough. (She has since changed her view on this.) As a result, I couldn’t control my laughing at painfully incorrect answers, and lacked the empathy I needed due to my nonstop ADHD motor that didn’t give me a chance to stop and reflect on how my actions could be hurting others. I also wasn’t given the proper tools.
I had no friends, especially because there were so few girls in my grade that they all hung out together and used plenty of “Mean Girls” tactics on me. My social developmental delay during a time when maturity and experience was everything, coupled with my complete lack of athletic coordination at a school when athletics were also everything (since academics were a lost cause for most of these people, so they were encouraged to play to their strengths), was a recipe for social disaster. And my inability to stop, think, and self-regulate, meant that I was a pariah. My mother portrayed herself as the perfect popular girl who got perfect grades so why couldn’t I just do that made it so much worse for me (she was hoping this would give me something to emulate). This further accelerated the Shame Spiral, and built not just a Wall of Awful, but a Tower of Babel of Awful.
Like Jessica, I always had a book in my hand, and retreated into the library. I wish I had read more “intelligent” books but instead I read YA novels to live vicariously through the characters’ adolescences that I never got a chance to have. I retreated into forums and sites such as Neopets where I felt accepted and loved for who I was for the first time.
Rock Bottom #1
In Grade 9, I hit rock bottom. I told one of the people I met on one of the forums I was hiding away in about the mean stuff the girls were doing. I was completely self-unaware, because unmanaged ADHD isn’t exactly conducive to stopping, reflecting, and building the resulting self-awareness. She told me to put her in touch with one of the ringleaders to explain how awesome I was, and I naively gave her the girl’s contact info. She sent that girl death threats, and I was humiliated and of course, suspended. I was so angry at these girls for rejecting me and angry at myself for failing at trying to shove myself into a box I clearly couldn’t fit into (these girls’ had severe learning disabilities, the guys were the ones with the behavioural troubles, because back then neurodiversity in woman wasn’t seen as a thing, so they hated me for having the one thing they couldn’t have coupled with the audacity to flaunt it like I did).
I was suspended for two weeks, during which I was suicidal and even swallowed a few pills to try to end it all (it didn’t work, as I was caught in the act).
The school forced my parents to take me to a psychiatrist they designated, who was one of those hippie dippie private 100% out of pocket types in order to be allowed back in (my only other option was homeschool, which would have been a nightmare because of my mom’s exacting standards with verbal harshness and my ADHD not being a good mix). My mother was convinced that I must have Asperger’s (what “mild” ASD was called back then) because stimulants didn’t help, and my uncle has Asperger’s so it “must be genetic.” The psychiatrist spoke to me and told me that he did not think I had Asperger’s, but then when he spoke to my mom who probably fabricated Asperger’s symptoms out of desperation (I assume there is a bit of MBP going on, because I’d been to several doctors before who had all agreed it was ADHD and not ASD), his tune suddenly did a 180. He told me that the best way to deal with ASD is to “own it.” So I decided to own my quirks and stop trying to fit into a box that doesn’t want me, or any version of me that I am capable of being, as the only thing that could ever come out of it was repeated rejection and destroyed self-esteem.
How I Bounced Back #1
I made my first high school friends in art class. I was one of the good artists in the class because one of the things I did due to having no friends was draw. I also doodled in class like crazy because I was bored. The geeky kids loved that, because they were all into anime and manga and thought drawing was super cool. It took some time but I finally grew more comfortable with my real self, and with that, I gained the confidence to stop obsessing over being popular like I was living in some teen movie or YA novel (which was all I read). These kids liked academics like I did, they cared about their grades, they had study groups, they were into cool stuff like art and robotics and books and board games and video games and fantasy. With them, I was cool, because I was me. They saw my academic prowess as a positive rather than a negative.
That did not detract from the fact that I still had ADHD, I was still hyperactive and got bored in class, but my teachers began to appreciate it as I went up in grades and we were streamed by ability level. Suddenly, it was me and 9 of my closest friends in our 11th grade classroom, and we turned it into our hangout room. We played videogames on the projector screen and stayed late after school playing D&D. After so many years of suppressing my nerdy side and being made to feel that it was gross and weird and should be avoided by putting on a mask by my cheerleader mom and jock dad, I embraced it. I still had a hunch that I didn’t have ASD though. I graduated high school first in my class, and I was proud rather than embarrassed, because the people who mattered were proud along with me.
In Junior College (Grades 12 and 13), I was in a small program designed for the top achievers in the province. There were just 30 of us, and since the whole goal of the program was to integrate arts and sciences, we were all quirky people with interesting, broad hobbies I fit in better than high school and fortunately was able to get a fresh start. Unlike high school, the program was mostly girls, so for the first time in a long time I had very close female friends I went to school with.
These girls are some of the most brilliant, versatile, creative, kind, empathetic, divergent-thinking individuals I have ever met, and we are best friends to this day. The program was brutal, we often stayed up late getting all our assignments done that we didn’t have time for otherwise. We went on road trips and two of them even flew across the world for my wedding ten years later. We all worked together on putting a musical that I had written onstage at our college. Each of us had skills to contribute, and everyone wanted to help me achieve my goal. One of the girls even arranged all the music.
Even though my social life had improved, I still had my ADHD that was causing problems for me. I had trouble building up the motivation to study, and when I became hyperfocused on my new boyfriend in the second semester of my first year of uni, I had trouble juggling my schoolwork and my boyfriend. My GPA tanked, and I became the clingmonster (because I wasn’t into the opposite sex in high school – kinda delayed and didn’t trust anyone not to mess with me because I’d been asked out as a joke enough times). I did just well enough to get into medical school, which had been my one-track dream since I was 8 because, well, if you’re smart, you become a doctor, right? And I was obsessed with anatomy and physiology and curious about how the human body worked. I was good at diagnosis, my cousin who was a doctor at the local hospital taught me differential diagnosis and he said I had a strange knack for it (probably due to my ADHD divergent thinking / creativity). But med school was where the proverbial turd hit the fan.
That Medical School Mistake
I was a rockstar academically. I knocked it out of the park. I was one of the top scorers in my class, but there was a problem: our learning was team-based, and my executive function deficits really plagued me in that setting. Talking over people, interrupting, blurting stuff out impulsively, not reading the room due to the anxiety of everything (taking tests as a team really messed with my head!) Of course, emotional regulation in ADHD is already kind of lousy, throw in high stakes of being graded as a team on tests and whatnot, and you have a recipe for disaster. I acted out way worse than usual even. While we did well because I studied like a fiend knew my stuff (hyperfocus on stuff I was interested in? heck yeah!), my entire team absolutely hated me because I was a nightmare to work with. I struggled in the practice course, because it involved me having to memorize 13 different lists of 40-50 items (tests to perform to do a ____ exam – eg, cardiovascular system, renal system, abdominal, etc.) I had to do it in the precise order. I struggled with both my dwindling eyesight due to a congenital degenerative eye disease, and my ADHD, which just compounded everything, especially when stress was thrown into the mix. I don’t know why it took me triple the time that it did everyone else, because I would frequently see the “1 minute left” warning having only finished about half the checklist. My brain did not do well under pressure, and I was too hyperfocused on medicine to realize it was literally the worst field for my personality.
When I did have these moments of insight, I turned to self-loathing instead, because if those people could do it, then I was a piece of garbage since I couldn’t – if it wasn’t for my personality, then my personality sucked. I tried to change but I couldn’t pull it off – remember, I was unmedicated. But somehow I felt if I just tried hard enough, I could, since that’s what attitude everyone attributed to me growing up, that I was lazy and didn’t try to “change” or “fix myself”. The constant barrage of negative reinforcement, patronizing lectures, and singling me out for bad behaviour while my NT siblings got to fly under the radar (making me feel “less than”) really got to me, I had no self-esteem as I was made to feel like I was lazy for not “just doing _____” or “just shutting up”. I didn’t know why it was so hard for me to just be quiet and fly under the radar like the perfect little NT robot queen.
Rock Bottom #2
Because I was hyperfocusing on medicine, my boyfriend felt neglected, so I went from one extreme – being the Clingmeister 9000 – to the other. Our relationship was strained, we fought a lot, and that threw a massive wrench because he moved to be with me so I could realize my lifelong dream. But I was spending long days in the med school – 8am to 9pm, sometimes even later – studying. I failed the practice test twice. After the first time, I holed up with my cousin and he told me I was doing a flawless job with the physical exams, I even got to shadow him and watch him perform them on his patients, and sometimes he let me do it (but mostly I just practiced on him). When I failed the second time, I felt truly hopeless. I wonder if they just failed me because they felt my personality and inability to properly work as a team made me unfit for clinical practice, because I don’t think I performed badly this time. I felt like an absolute waste of space, as medicine had become my entire life. On my way back from school after finding out about my second failure, my eyes welled up with tears, I didn’t bother to realize it was raining outside, and ran down the stairs to catch the bus. I slipped and fell in front of the bus, crushing my femur into smithereens. I was told I might not be able to walk again without a prosthesis, and my med school was encouraging me to withdraw anyway, so I withdrew. The death of a dream due to my own personal failings and inability to adapt sent me into a depression that lasted several months.
How I Bounced Back #2
I was in rehabilitation. My mother forced me to apply to grad schools, which was the last thing I wanted to do since all I wanted to do was curl up and die. I applied anyway because she literally stood by me and forced me, and I ended up getting into my first choice, a writing program at a prestigious Ivy League school. I packed up everything and, after a year of rehab, moved to the US.
I broke up with my boyfriend because I was being emotionally tone deaf due to my impulsivity, while he was being harsh, mean, and cagey about certain behaviours. He began drinking a lot and would punish me for bad behaviours by making me sleep on the floor. Once he had me sleep in the bathtub because he couldn’t look at me anymore, and he turned on the water because he needed a shower to “clear his head”. Since he was working and paying rent, I had to just deal with it. I realize in retrospect my behaviours probably drove him to his extreme reactions by grating on him over time, but they were nonetheless abusive.
My Religious Band-Aid
The program in the US went well but I was struggling again with the same issues in team-based work. I felt like there was something wrong with me. Was I narcissistic, since I constantly sought out the center of attention? I sure didn’t feel so great, in fact, my self-esteem was at a record low. I began to gravitate to religion because it had structure and a built-in community with acceptance that was contingent on religious rituals rather than unsaid social rules I kept breaking over and over again due to my bull-in-a-China-shop ways that I was unable to control despite my best efforts. I ended up moving across the world to pursue a religious lifestyle (even though deep down I never really believed any of it even though I really wanted to), which was where I met my husband.
My husband also has ADHD, but he had been on stimulants since he was a kid so he has it really under control for the most part. He also has anxiety, like I do, and is sensitive, like I am. We seemed like a fantastic match, especially because we seemed to be on a similar wavelength. I loved his creativity and brilliance, and he loved my spunk and enthusiasm that got him out of his shell. When things were laidback, we had a blast together, as we were both very cultured and well-read and therefore had a ton to talk about, from our favorite bands to nuanced political takes to making fun of conspiracy theories to pondering the hidden secrets of the universe.
We got engaged after 2 months of dating, which was typical in our religious sect. Our parents, all secular, were skeptical but shrugged. But my parents judged him because they saw me as broken and wondered what could be wrong with him to want to marry me. I think it’s because it’s all relative – my entire family is totally NT, including both my siblings, and his family is entirely quirky and “on the spectrum,” whether it is the ADHD or ASD spectra (or both). My family sees me as the crazy outcast whether they are conscious of it or not, so they are projecting when they think “what kind of low-life would want to marry my weird daughter”? Of course they denied it, but when my mother told me two days before my wedding never to have children because “they’ll have problems” and “If I could barely handle you, you definitely wouldn’t be able to handle a kid.” This made me feel like she felt I was inferior in some way. Growing up in a very rigid NT family with totally different values that rubbed off on me in devastating ways was traumatic in and of itself, and causes a lot of our biggest marital problems (especially some of the more “image-obsessed” factors that seem to have rubbed off on me in a way my husband and in-laws find super off-putting.)
Our marriage was fraught before it even began, with my mother taking on the idea that because her and dad were paying for half the wedding, she had to approve everything, or at the very least provide input (this is a common belief among parents who pay for their children’s weddings, since if they’re traditional enough to do that, then they’re traditional and hierarchical enough to see parents as the “authority” and the children as having to pay their dues until they go through the process of pushing out a child for them to have authority over). Whereas my mother-in-law felt that since it was our wedding it had to reflect US and be what WE WANTED. I was often the middleman, feeling ashamed about sharing my opinions about things, having always felt I needed to defer to my mother or sister on all things taste because they were “cooler” (and subtly let me know it - my mom would tell me to have my 6.5 years younger sister - aka her clone - to do my makeup or “choose a better outfit for Alex.”) Interestingly, I have a more understated taste than they do, which my husband actually prefers. But of course my mother has the monopoly on taste and everything she doesn’t like is objectively hideous. /s
I appreciated my mother-in-law’s and husband’s support, but they only had so much emotional bandwidth for what I was about to put them through.
That Rude Awakening: Looking in the Mirror
In combination with my inferiority complex, I had deep and intense trauma that became pretty evident I needed to see someone about. It became like an onion, or whack-a-mole, or whatever – so many layers, and whenever you think you peeled the last one, you found out you were so very wrong. But wait – there’s more! My constant therapizing with my husband, coupled with a crisis of faith (we stopped being religious), a drastic career change, and a decision to move across the world to be near his family (whom I adore) grated on him. My poor handling of my husband’s grief (nervousness/anxiety due to not being familiar with grief (knock on wood) causing impulsivity at the worst possible time) when his best friend and two cats died one after another.
The definition of stupidity is making the same mistake twice and expecting different results - Albert Einstein
To top it off, I was in nursing school (because I was so set on medicine that I felt I’d be a loser and a failure if I couldn’t do it) and had the exact same problems (surprise, surprise). I dropped out despite high grades in the theory part and then COVID hit. (I was also doing a master’s degree and working two jobs, but not both at the same time – they were very independent jobs in academia that were project-based so they were good for me but not ideal as deadlines weren’t always super organized).
Suddenly two ADHDers were around each other 24/7. My husband had dealt with and overcame a lot of the problems I’m having now as a young kid since his ADHD was tackled early (he was given Concerta and it worked), so he couldn’t help but see my struggles as a ninth grader would see a first grader struggling with basic addition. Like really? You can’t do that? Why can’t you just DO IT?
My fatal mistake
I put off getting a psychiatrist due to my inability to work whilst I waited for my legal status (they’re expensive in the US with no insurance!) which IMO was a grave mistake. I finally saw a psychiatrist, she told me I have textbook ADHD and that all the other comorbidities weren’t comorbidities, they were the result of ADHD, and once we dealt with the former, we could tackle the latter. (She ruled out ASD because when I pay attention I am actually quite intuitive at reading emotions and social cues - with “pay attention” being the operative phrase here – and I have solid theory of mind. I also don’t have the “special interests” or sensory issues) Great, right?
I was on Ritalin in our previous country as I saw a psychiatrist during the wedding planning fiascos, and it didn’t work very well just like it didn’t work when I was a kid. Too low a dose and it didn’t help enough, too high and it made me jittery, irritable, talking a zillion miles an hour, and basically mimicked ADHD almost like a horseshoe effect. My ADHD is severe but my body is sensitive – not a good combo. (Note that I tried four SSRIs for anxiety that didn’t help even at the highest dose - Lexapro, Wellbutrin, Paxil, Cymbalta - like they literally did nothing) We needed something more refined.
I tried Concerta and it was even worse. My new American psychiatrist put me on Adderall. That worked, but not quite enough. So we kept raising the dose until I reached 40mg. I went to visit my family during that time without my husband (who had to work) and they noticed I was jittery, talking a mile a minute, and acted permanently wired and even let my thoughts get carried away into the realm of paranoia and irritability/on edge. Kinda as if I was on speed. I lowered the dose, but the anxiety still didn’t go away. 60mg duloxetine/cymbalta didn’t help.
I was constantly in fear of screwing up because my husband had had it up to here with me, he felt I wasn’t trying since he has ADHD and was able to overcome it, so why couldn’t I? What was my excuse? I was sufficiently intelligent and did manage to pull it off some of the time (IMO purely by accident) so I clearly mustn’t be giving it my all.
My husband has NVLD (basically a part of the ASD spectrum that is milder than what was formerly known as “Asperger’s” even, having worked hard to “pass” as NT so well that in many ways he still thinks like one) and severe anxiety that frequently got triggered by my ADHD screw-ups. He’s anxious about money and I have impulse spending issues. He’s anxious about his health and I buy junk food on impulse and sometimes talk about medicine, my passion and a key component of my new very ADHD-friendly job (yay! At least that part’s sorted!) which takes his brain to scary places. He’s anxious about “wasting his life” in the decade he took to figure out his passion in life and “feeling behind,” which I can absolutely understand, I only got into a good career out of sheer luck that there was a field out there that wanted exactly my weird eclectic skillset, and he is only starting his third attempt at a bachelor’s degree (I told him this is totally normal and tons of millennials are doing this in their 30s, don’t fret, and he told me I’m invalidating his feelings - and yes, he has seen a therapist).
How I destroyed my marriage
I made an impulsive comment when I got a promotion because I was absolutely ECSTATIC that for the first time in my life I wasn’t barely hanging onto my job, I was KICKING BUTT at it, and people NOTICED), something like "because of me we finally get to buy a house – of course my impulsive brain didn’t realize how emasculating that was, and acted like it was a competition when we were a TEAM). So after 3 years, with a combination of:
- tons of impulsive comments
- accidentally putting off chores and responsibilities due to the Wall of Awful and letting my chore areas become a mess,
- roping his psychologist mom into our arguments like a game of AITA because I don’t trust my own judgment,
- having no boundaries,
- impulsively getting up in his grill when he has expressed he wanted space,
- being extra clingy and “not reading the room” when he wants space,
- getting hyperfocused on screens in the middle of conversations from my mind wandering and tuning out
- ditching my “cool hobbies” for vegging out on youtube/Netflix when I’m having a “low brain day”, and therefore “wasting my life” which I’ve been doing more and more because my job is kind of intense and requires a lot of mental, creative, and social energy
- interrupting him all the time because he has a tendency to ramble like I do,
- shirking responsibility when I screwed up (my parents and siblings never took responsibility in front of me, perhaps because they’re obsessed with their veneer of perfection with me as the family screw-up, perhaps they felt it would undermine their authority, idk – which led to 1) I never had it modeled, and 2) I felt like everyone else was so perfect and flawless while I was a hot effing mess who screwed up 24/7),
- impulsively lying about dumb stuff to cover up my shame when I made ADHD or anxiety-related mistakes (“if you could lie about having eaten the last bit of cream cheese you could lie about cheating”),
- skipping workouts due to “low brain days” when I was feeling sluggish and gross or wall of awful-ly (exercise is very good at curbing my symptoms but not perfect, and it’s hard to get the motivation to do it since I’m not a fan), which to him means I’m not trying and don’t care about our marriage
- getting drunk and saying mildly impulsive things at his grandparents’ house because I didn’t want to be rude and refuse a drink when everyone was accepting it because 1) I like alcohol and never get to drink it because I never buy it 2) his grandparents can mix a mean cocktail 3) I want to stop feeling anxious and afraid of screwing up and letting my husband down again and 4) I didn’t want those dreaded pregnancy rumours (I have since limited myself to one drink only which I slowly nurse over the course of the visit and it’s been fine lately),
- melting down at my job (he saw me get fired right in front of him from a previous job so he’s kinda scarred from that) and drifting out of my usual hyperfocus (I feel like I’m so productive at that job I could afford some brain fog days from time to time, but he doesn’t think that’s responsible) – he doesn’t realize that comparing those two jobs are like apples and oranges because at this job I have such a unique skill set they find indispensable, making me actually want to do good work because I like them – at my old job I was a dime a dozen because everyone there was able to do my job)
- doing attention-seeking things on social media because I desperately crave validation, which is probably why I’m writing this now – among a whole crop of other things – he thinks “showing off” is gross but how the hell else am I going to fix my nonexistent self-esteem? (by “showing off” I mean posting a cool makeup look I tried or a neat dish I baked or a cool painting I painted).
The ADHD-Anxiety Spiral of Doom
My fear of screwing up snowballed, as the more I screwed up with ADHD, the more my anxiety flared up, making my ADHD worse, beginning a terrible Spiral of Doom. I would impulsively unload my anxiety onto my husband (often related to my job anxiety – a fear of getting fired which is very real since I’ve gotten and had my contract denied renewal before as a result of ADHD when I was younger), making him anxious (because his insurance is tied to my job so my job anxiety triggers his health anxiety), making him more on edge and less patient with me, as the spiral continues.
My husband still felt I wasn’t trying hard enough, even with seeing a therapist every week, taking my meds religiously (I feel so much better and my work has improved drastically), and trying mindfulness exercises. My psychiatrist recently added guanfacine to my regimen a couple months ago but it didn’t help much aside from make me a tad sleepy, so she told me to drop it once I added Seroquel (since the last thing I – an already very sleepy person – needed were two sleep aids at once).
My anxiety was so pervasive and resistant to treatment because I grew up surrounded by constant anxiety from my mother who lived in constant fear of me embarrassing her – an image-obsessed mom and an ADHD kid are NOT a good combo, especially for the kids’ self-esteem!)
When I was bullied and came home, she’d find out what I did to contribute to it and say it was 100% my fault. She’d ask me who I played or hung out with every day after school, and if there was a name I didn’t say in a while, she had to know what I had done to alienate them (because I’m not insecure enough about my repulsiveness, she had to rub it in). So, I’m constantly anxious about rejection (rejection sensitivity anyone?) which made me anxious around people I got “bad cues” from or whom I sensed were the graceful prim and proper, quiet, introverted overachieving don’t-take-up-too-much-space-and-calmly-quietly-kick-ass Type As who I felt seething and judging me through their RBFs (IYKYK), a type I tended to clash with (well, because I’m a wallflower, it’s not so much clash as they tend to see me as the devil incarnate, or basically leprosy in human form). This would cause me to make social gaffes because when you’re anxious or “in the emotional red zone” your cognitive functions crash and burn.
The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back
Seroquel seriously helped with my anxiety by decreasing my baseline “motor” but by then my husband was so sensitized to my antics that he would react to everything almost like a conditioned response (sort of what my mother did – reacting to every little thing). This was because I had dragged my feet and taken so long to get help in fear of draining our savings (both of us weren’t able to work for an entire year and a half due to my immigration and his schooling). (Note that I came into the marriage with zero savings because I suck at saving money and a surprisingly sizeable wedding gift from my parents). There was already that dreaded parent-child dynamic, which wasn’t helped with my complete lack of financial know-how (a combination of my parents shielding me from it and acting as if me becoming independent would herald the apocalypse because I’d just screw it up – these were the same people who said I “wasn’t ready” to live on my own at 24 to go to graduate school in the US). Meanwhile, my husband’s parents knew how to make the leash just loose enough for him to learn “the hard way” when he was younger so that he wouldn’t screw up when he was older.
So here I am, almost 31, with a husband I love who is sick of me and my shit because I dropped the ball on getting help for far too long and the damage has already been done. I want a do-over so badly, because we have so much fun when things are good, get along so well, and he really brings out the best in me when he is patient and kind (so when he’s not anxious about work/his health/my job/etc.). When we are hanging out and just chilling – ie, before we were engaged and real life got in the way – it was heaven. We are still attracted to each other. I’m worried I waited too long to get help and now our marriage is practically doomed because 1) parent-child dynamic and 2) I elicit a visceral response because his anxiety is always on high when I’m around because I might do an ADHD screw-up so when I do even a small semblance of what might be a screw up he goes into full blown panic / blow up mode.
I’m here because I need answers. I don’t feel like I’m being “lazy” or “flaky,” I feel like I’m actually trying but accidentally just keep falling on my butt. I’m working closely with a therapist and doing literally everything I can, but my ADHD is so severe and difficult to manage, especially since it’s been out of control for so long. When I was single, the worst I did was annoy my roommates sometimes by leaving dishes in the sink and putting off my chores, and I was always able to charm them back into not hating me. But this is different. This is the real deal. I am married to someone who thinks I’m just the type of person to “leave a baby in a hot car” (I’m a space cadet, yes, but I’m working on it). I feel like I’m improving but he doesn’t – I think it’s because his patience with me has worn thin so smaller things elicit the same reactions as bigger things did before.
He is a good guy, that’s the thing. He is very kind and the stuff he has issues with are things anyone would have issues with – narcissistic “fleas” such as lying, mitigating, obsessing over image, showing off, being too clingy, getting so excited by something that I barge in despite him saying he wanted space earlier (obviously I get too excited to remember that), accidentally “pitting his mother against him” because I feel I have nowhere to turn and my therapist isn’t always available (nor should she be), interrupting him (which is super disrespectful but I have such a hard time with this especially before my meds kick in and after they wear off), being obsessed with achievements promotions and status because my family oohs and ahhs over that and I guess there’s always that little girl in me who desperately wants their approval, and just being an overall hot ADHD mess (a term I call “going HAM” aka going ‘Hot ADHD Mess”) It just feels so overwhelming, like the stuff I’m working on are balls I have to juggle, and when I take on a new one I drop another and it becomes this freaking whack-a-mole.
He comes from a family with real solid values, a family I want my family to be like. His family has good priorities and neat hobbies and amazing accomplishments. My family is obsessed with image and money and looks and superficial crap and they seem to resent me, and his family are my type of people but they have their shit together because they were able to support each other and understand each other. I desperately want to distance myself from them but I still come from them and was micromanaged by my mom as a kid (her intentions were to help me) to the point where I do sometimes act like her without realizing it, when I’m not on my A-game I tend to subconsciously default to what I know, which is her behaviour she desperately wanted me to model. I think his family take their supportiveness and understanding for granted, because they see me as a stubborn 30 year-old woman who can’t seem to get herself together, so obviously I must not be trying.
Am I though? I think I am. My husband disagrees. This morning he expressed that he wants to get a divorce. I’m devastated. I feel Rock Bottom #3 coming on and I need to stop it before it’s too late.
Maybe I don’t know what trying feels like?
Does existence have to feel like playing Minesweeper? My entire life has felt like this, and yet people keep thinking I’m just making excuses and being lazy.
My parents, my ex, and now my (hopefully not soon-to-be-ex) husband are all like this, so maybe I’m the common denominator here?
I know that meds are only half the battle, but I really feel like I’m trying and just keep slipping up. And then I’m told I can’t be trying because I keep slipping up. Am I too broken?
TL;DR: I struggled with ADHD my entire life, wasn’t given the help I needed, and now I’m 30, trying to get my life together and failing miserably after getting “re-diagnosed” after a misdiagnosis at 14, and my husband just told me he wants to get a divorce.