I just hit rock bottom and need any help I can get.

Hello brains!

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.

College Conundrums
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 Marriage
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?

Medication Madness
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:

  1. tons of impulsive comments
  2. accidentally putting off chores and responsibilities due to the Wall of Awful and letting my chore areas become a mess,
  3. roping his psychologist mom into our arguments like a game of AITA because I don’t trust my own judgment,
  4. having no boundaries,
  5. impulsively getting up in his grill when he has expressed he wanted space,
  6. being extra clingy and “not reading the room” when he wants space,
  7. getting hyperfocused on screens in the middle of conversations from my mind wandering and tuning out
  8. 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
  9. interrupting him all the time because he has a tendency to ramble like I do,
  10. 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),
  11. 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”),
  12. 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
  13. 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),
  14. 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)
  15. 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!)

Rejection Sensitivity
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.


wow i feel like i have just watched a movie of your entire life (in a good way :grin:)

I find reading a real struggle but i read through that entire post with no issue, you are a very talented writer.

just a thought but maybe you would consider letting your husband read this post? you explain so well your situation and it is so clear how hard you try and always have.

I know you said you were happy with your career now which is great, but as you have a passion for medicine, have you ever looked in to acupuncture? i qualified as a traditional acupuncture therapist two years ago, and i would highly recomend it as a career for those with adhd, i really feel like it plays to my adhd strengths, many are skeptical of this kind of medicine but I have seen first hand how effective it can be, if you are interested i’d be happy to tell you more.

I’m sorry your marruage is going through difficulties, but i can honestly say from what i have learnt from you inthis post, you sound like an amazing person, you are strong, smart, funny, creative, interesting, enpethetic, caring and kind, you recognise and accept your mistakes and are working hard to resolve them, I think your husband is very lucky to have somebody like you, I hope that you can both wirk through it together, remember this is about you and him, try not to be to heavily influenced by others, you can listen to others advice but (and i know this is a cringy cliche :joy: but it’s true) follow your heart, because whatever the outcome, you will know that you always did what you thought was right and there is nothing more you could ask of yourself.

good luck


Wow, that was really supportive. I did not expect that because I sound like a hot mess in my opinion (and I feel if this were reddit I’d get raked over the coals for causing my own problems). I also did not expect anyone to read through my wall of text and actually enjoy it because I thought it was too much but I felt I had to get it out there for the proper context. The “movie of my life” thing was just what I was going for! Awesome!

About acupuncture: On top of ADHD, my eyesight is really bad, and I’m not good at anything precise, to the point where I made careless mistakes on exams about things I actually knew a lot about (which was so frustrating and made me feel like a defective). So it probably wouldn’t be the best bet for me, but don’t worry about me, I get paid way more than I would as an acupuncturist. This job pays more than I’ve ever made at all my other jobs COMBINED. I’m not exaggerating. My job allows my husband to devote his time to his studies so that he could start his career off faster. If it weren’t for this job I would feel 100% useless, like I’m not contributing anything because I’m a blob.

I wish Jessica could see my post, hearing her story from the Women with ADHD video hit home so much, I could relate to everything she said, I want to know what she thinks about all this. She’s been out the other side, so she might be able to give me some good, more personalized advice.

I don’t think husband sees the good in me, if he did he wouldn’t freak out so much about the ADHD stuff (but then again, as someone raised by much more moral people, seeing my behaviours in contrast is probably jarring for him). His NVLD makes him naturally more rigid than most, plus he doesn’t do well with change, and our marriage was nonstop changes mostly outside of our control. The first year of our marriage was spent in a 25 m^2 studio apartment. It was a nightmare because we are the types of people who are good in small doses, especially me. I don’t think it’s healthy for any marriage to spend that much time together.

Maybe I will show him what I wrote. He’ll probably say I’m minimizing it, I’m blaming my parents, I’m not taking enough responsibility, I’m in denial, I’m manipulating myself into believing I’m trying when I’m not, etc. I feel like I’m trying harder than ever, but maybe it’s all relative and I don’t even know what trying is?

I’m trying to find a therapist that specializes in ADHD but I haven’t been able to find one.


And so you did . . . (i.e.) offer “proper context”.

Me too . . . Reading anything longer than a one page newspaper article is a challenge! But the “truth” won out . . . YOUR TRUTH! Both in terms of your personal story . . . and your insightful insights about us :brain::brain::brain::brain::brain:!

This “family” doesn’t need apologies . . . Just continue to be you . . . And stay in touch!

Somehow I think you will work things out. Not perfectly . . . but in a way that works for YOU . . . And maybe (or not) for your husband and the individuals in both families.

Hope to see you around the “home” here . . . :sunglasses:


In relation to the behaviours which come with having adhd, from an early age and throughout life, we get so much negative feedback from the world around us, so much so that we start believing that it must be true and when in this mindset we are suseptable to confirnation bias, every mistake we make no matter how small, we use as evidence to support our perception that we are failures and when we do something well, we just dismiss it as an accident a mistake or we just got lucky.

well this is bs, yes we make mistakes but who doesn’t?
I think it was Einstein who said

“Anyone who has never made a mistake, has never really tried”

it’s not the mistakes that make you who you are, mistakes are just the stepping stones leading you towards achievment and it is those achievments that help define you as a person, not how many mistakes it took to get there.

keep moving, stay positive and trust in yourself :slightly_smiling_face:


Einstein also said that stupidity is making the same mistake twice, expecting different results. And that seems to be pretty common with ADHD brains. Especially mine, despite my efforts.

And you’re completely spot on about the negative feedback and its impact on us. I do tend to feel “lucky” when I get it right, when really, it’s the result of years of effort to get myself together.

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Aww thank you so much! It means a lot to me that someone took the time to read all of that and wants to provide support. It’s nice to see that I’m not alone, so many of the struggles I’m reading on here hit home on a visceral level, and I know this sounds cheesy but I can’t believe how many years I’ve been in the dark about this. So many misconceptions abound about ADHD, that it’s easy to get caught up in falsehoods and misunderstandings.

Oddly enough, I’m realizing that Seroquel mixed with my Adderall (to get rid of the sleepiness and focus me) seems to be a magic bullet. I am wondering if I had a sort of PTSD-induced psychosis, as I am suddenly able to see the situation with so much clarity thanks to an atypical antipsychotic. I wonder if my trauma caused me to delude myself into thinking I was fine, it was just this one incident, when it really was a body of work. Seroquel brought me back down to earth from my previous floating around in the sky, and my baseline anxiety is so much lower, like I have things that should make me anxious and I do feel a tinge, but it feels like meh instead of OMG PANIC. Like yah, ok that’s a thought, whatever. It’s kind of a miracle, like yeah, this whole life thing? I got this.

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Well I’m 75 y.o. and was finally diagnosed in my mid-50’s. And this despite having a son who was diagnosed when 4 y.o. It was only at the conclusion of my attendance at a workshop with Dr. Ed Hallowell of Harvard Medical School (psychiatrist) . . . who has ADHD . . .), while sitting in my car, staring out into space, not making a move to get going, with tears in my eyes, and only after my wife asked: “Is something wrong?” that I said, “Now I know why my life has been so hard all these years”! I made an appointment to get evaluated the following week. And guess what? The :green_apple:, my son . . . did not fall far from the tree . . . (me). So as my mother often said, “Live and Learn”!!

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@Literarily, Welcome to the community! Sounds like you went through a lot of stuff… Your struggle is all too familiar. People think that if you’re smart you can solve every problem. They don’t realize that smartness is only part of the solution. You need support, love, desire, inspiration, satisfaction, persistence, fortitude, emotional intelligence etc to succeed. It is sort of like that proverb: it takes a village to raise a child.

You’re not alone. See if you can find a therapist via the additudemag.com site. Here: Physicians

You are not a failure. You are trying very hard. Here in this community we understand. The common denominator in your life is your ADHD and people have a real hard time dealing with its effects or understanding it. Your smartness doesn’t erase your ADHD. You are not your ADHD. Your ADHD makes you want to please people around you even when they walk all over you. And so on. Now I don’t mean we do whatever the hell we want and put all the blame on ADHD. I mean we just need to be aware that ADHD is why we behave differently from the neurotypical people and in this NT world, that can be a problem. So living in a NT world is the other common denominator! If you lived in a world where the NT population didn’t exert much control you’d have been fine!

Here are some things to think about: make changes for yourself, not for your husband. With or without your husband learning coping strategies will be helpful. Making the change you want for a better quality of life will be helpful. You are feeling devastated at the thought of breaking up but that is feeling won’t help you change. Your “stubbornness” (as you put it), not giving up, will help. Hang in there! As you start to making changes always remember that there is a whole community of us cheering you on!


I too read all of that… :slight_smile: As you probably know, ADHD doesn’t effect people in the same way and with the same severity. And then, so many things play a part in how we are able to deal with it, meds, life experiences, the support we get from friends and family, etc.

I hope you are at least able to put a pause to your husband moving forward with the divorce. It sounds like you’ve tried a fair amount of meds without much luck. With therapy, are you really getting the help and tools you need? Are you working together to set goals and are they holding you accountable? While you may feel good talking to somebody and going to therapy, if its not producing positive results, maybe its time to try somebody else? I know this can be very hard if you have invested a lot of time with the person, but you are paying them to be a therapist and not a friend. You also have a role to play on changing things too.

So an idea I have, is that some ADHD brains love games and challenges. Is there a reliable way to measure these behaviors in a quantifiable way? Maybe something you can do on your own at first, but if you can, and are truthful with yourself in how you “grade” yourself, maybe that can act as an incentive to improve from week to week and overall in the long run. I wouldn’t share this idea with your husband at first, but if it looks like it might work, then you can bring him in on the plan to hold you accountable.

Each time you do something good, avoid doing something bad, or make improvements to a negative behavior, like clean the dishes, not barge in when you normally would have, spend 10 minutes on hair and makeup instead of 30… get a point. Each time you do something negative, you lose a point.

Just throwing an idea out there. Not sure what and how you would measure these things, but if you make it a game thats fun, maybe it will help keep you mindful about your actions throughout the day.

I don’t think trying is an issue here. Seems like you tried to take a lot of chances others would not have. The accusations of being lazy and not trying hard enough seem all too common with ADHD. For me I have always had to care, be challenged and interested in whatever I was doing. Even then, I will almost certainly get bored of most things quickly. Hard to have the motivation to overcome lack of interest for many of us, and that can look lazy to other people.

One last thing about the marriage… Is religion important to him? For you, you labeled it as a band-aid. If for him it really is something be believes in (not necessarily what he is telling you), and you “both” stopped being religious, is that really what he wants? Is he having second thoughts about it? Does he not want to discuss this because he knows you weren’t really that dedicated to it? If he is doubting or feeling guilty about stopped being religious, this can be tough.

Best wishes on your journey!

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Wow thank you, I’m very touched by all your support. My husband thinks that because he has ADHD he “gets it” and knows that “pills are useless without the effort to back them.” He was lucky that he had early intervention and was able to live a normal life despite the double whammy of ADHD and NVLD. Yet here I am failing miserably.

The seroquel is making me realize that a lot of the issues I was having were related to delusional thinking brought on by PTSD. Probably used to cope with the trauma through compartmentalizing. I’m optimistic this new awareness will improve things.

He is more anti-religious than me, I’m ambivalent about it; I don’t actually believe in it but I think it has functional benefits for some people.

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I’ll be honest and say I read at least 80% of your post. Its a lot to take in and quite the emotional rollercoaster. I myself was “suspected” of having ADHD when I was young but was generally steered toward “trying harder”. I was professionally diagnosed a couple days ago and just starting down the road of pharmaceutical intervention. I can relate to so many aspects of your story in regard to occupation and relationship troubles. I only lasted in the medical field for a few years before changing career goals multiple times only to find myself back in school in my 40’s. I’ve wanted a “do over” so many times in my life and in some way or another I’ve gotten that chance. Of course it’s not really a do over as much as a course correction. Every day you learn and reflect is a chance to steer your life in a better direction. It sounds like you’ve been sailing in a mix of fog and storms and only recently been able to Get a good bearing on things. Having your husband read what you wrote I think is a good idea. I myself seem to write better than I can talk or act. Its probably the fact that I can’t write as fast as I can talk and that gives me the time I need to slow down and witness my words before hitting the submit button. Also the ability to edit which is the IRL do over I wish I had most times. Anyway, what I meant to say before I began rambling was, to welcome you and let you know that it gets better, you are trying, and like with the boiling frog parable it’s often hard to see change when it happens gradually. Best if luck moving forward, and remember there’s an incredibly supportive community here.

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The doctors believed since my grades were so high I couldn’t possibly have ADHD since I was sooo functioning :roll_eyes: yet that was IN SPITE OF instead of because of it - imagine what I could have achieved without it!

I’ve wanted a “do over” so many times in my life and in some way or another I’ve gotten that chance. Of course it’s not really a do over as much as a course correction.

Literally me!!! Same same sameee

I love this community, it’s so supportive cause y’all get it! I finally don’t feel so alone

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