Apologies in advance if this gets long-winded, (I’d hate to bore my fellow brains with my life story) but I’ve only been lurking this forum for around ten minutes, and never in my life have I encountered such a relatable bunch of scamps - I’ve always thought that I was alone in this struggle, but its uncanny how many of your stories line up with my own chaos within, and to realize that I’m not the only one has got me pretty revved up and emotional. If just reading some stories about experiences so similar to mine is such a mind-boggling epiphany for me, I hope that sharing my own story can do the same for some other lost brains to find this wonderful tribe.
I was diagnosed with ADHD only six months or so ago. And it’s not because my symptoms are anything close to mild or subtle. All my life, I’ve struggled with severe impairments in all realms of functioning, from school to relationship, emotional, and just plain life problems. I had the misfortune of being born to a pair of heroin addicts who really had no business trying to raise children.
Due to the neglect and abuse I suffered throughout my earlier years, (I’ll spare you of the nasty details) my rather obvious problems were largely ignored by my family, because being unmotivated, uninspired, explosively combative, and living only in the moment was normal to my family. As far as they were concerned, I was just a chip off the ol’ block.
As a youngster, I developed an extreme anxiety disorder where every tiny and mundane thing was a full blown trauma to me. I honestly don’t remember much of when I was a kid, just that I was mute until age ten, not because I couldn’t talk, but because I was too afraid to. I’d have gigantic meltdowns over silly things, one of the big ones I remember was that I had an intense fear of windshield wipers and having photos taken of me. These fears and meltdowns were so pervasive that every picture of me prior to age 8 is a kid wearing her ugliest crying face, because no one had any idea of how to console me. Naturally, the peers and adults in my life had little patience or sympathy for my hyper sensitivity, and I was quickly trained into the same kind of unsympathetic view of myself.
One thing I did have in my coping toolbox was an unusually high IQ, with which I was able to “fake it till I make it”, but since my diagnosis, I often find myself wondering if my intellect was more a curse than a blessing, as I’m now coming to realize that smarts don’t amount to much at all if you can’t get yourself to do anything productive with them.
Despite my wits, things went horribly wrong pretty early on. I fell into a routine of lying and cheating to breeze through school. As early as 7 years old, I’d already developed a “no homework ever” policy where I would just copy off my friends or forge my dad’s signature to create the illusion that I was doing my nightly reading. I still aced all the tests and fooled all the adults despite never studying a thing in my life. I obviously regret that nowadays, but back then, I thought I was really getting away with something clever.
Obviously when I reached high school, this strategy started to backfire hard.
As my failures began to really rack up, paired with the ever increasing social demands of teen life, things fell apart completely. I tried SO hard to simply try harder in desperate attempts at reducing the pressure my peers and caretakers put on me with all their scorn and discipline, but trying harder is pretty impossible when trying at all is the very thing you can’t actually do.
By 14, I found a new coping method. Just don’t try at all. Instead of just ditching the homework, I ditched school entirely. By then, I was so overwhelmed and angry with myself, I could no longer hold my head down and and try to fake normalcy. I always had trouble making friends, but by that point, I’d become an expert at destroying relationships and lashing out at any and every sentient being in my vicinity. I wasn’t skipping school because I had any friends to sneak off with or things more fun to do, I skipped in a desperate attempt to avoid the constant shame, failures, and uncontrollable emotional outbursts that I was so pervasively prone to.
I spent my days absently wandering the streets, clocking in hours upon hours and miles upon miles of doing the only thing I trusted myself to be able to handle. Daydream, pace, and ignore my struggles like the plague, because all I knew was that my struggles brought out a monster that lived inside of me, and nobody else deserved to put up with the insanity, unreliability, and emotional hurricane that followed me everywhere I went. I could no longer trust myself to control this, so my only option was to attempt to spare others of the frustration and shame that came along with dealing with me.
Obviously, this tactic backfired even harder than my earlier avoidance strategies. My parents and educators started to confront my truancy, but instead of hanging my head and taking my rightfully deserved punishments, something snapped within me, and I started to fight back. Not because I didn’t agree that I was becoming a trainwreck, but because a lifetime of shame, failure, and intense performance anxiety had done its toll and I was absolutely fed up with it.
Around this time, I had a tipping point where I turned to self harm and ultimately attempted suicide in the school bathroom. This was the first of many involuntary psychiatric holds I was put on. My earliest psychiatric diagnosis was ODD and bi-polar disorder. I’d been in and out of mental hospitals for the majority of my teen life, due to my constant and almost obsessive suicide “goodbye” notes and various half-hearted attempts at ending it all. By this point, I had dropped out of school entirely, and I was placed in the foster care system, because my family was simply unequipped to deal with me and I was removed by the state on grounds of abuse and neglect.
Nothing changed in foster care. I just became more self-isolating and more detached from reality. At 15, I latched on to an older man who was romantically interested in me, and our relationship started with him helping to enable me to continue skipping school and avoiding life at all costs. This relationship was never particularly sexual or spicy, we were simply two peas in a pod. A pair of lazy do-nothings who worked together to find new ways of slacking off. The minute he floated the idea of living together, I gunned to make that silly notion into our reality, and I ran away from my foster home to live with this man who I saw as my only friend and only escape from responsibility, and the judgment of others that I so deeply feared.
I was so extreme in my avoidance practices by this time, that I was willing to live in this guy’s closet for a couple years to keep my presence secret from his unwitting roommates. If there’s anything I’ve done that I can consider impressive, it’s probably that. Peeing in McDonald’s cups and living on whatever my man could sneak in for such a staggering amount of time, simply to avoid dealing with people or having a life.
I did turn myself in to the authorities as soon as I was 18, and spun some story about bunking with meth-heads out in the high desert to throw them off my boyfriend’s trail, and finally put an end to the immense guilt I carried with me, knowing that my family and friends were devastated and deeply worried about my wherabouts. I’m still with that guy to this day, if you’re wondering.
After 18, things kind of got easier. My mental health was still completely spiraling, but at least it was now legally allowed for me to embrace my existence of being a hardcore recluse and refusing to deal with any level of responsibility. Around this time, I returned to my family, only to return to the kind of drama that messed me up so badly in the first place. When my dad’s health insurance was pulled because I was no longer a minor, he was taken off of methadone and the withdrawals he went through were so miserable for him, he lost his mind, and started up with his own suicide attempts. There was one in particular that was so horrifically gruesome and bloody, I’ve never quite been the same from it since. From that point, I developed acute PTSD symptoms over the event, and eventually succumbed to bouts of full blown psychosis. As paranoid delusions and voices in my head started to pile on top of everything else, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia by the age of 20.
I was in treatment and therapy for my diagnosis and so overwhelmed with the seriousness of my psychological problems that I spent about a decade religiously following their treatment plans, from anti-psychotics to CBT to learn how to deal with life. But nothing worked. Big surprise. Nothing ever worked out for me.
Fast-forward to more recently, my psychotic features have mellowed out, and my personality more or less stabilized. But I was still struggling with these constant impairments and constantly angry and confused at why I can’t do anything that everyone else finds so easy. So I vented that frustration in the only way I knew how to. Lash out and verbally abuse everyone around me until they’re as miserable as I am. But at a more mature age, I had reached a point that I’d never considered before - I don’t WANT to be this person. I DO love people, I DO care about people. I avoid people to try and spare them the drama, because I actually CARE about them. After a big fall out with my only friend, I had this epiphany that I seriously need to get my act together. Not because I care so much about myself, but because I care enough about my loved ones to get serious about changing and becoming a better influence in their life, rather than a crazy burden that people only put up with out of pity.
So for the first time in my life, I decided that to help myself, I needed to trust myself, instead of blindly allowing my ill-informed doctors to tell me what’s wrong with me. What they were doing wasn’t helping me, and I needed to be proactive and come up with a new plan.
While I never specifically set out for an ADHD diagnosis, I noted that my struggles were chronic and with me since I popped out of the womb. So I found a neurology specialist in my search for insight, and since then, my entire life has been turned on it’s head. This one woman single-handedly explained everything that I thought was impossible to understand within a couple of visits and a lengthy evaluation. With her, I was diagnosed with quite the alphabet soup - Anxiety disorder, PTSD, psychotic depression, avoidant personality disorder - And the mother disorder that spawned them all - ADHD.
Had I known and been treated sooner, I likely would haven’t developed so many other severe mental and psychological problems. At least not to the extent that I had allowed all of this to fester. Life is still hard, don’t get me wrong. But coming to understand, and ultimately accept why I am how I am has been incredibly liberating. I’ve made massive strides in improving my conduct, dealing with my fickle emotions, and being the better person that my loved ones deserve. I have a ton of work to do moving forward, but I’ve past that point of grieving the person I could have been, and wallowing about what ifs regarding if I’d known sooner.
I’m finally at the stage of my mental health journey where I no longer view my ADHD with contempt and blame it as the cruel beast that sabotaged my life, but rather a medical condition that needs to be treated with the same compassion and seriousness as a physical illness, such as cancer or diabetes. And the best part of this acceptance period that I’m phasing into is realizing that I was wrong this entire time. I’m not alone, and I shouldn’t force myself to go it alone.
Hearing all your stories and brains I don’t even know describing the exact same struggles I’ve always been too afraid to admit to has been beyond empowering to me. Yes, I am still scared of responsibility, and I am still scared of people. But now that the mystery of my limitations and psychiatric issues has been solved, for the first time in my life, I feel that I owe it to myself to get out there and find the allies and understanding that I never got to have.
Thank you for reading (can’t fault you if ya tuned out, lol) and my hope is that I can connect with and maybe even help other brains within this amazing and fun community.