I couldn’t believe ADDA wanted to hear my story! Someone is asking me (chatty Cathy) for my story. There has to be a catch, right? It is odd to think I am allowed to embellish and more and that others with ADHD will read to the end. So here is my story.
I was a very quiet and shy girl growing up. I didn’t make waves even where there was an overabundant supply of water! I sat where I was told, did as I was instructed and kept my mouth shut in school. I was smart and placed in the advanced “math” group. But that only seemed to mean we received extra homework. It was not harder, just much more of the same boring work. I didn’t like it so I asked to leave the group. Since I’m a girl, they didn’t question why.
I had always been near the top of my class, but I saw myself as someone who had to study to achieve. No one thought it odd I would study in the bathroom because it was the only quiet place where folks didn’t interrupt me! I had to read standing up because as soon as I started to read I fell asleep. I would stand behind a recliner and prop a book up on the back of the chair. I don’t know how I managed. Or why I persevered. But, I made good grades and went on to earn my master’s degree in education.
I have always been emotional. Being so “sensitive”, as my grandma put it, I have never been confident. I didn’t feel like people took me seriously. I didn’t act out. But, I don’t communicate well and didn’t realize that not everyone else saw the world as I do. I didn’t like it when people talked loud, made loud noises, or looked at me cross. I was a sensitive little girl! I did not show up on any ADHD radar.
My mother couldn’t reach the misunderstood little diva. She had joined the military at the age of 18 and served for twenty years. She was also married three times. As a preadolescent, I was a victim of sexual abuse by one of my stepfathers. I have never written this down before. I still cannot separate my fears now from what my real fear was during that time. Remember, I was a good girl. I did as I was told. This abuse formed a layer of shame and guilt I still carry with me. I seem to attract people who out of nowhere will plant a big smooch right on my lips or a slap my backside! No previous flirting or exchange of sentiment, wham! I still struggle to find a good response. And I feel guilty!
I got pregnant and married at sixteen. That marriage lasted five years. I remember my ex-husband saying, “I can never keep up with your thinking. You move from subject to subject at lighting speed!” I would respond with, “Keep up!” What was his problem? Ha-ha! I moved on to another relationship that lasted thirteen years. I felt trapped. I surrounded myself with strong, overbearing men who made all the decisions (common with ADHDers). People criticized me because I didn’t enjoy house cleaning, cooking, or waiting on him. They labeled me “selfish.” I wanted to try different things like getting an education, leading Boy Scouts and learning Tae Kwon Do, not baking cookies or roasting a chicken.
I have always been late for everything. I don’t want to be. A black hole vortex consumes me. To some employers it’s not a big deal but those who crack a whip seem to be extra annoyed. Of course, I work for the extra annoyed. More chances to feel guilty and ashamed.
I value my job and when I find a position, I stick with it. But at 48, I found myself feeling overwhelmed. I could not sit at my desk in a shrinking cubicle one more minute. I could not answer one more irritating question about “blah, blah, blah!” Everything sounded like a scratched record repeating the same thing over and over. I could not. Life has to be more than this. I had to escape. I packed a box, grabbed my purse and bag, and walked into my supervisor’s office. I broke down, whispered that I couldn’t do it anymore but asked her to keep me from quitting my job.
At age 48, I found myself in a room crying my eyes out wondering what in the world is wrong with me. Of course, depression was the first diagnosis. Months of counseling made no progress. I was finally diagnosed with ADHD inattentive/non-hyperactivity and anxiety. Who knew it’s common for woman with depression and anxiety, who is often overlooked for promotions, who is never taken seriously (probably because she is late and can’t remember the vice president’s favorite drink), or given credit for good ideas, to be diagnosed with ADHD? I didn’t quit my job that day and haven’t since. I admit I want to quit every single day. Somewhere deep inside of me is someone who can offer so much to my organization, but I’m told, “No.”
I have had successes in my life. But they don’t satisfy my hunger to be accepted. It takes a lot to get others to understand I struggle to be me. I don’t even understand what comes from my ADHD and what comes from my own DNA or personality! I wanted to be “normal” but not one person could show me what normal was. And what society tells us makes one popular or successful, I don’t buy. Kinda like the extra homework in the advanced math group. I didn’t buy it either.
My doctors have not grasped what part ADHD plays in my anxiety and depression. I am glad I have stumbled onto websites such as ADDA where I can learn more about ADHD. I see more of my characteristics in the non-neuro-typical brain. I have a lifetime of habits that allow me to get through the day but not through my life. I have found support reading and visiting here at ADDA.
It would be great to live in a world where we can be who we are (ten minutes late or not) without the nasty emails, looks, or lectures. Or say, “Yes I do understand quantum physics even though I don’t remember your name or forget to put the decimal in the correct spot!”
I’m sharing my story because my ADHD characteristics allow me to view the world differently. What we were told about identifying someone with ADHD did not point the finger at me. Maybe it is not pointed at you. If anyone could have shed the light years ago, I would not have believed I was crazy for so long. I am not sure what each day will bring. But I am learning to pause, take a deep breath and ask myself, “Is this really how things are or is my ADHD the cause of my misunderstanding or confusion? Are there other possible conclusions and solutions? What would help more than beating myself up for my lacking?” I have a lot to learn, to accept and to contribute.
It’s important that adults with ADHD share their stories. We must become our best advocates. We must make the world aware of our challenges and our accomplishments. We have rare and special gifts we only discover as we relax and accept them. We excel when we are joyful in our discoveries, not fearful of our next failure. Make no mistake. We are a handful to corral. Don’t try. Allow us freedom to explore and discover, to learn, and invent. We will work harder, longer and will do more than most if given the freedom to do so.