The Grief of ADHD by Lisa

14/02/2024
CADDAC Team

I always grew up feeling like I never quite belonged no matter who I was with or what activities I was doing. I could be in a crowded room and would often still feel completely alone. Sometimes I felt I struggled to truly connect with people. I often would space out during school, I was clumsy, would forget things constantly, and always struggled to start things and or finish things. I’d get so mad at myself, sitting there with so much to do,but yet sitting there frozen, unable to move to start anything that needed to be done. Over the years I started to say to myself that it must be due to me being lazy, weird, broken or stupid. I learned to laugh at myself or at subtle digs others would make towards my faults as a way to cope, making it appear as if I wasn’t bothered. Slowly mine and others words broke me down bit by bit, forever feeling like I couldn't live up to mine or anyones else's expectations, forever feeling like a failure. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't do things right. I was and still am always harder on myself than anyone ever could be. I come off as unphased, but inside I often feel small, insufficient and never enough.

All of those feelings led to having and being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. A Counselor in my early 20’s seemed quite certain I had ADHD. ADHD to me were the kids that were always getting into trouble and bouncing off the walls, I was always a quiet kid, so therefore I could not possibly have ADHD. My ADHD testing at that time came back inconclusive due to the fact that at that time in my life my anxiety was not well managed and anxiety symptoms and ADHD Symptoms can be similar. I thought it was far-fetched that I had ADHD, so I didn't think any more about it.

In my mid 20’s I had my son, after his birth I was diagnosed with Postpartum depression. My feelings of not belonging, forgetfulness, fear of failure, and being never enough increased substantially with a new baby at home. With depression meds and counseling my mood improved some, enough that I could get by, but something always still felt off. I still didn't feel happy, I still felt inadequate, I still just felt overall stuck.

When my son hit the age of 4, I started seeing that in many ways he wasn't like his peers, he felt feelings to the max and struggled to regulate emotions. My feeling was that quite possibly he had ADHD. In my journey researching for my son, I started coming across posts about women getting diagnosed after their child got diagnosed, and similarly had depression but always thought maybe there was more to the story. I did more research and started to realize how differently ADHD can present in women. I got a thorough evaluation by a psychologist and it turned out that I have combined type ADHD.

I was happy that my diagnosis would possibly provide more answers in regards to my son, but as the diagnosis started to sink in,I would almost say I went through stages of grief.

Starting with DENIAL, I attempted to deny that ADHD had/has much of an impact on my life. I try to play it off as, it's no big deal, and it does not overly affect me.I also considered that maybe the psychologist and all the different tests were wrong.

As the slow realization of how great of an impact it has and does have on my entire life the ANGER kicked in. I felt that it isn’t fair and found myself just wishing that I could be “normal”. There was also anger that I didn't listen and follow up more in my early 20s when the counselor suggested that I have ADHD. I was angry at my reality and what it meant for my past, present and future.

BARGANING,I kept telling myself if I just try harder or do things differently it will make everything okay. Funny enough that isn't exactly how this ADHD thing works.

The feelings of anger turned to sadness aka the stage of grief also known as the DEPRESSION stage. I felt like many lost opportunities, a lot of negative self-talk, a lot of lost potential happiness due to my ADHD and also due to the lack of knowing. Thinking back to when I would refer to myself as lazy, weird, stupid, broken, usually those feelings and feelings of inadequacy all stemmed from the differences in how my brain functioned, struggles with executive function and other traits related to ADHD. The sadness of realizing many things will always quite possibly be more challenging for me than many.

ACCEPTANCE is challenging. Sometimes I go back and forth to the depression and anger stage while working on the acceptance piece. I tend to hold myself to very high standards (perfectionism, apparently a very common trait among women with ADHD) , so it's difficult for me to accept that I just can't snap my fingers and fix myself. I keep thinking that if I am aware of my struggles, I should be able to just fix it all. A great example of this is initiating tasks, like writing this blog. I kept laying there knowing I needed to write this, but felt frozen , overwhelmed and unable to start. I knew that this is happening because of my ADHD and is one of my ADHD things. To me, because I recognize it, then I should easily be able to overcome it. Unfortunately recognizing it despite being a good step, did not miraculously make me overcome my struggle or make it disappear. Wishful thinking that it would be that easy.

I am working on accepting myself where I am, learning new coping mechanisms, being kind to myself, all while continuing to take steps towards personal growth. I am realizing the acceptance stage has many parts. It isn't just accepting the diagnosis, it's becoming accepting of who you are and all that it entails.

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