ADHD Brings Life to Complete Stop

I'm 34.  I was diagnosed with ADHD about a month ago.  I have suspected having it for probably about two years.  Now that I better understand some of the symptoms and how they play out in day-to-day life, I can see that I have probably had it for my entire life and simply managed to "cope."  It was probably never caught when I was young because I generally did very well in school (with a few isolated exceptions) and I was never a discipline problem, though I was known for my smart mouth and "strong will."  My family pegged me as a future politician.  I finally went for professional help and started taking Concerta about 11 months into my first job as a full-time litigator.  In previous jobs, my ability to move early from crisis to crisis and to effectively deal with short, intense bursts of work-related pressure was a huge asset and caused me to be labeled as a "rising star."  My shortcomings were readily overlooked (though I have them all catalogued in my mind along with scores of failed attempts to "fix" them), and what I now know to be symptoms of ADHD never held me back (even though I always felt a little "fake" because I could never live up to my own hype, and someday someone might call me on it).  None of any of my allegedly positive qualifies have translated well to the traditional practice of law.  In fact, for the first time in my life, I'm not standing out for the right reasons.  I'm always in trouble for low billable hours, so much so that I'm genuinely in fear for my job, and that causes tremendous anxiety like I have never experienced before.  The nature of my job involves a constant stream of deadlines, both internal and external, half of which I miss.  While I have not missed a court-imposed deadline (yet), the consequences of missing such a deadline are pretty severe (like loss of your client's rights).  It's an on-the-spot job ending offense and the anxiety of that prospect has nearly paralyzed me on a few occasions.  I've pulled more all-nighters in the last 4 months than I did through all of college and law school combined.  I've wept, unexpectedly and uncontrollable, more than a few times in the middle of desperately trying to finish a brief.  And since I'm in my first year of this stuff, much of this is new.  I don't have a bank of experience to draw from yet.    I think the medicine is helping. I'm not sure. But the simple fact that I need medicine at all has only made me feel like more of a failure.  Talking about it at work isn't an option.  I believe they'd just work me out as a result.  Not a single thing I've found or read about lawyers with ADHD suggests that you tell your boss....unless you really, really, really have to.  Even the ABA recommends not telling anyone and, if you're forced to, they stress that ADHD is not an "excuse" for anything.  That's how supportive and understanding other lawyers are.

Problems with my job caused me to seek a diagnosis and treatment, but the hardest impacts have been on my personal life.  I found the person I want to marry six years ago.  We've been living together for four years.  We love each other.  We support each other.  But living with someone has been really hard - mostly because I had lived alone my entire adult life and was comfortable with a standard of living that would embarrass most people.  He works long, long hours, like me - and we make the most out of the time we have together.  But so much of our time together lately is fighting over things that, in the last month, I've come to understand as symptoms of ADHD.  I finally broke down and hired a cleaning lady to help us because I can't keep on top of my share of the responsibilities.  Sex has become a huge problem.  Neither one of us believes we have enough of it, but we never seem to be able to work more in. 

I've started to resent him for how he is constantly reminding to do things -- like to change the wash, to get an oil change, to pay a bill, to call my parents.  I've started to really resent him for saying that we're not ready to get married because we can't manage our lives.  When I frustrate him beyond comprehension, he says things like "you say you love me, but you don't show it" or, even worse, "I'm just tired of caring so much; I'm tired of trying."  I want children very, very much, but he says that we couldn't have a kid right now because our lives are too stretched and in chaos.  He really does support me 100% when it comes to understanding and getting treatment for ADHD.  Before that, we even went to couples therapy for a while before I finally decided to get help on my own.  But I'm 34.  I'm tired of feeling like I'm in a state of crisis.  I'm tired of feeling like a failure.  I'm tired of putting off the things I want.  I'm goddam 34.  According to the stats, it will get harder and harder for me to have a normal pregnancy every year I wait.  I've got some deep-seated anger at having to deal with any of this.  I've got a lot of anger over where I could be in my life if someone, anyone -- me included -- had just noticed the ADHD sooner.  I'm brimming with anger that the person who supposedly loves and supports me will, for all intents and purposes, use my situation to say that we can't have kids anytime soon because I couldn't be a good mother. 

I'm at a loss these days.  Overwhelming isn't even the right word for all of this.  I desperately want my life to move forward.  Time is not on my side and I'm just tired of waiting.  My patience has run out.  I'm consumed with a sense of loss and failure.  And I don't know what to do.

Response regarding children

My husband has ADHD, OCD and Depression.  We tried to have children and went through infertility.  It did not work and I was hospitalized twice from side effects of the meds.  I have a daughter from my first marriage.  Now that my husband is out of the home my 13 yr old has told me how painful it was to watch her step father mistreat me.  Flirting with waitresses at a family meal.  His angry outburst when we were at the museam of science, she knew about his online flirting on facebook for two years without telling me.  Finally a friend saw it and told me.  When my daughter recounts how she felt and how painful it was for her to see me embarassed and humiliated in public over and over again by his poor impulse control and his insatiable need for attention.  The disorder takes a toll on the children in the home.  If I had a child with my husband it would have ADD for sure and poss OCD depression and Bipolar disorder.  My husband's mother and sister have bipolar disorder.  Even knowing all this he still wanted his own biological child.  Would not even consider adoption.

So you do not want to bring a child into and unstable home.  To make a marriage work you need to follow all the recommendations by the experts Melissa and Ned Hallowell and even with meds, support, counseling and treatment both people have to understand this disorder and make accomodations in the home that give room for the behaviors and hopefully not do the abusive hurtful behaviors.  It takes two people who educate themselves and then do the three leg approach that Melissa talks about.  My husband hurt me terribly with these behaviors and he hurt my daughter.  The affair was the last straw.

So I have to say unless you get it working well without a child, then you don't want to add a child to the mix.  I realize now not being able to get pregnant was in many ways a blessing.  He was not able to co-parent my daughter.  If anything he underminded my authority and my parenting of her time and time again.

Example: July 4th we went sailing for the day. My daughter got sea sick.  After we got off the boat we had plans to go on the esplanade to see Neil Diamond and the fire works.  I knew being a registered nurse that in about 20-30 min how my daughter was feeling would pass which is what I told my husband.  He blew up, insisted we go home and ditch the plans.  I said stop it, you need to support me in this.  She will be fine in a few minutes.  Then "what kind of a mother are you....." So we leave and drive home which is a 30 min drive and upon our arrival my daughter says, wow mom you were right I feel fine now.

Now that my husband is gone my relationship with my daughter has never been better.  Children pay a price for the disorder untreated in the home.  Then if the child also has adhd then the non affected spouse has their hands full.  If you both embrace treatment, meds, counseling and get things working well with each other then you can have a child and bring them into a healthy environment.  Best of luck to you.  I know the anguish of not being able to have a child when you want one.  When I was in infertility treatment for 3 years and it didn't work.  Now I see that not having a child with my mentally ill husband who refused treatment for the past 10 years was a blessing in disguise.

Regarding anger, etc.

The thing that stuck out to me the most from your post was the anger you feel about having to deal with all of this and not having someone in your life notice your ADHD sooner. I really think you may have to resolve/let go of that anger before you can move forward because it will always hold you back in that place where you make excuses and blame others, when it really doesn't matter because you have to be the one to deal with you. You have to learn to be okay with who you are, the cards you were dealt, etc. I've had experiences like this and it is amazing how learning to deal with or just let go of the anger, resentment, and any number of disabling negative emotions, frees you to deal with individual situations with a clearer head and with hope.

And on the topic of children -- I know this is not anything you want to hear -- but it has been my observation, as the spouse of a man with ADHD and in all my reading and forum searching over the years on how to improve our lives and relationship, what I have seen more often than not is the posts with the most anger, frustration, and crying come from those who have kids. I can't tell you how many posts I've read from women who are "at their wits end" with their ADD/ADHD husband and just can't seem to take it anymore and are on the brink of walking out the door, to read that kids are involved. ADHD is not something special in this regard. There are hundreds of problems couples have out there that make them think having kids will either solve their problems or make them go away. Like bringing children into a home will make all ADHD symptoms vanish. And like any other issues out there, I think it is best to have them reasonably managed before having babies. I decided a long time ago that I don't want kids. Maybe in another universe, if I was with a different man, I may consider it. But with my SO? Never. He is a wonderful person and would be a great dad -- for the most part. But if he has an angry outburst because a loud truck drives by outside the house, how is he going to respond to a screaming infant? That is just not something I'm going to put myself through. I'm not saying you should consider not having kids, but you should examine your environment -- including the people in it, your home, your own thoughts and attitudes! -- before having kids. It's only fair to them (for when they get here). I would suggest maybe talking to your doctor about how long you can wait before having kids. I'm guessing you still have at least two to three years before your chances to conceive become too dire. You were just diagnosed a month ago. Give yourself time to really understand what all of this means for you and learn to forgive yourself for the problems you are having at work. Now is the time to learn how to do the job with a new perspective. You have a new knowledge now that gives you insight into how you operate and how you need things to operate around you. I know it feels like your life has come to a complete stop, so now is when you rebuild, one piece of the life puzzle at a time.

Take It Slowly

Amy:  I hope you will take a moment to look at the things you have written, and read about some of the experience elsewhere on this site.  I think you should count yourself very lucky that your boyfriend supports you 100% in your ADD treatment.  Before you get angry at him for putting off marriage, consider that he is doing that as a favor to you, as a couple, so that you can succeed and not fail. 

I think you're going a little overboard by interpreting his actions to mean that you "won't be a good mother," but I have to wonder whether you are aware of the work that raising a child entails.  I, too, am a lawyer and have worked in a fast-paced law firms.  I also have two children.  Sister, dealing with legal deadlines is NOTHING compared to the demands of being a mother.  If you are in a state of overwhelm and anxiety with your work, then you are not ready for a child.  Sorry, but it's true.  That doesn't mean that you won't ever be ready, but it does mean that you should address some of your ADD symptoms before diving into motherhood.  I am telling you this as a non-ADD person who was so overwhelmed by the first months of motherhood that I went into a mild post-partum depression.

Also, having a child would not help your marriage, if you are currently in the ADD/nonADD marriage cycle.  Again, it is a LOT of work, and it's not negotiable -- you can't decided not to feed the baby, get up at night, change her, etc. the way you can choose not to call your parents, pay your bills, or wash your clothes.  If your ADD symptoms are not being managed well at the time you have a child, there will be a very uneven distribution of this enormous burden, and it will add additional strain to your marriage.

A POTENTIAL SOLUTION: have you considered cryogenically freezing your eggs?  I have a friend who just did this, she is 38 and single and is also concerned about waiting until it's too late.  Anyway, she said the statistics of birth complications are related to the age of the eggs, not the age of the mother.  So, if you freeze your eggs, even if you're 42 when you choose to use those eggs to become pregnant, it will be the same as if you were pregnant at age 34 in terms of all the statistical odds (and I believe that before 35 everything is very low).  it's expensive -- I want to say she said is was $8-10K a pop, but if you're working as a law firm associate you could probably handle it.

Just a thought.  Take care of yourself first -- everything else will fall into place.;

gigs26's picture


Amy, you describe many of my fears so well…recently diagnosed with ADHD at 30, at the beginning of my legal career and a few years into a relationship with the man I want to marry, and staring down my doubts, and his, that I can be a good mother and partner.

I have one amazing source of inspiration, though, which is my own parents’ marriage. My dad also has ADHD – undiagnosed and unmedicated, and with many coping skills developed over the years. My mom was always the organizer of the family, but both mom and dad were and are terrific, loving parents for their children and partners for each other, and I love and respect them both fiercely. I have seen them navigate grief, depression, financial problems, and illness, and weather all of those with integrity, loyalty, and love. So I know in my bones that it is possible for those of us with ADHD to be good parents and loving spouses. It won’t be easy but it is possible, and knowing that gives me hope and inspiration to keep facing the challenges of ADHD.

fuzzylogic72's picture

I hear you Amy

Well said gigs, it means a lot for us adhders to hear supportive comments by those like us.

Amy, there is a new forum called 'Support for ADHD Partners', where you may find a slightly more empathetic ear for your concerns and feelings. Although a couple of the posters above clearly do not understand what it is like on our side of the fence, and do not realize we are every bit as stressed and frustrated with ourselves as they are with us (likely more so), we still do need to realize the impact we have on those close to us, just perhaps not in such a judging manner. Anyways, we all need to vent and I am just suggesting you try it in the forum I mentioned, as you will likely find some understanding and a more supportive, helpful (and perhaps informed) tone amongst your fellow adhders. That being said, I have to agree with one of the posters about anger, and having to take accountability and ownership over our own anger (not there's, ours.) We also have to take accountability for our behaviours; and once you do it is up to THEM to take ownership over whatever resentments they harbour towards you for your condition.

We are all suffering equally from this condition, and neither 'side' gives enough credit to what the other has to endure on a daily basis. No one wants conflict, and placing blame (either person) helps anyone. Hopefully we will see you on the 'by us, for us' forum I mentioned above that admin has kindly opened up for people like us to have a supportive environment as well.

Stay open, try to be flexible. Above all, be patient with yourself and those we have this unfortunate impact on; believe it or not they are trying just as hard to be patient with us.