Frustrated with my multiple mental disorders

This is going to be a long, depressing story.  It's also my first post, so you all have to be gentle with me.

I decided to post here because I want to rebuild the relationship with my girlfriend of 16 months, who is also my best friend of 4 years.  She is a rising second year medical student, and I am a (hopefully soon to be graduating) undergraduate.

I have multiple psychiatric disorders. Primary ones are ADHD-combined, and Asperger Syndrome.  Conditions resulting from the first two are Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Substance Abuse, Self Harm, and Avoidant Personality Disorder.  I have had 3 major psychiatric meltdowns, each more severe than the last.  The last one resulted in being hospitalized for a week.

My girlfriend and I separated in May while I was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward, following a large drug overdose.  My girlfriend decided to separate with me then because we needed to resolve serious problems in our relationship.  Also, I have displayed strong suicidal tendencies in the past, so she separated from me at a time when I couldn't hang myself.  That right there earns a lot of gratitude from me, as it saved my life.

I started receiving serious psychiatric care during my hospital visit.  As a result, I have had marked improvements in my symptoms.  Prior to this, I was just prescribed absurdly low doses of antidepressants and then shooed out of the doctor's office, because surely nothing was wrong with me.

I have always made an extraordinary effort to mask my symptoms.  My parents were very much in the "figure out a way to get your crap done, it doesn't matter how, just do it" camp.  I learned to mask my symptoms so that I would not be punished by them.  As a result, I resorted to drug abuse and alcoholism to cope with my ADHD and the resultant Anxiety about pleasing my parents.  When that failed, I became extremely depressed and suicidal.  To prove I was capable (to escape the depression), I scheduled the hardest possible schedules for myself.  This, predictably, led to deeper depression and self harm for being such a failure.  I also developed Avoident Personality Disorder to protect myself from failed social encounters resulting from the Asperger Syndrome.

Because of my AvPD, my girlfriend is, literally, the only person I have ever had an emotional connection to.  This made me fairly dependent on her, as I had no other support structure (other than heavy, daily drinking).  She supported me through each of my meltdowns, in spite of the incredible amount of stress it put her under.  During my second meltdown, there were numerous times when she had to talk me down from suicide, and she often had to patch me up after drunken episodes of self harm.

Needless to say, I've put the most important person in my life through the wringer.  I am now receiving the healthcare (counseling, coaching, stacks of pills, etc.) that I needed for so long.  My parents are also much more supportive, now that they know I was not just a lazy slob, but actually had something wrong in my head.  They are providing me with a year or two of support so that I can recuperate and get my head screwed on straight.  I am no longer as depressed, although I still get into a funk every now and then.  I don't drink and use drugs to cope with stress for the most part.  I do slip every now and then.  I am no longer suicidal and I don't self harm anymore. 

What is killing me right now is not knowing what I need to improve on.  My girlfriend says I need to "focus on me" for a while, but I have no idea what this means.  I have always tried to do well in school to please my parents, so I have never really "focused on myself" before.  I am posting here because the emotions expressed by a lot of the ADHDers here seem to mirror my own, so I guess I'm looking for advice and direction on how to "focus on me."  My biggest unresolved issues are the two primary disorders: ADHD and Asperger's.  I have come to terms with the Asperger's, but dealing with that is for another forum.  I am struggling to get past the ADHD.  Specifically, I am paralyzed by the fear of failing again and never being able to reconnect with my girlfriend.  I want to show her that I am better now, but I don't know how.  She is not so good at providing information on how to do that, other than "focus on me."  

My girlfriend is truly an angel.  She has saved my life countless times, and she fosters a deep feeling of love for me.  She reciprocates that love (even now!), although she is understandably very hesitant about trusting me again.  I understand that it will take time, but (probably because of the ADHD) the waiting is killing me.  I'm going mad with the thought of losing her, which is making it that much harder to recover.

I don't know what to do.  Venting all of that felt good though, so maybe just talking about it with people other than her will be beneficial.

Thanks for reading.

When you list your

When you list your "conditions resulting from the first two" what do you mean? Have you seen a psychiatrist that has told you that these conditions 'arise' from the ADHD being untreated or something? The reason I ask is that my husband was diagnosed with ADHD in June of 2010 after many miserable years of marriage and fighting...and alcohol (and God knows what else!) abuse. He has gone through four very definable episodes of what looks like, for all intents and purposes, depression. Each 'triggered' by a major life changing event (us having a baby, him losing his job and finding out about the same time that his mother was dying, etc) I am certain he has had more than just 4 episdoes of this in his life, but these are the only ones I've been a witness to. Because of these episodes AND because ADHD stimulant medications made him hostile and angry they are now thinking he is bipolar in additon to ADHD. I'm just wondering how they differentiate between "you have major depressive disorder BECAUSE of your ADHD" and "you have depression in addition to your ADHD" I never thought of the fact that the ADHD being untreated could CAUSE these things. He has talked about anxiety issues he has as well...but has done really stupid, although legal, things to try and cope.

Having said that, I commend you for having the courage to share your story with us. I cannot speak for your girlfriend, but I can try and explain what she might be feeling. Yes, her trust in you has probably been decimated. It would seem that she had to know you weren't coping well..if she was having to 'patch you up' after you got drunk and hurt yourself. Recently, I felt things were going well with my husband...coming off of a major depressive spell and getting a grip on a big issue at work...and then WHAM next thing I know he's done something really stupid and dangerous and my life was turned completely upside down again. My ability to trust that he'll ever be strong enough to get himself together, get the help he really needs, and not always leave me with the sick feeling of worrying when the other shoe will drop has been destroyed...something that he's slowly etched away at for years, but since his diagnosis it seems he's determined to destroy himself, seek all means of 'help' possible except those that are REALLY helpful, and I never know from day to day what/who I am dealing with. He is currently refusing to take the medication his doctor prescribed him last week...saying, after one dosage, that he doesn't like the way it makes him feel. The ADHD meds made him feel HORRIBLE...but he took those because he wanted to...and fought me to the death when I tried to get him to stop them because they made him MEAN. If you are actively seeking help, taking your prescribed meds, getting therapy and coaching then you ARE working on yourself.

Where you need to continue with this work is by being patient. You have to accept that no matter what happens you are going to be OK, like the rest of the human population, if you want a healthy realtionship and do not want to smother your GF. She is still your GF, but she's afraid. The ONLY WAY...PLEASE read this...the ONLY WAY she'll learn to trust you again is with consistent and continual improvements and shows of courage and strength from you. TIME is your best friend although it feels like your worst enemy. You cannot put the success of your recovery and treatment on HER shoulders. It isn't fair and it's going to destroy your relationship. Talk to your counselor/therapist about this...put into place coping strategies that help you not lean on her too much during such a fragile time in your life. She knows that you have a tough life ahead of you with meds and therapies and such...but what will bring her the most comfort, give her the most strength to face it, is YOU showing her that you can and WILL carry your own load and only depend on her for support and love. She cannot carry this for cannot keep putting it on her to 'patch you up'. You need to show her that you not only can stop the need to be 'patched up', you can be there to patch her up occasionally.

Stay strong. Focus on facing your fears (of failure) and proving to yourself that you're capable, even if your ADHD makes you feel you're not. Best of luck to you! Keep us posted.

I thank you for your very

I thank you for your very thorough and helpful response.  It is difficult for me to put myself in my girlfriend's shoes, so it helps a lot to have a non-ADHD partner guide me to understanding how she feels.  I've been reading a lot of threads here, and I had kind of been hoping that you (Sherri) would respond :)

For me, depression results from having unmanaged ADHD as well as from feeling like a failure.  I got depressed from knowing that I would be a failure for my entire life, and that there was nothing I could do to change that.  I could struggle as much as possible, but I would always be a burden and a disappointment.  This has remitted some, as I am now receiving treatment.  It does a world of good to have a skilled treatment team looking after me, because I feel that I now have an opportunity to not be a failure.  In short, I now have hope.  My past failures still haunt me, so I do slip into a bit of a funk when I think about them too much, but I don't allow myself to self harm because I know that takes away from my opportunities to show that I am not​ a failure. 

The anxiety is related more to Asperger Syndrome than to ADHD, however the overwhelming pressure to overcome the ADHD (pre-treatment) is a major contributor.  It's the knowledge that I have failed 9 times out of 10, but I might not this time so OH MY GOD I HAVE TO WORK MYSELF TO DEATH TO SUCCEED OR I FAIL.  It doesn't help knowing that even if I do work myself to death, chances are I will fail anyways.  I have to try though, and the amount of pressure each time I try is just absurd.

For me, self medicating (and other unhealthy coping mechanisms) stem from my desire to show that I am not a lazy, stupid failure.  Nobody else sees a doctor because they can't get their work done, so why should I?  Going and seeing a doctor is just another mark of being a failure: it means I am acknowledging that I can't manage my own life.  I mean, listen to how silly it sounds: "I turned in my lab report late because I was too busy watching youtube videos to get my work done.  And because of that, I deserve a doctor's attention and other special accommodations.  *pout*."  Deep down it is just harmful pride, but it feels an awful lot like trying to maintain what little dignity I have left.

"Recently, I felt things were going well with my husband...coming off of a major depressive spell and getting a grip on a big issue at work...and then WHAM next thing I know he's done something really stupid and dangerous and my life was turned completely upside down again. My ability to trust that he'll ever be strong enough to get himself together, get the help he really needs, and not always leave me with the sick feeling of worrying when the other shoe will drop has been destroyed"

That sounds so much like my girlfriend that it's unnerving.  The day of my overdose my girlfriend could tell that something wasn't right.  She kept asking if I was ok, and I promised that everything was fine.  Then I went home and overdosed.  So, yes, I did shatter her trust in me.  She does tell me, all the time, that she can't be responsible for whether I live or die.  She is having a lot of trouble with worrying about if I'm ok.  I can't just tell her that I am ok because there was this one time that I was, well, not ok.

Wow. Thank you...I'm very

Wow. Thank you...I'm very flattered that you wanted me to respond. :o)

I think the one thing that I wish so much weren't a part of ADHD is the overwhelming fear of failure. It really does break my heart. My husband is the smartest man I know. He's above and beyond anyone I know when it comes to computers...whether it is networking, programming, hardware, software, or just simply troubleshooting...there is nothing he cannot do...and he is 100% self taught. (he was lucky enough to land jobs that helped develop his skills...especially his programming). But, when it comes to stepping outside of his comfort zone he panics and I KNOW it is because he has zero confidence in himself. I KNOW he's capable...everyone knows he's capable..but him. SOOOO, my hope (and prayer) for you (and others) is that you can learn, through coaching and therapy, that the fear of failure is probably what caused the past failures and NOT the INABILITY to do the specific task or mee the specific goal. If you can overcome that mindset, which will not be easy but it CAN be done, then the world is your oyster, my friend!! Truth of the matter is, intelligence is usually extremely high in people with ADHD, but the fear of failure is as well. Sounds like you've got a LOT of good help on your side so please take total advantage of it. Make lists and reminders about what you want to improve on (fear of failure should be on the top of your list, it sounds like!) and let them help you.

Listen, we all have things about us that we wish were different. I know me saying it doesn't make it less true for you (My husband always reminds me of this when I try to force some of my 'perfectly logical thinking' on him LOL), but life is too f'in short to spend it worrying about being embarassed. Go to the doctor for help when/if you need it. My son has seizures because of issues with his brain..should he be embarassed that he has to go to the doctor to get meds to control them? He's autistic as well? Should he be embarassed because the signals in his brain never connected in 'normal' way? Of course not. Your ADHD is a brain disorder that is no more a reason for embarassment than any of these other things. Let that go. Let it go. Let it go and focus on things that you can's a waste of energy and time. You need all of your energy going elsewhere. I will tell you what I tell my husband..although, again I recognize that it isn't going to be helpful until you believe it...but most other people are so caught up in their own crap that they really don't care that you have to go to the doctor because you have problems focusing on your tasks...the 'perception' that they care is usually his warped sense of reality and not actually what the people around him are thinking. Besides, aside from all of this..YOU ARE WORTH whatever it takes to help you be at peace in your own mind and to help you be able to overcome your disorders and live a happy life. It IS possible. I WISH SO BADLY my husband had the resources AND was willing to take advantage of them that you do. BE grateful for the gift you've been given and make the absolute best of it.

Your GF is afraid, as I said...and yes, it is because she felt something was wrong, you assured her everything was fine, and it wasn't. In time, she will not be able to deny your changes and your strength. Hang in there..and take things one day at a time..and again, use the resources you have available to you to get through it.

Your response did make me

Your response did make me feel better :).  Thank you.

I realize that the fear of failure will take time to overcome.  It's just hard to move past it when I feel like there is so much riding on being able to succeed.  I want to prove to people that I am not a failure, and that alone has set me up for failure more times than I can count.  I wonder if the desire to prove oneself is part of Adult ADHD, especially because I want to prove that I am as capable as those around me without ADHD.  I hope that my experiences will help you understand and help your husband.  

The difficult thing with ADHD is that it feels like nothing is wrong with me.  It feels like I am just lazy and disorganized.  So it is hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that I have a mental disorder, and therefore deserve special accommodations.  I'm not exactly sure what I'm trying to say here, other than it is hard to move past the shame of ADHD.

I am working on trying to believe that "time is my best friend," but it is difficult to be patient enough to wait for her to have faith in me again.  I want to be able to convince her that I am ok NOW, even though I know that I am probably not fully better yet.  It is difficult to be separated from those you love :(

I'm sorry that post was such a downer.  I really am feeling better, and your post did help me a lot.  I am considering showing it to my girlfriend to get her thoughts. 

  When you say you want to


When you say you want to prove to people that you're not a failure, what specifically would this look like when accomplished?

I ask because I do not think that this success will come in any form of achievement on your part, but from growing to understand that it is not important to prove ANYTHING to anyone but yourself...and those who love and depend on you. You may never reach this goal because this goal may be something you've MADE impossible in your mind. You may get an education and land a job making six figures...someone comes along who makes $1000 more a year than you and you're going to feel like a failure again. (basing all of this on my experience with my husband). The 'high' of accomplishment is short lived and will NEVER 'stick' as long as the underlying need to prove things to others is a part of your mindset. My husband lives his entire existence trying to prove to others that he isn't stupid although no one feels that way about him, in his mind the least little disagreement or comment make him automatically 'go there' and assume the person is calling him stupid. Again, he spends way more time THINKING people care than they actually do. This will result in a lifetime of "failures" because there is no winning in his mind. Even when he does something extraordinary and gets the validation he needs, it can go away in the blink of an eye when the time for praise is over and the time to get back to work comes. His 'definition' of failure is much different from most. By all accounts, he's gone far and made a very good life for himself, but nothing ever seems to be enough for him to feel good about himself. When you say you've failed so many times....are they really failures or just what you perceive as failures? Do they matter to anyone else but you? I dropped out of college 25 years ago with only one class left to get my degree. I gave up. It wasn't a failure...just a bad decision I made. My family might be better off financially right now were I to have gotten my degree and started a career...but it wouldn't have put me where I am today..with my children..being at home with them...and I wouldn't change that for the world. MANY would see that as a failure. I don't care. Not at all. I hope you can get to that point...and let go of the fear of failure and replace it with the acceptance that you're going to do whatever it takes to make it in this world..and to be a kind, loving strong person...and right now nothing (or no one) else matters. It is MOST DEFINITELY part of the ADHD...the low self esteem..the need to feel validated, admired, loved, and held in high regard. Not just to feel it but hear it. It isn't part of everyday life where your boss tells you on a daily basis how wonderful you are. It isn't part of a normal day to have your co-workers (classmates, friends, etc) remind you just how valued you are and how smart and charming you are. It is normal to have co-workers who just don't like you..personalities will clash and politics will always exist. An ADHDer needs all of these things extrinsically because there is no intrinsic system in place. No one ever told my husband, apparently, that just because someone at work doesn't like you that doesn't mean that the problem is ALL HIM...or that he has to be paranoid everyday that this person will destroy him professionally...or that it is anything he should give a shit about. Be professional, do your job, and go on with life...but it isn't that easy for an ADHDer. It's a never ending thorn in his side and each time this person's name comes up a constant reminder of what a failure he is because this person doesn't like him. (all purely speculation on my part...but I have a lot of reasons to believe this is how it truly is/feels to him)

The shame is a huge part of the ADHD as well...but it seems to come from, again, feeling like you never can live up to other's expectations. It comes from making horrible decisions and living with the pain they have caused others. The shame can cripple you from ever moving forward. Many take the "why bother" attitude because it just feels like they're never going to get anything right. I can assure you this is very, very wrong. Yes, change comes hard for those with ADHD because you've got to undo years and years, layer upon layer of damage (both self-inflicted and inflicted by others) but this is essentially true for us all. Just like we non's have to learn to trust again and let go of the anger. It takes HUGE leaps of faith .. in ourselves and in those we love .. in that aspect, we are all the same. I hope that coming to the site helps you. It is wonderful for giving insight into the minds of those with and without ADHD...and helps bring about a better understanding for me so many times. In my case, the understanding seems to be one sided for the time being...although my husband has 'leveled off' and is back to his normal self, he remains untreated which means that can all change in the blink of an eye...but I do feel the more I learn about the thoughts and feelings of those with ADHD the more sympathy I can have for him..which helps heal me emotionally and helps me let go of the anger easier...quicker.

Hang in there! You're doing great! Just the way you recognize what you're feeling is a HUGE step towards doing things differently from now on.

Hi Big 314

So glad you joined us!

I have ADHD and something you wrote, I can really relate to:  I have no idea how to 'focus on me' either.  ONe thing my husband kept saying to me over the years is that i have no ambition.... no REAL ambition of life goal.  I guess I have just been running from one thing to the next doing whatever I thought other people wanted me to do and I still pretty much have NO IDEA what I want out of life.  I have some very successful and confident friends/colleagues who do ALL KINDS of focusing on themselves that to me seems... narcissistic and useless...  I guess I just never learned to value myself at all, so that's how I WOULD see it.

Like you, I'm trying to figure it out too...  I really hope you can get the right meds/dosage of everything you need.  Be strong for yourself.  Show your girlfriend how strong you are, and most important, show yourself.