My Parent has ADHD

I understand this forum is primarily for marriage related ADHD concerns, but I couldn't find any other place to discuss this topic. 

  My dad has ADHD, although he has not been diagnosed, and will probably refuse to do so; he is 56. He has caused our life to spiral out of control. My family is in debt, and there is constant chaos.  His actions day-to-day lead me to feel as though he is not my father, but my brother. He is irresponsible, lazy, erratic, impulsive, cruel with his words, and unconcerned with the well being of our family; he only acts like a dad when it suits him, never when I need him to be a dad. My mother, on the other hand, tries her hardest everyday to make sure my brother and I have food to eat and house to live in. I try to help out around the house as much as I can, but my assistance is limited because I am just learning how to drive (I am 20!). It is incredibly difficult for both my mom and I to "watch over" a 56 year old man who acts similar to a beheaded chicken on speed. He fights with everyone constantly, but never knows when anything is wrong, does only what he wants to do, and doesn't care about anything anyone has to say. Worst of all, my older brother has Bipolar disorder and Epilepsy, so when you add him to the equation, the odds are never good. I have never had a chance to be a kid, because ever since I was 14, I was watching over the two of them (because my mom works two jobs, and is gone a lot). All of this is just the tip of the iceberg....I am simply writing on this forum to reach someone who understand what it is like to live like this, and to learn that I am not alone. I don't have any questions about ADHD, or concerns, I just would like to talk to someone who's been there. Thanks!

I hear you

To have found this forum and go ahead and contribute shows great strength, intelligence, spirit of positive growth, responsibility and maybe just a bit of desperation (like us all here). I commend you and KNOW you will be very OK.   You will one day have your own family and be miles ahead of many your age.  I had a friend in your similar situation.  Her mother would like it if she stayed home from high school because she would clean the house when at home.  Today my friend is a V.P. of a business.  She is tough, smart and has a way with people - difficult people.  You are learning people skills - even though I know this must be very tough on you. You will have your chance to have your joy.  Have your own passions - things you love and don't EVER let them go for the sake of other's well-being.  Find your own opportunities.  Intern with people you can learn from in an area you are interested in.  ie: if you love to cook, go to the best place in town and buss tables.  If you love to read, offer your time at the library.  If you love sports, get involved.  Your life will be intertwined with people you can associate with who will become a positive part of your life.  You can only do so much for someone who does not cooperate in their own life.  They will be OK in their own way.  They are making their own decisions on how their lives will go.  YOU make your own decisions on how you want your life to go.  You are young.  They COULD be on this site looking for help and growth on their own sakes. Remember to take some time for your own joy every day and keep yourself healthy. Be happy knowing that you are doing so much.  Don't give it ALL away.  Reading your post is an inspiration to me.  

Oh, I see you are 20.  You may know your passions and direction already.  Where ever you are on your journey, let us know how you are doing. God Bless.

 Thank you so much for your

 Thank you so much for your kind words. I am at a point in my life where I am taking responsibility for myself, my life, and my family. You have no idea what your words mean to me. It's calming to hear that I should pursue my goals and dreams and that it's OK, not selfish. Because as frustrating as this situation is, I am trying my hardest to make the best out of myself, and because they are a part of who I am, I often feel guilty for doing something for me. I will continue to look at this situation positively, because I know resenting them or hating them will do nothing but add toxicity to our life. All I want is to secure a life for myself. So thank you again for what you said, and I am happy that in each other we have found inspiration.

Human - Welcome to the

Human - Welcome to the boards! I've only started posting recently, but I know you'll find some really great folks around here. (Some are ADD parents themselves!)

Jenna really said things beautifully, so I'd like to throw my support behind every bit of that and add a bit of my own story. 

My dad passed away a few years back, and I truly believe that he had ADD and some other issues. There was never any doubt in my mind that he loved me yet there were wishes that I had for his behavior and SHOWING that love that he simply didn't have the capacity to show. My mom and I have really spent some time settling into the love and kind man that were fighting symptoms for so long. 

My sister also has PBD. Mental health was NEVER something that came up in our family until, well, all hell broke lose. :) Details aside, mental health is something we're happily and successfully managing on this end. It only took one of us to take up the reins, though, and then everything slowly started falling into place. 

Have you considered attending Al-Anon? I always thought that it was for folks with active alcoholism in their immediate family, but it turns out that's very much NOT the case. Long story short, it's really helping me figure out the "how" in "how the hell do I manage all of this?!" I'm sure you're family is wonderful (they've obviously raised a very smart and caring daughter!), and keeping yourself square and headed FORWARD is really going to be a great way to take care of yourself at the end of the day. Between the boards here and the folks at Al-Anon, I've been able to learn that it's okay (even REQUIRED!) to take care of myself amidst a very rough spot.

Being in a relationship with an ADD guy and having grown up in a less-than-ideal family system, I always believed (oh, and did I BELIEVE!) it was my job to clean up and take care of everything that he wasn't doing. Turns out the world still turns if I don't. While I'm still learning a lot about what is mine to worry about and not, there's so much more peace in my head as a result of these boards and Al-Anon. 

Also consider grabbing some books on ADHD. No one around me really thought that ADHD was a "disorder" (nor did I to the extent I now do), so I would say "it's a really interesting study in behavior, attention, and in-attention!" Those who knew me bought it and we could talk about it without the ADHD label. Then there were those who could take a long walk. ;)  I was informed and could manage my own expectations. 

The only caution I would give you is to avoid trying to CHANGE anything but yourself. You can't. You can be supportive only when someone wants to change. Most often, folks who are in a situation you describe your dad to be in will notice the change and get on board or not. You can't direct that. They need to. (How much do you love people telling you how to drive right now? Kinda' like to learn it on your own, no? ;>) 

The last thing I wish someone would have relentlessly beat into my head was DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT give more attention to their financial problems than is necessary. If you're paying rent, great, leave it there. My own finances tanked when I took my eye off my own money to help my ADD guy out. BIG woops. Bankrupt now. I wish I would have stepped back further and helped him get the support he needed. I have an exit plan, sure, but it needs a few bucks to fund it which are hard to find right now. ;) 

Take what you want from this post - some might be a bunch of crap for what you need. Most of all, hang in there. You're doing great by reaching out to folks. 

Haps, thank you! It is so

Haps, thank you! It is so relieving to hear someone who's been through it all, and is still living and thriving! I am very happy that you replied to my post,  talking to someone who is not a direct relative is so...theraputic. I will look up Al-Anon, and find the details for that, because that sounds very intriguing to me. And you mentioned your sister has PBD. If it is not too personal to ask, how did you cope with both an ADD parent and a sibling with mental illness in your life?

  It was very hard watching my brother slowly descend into his Bipolar. We had a lot of ups and downs for 6 years, and it wasn't until the past year that he was finally able to find the right plan for him (i.e.: medication, meditation, therapy). And as happy as I am for him to be able to be on the right track, I can't help but feel a little jealous, because he got to go to college, and I had to drop out of high school to help out. It's beyond frustrating, but I really don't want to hold anything against anyone. I also don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, I just want to move forward. And this forum gave me insight as to how I can do that: by DOING IT. Again, I can't express the amount of gratitude I am feeling right now. In these few brief hours, you have made my world much brighter, and my spirit much stronger. 

Wow...  what a great thing to

Wow...  what a great thing to read! So happy to have helped. ;)

First, I'm struck by your saying you had to drop out of high school. It appears from the way you write and express yourself that you finished up, no? If not, and it's something you want to do, I'd say go for it! If so, it's definitely paid off. I'm quite jealous at your ability to articulate at 20. ;) 

We didn't know (and still don't, really) if my dad had ADHD. Mom wells up any time I share symptoms or my experience with my guy, though, and it's all over his side of the family. So, amidst everything, I dealt with it by running interference and developing coveted (::eye roll::) codependency traits! If the family wasn't happy, it was my fault. Not the way to go come to find out. Turns out the family was STILL miserable despite my efforts, and only in hindsight can I see how I thwarted my grand plan of heath by not letting them learn how to deal with things. I also wasn't dealing with my own stuff. 

As far as the BPD with sis, it has always been a touch and go thing. Her story is really hers to tell, but it incudes BPD, ADHD, depression, and a history of self-medication. She's even had a few punches on the "inpatient care" card as well. As we backed off (i.e. stopped telling her how to do things/what she was doing wrong), she stepped up. Now, she's kicking butt, taking names, and I don't think I've seen her this happy with her life. I believe it's because she's in charge of it, and we're rooting her on from the sidelines. 

My dad passed away a couple of years ago, and there was nothing left unsaid between he and I, so that's good. As far as mom, sis, and myself, we're all squarely sitting in our own drivers seats right now enjoying our respective rides. A lot of growth has come these past few years, and it's by acknowledge that we did the best we could in years past and trying to commit to today and tomorrow only. (What's the saying? Resentment is wishing for a better past?)

As it relates to everything here with ADHD and the impact on marriage (and the family), some of the lessons I'm learning including the ability to still love the person with ADHD even though the symptoms can be quite difficult at times. And, in the end, it all will work out. As odd and crappy as that sounds, it will. Education and information is the best things we can arm ourselves with, and I think this is why we are here. (That and it's quite nice to vent to people who get it!)

I can tell you, without a

I can tell you, without a doubt, that you have SOOOO much to offer this please stick around because your perspective is one that we do not have and could definitely use. 

I am a non-ADHD wife, married to a man with ADHD who wasn't diagnosed until the age of 38. One of my greatest concerns has been how my children have been affected. I have a daughter (she is 13) with my ADHD husband and then a son from a previous marriage. He is 19, non-verbal autistic, and requires a lot of daily assistance. I flash forward to 7 years from now, when my daughter is 20, and wonder if she won't be able to relate to how you feel. She is very (blatantly!!) honest with me about how she feels about her father, how she feels about our marriage, etc. From mid-2009 up until February of this year she wanted us to divorce...and made it very clear how horrible she felt her father's behavior was. (not to him, just to me) Three years of her life that are gone...and I PRAY the pain will fade someday. He hit rock bottom in February and has since been in treatment and is currently trying medications to see which might best suit him. She has regained some degree of trust in him...and her feelings towards him have changed and continue to improve.

So, what your post has done is give me a lot of food for thought. I recently went back to work (he lost his job in February and was out of work for almost 3 months) and come to find out, he was leaving it up to our daughter to take care of our son while I was at work. I immediately told him this wasn't acceptable, that I expected her to help sometimes, but I didn't go back to work for her to raise him herself.  You seem to have accepted your role as caretaker of your brother and father in such a gracious and compassionate way, but it is time to move on to other 'roles' in life and let the others make their own way. Not only is it NOT selfish for you to let them make their own paths (and suffer consequences if necessary), it is actually very unhelpful for them for you to continue with the 'caretaker' role and it will eventually rob you of a life if you don't resolve to step out of the role now (your dad is a grown man and your brother is college age...NO REASON they need anyone to take care of them!!). You are robbing them (and it might be something you help your mom to come to realize too) of their God given responsibility to stand on their own two feet. Let them go, sweetheart...and start pursuing your own life. If they make things difficult for you at first, stand your ground. For all of the times I got accused of trying to control my husband (and I was!), as soon as I stepped back and let him sink or swim on his own, he immediately started accusing me of not loving him, not caring about him, not supporting him, etc. I have stood my ground 100% and just keep reminding him "I am not a professional, I cannot help you with that issue" or "I am not qualified to help you with that issue" or "I have decided I'm not doing it all myself anymore, you're going to have to pick up some slack". Don't get me wrong, he hit rock bottom and suffered immensely...and it was TERRIFYING!!!..but he is getting stronger everyday because I am forcing him to deal with his own life. 

Get yourself in a position to where you have your own security in and emotional (al-anon would be GREAT for you..and CoDependent No More by Melodie Beattie for you and your mom!)...and start living your own life. Do NOT take on this burden recognize that something greater is out there, pulling you to come and seek it and start making your own NOT ignore that and have no regrets about seeking a life for yourself, no matter what happens to those who have depended on you for so long. They will, as another poster said, be OK in their own way.

I was 41 when I started back to're just 20...if you want to go, get enrolled NOW! I do have a truly seem to have a lot less anger than I have seen exhibited in my daughter over the last few years...have you ever felt angry? Ever talked to your mom about it? Ever wish she would have divorced your father as opposed to letting him drag the family down? Anything that you would mind to share with us about how you felt/feel as the child of someone with untreated ADHD? I might even insist my husband read this...I think it is something they all need to know...that might motivate them to get help and stop the ugly cycle of BS and pain!



  What I felt was beyond

  What I felt was beyond anger. That was mostly directed towards my brother; but now, I feel for them. It's not necessarily pity, but I just feel more empathy. I put myself in their position, and that helps me understand it better. So that is something to slowly suggest to your daughter. Do you pay enough attention to her? Or does she come to you? When I was 14-17, no one in my family was really aware of what I was doing most of the time, because of the issues with everyone else, and I wanted so badly for them to just ask me if I was ok. I got so fed up with hearing about everyone else's problems that I almost created some for myself just so someone would talk to me. So I understand what your daughter is going through. Try to help her see that she is not alone; because I know when we are teenagers the world revolves around us and when it doesn't, it's the world's fault; we grow out of that self-fixation eventually (and with the right people around us). Your daughter might just be feeling overwhelmed and scared (like everyone else) and she feels that her father is the root of all the anxiety and fear. 13 is a tough age to live around mental disorders, but it's not the finale; allow her to express herself. Art and music did wonders for me, without music I would have been lost. Through my loneliness I found my passions, creating music and art. And I know your daughter can do the same. What does she like to do?

 I talk to my mom now, but 5 years ago, she wouldn't have listened to anything I had to say. That was the one thing my mom and I lacked: understanding and communication. She focused every bit of her attention on my brother, and when she wasn't doing that, she was fighting with my dad! She has ADD, but it hasn't been until the past 3 years that she's completely gotten it under control. She takes medication, and eats a pretty healthy diet (which I am trying to make everyone do), and that has transformed her. The mother I remember when I was 14 is not the mother I have now, I would have killed for this mother. It's very strange, because she used to be uncontrollably flighty and spaced out and unreliable; and my dad was mean and rigid, but reliable; now they seem to have switched roles! Although my mom is never mean to me, we understand each other better then we ever have. But in terms of divorce, she talks about it, and I hate hearing about it. I understand her need to vent, but when it comes to keeping people together, I don't want to be a middle man. If your daughter ever comes to you seeking answers about divorce, my advice would be to say, "that is a decision he and I need to make." It's never a good thing for a kid to get involved in their parents woes because it ends up putting the kid in an awkward position. When my parents fought, I always stood up for my dad, because he never stood up for himself and I thought my mom cruel and cold; I saw it from a child's point of view. I was bound to the idea that my mom hated my dad; I didn't see how my dad's disorder was hurting her. But now, I mediate fairly and I try to keep the fighting down to a bare minimum; because the more we talk, the less we'll yell

Well, your post has made me

Well, your post has made me feel somewhat better...

She constantly accuses me of "annoying" her because I am the "how was your day?" kind of mom. I randomly go to her bedroom only to be made to feel like I am invading her personal space. She does come to me often too...we are very, very close. She has ZERO problem telling me what is on her mind and how she feels. She has always been my biggest fan, and even when she claimed to want me to divorce her dad, I know she just wanted him to stop hurting everyone. I know she was overwhelmed and scared for many years, and I am glad she came to me and talked to me about everything. I got her a counselor, at her request once, and she loved her...and the counselor could not talk enough about how awesome she was, about how well she opened up and talked and shared her feelings, and about how normal her feelings were. Not only has she dealt with the ADHD issues with her father, she has also been a little sister to a handicapped it has been a delicate balance to give her the attention she needs. I couldn't imagine not knowing what was going on with her...even as painful as it was to hear...I am glad she talked to me about it. All I ever tried to do was ask her to be patient and give her dad some time to come to the realization that he needed help. I honestly didn't know what else to do. 

She takes piano lessons, has a lot of friends, loves music (has an amazing voice...which her father STRONGLY encourages her to use...he is musically gifted as well). 

Although I won't deny that she saw and was privy to things she never should have been along the way, eventually I did get to the point that I told her that any decision about my marriage was between her father and myself. It was at the advice of her counselor that I keep her out of everything as much as possible. I sometimes shared too much...and I do regret that. It was hard for her at first, I think she kind of felt like I was shutting her out, but I think it has aided in her healing and helped her learn to trust her father again. She didn't see me as hating her father, she saw me as being a sucker and allowing him to treat me horribly (he cheated and she knew about it), and she felt like he was good for nothing but hurting those who dared love him. The fact that those feelings seem to have changed really does give me hope.

I know she hasn't escaped unscathed...I mourn the childhood she lost because before a major change in 2004 caused things to start spiraling out of control, she had a very peaceful and love filled homelife. In spite of the fact that she seems to feel I am the most "ridiculous" and "annoying" person, she is a Momma's girl 1000%, and when the chips are down I know in my heart that she knows she can always come to me. 

Any advice?

(((HUGS)))'re wise beyond your years...maybe out of necessity. Don't let it make you bitter...don't mourn what you've lost...just cherish the lessons you've learned, and make a healthier future for yourself. Be selfish, for a change. 


I too am guilty of sharing and letting the kids in on far too much.

I held it all in for so many, many years. All they saw was this out of control bitch of a mother, being so quick to be mean to Dad, and more or less losing my mind.  Then, sadly in November 2010 he showed his true colors, regarding not being as caring of a Dad as he should have been to our daughter, and the next month they found when I did, that he was texting and GOD knows what else actually was going on, a Mother of one of the kids they go to school with.  I had been suspicious of this woman and my husband since my kids were in Kindergarten 1999-2000.  LONG STORY,but when they went off to middle school I was so happy that she and my husband would no longer have a need to interact.  By High School it was forgotten, until I saw the text to her about wanting to come by and visit on NEW YEARS EVE day, but her daughter was home so he didn't think he should.  He was on the way to the store or the bank or something, and I couldn't understand why he had to go in the direction he all became clear that he had to go past her house. There were XOXOXO on it THAT NEVER ONCE HAVE I EVER GOTTEN IN A TEXT FROM fact, just typing it now sickens me.  

My son and I are extremely close.  When he goes away, I will be lost.  He hates his Father.  Not only for what he has put me through, but for the missed opportunities with the kids because he was "out of it".  My daughter knows he has issues, appears more sympathetic, yet acts disgusted with me for putting up with it so long.  Great role model I have been.  This is why they are going away to school.  I told my husband that several years ago when college came up and he recommended the less expensive community college for the first 2 years then finish up at a 4 year college.  I flat out refused and said these kids need to get out of here and away from this madness.  He didn't argue that, for sure.

I am rambling.  I need to go make dinner.  Talk to all of you later maybe .  If not, then tomorrow.


My daughters are now both in

My daughters are now both in college.  This year has been hard for me, my daughters are thriving in their schools and seem to have come through the challenges of having an ADHD dad and a "bitchy" mom as well as can be expected.  My husband is mild mannered and has never been unfaithful, and so that helps, I think.  It does make it harder, though, for me to justify ending the marriage, which I've been thinking about seriously for a few years now.  I'm not sure how, or even if, I should convey to my children that a passive person, such as my husband/their dad, can be very hurtful.  He looks like he'd never hurt a flea but he has caused me great pain by omission (making mistakes, losing jobs, not taking action).  

I wish I knew

I wish I knew what the right thing was to do.  Yours are obviously older though and maybe, just maybe, they have picked up on alot more than you are aware. I know once the details came out, the issue with him being negligent regarding my daughters well being (she was 16), then him being asked to stay out of the house and barely a few weeks later, the texts with the Mom of the girl they go to school with, the months and months of Psychological Counseling, FINALLY the diagnosis.....they knew through observation alone, more than I ever wanted them to know.  I NEVER once told them all the horror stories of his behavior, and what it had done to me, as well as to our entire family.

"Feel them out sometime" through conversation.  Maybe they are aware of more than you know, and maybe they will understand and make it easier for you.

  I know I seem too young to

  I know I seem too young to be saying this, and may or may not have the right, but your children will eventually get over it. I'm not saying that it won't be difficult for them, but once they get over themselves, they'll see your pain and your anger. Kids forget to think about their parents, especially when one of the parents has unintentionally taught them to do so. My Dad (with ADHD) is the most self-involved, self-serving, self-indulgent man I have ever come to know; I have grown up swallowing those foul traits, and they poisoned my childhood. And although I long everyday for a different, more benign and selfless father, I know I'll never get one. But that eternal hunger gives me the capacity to see how not to treat people, and eventually that will happen with your kids as well. They just have to grow up, plain and simple. It's unfortunate and undesirable, but there is no such thing as a perfect life; there can be a peaceful and pleasant life, we just have to fight for it.

   I hope this helps a little...

MagicSandwich's picture

ADHD parent/atonement

Dealing with an ADHD parent is so much more than a daily family group-hunt for dad's car keys. It can mean growing up with a parent who consistently shows no respect or deference for anybody - a mother who feels entitled to verbally abuse your your friends, or a father who behaves with inappropriate seductiveness toward your teachers. So much of my youth was wasted having to organize, bail-out and apologize for my ADHD parent. The fact that this parent did not seek treatment, make amends or attempt anything close to atonement makes "getting over it" very difficult for me.

 Believe me, I understand

 Believe me, I understand what it is like to have ADHD parents (I have 2), but you are missing my point. No one's parents are perfect; no one's family is perfect. People in life, will inevitably, one way or another, let you down; you can't change or correct that, you can only work on yourself. Nowadays people have a very twisted misconception of a standard which they apply to themselves and their family. If you are forced to be the parent to your own parent, you can't grip the standard of normality so tightly, so why not invent your own normal? It is customary to want to complain and blame, but it is constructive to change and adapt. To continue waiting for a parent who has always been the child to step up and swiftly assume the role which you have ached for your whole life is absurd. I didn't really have a Dad, so I became my own. And it is/was/and always will be hard, but I am a smarter, stronger, more fearless woman because I know that no matter what happens, I will be able to support and take care of myself. And that proclamation is more real today, on my 21st birthday, because I "got over it."

  I hope now, you understand what I mean.

Happy Birthday dear.  Where

Happy Birthday dear.  Where did you learn your wisdom? Do you know? Creating your own normal and being your own Dad are great coping tools.  You sound strong.  Today is very OK.  You are OK.  You will find dependable people to depend on.  Knowing what you know about humans, you know not to depend on others totally for your happiness and strength because people change, people hide and people are not perfect.  Yet, we all need some reliance on others from time to time if only to feel connected on this earth and to feel cared for.  It is something I am working on.  Appreciating those people I CAN depend on. 

MagicSandwich's picture

Yes I totally understand what

Yes I totally understand what you mean. Be advised however, that creating a new normal does not put this issue to rest. At some point you will have to revisit your original relationship with your parents because they will age and need your assistance. 

I think the main reason that

I think the main reason that I feel you will be OK is because you're able to really see your life for what it has been and not want to slip into the pattern of bitterness and resentment and blaming everything on the (lack of) parenting you had. This stands out to me as an area that you deserve huge credit for. However, I worry that you might feel it a bit 'selfish' of you to feel otherwise. It dawned on me, maybe my daughters anger towards me over the past few years (although she never had to be 'the parent to me' or her father) is a good sign that she was dealing with it right then and maybe it won't hit her when she is 30 that she resents me for it all. I just worry that you are afraid that if you feel anger about anything you've been through that you're being selfish. Don't get me wrong, it is NOT healthy to be angry and bitter, but there is a certain injustice that has been inflicted upon you and it is ok for you to know that you deserved better and that your parents really owe you a big apology...even if it never comes. (goes back to expecting things that just simply aren't possible from others)

One of the hardest things I ever felt, that I felt tremendous guilt for, was when I had my children and quickly came to realize just how uninvolved in my life my parents were. I loved my parents dearly (my mom died when I was 22..before I had father died 2 years ago) and I in the grand scheme of things they gave me many gifts that I will eternally be thankful for. However, I see where things were missing...huge things like just simple conversation and asking about my life...even as a young child. Anyway, my point is...the day will come when you have your own children and you'll all of the sudden see so many things about how you want to be as a parent that your parents weren't...and it will hurt...and it will make you feel a bit of guilt. But don't. Just prepare for it...and don't EVER feel bad for feeling like maybe they owed you a bit more than what you got. Not in a regretful sense, but just in a "it's OK of me to feel mournful of the life I didn't have". (((HUGS))) and happy belated birthday.


HUGS to you for all you have been through. are 100% correct that they will get over it.   I wish I would have realized that about 15 years ago.  Hopefully by now the kids wouldn't have lost all respect for him, and I wouldn't be half out of my mind.  It has been a learning experience though.