My Secret World

Hello friends,

I am new to this site, so I've not yet found much in the way of the emotional impact from an ADHDer's perspective. Feel free to point me the way.

I have struggled my entire life with ADHD, but did not know it. My marriage ended because of it. I always knew there was something lurking beneath the surface that was tearing us apart, but I could not put my finger on it. I asked for help many times, but my partner could only see the results of my behavior. Apparently, this is par for the course for spouses. How could she see what I myself did not see. I do believe that this is where marriages fall apart. It's much easier to find blame and fault than it is to to find the causes and do the work. Deep compassion is key.

People that meet me find me intelligent, friendly, funny, attractive, kind and relatively normal. I say this because these are the qualities that have made diagnosing ADHD so difficult. I can do many things and have some strengths in creativity and other areas. It is when I am tasked to do detailed, mundane, repetitive things that I come apart at the seams. Furthermore, loud noises, clutter, paying bills and household chores can send me over the edge. I want to run and hide from the barrage of sensory over-stimulation. Every person has a unique experience with ADHD, so what may be true for one, may not be true for others. I'd like to give you a little look at what my experience has been.

Imagine there is a room full of people and you are told that these people have some information to give you, in order to accomplish something important. You're also told that some of that information is critical and that you must retain it along with the name of each person. In addition, you're told that you must track the movements of each person as they walk about the room. As each person delivers their information, you try to store it in memory and track their movement as they walk away. As you're trying to memorize the information and track the person's movements, more people are approaching you with their information.

Still trying to focus on the first people, the new information coming in begins to cause a low hum in your head. The hum gets progressively louder to the point where you cannot distinguish what people are saying. Suddenly you realize that you are probably missing some important information and you try to break through the hum to collect it. Now you've lost track of the first person and begin to feel panic. You start looking for the first people in order to recollect their information, but you can't because you're still collecting from the others. Now every bit of information that breaks through the hum carries the same weight. There is no way to distinguish what is most important. You try to start over, but you've already forgotten much of the first bits you've collected. It's a losing battle and eventually you give up on that task and berate yourself for failing.

Take this scenario and apply it to virtually everything you have to do to function in life. It's impossible.

Now you want to prove to yourself and others that you are not an idiot, so you move on to the next task you think you can do. If that thing is in line with something that highly interests you, you may be able to hyperfocus and be successful. However, life is challenging even for someone who doesn't have ADHD and that brings a whole new set of problems. Add to the mix the responsibilities we have to our friends and family and their expectations of you as a normal person and you have the perfect picture of potential failure.

Once you complete the cycle a few hundred thousand times or more, you become defensive every time someone says "What's wrong with you?" or "I just told you that, don't you remember?" or "You need to try harder" or "You only care about yourself" or "You're just making excuses". Sadly, those are only some of the nice things people say.  Soon, people begin to dismiss you, or call you names and even laugh at you. They try to force you to do what they themselves can do. They are struggling to manage their lives and yours and they learn that you will step up your efforts if you feel bad enough.

Soon, you begin to avoid interactions with people and even isolate yourself, just so that you can feel a little break from the onslaught. However, this too is perceived as being selfish and uncaring. You may begin to defend and retaliate in order to protect any remaining self worth. This causes severe mistrust and conflict. Meanwhile, depression has been creeping into the picture and you are not aware of it until it has you in its claws.  You begin to play the victim, because you believe they must be right. The psychological impact of this is incredibly damaging to self esteem and personal growth. The impact of this on careers and relationships is not hard to see.

Now you vow to fight on and try harder, because you know that deep in your heart, you are a loving person who wants to contribute and share in the bounties of life that others seem to enjoy so easily. You so desperately want to please others and be accepted, but you live in a secret world of shame and self loathing. You begin to believe that there really is something wrong with you and that you must be a bad person. You began to step up your efforts to cover your tracks, so that you can show your loved ones that you care. The problem is, you are being judged as a normal person and people are beginning to only see you for your failures, further compounding the ugly feelings. Bring to the table life's confusion of careers, family responsibility, finances and people's personal baggage and you have a no-win situation.

If you are a person struggling in your marriage with an ADHDer, I implore you to find deep compassion in yourself and get help immediately. These people are trying hard to function and can feel great rejection, loneliness and isolation from the people they love. If you are a person with ADHD, do your homework and find a good, recommended therapist. Try to be patient with the people who don't understand you.

I'd like to thank Melissa and her book for clarifying so many of my questions and negative self-beliefs. I only wish I had found this information soon enough to save my marriage. I hope to hear from anyone who shares my thoughts.

Take care,