Reply To: ADHD plus PTSD – Toxic Combo?

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This sounds like another “Me Too” conversation… well, Me Tpp! I’ve had ADHD and PTSD for most of my life (I’m now 70). I’ve had a great team – Psychologist, Psychiatrist, and – lately – volunteer coach. So I get a lot of support, but it doesn’t take care of everything… I was sent to live with my father and his second wife (step-mother) when I was six. My mother was still in her 20’s with 3 little kids – a single mother in the early 50’s – and she wasn’t able to take care of us properly. So to Texas we went, and my new step-mother was abusive (to the point of sadism), and I was raped by a great-uncle who was living with us after he was released from prison (I don’t know what for).

When I first went into therapy, when I was in my late thirties or early 40’s, I had had a meltdown and ended up in the psych ward of our local hospital for two weeks. Then it was years of individual and group therapy. I was fortunate that our area had a practice dedicated to the treatment of trauma – a nationally renowned center. That was where I found my current therapist. I really love him – he’s a very important part of my life. I’ve been seeing him every two weeks for about 16 years.

Initially I was being treated for the ptsd, anxiety, depression, and all that entails. Symptoms of ADHD didn’t become a main focus until much later… finally, out of trying to understand what was going inside my head, I was sent for an MRI and also tested by a neuropsychologist. It confirmed what he already suspected – that the underlying issue was the ADHD, the PTSD and all that entails were secondary.

I didn’t have a name for what my problem was until later – I had been struggling to try and understand myself for a while and had just about every book written tha sounded even remotely like what I was experiencing. Several of the books were on ADHD (rather, then, ADD) and although I had had those books for a while, I had never really READ them, had never connected the dots. One day my therapist asked me, regarding my step-mother, “Why do you think she did that?” My initial reaction was that I was “so stubborn”, but why? those questions turned my thought processing around, that maybe it was something I had done (or was still doing) and what she had done started to make sense. That’s when we talked about ADHD. When it became obvious that my actions were the stressor that sent her over the edge. So did a lot of other things – from school, work, family and friends. It finally made sense. Didn’t make me feel good, but at least it made sense.

I had several public meltdowns, and, yes, I was ashamed about things I had done, and had done to myself. I had always had a block of time missing from the time my perpetrator climbed into my bed, until the next morning when I asked him if I had been dreaming. He threatened to kill me if I ever told anyone, so I didn’t say anything until 40 years later or so. I finally saw (and felt) what he had done. I stopped talking for a year after he raped me, and was finally sent to live with my mother – who had many issues of her own, but at least I wasn’t being beaten regularly.

Since learning about the ADHD, in addition to the PTSD things, I’ve started taking Concerts, and that has helped. A woman I found by advertising in our local town forum on Facebook, started coming for a few hours once a week to help me get organized, suggest what things I might want to work on for the next week… I guess it was the post that I did that brought her to me. It was a desperation note – “Help! I have too much stuff and I don’t know what to do!”. Turns out she’s an addiction counselor. She doesn’t charge me anything, and we work well together. She hasn’t been here for a few weeks because of problems with her daughter, and I miss her. I can feel myself slipping, and the old voices have started to come back to nag at me, so I’ve been procrastinating, working on things I’d rather be doing (I’m working on a quilt, working on my poetry and the novel I’ve been trying to write, watching YouTube lectures about some art projects I want to do… browsing through Pinterest to get inspired… I have four (or more) books I’ve read half-way through… it goes on and on. That’s part of the ADHD, but also part of the PTSD because I get anxious I’m going to get punished for doing that instead of the things I “should” be doing…

For the first time in almost 20 years, though, I feel like maybe someday I can stop seeing my therapist and my psychiatrist and the woman who helps me. Maybe, but realistically I’m not sure I can, or want to. These people are very important to me. Both my husband and my son don’t want to hear any more. My husband helps me in many ways. He understands what I’ve been through, and although he helps me, I feel like he’s more of a caregiver than a husband. My son moved from CT to Austin, and hasn’t visited me for four years (although he does call sometimes)… I have one friend (not counting the woman volunteering to help me)… I don’t think things will ever be normal for me, but are getting much better. I feel like we’ve been peeling away the layers of an onion, and that we may have finally come to the core.

But I’m looking at things in a more realistic light now. When I do something that’s difficult for me – like trying to get everything together for our taxes – I go through all the “careless mistakes, procrastination, organization difficulties”, but instead of getting frustrated, as I’ve always done, I find myself getting really angry…

It doesn’t stop, and I doubt that it ever will. All I can do is recognize what I’m doing, is it ADHD or PTSD that’s making me act like this… and take it from there.