Reply To: HELP: How to Stop ADHD Meltdowns??

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Hi. I experience the same meltdowns, as you call them. Context: I am a 34yo woman with ADHD (combined).

I recognize everything you write, from the feeling of being trapped in yourself to this huge anger towards your own person, even kicking buildings or hurting yourself. It’s a horrible feeling and does nothing more than making things worse, right?

I can only speak for myself, but since our issues overlap maybe it’s of some value, I don’t know. I think in my case the root of this problem lays in the fact that as a child I used to make lots of ‘typical’ ADHD ‘mistakes’. But instead of being diagnosed and treated, everybody just got angry at me. My parents for loosing my things or making a mess, teachers for my forgetfulness or inattention (‘you can do better!’), peers bullied me for over ten years because of my ‘weirdness’. I basically was taught that everything I did, from the way I interacted with people to the way I moved, was wrong.

At a certain point I made a decision that both saved and wrecked me: I decided – and I remember the moment I decided, I had switched schools so I had ‘a new change’ etc. – that I would do ANYTHING not to be the weirdo people saw in me. In which I didn’t succeed fully of course but I managed to make friends, to set some goals, to direct my over-the-top-energy into sport and creativity. If I got angry, at myself or other people, I just fled. Into smoking cigarettes, 9 hour bike rides, sometimes self harm. It ment a lot of suppressing, and also not learning how to deal with emotions like this. It resulted in the meltdowns you describe, though I’ve known them from since I was little.

I still experience them. But also recently have learned what has caused them. And this panic (because that’s wat it feels like, horrible panic) has a lot to do with self esteem, with being sure you are doing things or emotions wrong. So I know (believe me…) this is easier said than done but find a way to work on that self esteem, and also a way to learn that it’s okay to feel frustrated: just to let the frustration be, without spiraling (‘i did/feel something bad’ > ‘i am ashamed’ > ‘i do everything wrong’ > ‘anger’ > ‘angry for being angry’ > ‘ashamed of being angry’ > ‘PANIC’ etc…).

So try a coach, or mindfulness or therapy. And talk about it with your wife. Not only by trying to explain yourself, but also by trying to find (part of) a solution together. It means being vulnerable and asking for help, it means some adaptation from both of you. Ask yourself what would help both of you when you notice going into a meltdown, or when she notices? Being held? Or having the space to leave the house for an hour or so, as a ‘cooling down’, without it being read as an act of aggression? Making a list together? A cold shower? (for me it’s leaving the house or lay under a blanket for a while: my partner was very hurt for me leaving sometimes, but after multiple conversations he now understands that it’s for the best, that I prevent myself from exploding that way, and that when I got back, I was able to explain myself instead of just crying and wanting to throw stuff, hehe).

It seems so simple right, not getting angry at yourself for feeling angry, but it sure isn’t. You need (professional) help, and it will take some time…

I’m very happy a psychologist is helping me, though for the next few months I’m on a waiting list for a therapist who is specialized in AD(H)D because the issues sprout from the ADHD-mind I guess.

(you also asked for triggers: in my case it’s when I loose something important such as keys, wallet, official documents, or when I feel I am being misread by others, when I’m overwhelmed and am unable to function as a ‘normal person’ at home and I feel guilty for letting my partner (who doesn’t mind AT ALL) do more chores in the household, and especially when things happen that remind me of being ‘the weirdo’ – if I’m having a bit of a ‘shaky’ day I won’t go to the gym for example because I’m afraid people will judge me, see mee. Also I live in quite a ‘rough’ neighborhood and remarks about my appearance are not unusual, on bad days they can trigger everything, even if the remarks are ‘positive’).

Take care. You are certainly not the only adult feeling like a 5yo with an anger fit sometimes.