ADHD plus PTSD – Toxic Combo?

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    • #83160

      I have a secret.

      My fiance and family knew about my ADHD diagnosis when I was diagnosed a couple of years ago in my mid-30’s. That’s not the secret. The secret is that I also struggle with PTSD from a trauma experienced in my early teens. Those closest to me know I sometimes with struggle with a panic attack, but none of them know some of the darker reasons behind them.

      Just after New Years’ in my Freshman year of high school, my mother’s last string to reality finally snapped. Before I knew it, mom had packed my sister, the dog, the TV & VCR, and myself into the car and ran away from home to get away from the voices and visions that plagued her. Long story short, after three years of growing fear and stress and increasing poverty, we spent a few days in motels and sleeping in parking lots in January in Vermont, running farther from home because we needed to “get away from the signals”. I remember thinking that it would be a matter of time before we would be dead somehow. Each day would be borrowed until then.

      By some kind of cosmic miracle, a doctor at an emergency room talked me into spilling the beans on mom and helped me trick her into taking some anti-psychotics. The next morning mother was back and oh had I missed her! We saw the doctor again, and went to stay with my maternal grandmother for a couple of weeks, because mom still couldn’t quite bring herself to go home just yet. Life was still rocky for a long time, but things got better.

      Years later as an adult trying to stay financially afloat and struggling with increased anxiety and depression because I just kept screwing up in jobs and grad school, I began having panic attacks. I told everyone it was from too much pressure and stress. Not a lie, but not the whole truth. The common trigger was always the threat of losing the roof over my head. So when things got rocky at work, it got harder to contain the panic. I guess I never told my family because I didn’t want to make my mother feel more guilty than she already still does even though none of what happened was her fault. My fiance worries enough about me, and he only understands my issues to a certain extent. It’s only in the last few months that he finally accepted my ADHD diagnosis. He always tries so hard to help me feel like I’m not broken.

      But in all honesty… in some ways I *am* a little broken. And thanks to my counselor, I’m beginning to accept that and move past it a little.

      This past New Years’s Eve was a disaster I have only told my therapist and a very close friend of mine whose son has a lot of the same symptoms I deal with. Christmas, and especially New Years, have been kind of tough for me for a long time. Part of me knows I shouldn’t have gotten into a certain discussion with a couple of friends at a get-together, but…. gah! I let myself get dragged in, couldn’t get out of it, and paid the price for it. We got into a “discussion” about affordable housing, and how it’s only worsened the homelessness problems in Vermont. One friend kept insisting that it’s only the individual’s fault, and a bunch of other crap I don’t quite remember beyond that we were both probably getting stupid. When he finally gave me the put-down of “how would you know, anyway?” I saw red. I felt an instant rage I had not felt in a very very long time. It was all I could do not lock my body into stillness and just stare at him, because in that moment I had truly wanted to hurt him very badly.

      After that wave of rage I felt horror and grief, excused myself to the bathroom and proceeded to melt down as quietly as I could as memory after memory assaulted me from that time. I was terrified and disgusted with myself. I did NOT want my friends to witness this, but I was losing the battle. I wanted to cry and wail and kick the walls. But instead I hyperventilated and did the very worst thing I could do. To make the thoughts and memories stop I punched myself in the head until the pain just overrode everything else. I damned near gave myself a concussion.

      I related all of this to my therapist at our next meeting, and he helped me reach some clarity on it and some ideas about what I could do in the future to calm down when I’m in a pretty confined situation like that. Where I can’t simply go take a walk, or have a good cry somewhere without attracting the well meaning if overwhelming concern of a dozen friends. Most of all though, he helped me stop beating myself up over… well… beating myself up.

      The hard part right now, is that I still haven’t been able to come clean about that night with my fiance. He knows something was up and that I had at least cried in the bathroom, but he doesn’t know the full extent of my reaction. I know I need to tell him and stop putting it off, because if it happens again in front of him, the poor man will be blindsided.

      But how do you tell your honey-buns, “Hey sweety! Remember this past New Years? Well I wanted to finally tell you, like 5 months later, that I literally almost punched So-and-so’s teeth out because he upset me and then I literally beat myself up in the bathroom instead. But don’t worry! My therapist says that I’m not cracking up like my mom did, ha ha!

      Just the thought brings anxiety…

      Have any of you had to jump down that rabbit hole before?

    • #83166

      Well, Candy I have! and my honey buns was blind sided but he being the good guy he is handled it well. There is no shame in what we have survived, and sharing that with the closest person we will ever be with is only a good thing. I have learned to deal with tense moments over time but when bad times do come up he has my back. Sometimes all the details aren’t necessary but they get the picture. We are survivors! Never drop your head! I’m so glad you found someone ❤️

    • #85085

      I also have ADHD AND PTSD. My PTSD didn’t come as a child but it makes things that were already way difficult almost impossible.
      I tried medications and I think the combo made it all so much worse.i am not sure any one with any condition. Should’ve had the regime the crazy shrink had me on for over 3 years. How do u cope? I love my spouse and try to talk to him but it’s so hard. Amazing i can even keep that relationship going.

    • #85461

      I have both too. I was assaulted out of nowhere from behind while using a urinal at a night club then again by at least 2 people outside (I couldn’t see at that point so that one still haunts me). This happened 15 years ago. I was a boxer in college so people thing it shouldn’t affect me as much because I have confidence with violence. Just the opposite happened. Now I am afraid of badly hurting someone because I was enraged after the incident. Suffered from panic attacks often until about 5 years ago – now I still have them but have coping skills.

      I was only diagnosed with ADHD last year at 48. My meds (Cymbalta) for anxiety and ADHD (Adderall) go together nicely so that was no problem.

      As far as telling “sweety” goes – if you haven’t already – try telling them in vague terms at first. Then tell them you will keep telling the story every month but add a little bit of detail when it feels right. Eventually the beans will be spilled without any real shock.

      God speed!

    • #106013

      Here it is New Years Eve 2019 and I spent most of last night reliving episodes of mum being abused.

      Yes I have ADHD and PTSD.

      As a child I watched her abused by our father and as and intervened at her request. As adult I saw her abused by a brother and again intervened at her request. Being a religious family I’d be required to say nothing to anyone due to the shame. The irony was if I’d try to tell anyone mum would turn on me, and if she were to tell anyone her husband and later my brother would turn on her. It was a vicious cycle of love, hate and shame.

      So I get how messed up you end up.

      For me the code of silence demanded by both
      abusers and our religious comminity is the real killer. In our religious context you’re effectively excommunicated and violence applauded. Go see a local lawyer and you’re told you risk black listing if you go to the Police … by the Police! Yes, being silenced is like strangulation and from my experience it only serves to amplify symptoms such as shame.

      My advice is gentle honesty, your partner chose you when they could have chosen from a million others, so respect that love with gentle honesty.

      My partner responded with love to my shame and I pray yours does too.

    • #106049

      I have this problem. One of the jobs I could do where my ADHD symptoms were pretty invisible was an EMT/Firefighter. I did that for six years and now I wake up in the middle of the night in a state of full alertness with the sense I urgently need to act. This happens upwards of seven times a night, depending. Sometimes burst out crying when my mind revisits some of the horrible things people do to eachother while I’m like driving or doing something completely unrelated. I jump to my feet if I hear bells or certain frequencies of beeping and need to pace for a while before my nerves chill down. I have to keep my phone on vibrate. I feel like my inner monologue is an authority figure shouting me down while I work.

      I have no advice for making this better. Other than talk to a professional. I’m bad at keeping appointments so I get diagnosed and never show up again. So be good at following up with that! Haha

      • This reply was modified 3 years ago by damnmouse. Reason: Poor grammar
    • #112893

      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.

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