Adult adhd (inattentive) diagnosis and relationship with aging parents

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    • #124689

      Hi, I’m new here. I was diagnosed as adhd primarily inattentive at age 42 after almost 20 years of digging deep to tread water at an ill-suited job. I’m trying to patch together a life for myself with meds, therapy, bullet journals and odd jobs that I hope will give me ideas and inspiration for a new path.

      The problem I’m encountering is that my already strained relationship with my elderly parents is deteriorating. They mean well, but they’ve got their own anxiety and stress etc that makes them really difficult to include in my life. They’ll offer financial help, then throw it in my face that I need it, or use it as leverage to get more involved than they need to be. They jump to (the worst possible) conclusions and catastrophize everything — an argument with me about something like side-seat driving convinces them that they must intervene in my marriage because if I’m angry with them I must be an abusive husband. My wife is incredibly supportive and protective of me and is not inclined to take their guff, which is nice. My father even insists that he be allowed to intervene in my mental health care going so far as to demand I let him meet with my psychiatrist — thank goodness for HIPAA privacy rules!

      At various critical junctures in my life (transitioning from high school to college, or college to grad school/work life) my father particularly has steered me away from paths that worked for me and toward paths that became decades long nightmares. I find his input distracting and distressing, which I’ve expressed to him. These discussions result in him interrupting, doubling down on bad behavior and ultimately lots of harsh words from both ends. None of that is new behavior or patterns. It’s just that now I’m at too critical a juncture to even include him in any aspect of my life. I simply can’t have it. The problem is that he doesn’t respect my boundaries (don’t interfere with my marriage, goals or mental health care — reasonable enough) and experience has taught me he won’t start respecting them anytime soon. It’s infantilizing really. It’s one thing to be a helicopter parent to a teenager, which is bad enough, but I’m in my 40s! It’s been a constant battle throughout my life and it’s now come to a point where I feel I have to shut him out in order to do what’s right for myself. I’m under no illusions that he will change. I suspect there’s undiagnosed adhd of some sort at play with both my parents, but in their 70s I don’t think they’re open to exploring that possibility. Bottom line is I feel like I don’t have the energy or resources to manage their anxiety/boundary issues/etc and still tend to myself. I’d like to maintain a relationship with them as they are heading into their twilight years, but I fear I can’t if I’m to do what’s right for myself.

      Anyone else care to share their experience of adult adhd and relationships with aging parents? Online advice abounds for parents of minor children with adhd. I don’t see equivalent support for adults for whom adhd has complicated relationships with their aging parents.

    • #124742

      Dear Waffles,

      I hate to break it to you, but I don’t think your adult ADHD has anything to do with your father not respecting your boundaries. I have adult ADD and have a mother in her 60’s who is officially diagnosed with Borderline personality disorder and has a lot of characteristics of Narcissistic personality disorder as well. As a result others boundaries just don’t exist to her. She will either subconsciously violate them or just because she thinks you are stupid for putting them up in the first place (e.g. I was simply sharing my worries about you when I blabbed your private issues to anyone who would listen, why would you need privacy in the bathroom or your bedroom since we are all women here etc.).

      I have worked with my therapist to improve things from my end (since there is no use expecting her to improve) and perhaps you might get some use out of the tips she gave me.

      First put your father (or better both parents) on an information diet when it comes to area’s of your mental health, your job search/prospects and your marriage. Practice sentences with as little personal information as possible. So when your father asks about your sessions with your therapist (or something) say that you had a productive session, are working hard to improve the quality of your life, that the sessions are giving you a lot to think about and process in the next days etc. Vary, rinse and repeat. This way you tell a lot, but give them zero real personal (perhaps painful) information.

      Secondly, let go of idealization and take a critical look at your parents and their actions toward you (from childhood on). As a child, no matter how old you are, you crave an emotional intimate relationship with your parents, but when sharing details of your life leads to your boundaries being violated and you being worse off because of it, it’s best to take a huge step back (or so my therapist explained). She helped me see that I was clinging to an ideal of the mother I would have liked to have (and would have deserved), but that the sad reality was that I did not have such a mother, had never had such a mother, and would never have such a mother.

      I have mourned (and sometimes still mourn) the relationship that never was and never will be, but creating some emotional distance and opening my eyes to what my mother is and isn’t capable of has improved my mental health tremendously.

      • #124853

        Thanks for this. That’s the kind of self-work I’m trying to settle into. I think you’re right I should detangle adhd and these particular difficulties with my family. 🙏🏾

    • #125166

      Hi. I agree that it “takes 2 to tango”. It’s sometimes hard to face up to. I think the advice of simply not giving them the ammunition to use against you is very smart.

      I don’t have such a terrible situation but I think I still do idealize my parents and they still consistently disappoint.

      I think what we all have to realize is that it’s not us. It’s their problem. They had it before you were born and you didn’t cause it.

      And sometimes the child has to be the adult in the relationship and not let that hurt stop you from doing the right thing.

      If that right thing is to not react but to still show compassion and kindness in the face of infantilizing belittling parents who live their lives without awareness, then that’s a very mature and ethical choice.

      If you simply cannot stand it and it is too damaging then it is within your human rights to leave.

      From what you said it sounds like leaving would be a smart move. Of course we can’t always do that but you can “leave” emotionally. Just don’t engage and passively allow them to play out their drama without your input.

      Unfortunately they know exactly how to push your buttons. Pay attention to the feelings they are bringing us in you and stop the reaction.

      so you may have to go for a walk and or lock yourself in the bathroom for a while to break the chain. Breathe your way through it and realize that you have nothing to do with it really. You’re an innocent bystander.

      For me that was freeing because now I know it isn’t my fault I can let go of the guilt and stop trying to fix it. Only they can fix it and we al know that’s not happening.

      So you do what you need to do to protect yourself. You have worth and value beyond them.

      • #125223

        Thank you. Limiting information shared with them and keeping plenty of distance are my two main go-to tactics. I 100% relate to the idealization and simultaneous disappointment.

    • #125325

      also in 40s. mother with untreated adhd, father with severe anxiety, always checking up. Ive stopped telling them where i am.

    • #126386

      OMG I have searched for any information that would help me understand how to deal with my aging parents. I am 56 they late 70’s and can’t seem to figure out how to get a diagnosis without paying a huge amt of money I dont have.
      My parents (I would have thought) should be more supportive in helping get my diagnosis “Right” but exactly the opposite. My issues i had as a child match the profile…so much so I feel I could be a poster child for ADHD.. They (meaning my mom) refuses to read anything I send her to educate her about what might be ADHD. Not only that she stated “why should she read what i send her” and that “its my problem not hers”. She also said all I ever do is complain and its the same story every time we communicate nothing changes. They think i am refusing their (help) in the form of suggestions one being seeing a preist. AHHHHH And one time (out of many) that really stood out and hurt was that I so desperate and contacted them for a loan to stay in hotel one more week..she said no I would have to make other arrangements..I had no other choice and became homeless… I didnt call them every day like my sister because I was trying to deal with these life struggles that everone kept saying everyone else was also going through…
      They dont respect me and told me so a while back so to get rid of any stress I could I pretty much distanced myself so I can regroup and figure out what to do.. The Help I finally received was from my biological father who reached out too me and got me back on my feet unfortunately he lost his battle with cancer August 18th and I am Devistated now tomorrow I need to face the family (mom, stepdad & sister) and know I wont be able to handle it …Any suggestions???

    • #126409


      My sympathies to you my friend.
      I have no advice to give. Not from where I stand. But, I hear you.

    • #126723

      Thank you for your sympathy…well i was very proud of myself when going to the celebration of his life even ..hugged my step father ignored my mother and sat at my stepmoms familys table where i made new friends and swapped funny stories. when my mom came up too me and said hi or something like that i dont remember all i know is i told her i was trying to get an important phone number into my phone and she turned and walked away. If I was forced to sit at my familys table there would have been arguing and it wasnt the time or place for that…and it would have been me that would be the focus of blame because most likly i would have walked out..I did have to leave in a rush my ride was leaving…and later received a nasty text from my sister for not saying good by.

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