Remorse & Guilt

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    • #195400

      Let me first start off with a little bit about me. I’m in my late forties actually turning 50 this year. I was diagnosed with ADHD about 2.5 years ago, June 2018. Up until then, I was “diagnosed” with depression, anxiety, etc. I am unmedicated due to a heart condition (a-fib) and also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. All of these are genetic. I am working with a counselor using talk therapy (she diagnosed me) and do take Wellbutrin, but I’ll get into that some other time.

      I do the work, practice mindfulness, exercise, and try to eat right. I’ve been married for 14 years almost and been with my wife for almost 20. It’s been difficult for her. Arguments, yelling, frustration, emotionally abusive, all on my part. But we’re working on it and I take a breath now before I react and am learning how to properly communicate. I do see my old self pop-up, but instead of justifying it, I apologize and tell her why I said it and reacted to it, so that I can learn from it but also so her how my screwed up thinking messes up my communication. It’s funny though, while I realize it now, before I started learning to use tools and counseling, I thought my outbursts were logical, no ifs, ands, or buts. I didn’t think or even know I was wrong in how I acted. I do think they are still logical (doesn’t mean I’m right though), but I explain why and take the time to listen. My wife says that she still harbors some bad feelings from before, but we’re working on it. Honestly, I’m grateful every day she put up with me until this point and is with me going forward.

      That’s a small bit of my background. Here’s the remorse and guilt.

      I started learning about ADHD. My health plan offers coaching classes in conjunction with counseling. Now there is a lot of background about me that while pertinent to the entire picture isn’t necessary for what I’m writing right now. As I took these classes, it seemed every time there was a revelation. ‘Oh, that’s why I was a horrible student in college.’ ‘Oh, that’s why I react that way.’ ‘Oh, that’s how I need to learn how to react.’ etc. Until the class on relationships. It was then a 1 ton weight was lifted from me (for my relationship with my wife), but after the class, it was put back on. I got into my car and lost it. I just started crying. It was then I realized I really hurt someone in my past, but I had no idea how much. It’s like it all came rushing back and I remembered the sadness in her eyes. I felt horrible.

      Now, this is about me wanting to rekindle anything and I don’t want to hurt my wife. But while I know that relationship probably wasn’t healthy, I had built up through the years that she was crazy and I broke up with her because I couldn’t deal with it. I still loved her, but had convinced myself it wasn’t working and never actually sat down and talked things out. So, there I am, sitting in my car crying, and the only thing I could think of was reaching out to her and apologize. I know it probably won’t help and maybe it’s for me, but I keep thinking she needs to know that I know I was wrong. It won’t change anything. I’ll still be with my wife and she’ll be raising her own family.

      I just hate the idea that someone is out there that I hurt. I haven’t spoken to her in years. Not since my wife and I were first dating. I haven’t communicated with her since my diagnosis, and the last time I did, I wrote something stupid, that at the time I thought I was trying to be supportive, but looking back, I could definitely see that why it was interpreted another way. She asked me to never contact her again, and I haven’t.

      But something came over me last week and that 1 ton weight reappeared. I don’t know what triggered it, but it was like my entire being wanted to reach out to her and make sure she was okay. Unrelated to that, I had downloaded all my chat logs from Facebook as I needed contact info for an old high school friend. So as I was going through them, I saw one that made my heart sink/jump. It was from her. It was under another last name, probably because I had blocked her, per her request. She IM’d me twice. Once after our last communication in Feb 2018, basically saying I obviously had unresolved issues and despite her miserable memories of our relationship, she said if I needed to talk she left her phone number. The second time was in Jan 2020. Just asking a political question because of my background. Either way, I am confused because she asked me to never contact her, yet she tried twice and I had no idea. Her phone number is still valid.

      I haven’t reached out to her. I still tear up from remorse. There are times when my wife is working in our office (yay Covid!) and I will go into the garage and just cry. I scream in my head ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.’ I haven’t told her because I don’t know why I’m thinking this. I’ll be talking with my counselor in a couple of weeks and this will be my focus.

      I think I’m rambling, so I’ll stop now. I’m just trying to process this, and I feel sick about this. Maybe, after all these years, I’m finally in mourning over that relationship. I don’t know. Maybe I need closure. If anybody can help me sort this out and make sense of my thoughts, I would appreciate it. And please, don’t attack me, I may not be getting what I’m trying to say out correctly in my writing. My mind is much faster than my fingers.

      If you have questions, I’m happy to answer them.


    • #195404

      I’ve had a similar experience with a past relationship. I’d say “yes” to mourning and regret for past harms. Brave pausing and discussing with your counselor!!! A 12-step program is also helpful to me in ” cleaning up the wreckage of the past”. Best to you. So glad you’ve gotten a diagnosis and understandable that there things to mourn. Our past doesnt have to be a waste. It can be used for good. 🙁

    • #195555
      Penny Williams

      It sounds like sending her an apology and telling your wife that you’re doing so would lift a huge weight for you. It may not max your ex feel better about your past together, but it will provide you with the relief to move on.

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Coach, Podcaster & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #196189
      michael petan

      great story well written . . . thank you. That weight will always be there, i know the feeling. The feeling that we HURT people we love in our past or at the grocery store five minutes ago is truly the worse part of ADHD. If there was no collateral damage i’d be just fine living in my own world / head. But the fact of our “anger, angst and anxiety” has on others is hell.

      I hear you loud and clear that our wives often carry your past behavior with her. that’s human, so that pressure to be perfect is even more weight. This is a long practice, and when we Fu_k up we all get set back years, not days or minutes, it’s that big of impact for ADHD people, that over reaction to something silly is the same over reaction to making a mistake and the feeling of sadness or “damn I’m a loser, I’m weak, why cant i just fix me.”

      good luck
      your writing is excellent

    • #196408

      DRBSEH, Thank you for sharing your story. I think it’s truly beautiful that you have had tremendous growth in self-awareness! I’m sorry that it has been painful and confusing. I wish you the best in deciding what action to take, if any.

      I have been experiencing growing self-awareness also. I’m seeing more and more how I have hurt others and myself in different ways due to my ADHD challenges combined with fear, self-centeredness, ego and other “character defects” (12 step term). Fortunately, I’m also learning to forgive and accept myself. I did the best I could with what I knew and the tools I had.

      Ultimately, I’m hopeful that my growing self-awareness will greatly improve my relationships moving forward. I’m grieving the lost time (50 plus years), yet I also feel fortunate to be alive during this era of growing awareness and resources for people with ADHD. My sweet dad (and God knows how many of my ancestors) had undiagnosed ADHD and suffered from shame, self-medication and tremendous relationship and work challenges without understanding why, and I think he just blamed himself.

      It also helps me to stay balanced by remembering that with ADHD I have real strengths and gifts that I can share with the world.

    • #196538

      Thanks for the replies everyone.

      I’ve been letting things ‘marinate’ with me for a while. Just a quick update.

      First, I talked to my counselor and let her know what’s been going on in my mind. It probably was the most emotion I’ve shown to someone who isn’t my wife or my best friend. While I didn’t actually cry or anything, she could tell I was/am emotionally affected by this. I didn’t ask her what I should do, I more focused on the why. Why is this springing up now?

      I’ve tried to rationalize it every which way from Sunday, and they all make sense. I’m changing careers. I’m going back to school. I’m turning 50. COVID-19. All of these are valid, but none are associated with her, at least not consciously. It’s like I want closure, which I thought I had moved on, years ago.

      My counselor said sometimes it just is what it is. Meaning, I need to learn acceptance. This has been the hardest part. One thing I’ve learned about ADHD, is that people with it can think there is more to a friendship or relationship than there really is. So, one of my compensatory habits I developed, before I knew I had ADHD, was to deconstruct things when they go wrong. Take it apart and put it back together, so I could learn from it and not repeat it. Whether it’s getting through life or dealing with people, this is what worked and helped me get control of things. But in this case, I can’t put it back together. I can’t rationalize it. For any sci-fi fans out there, it’s like the quote from Picard in Star Trek: “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that’s life.”

      Finally, I talked to my wife. She’s the opposite of me. She doesn’t understand why I would feel this way because for her, she just moves on. She’s the type of person who can set her mind to something and just do it. I’m really jealous of that. But, as to relationships, she doesn’t really think back. She doesn’t have remorse or regret. So for her it doesn’t compute. She said if I wanted to contact the ex I could, she trusts me. But, she asked me one thing. If the roles were reversed, how would I feel? And she’s right.

      So, for now, I’m still letting things marinate. I’m focusing on other things in life and not letting this get in the way of things.

      A sincere thanks to all of you that replied. It’s encouraging me to pause and think.

      And breathe.

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