Why couldn’t they have just told me?

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    • #57266

      Here I am, at 35, less than a year into my formal diagnosis of ADHD. I had assumed for a few years that I had it, but that it was mild. This is because my son, who is very severe, has ADHD, and in learning about it for him, I could see some reflections of myself. But when I was actually diagnosed, it turned out my ADHD is really rather profound in how it impacts my life. I’ve been on medication for a few months and I already see a difference. I’m trying to put into place other “treatment” forms like the tools I learn on here, some successfully, some less so. But here’s the catch…

      When I told my mother I had been diagnosed, she said, “Oh, I know, I’ve known since you were in 1st grade.” Like what? She was a teacher, and she said she recognized all the signs, but since my grades were good and getting me diagnosed would have been a major hassle (much less treatment and therapy), they just didn’t bother. Didn’t Bother! I had to let that sink in for a long time. They didn’t bother. Not only did they “not bother” with getting me treatment, they also didn’t bother to even TELL ME!

      And frankly, I am angry. I have other mental health conditions too (though oddly much of what we thought was other stuff is actually ADHD), so one of my therapy steps is to admit when I’m angry. Well, I am angry, almost furious with them. How could they not tell me? When I couldn’t keep my desk neat or a folder strait to save my life, why did they just keep chastising me instead of actually telling me there was a reason and help me learn tools to cope. Or, well, at least TELL me so I could research ways to cope! (I was the kid with my nose stuck in the encyclopedia.) And if they’d bothered to get me diagnosed they would have learned I had dyspraxia too. Do they have any idea what that would have meant to me? When I practiced and practiced just like the other girls, but still couldn’t make a basket or serve the volleyball over the net. Do they have any idea how much it would have meant to be able to say, well, I have dyspraxia, of course it’s going to be harder for me even when I try. I wouldn’t have tried any less. I would still have wanted to be able to do it. I just wouldn’t have felt like such a failure when I didn’t accomplish the goal. I would have had a REASON other than just “Well, I must suck, everyone else can do it!”. It would have saved so much of my self esteem to know I wasn’t just incapable, that I actually had a recognized condition that could be dealth with.

      And if they had actually gotten me treatment and therapy? What then? How much better could I have done in college? What kinds of decisions would I have made differently if I’d had faith in myself and a brain that was getting some assistance to not be completely scattered? Would I be in the soul-sucking dead-end job I’m in now, where none of my talents are valued and my ADHD is tried every single second because there’s rarely anything of interest to grab onto?

      I just don’t get how they could see me struggling, and still not tell me. I don’t understand how why they would just keep trying to “punish” it out of me. My parents weren’t stupid. They believed in ADHD, even counseled family members to get their son’s treated. But me… me they let flounder thinking I just couldn’t do anything right.

      • This topic was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by DDDaysh.
      • This topic was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by Penny Williams.
    • #58397
      Penny Williams

      It’s often difficult to reconcile all the emotions after a diagnosis as an adult, especially when your family suspected it when you were a child, but didn’t pursue it. Here’s some help for working through those emotions and moving forward:

      Your ADD Life

      “If Only I’d Known This 20 Years Ago”

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

      • #59000

        My mom actually got me tested in first grade and decided to do nothing. I never had good grades, I thought that I was stupid or worse. I was diagnosed when I was 33 and just like you told my mom and she said she always knew. She saw me struggle with everything I did. My life would have been very different with treatment.

    • #58437

      Sister, did you just write the story of my ever-lovin’ life.

      I am also a 35 year old woman with ADHD, diagnosed when I was 27. Until then, I had spent my whole life getting reprimanded for having a messy folder, a messy locker, a messy car, a messy house, and so on. I strongly suspect I am dyspraxic as well, although I’ve never been assessed – I was the laughingstock in gym class and even as an adult I’m constantly tripping and dropping things and knocking stuff over. (I even smashed my computer once – I was home by myself and I was dancing.) I struggled with depression and anxiety for years before I was diagnosed with ADHD, and even then it was several years after that before I really accepted my diagnosis and acknowledged the impact that ADHD has on my life.

      I’m so sorry that your parents handled it the way they did, and that you went through so much pain that you could have been spared. It’s a despairing feeling to look back and your life and wonder what might have been different, if only. I wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood myself but, while my parents always knew I was “different,” they never thought I had a diagnosable disorder, let alone that a treatable one. To hear that your parents knew all along — I can only imagine 🙁 Sadly, ADHD was, and still is, perceived in a very gendered way by parents and teachers. If the kid is a boy and they’re bouncing off the walls and making life mayhem for adults, they get tested and, if diagnosed, they get treatment and support. If it’s a girl who seems to do OK in school and doesn’t bother anybody, there’s a lot else that parents and educators are willing to overlook. And it’s the kids, and the adults that they grow into, who feel the effects. And it’s super unfair and more people should be angry about it, in my opinion. But you aren’t alone, and if you want to talk to someone who’s shared some of the same experiences, I’m here and I would like that. Hugs to you!

      • #64879

        Thanks so much!

    • #58863

      Dear DDDaysh,
      (1) You have 65 years “absolutely amazing years” ahead of you!
      (2) Your son will be cared for by the best “mother” God could ever have created.
      (3) If you are still in a relationship with the father of your son that is the second miracle in your life!
      The first was the birth of your son.
      (4) The best way to deal with your mother is to follow, “her example” noted in the following story,
      The Wooden Bowl, http://www.moralstories.org/the-wooden-bowl/ !
      (5) My parents were like yours, “reputation” in front of peers was more important than addressing the
      needs of their eldest son. My losses because of their indifference mirrored your own.
      (6) I suggest finding a replacement “maternal” grandmother and saying “goodbye” because if she didn’t care
      about you then, she most certainly won’t care about “two” persons with the same disability today.
      (7) Please help your son learn to become an entrepreneur and especially to stand on his own because I
      have learned that persons with a disability do not identify themselves with having a disability as
      a positive thing and because of that all of them try to take on the world on their own with very
      few succeeding!

      Disability in Canada: Facts and Figures

      (8) If you thought your mother was bad you have seen nothing until you meet up with the majority of the charities for
      the disabled who pretend to care to make another buck.

      (9) Your therapist can help you grieve the loss of a parent, which occurred at your birth,
      which we know because she told other parents what to do for their ADHD kids while ignoring
      her own child.
      (10) I also recommend you look into self-employment because there isn’t a single country in the
      world that cares the slightest about the less fortunate, but the same politicians are only to
      happy to send millions to the less fortunate in “other” countries.
      (11) The sooner you can say goodbye the easier it will be for you to begin your grieving process.
      (12) I wish I could suggest some magic words to say to make your mother love you, but that is
      just not possible in “real” life!
      (13) Please take care of yourself and your son and I wish both of you the very best in the years to come.
      (14) If you wish to learn more about my research just reply to this post because I have clicked
      the box to be notified of follow-up replies via email.
      (15) In sum, there isn’t anything you can say to your mother to make her understand the unending
      suffering you have endured your entire life! Please accept that, say goodbye and find a loving
      replacement maternal grandmother for both of you as soon as possible because both of you are long overdue
      for real love from a loving parent! Maybe that new loving maternal grandmother might even adopt you!
      *I am too old for that now and I only learned about my ADHD in my late 40’s which was a few years ago.
      Again, God bless both your son and yourself.

    • #58864

      I think some parents feel that they are failures if their child isn’t “perfect” and take it personally. So they deny reality and insist that it’s not real, or just a minor problem.
      It really sucks that you didn’t get the help you needed, especially since they actually knew. I can understand why mine didn’t get help for me, most people back in the 60s had either not even heard of ADHD or if they did, assumed it was a boy problem.

    • #58872

      I got tested in the early 70’s. I didn’t know what for…until I was tested for ADD 3 years ago. The test material was almost identical 40 years later. What a waste of potential. What a horrible waste of $ trying to go to college- even though I knew I wasn’t ready for it. I’ll be paying off loans until I die… One of my ‘rents even had a degree in Psychology from a Big University. (I was still abused and neglected.) Maybe they felt none of it mattered since I got good grades. (I was too afraid of them to not get AAAAAAAAs.)
      Anyway, I don’t know why some parents err so badly. Delusion, messed-up pride, NIMBY (not in my back yard), fear of imperfection, $.

      Maybe this is why the great painters start to paint.

    • #58883

      Thank you for having the courage to start this post.
      It was something I thought only my adopted parents had done. They let me struggle, nothing I did was really good enough but they had no expectations that I could be helped – just managed. Who knows maybe someone told them I might grow out of it.
      Instead they took me out of public school in 3rd grade and away from all my neighborhood friends and banished me to a highly structured church school with a bunch of other misfits. All this because Johnny spent too much time drawing and looking out the window. There was something wrong with me that was unspoken. If I “misbehaved” or got angry they threatened to send me off to military school, some place with a little more structure. I just need to behave and try harder.
      I eventually found my way into a successful career for many years only to end up being made redundant at 50, struggling with so much self doubt. I couldn’t adapt to the new management that came in and shook everything up. A couple of failed high pressure jobs later, I found my self in deep depression. After two years of drugs and therapy a physiologist suggested a few assessment tests to see if maybe I might have some other issues that accounted for the way in which I react to various situations, like standing in long lines, taking timed tests, dealing with stressful situations, an occasional improper emotional response when a situation just didn’t seem fair. With the diagnosis came that moment when you say ah ha that explains a lot! And then the realization that it could have been different – My adopted parents have been dead for years, but what they hid from me, how little they thought of my potential, still makes me angry.

    • #58884

      Because you got good grades it sounds like you are smart and were able to make up for deficits in executive functioning with work-arounds and sheer determination and smarts. At least that was my story. I was a “problem” kid until I was diagnosed with ADD (inattentive type) back in the 70’s. Ritalin. Man, that drug changed my life. I could read. I could listen. I could learn. For the first time in my life. … and then I guess they thought I was “fixed” and they took me off. And so the ensuing years all through high school and college and into adult life – huge problems, tens of thousands of dollars in therapy, changes in high schools transfers in colleges, difficulty settling into a job (had 22+ before finally becoming an actor and computer consultant) … I was in my 50’s when I was re-diagnosed, and started taking meds again, and oh my god what a difference.

      My parents did yell at me and berate me all the time for not “living up to potential” (I tested so high and performed relatively low). Always I was the “screw-up.”

      When I was re-diagnosed I was just so grateful to find out. It was like something external to me was the cause of all my problems, and I no longer felt like a complete flake.
      I had a lot of very negative feelings toward my parents most of my teen and young adult life and had only somewhat recently come to the realization they were just doing the best they could and they did care even if they made one profoundly bad mistake after another. Taking me off Ritalin was just another bad, bad mistake on their part.

      Who knows how things might have been different for those like us? Maybe our suffering made us better, more compassionate people. Maybe our struggles made us more dynamic and self-sufficient. Maybe we could have achieved things we could have only dreamed of and we were massively ripped off – you only live once. We’ll never know, and I guess that’s just the way life is.

      I guess the best thing we can do is just move on and try not to let all those questions screw with us and keep us from taking care of ourselves and our children.

      After I took my son to a therapist and he was diagnosed with the same inattentive type ADD I have, we got in the car and he said, “Oh, thank GOD I have ADD!” My eyebrows went way up. “Because,” he said, “now I know I’m not just a big idiot!” This from a kid who tests in the 98th percentile – he felt like a complete idiot. I know I felt that way. Despite being told I have high test scores I was pretty sure I was stupid until my senior year in college. So leaving us in the dark is really cruel, I think.

      So you’re not alone. I think YOUR PARENTS REALLY SCREWED THE POOCH! You can tell them some random guy on the web says so!

    • #58901

      I’ve now been married to my husband almost 7 years. Just wanting thoughts on my husband have been taking medication for ADHD since childhood and nothing really got mentioned to me about before married or now. We are over the “honeymoon” stage as you can imagine and I know it was up to me but if my son has it I’m going to talk to him about talking to his future wife and help out that way. Just feeling hurt.

    • #58915

      I got pulled out of my regular 1st grade class and put in a special one and the school wanted to send me to some new school for kids with learning disabilities. My parents balked, obviously if something was wrong with me there must be something wrong with them. So they refused to even consider if I had a problem. I had many problems that went unaddressed. After all there was only room in the house for 1 sick person and that was my dad. His heart condition was the only concern. I had some digestive issues, and obviously ADHD or some learning disability. My mom thought I’d grow out of it, my dad thought he could punish it out of me. Did you know that kids with ADHD are more likely to be abused or neglected? And guess what, I didn’t grow out of it and punishment only gave me more psychological issues, anxiety, and self worth issues. I’m still trying to tell myself I’m not a loser, but my life and how I feel sure seems to point to the fact that I am one.

    • #58965

      DDDayish I am a 45yr old mother of 2/3 children with ADHD and I’m learning a hell of a lot! I strongly suspect that the information I have at my fingertips, through Google search, from well educated supporters, ADDitude magazine are the very things your mother just didn’t have. The fine tune understanding I get from my sources helps me make the best decisions for my children. If you just turned 4 this year & your educated mother could try again, I believe it would be different. To be ignorant nowadays & not educate ourselves for our children is just neglect. I know a child with ADHD today whose parents do not medicate because he gets good grades. Well, thus child suffers & it pains me that they can be so ignorant to all his struggles. Start fresh with your mom. You can teach her about you & your relationship with your child. She WILL see the difference. She may feel her own pain in time without you handing it to her.

      • This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by Evie.
    • #58977

      I was diagnosed at 22. My brother in law was actually the one to suggest I may have it when I was 18. When I was in high school, especially towards the end, I thought that I did have it. So, when my brother in law suggested it, I went searching through the paperwork my parents saved from when I was in 4th grade. I was in a private school at the time, and the school insisted that I get a screening by a counselor, so not true diagnosis, but a direction. Over the course of my years after that, I was told I was fine. Even when I explained to my Dad that I wanted to be seen by someone because I could tell something was wrong, because I was having panic attacks (which ended up phrased as randomly bursting into tears at school) he stood by I was fine. Well, the results from that screening came back most likely ADHD- inattentive type. Since moving out at 18, it’s actually more like ADHD combo. They had managed to get me to suppress the hyperactive part, so it all went to my head. The panic attacks, that’s part of the ADHD, I keep up with my meds (not even required more than any other day) and I don’t have them. I’m still in college right now, I’ve gone from B’s basically when I was in high school, to A’s in college. From one college class at a time, to a full 12 credit hour course load and President’s list. To a 13 credit hour load and Dean’s list. To finishing up my associates this fall, 14 credits. All while working. All just by getting a diagnosis and treatment plan. I’ve learned it’s best to just not talk to my parents about it. Now, they try to tell me how to take my medication, even though I still don’t live with them, have no plans to move back in with them. I think with my parents, especially Dad, it stems from not understanding, or Dad sees it in himself too and he is in denial. At this point, I’m now 24, I’ve mostly moved on. As long as I don’t have to talk to my parents about it. 6 years, it took me 6 years to stop feeling mad at them. Now, I’m just determined not to do the same thing to my kids when they come along. Because honestly, I feel it hurt me more than helped. Just explanations can help heal, why keep that from someone?

    • #68610

      qwerty, I loved your post. You cannot change your past, but you can take the lessons you’ve gleaned and learned from it to make a better future. Learn to be grateful for the good you’ve received and make the best of it. You’ll be surprised at what this alone will do for you and your family. BTW, you’d make a wonderful disciple of Mike Rowe For that, I applaud you for your post and hope it brings a sense of solidarity and hope for ADHDers, kids, parents, etc et al and so forth ….because today’s kids need to grow up slower, learn how to use their hands MAKING THINGS and learning how to make the best out of whatever circumstances they face in life. I’d much rather walk into a room filled with kids braggin’ and hollerin’ with joy, laughter while they’re playing a real board game on a cardtable, or catch that never-dies-crayon smell that comes from crackin’ open a box of crayons and putting them to play. I was never one of those kids who followed my kindergarten teacher’s instructions to “stay within the lines.” Sorry Sister, but what else would you expect from that same kid some sixty years ago who dared to find out what happened when you applied crayons to blackboards. She wasn’t amused … then. Hey, here’s an idea, have a basket by your door on Thanksgiving and tell all the kiddos, “adults” and real kids alike to leave their cyber toys they’ve become too addicted to in the basket, or leave a buck to buy a box of crayons.

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 11 months ago by SBarrett.
    • #70913

      Story of my life.

      My parents suspected something was up even before I was in primary school, and some relatives suggested I get some help. But my parents were hesitant to get me tested, and said they ‘wanted the decision to be mine’. How could I have made an informed choice about my mental health if I was just a child, with little to no knowledge about ADHD, let alone any support systems for people living with it? I suppose part of the reason they didn’t think it urgent for me to get help was because I wasn’t ‘impaired’. I had good grades, I was not usually in trouble with authorities, and I could be kept in line. Never mind if I was evidently socially awkward, if people complained I was moving and talking too fast, and that my infamous mood swings were giving me a bad reputation as ‘high strung’ or just ‘a bitch’.

      I guess my parents and other adults thought I’d grow out of it. Or that I needed Jesus. Or that I needed to socialize more. I’ve heard it all.

      Fast forward some twenty-one years later. I realized that ‘impairment’ could be subjective. Sure I had a good conduct record but that didn’t detail how my inattentiveness did contribute to my not getting accepted into a residency program at a hospital I wanted desperately to work in. I had gotten into a challenging public health masteral program, and I was doing excellently, but that only came with a lot of effort to get myself under control. I finally was in a committed romantic relationship, but my impatience and hyper-emotional state caused conflict between me and my best friend on a fairly regular basis. And I realized that I could not carry these habits into my future, if I wanted to succeed both in my professional and family life. So I got help, and I got diagnosed.

      And yes, I was distraught when I found out. I wondered about the two decades I’d struggled, and whether I’d be somewhere else if my ADHD had been addressed earlier. The fact that my parents were almost nonchalant about my diagnosis only infuriated me further.

      It’s been two weeks. And I’m still working through this anger.

    • #186500

      Hello I am 14, quite younger than you folks. But my friend who has ADHD strongly believes that I have adhd, and looking online at the symptoms. This is not the first time I told my parents that I had ADHD, and not the first time they brushed it off either. I kinda told my parents in 5th grade when I told them I had trouble focusing, everyone was telling me I had anger issues, I was hyper, I had a behavioral class. i was basically the weird kid. fast foward 2 years later and that’s the first time I really saw that my symptoms matched ADHD. I told my parents that I think that I had ADHD, but they brushed it off, thinking I was just being a hypochroniac(i was at the time but not anymore). And now, 2020 has rolled along and my friend has told me that he thinks I have adhd. I told my parents about all the symptoms I had. My dad was already mad at me because I decided to run away from his car for a prank(everyone reading this is thinking this isn’t a prank, but I’ll count it as one.). You see, I have issues with impulse control, so even with the threat of destroying my Doritos(gotta love them) I still kept running. After being dragged back by my friends and into the car I decided to have a chat with my dad. I was scared at first but then I got the courage to firmly tell him “I have ADHD” my dad immediately got mad at me(prank from earlier) and responded in a even more firm tone, “No, you don’t, you know what, you have to stop being so hard on yourself” I was mad at him and when I started telling him the symptoms I shared with people who had ADHD. But, I didn’t really rehearse the speech at my friend’s house and so I stuttered a lot. Wanna know what he did? blew it off just like he did the last times. So now, I’m planning to talk to the high school school counselor. Only problem is that the map they gave me was pretty confusing so I’ll ask my teachers for directions. Hybrid starts next week so pretty excited to finnaly get some answers

    • #186565
      Dr. Eric

      For everyone who is expressing the same sentiment, when you are in a good enough place to share, please share with as many people, especially parents as possible.

      As a school psychologist, it is getting harder and harder to fight the misinformation out on social media today.
      Something as simple as thinking that children don’t know that they are different and that having an accurate diagnosis is going to harm them instead of being a relief.

      It is a major first step for many families.
      Doing hard, systematic, evidence-based work is not as sexy on the internet as the promises of misinformation.

    • #186727

      This really resonates. I am in my 30s and had a similar experience (and reaction).
      I’m sorry you and so many others in this thread have had this experience. I think anger and a sense of regret/loss are really natural reactions. In my case, I think there was a sense that it was kinder not to directly address/discuss my issues, but really this just delays getting help

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