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“Dear Son: I Know What You’re Up Against — and I Worry, Worry, and Worry”

A mom remembers her own ADHD challenges as she grew up, and she hopes and prays her son can overcome them.

33 Comments: “Dear Son: I Know What You’re Up Against — and I Worry, Worry, and Worry”

  1. 2 ADHD people have 3 young children a few years apart? Why on earth pop out SO MANY when you should be giving all your energy to just one of these special beings? smh

  2. Good, thought provoking article. It struck me that there is such a wide range of experiences that we have as ADHD Mons with ADHD kids. I could never have predicted the behaviors and outcomes my two children would have, so my advice to you is to keep that in mind. Neither of my children went through many of the same experiences I did. Their struggles were profound, yet profoundly different. My experiences were a like yours.

    One thing that stood out for me the most was when you talked about your son getting an a minus or a B rather than an 80. With my own children, I would’ve been ecstatic for a C. Their attention problems were so severe that it A or B was a pipe dream despite their incredible intelligence. Neither one ever experimented with drugs, neither one ever gotten any trouble, they are both really good kids. But they struggled so much in school. One was uncontrollably hyperactive yet still undiagnosed until he was 8 and outplaced into a special school. The other wasn’t diagnosed until high school because he didn’t have the hyperactive component.

    They didn’t get into fights, they are not reckless. But one sky dives, raced dirt bikes, rides a motorcycle, is a combat flight paramedic and firefighter, and did every thrill seeking dangerous yet perfectly legal activity he could find. The other hasn’t been able to function enough to work. My main concern has been their Co- morbidities of anxiety and depression, PANDAS, and the younger one finally being diagnosed as being on the spectrum only when he got old enough for his extreme hyperactivity to settle down. Once they became of legal age it was more and more difficult to ensure those conditions were treated. They are now 29 and 23, and thankfully the 23-year-old still complies with counseling but is resistant to medication. As a mother it’s hard to watch them struggle when you can no longer force them to get help.

    So the point of my long post is to bear in mind that all the things that you expect your child to struggle with because he struggles with them may not ever come to pass. Your child may struggle in completely different ways. Your child may struggle in ways you haven’t considered, and it’s important to open your mind and be aware that there are so, so many different things to be on the lookout for.

    Keep up the good work, Mama. Thank you for sharing a part of your life and your heart with all of us. It helps everyone not to feel so alone in this long journey.

  3. Thank you for this article. I think that by facing all of these fears and voicing them, you are in the best place to help your son overcome them. My husband also has ADHD and that can be a real challenge in getting him to do all of the things we need to do to keep our son on track. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I’ve ben scarred of the future since my son was 8, he’s now 15. Seeing it in black and white hits me in the gut. What does the future look like?

    1. My son is 15 too. I am so worried about him but he has other attributes which get him by – not academically but through his personality. At this age we’re worrying about their future even more. But there is always hope. We mustn’t forget that.

  5. Elizabetg, Oh, this is so, so sad, and made me cry. I have been involved romantically with a man-child of 65, long-distance for five years. I thought he was “just” an alcoholic, but now think it is ADHD, based on comments on this forum. I know I should walk away, as he drives me mad, it has been on and off for all this time. In the beginning, we absolutely adored each other, but he struggles with his emotions, hence relationships, and blows up like a volcano at what he perceives as the least little criticism. It is exhausting, and yet, I want to be there for him. I had hoped to share all this with him, but now he has blocked my phone, so there is no communication. This has happened before, and he usually calms down, but it is so distressing. I hope you can work with your children, to make their future better. One positive is that you KNOW about this condition, and you can work with it. My man will have no knowledge of it, as it was never heard of when we were young, and I imagine if I mention it, it will be another volcano episode. Best wishes, Lorna

    1. Lorna, I’m 65, have had ADHD all my life, or so the doc’s were able to tell when I was almost 50, finishing up my first week in a psych ward and listening to a doc tell me “Hey buddy, you’ve got ADHD in spades!” I still laugh out loud at that and know he meant well. Maybe if I write a memoir or something like it, that might be the title of the book or at least a chapter. Why am I sharing this small aspect? Simple: You have to avoid dwelling on his problems and acknowledge that you can only deal with so much in your life, do so with good humor so what bugs him doesn’t own you and drag you down. You never know when (if) he pulls it together and no matter how hard you’ve been emotionally pulling for him, you’ve been too worn out by all his problems and self-focusing, you won’t be ready when he’s all set to say, “Hey I’m back, let’s put all the past behind and move on.” We both know that won’t happen, and maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe you need a rest from a guy who’s more at home in his own false comfort zones than he could ever even come close to reaching with another person no matter how hard and long he tried for another. If he shows no sign of giving up the bottle by now, no sense of coming to grips with the necessity of remembering the importance of putting loved ones ahead of personal selfish pursuits, he never will. I had no choice but to face the simple choice, my family or just living with myself and my guilt for the rest of my life. Nope, didn’t want the latter. My dad put it bluntly to me when I was in a depressed spell and was basically whining about the slow progress of what I’d hoped would become a well compensated career as a political columnist. “Hey buddy, you have it all wrong, you don’t have a career, you have a vocation.” Gulp, yes I did, with a young wife and infant son. LOL, now I’m a wise old man of the ADHD set, just moved off of SSDI to regular geezerhood SS pension for life; and I’m lucky if my kids don’t interrupt me before I get to finish interrupting them first. You need to take care of yourself first. It’s not a sign of selfishness. Quite the opposite. Because none of us can be of any help if we don’t learn how to keep our own lives on track for whatever life has to offer. A man I greatly admire, Tip O’Neill said thousands of times, “All politics is local” and that’s so true with our own personal politics of dealing with our number one constituents, first with ourselves, close second, our spouses and of course, our children and so forth. We can’t help others unless we can keep ourselves pulled together first. Good luck and God’s Blessings. I’m sure you’ll work this out.

      1. SBarrett – Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my comment. Yes, I know I should take care of myself, and I do try to step back from his “excesses” – try to see them from HIS perspective, and not get too emotional about it all. Try to have a “sense of humour” about it all. Yes, I do get over-emotional. Yes, I get upset at the hurtful comments he makes in emails and texts – when he then says “I’m just winding you up”. Why wind me up? I ask him WHY he hates me that much that he can “wind me up” with hurtful comments, trying to make be jealous – and of course, he succeeds. His response is that he does not hate me. But it FEELS really hateful to me. Obviously, he sees things from a different angle. I imagine he does this to get a “buzz”, since, as I understand it, you guys are always into getting a “high” somehow or other. It’s probably part of his “wicked” sense of humour – he thinks it is funny!! NOT FUNNY to ME!!
        And what about the time we were shopping in the super-market for food and he got really angry with me over a casual, inoffensive, throw-away comment I made (he probably was dying to buy a bottle of booze, and could not as I was there), when he shouted at me, in front of all the shoppers, and told me to “F–k Off”? Then, when I made it clear, when we got home, how angry I was with him, he had no understanding of what he had done and did not apologize – telling me that I “always spoil things – just f–k off”.
        He HAS tried recently to cut-back on the booze. But I know that he will not manage to do this on his own. And the worst thing is that he has a female neighbour who is TOXIC. She comes round and they drink together until they pass out. She controls him and sets him against me with nasty, spiteful comments, and “advice” as to how he should live his life – i.e. by excluding me, so that they can have a merry time drinking together. When I have said that he must choose between her and me, as I will not tolerate having a third-party in our relationship, he tells me “Any woman in my life must realize how important Louise is to me, and accept that”. Yes, I can see that Louise IS important to him. She is his only “friend”. He does not want to lose her. They drink together – therefore vindicating each other. He buys her booze for her. He confides in her about our relationship, and she then gives him bad advice – telling him to get rid of me, as we have an “unhealthy” relationship – in that I do not want him to drink hmself to death. They cook together. They often shop together for food to cook. They plate each other up meals they’ve made, to share. He does the same for her daughter and boyfriend. WHY? They are not family. She uses his car, without putting petrol in, or otherwise contributing. He takes her to places socially. Literally, they are pretty much an “item” – practically married – even though he denies this and says there is “nothing between them”. To me it is absolutely not “normal” behaviour, by any means. I do not have this relationship wth MY neighbours. She obviously is very much a “mother” figure to him. He cannot see my point of view, or understand how upset I get about all this. Completely unable to empathize with ME if I try to raise the subject (calmly and rationally). Then he blows his stack and tells me to “F–k off”. He does not want people “controlling his life”. However, it is apparently alright that Louise controls his life. Then there is her alcoholic sister, who is currently in prison for stabbing her boyfriend when they were having a drunken row. She is due to come out in October, so no doubt she will be coming around to his again then, and they will drink together, as before. He also once gave her his debit card to buy food to cook a meal for him – she did not buy food, of course, but bought booze for herself and got drunk.
        He is like a child. He is naive and gullible. He is kind-hearted and does lots for other people – I believe in order to get into their “good books”. But they take advantage of him, time and again, and he allows it. He is from a good, upper-middle class wealthy family, went to boarding school and was trained as a lawyer, but got badly into debt and was struck off for mis-conduct. He is now in debt again. He was also banned from driving for drunk-driving some time ago. However, he never drinks and drives now – he has learned THAT lesson, as least.
        Whereas I thought all this was due to his excessive use of booze and his withdrawing from it when I go to stay with him (we are long-distance), I now see that it is probably more to do with symptoms of ADHD. I have read all I can get my hands on about alcoholism and mental-health issues, and have now come to this conclusion.
        I put all this on this forum, in the hope that it will be of help to some others. Hopefully, for the people on here with young children, there WILL be some hope, as learning about this affliction early on, and getting understanding, help and support will make a difference. Knowledge is power, I am sure. And we can all share our experiences and pass on our knowledge.
        Regarding me – I am shortly to have a session of counselling for my own benefit, and have signed up to do a training course for friends and family of alcoholics – so all that may help me to come to terms with what has been going on for so long. It has broken my heart – and I have cried buckets over him. I thought we had a beautiful relationship, as he was obsessed with me in the beginning (another symptom), but I see now it is ALL part of the ADHD syndrome.
        I cannot see a good ending to all of this for him. I believe he will drink himself to death, as he does not WANT to be helped.
        Added to all of this, I am also having problems with my eldest daughter, who also has some sort of mental health issue. Her husband also suffers from “something” (possibly Autism) and their 6 year old son. She will not talk to me, so that is adding stress to my life.
        Will it ever end? Lorna

      2. It sounds like you need to go to Al Anon…all of this stuff is causing you pain and issues that you don’t need in your life! Sometimes it’s time to walk away, despite any “love”…

      3. Sarah 812 – Yes, I agree with you.
        I did try AlAnon a long time ago, and found it dire – all those people weeping and wailing about their loved ones, without really trying to understand them – and most of them actually unconsciously ENABLING them to continue abusing alcohol, one way or another.
        I also DO have lots going on in my life. I DO have self-respect, even though it sounds as though I don’t – hence the arguments, when I try to set “boundaries” with him. But I now understand that “boundaries” do not work with ADDers – so that is a waste of time. It seems as though he is absolutely unable to see MY point of view, or consider MY feelings. SO – Yes, you are right. Perhaps it is time to walk away – even though the AA Big Book recommends that we onlookers of alcoholics are patient, tolerent, understanding and loving. Maybe where ADD is thrown into the mix with alcoholism, there is no room for any of this? So very, very sad. Lorna

      4. Although ADHD can pose difficulties in our lives and relationships, sometimes there are other psychological issues at play. Why are you putting yourself in such an abusive and one-sided situation? As my counselor “baby” sister recently put it to me: it all comes down to self-respect – valuing yourself, knowing yourself and what you value, ensuring that your behaviors line up with your values. This has opened up so many options for me. You were not meant to “fix” anyone and are worth so much more in God’s eyes. Take some time and space to get to know yourself, start a “Gratitude Journal”, do something you enjoy, join a club or learn something new – doors will start opening for you. Be at Peace – you can’t help others until you are able to help yourself.

      5. It’s true that we are not meant to fix anyone…it’s often an escape from dealing with our own issues! Smart sister!

  6. I think the author is “catastrophizing” — assuming the very worst will happen. Yes, all of these are valid concerns, but they aren’t inevitable. This child is young and you can work with him on a behavioral program now and at whatever point it’s appropriate (maybe now), get him involved in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I have a son with pretty severe ADHD who just started college. He experiences a LOT of executive functioning issues and I have worried for years about how he would just get up and function in college/life without me to be his “frontal lobe.” So far he’s doing much better than I would have anticipated — getting up, getting to class, staying on top of required things, managing his medication, etc. I do expect some slip ups at times, but he’s showing us — and most importantly, himself — that he CAN do this. Yes, he’s more impulsive and I do worry about experimentation with alcohol/drugs, but he’s an adult now and has to start making his choices and experiencing the consequences. At least it won’t be self-medication — he’s been ADHD medication for years and has had a lot of therapy. It doesn’t make things 100% better, but it helps a lot. He’s very outgoing and has already made a lot of friends at his out-of-state school, so we are optimistic that it will be a good fit for him. Regardless, try helping your son to find the positives of his ADHD and celebrate his gifts rather than agonizing over the weaknesses. I know it’s hard — my son drives me CRAZY with messiness, lateness, difficulty getting up, forgetfulness, etc., but he is also big-hearted, funny, creative, and incredibly bright. And now I don’t have to live with the tough stuff daily, LOL, so hopefully I’ll be able to appreciate him a little more!

    1. Jennifer – yes of course she is “catastrophizing” – she has ADHD. Not only is she ADHD, she is an ADHD parent, with an ADHD partner, raising an ADHD child. So, her concerns are VALID. No matter how educated and empathetic families and professionals can be about about ADHD, if they don’t have ADHD, they will never know what is is like to have the condition and the constant and paralyzing anxiety that accompanies it. Every emotion and sensation is amplified, for life. For these reasons, her child is at even greater risk. Her story, closely reflects my own, particularly the frank conversations I have with my 10 year old ADHD son about my own impulse control over the destructive behaviors I engaged in from childhood throughout adulthood. Also, CBT is not a helpful method for us, either. We’d done it for years and were steered toward better alternatives. I have ADHD and I’m a recovering alcoholic, with ADHD children and an ADHD partner. Sure, Elizabeth’s children and my own are likely better off they we were when she and I were growing up but the risk is still great and we have every reason to worry, excessively. It’s what we do. We can only hope, that by sharing our experiences living with ADHD, we will mitigate enough of that risk.

      1. KingMommy – thank you for sharing here. Your comments have helped me to better understand where my “Man” (or should I say “ex-man”, as he is not talking to me at the moment) is coming from. Please see my other comments on here.
        I just wish to goodness that I could somehow communicate all this to him – in order for him to easier understand what he is going through. I KNOW it must be HELL for him. BUT I honestly think, if he could just come to terms with what he is suffering from – he would find it all that much easier. Maybe I am wrong? Does an understanding of it all make it any easier for you? He obviously suffers greatly from anxiety, and drinks to block all that out. What do you think?
        I did send an email to ask him if he has heard of ADHD, and please look it up, as it may explain some of what he is going through – but he has not responded to me. I’m not even sure if he got it.
        And, yes, I DO worry and worry and worry about him. Lorna

      2. I have found CBT very helpful. It doesn’t “cure” me but it can really help me see things more realistically. I am also curious to know what has replaced it as more helpful

      3. In a world not built for us, these are some of the methods that have helped me and my family better adapt: ADVOCACY; group for kids w/anxiety; social skills group for kids w/ ADHD/ASD; the principles of most 12-step programs (really work well for ADHD’ers & you don’t have to be an addict to benefit); Unstuck & On Target (transition planning, managing expectations); service opportunities (for perspective, humility); CelebrateCalm (for explosive ADHD parents), Neuromovement (for physical pain mgmt, physical and emotional self-awareness, impulse control, and relaxation); Salsa (need I say more); MMA (focus, confidence, and because team sports are hard for us to navigate). Relay racing is also a good way to experience motivating individual accomplishment while still being part of a team and without all the confusion. My son really enjoyed soccer but had a hard time figuring out what to do as a member of the team. So we found that he most benefited from participating in soccer clinics. Hope this gives you some additional resources to consider

      4. I will look into some of these things….most sports are off limits though because I don’t want to be in any kind of spot light!

  7. After years of dealing with people with ADHD, I feel that there is a tremendous amount of misinformation about this condition.
    I strongly suspect that if you read my book called “Adrenaline Dominance” that you will be reassured about your son’s future.

    Michael E. Platt, md

    1. meplat1 – Thank you for that information. I think you are right, to a large extent, and I will study this. I have read another book explaining that alcohol depletes the brain of important nutrients, neurotransitters, and what you say reinforces that. I suffered greatly from PMS, post-natal depression and menopausal symptoms in the past (I’m now 69) – and I have certainly found supplements to help. I then contracted ME and have now got fybromyalgia.
      The problem is – how do we get our grown-up ADDers to take these supplements? My man flatly refuses to take anything – even though he is an alcoholic, and cannot see that he is killng himself with that!!! Madness!!! Maybe we should crush them up in their food? Lorna

  8. Oh Geez, this sounds so much like my life. I’m still struggling to accept my own ADHD, but I’m so “mild” compared to my son. His future absolutely terrifies me. How can he possibly handle homework on his own EVER? How can he drive without being distracted? How can he stay motivated to complete “boring” tasks. It’s terrifying!

    1. Hi DDDaysh hopefully he will learn to adapt…I have it pretty bad but since I know I have to do certain things I bribe myself and do various things to accomplish tasks. Hopefully he will have someone to check on him for things too…

  9. Wow this hit me quite hard. For many years I did not want to have kids because I didn’t want to go through all this horror again. This explains a lot, such as why I was suicidal at age 12-13. I have ADD but never knew that girls could have ADD so I figured it was just “me”. My brother has ADHD and was bullied very badly but he took some martial arts training which helped a lot. Thanks for your article.

    1. Horrible. Gosh. I feel horrible. This article punched me in the gut. All I do is worry worry worry. This article only makes me worry more and feel more pessimistic. Gosh. I know this is such a hard thing to deal with but this article should’ve came with a warning. 🙁

      1. I don’t think it will be as bad as the author is saying. I have grown up with ADHD and my sibling and I are doing pretty well. Also we know much more nowadays about the condition and how to handle it.

    2. I’ve got to share this with my wife of 34 years and my oldest daughter with a five year old active ADHD’er son… or so we’re pretty convinced he’s “inherited a ‘family tradition.'” We need to encourage our adult kids as much, albeit in a different sort of way as when we did when they were having difficulties figuring what all this ADHD stuff was all about.

      1. SBarrett – I would LOVE to hear from your wife – as to how she has coped for 34 years with your “problem”. See my other comments on here regarding my 65 year old “man-child”. It breaks my heart to read the comments on here re. ADHD, and think that this is what he is going through. It must be HELL.
        I am 69, by the way, and used to consider myself “normal” – until I encountered this man. As well as also having an ex-husband (married over 40 years) who we now know has Aspergers; one daughter with (suspected) Aspergers; another daughter with (diagnosed) Bi-Polar or possibly Aspergers; and her 6 yr old son who looks as though he has Autism – since when I am now wondering if it is actually ME who is the “crazy” one and they are all “normal”. How can I have so many disfunctional people in my life? HELP !!! Lorna

        Is there any chance that she will comment on here, for the benefit of others, please? Lorna

      2. Lorna, my sincerest apologies for not getting back to you sooner. The least I could’ve and should have done is to say I’ve seen your follow-up and working on a suitable reply. I was all-set to do so but my own extended family came in for a visit and before I knew it, my best “careful computer comm’s” time had flown. But not my memory nor my concern for your particular case. Take a look at an article which the Huffington Post republished about “Gaslighters” in connection with a new follow up based on 9 months of Donald Trump’s “administration.” ( ) According to its author, Stephanie Sarkis,
        “Gaslighting is a tactic of behavior in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works a lot better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting. It is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. In the Alfred Hitchcock movie Gaslight, a man would dim the gaslights in their home slowly and then deny he did it – so the victim thought she was losing her mind.”
        Don’t let the purveyors of real bad n’ fake BS take over our lives and work like hell to prevent them from making inroads in the lives of others. I used to get upset until lately with the numbskulls, and they fit this rap on them to a T, whenever I’d drop along some counter-commentary to the Trumpified casket of lies, false outrage, packaged half-truths, feigned displays of sincere outrage until I realized the best tactic was to just laugh right back in their faces because yes, some of their ideas are straight up bold-faced clown-car material and nothing but ridicule will wake up these victims of Trump’s eternal campaign of gaslighting which he could use to pull off reelection. The devil hates it when his own best methods used to rot the self-respect are called out and exposed for what they are; tools we’ve been given to dismantle his most powerful weapon of all: false pride. And believe it or not, false pride, or the sneaky use of it to plant doubts into our heads about the real differences between the good uses of pride through constructive applications of constantly watched and moderated amounts of self-respect necessary to give us confidence to know what we’re doing and why, and a lifetime full of lies, self-destructiveness and more bullshit of that nature far too many people have mistaken for “good pride.” LOL, think of pride like cholesterol, there’s good, bad, and if the latter’s not monitored, it can lead us straight to uglier things to mull on later.
        Seriously …. get the bullies and gaslightin’ gas-baggers out of your life. You don’t need him or them any more than we need to get a phone call from our docs telling us he wants to “have a chat” very soon.
        God Luck, Godspeed and may this reply and linked article be of positive help and encouragement. S

      3. S – Thank you for that – I really appreciate your input. Goodness me – yes “gaslighting” seems to be what is going on here. I’d never heard of it and didn’t watch the film.
        But do you think that my “man” is a victim of this woman? And, do you think he is more likely to allow himself to be a victim because of his ADD? Like I said – he seems to be so naive, so child-like, so vulnerable, so trusting of people he thinks are being “nice” to him. I keep telling him he is too “soft” and needs to be wary of some people, and be tougher. It makes sense now – I can absolutely see it. This woman is the “gas-lighter”. She gaslights ME by feeding me lies about him regarding other women in his life and staying in his flat and bed, which he denies – but she has sowed the seed of doubt in me, so what CAN I believe? And she then says that I am a jealous, demented woman. She has blocked me from his phone. And she gaslights HIM by saying spiteful, hurtful things about me – implying that I am insane, unreasonable, “bad for him”, insanely jealous, etc. – in order to turn him against me. Of course it works, because she is his only friend, lives next door, and they drink together. He is so vulnerable – and she knows it. Hence – she and her daughter provide him with meals – being “nice”, sucking up to him. The daughter is just as bad. Saying to me “Who are you? Are you his WIFE to make claims on him?” It all makes sense now – she is appearing to be more kindly and loving than me – who she portrays as being insane – therefore sowing doubt in HIS mind. And since I live so far away – it is easy for him to prefer her company, as she is just next door, and she comes round to drink – he buys the booze. And keeping him on the booze keeps him in her clutches – even though he has said he would like to give it up. Insidious and wicked. AND she did it before with another girlfriend of his before me – he actually told me so. AND his mother is old and wealthy – I have long suspected that she is waiting for her to die, to get her hands on the money. She even said to me that she knows he HAS money – even though she knows he has a loan, and in fact she encouraged him to have one – and he now says everyone has one – i.e. this woman and her daughter. His mother would be absolutely horrified to know what is going on. But I can’t tell her, as she is so old – it would break her heart, and what could she do – probably change her will. Then he really WOULD hate me.
        What can I do? PLEASE. Should I keep on trying to make him see sense and get help? Or is he a lost cause? As a man, and a man with ADHD, you probably have the key to all of this. Is there ANY HOPE that I can make him see sense? I DO feel demented and at my wits end with it all. Is being naive and vulnerable part of the ADHD symptoms?
        PLEASE – anyone else, do you have the answer to this? Lorna

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