The Secret Heartache of a Girl with ADHD
My daughter was one of a lost generation of adolescent women who lived too long with undiagnosed ADHD. It’s not something I’d wish on anyone.
There was something about the tone of her voice that got to me. Something about the helplessness of her words, the disappointment echoing in the sound after each sentence that made me shiver.
“Why do I feel so lost? I don’t even fit in my own family!”
Gut wrenching, isn’t it?
She was buckled up in the backseat of my Toyota, still too little to sit up front with me.
Another failed birthday party. Another, “They hate me” and “Why can’t I be like everyone else?” Another failed attempt at finding friends.
What in the world was going on with my once-happy-go-lucky little girl? When she left the safe boundaries of our home and started school, Jess’s foundation began to shift. The world got more confusing and more exhausting for all of us. Small idiosyncrasies exploded, and led us to this place today.
Even before school, Jess never fit in with her age group. She was more comfortable hanging out with younger kids – even if they were very immature, or had difficulties in their lives. With little kids, she could be the caretaker, but they were too young to reciprocate the support, confusing Jess and breaking my heart. Eventually, she didn’t want to make friends at all.
In class, Jess became invisible. She faded into the background as teachers accused her of daydreaming. As she continued woolgathering, she missed assignments, became disorganized, and was forever forgetful. She drew comfort from disappearing into her surroundings.
What looked like social trouble and failing grades we now know was inattentive ADHD and a learning disability. Officially diagnosed only recently, she’s grown into a young adult.
Years of suffering, emotional trouble, embarrassment, disappointment, and guilt – all the result of ADHD she didn’t know she had – continue to leave a mark. Thank goodness we now have a diagnosis, but does she actually have any answers? I can’t begin to put myself in her shoes, walking down the confusing and difficult path of her short life.
As her mother, I now understand her temper, her sometimes-over-the-top explosive rage. The ADHD explains her emotionality and sensitivity to criticism and correction. If Jess has emotional difficulties, it’s because they are the result of, not the cause of, ADHD.
With Jess, I knew from early on that she was sensitive to criticism and correction. My approach was one of compassion and thoughtfulness to try to meet her needs and guide her to discover strengths and talents.
Yes, she bailed out too quickly with soccer and dance. Heck, she didn’t even give herself time to know if she had a skill.
Encouragement and support, praise for her effort, and eventually she found horseback riding, which provided her port in a storm.
As I reflect back on this time of our life, I’m proud of my daughter and her strength and dignity. Jess is, unfortunately, a member of the lost generation of girls that nobody realized had ADHD. She had to manage her condition on her own – and experienced sadness, anxiety, and criticism because of it.
Yet, she learned to understand her stressors and the importance of an emotional timeout to nourish her soul. The family went through a LOT of emotional outbursts, but she came out the other side of it relieved and hopeful.
Today, Jess is on medication that is making a difference in her life. She says that for the first time her mind isn’t racing, and she feels “stability” in her thinking. Immediately, we all noticed an incredible improvement in word recall and vocabulary skills and a byproduct of this is a confidence level we have never seen before in Jess.
As Jess’ self-esteem grows, so does Jess!
I’ll never begin to understand what having ADHD is like for Jess nor can I begin to comprehend the secret pieces of her life tucked away somewhere safe that no one is privy too.
I can only hope, with her new-found strength and optimism, she will feel empowered to create the life she desperately deserves.
Jess and I both hope and pray that by telling her story, it may help one more family on their personal journey.