Emotions & Shame

“People Judge Me Instead of Trying to Understand”

An older woman has come to terms with her ADHD — and thrived in her career in spite of her challenges — but still wishes her family and friends weren’t so dismissive of the struggles that come with the disorder.

Illustration of a sad person dealing with the social stigma of ADHD, being pointed at by large red fingers
Sad blue person pointing red fingers

All of my life I believed that I had a learning disability. Finally, after I turned 60, I began hearing about ADHD in adults.

I started to educate myself about it. I have been seeing a therapist for many years because of a mood disorder. I brought it up to him in one of my sessions, explained my “symptoms,” and asked him what he thought about my having adult ADHD. He agreed that what I was describing was indeed ADHD. I was relieved to know that there was a reason why I had felt “dumb” all these years and why my self-esteem was in the basement.

I am a successful realtor. I passed my exam on the first try, and I have always been proud of that accomplishment, since my grades in elementary and high school were not great. Selling real estate is challenging, and it is stressful at times. It takes a lot of effort to keep tabs on all of the details. But I do it. I couldn’t live without sticky notes and a schedule written down in 10 different places.

[Read: How to Respond When a Loved One Is Diagnosed]

When I try to explain my ADHD to my family, their eyes glaze over. They see me as they have always seen me: spacey, unable to focus on conversations, or to remember where I was going or why. I want to take them to the therapist and have him explain the reasons why I am the way I am. They judge me, instead of understanding that I have a disorder.

I no longer have the energy to battle the social stigma and get them to take me seriously. I just want to be understood, not judged.

—Renee (from adultaddstrengths.com)

3 Comments & Reviews

  1. Renee I swear i am going to let one of these pass without commenting but like adhd kids who run amuck I am an Adhd discovery at age 70) Adult who runs at the mouth or pen.
    I have quit drawing the direct line for others in favor of drawing the oblique line. Just like my friends say it is a seniors moment I call it a hyper moment. Now that doesnt mean i am trying to no longer be late. I just tell them most of my friends count on it and it all works out. I have learned to use the time ending “ish” as in I will be there at 4ish . It means if things go perfectly i will be there at 4 otherwise 4 with something after it. As in 415 or on really bad days 430
    Ive learned to use those appointment calendars and clock alarms to get me in motion and for added help the note in the middle of my bathroom mirror. People are less interested in why especially if they expect you to be .,…… some of these characteristics are three times as hard for us to overcome as the normals. We still have to try and overcome it. My worst peccadillo was speaking out at concerts my choral group put on. The blurting out of what i consider humorous repartee somehow always took on a different and embarassing meaning to the audience and the other participants were embarassed at my bombacity. There was no excuse acceptable and i had to learn to keep quiet or quit attending. When i asked those near me for help and told them why. They were pleased and dove into it. No actually they were afraid they would appear as critical until i explained I really needed that.
    What really helped me and like you I was going through a major depression at the time was the med Venlafaxine. I take 75 mg/day.
    It comes in 37.5 to 300 mg/day. I have been on it 5 years now and it has been awesome for me. One of the things it did was allow me to make the blunders and for others to get upset without me taking Offense. Its not for everyone but it definitely has worked for me.
    I have tryed Concerta and amitryptelene but it made me too aggressive by day and bone tired in the morning.
    I also attended a support group meeting where i was 2 to 3 times the age of most participants but it was still a huge help . When the facilitator asked one week which ones of us had lost it that week meaning anger everyone of us had a story to tell. That was so empowering instead of embarassing and we knew everyone of us would work our butts off to lose that aspect of it. Keep up with your progress . It only gets better from now. Don.

  2. Reading this has given me such encouragement! Everything you mentioned, I’ve experienced. It’s not easy explaining to people who don’t have this, and have very little knowledge about it, that it’s a serious impediment, and that you have to work 2x as hard to do what they seem to do naturally.

    All day today I’ve been feeling like every little good thing that comes my way is a lucky break. Well actually, I believe in God and really I feel that most times He gives me lots of breaks. And you know something, that does something to a person – you get to feel that your past is always one step behind you. Having a track record of more misses than hits can really mess with your self-esteem. To the point where I am sooo grateful when anything good happens to me. Here’s a recent example – I was temping at a company, which made a job offer CONTINGENT upon my references checking out. That means I had to scramble up my contacts and email former references, whom I was hoping to forget, and practically beg them to not mention the fact that I was let go too many times to count because although I am reliable, always on time, computer savvy, and personable, etc. There’s always the little mistakes that have gotten in the way of a stellar performance and that in the fact have even cost me jobs. I’ll find out this week or next if my references gave me a break this time. Either way, I am prepared to go back to square one, no matter how exhausted I am with the whole thing. Having ADHD is the pits. But these days I’m really trying to find the cherries, and grow into my ADD with poise, and faith and grace.

    I hope you know that you’re not alone. You sound incredibly smart and vibrant. And I will submit that at your fabulous age, you can begin to stop explaining/apologizing for every little thing. These are your best years, I wouldn’t worry about what others say, when they’ve got eons to catch up.

    Hugs sister,

    1. Hi Bita, this is my second attempt to reply to your comments…what does that tell you about me? Your reply resonates deeply with me. I’ve lost count of my stellar performances eclipsed by trivial oversights, that if committed by anyone else would have made great office humor. But in my case, each and everytime, what I had no concept of ever being a major set- back, was indeed just that. So many times, that I no longer feel the bright burning embarassing sense of shame or confusion or humiliation. I just nod my head, accept, pack up and go. I am confident im my knowledge and capabilities, I have no doubt or question of my qualificaions or what I am doing… I am just doing my job. It’s the nirmal everday tasks I’ve been doing, and then…it implodes. Is it kharma, or is it ADHD?

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