ADHD childhood struggles

I’ve talked about how my ADHD was not diagnosed until I was at University, and because of this, my childhood was filled with rejections, with not being accepted, with being punished for the way I was. Even today, when I look back I get angry, it might have been so much easier for me, so much less lonely and less painful if I would have been diagnosed, if my parents would have understood, if they would have been able to help me instead of making things worse. I know I will not be able to change my past, I have to live with the things that happened and the scars it caused, but I do hope that maybe one parent will read this, and will be a better parent to his or her own child that suffers through the same things as I did.

As a child I was different, I did not play like other girls from my age, I was not interested in dolls or the games we played in school, I preferred building things together with my grandpa, go out into the forest, to his vegetable garden or just spend time alone, daydreaming, letting my ADHD thoughts flow through my head and enjoy them. My grandpa understood this but unfortunately my parents did not, they bought me dolls, they told me to play with the girls from my schools or with my sister, and every time I did not play like I was supposed to they got angry with me. I remember that my sister got a doll house for her birthday once, and I had to go and play with her. I loved this house, because I could take it apart and put it back together, in a different more interesting way. For a while I tried to make the most beautiful house for my sisters dolls but she got annoyed because for her this was not playing, she told my parents what I was doing, they came upstairs, hit me, and told me to go to my room and stay there the rest of the day while both my parents played with my sister and her dolls. Situations like this happened very often. I got interested in the part of the toy or game that was not important to others, and my parents always punished me for this, “act normal, play how you’re supposed to play!“. Every time this happened they broke a little part of me, they were punishing me for something that I enjoyed, but it felt like whatever I enjoyed was not normal, not accepted.

In school I did never made a lot of friends. Not only because I played different then the girls I was supposed to be friends with, I simply couldn’t make friends. I had different interest, I could not listen to other kids, I used to respond with mouth instead of my brain, I was daydreaming most of the day, other kids just saw me as the weird one. But there was one more thing that made it impossible for me to make real friends, my hypersensitivity. Whenever I pass by a school now I go a bit crazy, all this yelling, laughing and playing, there is so much noise and movement at a school and my brain simply just can not deal with this, it’s too much. I remember that when I was young I was able to just play with a single kid, mostly boys because I found playing with lego much more interesting that the dolls the girls where playing with, however as soon as I had to play with more than 2 other kids I shut down. There was too much to listen too, the sounds where too loud, I did not know where to look, who to follow, and after a couple of minutes of being exposed to this I needed to be alone, I needed some rest to process all the input my brain just got. And how many kids do play with just one other kid? None. At least at my school there were always groups of children, never couples. I remember that I was always trying to find the kid that was alone, like me, and be friends with this kid, but as soon as this kid would have multiple other friends I could not be with him or her anymore, I had to look for someone else, that was alone, like me. But I never found another kid that just wanted to have 1 or 2 friends, they always wanted more, and as soon as they found other friends I felt alone again. My parents never seemed to understand this, and again they got angry, “you had so many friends, why are you abandoning them again?“. They never understood that for my brain it was just too much, that my brain was unable to filter and that everything was overwhelming and quickly became too much. The worst thing was my birthday, every year they would invite the children I had been friends with that year, all together. These birthday parties always turned into a disaster for me, it always ended up in an emotional breakdown, in me finding a corner where I could be alone, in my parents getting angry, angry that I was not enjoying the party they gave me, angry about me not being nice to the kids that gave me presents and came for me to my birthday, angry that I was just not like my sister. They never saw my struggles, they never asked me what happened at those moments and they never gave up forcing me to be like my sister.

An other thing that always ended in me feeling bad about myself was cleaning my room. Every Saturday my mom told me and my sister to go upstairs and clean our rooms, put our toys and books back where they belonged and give our dirty clothes for her to wash. I never knew what to do at this moment, I was always jealous at my sister, she would go into her room, and within an hour she finished and could go outside and play. But I did not know where to start. Often I would start with playing with the many things that were left around the room, not because I wanted to play but just because as soon as I picked up a thing I wanted to put away, it caught my attention. After some time I would get angry with myself, I did not clean anything, I got distracted all the time, I needed to start organizing right now! And then the worst thing happened, in order for me to organize things, I took out everything, all the stuff that was in all my drawers and closets I laid down on the floor, and I tried to start matching things that belonged together, but still I kept being distracted, playing with or reading everything that I got in my hands. And then, after hours had passed my mom would walk in, in my room from which now the whole floor, the bed and the desk were covered with stuff. Off course she would get angry with me, I was supposed to clean but instead I had made a huge mess, she never understood that for me this was the way to start organizing, she just saw me making a bigger mess, while I had to reduce the mess. And every time she got angry, every time she forced me to just put things where she wanted me to put them, putting things together that for me did not belong together and I never was able to create an organizing system for myself. So the next week when I had to clean again, I still did not understand where I had to put my stuff, and the whole drama started over again. I still wish my mom would have just let me finish cleaning my room by myself, now I have my own house, I’m in control of the way things are organized and when I need to clean things make sense to me. I wish she had just taken the time to help me, explain to me how to do it, but she did not know why I had a problem with this, and she could just get angry with me, why she just wished I would be a little more like my sister.

My sister is 2.5 years younger then I am, and she has a neurotypical brain. For my parents she has always been the good one, the example, the one that did turn out the way they wanted to. This sounds like me expressing my emotional opinion about my family, but unfortunately this is the truth. Before my grandpa died we had a conversation about my childhood, I had always felt like the rotten apple, the scapegoat, the shame of the family, and before he died I wanted to know if this was true, if it weren’t just my feelings, my emotions distorting my memories of my childhood. When I asked this to my grandpa he started crying, he started crying because he could not believe that I was trying to blame the things that happened on myself, it made him upset that I was second guessing my own memories because I was the one with ADHD, because what I remembered was very true and very sad. He told be the beginning of everything, about 9 months after my sister was born, when I was 3 years old. How my sister continued to steal the toy I was playing with, and after some time I got tired of this, so I stole the toy back and took hers, she started crying and because of this, my father hit me, hard enough for me to have a bruise that lasted 2 weeks. This story shocked me, I knew my father abused me, but I always thought this happened from when I was 10 to 12 years old, not since I was 3. My grandpa continued to tell me stories, he wanted me to know that everything that I thought that had happened was true, that I should never second guess these memories, and that I had every right to be angry with my father. He told me how my father got angry with me because I was too smart, according to my grandpa smarter than him. I remembered that I used to build things with my grandpa from when I was really young, but it turned out my brain had been filtering these memories. My grandpa told me how sometimes my father would walk in on us building things together, how I would show my father what I had learned or what I had build and how he would get angry, how he hit me, how he would forbid me to do this again, how he would take me away, and lock me inside my room. The older I got and the smarter I got, the worse his anger towards me became, and the more my sister turned into his angel. What I do remember, from when I was about 11 years old, is that every day I got a new set of bruises, from how he hit me, tried to choke me or threw things at me. And this physical abuse was not even the worst, those scars healed, but today I am still struggling with the mental scars, of never being good enough, of never being accepted and being screamed at, with words like worthless, useless and a shame.

The funny thing here is that my father also had (undiagnosed) ADHD. When I look back now I keep wondering how it could be that he did not understand me, why he did not see himself, his own struggles in me and knew how to help me. But if I look at him today I know he is still not able to help himself, he has still no control over his ADHD, he still did not improve himself. He basically still has his childhood ADHD, which is extremely dangerous combined with the power of a grown up man. Strangely I feel sad for him, I cannot imagine the pain he must feel from all the times his ADHD controlled him, of all the people he has hurt because of this of all the struggles he must have had with everything in his lonely little life. He also scares me, what if I ever have children and loose control over my ADHD, what will I do to them? Or even without children, if I loose control I will end up like him, and this scares me, but this also give me strength to keep fighting, to keep getting better, and to never ever become like him.

4 thoughts on “ADHD childhood struggles

  1. Ooh honey!!! This post was very hard to read but eye opening for me. I am a mom of a wonderful sunny 6.5 yrs old girl with ADHD. Everything you say about yourself and how you were as a child applies to her. I’ve always knows she was different, she just wouldn’t sit still comparison to my friends’ kids. I am glad i followed my intuition and got her diagnosed early enough.
    She also has never been big on playing with dolls. She is a tom boy and i am proud of her- she is independent, runs wild with the boys kn her scooter, loves wearing blue and building legos. She is who she is and i will never try to change her to fit in the stupid society stereotypes of “little princesses with pink dresses”. Fuck that!
    But i need your help so i can help her. What can i do to make it better for her? How can i help her with school work? I am really struggling with this and am lost.


    1. It is so nice to hear that you accept you’re daughter the way she is! This really makes me happy!
      When it comes to school I’m not sure if I’m the right person to help you. When I was young I never did my homework, luckily I was smart enough to pass school without it. I did come up with some methods I still use today to keep me focused at work, which might also help with homework. The first thing I think is to not push it, often it’s really better to just take 5 to 15 minutes of something else, or completely nothing to get ready, or get back into it. Usually I use this time to make a list of what I need to do, step by step, in a kind of drawing, this way I do something I like, drawing, while cutting the big task up into little peaces. My drawings are like schemes, that I can colour after I finished one of the tasks, this way I get a kind if reward everytime I manage to complete one and I feel more motivated to start, because it will mean finishing this drawing. Once I start and I notice I’m completely distracted I try to put some motivating music or play with something in my hand. And if I really have to remember something, I try to study while walking, the physical activity seems to get my mind to focus. I remember from University that it was a combination of physical activities and making things interesting for myself.
      I hope this can help you a little, bit I do think these things will be different for every ADHD brain, and finding the ways that work can be hard. But since you are open to helping her so much I believe you two will find a way!

      Liked by 1 person

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