One Man’s Story: Growing Up Undiagnosed ADHD

growing up undiagnosed ADHD

My Rugged Reality of ADHD

By Dylan Rosen

Do not read this if you are looking for a “Happy ADHD Story.” I do not have the gold medals of Michael Phelps or the arm of Terry Bradshaw. My life has been a struggle from the time I walked into first grade to my current age of 30. If you want something real and authentic to someone’s experience growing up with undiagnosed ADHD, however, I hope you will read on.

A Silent Struggle

When I was in elementary school, my ADHD symptoms were as classic as the Rolling Stones were to Rock ‘n Roll. However, I did very well. Teachers always said I was bright.

I did well in middle school too, even making the president’s list one marking period.

As I moved from middle school to high school, a couple things changed. My grades went from A’s and B’s to C’s and D’s. My relationships changed too. I grew apart from old friends and was not able to make new ones. I viewed myself as a loner, a recluse. My confidence was slipping, and I had begun to experience the awful taste of depression.

The pressure from my school’s academic standards became unbearable. I did not do well under that pressure, coupled with the negativity I always received at home. My parents expected high academic performance from me. After bringing home a poor interim report one semester, I was threatened to be sent to technical school, which frightened me. Going to trade school, growing up where I lived, was a sign of absolute failure.

growing up undiagnosed ADHD

Feeling Worthless and Alone

I do not understand why my parents did not see me trying. After trying to complete my assignments, I’d finally get bored and find something else more stimulating like a video game. My best attempts at reading still meant I fell asleep.

Other issues began to seep into my academic life. I did not know how to manage my time. I could not sustain attention or plan out future activities. Projects in the future became a terrible task. I could not figure out ways to accomplish them. These abilities are crucial when you are grappling with learning about DNA or Julius Caesar.

I felt worthless and alone at the age of 15. I would cry a lot because I was not good enough. My mom was verbally abusive and would even punch me with a closed fist. Just after turning 16,  I moved out of her home into my dad’s apartment.  This brought positive change to my life.

It did now, however, improve my grades.

growing up undiagnosed ADHD


No One Saw That I Was Trying

Regarding my grade, my dad treated me the same way my mom and stepdad did. C’s were not good enough, even if I tried my best. I always had this sense that I was not trying hard enough. My dad failed to see that I was trying. Working on chemistry, I’d  get that sense of tiredness in my eyes and stop.

I felt shame and also felt like I was a disappointment. I also had that feeling of being alone, a lifelong theme.

The years of negative attention and constantly being told what I did not do right took its toll on me. I felt like I could not be myself, and the world had made its statement:  You got all A’s but you still got a C in math.

I limped into community college.

The same themes present in high school continued in college. I took a semester or two off and had multiple classes where I received “F”s. I felt really down on myself for not completing my education as the people I grew up with did.

I did not complete my Associate’s Degree until five years after I started. I was married by this time.

growing up with undiagnosed ADHD


Struggles Grew Worse But Not Ready to “Seek Treatment”

My mental health struggles continued, and depression made my life very challenging. Depression affected my relationship with my new wife and at work. I was not ready to seek treatment.

My work struggles began within the first couple months of marriage. I was let go at my job probably because I was not catching on quickly enough. I had one job where I was yelled at for not being able to find tools or because I did not understand something quickly.

The boss, who yelled a lot, was always ready to jump down my throat. I was not trying to be a poor employee. All along I felt awful about myself and the feeling that I was in my own world of trouble, a desert without a human in sight.

During this time, I began to experience anxiety.

growing up with undiagnosed ADHD

Confusion Becomes Clarity

About three years later, my wife and I had decided to break up. What came next was life-changing.

In the summer of 2006, I began seeking treatment for anxiety through my family doctor. I also went to see a therapist, who revealed the bigger challenge of my life.

After answering a questionnaire in our second session, she said, “You have ADHD and you’ve had it your whole life.” I felt relief like a traveling and parched nomad, finally finding a well in a barren desert.

Several years later, my life is alright. I own a condo and received my Bachelor’s degree, graduating Magna Cum Laude.  It took me ten years to complete. The same year I graduated with my degree, I was fired from my job. I was not getting enough work done.

I cannot help but wonder how I slipped through the cracks laid by people who were supposed to be looking out for me. Recently, I have been pondering why they were not able to reach me when I was a kid, even without the ADHD diagnosis. I was bombarded by negative messages on my report cards about my school work. They have never left me.

I am a living example of the damage this disorder can do to someone’s life.  I am an example of how doing your very best with what you have been given is still not good enough.  I am constantly compensating for insecurities, which are probably due to my poor relationship with my mom and also never measuring up to what was expected of me.

growing up undiagnosed ADHD

And Some Hope

I have some positive things in my life, which bring me hope. I dream of being married again but know how challenging it will be to find someone who is safe and understanding.

I am a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters.  My “little” has some medical problems, and I picked him for this reason.  It has been a joy for me to spend time with him and give him things I did not receive as a boy.  Big Brothers and Big Sisters has taught me boundaries to use when I interact with him.

My heart crumbled when my “little” told my supervisor he loved me.

The major joy in my life is my participation in an online community dedicated to people with ADHD.  I am among great people and finally feel like I am not alone. I finally have what I have always deserved regardless of what or how I did something.

This is love, support, and acceptance.

Dylan and I welcome your comments. Just scroll down the page; no registration or annoying codes to enter.

This post originally appeared Dec 1, 2011.


99 thoughts on “One Man’s Story: Growing Up Undiagnosed ADHD”

  1. Omar Abdullah

    It’s unfortunate that Dylan has had a difficult experience growing up with undiagnosed ADHD, but it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is unique. While his story highlights the challenges he faced, it does not represent the experiences of all individuals with ADHD. Many individuals with ADHD have found success and fulfillment in various areas of life, seeking proper diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve their overall well-being.

    1. Yeah, “gaslighting” the reality of thousands (even millions) of adults with late-diagnosis ADHD is not something I welcome.

      If you’re trying to lecture me on the enormous range of experiences among individuals with ADHD, you should read more of my blog — and my work. 🙂


  2. Undiagnosed and wanting help. My life has been filled w struggles. Plus a divorce, and ruined relationships.I’m over 50 too. A Loss of a job got me into a deep depression …… financially I’m at a very low point. Will things improve ?

    1. Hi Linda,

      I feel for you. Your situation sounds bleak right now.

      I can’t read your future, but I suspect things will start looking up when you get on board with an evaluation and treatment.

      And if you’ve already done that (been evaluated and take medication), you might want to revisit your approach to medication, diet, sleep, and substance use.

      take care,

  3. I can relate to so much of this story. I was lucky enough to get a good group of friends early and I’ve maintained those relationships for 18-24 years. Because I needed to keep up with them, I was always pushed to maintain my grades, so they didn’t deteriorate until my third year in college when raw ability couldn’t make up for not being able to focus in class. If you have solid relationships, make sure to to reach out on a semi-regular basis. I keep birthdays in my to-do-list app and have a weekly task scheduled to give one of them a call. It keeps the depression and anxiety away.

  4. Mary Whitman

    Good read. Thank you for this! Oh so much respect for this man thank you for sharing your experiences!

  5. Hearing other’s stories and experiences helps. I got diagnosed at 58 (18 months ago). Still being here is a victory. However, some days it feels like a hollow victory when I can’t see beyond my past. Yet I get up everyday hoping things will be better and go to bed thanking the Creator for the day. And some days just getting out of bed is the best I can do. One step at a time. Peace & love.

  6. Thanks for your response Gina, it put a big smile on my face.

    I saw him for a 3 month follow-up appointment.

    I told him that things are much better and that the anxiety which brought me close to the outskirts of insanity has shrunk substantially. “I now feel like I can carry on” I told him. “But the problem still exists and so does much of the anxiety”. He then asked me: “Did you read the book I told you to get last time”? “No” I replied. He told me to get it on the way home. “Getting the love you want by Harville Hendrix, read it cover to cover, get your wife to do the same”.
    If it was anyone else I probably wouldn’t have listened, but he proved himself a wise man, so I obeyed.

    Being exposed to this book with the aid of my new brain has been an eye opener and a heart opener.
    “I feel that sorting out my ADD issue didn’t directly solve all problems, but it was the foundation needed to enable growth in all aspects”. J-Dub

    1. Hi J-Dub,

      A very smart neurologist indeed!

      Harville Hendrix is a lovely, wise man. He has been very generous to my mission.

      He provided an endorsement of “You Me ADD” (maybe you saw it in the front matter) and then another for our couple-therapy book, wherein we adopted the Imago model to help ADHD-challenged couples create more fruitful, harmonious communication. You might want to check it out:

      I am basing much of the online training for ADHD-challenged couples on the couple therapy book. The site is here:

      Here are Dr. Hendrix’s endorsements of my work:

      Most books on marriage offer insights and help to common marital problems such as the traditional conflicts around sex, money, children, time, and in-laws. They offer credible solutions such as conflict management, improved communication, and problem solving skills.

      This book is different. For some couples, these problems are exacerbated by the often unnoticed presence of a particular neural wiring in the brain, called Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, that makes traditional solutions ineffective. This book describes ADHD in detail and with empathy and helps couples with this added challenge find hope and solutions.

      I recommend it highly to all couples whose troubles seem incomprehensible, and for all couples therapists it should be required reading to help them distinguish between ordinary conflict and the roller coaster of this syndrome.

      — Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., author of Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples and co-developer of Imago Relationship Therapy

      First came cutting edge theory in Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?, shining light in the darkness for couples living with the amazing complications of one or both partners having ADHD.

      Now comes a luminous clinical guide for Adult ADHD-Focused Couple Therapy, helping therapists identify the essential elements of the therapeutic process for successful outcome, including therapy models ranging from medications to cognitive-behavioral to couples therapy.

      The thoroughness and clarity of the theory and therapy, and the voluminous sources and research citations, make these two books a seminal contribution to the field.

      –Harville Hendrix, PhD and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, Getting the Love You Want and Making Marriage Simple

  7. Dear Dylan,
    Thank you for sharing your story.
    I am 31 and have been diagnosed with ADD a few months ago. What triggered my concern was that my 7 year old daughter had been diagnosed with ADHD and I noticed that my daughter and I, have many awfully similar traits.
    I first went to a certain neurologist and complained about attention issues. He gave me a questionnaire which I filled out on the spot. He looked at the paper and said: “Maybe you have it but maybe you don’t. Go to a hospital to do a written test which will help us find out”. I didn’t do it. I wasn’t interested in travelling, spending money or time on this. I thought to myself that it’s so unlikely I have ADHD. After all, I got through school (without cheating TOO much), and anyways, even if I do have attention issues, how much can it be affecting my life at this stage?

    A few months later, I went to a neurologist who turned out to be a superstar (I didn’t know it at the time). I went in order to complain about two issues: Anxiety and attention issues. I decided to give it another try. All be it, the main purpose of this appointment was to seek help for my anxiety which was becoming unbearable.
    I had prepared my case in advance and planned my presentation.

    The 25-minute appointment went something like this:

    Me: I would like to speak to you about two issues (I did not mention them yet).
    The 1st one is anxiety: I went through my list of things which trigger anxiety throughout my day. Included in the list was one specific trigger which caused such anxiety, that I couldn’t carry on, something needed to change because I was slowly cracking.

    When I concluded the anxiety section, the side doctor looks at me and says: “Do you have attention problems”?

    Silence. A moment of silence was taking place in which the aforementioned, life-changing words were to be absorbed into my brain.

    I told him that that was the 2nd issue I had come for. I decided to go through my list of attention issues. I mentioned the 1st one when he stopped me short. He asked “Are you hyper active? I answered negatively. He said “So you have ADD and not ADHD”. I told him that I have a long list I didn’t manage to tell him about yet but he wasn’t interested.

    “I heard all I need to hear”, said he. “It is clearly ADD”. He told me that sorting out the ADD will eventually fix the other stuff. He told me to do regular exercise and to get a certain book which will help me with the unbearable anxiety.

    I asked: How can it be that I survived school and accomplished other difficult tasks with ADD, and what changed now that caused this to be discovered?

    The Doctor responded with yet more words of wisdom: Till now you’ve been single, with yourself only to look after, so you managed to get through school etc. despite ADD, now you’re taking your ADD into a relationship and fatherhood, this is why you’re not coping NOW.

    I told him about my experience with the other neurologist to which he responded with a smile: “That’s why people come here”.

    Something I learned from this is that there are two types of neurologists:

    1) The ones who know what their talking about.
    2) The others.

    This may be useful information to some.

    I am writing this about 5 months after this episode.

    I am on Concerta and I have put exercise into my schedule. I feel like a different person. I feel like I now have a brain and a very powerful one.

    I am noticing things around me and deriving principles from situations.

    I am discovering talents, confidence and strength I never knew I had. I feel like many opportunities are slowly coming my way and new wonderful paths are unfolding in front of me.

    1. Woweeeee!

      Now that’s the kind of commend I LOVE to read, J-Dub.

      And THANK YOU for detailing your story about “The Two Types of Neurologists.”

      I’d say that’s true throughout the medical profession: Some rise to the top and keep abreast of the emerging science and some….well, they graduated medical school in 1964, as a neurologist, and write “ADHD Does Not Exist.” 🙂

      How ASTUTE….for that neurologist to explain to you what I must explain to people (because their MDs don’t).

      Do you still see him? Please give him a big thank you from me.


  8. Thank you for sharing your story. Your words are a pain and a balm. Tears can be very healing and your narrative cerainly brought those. I’ve never heard anyone else mention the thing with ‘tired eyes’. When I was six, I started experiencing insomnia because the house I grew up in was noisy and chaotic. I had started reading and read until my eyes got tired, and could then not sleep. When my eyes wouldn’t get tired from reading easily, I did those things with a pencil the doctor does when they are checking how well your eyes track.

    I was able to learn how to schedule studies in college because the counselling center at my college realized that I had never had to study and didn’t know how to study or organize time. Maybe it’s because I’d been referred into therapy when I was 19 by an organization I volunteered with, after an unpleasant episode in my life.

    1. Hi Nine,

      Thanks for your comment.

      It’s amazing, isn’t it, the resourcefulness that we humans can draw upon to cope with so many things.

      Still, a six-year-old shouldn’t have to cope on his own. 🙁


  9. Great post Dylan. UN-diagnosed ADHD is terrible to live with. I didn’t realize I had it until I was age 58. I went in for marriage counseling (again!) for as we all know – it puts a strain on marriages. Fortunately the counsel I had was well aware of ADHD because he ‘is one’ himself. When he revealed to me how my ‘symptoms & issues’ lined up wt ADHD – the light went on and I just began to cry – as all of a sudden life made sense. I had always felt like the light switch was turned on put the full connection didn’t occur or like I was always standing on the outside of window looking in – always outside. Then I cried more as I read Gina’s book and others that confirmed so much. I didn’t have the classic symptom of doing poor in school – I was a B student and I made it through college in the same way. Back then we didn’t have ADHD issues we had ‘bad boy’ issues in school. My problem was always overcompensating or trying so hard because I knew something wasn’t like it should be – Like Sam’s story, some of the hardest working people are people wt ADHD – many succeed but there is that always nagging ‘I’m not good enough or I’m missing something’. My big issue is distraction, impulsiveness and follow through. On the outward I may appear OK – corp credit mgr and adjunct business prof – but inwardly it is always a struggle to grasp complex issues, data and most importantly relationships. My wife and I decided not to go the ‘drug route’ so I use supplements, cognitive thinking practices and try to use other practical means to control. Speaking of, I got distracted reading the email leading to this post and I need to get back to work!! Dylan, God Bless you for sharing and Gina Thanks for all you do. You are a help and a blessing to us all.

    1. Dear Ron,

      Thanks for riding the roller coaster with us.

      We appreciate your comment!

      P.S. Might be worth a try at rx…it’s not like cutting off a leg, ya know. 🙂

      Couldn’t resist.

  10. Serafina Polito

    @Gina Peru
    Thank you for your feedback.
    Im in Australia.
    Today I am spent of energy.
    I won’t give up though.
    Ill keep soldiering on somehow.
    Thanks heaps.

    1. Ah yes, Australia has its pockets of awareness — and the vast empty spaces.

      But I know there are enough knowledgeable people there that you can make some connections.

      You have a right to healthcare that helps you live a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life.

      That “psychologist” can go jump in the lake!


  11. Serafina Polito

    @Dylan, I just read your story and it made me cry.
    I am 53 years old. My 3 sons have all moved out of the family home in last year and I am for the 1st time in my life left with just me.
    I self diagnosed with ADD in 2012. After my life had reached rock bottom I pin pointed to ‘impulsivity’ being a main culprit to my downfall. After surfing the internet I found symptoms of ADHD and I could relate to all of them.
    Even at school. I was in a top math class at one time and the next thing I could not grasp what was being taught and was put in a lower math group.
    Hiding behind being a wife and a mother for 28 years has kept me focused on what my duties for the day were.
    But now, divorced twice, children who don’t need me and failure to have developed close friendships leaves me isolated.
    Yesterday I went to see a psychologist.
    I must learn to live with this change in my life so I’m calling for help.
    I told her I suffer with ADHD.
    She doesn’t believe that exists.
    She was quite harsh with me. Telling me what the brain needs is my responsability and that it’s a part of life that children move on.
    I have to give my brain Endorphins and Dopamine which you get from excercise and food.
    And I can manage the Flight or Fight chemical Cortisol she says.
    I’ve worked as a nurse 5 years ago but have since stayed home to try learn how to run my home life better.
    It is most challenging! I’d rather build a house than get mastery over home duties!

    I own a dog and a cat. I use my left over energy to look after them and be a responsible pet owner.

    As far as exercising myself?
    Eating well? I sustain an Eating Disorder and I’ve just now got a handle on a Foodplan with the help of OA.

    I am only surviving.

    I don’t know much about how I’m going to cope with my life right now, but, one thing I do know is, this psychologist has given me all she has and cannot help me further.

    I am left saddened.

    But, thankyou for your story.
    Much appreciated.


    1. Hi Serafina,

      Here is my first thought about that alleged “psychologist”: HOW DARE SHE!


      It’s not that I haven’t heard stories like yours for years. It inspired an entire chapter in my first book (“How Bad Therapy is Worse Than No Therapy”).

      Can I know for sure that you have ADHD? That this “psychologist” is wrong?

      No, I cannot. But in my many years of experience, adults such as you don’t hit upon ADHD on a whim — or as an excuse. Instead, it comes as a massive epiphany….”You mean that’s why….”

      Speaking of eating disorders, you know that ADHD is associated with greater risk of obesity and eating disorders, right? Medication treatment often helps.

      You don’t mention….do you live in Italy? My home country is one of Europe’s worst when it comes to recognizing ADHD. But everywhere, there are pockets of enlightenment.

      I hope that you don’t give up. That psychologist is an idiot. Moreover, a MEAN idiot. She doesn’t “believe” in ADHD? Please tell her that 1,000s of research scientists and clinicians much smarter and more capable than she is have settled that question. We don’t care about her little opinion.

      Please don’t listen to her.


    2. That IS terrible. That therapist should look at Dr. Daniel Amen’s SPECT scans which clearly show that the brains of individuals with ADHD work differently than a neurotypical individual.
      I heard that the college that she earned her degree from called and wants her diploma back. Or at least they should!
      Any individual that is judgmental should NOT be a therapist. A therapist should leave their personal opinions and judgment at the door, and if they cannot then they should not be a therapist, period.
      Therapists are supposed to be advocates for all individuals with mental health and/or learning disabilities. A good therapist also has empathy, your therapist sounds like she doesn’t even know what empathy is. Nothing makes me angrier than when people working in mental health fields are judgmental and closed-minded. They need to get a different job.

  12. Dylan, thanks for sharing your story so well. As it happened I had just come back from my son’s doctor where we had a very serious meeting about his rejection and defiance at school. He’s had ADHD as long as I can remember is also on the spectrum as well. So he too has been suffering for years about all those, “You’re a loser!” Messages that get lobbed at him everyday. I think he will really like your story.
    Oh, and about Michael Phelps, he’s so often used as an adhd success story and he is a remarkable person. However, I stumbled on his “It Gets Better” video where he talks about his problems with depresssion and suicidal ideation. Even while he was winning all those medals he was thinking that he was a loser and wasn’t deserving of anything. So even getting that amount of fame did’nt make him feel good about himself. So I guess self acceptance is a long path for us all

    1. Hi Clare,

      I’ll send a “thank you” from Dylan. I know your comment means a lot to him.

      I’m sorry to hear about your son. When I hear such stories, I always want to ask…”are you SURE his treatment is as good as it can be?” Because, in my experience, most of the time treatment falls very far short.

      So far short that clinicians are likely to assign ADHD symptoms to Autistic Spectrum disorders.

      Re: Michael Phelps. I’m afraid his is a very complex story. Yes, he’s held up as an ADHD success story, and I know it’s important to have role models. But I’ve always hoped he’d be more forthcoming about his ADHD, particularly in managing it.

      He seems defiantly in denial of his ADHD, however, refusing to see his “depression” and other challenges as almost quite certainly (untreated) ADHD fallout. He seems to think therapy is the answer but from the interviews I’ve read, he seems mentally lost in rationalizations and psychobabble. His mother was openly critical of the ADHD diagnosis, not that she is a neuroscience expert.

      When a person lacks the “ego strength” that comes from strong prefrontal cortex functioning, the person often feels only as good as his/her last success, last achievement. Then it’s back to the loser status. The constant needing of outer affirmation…it might motivate a person, but it isn’t always internalized. This is a definite risk for many with untreated ADHD: to keep chasing reward after reward and always being disappointed. That seems to me where Phelps is stuck. What a high it must be to win all those medals. What a low it must be to be unable to keep doing that when so much of your sense of self seems to depend upon it.

      Dopamine is released in anticipation of the reward, not in having it. For some people with poorly managed ADHD, this means that they lose all interest an item once they purchase it or lose all interest in their betrothed on their wedding night. What goes UP must come DOWN.

      Ah, but depression is always more socially acceptable. People who scoff at ADHD will speak in hushed, respectful tones about depression. Go figure.

      I wish your son all the best.


  13. Donna Marie Mattera

    I found out that I had ADHD when I was 60 years old.
    I have worked hard and did not give up, but am sure the ADHD made things harder. I am also a highly sensitive person and that has helped me. I ,of course, would have preferred to have been diagnosed when I was much younger. I read “Driven To Distraction” and self diagnosed myself.

    I would love to correspond with other people who have ADHD of course.

    I wish you all the best Dylan.
    Sincerely, Donna Marie

    1. Hi Donna Marie,

      Thanks for your comment. Good for you — you didn’t give up.

      My friends who have ADHD are some of the most persevering people I know. No matter how flattening one day is, the next day they are up and at it again.

      Of course, ADHD is a highly variable spectrum condition, and there are other aspects to personality. Some manage to do okay in life, despite the struggles, but others never get a chance.


  14. Hi,
    Thanks a lot for your post. My question is about denying the ADHD condition. My husband and I are going to marital consulting and looks like he has ADHD, he definitely is denying and completely refuses to get a deep diagnosis an treatment. Things between us are getting really bad day after day, he lost his job and he is still rejecting any diagnosis and help. he believes that I am the cause or all the bad things. I am very ready to divorce because things are getting very out of control, but we have a 1 year old son and I am 3 months pregnant. My last hope is for him to start treatment and therapy o whatever is needed but for now that hope looks impossible. I do not understand why he does not want to get help, because he complains a lot about his unhappiness and depression and firs and very low self esteem.

    1. Hi Aida,

      There are many reasons for “denial” around ADHD. It can be partly caused by the symptoms themselves.

      Here is another blog post I wrote on the topic:

      You will need to learn all you can about Adult ADHD in order to get help, especially before the baby arrives.

      I encourage you to read my book. Pronto.

      Good luck!

  15. I am having trouble accepting my husband’s ADHD which was diagnosed 1.5 years ago. He is getting treatment. His first focus was to do well at work because he simultaneously got a very demanding job. Now I’m realizing it’s time for him to focus on how he behaves at home, which is atypical ADHD but still a roller coaster. He says things without thinking them through to me, and thinks he’s right, so I go with what he says and then often realize he didn’t think it through and I get very angry. Even with treatment, I cannot expect him to be stable in his thinking. So I feel I can’t trust what he says, and just when I get to trusting him again, he’ll say something without thinking it through and I can’t trust again, so it’s that kind of roller coaster. Plus, it takes so much mental energy for him to do well at work that when he comes home he’s exhausted. I can’t get past the fact he is always trying so hard and I’m sick of it being such a huge effort. Plus, I’m sick and tired of helping him with it. I don’t think life should be such a big struggle – he also has a bit of a child neediness mentality which makes him look at having adhd as this huger than necessary hurdle. I get it’s INCREDIBLY hard for him but his limitations bother me. Yes I know every man has imperfections but I feel tired, so tired, from dealing with this. The love is seeping away.

    1. I hear you, Jackie. Every person with ADHD is different. We can’t make any blanket conclusions or offer any blanket advice. Each person must do what’s right for his or her own life.

      That said, I always question when people say someone is “in treatment,” because I know that most treatment is sub-par.

      I would wonder if your husband’s medication is even active when he is interacting with you, in the evenings or on the weekends.

      I also wonder if you both could use some strategies that help you to know when he’s just saying something impulsively and when he really means it.

      good luck sorting this out,

  16. Thank you all for your posts. I almost wanted to cry as I read them. My husband was diagnosed with ADHD after my daughter was. We had been married for almost ten years at that point. I am constantly surrounded by chaos and mess. Things are forgotten and mother’s day went by without as much as an acknowledgement from him. I am a school teacher, so I understand what ADD does in the classroom, but I had no idea how it affected so much of daily life. I need to know how to get his attention and get him to help and do things around the house. He stays home with the kids and that has been a disaster, but it did not make financial sense for him to drive the distance that he was driving to go to a job where he was basically working to be able to pay the sitter. Okay, honestly it has not been a complete disaster. I have noticed that the kids are a lot closer to him now that he has been home with them during the day for the last year and a half. I am thankful for that, but the simple necessary things get forgotten about. I get home from work late in the afternoon or early evening and the kids are not even dressed or haven’t brushed their teeth yet. The youngest one has eaten all of the junk food and left food all around the house and he is sitting in front of the computer. I know that he loves us, but I do not know how much longer I can handle the stress of it. Plus, the kids are starting to learn his habits. Plus, the oldest has ADD. I am wondering about the other two, but it is too early to tell.

    I am so sorry. I am pretty sure that this probably sounds like a lot of ranting and I have probably lost the whole point of this somewhere. I just needed a chance to vent where my husband would not be criticized. I can’t talk about this with anyone, because as was stated by another person, people begin to believe that he is lazy. Please send any advice that you may have and thank you again for sharing your story and affirming what is going on here.

    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Melissa,

      I’m glad you found us. It sounds like your husband is diagnosed but not pursuing any treatment?

      If he is the stay-at-home dad, he needs to start addressing his ADHD-related challenges. Kids need routines, organization, and conscientious supervision.

      I recommend that you educate yourself fully about Adult ADHD and its treatment strategies. You could start with my book. There’s no getting around the fact that you’ll have to invest more time and effort to learn how to turn things around at home. Your kids will benefit from this.


  17. @Angela, thank you for reading and posting your comment. It makes the writing worth it all over again.

    You’re learning something so valuable to a spouse: people with ADD have real struggles.

    The difficulty your DH has had with chores and giving you special attention are real. It’s not because he doesn’t care or love you, and he probably even wishes he was doing better. I can remember telling my ex that I was going to do help around the house, and I never followed through.

    The more you learn about ADD the easier it will be for you to handle his struggles and what he can and can’t do.

    Gina’s right about her book. It’s really informative and provides information from leading researchers.


  18. Where to start!?!? I appreciate the time people take to put their story out there so that others can learn from them. I’m struggling with how to maintain a strong relationship with my husband. I’ve been married to my add/adhd husband going on 6yrs this May. We started out as high school friends back ’94. Our first year 2006 of marriage seemed to be like any other, the honeymoom phase. *note* my husband is military, going on 15yrs now. I was never made aware until 2009 of the fact that he had add/adhd as a child & that he was still struggling. During our second year of marriage we started having huge communication problems. We (should I say “I”) first blew it off and attributed it to his deployment to Iraq. Things began getting more & more difficult to deal with, especially getting his help to do household chores & giving me special attention. These past 3years have been tearing us further apart. I’ve ask him to seek help to little avail. I feel as if I’m reaching my breaking point over this. But after reading Dylan’s story & other’s postings has shed a new light for me & has me hoping that maybe we can go see someone together to help coach us in understanding & managing his add/adhd better so that we can stay strong together. I have come to realize that my actions & reactions have played a part in our tumbling marriage due to not understanding add/adhd & being hurt by it so much. But I also understand that it is a two way street & that I can’t fix him. So now it is time to figure out if this is something that I am strong enough & accepting enough to work thru this. Any guidance or direction in where to seek help would be greatly appreciated. I love my husband, I want to make our marriage work. Thank You to all who have enlighten those of us who did not have an fuller understanding of what ADD/ADHD is all about. I must sign off now as I have life duties that are calling my name to get done. We are currently located in the Fort Campbell, KY/ Clarksville TN area. So if anyone out is willing to help , I’d like to be able to get together with others to be able to build a support system to help each other out with managing living with ADD/ADHD and our loved ones. Thank you again for your stories & I hope haven’t bored anyone with my own. ambiasca@gmailcom

    1. Hi Angela,

      It would be great if you could tap into local support. You could check the CHADD website to see if there is a chapter nearby. If not, you could see if there are chapters in KY or TN that would be willing to work with you as a satellite. CHADD members also can access online discussion groups.

      In the meantime, if you haven’t read my book (Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?), I encourage you to do so. It’s not enough to seek help; there is too much variability in clinicians. You need to be able to assess their knowledge, and that relies on your educating yourself first. I wrote my book to be a comprehensive guide for everyone (partners of, adults with ADHD, and clinicians) to understand Adult ADHD’s many manifestations and its evidence-based treatment strategies.

      Good luck,

  19. @CEReid, thank you for your comment and reading my story. I still get chills at the thought that someone has read something of mine.

    It’s not easy to recognize how hard someone with ADD is trying when you don’t “see” what’s going on inside him/her. Most people with ADD try to be the best they can, I think. Unfortunately, many factors can get in the way of their efforts, making them seem selfish, uncaring, lazy, etc.

    I was killing time the other night in a bookstore and came across a book I bought when I was married. In short, it was about not letting the small, daily annoyances bother you or bring you down. I bought that book when I didn’t know I had ADD while I was still married. I guess I thought I was stressed out. It offered great insight but didn’t fix my problems. I really was trying. I don’t think my ex realized how much though.

    An understanding person can mean so much to someone with ADD. The new path you are on will probably lead your new friend to appreciate you so much. Thank you for your open mind.

  20. Hello Dylan & Gina. I must say that I am so happy to have found this blog! I am in new relationship/friendship that I was about to end because of ignorance. I met this wonderfully intelligent man and from all accounts he seemed to be a candidate for a long term relationship.

    Fast forward to the inconsistencies, disappearances, lack of follow-thru & a defensive attitude. I felt like I was going crazy. It seemed as if he was contridicting EVERYTHING he said to me.

    He told me he had adhere in the beginning. I just thought he was a lil hyper, but after reading your blog I am sad but relieved that it isn’t what I thought. Thank you all for sharing your stories because I can approach this differently. I don’t have to end this relationship, I am now motivated to be more understanding, patient and loving towards him.

    My hope is that I didn’t make him feel worthless or that I was overly criticle of his behavior. Thanks for the eye OPENER!

    1. Hi CE

      I’m happy to hear that this blog (and in particular, Dylan’s post) has bridged the gap for you.

      Please know that your being understanding and patient is a wonderful way to meet your partner halfway. But also know that, when left untreated, ADHD can be debilitating and create a lot of chaos for everyone in the vicinity. In other words, it’s also your friend’s responsibility to do his best to manage ADHD symptoms.

      Best of luck to you both!

  21. @Another Phil, I wanted to congratulate you on your success, and I appreciate the snippet of the story you shared about your life.

    I want to validate your struggle though and the challenges you currently face.

    I really wanted to look at the positive effects of ADD. I wanted to find things that made me feel good. That lasted for approximately four years. Dr. Barkley’s letter to the media changed my thinking.

    When I realized how much people with ADD suffer, my entire outlook changed. I became more aware of what it can do to someone’s life, even though I already knew what it’s done to mine.

    I think the name of ADD is inaccurate and needs to be changed. The name, “ADD,” is not taken seriously nor does it represent the true nature of what ADD is. ADD is really a disorder about executive functions (activating to a task, planning, sustained attention, etc.).

    ADDers have many qualities and are amazing people. I don’t give credit to ADD though.

    Maybe you’re more playstation, and I’m more Xbox. Keep on fighting the good fight. I’m rooting for ya.:)

  22. Another Phil

    Thank You and Yes, Not many people understand the biology part and end up jumping to the negative conclusions.

    I believe we kind of hurt ourselves, too. Using the word “Deficit” bugs me; it gives the connotation that there is something “wrong” with ADD/ADHD people.
    Whereas, I have seen and read that many, if not most, ADD/ADHD people are very creative and very bright, even above average in intelligence. I wish more people heard that part of ADD/ADHD and not just the negatives. It would also be nice to hear more successes of the creative side and not just the failures from not fitting into rigid, conformity minded, over structured education system. Granted, I thrive with structure, it just has to be a positive, challenge based and not negative, criticism based.

    Being on proper Med’s has made a difference for me, between being an unfulfilled smart person or someone that is trying to make a contribution in life.

    1. Agreed: The current name (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is most unfortunate. Too bad no one thought to ask the marketing department. 😉

      As for your other point, I think we have all heard MANY success stories of ADHD, so much so that the public has sometimes gotten the impression that all people with ADHD should start their own airlines or devise a new theory of relativity. 😉

      Balance in all things seems wise to me. And the fact is, people with ADHD fall along the same bell curve as the general population when it comes to “creativity” (a thing that is extremely hard to measure) and intelligence.

      My philosophy is to meet each person with ADHD where he or she is rather than forcing individuals into some imaginary preconception, glorious or inglorious. And that means identifying the challenges so that solutions can be found and the person can get on with life!

  23. Dylan and Gina,
    Born in ’62, I raised in rural southern settings all my life. Of course They did not know what ADHD was, so when, in 1st grade I was given an I.Q. test and I scored in the Genius level, My teacher cried because she thought I was the opposite.
    Since then, I was called “Lazy”, because my parents knew I could do the work, proved yearly by scoring “Advanced” academically, in the yearly testing. My father, who was diagnosed in his 50’s, literally beat me on report card day. I failed the classes but, killed on the testing. No one ever figured anything was wrong with me that good old hard work and self discipline couldn’t fix.
    In my 8th gr. year, they even decided that, since I scored in the advanced range of on the testing, I should be put in advanced Math and Science. I died in the Math class getting D’s and F’s all year but thrived in Science. Then, to cap it all off, I again scored in the advanced ranges for Math and Science. My response was “Wow, I failed the class but know more than I was taught. Something is not right”.
    I was right. After my father saw himself and his 3 son’s, in an article, about this newly discovered brain condition called ADHD. He had himself tested then when he had his mind blown by the positive effect of the med’s he called and had myself and 2 brothers tested.
    It’s been 25 years on proper medication, and I have completed 4years in the Air Force as a Lab Tech, a completed B.A. (I was in my Jr. year when diagnosed) and just 3 years ago I finished a Master’s Degree in Ed. Tech (4.0 GPA). I have gone through 3 jobs but I have held my current one for 11 years.
    I still struggle with the social aspects of the disorder/blessing but, I have been married, only once and to the same woman for 20 years and have 2 wonderful ADD/ADHD kids, whom I struggle daily with expecting too much of and Not wanting them to “Live up to their Potential”.
    I saw first hand that part of the ADHD Curse is the “You’re such a bright kid” then the “You are NOT living up to your potential!”. I spent most of my life feeling worthless because I knew I was bright but I could NOT prove it by the standards that they wanted.
    Don’t stop Preaching the message that this is real and can be safely treated.

    1. Thanks for your support, Phil, and good for you (and your trailblazing dad!).

      Every time I read ADHD-related newstories’ comments that run along the “give the kid more discipline to ‘cure’ ADHD,” I just think of all the kids in your situation. It’s not a matter of discipline; it’s a matter of biology.

      take care,

  24. Thank you Gina for letting me do this, and I appreciate your commitment to helping people with ADD.


  25. Hi Dylan,

    Again, my heartfelt thanks for sharing your first-person essay with ADHD Roller Coaster readers. I hope you can see how many ripples you sent out. 🙂


  26. @phil, your story is worthy of being told and read.

    I’m sorry for what you’ve been through. PLEASE consider joining an online support forum for people with ADD. You will be able to meet many people with ADD with similar stories as yourself.

    I was considering my own sense of value and self-worth this evening and find I have very little control over it. I practice positive affirmations, but as I stated in my story, the never being good enough message persists in my life.

    Over and over again I consider how I can make something about me better. I’m always on the cusp of anxiety when I feel as though my work might be imperfect. Funny trait for a writer.:) I’m finally becoming more aware of this automatic response and the feelings behind it.

  27. hi Daylan and Gena I can so relate to your story. I hope its ok if I share mine just to get it out so maybe the pain will go away.
    so I will start off my story at the beginning at my birth and this is a story my father always told me and others about me . so here goes.

    when I was born I had blood dripping on my brain they said I as paralyzed on my right side. so I was born in a small town back in 1963 . when the doctors told my father that I had to go to a children s hospital in a ambulance he said he was not paying for the ride .so a nurse said she would hold me so he could drive. so off they went. she had said to him that he had better hurry or I might not make it . his answer was if he lives he lives and if he dies he dies . I guess that was because I am the youngest of nine

    moving on to starting school was hard just because I was trying my best and ether failing or barely passing. always being told I needed to apply myself. this continued until I left school after failing grade nine and being in a traffic accident and missing three months of school. just told to find a job I was 15 years old. my parents were having there own struggles.

    the story is to long so the rest will have to be told latter. at 47 I find out I am adhd with 3 LD’s and now I am all broken and useless and not able to function very well. I will stop, hope I haven’t wasted any ones time. SORRY. I have been told all my life I have no value and suicide is a sin. I think if there is a god he put me here for people to laugh at. not nice.

  28. @Gina, sounds like a great meeting if it went that late!

    Medication is important in the treatment of this disorder, and I know of those, who say it is something to stay away from. I disagree too.

  29. Hiya Dylan,
    Thankyou so much for sharing your story even though it was so touching.
    I disagree that this is not uplifting story of ADHD ,
    what we see is a young man who although he has struggled with his life , school and relationships in the past he is on the up and making great progress,
    dont pull your self down ,you will one day meet the right person for you and it sound like you have a good supportive online family,Bless you Julie

  30. Dennis Bradshaw

    Thanks, you have it pretty right. I found out when I was 57. This late in life, the only real help was starting on stratera. Since I have been on stratera I have not had to drink to pass out to get some peace. Only down side is that even taking the meds, it feels that parts of the adhd get worse with age, short term memory and concentration (maybe just due to the drinking years back) . Mind seems to jump from one thing to another much faster. I see people in one of two different lights. First person doubts it and maybe attacks the idea, the second excepts the notion but has no real idea what is going on.

    1. Hi Dennis,
      Yes, our brains do age. 🙂

      But I bet there’s a lot you can do to shore up the ol’ neurotransmitters. Amino acids help some people, and of course there is exercise, focusing on getting good sleep, and eating well.

      Even though some physicians pooh-pooh the benefits of vitamins/minerals, it’s worth looking into that, too. For example, alcohol can deplete magnesium and B vitamins, both of which are critical to brain/nervous system function.

  31. @Gina, I see your point.

    Part of my perspective comes from an ADD coach I worked with. She impressed it upon me the importance of getting my job satisfaction needs met.

    Recently, I was working in a position, which was writing intensive. I loved many components of the job, but I had some administrative work to tend to. Knowing the thrills of the job, helped me get through the administrative stuff. I think the key is to have enough “good” stuff about the job so the boring tasks, which are inevitable, don’t seem so bad.

    ADDers need enough of the “good” stuff in order to navigate the murky waters of boredom.

    1. Indeed, Dylan…that’s it exactly: Having enough “good” stuff about the job to get you through the boring stuff.

  32. @Gina, you really painted the full scope of what I’m talking about.

    Yes, I do speak from experience, because I’m a pretty good writer. Either that wasn’t highlighted or it wasn’t focused on by the people around me. I was meant to write. I also remember Dr. Hallowell on Good Morning America addressing adult ADDers. He said don’t spend a life time getting good at something you are NOT good at. His advice left an impression on me.

    ADDers are often asked to do things like calculations in their heads or the same things over and over again, which they loathe. When this happens throughout your whole educational experience, you become used to struggle. The ADDer might also blame themselves for their troubles and keep on trying! I wonder if that’s why there are so many ADDers struggling with their careers.

    It’s more important that someone with ADD focus on what they’re good at as opposed to improving a “C” in Math. I think if an ADDer is passing their classes, they are probably doing pretty good. I suppose an issue comes into play as they move into high school and grades become predictors of college attendance. Of course, they need to graduate high school, which is not a given among ADDers.

    I like how you said functional enough, and I think that’s where I am at with math. I know how to calculate percentage off an item at Macy’s or the amount of tax that will be added to a purchase. Ask me to calculate the second derivative and forgetaboutit. 🙂

    1. I hear you, Dylan. Your writing skills are such that it would have been silly to beat yourself up about not being a Math whiz.

      In grade school, I was great at geometry and absolutely obsessed with logorithms, but I spent many sad hours alone at the big table in the back of 4th grade doing long division. And Algebra 2+ left me in the dust. Then I got to college, and found that a good teacher made all the difference. Or else my brain had matured. Or something. I was really happy to find out I wasn’t “dumb” at math. It’s come in very handy.

      Anyway, I know Dr. Hallowell’s message resonated for many people, especially parents who despaired of their children’s future happiness in life. But it can be taken to a dangerous extreme. “Do what you love” has great appeal, and many people were able to follow that advice during what I call the “fake economy” of the last two decades. Now, more stringent demands are made of all of us. The people I’ve seen most on the “bleeding edge” of this new, more demanding economy are people whose ADHD symptoms are still throwing them off course.

      I would still emphasize that people with ADHD (or anyone else) cannot just do what they like all the time (which is often the thing they are good at). Life just doesn’t work like that.

      I would also point out that you’re speaking as someone whose ADHD was not recognized as a youth. Of course it borders on cruel and inhuman punishment to make kids with unrecognized ADHD do repetitive and meaningless exercises. But we’re experiencing a resurgence in appreciating the benefits of “rote” learning — drills and such can “hardwire” the foundation that is important for deeper study. When kids with ADHD are diagnosed and, if necessary, pursuing treatment, they are often able to sustain interest in a subject long after it stopped being “easy.” So many bright young kids with ADHD hit the wall at junior high, when they cannot just coast along on their intelligence; they need solid skills at staying focused, organized, etc.

      A successful life — meaning finding and being able to continue pursuing the work one enjoys and managing one’s finances, health, and relationships — depends on being able to do “tedious” things now and then.

      My husband, who has ADHD, is the first to say that there is no job that you enjoy 24/7. Every job, every career, depends on tolerating boredom and sustaining interest through the tough parts. This is a very competitive world. The better educated, the more versatile and deep one’s knowledge base and skills, the better one is able to compete.

      I’ve seen so many adults with ADHD show promise in a given career but steadily bounce down down down the career later because they can’t do the auxiliary tasks.

    2. Hey Dylan,

      An update after a long Adult ADHD group meeting last night (I start shooing them out the door at 9:30 but usually lock up at 10:45!).

      At least TWO thirty-something men, without any “leading the witness” on my part, talked about the shocks they experienced after taking taking medication — one of them being “I could suddenly do MATH!” 🙂

      This is why I want kids with ADHD to have full access to evidence-based treatment strategies. So they can learn what their true abilities and interests are, instead of being limited by unrecognized/untreated symptoms.

      These guys have a long way to go, in absorbing the expansion of their newfound abilities; they have told themselves (and the world has told lthem) that there were so many things they cannot do. Their new competencies, focus, and so forth has almost come as a shock to them, and they need some solid therapeutic help in making the transition.

      I vehemently disagree with coaches or “experts” who don’t share with clients the full range of possibility. Some have vested interests in keeping people dependent on their services.

      Just explaining where I’m coming from on this topic. I have always seen this as a social-justice issue: giving people with ADHD full access to their own good brains instead of leaving them behind prison walls of happy stories. 😉

      Thanks for understanding.

  33. @Brandy, thank you for the detail and depth of your response. I found it moving to read.

    It’s wonderful that your son has subjects he loves to study! Focus on them. It’s so easy to focus on the negative. I worry kids will be overly concerned with getting better at something they’re not good at. Finally, I’ve realized that I don’t have to be good at everything.

    Take care and thanks again for the comment!

    1. Dylan wrote: “I worry kids will be overly concerned with getting better at something they’re not good at. ”

      I’m sure you speak from experience, Dylan, and that’s a very important point.

      You know the problems that people with ADHD can have prioritizing tasks — or even eliminating clutter (what to keep, what to throw out)? They can have the same problems sorting out where they should focus their energies and identifying their strengths, areas that need improvement, etc.

      No one can get through life always “capitalizing on their strengths.” I’ve seen “strength-based” therapists talk a good line but, in truth, we all have to be competent in many areas these days. Or we don’t survive.

      The goal for people with ADHD is not to become great at everything; only a few lucky humans can do that. The goal is to be functional enough in the “tiresome” tasks in order to support attaining loftier goals with your strengths.

  34. @anonymous, thank you for taking the time to read my story and your well thought out comment.

    I worry about being a father all the time. My role as a mentor has brought me confidence, knowing that I could handle being an “authority figure” in a healthy way. BBBS tells you how to treat your “little.” I practice being nonjudgmental and listening. I’ve been given many tools to work with, and I’ll use the same tools if I become a parent. I’ll have my online friends for support too. They’ve helped me so much.

    I’ve certainly needed healing regarding my mom. I worked with a therapist, who taught me to go beyond the surface of the behavior and into its roots. There’s still anger there, but I’ve learned to let some of it go and forgive.

    My mom absolutely has ADD-C (99% sure), and I’ve realized that she has narcissistic personality disorder. I will always love my mom, but I’ve given up on fixing or healing our relationship. I’m going to be moving very far away from her, because she’s that toxic to me.

    Take care and continue fighting.:)

  35. Pingback: ADHD Roller Coaster: "Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?" · “One Man’s” Story Touches This Mom

  36. Hello Dylan. Many of the aspects of your story really hit home for me. I saw more of my self in your parents than I am comfortable with.

    I took my son to a psychiatrist to be tested for ADHD/ADD about a month ago. He has just turned thirteen. I’ve known that he has a tough time following multi-step instructions and has struggled with inattention since he was small.

    I didn’t suspect he had ADHD/ADD at first because the only kids I knew that had it were like those little spring loaded pop up toys. They were always jumping up and down, unable to sit still. My son is very well behaved and not overly hyper. He does fidget but he is able to sit still in school, church, etc. Besides even if there was something wrong I was afraid medication would change his personality. I like how my son is funny and witty and a bit of a smartas*. He is extremely chatty but even though that annoys me at times I can’t really complain since he most definitely gets that from me.

    He has chores every day that should take him 10 to 20 minutes to complete. At one point I broke his chores down into a very detailed list in an attempt to help him to remember to do everything. (Our dog really likes it when he is given food on a daily basis.) The only way I can be sure that his chores get done is if I take his list and call out each step to him one at a time. I firmly believe he means to do his chores he just gets easily distracted. Of course he still gets griped at about his chores because most days I forget to go over the list with him.

    Homework is another issue I try to be very diligent about. He will do it on his own if its Science, History, or practicing a song on his snare drum for Band. (If he remembers he has an assignment.) If he has homework in Math or English he will do anything to get out of doing it. Of course if I go to his school’s website I can see his homework list. If I ask him to bring it to me so I can check over it once he is done then it gets done. So, naturally he gets griped at for not turning in homework at school because I usually forget to check the website and it doesn’t get done.

    When he was in the second grade his teacher told me that he had the highest grade average in the entire second grade class. His IQ was tested and let’s just say his score was impressive. He was entered into the gifted program and he loved that class. (they meet a few times a week)

    By third grade his grades started slipping. I started getting calls from teachers.

    By fourth grade he hated going to school. He started off the school year trying to be the class clown. His teacher decided day one that he was going to be a problem and no matter how hard he tried after that she never changed her opinion of him. Her treatment of him was so bad that at the end of the year the fourth grade class had a concert. Every student had a small solo through out the program. Every student besides my son and two others. This was a huge blow to his self esteem.

    His grades in Math and English have gotten progressively worse. When he brought home his last progress report , his grades ranged from high nineties in three classes and a D in math and an F in English. There was a notation from the teacher saying he had scored an 8 on an English exam. (An 8?!?! How is that possible? You can score an 8 for remembering to write your name down.)

    That 8 was the turning point for me as his parent. I realized I needed to find help for him…for us. I took him to the psychiatrist. After having us take the quiz and talking to the two of us for an hour, the Dr. said that my son had ADHD Combined Type. (And then the kicker.) He said he was pretty much positive he inherited it from his mother.

    Now all I can think about are all of those long conversation my husband and I had with my son telling him that he was capable of much more than he was doing. I’ve told him countless times that he has great potential and if he didn’t start getting it together he was going to waste this opportunity to build the academic foundation on which his future dreams could be built on. (I know this from experience. I was on the deans list my one and only year of college. Now I’m a bank teller. I lack follow through.) I’m so scared that I have damaged his self esteem. Because now I know that all of those times we thought he was just being lazy he really was trying his best and all we did was remind him constantly that it was never good enough.

    We are both starting medication. Strattera is what we are trying first for him. (So far, no real improvement) Adderall for me. My main goal is to work with our Dr to find the best help for both of us. That way I will better equipped to be the kind of mother my son needs me to be. Plus, now I know to take action immediately if I see any of the same symptoms start to emerge in my now 1 year old daughter. Maybe the things my son and I have always struggled with can be easier for her because of the lessons we are learning now.

    Thank you, Dylan for sharing your story. And thank you for allowing me to have the opportunity to share with strangers things I have been ashamed to say out loud. It was very therapeutic.

    1. Brandy,

      Thank YOU for telling your story. It is one I’ve seen played out so many times but one that is often met with resistance (and even anger) from some parents who have unrecognized ADHD.

      There can be a tendency to blame the teacher, the school, etc. for the problems the child is having and will continue to have (in greater degrees, most likely) throughout life if something is not done. And sometimes it takes the parent acknowledging his or her own ADHD to get that ball rolling in a more positive direction. The very most painful stories to me are the parents with significant ADHD-related problems of their own who deny those problems and “hyperfocus” on their child.

      I like your story so much — it is so well-told — that I am re-posting it on the blog so it is more visible. (I’ll also take that as an opportunity to point to all the great comments to Dylan’s story.)

      As for your son’s self-esteem, I think you are providing an extremely rich life lesson here. From my perspective, you have stepped up to the plate in a very enlightened 21st way to help your son. The foundation he receives from knowing that his mom searched for solutions and healing — for both of you — instead of blaming the school, his “laziness,” etc. Well, all I can say is this is a mom I’d be very proud of. 🙂

      I wish you luck on the medication journey. Please check out the overview articles on this blog shared by Dr. Ted Mandelkorn on medications.

      All About Medications for ADHD – Part II

      Also, Dr. Charles Parker’s book ADHD Medication Rules will be an excellent resource for you.

      Anecdotally, Strattera often seems to have minimal effect, but its benefits can be profound if used at a low dosage and in combination with a stimulant. Why? Because it provides 24-7 mood regulation and focus (not sharp focus but better than at baseline) and helps with sleep. If your boy doesn’t have trouble with sleep and mood regulation, it might not be the best choice.

      As for you, my unsolicited advice would be to please proceed cautiously with the Adderall. It is on the bottom of my list as far as which Rx is best for initiating treatment. While it might work best for some people, for many others it can cause as many problems (or more) than it resolves. I’ve seen this play out so often over the years even while many MDs remain completely ignorant of the problems. I touch upon this in my book:

      Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

      I also wrote this in-depth blog post: The Tragic Truth of Prescription Adderall, or Madderall

      Best of luck!

  37. Dylan, thank you for your story.

    My story is SO similar to yours: even the overbearing, abusive mother figure, as well as the educational trajectory, and so much more. Honestly, everything (My timeline’s bit different–I’m now facing divorce.)

    I am 34, and my story also goes one step beyond yours: parenthood. And not just any parenthood–now parenting my own kids with AD/HD. My oldest child is adopted, and has severe AD/HD. And, to my horror, I found myself *becoming* my own mother. I’ve now had to get help to overcome the very same struggles my own Mom had. As much as I know what it’s like to have AD/HD, it doesn’t make it easier to help my own child sometimes, as I struggle with my own AD/HD characteristics! I tell you this for two reasons:

    a) To prepare you. Full-time parenthood brings out a ton of baggage and learned-behaviours that will take you by surprise. (It’s different than mentoring.)

    b) To possibly help you heal. Who knows? There’s a good chance your own mother was struggling with her own form of AD/HD. It’s taken me 20 years to realize that YES, my Mom has AD/HD too. This has really helped me to heal and to forgive her.

    Thank you, again for sharing your story. It means so much to read someone’s story, and know I am not alone.

    1. Hiya Ruthie. 😉

      Thanks for your comment. You make an excellent point about parenthood.

      I often hear people with ADHD talking about painful experiences in childhood with a parent who didn’t understand their struggles and were often harsh or unfair. I’m surprised at how often the assumption is that the parent did NOT have ADHD, thus explaining why they didn’t understand.

      But of course it’s just as likely (genetically speaking) that that parent also had unrecognized ADHD, no doubt with their own feelings of being misunderstood and of course their own ADHD-related challenges. Add the common friction between parents, and, oh boy, it’s really great that we finally have the information and awareness to stop the cycles and start healing families.

  38. @Lisa (R), thank you for the comment and reading my story. Someone told me that telling my story would help people not feel alone.

    Thank you for your encouragement too, and I hope you are in a better place with your new found knowledge.

  39. Dylan– thank you for sharing your story in such an honest and open way. For someone like me, middle-aged and newly diagnosed, it is so helpful to hear other’s struggles and successes. It’s very hard to break free from a lifetime of “hiding” to protect myself.

    I’m so very happy that you are making your way forward despite all the obstacles you’ve encountered. 🙂

  40. @Marla, thank you for reading and your comment. I wish there was a pill for that too.

    I wish you well.:)

  41. If only there were a pill that fixed the low self-esteem- that we try and hide with the very thing that helped create it…..our ADHD. Bless you and hang in there….

  42. @Heather, thanks for reading and commenting.

    @John, thanks for reading and commenting. You have quite a story of your own. We have had many similar experiences, which amazes me.

    I appreciate you highlighting how ADD gives abusive people reasons to treat us poorly. We certainly suffer more because of this disorder.

    I know you’re going to give your two daughters what you didn’t have in your childhood. You have come so far. 🙂

  43. Pingback: ADHD Roller Coaster: "Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?" · Seeking Your Stories of Resilience

  44. Hey Dylan, I was really moved by your life-story, it literally brought me to tears as i was reminded of my own childhood and the challenges i faced..and to think this whole time I thought I was alone in my struggle. I come from South Africa, born and raised. Growing up, I was always a very smart and lively child, always moving always getting into trouble. I could tell i was different from other kids and somehow i believe my mother could too..She was very loving and understanding and still is today however my stepfather was the exact opposite. He seemed to enjoy making me feel worthless and took every opportunity to remind me of how much he disliked me..Always telling me how I will never amount to anything, how I was a worthless piece of “****^”. He found any excuse to beat the daylights outta me every single day and since I had ADHD he had no shortage of excuses..Soo many nights I cried myself to sleep..all alone without a single friend except my mother..I remember I would wait till late at night (around 9pm) b4 heading home just so that I could jump straight into bed and avoid my daily beatings…Suffice to say, I have paid a very heavy price for my ADHD, everything from the daily beatings, wrecked relationships to heavy marijuana addiction due to my depression. In anycase I’m sure most of you can imagine what it would feel like to grow up a poor black kid with ADHD in Africa, a stepfather that hates ur guts and a community totally ignorant of ADHD and stigmatizes those of us born with it. There is however a silver lining to all of this..I am now a Doctor with my own practice, I have 2 beautiful daughters and a loving wife..for all the struggles I have faced, it all pales in light of all the blessings I currently have..Thank you Dylan, your story reminded me of how far I have come and how much one can achieve irregardless of the challenged b4 u.

    1. John,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m so sorry to hear the high price that you paid for ignorance. I wonder what kept you going?

      This reminds me that I need to post some information on The Resilience Project that psychologist Mark Katz is researching vis a vis adults with ADHD. I hope that many of you will help him with this project, as you have all demonstrated resilience……


  45. Heather Ricciardi

    Dylan, Incredible story, very touching. You have come a long way and hope you inspire many people with your story:)

  46. @Bea, thank you reading and commenting.

    It’s frustrating to learn what has been holding you back your whole life isn’t it? There have certainly been some moments of grieving for what could have been in my life.

    If you can, on your morning “surf,” due a google search for an online support forum for individuals with ADD. There are many out there. I assure you this will be invaluable in your new life.:)

    The more I learn about this disorder the easier it has been for me to forgive myself. I’ve learned that most things in my life were not do to the person I am. No. They were due to a nuero-developmental disorder, which didn’t give me the same tools as my peers. This is why I believe I’ve overachieved in my life.

    Take care.

  47. Thank you, Dylan. I happened on this site by accident this morning – my “surf” distraction was a google for “ADD adult excuse”. I started treatment for my ADD this past year. Unfortunately, I have 50 years of accumulated experience in saying “the only thing I succeed in is in being a failure”… and am behind the curve in learning how to compensate – so my organizational skills, time management, and social repertoire is limited. Am hopeful that it will still be possible to teach an old feline new tricks!

    1. Hi Bea — Of course it’s possible to learn new tricks! The important thing to remember is that you finally have a good explanation and, therefore, a path to the new tricks! That makes it an entirely different ballgame!

      The best book on this topic, imho, is by Drs. Russell Ramsay and Tony Rostain, at the University of Pennsylvania. Here is a link to a piece by Dr. Ramsay (which contains a link to the book):

      Good luck!

  48. I 2nd/3rd/4th or whatever step this would be now for saying
    thanks for sharing the story.” There are a lot of similarities in the “themes” of your story and mine. The overall life stories may be pretty different, but it’s so telling to be able to see how ADD has affected you, and to realize it has affected me very similarly. It just never seems to cease to amaze me at just how pervasive this disorder is.

  49. @Tristan, thank you for reading and commenting.

    I’m amazed at how similar our lives can be even though we might be hundreds or thousands of miles away.

    I’m happy you are returning to school and hope it will benefit you in terms of a career, which suits your needs.

  50. Dylan,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I am 30 as well and noticed several similarities from your story that I went through and am still going through. I’m glad you are doing well. I’m returning to school myself next month and nearly all my work experiences sound like what you described.

  51. @Anne, thank you so much for your kind words and for reading my story.

    I wrote this story for people, who did not have the disorder, hoping that they might gain greater insight into our daily struggle. So, I didn’t want to sugar coat the rough times in order to make people feel more comfortable, which might sacrifice their understanding.

    You are right in that I am in a much healthier place in my life, which I’m incredibly grateful for.

    I’m honored to be able to help people with ADD. You’re awesome people.:)

  52. Dylan, thanks so much for sharing. Yours *is* a Happy ADD story, even if you don’t have any gold medals. You’re in a much better place today than you have been all your life, and you are helping those of us still new to ADD understand and move forward ourselves.

    Thank you.

  53. @Jan, I’m honored and so pleased for you to read and comment on my article.

    You’re right about not being able to find “understanding anywhere.”

    I love how you described the feeling of despair. That’s so true, and is why I spent many times in tears as my mom expressed her disappointment in me. I loved my mom then and still do, but her behavior was extremely harmful to me.

    Your story about the process of despair and what our explanations are attributed to (ie laziness) reminded me of the time I was talking to my stepdad about a revelation I had had. I can’t remember the exact details but essentially I had a great insight about some facet, involving a social relationship. I was proud of myself. Well, he somehow managed to even put that down.

    There expectations were ridiculous, but I guess I can cut them some slack. Just how much slack can you give someone you KNOW is different and has exhibited the same behaviors his whole life.

    When I was doing something well, it wasn’t well enough.

    And when I would forget something the comments were “you should have thought of that before” or when I was really motivated about something the comments were along the lines of “you should always be this way.”

    The moral failure component is something I’m grappling with.

    Jan, thank you so much for your support and encouragement. You inspire me my friend.

  54. Jan Egbert(sarek)

    Thank you for telling this powerful story my friend. As you know there are so many similarities between your experiences and my own. I guess its quite impossible for any outsider to gauge the utter and total loneliness of someone who can not find understanding anywhere. This feeling of despair when even the best is never good enough and any attempt to explain it is seen as a weakness and a feeble excuse to hide your presumed laziness or stupidity. Or worse, that you are even considered a moral failure for something that you just don’t have any control over.

    And yet, somehow over time there is a change. Perhaps it is true that the hottest fire forges the strongest metal. I have seen the truth of that so many times already and I am seeing it very strongly in your story. You are overcoming the challenges in your life and you are growing to be an even better and more extraordinary person for it.

  55. @Kirsten, thank you for reading and commenting.

    Someone told me to tell my story so that other people won’t feel like they’re alone.

    Yes, that alone feeling comes to me all the time. It’s hard to describe, and I’m not sure why it occurs so much. I wonder if it’s a chemical issue, concerning the ADD brain.

    The difference in my life is that I have safe people, whom I can talk to about my feelings.

  56. Fantastic Piece!

    Your willingness to step out on a limb to help others is truly commendable.

    Those of us with ADD/ADHD have so many similar threads in our stories, but somehow we still feel so alone in it. Thank you for sharing your story.

    You’re a good egg.

  57. @Kenyettadudley, thank you for your response and reading my story.

    Those road signs were there along the way for me to. I wish I had seen them and heeded the sound they were echoing.

    I’ve begun to take baby steps to accept myself, and I suppose that love is on the doorstep of this action.

    You seem to be on a positive track.

    Keep it up!

  58. Kenyettadudley

    Thank you telling the majority of my life story minus the Big Brother/Sister program. I almost destroyed my husband, son and my own life;i found out i have ADD in adulthood and tons of road signs along the way did not stop me from being a destroying force. But this last month, I have made the decision to stop being afraid of loving my husband, our son and my Self. It has made all the difference. No more wasting the time I have with them on regrets and disappointments.

  59. @Virginia, thanks for reading and responding. I’m glad you have found your diagnosis to be such an important part of your life.

    Being able to say and KNOW that I’m not alone, has done wonders for my confidence.

    I hope for your healing from the negativity you have faced throughout your life.

    @L. Friesen, it’s an honor to have you read my article.

    I battle everyday to make sure my thoughts lead me into a direction that will ultimately make me successful. Success is my reward.

    The internalized voices as you say, or cognition I’m assuming, fascinate me. I’m not sure if it is how my brain has always worked or whether it is a result of not getting diagnosed until the age of 25.

    I hope young kids with ADD will not have to face what myself and many others have gone through.

    I want people to know my story. I hope to inspire people.

  60. Dylan, Thank-you for inviting me to read this. It is so nice to hear from someone in the trenches. All of us know what it’s like to live with the skepticism and negative commentary and I know just how hard you’re working to rid yourself of those damaging voices.

    I believe so strongly that solid information about your adhd is the most important component in allowing us to not only see the lie in those internalized voices but also to emotionally free ourselves from them. You are an inspiration in how hard you struggle and in the results you have achieved in a relatively short period of time.

    Your doing it and I am excited for what you’re going to accomplish! Thanks again for putting your vulnerabilities out there in such a dignified way.


  61. Dylan, thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure it isn’t easy to tell.

    I can identify with so much of what you’ve experienced. One thought instantly entered my mind when you talked about feeling worthless and how negativity and criticism taking it’s toll on you. I immediately said to myself “That’s been a recurring theme throughout my whole life”.

    Diagnosis was a turning point for me. I now know that there is a reason why I’ve always been different. I know that I’m not stupid. I’ve learned it’s okay to be different, to be me. I now know many people with ADHD. I don’t feel alone anymore. That’s been really important to me. There’s a group of people that accepts me for who I am. 🙂 Sounds like you’ve found that as well.

    You have accomplished so much despite all of the obstacles you’ve had to overcome! I can only imagine how satisfying that must feel. I think it’s wonderful that you are giving back, also. It sounds like you are on a great path with a terrific future ahead of you. T

    hanks again for sharing! I wish you the best in everything that you do.

  62. @Mike, thank you for reading my story and commenting. We all seem to share some of the same struggles over our lifespans living with this disorder.

    Helping people with ADD has brought meaning to what I’ve gone through.

    Take care.

  63. Dylan, Thanks for sharing your story. It’s like mine in many ways. I was just diagnosed earlier this year, shortly before my 61st birthday. I’m glad you’re putting your energy into helping other people with ADHD.

  64. @Steve, you made me smile. I think you might be on to something. 😉

    @Christina, I was hoping to inspire people, and yet, you have inspired me. Thank you for reading my story and responding so thoughtfully.

    I love how you wrote “exhausting compliance” as to your description regarding your career. I know we get worn out easy.

    I, like you, have been through the coaching process and have the same enthusiasm for it as you seem to have. I learned a lot about myself through my coach, and she taught me a ton about ADD.

    I am finding my place, and I won’t give up. It doesn’t seem like you will either.:) I wish you the best in your future career.

    Take care.

  65. Wow, Dylan. Great story! Thanks for sharing.

    I went through that kind of pressure at home (Dad –‘never good enough’) In grade school, Fridays were tough–I would either get to go to McDonalds or get beat depending on my math progress. I only made it through HS because of help built around me & LOTS of effort, college as it was military, the AF Academy (with a nervous breakdown). Then, came years of exhausting compliance in my career & I was diagnosed in 2008 at 36, just after not making promotion.

    However, Intensive work with my coach & the life afterword have been amazing! I have learned so much & come so much closer to finding my place! One dream is to start ADD coaching after AF retirement in mid-2014.

    Dylan, you are finding YOUR place! Way to go. Listen to that voice inside you that knows what you alone are gifted to do…and have the determination to follow it courageously! Seeing the right life for you is a great step. You can.

  66. Thank you for reading and your comment Sam.

    I think we fight two battles: one is the battle of living with ADD every day and the other is the battle between us and the NTs (Neurotypicals). Fortunately, we have people like Gina Pera out there who are our allies in the battles.

    I think NTs are baffled by our behaviors and struggle to understand that we really DO NOT have that much control over what we do.

    My first grade teacher said that I was careless. I think it was because I made frequent mistakes. Yet, I was one of the most conscientious kids around.

    I do wish you the best in your current relationship.

  67. Thanks for sharing your story, Dylan. I totally identify with the struggle of falling from the “high achiever” status to a place where you don’t feel like you can even focus enough to pick up the simplest of things. My relationship struggles, for numerous reasons related to this, but I’m trying to get my partner to understand me in the context of ADD. Wish me luck.

    1. Good luck. You are who you are. You will manage your symptoms with meds and/or coping skills that work for you.
      You are still smart and creative but you need external structure . I remind my husband of this several times a year and he helps me make realistic schedules. Good luck!

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