The Unseen Me

My ADHD story has been intricately woven throughout my life. And I didn’t even know it.

Today, a week after receiving my official diagnosis, I struggle with a cocktail of emotions and memories.

There’s anger. Why wasn’t I helped sooner? And the anger burns my throat as I think about all the time I was called messy, selfish, and eccentric…greedy and defiant. I recall the stinging words of well-meaning adults who convinced me I was bad, whether they meant to or not. The words of adults. Adults who I should have been able to trust. Their words and looks of disdainful judgement replay in my head.

Grief visits in the morning once my medicine takes hold and I can think clearly…like concentration wasn’t a privilege that all my friends had–no, not a privilege. I was just too lazy and careless.

Last week I cried for the girl I used to be in elementary school, and middle school, and high school who was repeatedly punished for, what I now understand to be, pathological behavior. The girl who eventually stopped telling the adults about her issues and just resigned herself to believing what they all had said.

Even with an angry and heavy heart, I look back with older, wiser, and better informed eyes. I can see my little mind struggling to keep the numbers in place as I cried over my math homework. I feel the heat filling my little face as tears drip onto the graphite covered and eraser debris-ed paper.

I look back and see that high school junior, who had to fight with her own brain just to read one paragraph all the way through and not zone out. That incredibly smart high school student who was deemed a lazy, average student. The “funny” friend who loved deeply and was mostly liked, but who felt like an imposter compared to her beautiful and smart friends who could care about their grades–who could study for a quiz on their own.

I remember that young college woman who would hide herself away in her spare time, deep in the library, for fear of becoming distracted and failing out of her degree. She worked and fought to keep her scholarship.

I think about the newly married, young 20-something who constantly felt rejected, messy, stupid, and unworthy. The one whose marriage came crumbling down because…because of so many thing.

I remember being in 4th grade. Mrs. Marks had a meeting with my parents. She suggested I get seen by a doctor. I talked constantly, and oh how emotional I could be, how I lost focus so easily, and how I was behind in my multiplication tables. No. No doctor my parents say. We will deal with this at home. Being met with a belt and restriction because of another report of talking in class. And another. And another.

I wasn’t a boy. I couldn’t have ADHD.

Your brother actually has such and such diagnosis. Stop trying to get attention.

You have so much potential–if you’d just–

I try to be kind to the adults of my past. I tell myself that they unknowingly let me fall through the cracks. They didn’t know about restorative discipline. ADHD in girls wasn’t as easily identified back then. I have to believe that they meant well by telling me, in the pits of an anxiety attack caused by my emotional dysregulation, that I was simply being dramatic. Or that I was greedy for attention when I talked about my deep, heavy emotions and inability to focus because of noises around the house and in the classroom. Or that I was lazy and insubordinate when I would be overwhelmed with tasks and unable to get my brain to move my body.

I know that I needed support…not punitive reactions from the adults in my life. I try to believe the best in them. 

Underneath all of my trauma…under all of my “moodiness” and impulsive behaviors…and intense anxiety I couldn’t explain properly at a young age… and my inability to handle noises, textures, and always feeling and fearing being constantly rejected…underneath all of this…

I was neurodivergent.

I was met with punitive reactions. Constantly. I needed support. But I fell through the cracks and remained unseen.

And I’m 30 next year. 

But I see myself now. I am healing now. I’m being a voice now.

You’re not alone.

1 Comment

  1. Cathy Kautz says:

    Girls can have it too-people always think it’s only boys. My son and grandson have ADHD, and my husband has ADD. I worked my butt off when my son was little and in school to make sure he had the help he needed to succeed and to not feel badly about himself. I’m sorry your family didn’t do that for you. I can totally understand the effect that could have on someone’s life and mental health. My son actually has a very high IQ-very far from being stupid…and I’d bet you are very smart as well. Unless kids with ADHD/ADD are supported and given the tools they need to succeed they end up feeling “stupid” or as if they’re just a “bad” kid. I’m sad you didn’t have that support and help-but it’s never too late to start again-and it seems you’re doing that now. Good for you.


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