Long post warning, TL;DR at end of post.
I recently had a conversation with my mom about my parent’s decisions when I was growing up. I found out when I was in my early 20s that I had all the symptoms of ADHD. Over a decade of struggling to get that resolved, and I finally have a formal diagnosis and am on medication. Which allowed me to cope with life better and have this difficult conversation with my mom. This is what I learned.
My father was an unusual person. I always knew something was off about him, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I suspected he had OCD. My mom confirmed this when I spoke to her recently and not only that; she told me his OCD was far worse than they ever let on to the kids. She also revealed to me he had off and on severe depression. My entire life I just thought he was a complete ass hole (he was very abusive) and when he died I thought, well shit. I’ll never be able to resolve any of this, nor a million other things. It’s weird being happy and sad your parent has died. Anyway this new information was pretty eye opening for me.
The reason he never sought a different approach, or tried to find help, or anything at all to be a better parent wasn’t because he was a shitty person, it was because he had OCD. He was literally obsessed with strong discipline (beating the living shit out of me) being the solution to his problems. Oh and prayer. Apparently prayer can magically solve mental illness. He told us when he was younger he did a lot of drugs and was visited by demons. Prayer was the solution to those demons. Once he stopped the drugs, and became obsessed with religion he was no long visited by literal demons. So logically to him praying for my ADHD to go away was an obvious solution. The more I wasn’t normal, the more he prayed. Add a healthy helping of nail laden 2x4s and we have a winning combination.
He never actually told me I had ADHD. Mental illness wasn’t something you talked about or dealt with. Exposing mental illness in the family, to him, was setting the entire family up for ridicule and strife. He just told me I was a disappointment as a son. God hated disobedient children and I not only made him sad, but I made God sad as well. When the prayer and discipline was over I was required to read passages of The Bible. Yeah as an ADHD person that was challenging. Not only because The Bible doesn’t make any sense to start with; it’s also extremely, horrifically boring. My brain never let me read The Bible. I tried to all the time, but it never worked out so well. More discipline, more prayer, more reading, more failing.
I didn’t put two and two together that his claims of visiting heaven because he was in an intense prayer session with god, or the fact that he claimed to receive instructions from god, were signs of schizophrenia until a few days ago. I always thought he was speaking figuratively. In retrospect it seems more likely he was hallucinating. I was actually raised by a profoundly mental ill person and never really knew the full depths of any of it.
To me he always seemed like an incredibly religious person. Someone to respect. He talked about being in a state of heaven, god speaking to him, passing briefly into the realm of heaven and actually being able to see who was destined for heaven and who wasn’t. So I always just figured he must be right. I often sought his advice, he was so knowledgable and so overwhelming. I even asked him one time about ADHD. My friend apparently had this thing called ADHD, and he took medicine for it. He seemed a lot like me and I was interested. He told me that kid was just disobedient and his parents were in effect negligent because they didn’t correct his problems.
They always told me ADHD was just a scape goat for parents who wouldn’t or couldn’t discipline their kids properly. Lazy people, and lazy children was the reality of a leftist conspiracy called ADHD to ruin our country’s children with drugs. Which totally fucked me up since I totally did have ADHD. My psychologist who first discovered this and told me about it actually asked me what I knew about ADHD and I parroted my parents BS. He then informed me ADHD was real, I had it, and my parents didn’t seem to know what they were talking about. Well shit. There went my view of the world, and it’s no wonder.
Then the real kicker was dropped – they were told I had all the signs of ADHD when I was a kid. But my father who was paranoid of the pharmaceutical company, and had poor education / socialization on mental health issues refused to seek further help with that issue. He didn’t want me on medication. He didn’t want me in therapy (all psychologists / psychiatrists are quacks according to him.) He didn’t look to understand or help with ADHD. He decided I needed to have more structure, more discipline and more prayer.
My mom’s defense for not telling me any of this was that they didn’t definitively have proof. She was busy surviving his figurative demons, as well as raising three kids while working two jobs. So what could she have done? After all, this was before the internet. And she wasn’t really allowed to seek treatment from a professional anyway. I get all that. I do get it. At the same time it really sucks that they knew the entire time I was growing up. And they called me lazy, stupid, obstinate, and everything else we’ve all heard our entire lives. They didn’t seek treatment, or understanding, they just shook their heads at me. In the same breath as criticizing me; they told me I was too smart to be like this, therefore I must just be a doing it on purpose.
Believe it or not this is a success story. Some how, I’m not really sure, I am able to put all that behind me now that I know what was going on. Before it just seemed like my parents were obliviously negligent. And I was filled with rage at them. They chose to have kids. That means being responsible for your kids. They didn’t screw up and get pregnant, they wanted kids. So there we were completely fucked from the get go and I can’t even tell my dad what a piece of shit he is. For whatever reason though, just talking about it, and explaining to my mom what was really going on. What ADHD really is, made her completely change her view of everything. She told me she would have done everything differently if she would have known what I was going through. I don’t think I have to confront anyone anymore. I think I can finally move on with my life now.
I know this post was long, I am sorry for that. I’ve read stories like this that really helped me get through this issue though. Hopefully my story can do the same for someone else. If your parents weren’t all they could or should have been for you growing up, or even if that’s the case for you now. Just talk to them. It might change things for you.
TL;DR: My parents knew I had ADHD growing up and never told me. They didn’t treat me, and they treated me like shit because they thought I was a bad kid. Recently I talked with my mom about this (Dad died a while ago, so no option for that) and it really changed a lot for me. I think I can let that baggage go now. Good luck ADHD brains! You are all amazing!