It’s a chicken or egg thing. Or maybe a chicken AND egg thing. ADHD – trauma – abuse – neglect – genetics – nurture – nature: all players in the game. And not that one has to occur for the other to occur, or that one necessarily comes first or second…but it’s interesting to look at the research about how trauma and ADHD play together.
One study shows that “among women, 34 percent diagnosed with ADHD reported having been sexually abused before the age of 18 while 14 percent of women without ADHD reported childhood sexual abuse. Also, 44 percent of women with ADHD reported childhood physical abuse. In contrast, 21 percent of women without a diagnosis of ADHD reported the same type of abuse.”
Again…chicken or egg…but either way when a chicken and and egg exist, something is going to hatch.
ADHD wasn’t part of my life narrative until recently. Looking back, it was always present, but I used the word failure. It felt like shame, embarrassment, inadequacy, and confusion. Why did I do the things I did? Why did I fall into the same patterns over and over again? Why couldn’t I see what was sitting right in front of me? Why did I give up on things I really was good at and/or loved? Why did I run when things got hard or I felt afraid? Why were my emotions so strong that eventually I learned it was better just to numb them out? I never had answers to these questions until the past few months. And it has been liberating and frustrating all at the same time. And considering my own trauma narrative a whole bunch of puzzle pieces finally fit.
ADHD often looks different in girls than it does in boys. It’s not always the kid bouncing off of the walls that can’t sit in his chair. It’s the girl that get’s bored and tries to find stuff to do. And in trying she may run across someone new that seems interesting. He may offer her excitement. He may be her age and he may not, but she doesn’t really have the skills to process that in her tunnel vision brain. Yep, it was weird and awkward, maybe wrong?, but it felt good. And it was adrenaline, and it was stimulation, and in some ways it was kind of good. A feeling that hasn’t been found elsewhere. So why tell? Why block off that person and go back to the boring lonely reality of before? This may be messy and painful at times…but there is oddly a reward.
Fast forward into young adulthood. He treats me crappy. Yes. But he likes me when everyone else thinks I’m weird. I need a constant emotional boost and even though he drags me through the mud sometimes, when he’s nice he gives me what I need. I don’t feel in control of my emotions anyways, so I will take all the good moments I can squeeze out. And maybe I do things with him that I’m really not comfortable with, and maybe he pushes or even forces, but again it’s exciting. And it feels good in a weird way. So I guess I’ll keep going because leaving him seems impossible. I don’t want to be lonely and bored again. I can’t.
The story of my life. The push and pull of emotions. The “Did I want this to happen?” factor when it came to things that were not ok. Why tell. Why let anyone know. I assumed they would just reassure me that all the awful things I thought about myself were true.
And I have come a long way. Lightyears from the girl and woman I was before. But she is still very much a part of me. And for that I am incredibly thankful. Because I get to sit in the office with these different yet the same versions of ADHD and trauma that need someone to explain to them how their brain works and how all of this stuff that happened really wasn’t their fault. That what was not okay was not okay regardless of how it seemed or felt. That they are not dirty or shameful or to blame. I wouldn’t trade my history for the world for that very reason.
And I have a passion that burns inside of me that could not be ignited any other way. The awareness of how ADHD looks in women and girls is low…really really low. People get misdiagnosed and overlooked all the time. And not that every trauma survivor struggles with this, they most certainly don’t. But when they do- it’s real. Their brains work in ways that need to know and understand how this whole chicken and egg thing went down. Because once they understand…things happen. The God that loves them says hey – see what I have been speaking to your heart all along is TRUE…and there’s this moment of freedom that is absolutely amazing.