Learning to Let Go of Shame as a Mom With ADHD


So much overwhelms.

Choosing an outfit, what to pack for lunch, what kind of coffee to order… on and on the list goes. I have always felt incompetent, unable to choose from all the options life offers.

As a child, I had someone to choose for me; as an adult, not so much. My family always joked about how I’d change my clothes five times in a day, and that has followed me into my adult life… but in a much more significant manner.

I work three days per week, in the office. The other four, I’m with my son. I am completely embarrassed to admit this, but I feel paralyzed trying to decide on the day’s events with him. Some days, there are so many options to choose from… I just end up shutting down, staying home.

As I research women with ADHD more, I’m finding these deficits are common, and actually fall under the symptoms of ADHD. Which is very relieving, and has helped to reduce the level of shame which I’ve been living under.

I have worked for 38 years to hide how much effort it takes to appear “normal,” to not allow my disorganization, procrastination, and confusion of sense of self to show through. It has been exhausting.

After an average day of adulting, I often wish I could take the next day off, to recharge my depleted energy reserves and confront any perceived inadequacies. Since becoming a mom, this has become more difficult.

I feel shame; shame at being so socially inept, shame at not arranging repeated play dates with my son’s friends and mothers, shame at canceling plans at the last minute with my friends or family… just shame.

It hurts. So much.

I worry this inability of mine is having a detrimental effect on my son and his social skills. The child psychologist discussed how important social skill development is for him, and how we must try to encourage him to develop and nurture friendships. Isn’t that my job as a mom? To teach and encourage these skills? How am I to do that, when I cannot nurture my own friendships?

I’m working on this with a therapist and psychiatrist. Both have repeatedly explained to me that I must learn to be gentle on myself. I have to forgive the 38 years of shame to move forward. To parent my son, and guide him through all the messiness ADHD brings to life. To recall what hurt my soul, and what helped me live through the pain and cope. The best thing I can offer him? Understanding. Love. Support. Advocating for him, and nurturing his huge curiosity and love for life. I can do this. For him, for us.

Sari Solden MS, LMFT, details all of this in her book, “Women with Attention Deficit Disorder.

“At the end of the day, if you’re just dealing with ADD, that’s great,” Solden said. “But most women — because they weren’t diagnosed as children, because they didn’t have hyperactivity or were smart — grew up absorbing a lot of wounds and shame. These women are often twice exceptional. They have incredible strengths and are really smart and creative, but they have these struggles that nobody understands, including them.”

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