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How Important ADHD Diagnoses Obscure PTSD: The Overlap Between ADHD and PTSD in Trauma Victims

ADHD and PTSD Art Metaphor

How Important ADHD Diagnoses Obscure PTSD from Trauma Victims Themselves — One day, I will write a book with this title. A lot has happened in the two years since I last posted to the TACTiLED blog. I learned I had been blindly fighting through PTSD for 33 years, and I had no idea.

Childhood Trauma and Misdiagnosed ADHD

Sure, I had some challenges as a kid. There was even that time I could have been killed. But all in all, I had it easy compared to many people’s challenges. I would go so far as to say I had a pretty picturesque childhood. And I did say exactly that many times over the decades. I always gravitated to other people with trauma; I wanted them to feel held in the power of their experience and not minimize it. In my attempt to not minimize the experience of the people in my life, I minimized and dismissed the power behind my own experience.

I was diagnosed with ADHD at eleven years old.

For decades, I assumed blanking out when someone talked to me was due to inattentiveness. I didn’t know it was because my autonomic nervous system would slip into sympathetic mode, activating my body’s fight-or-flight response.

Understanding the Difference Between ADHD and PTSD

I didn’t know that “sympathetic” was tied to fight or flight and “parasympathetic” to rest and digest. I didn’t know our bodies were always moving between these two states. I didn’t know I could choose activities that would get my body into a parasympathetic state. And I didn’t know that when I took the time to do that, my whole body would release, and my life would finally become mine.

The Turning Point: A Life-Changing Meeting

Almost exactly a year ago, thanks to TACTiLED, I had a life-changing meeting. I met a voice coach who is an international expert at using voice to heal trauma (and also now a happy TACTiLED customer). I was there to learn to speak from my place of power. What I found was deep compassion and the space I needed to reflect. In this session, I learned about C-PTSD. The “C” stands for Complex.

Complex PTSD: Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

While PTSD is generally related to a single traumatic event, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD or C-PTSD) can develop over years. The first time I encountered the term “parentified child,” my jaw hit the floor. That was me. Not because my parents needed me to be but because I felt I had to be. I was sure no one else would step up, and everything would fall apart if I didn’t.

Highly sensitive children can be especially impacted by the emotions and traumatic experiences of others. In some cases, just hearing about a traumatic event can lead to C-PTSD.

My Childhood: A Tapestry of Joy and Stress

My childhood was a tapestry of intense joy, authentic love, enriching opportunities, and periods of extreme stress accented with intense emotional explosions. I grew up with a parent navigating depression and their past traumas, one sister with an autoimmune disease causing chronic pain, and another with a severe learning disorder.

As a young child, I intuited, “There is a lot of suffering in the world. It’s best not to add to it by making others worry about me. Best to ensure everyone is cared for so we don’t risk eruption and desolation.”

The Traumatic Event That Changed Everything

And so, when I was nearly killed at eight in a gory and traumatic way, I felt terrible for everyone else. I was so glad no one died. I was so happy everyone was okay. And my face healed up fine, so I forgot about it, except for the dreams. Two years later, those dreams were nightmares. Two years after that, those nightmares were snuffed out with cannabis. And I asked myself “why” for three decades.

Realizing the Impact of PTSD

At 41 years old, the protective shell I had built my life within started to break apart when a soul teacher said, “There you were, eight years old, trying to protect your parents, and it nearly got you killed! It nearly got you killed.”

I was a puddle of tears. Yeah, I was attacked by a dog, but that’s all. It was scary, but I’m okay. That’s my story. That’s been my story. That was my cover-up. Sure, I’m messy, but I’m ADHD. Yeah, I blank out, but ADHD. Yeah, I’m lazy or seem lazy, but I’m not; it’s my ADHD. Yeah, I feel like running away and hiding a lot, but that’s my rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD).

adhd and ptsd collide metaphor

Finding Hope and Peace Through Understanding PTSD

It’s strange because this was not the first time I was told I might have PTSD, but the first time, it meant nothing to me. This time, it meant hope. This time, it meant peace may be attainable.

Weaving the Tapestry of Life

The winding journey of life weaves as we go. But sometimes, as we begin to weave the life we want, we find that swaths of our lives were woven from other directions. Some sections are whole, complete, and beautiful, seemingly coming together independently, with no additional effort.

How TACTiLED Supports Healing and Organization

As I navigated my journey of understanding and healing from PTSD, TACTiLED became more than just a tool for organization. It became a part of my healing process. The flexible and reusable planning system allowed me to structure my days in a way that acknowledged both my ADHD and PTSD.

I could create a sense of order amidst the chaos by breaking tasks into manageable pieces and visualizing my time with the color-coded tiles. The ability to adjust and rewrite tasks helped me stay flexible and focused, reducing the anxiety and overwhelm that often accompany trauma and ADHD.

TACTiLED isn’t just a planner; it’s a lifeline. It helps you regain control, set realistic goals, and balance work and self-care. If you’re navigating the complexities of ADHD, PTSD, or both, I encourage you to try TACTiLED. It might just be a tool to support your healing journey.

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