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ADHD and PTSD: Finding Peace Among the Nightmares

peaceI don’t know how to say it any other way.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have gotten treatment throughout my life while continuing to develop coping skills, yet it’s the reality of my situation.  Some days I wake up sobbing, a feeling so intense from the nightmare that I feel I can’t breathe and I can’t quite imagine how I will make it through the day.

The PTSD was easy to diagnose, and it happened early on so thankfully I’ve had comfort in at least understanding on some level what is going on in my brain.  The nightmares, various escapes, intense pain, depression, and necessity of my body to shut down when that pain is triggered is pretty clear.

While I still have all of those issues, my capacity to endure pain, ability to understand and care for others while in that pain, and reduction of escape routes grows daily.

The ADHD diagnosis was only recent, but it helps to explain a lot of my behaviors that others simply could not understand and when coupled with the PTSD, seemed almost manufactured.  I can’t tell you how many times my husband would say, “How could you NOT remember that?  You are lying. Manipulative.”  And I would hate myself, because if he says I am being manipulative and lying I must be, yet I can swear with all my heart I did not intend to – but again he knows me better than anyone.

So he would make rules for me.  Don’t contact clients without talking to me first.  Now, granted, there are some times that I was annoyed with the feeling of being controlled and did it anyway, but I would tell him why I did it.  More often than not, I’d literally forget my promise and on an impulse say or do something that I had previously said I would not do.  He would have file folders of things I had said or done and tape record me and prove to me how I contradicted myself yet I didn’t understand why it was happening, only that I felt terrible about the incongruity of my thoughts and behaviors.

If you had my mind, and my list of things I had to change and improve and watch, you would understand that it is a very difficult task when both ADHD and PTSD are affecting your behaviors.  I know it must have been horrible for him, and I felt terrible for him, as well as hopeless.  It is like having a broken foot and having someone constantly telling you to stop limping, that you are walking on it to hurt them, as well as being careless as a person.  And unless the person you are with truly understands your challenges, believes you even when their instincts and own personal defenses tell them not to, and above all is honest about their own personal shortcomings as a person, I’m not sure how you can make a relationship work.

It simply got too painful for me.  To where my own body shut down in pain and escaped to find anything pleasurable and hopeful, no matter what the cost.  The feeling of hopelessness overcame me.

After the breakup and move I was diagnosed with ADHD, and slowly but surely my behaviors started making more sense to me.  They weren’t excused, but I didn’t have that extra pain of judgment and disbelief and questioning of character from another person.  I was trying so hard to get better, and I knew that I was putting everything in to ‘getting better,’ so when I was failing I was not so hard on myself and could see my actions from a loving, truthful, honest and non-defensive place.

It has led to an understanding, love, and acceptance of myself that I never had, and an appreciation for the very gifts that having this combination gives me.  I’m very honest, sensitive, loyal, hard-working, dedicated, faithful, creative, compassionate, empathetic, courageous, funny, spiritual, and brilliant-in-my-own-way kind of person.   And that is not all bad.

I understand now that I may make a rule for myself and forget it, but usually not to hurt others or myself but simply because my brain is moving too fast wanting to make too big of a positive difference in the world.  And instead of hearing a condescending tone or a questioning attitude, I hear acceptance and forgiveness and love and work to do better next time.  And an overall peace that I am not perfect, never will be, but I am doing the best I can.

Creative Commons License photo credit: AlicePopkorn

ADHD and PTSD: Finding Peace Among the Nightmares

Kathryn Goetzke

I own a company called the Mood-factory (, a company that creates products based on how sensory experiences effect moods. I also run a nonprofit for depressio, iFred (, we are working to change the brand of depression. And yes, I have ADHD, along with PTSD, major depressive disorder, and a host of other challenges, opportunities, and gifts.

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APA Reference
Goetzke, K. (2010). ADHD and PTSD: Finding Peace Among the Nightmares. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Oct 2010
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