ADHD NEWSLETTER from Patrick J. Hurley

ADHDADHD &Guilt “like carrying a bag of rocks”

AUGUST 2004 Volume I Issue VIII

Statement: My intent in this newsletter is to express as quickly as possible my own beliefs and opinions on matters. I have no problems with people who disagree with my opinion and have even been swayed to rethink my position from time to time.

I wanted to let you know that our book many years in the making is FINALLY going to the publisher this week. It will take a while for them to format it and get our ISBN # and Library of Congress # and then format and send it back to me to complete the index but we are still moving forward. It is authored by me and Robert Eme Ph.D. and will be titled ADHD and the Criminal Justice System-“Spinning out of control”. The book is designed for the police, jails, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation, prisons, halfway houses and parole officials. To learn more and get updates click here.

Robert Eme’s e-mail is

NEWSLETTER **This is the original version of article printed in Attention Magazine in August 2004 issue which I wrote. In the magazine it is entitled “Bag of Rocks” and is on page 44**

Guilt seems to be a major problem for persons with ADHD at all ages. We might call it by other names such as self defeating thoughts, negativity, low self esteem or ruminations but it all goes back to a common thread.

When I was diagnosed with ADHD in 1996 I went on my journey of self discovery and found one of my biggest problems was the inability to put past mistakes behind me and move forward. When I was young and getting into trouble at home and school I remembered that I always felt guilt about these things. Usually it was because the people were right about what they were saying.

Every time I did something wrong it was like I put a stone in a large bag I had thrown over my shoulder. The bigger the mistake the larger the rock. These rocks never went away they just accumulated in my bag. As I grew older and into my mid teens I remember that my bag was getting pretty heavy.

One day while playing with matches and gasoline in the garage (it’s a long story) I ended up burning the family garage down with my parent’s new car in it. I immediately made up a story to tell my parents and the fire department. I’m not sure anyone ever really believed me but none the less I didn’t get arrested or sent away and the insurance company paid for the garage to be replaced.

Needless to say I found a nice large rock to place in my bag after that happened. At the same time I said to myself. “If I continue to do this I am going to end up in jail” or collapse from all of this self guilt. I determined then and there to straighten up and fly right.

I had always tried to take on traits I admired in people such as being friendly, honest, good sense of humor and the like. I now made it looking back almost an obsession to not be doing things wrong. I wanted to empty my bag of guilt rocks but couldn’t so the next best thing was to try not to put anymore rocks in the bag.

I am a human so I can honestly say I was not entirely successful in accomplishing this. But amazingly I did put the controls in place in my life that made making mistakes and errors fairly rare. I decided to become a police officer and adopted a rule that I would not break the law.

When I got my drivers license I decided I would obey traffic laws, I wasn’t going to go out drinking under age, use illegal drugs or do any crazy things with my friends. I chose friends who were like me and all of this worked really well for me from that time on. I still carried my bag but as I got older and stronger the weight of the bag although still bothering me became much easier to carry.

I got married when I was 20 years old and had 4 children by the time I turned 26. I loved being a Dad and tried to raise my children to be strong in the area of self control and I was probably a little on the “controlling” side when it came to them doing things wrong.

For some reason I was blessed with four wonderful children who caused almost no problems for my wife and I as they grew to adulthood. I remember though getting upset over some pretty trivial matters such as one of them getting a parking ticket. I would say that the car was registered in my name and I was a deputy sheriff and it would reflect badly on me. I guess I must have thought (in my crazy thinking) a clerk at the city parking department was actually going to recognize my name and make a press release up for the local paper.

I myself could not do anything that to the outside world might be deemed inappropriate. If I got stopped for speeding, which happened a couple of times for 5-10 miles over and resulted in no tickets, it would still take me months to get over it and a rock went in the old bag.

I basically stayed out of trouble and put very few rocks in my bag from the time of the fire when I was a young teen until age 42. My youngest children were finishing up high school and I guess I saw the days of my children needing me to drive them places and do

those sorts of things were behind me. My wife had gone to work and was a successful coach and busy with her work and all my children were active in sports almost year round.

I started getting depressed about all of this and spent many hours on the road by myself following my children to their sporting events and sitting in the stands by myself as my wife was either coaching at another location or I was there to watch her team play. I was proud of all my children and my wife. I wasn’t proud of myself even though I had actually accomplished a lot in my life and been fairly successful in my chosen professions.

The bag that I had been carrying was about to become overloaded with rocks from poor desicisons I was about to make. I ended up having an affair with a woman I worked with

and almost immediately began throwing not just stones but huge rocks and boulders in the bag. The bag seemed to be able to expand as much as it needed to in order to accommodate all the rocks I was filling it with.

Since I had never forgiven myself for anything I had ever done wrong how was I ever going to forgive myself for cheating on my wife and best friend of 22 years and disappointing my adult children. The whole situation overwhelmed me and I was having guilt over the guilt I had that was interfering with me being able to try and make things right. This allowed the rocks to exponentially grow in number and size as I seemed to be picking them up faster and faster.

I really felt at that time that if this continued I may have a year or so left and would probably end up committing suicide. The weight of that bag was almost impossible to carry around with me now as it was.

Everything I did seemed to be the wrong thing which resulted in more rocks. Every time I tried to do what I thought was the right thing it either was not the right thing or was mistaken by others to be manipulating things. Rock after rock was being added and I needed some help. My sister had suggested to my estranged wife that I be checked for ADHD. If it wasn’t for being at such a low point in my life I doubt I would have ever considered seeing a psychologist to be tested.

I did go in and got tested and received a diagnosis of ADHD and began taking a stimulant medication. I can recall that within 15 minutes I started feeling better about myself. It seemed like the bag of rocks although not gone had torn open at the bottom and some of the rocks were falling out. A huge burdened remained but it seemed to grow lighter as days and weeks passed.

I actually got too confident in my abilities and thought I could accomplish more than I was capable of in trying to reconcile with my wife and kids. I felt better about myself and wanted them to share in that immediately. I tried to convince myself that I understood there was damage to repair but thought we could repair it later after we all got back together on the same page. This thinking I was Superman and could solve all of this

overnight led to some even worse mistakes and assumptions on my part.

The bag of rocks got some new rocks while it continued to lose some old ones. I was impatient and thought things should change overnight. They didn’t and wouldn’t. My marriage eventually collapsed and my relationship with my children was a mess. I finally realized that the road back would be a long one and that I would probably never be able to fully empty that bag of rocks.

I finally grew to accept me, the bag of rocks and the realization that the road back would be a long one with many potholes. By educating myself and trying to do the right thing maybe some of the rocks in my bag that were falling on the ground behind me could fill in potholes or allow others who took my path a smoother or easier road on which to walk.

If you have any comments feel free to e-mail me a -short note- (if possible). I have ADHD too so I know how difficult it is to write short notes.

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Have a great month. Talk to you soon.

Patrick J. Hurley

Patrick J. Hurley
ADD Coaching Clinic
136 36th Street Drive SE # A-3
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403

Author's Bio: 

17 years as a deputy sheriff (Lieutenant) and 5 years as adult probation officer. Facilitator of ADHD support group since 1997. Currently an ADHD life skills coach