Tuesday, July 6, 2010

John and Abby: Solving the "Problem with No Name"

This July 4, my husband and I celebrated our 12th anniversary.  Compared to couples married 30, 40 or even the 50 years of my parents' marriage, 12 years is hardly remarkable unless you figure in unrecognized ADHD.
     As I joked to my friends on Facebook: "We can credit the fact that we're still married—and happily so—to equal parts brutal honesty, teeth-gnashing, affection, shared interests, sense of humor, and inertia."  
     Mostly, though, we can credit keen ADHD awareness. To see our wedding photo and read my interview with a reporter from Health.com, click here. (Notice in the photo that I am clearly in the dripline of the double-umbrella my new husband is holding; let's just say that is rather symbolic of the early days of our marriage, when his ADHD was flying well beneath the radar screen yet still having an impact.)
     In many ways, we are like the couple whose story I share below, John and Abby, excerpted from Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?:

Thirty years ago, at age 13, John set his sights on becoming a computer scientist. Despite almost flunking out of high school, he went on to earn his doctorate. It required Herculean effort, though, and tanks of ulcer-inducing coffee, not to mention a tunnel-vision focus that eclipsed a social life and other healthy habits. [Note: That's a caffeine IV in the illustration at left.]
      Sure, John noticed that other students, many less intelligent than he, didn’t suffer concentration problems like his. But he thought it was just his nature, something unchangeable. Upon finally leaving academia’s structure for the business environment, John found himself constantly on the outs with managers for missed deadlines, miscommunications, and an uncooperative attitude.   
      “So here is this wonderful, smart guy who has worked so hard to achieve his goal telling himself he’s a failure,” says his wife, Abby. “And his disappointed anger about it, along with his workaholic tendencies, was wrecking our marriage.”
      But ADHD? Not one of the therapists, doctors, or executive coaches they saw mentioned it. They opined that John had “personality problems” or was narcissistic, but they offered no lasting remedies.
      Meanwhile, Abby was increasingly finding her own ability to think clearly—and her joy in life—diminished. “John’s erratic and contradictory behaviors, not to mention our garbled communications, had me in a spin,” she remembers. “Was this what it meant to live with a ‘gifted’ person? If so, could I survive it? Could he survive his adrenaline-driven behaviors and lousy lifestyle habits? He definitely seemed on the fast track to a heart attack.”
      Yes, some observers might have focused on John’s high intelligence and viewed his troubling behaviors as the obligatory price for it. His therapist encouraged him to “follow his bliss”—drop out of the rat race and go live in a van. “But that therapist had no clue that living in a van was not his bliss!” Abby protests. “John was depressed because he was on probation at work. We were separated at the time and heading toward divorce. I looked John in the eye and said, ‘Is that what you really want, because if it is, go for it, buddy. Or is it that you see no other options?’ He just hung his head and nodded yes to the latter.”
      A few days before that, Abby had heard a radio show on adult ADHD. It hit home. John’s professional ADHD evaluation the next week proved her instincts right. Fortunately, identifying his challenges as being ADHD-related and seeking treatment meant he wasn’t forced to abandon the work he loved, which required cooperating and communicating with people, or, as it turns out, his marriage. He could have his computer code and work well with others, too. 
       These days, John is more innovative, not less, and his career opportunities have expanded. New efficiency, thanks to fewer mistakes on the job, means he has more time (and inclination) to exercise. Plus, he no longer self-medicates with coffee, junk food, and video games, all of which used to send his brain chemicals (and moods) reeling on the wild roller coaster.

Here's an excerpt from John's essay in the book:

Before medication, I always found my work highly stimulating, so that was my impetus to achieve and focus. That and money—lots of it. (As a kid, I’d coveted James Bond’s lifestyle, complete with all the cool gadgets, and set my mind to achieving it.)  
      I could always come up with great ideas or wow a conference crowd with my presentations. The rest of the time, though, I was too much like Sluggo the Wonder Boy.
      The fact of the matter is, no matter how stimulating one’s work is, it’s not stimulating all of the time. And yet, to be successful in your work and in your personal life, you do need to focus most of the time.  
      At work, I’m now better able to program software because I’m more patient and therefore less likely to make mistakes or take shortcuts that I’ll regret later. My judgment has improved in evaluating my ideas to see if they’re actually worth pursuing or just an old habit of revving up brain stimulation. 
      I’m much better at stopping to evaluate progress, determining if I’m on track with my goal rather than charging straight ahead with a flawed idea—and getting angry with anyone who tries to convince me to reconsider.  
      So yes, work is going better and more enjoyable. But have I suddenly become a cheerful “people person”? Let’s not go that far. Let’s just say that medication has restrained my desire to throttle people who oppose my “grand designs.” I do get along better with more coworkers, not solely the ones I find super smart. In fact, I’m now better able to consider their ideas before I tell them, “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard” or “Where did you go to graduate school again?”  Did I mention my sense of humor has improved?

For her part, Abby has this to say: 

Most important in my eyes, John is finally content and has strong self-esteem instead of obnoxious grandiosity, and I’m glad that we’re married, after several hellish years of seriously questioning my sanity for sticking it out. 
      Prior to learning about ADHD, sometimes he could be incredibly selfish and insensitive. I was realistic enough to know that if I stayed with him without anything changing, my life would quickly keep going downhill financially, psychologically, and in every other way. I was prepared to get out and save myself. 
      But, strangely enough, I never felt that the behavior, however hurtful, reflected his true nature. Initially, this perception alarmed me; I worried that I’d grown delusional, seeing things I wanted to see rather than reality. Eventually, though, it just seemed that anyone with heart and intelligence could see that even when he was acting like a Grade- A jerk, something was “off.”
      We persevered through many non-ADHD-savvy psychiatrists and therapists. It was a nightmare in many ways, but the effort has brought us closer in some odd way that, for example, fun vacations and easy times wouldn’t have. 
       Now I just want to revisit their offices and say, “See! The problem wasn’t me being ‘controlling’ and ‘codependent’ or his ‘difficult personality.’ It was ADHD. He has changed, and we’re happy, so dammit, wake up, do your job, read the literature, and learn about this!” 
       As for those people who don’t believe that ADHD is a valid condition and criticize its diagnosis and treatment, my husband and I can’t fathom it. Why on earth would they want to deprive others of this choice to feel better and do better in life? Would they take away someone’s eyeglasses and scold him to simply try harder to see? It has to be their fear talking. That’s all. Fear of new ideas. And ignorance. 

There are many variation on the story of John and Abby. ADHD affects all genders and all ages. Their story, and my own, are just two variations on the many ways in which ADHD can affect relationships and the many ways in which education and addressing ADHD challenges can make a difference. 
      No, troubled relationships don't always boil down to unrecognized ADHD. Moreover, ADHD doesn't always challenge a relationship.  But when ADHD symptoms are present and challenging, it's a good starting point.  Once ADHD is understood and addressed, then you can better focus on other garden-variety issues that can disrupt domestic bliss.
      I invite you to share your own perspective and experiences in a comment -- and please share this blog with anyone who might find it helpful. The handy "share" device below makes it easy to post this column to your FB friends, tweet it, and so forth!



  1. As a coach for ADHD Adults and facilitator of ADHD support groups your posting is like the many stories I hear from the group and from clients. The other element that is needed to make the relationship successful besides having the ADHD diagnosis is having a spouse or significant other who understands ADHD or is willing to learn about ADHD. Having or obtaining that knowledge creates realistic expectations and acceptance for the spouse and the relationship.

  2. For years I felt like I was a failure because of my, well, failures: missed school or work deadlines, anger outbursts and so on. Once I was diagnosed (too late- I'm in my forties) with ADD the clouds parted thanks to medication and therapy. Now I know "the whys" of my life. Wish I could turn back time.

  3. I can totally relate. I just finished a Master's. I did not know, as an undergrad, that I had ADHD. I knew that I was smart, so did my teachers...they just called me "unfocused" and some a "disappointment" and I graduated with a 2.6, far below my capabilities. I came away from the experience thinking I was stupid. Or lazy. Or nuts. I just couldn't figure out why certain things just didn't work and why my emotions and sensations felt so powerful, and I could not, for the life of me, focus on school. And why it I was always so busy, but achieved so little, if I was so "smart". I never thought I would go to graduate school.

    Flash forward to my decision to go to grad school. I cried when I kicked ass on the entrance exam...because I really didn't think I was smart, and couldn't believe I got a 96th percentile score.

    And then I got into school. My first semester, I did nothing but school full time, and just about lost my mind. It simply wasn't stimulating enough. It was too one-track. it drove me nuts. I would clean the kitchen 5 times a day.

    Something was wrong so the next semester I took a job while doing school, and took on about three other hobbies...and went the other way and got myself WAY overstimulated. But I was happier that way than understimulated. Sort of. And I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn't stupid. So I worked for really great grades. I had some extreme work habits though, and without them I could not function. I had to be Type A+++++++ to make it work, while other students would sort of half ass their way through and get the same grades.

    After 2 years...I finally reached a burnout point. I couldn't focus anymore on school and I was laser focused on the wrong things, like checking my email obsessively. I was on a weird circuit of checking and re-checking and re-checking stuff...I was OCD-ing out, but OCD wasn't the problem. I just knew I'd reached a desperate tipping point...and I needed help getting out of that spot. I went to a mental health center and said "I think I have ADHD and an anxiety disorder". They concurred. When I think about it now, I can't remember the exact moment when I realized "I need help, something is wrong" but I remember the time period so clearly, and I'm so much more relaxed now...that I can't believe I was living like that.

    Even after I began treatment (I have a great therapist and take medication) it was a struggle, because I am very med sensitive, and because personal transformation is no small business. My last semester of school, which just ended in May, was actually SO stressful that I triggered a migraine-disorder that nearly kept me from graduating altogether. I did graduate, and I did so with a 3.7 GPA, and with support from some very understanding professors, to whom I'm eternally grateful. I did it with ADHD.

    And I know now that I'm not stupid.

    I completely relate to the statement about having to recognize when you are making good decisions, and when you are self-stimulating with unrealistic thinking, just because you need the stimulation. I recognize that feeling so immediately now. I understand how ADHDers can easily be mistaken for bipolar. For me, that sensation is such a high that it almost feels like mania, and it certainly feels like a drug. I make myself write those moments down and come back to them later. I am now the one that makes the decisions.

    Great post Gina. It's important for us ADHDers to learn to manage our stress, our talents, and our expectations in healthy ways. I triggered a disabling migraine disorder with my academic issues for heaven's sake...if that doesn't speak volumes I don't know what else does :)

  4. Hi Deb,

    Yes, of course, understanding ADHD is important on both sides. That's what I've devoted the last ten years of my life to -- as well as my book. ;-)

    That's why I wrote (above): "Once ADHD is understood and addressed, then you can better focus on other garden-variety issues that can disrupt domestic bliss." That means: Once ADHD is understood by BOTH parties in the couple.

    That's also why I wrote (above) that, for making it to our 12th anniversary, "we can credit keen ADHD awareness."

    On your second point, yes, acceptance of the limits of treatment and accommodation, along with lots of empathy for each other, is always important.

    That said, many times I see too much emphasis on more "realistic expectations" and "acceptance" well before enough emphasis has been placed on strategies that truly elevate the life of the adult with ADHD and his/her loved ones.

    Yes, there are limits to even the best treatment, but unfortunately, most people I've encountered haven't gotten anything close to the best treatment.

    Too often, for example, even when medication is attempted, it's not done well. The physician doesn't prescribe as carefully as good treatment outcome requires, fails to use rating scales, and often fails to take into account common problems with immediate-delivery medications or co-existing conditions that can be exacerbated by the stimulants.

    When therapy is pursued, that also can go astray if the therapist relies on psychodynamic paradigms alone and doesn't truly understand the evidence-based therapy principles for ADHD.

    And when coaching is sought, it won't end well when the coach focuses more on "acceptance" (especially for the partner of adult with ADHD) than strategies that work for both partners.

    So, before I'd ever encourage someone to accept ADHD challenges, I'd want to know what they had tried thus far.

    In fact, I was largely inspired to write the book because I'd grown weary of hearing stories that could have turned out better if evidence-based strategies had been followed.

    1. This meant a lot to me to read. I am so exhausted by this forced acceptance message we non-AHD spouses get..I get...as if they say you have to accept if you are any sort of good person. And I do my best, but there is no refueling and like I said to him this morning when he was throwing his temper around and he said he was trying not to upset me (no changes taking place),..We spouses supporting also have needs. We need to actually act to meet our challenges, not just me fixing and accepting... I am all for strategies, but they, as you say, need to involve both partners (Anbee. Ty for pointing me out towards this blog, btw)

    2. Definitely, the "supporting spouses" have needs!

      In fact, I'm pretty sure I put this issue on the map. When no one else was talking about it.

      When my husband was diagnosed, the clinic practically "prescribed" me for my husband...."What we usually recommend for our ADHD patients is well-organized spouses who can help."

      "Excuse me?" I said. "Are you talking about a spouse or an executive secretary?"

      The fact that their treatment standards were so low they had to push all the responsibility on the spouse...that just made me so angry. This was the best they had to offer? And no acknowledgement that the spouse is a human being, with his or her own drives and needs and actualization?

      Yes, I rebelled at the entire idea.

      Don't worry. You won't find me promoting "strategies" that short-shrift the partners. I work on helping each individual and couple function as highly as possible.

  5. Hi Anonymous,

    Thanks for explaining what a diagnosis meant for you. I think that is so helpful for those who are afraid of even being evaluated.

    So much of the burden of Adult ADHD is lifted when you can name the invisible enemy and let up on the painful misattributions (e.g. "I'm a failure.)

  6. I've been following this blog for some time now, and I see the previous and after stories.
    But I don't see how those people get from dysfunctional ADD patients to functional ADD patients. What therapies, medical treatments get them there?
    I am starting to considerer going to the docs and getting that diagnosis (for me ánd the boyfriend), but what then?

  7. Hi Kaetje,

    Those are good questions. After a few years of trying to answer questions such as this via e-mail or an evening's support group, I finally realized it's impossible.

    Piecemeal posts or discussions just don't provide the solid foundation of understanding and the details of evidence-based strategies for medication and therapeutic treatment.

    That's why I had to write a 400-page book that includes interviews with many top experts on these topics. For one-stop shopping. :-)

    Even BEFORE you go for a diagnosis, I suggest that you get educated. That way, you'll be better able to select a qualified professional to conduct the evaluation and guide your treatment.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Kaetje: every person's impairment is different, so every person's journey is different. Personally, I found the book Driven to Distraction helpful as a starting point.

    And not to be too self-promoting, but I have a blog you might find interesting, simply because it's literally a chronicle of my own journey from "oh crap, what's wrong with me" to "oh hey, I'm functioning pretty well with ADHD now": http://18channels.blogspot.com

    My journey may not resemble yours at all, but it is proof that we can learn to make healthier choices in living with ADHD.

  10. It feels good to hear stories like these. I never knew of ADHD a year back. I was just struggling to concentrate. Being a Ph.D. student, I need to read a lot of papers and be able to do some constructive research. Each day I end up reading not more than a few pages. I was a good student at school. When I was young, I would just lock myself up in a room to study so that I was totally alone. It helped somehow. I have managed to come this far but these days I seem to have lost my ability to focus completely. I am constantly checking my emails and facebook although I know there can be no new message every 5 mins. My Ph.D started off pretty okay. But slowly I started to doubt my abilities when I just could not do well. My supervisors thought I was not progressing at all. I was trying my best but I was getting more and more stressed each day with the pressure I had upon myself and also with the pressure my supervisors put on me. I felt like I was good for nothing. I know I am not stupid and only if I can organize myself in doing some work with focus, I would have done much more of a good job. I like to work when I know what I have to do. The sad part is mostly I have very hard starting up the work. I don't know where to begin the work from? This leads to weeks of no work at all. I am just staring infront of my computer and doing no work - not because I don't want to but because I don't know how to start. I feel so restless and panicky all the time. Like right now, I am thinking of trying to get some work done today. Day just passes by and in the end I would not have done anything. It is really frustrating. Although I have never tested myself for ADHD, I am sure I have it and I think its high time I get some help. Although I am skeptical in taking medicines, I think I will try it out to save myself and my career.

  11. Hi Anonymous PhD --

    It surely sounds like you should rule out ADHD. Because if you have ADHD and don't know it, that could add a really unreasonable burden to your completing your studies.

    I know MANY bright people with ADHD who began their advanced degrees with the best of intentions but soon diminished interest and motivation got the best of them.

    Moreover, there are some who completed the degree and suddenly realized, "Oh, I have to get a job now and I don't like my field of study -- and by the way, I've accumulated a lot of student debt!"

    So, please don't procrastinate. Set a priority goal to learning more about ADHD-- particularly if you might have it. If you do, there's lots you can do to make your life easier and to make sure you're thinking clearly about big decisions (such as your thesis topic!).

    You might want to read my blog post on this topic:

    good luck!

  12. Thanks for sharing your story, Katie -- and the link to your blog. ;-) I link to it in the blog roll.


  13. Hi Gina:
    I had the pleasure of meeting you in person at the previous CHADD (Children & Adults with ADD) conference in Cleveland. I have one child diagnosed with ADHD, I have ADD and two in our family who are undiagnosed.

    I forwarded this article to my husband, in an effort for him to realize that it is NOT TOO LATE for a proper diagnosis, even at age 55. He has attended local CHADD programs with me and thinks he is only learning what will help his daughter, not what will help the relationships with everyone.

    Any suggestions for him to accept a diagnosis (changing his primary care physician would help), rather than me accepting that this is "as good as it gets" after 25 years of marriage?

    Thanks for your book and this Blog.

  14. Hi Mindy,

    Nice to hear from you. (Perhaps you are the nice lady who pitched in at the bookstore?)

    One of our local CHADD dads comes to the meeting with his wife (who also attends my face-to-face support group for the partners of adults with ADHD). Ostensibly, it is to learn more about ADHD for his two children, who are both diagnosed and in treatment.

    Because I've known him a while, I sometimes jokingly point out that "little acorns don't fall far from the tree." He's slowly starting to "get" it.

    What will be the final "a-ha" moment that leads to his diagnosis and possible treatment for ADHD? Who knows.... Some people just need time to adjust to the idea. Some need a cataclysmic event, such as a marital separation or a job loss.

    But what I've seen for many years is that many hard-core "denialists" who are lucky enough to avoid the cataclysmic event come around only when their paradigm is shifted. And that usually means medication. Once they discover a new way of "being" in the world, that is the visceral proof of ADHD.

    What really cracks me up is that these folks often become the biggest evangelists about ADHD -- and seem to completely forget their long resistance, not to mention my prodding. ;-)

    In general, my advice to the partners of adults with ADHD "in denial" is this:

    1. Get very very clear on what ADHD is -- and isn't.

    2. If you have children, be very clear on the ways in which a co-parent's ADHD symptoms adversely affect the child. This clarity often invokes the courage to push the issue.

    3. Get validation for your perceptions -- either through a therapist, close friend, or a group for partners of adults with ADHD.

    Your partner says it's normal to stay up playing video games until 2?
    Your partner says it's normal to come to bed with the Crackberry? Your partner ran out on Christmas morning to buy a present for you at the drugstore, wrapped it in a bath-towel, and, when you aren't thrilled, says you are impossible to please? Find out if others think this is acceptable.

    The online group that I moderate (sponsored by CHADD of Northern California) has helped many people to get over the final hurdle of "denial" in their partners. Some members have ADHD themselves; the only requirement is that one be in partnership with an adult who has been diagnosed or likely has ADHD.


    Beyond that, may you should re-read the book chapters on getting through denial, including the LEAP strategy.

    I hope that helps!

  15. Hello to all,
    I was "officially" diagnosed last year 8-2009. I am 37 years old and knew as a youngster that I was ADHD as my mom told me and she fed me coffee. As I got older and in both high school and college, I alway had a hard time reading, comprehending, answer test questions in haste and incorrectly reading the answers or the question. I was implussive in life, my decisions, and in my relationships. I was tested because I hated my newly "promoted" job and wanted to go back to school and finish a BS. I was in my current job a year it was noisy I could not concentrate. I worked on a computer which is boring for me as I am the hyper side. I also hated not being with humans on a daily basis however I worked with them via email, training on the phone, or in person. I hated reading, sitting in a cubicle with so much distraction. I cried, I was upset, if I missed something I beat myself up, I hated all aspects of myself. Then I was diagnosed. However, my ADHD pychiatrist did not start me on ADHD meds right away, instead he wanted to change my anxiety (Paxil of 10 mg) and start me on drugs like Lamictal, Abilify, and others like them. He gave me plain old Ritalin that I used for maybe 2-3 weeks, it made me panic once the dose subsided, paranoid and afraid to take the next dose. I finally gave up took off from life (work, relationship, myself, disasterous life events and school) I went to MI for a visit with my family, my little sister was struggling like me and wanted to see if she was ADD (she did not have the H). Her doctor prescribed her an antianxiety drug like me and then her Pyschiatrist prescribed Concerta, he felt Adderall had too much of a rush and a crash at the end (as she found to be very true and it gave her a temper much like the Ritalin did me). Therefore the Concerta worked for her and I finally came home in Feb of 2010 and asked my family doctor (begged) him to treat my ADHD and not make me go back to the other doctor. He agreed and tried me on the Concerta 18 mg. I am extremely sensative to drugs, which is why I only take 10 mg Paxil anymore, makes me depressed. Concerta though a family of Ritalin, worked great, sometimes I think I need a bit more however for now I am good with the Paxil and Concerta. I am happier, a better worker, I have read at least 5 books that pertain to ADHD or ADD, or women ADHD, School, and relationships and ADHD. I have also found myself from previously to be a bit co-dependent, already anxious thanks to my moms genes, and then my tendencies of OCD (which make me a well organized ADHD) odd enough for me. I have joined CHADD.org, I am registered at both work and school with the Disabilities Resource center, school for accomadations, and work to protect myself. I leave for appts weekly and I take time from my personal leave, therefore I have FMLA to cover me and the Disabilities Law Act. I am a great worker always have been as a people pleaser, mediocare with my relationships, and needing to improve desperately with my self care. I have a counselor that finally understands me after 23 years of those who don't. I read so much about all my diagnosis (too much it starts to make you feel overwhelmed of needs to change) and I seek help with groups locally with CHADD.org. I am much better than I have ever been in my life. I have what I tell my counselor 3/4 more to go! Somedays, I am not all the way there and I feel I take a step back. Practice makes things "perfect" and one step back gain be 2 steps forward the next time.
    I want to thank all those who share their story here and everywhere! It is so helpful to know I am not the only one out there and I am not the only one that totally knows exactly how the 1 of the couple feels. I am all that and then some! I am the woman and the man in the above blog at times. :) thank you for your time.

    Carrie aka "squirrel girl"

  16. "Once they(I) discover(ed) a new way of "being" in the world, that is the visceral proof of ADHD." That's something I know is true.

    Great post,comment's and advise Gina!

  17. Thanks for sharing this, Gina.

    I don't know how you do it. I want your energy!

    My family is grateful to you for your help.


  18. Hi Gina,

    I am writing because I have been struggling in my relationship for quite some time now-trying to make sense of my partner's behavior that doesn't seem to make any sense at all. I have been reading about adult ADHD for days now and can't seem to soak up enough information...it just feels so strange and yet comforting to read accounts of similar experiences and witnessing of the patterns that I systematically encounter with my partner.

    Most debilitating for us is the anger. It is out of control and always unsettling and confusing for me. It seems to come from nowhere, but there is always a very specific turning point and I can see a physical change take over him...afterwards he always insists/admits that he feels totally out of control. (But recalls how much worse these fits were as a child and adolescent) And in these fits he simply can't walk away no matter how many different forms I use to get us there. He is constantly apologizing for his behavior and is able to admit that he was wrong, but is unable to make any sustainable changes to control future outbursts of his frustration over little things.

    He is obsessive about being on time.
    He forgets things all of the time...and gets extremely angry if you question his ability to forget something so often.
    It's almost a joke between us about how impatient he is...untill of course, he is impatient and angry about something.

    He has a very addictive personality. Thankfully, he has been able to walk away most of his super unhealthy addictions and now has adopted exercise into his list of addictions. He still smokes pot multiple times a day which is a major point of contention in our relationship, but he insists that it calms him down and it is like his "medicine".

    He is totally incapable of doing bills or paperwork. Has no patience for it and simply can't organize it.

    If this is ADHD, I need help exposing him to it...he always gets angry that I am analyzing his behavior, but it is simply dissolving our relationship. He has often said that if he went to a doctor that would just give him meds that made him like a zombie. I am nervous about approaching him with info about adult ADHD because I feel like he will just accuse me of trying to analyze him rather than just be his girlfriend....but his erratic behavior makes me walk on egg shells and makes it very confusing and difficult to avoid.

    I need some advice resources.

  19. Hi Anonymous,

    Whether it's ADD or something else, it definitely sounds like your boyfriend could use a professional evaluation.

    The question is: How to get him to consider it?

    I would encourage you not to put the cart before the horse. That is, if you want to help him help himself, you need to get as educated as you possibly can.

    The sorry truth is that our "mental health system" can be like a casino -- you gamble on a professional's qualifications and reliability. The only way you can minimize this crapshoot is to be educated so you can assess their qualifications.

    What you do NOT want to have happen is finally getting your boyfriend to consider an evaluation, and the "professional" turns out to be a bozo. This happens more times than I can count.

    In fact, it just happened with a very good friend. I gave her my book, but she didn't read it, felt that this was her husband's issue and he should be the adult. And, in her defense, he did not want her involved. And now, I'm afraid, it's CASE CLOSED. Forevermore.

    If your boyfriend has these anger attacks, and has since childhood, this is a medical issue. There's nothing you can do to "manage" him, and you could wear yourself out trying, wrongly blaming yourself for failing. So, please don't go that route.

    If I knew great resources to refer to for such a situation, I would. But that's why I had to write a book. ;-)

    Good luck!

  20. Hi Carrie --

    So sorry I neglected responding to you, even though I read and enjoyed your post the time you wrote it. I get a little confused when there are multiple posters named "Anonymous." :-)

    Thank you for sharing your story. Yes, indeed, progress can often feel like 1 step forward and 2 steps back. But the longer you go, the more it is like five steps forward and 1 step back but only for a day or two!

    I wish that for you. I know that it took my husband and I 7 years of putting our heads together to really optimize his strategies (including various medication tweaks, eliminating food to which he had sensitivities, and getting lots more exercise).

    It is a good thing he is doing so well these days, because after 10 years in the ADHD trenches, trying to help people remotely when sometimes they don't even have insurance or $$, my little brain is about drained. In short, he is now reminding ME to get more exercise and cajoling me out for a hike. :-)


  21. And Cheryl, I thought for sure I'd responded to you. Wonder what happened?

    I remember, because I thought "WHAT energy?" It's all gone now. lol!

  22. Gina
    My situation is one of futile hope. My diagnosis of ADHD was there and the symptoms of the condition ring true. The tests scores I have achieved are through the roof. I didnt take a firm grasp of healing until it was too late. My marriage was clearly affected by it. She attempted to help but I think I needed to get it on my own. I have and through counseling, meds, and self help I am on the right track.What I want is my old life with my wife and children back. Some of the way I behaved and managed my life was ADHD; some due to parents that were mentally scarring daily through their actions;some was just stupidity. My life was filled with under-achievements.I am smart, bright, and resourceful. I am still a wonderful father to 2 children who live with their mother. Through all this and her insistence of a quick divorce procedure for the kids sake, I want her back. I have done the wrong things to try and now I am lost without her in a sense. My life is on track except for a few financial issues I promised her in the divorce agreement which were unrealistic. Again I believe that was ADHD talking. To make a long story short, is there anyway I reconcile with her? I know the kids want it. My younger one is ADHD and has Asperger's. But it is not about that, her looks, her success, or really anything. I just want to be with her. I love her too much. I always knew that but the wiring was disconnected between the heart and the brain. My heart is talking now and I am managing my ADHD disorder better. Thank you.

  23. Hi there,

    Thank you for sharing your story. Of course I am deeply sorry that your story follows an all-too-familiar line. But let's hope that it might "awaken" someone else who is teetering on the edge of lassitude about their own ADHD-related situation.

    The sad truth is that ADHD symptoms themselves often thwart a person's ability to follow through on doing something about them. You say that your wife tried to help you, but you needed to "get it on my own." To me, this sounds like she was seeing the consequences of your behavior sooner than you were (another ADHD pitfall). You learned that she really meant it -- that the situation had URGENCY -- only after she followed through with the divorce.

    And that's what ADHD is all about -- not seeing "the writing on the wall" soon enough, not having the motivation to follow through on changing the dynamic, and so forth. But it's often the "emotional baggage" from a lifetime of unrecognized ADHD that also creates a lack of optimism or hope that change is possible. Chances are good that you'd tried to change some behaviors throughout your life before finally giving up. You had no idea that solid ADHD treatment could really make a difference.

    As for your chances of reconciliation, I'm sorry that of course I cannot speculate. Your ex-wife might be intent on putting the past behind her and, having been burned too many times, is not going near that particular stove again. Then again, if she sees that you continue to make solid progress, there might be an opportunity.

    Either way, for your sake and your children's sake, sticking with your program for progress seems the best path. It might take some patience (not a plentiful commodity with ADHD!) but the factors that led to the divorce probably probably mounted slowly over time, too.

    I love that you are now aware of the need for connecting the heart with the brain. For many people, ADHD is indeed a disorder of disconnection -- between cause and effect, between now and the future, and between the head and the heart.

    I wish you all the best!


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