Monday, May 31, 2010

Adult ADHD is Real: But How to Convince the Unconvinced?

Living with unrecognized ADHD, in a loved one or in oneself, can feel like being lost in the fog—often on a roller coaster.
      “I hope others can be spared from stumbling through the fog like my husband and I did,” Edith says. “For our first 25 years together, I thought Joe was lazy or selfish or both.”
     Edith also wondered if she was failing as a wife because she had so little success in motivating Joe to be more cooperative and thoughtful toward her and the children. At times she chalked it up to she and Joe marching to the beat of different drummers. “For years, I went back and forth in confusion, with no idea that adult ADHD existed,” she says. “Then he was diagnosed at age 55.”
     Adults with ADHD also use the fog metaphor, including this woman, who was diagnosed at age 52:

I don’t quite know how to describe my life to people who haven’t experienced ADHD the way I have. Imagine driving a car in heavy fog. You get tense, because you can’t see the edges of the road or what’s in front of you. In other words, you often can’t see how your actions will result in predictable consequences, which instead seem to come out of nowhere. 
So you inch along, gripping the wheel, anxious that you’re going to crash into something.That’s how my life was for a half century, until I figured out ADHD. Few people other than my family members would have guessed I had ADHD just by looking at me or talking to me. I worked hard to “pass for normal,” had earned some impressive college degrees, and had tons of plausible excuses for my goof-ups.
When I started taking the stimulant medication, though, the fog suddenly lifted and the road ahead was clear. I could relax my hold on the wheel and enjoy the drive. I could even appreciate the scenery without worrying that I’d get distracted and run off the road. The things most people take for granted, most people with ADHD struggle over for years until they figure out they have it.

Until now, perhaps you have been slogging through serious mental fog, not understanding how your life got so confusing. Even if you have learned about ADHD, maybe you harbor concerns or misconceptions about the validity of the diagnosis or the safety of the medication that help treat it. You are not alone. Everything about ADHD seems to cause confusion, including its name, until you get the facts.
      Below are five statements or questions I sometimes hear from skeptical partners of adults with newly diagnosed ADHD (and, phrased slightly differently, from some adults with ADHD themselves). So, let's take some time to debunk each one.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pt. 2: When a "Good News" Diagnosis Means Bad News for the Relationship

Part 1 is here.

Years ago, when my husband first agreed to be evaluated for ADHD, he did it on one condition: that I be evaluated for it, too.  Whether he simply disliked being singled out or truly thought me ADHD'ish remains lost in the mists of time and perhaps distorted perception. 
      My guess: He simply wasn't connecting the dots between his actions and my reactions, which from his perspective seemed to come irrationally flying out of nowhere. From my perspective, of course, my reactions were entirely justified. But could I be sure? No.  Beside, something had to be up with me if I continued to "ride the rollercoaster" of miscommunications, conflict, agreements gone kerflooie, and so on.  So, I happily agreed to join him in a professional workup.           
      Two lengthy evaluations later, my husband was diagnosed with ADHD and I was not. Instead, the psychiatrist pronounced me "complex" and said, "We usually recommend that our patients with ADHD have partners who are organized and can take care of practical matters."  It took me a minute to comprehend: Wait, you're prescribing ME for my husband? (What might they prescribe if my husband didn't already happen to be married to an organized  person. Divorce? A professional organizer love-match-making service? I didn't think to ask.)
       For the next few years, we endured some head-spinning confusion as we struggled to understand and smooth out the dynamics between the two of us, between our respective neurons, and various permutations thereof. During that tumultuous time, an outside observer might have been tempted to diagnose us with a smorgasbord of conditions. And, at some points, we certainly would have agreed.