How many times have you heard someone say “I am so ADD” or so-and-so is “so ADD”? Perhaps you know a mom who has struggled with a young child who is suspected of having ADD or has recently been diagnosed with the disorder. The point? Of all the disorders that are out there, ADD or ADHD is a common one! Any time someone’s behavior deviates from what is considered to be “normal,” what follows can be frustrating, tiring, and emotional. Heck, there are some folks out there that don’t even believe that ADD exists – which brings about another dynamic to the diagnosis. Regardless of what your beliefs are, here’s my personal experience with ADD, in hopes of offering some pearls of wisdom to someone who might be going through it as well.
I’ll start from the beginning. I do not personally have ADD or ADHD. Although motherhood has seemed to unleash the mom ADD effect. Ha! Can you relate? Let me paint the picture – you walk toward the kitchen to do dishes but on the way see a sock. So. You pick up the sock to take to the laundry room, but when you get to the laundry room, you notice someone left the door open. Sooo you end out in the garage and remember you needed to bring the Fall decorations down and, well, not only do the dishes never get done, but neither does anything else you needed to. Yep. You know it. Don’t worry; it’s not ADD – just motherhood. It may or may not pass. I digress. ADD, the real attention deficit disorder – ready, go.
Now, back to my post….before I’m thought to have ADD, too!
I do not carry the diagnosis but three of the five of us in my immediate family does, so I kind of know a thing or two about it. Also, my husband was just diagnosed, as an adult, and is “off the charts”. Basically, I am like the ambassador of ADD individuals. I can wholeheartedly say that sharing my marriage with ADD has been the more difficult hand dealt, over merely residing in the same family as a few ADD people.
Common traits of people with ADD can include impulsiveness, lack of focus, and hyperactivity.
Here’s how these three traits have affected my husband, therefore affecting my marriage.
For the most part, hyperactivity doesn’t impact our day to day relationship much. We have instances for example, like vacation or downtime when it becomes challenging. Let’s take a vacation, for example. You know, when you go on a cruise and sit by the pool and read? Yea, we don’t do that. We pretend we’re going to relax by the pool and read. We get all set up. I will find the perfect position and start getting into my book, and then just like that, it’s over. My five minutes is up and before I know it I’m on my 10th lap around the ship.
The impulsivity and lack of focus, on the other hand, can be problematic. He (talking about my husband) doesn’t mean them to be. He means well. And 98.9% of the time he is directionally correct but when we are talking real life, affecting our family, adult impulsivity can be exhausting. Aside from the energy it takes to hone such spirit, there is also the resentment that comes with always having to be the responsible one. You see, being impulsive is also like being spontaneous, which is fun right? Yep, he gets to be the fun one, and mom gets to be the one who is continually sucking the wind out of the giant red fun balloon. Ironically, it was the spontaneity that drew me in while we were dating.
Interestingly enough, the lack of focus, which is the most difficult for him to deal with, is more natural for me to cope. It’s expected. Albeit sometimes hurtful, when after rendering myself vulnerable, I realize (by the look on his face) that he wasn’t there for 3/4 of my monologue. I share these things because as a society we make light. We chalk it up to ADD, chuckle and move one, but it’s not always that easy. It’s not as straightforward as popping a pill and calling it a day.
We are four weeks into my main squeeze’s diagnosis, and I would like to share three things that we have learned in the process.
1. To Medicate or Not
I called my husband’s ADD early on. I remember sitting at a TGIFriday’s, over a couple of brews and a greasy plate of bar food, using every ounce of concentration I had to follow his roundabout train of thought. I listened, and he talked, and eventually, after repeating it back to him, we confirmed that I had understood the point of the conversation. He looked back in amazement and gleamed to be understood. “I can’t believe you followed all that,” knowing well himself how all over his thoughts were. I joked about my family and said something about being a pro. And so we continued over the years.
However, as life became more complicated and busy, it was not always realistic for so much time and effort to be put into expressing or receiving his messages. He would mention in passing, especially in particularly stressful times that he wanted to go on medication to help him focus. But just as the ebb and flow of life are, things would settle, and talk of drugs would go as well. I never pushed the topic, knowing from my experience with people close to me, that it’s a difficult pill to swallow (pun entirely intended) to accept that the way you are, is not normal and needs to be medicated.
Then there are other risk factors. Medications that treat ADD and ADHD are very hard on the body. They are stimulants, in many cases similar to prescription Cocaine (which has the opposite effect in the ADD brain). They are habit forming and cause the heart to do extra work. My husband has a family history of heart disease and massive heart attacks. These are all things he had to take into consideration.
2. The Really GREAT ADD Traits
I am about to share something that most people don’t know about ADD. So if you are a momma of newly diagnosed kiddo (or husband) hold on to your panties. ADD is NOT all bad. It has some excellent parts, which make our ADD peeps super special. First, for all we talk about lack of focus, we hardly ever talk about the ability to HYPER focus.
I am talking about focusing on a task (typically something they love or are interested in) in a way that is freaky. When my husband gets in the zone, it’s nothing short of amazing what he can do. The ADD and creatively link. That’s right, the same thing that lends to fast thinking and impulsivity also makes the brain more creative and better at “thinking outside of the box.”
3. Compassion and Acceptance
The most important thing that I implore you to practice when dealing with a new diagnosis or someone you know who lives with ADD is compassion and acceptance. ADD (or ADHD) is a part of who that person is. It’s a part of their very make-up. Understand that it is an incredibly jarring process for them to go on medication and suddenly have the inside of their head feel completely different. They will have to relearn how they go about their lives and put new systems and routines into place. This is especially impactful for an adult who has already put systems in place to cope with ADD without medication for a lifetime.
There will be a process of finding the correct medication and the right dosage, and the frequency of taking the drug. For example, my husband only takes his Monday through Friday. This is for a couple of reasons. 1. It gives his body a break from the stimulant, and well as prevents addiction, and 2. gives him time to be him. The truth is, for all I thought I would love the addition of medication in our life, it was a difficult adjustment for me as well. It made me sad, and feel disconnected from the person who I knew and loved. For me, the ADD was just as much of a part of him as his salt and pepper hair, and I love him.
Just as with any significant health decision, it’s important to know that there is no one size fits all. It’s a deeply personal decision, and you should approach it empathetically. If you remember anything after reading this, let it be this. Do more listening than you do talking, remember while you think you know what it’s like, you have no idea. And love your person fiercely. Make sure they know that you love them – spontaneous, busy, scattered quirks and all.