ADHD and cross-cultural communication

I am 55 years old and have been recently diagnosed with ADHD (and been doing a fair amount of reading as well). I have also been married for 24 years. Reading the forums has been very interesting because I can see a lot of the rocky times that my wife and I have had in the posts and replies. However, there is one thing that I didn't see mentioned. I was born and raised in the United States. My wife is ethnic Chinese and grew up in Southeast Asia. (She came to the U.S. in her early twenties.) She is very well-educated and smart and her English is fluent (and I can speak her native tongue less well) so there is no "fundamental" language problem. However, I had some problems with depresion about fifteen years ago and I discovered than that there seemed to be some cultural barriers in talking about "mental illness." It was a subject that she was very uncomfortable with and tended to talk about in a very negative way (at least the way that I heard it). I would use the "eyeglasses" analogy with her about the medication that I took for my depression and that didn't do much for her. I haven't talked to her about the ADHD diagnosis yet. My primary care physician - who has seen me for about 25 years - was the person who recommended I get evaluated. She knows about my depression and about the "cultural" communication problems with my wife. And, though I felt a little squemish, I felt comfortable going to get evaluated without telling my wife. But I am now a little worried/confused about whether I should even bring the subject up or just work on things on my own. It can get discouraging to try to communicate with her because her "negative" filters seem to be pretty strong.

ADD cross -cultures

You make an interesting point about the relevance of cross-cultural differences in acceptance of "psychological issues". With the exception of the US, I can think of no other culture, save the UK and possibly Australia/New Zealand that openly invites discussions of personal issues in public forums. To be sure, there are other cultures as well which are open to public discourse. Still, for the most part, many cultures, not just Asian, keep the personal, private. You are dealing with a newly-discovered diagnosis---- a relief, hopefully. And, you have the pleasure and honor to be married---a relief, hopefully. Your wife knows you---despite what you might think! Why not share? Life is short. The truth will come out in the end. You are who you are and you have learned something new. It may or may not be "true". Let her know of your hesistance to be open because of those "negative filters" and move forward anyway. My biases include the notion that one's spouse be ones' best friend. Perhaps you do not share this idea. Your thoughts?

Cross-cultural power struggles

In principle, I agree with you. Generally, I like being open and getting on with things. And I also agree that she is going to find out at some point. Vis a vis, marriage and friendship, my wife is my partner and certainly one of my best friends. That said, I think that I remember reading in one of Dr. Hollowell's books that he had a very good friend who insisted that ADHD was not a real condition but an excuse (or something along those lines). On the topic of "mental health," my wife is that kind of friend. It is just a point of tension. The other thing that is difficult is that when we disagree about something like money, or jobs, or house management, she has a tendency to insert all my "issues" into the dialogue. This doesn't happen all the time but when it does, it tends to hit my hot buttons and we can get into a knock-down dragout argument that doesn't help anyone (me, my wife, my eighteen year old daughter or my sixteen year old son.) I think that this risk makes me more hesitant than anything else. And to be fair to my wife, I think that the thought that I might have "mental problems" actually scares her a lot. Though she loves being in the United States, there are aspects of medicine as practiced in the U.S. that she is still a bit uncomfortable with. Actually, it is nice to know that I can post this concern online and get some understanding responses. I am still getting used to the diagnosis and am kind of figuring out the implications. I think that part of my hesitation is just wanting to feel comfortable about things myself before I try to share. I just worry that my wife might find out before I feel ready to talk about it. (BTW, my son is a big help. He seems to be a budding biochemist/neuroscientist and is really interested in neurotransmitters and brain chemistry. So over the past year, we've been able to have good conversations occassionally about brain chemistry that is out of whack. But we always keep the discussions pretty scientific. But it is nice to have someone in the house who buys into the science. When we have discussed this in relation to me, it has always been in relation to my problems with depression and not ADHD. And I am not planning to talk about ADHD with him at this point either because he is not my doctor. But I am sure that he will get it if and when I get around to mentioning it which may be awhile.)

Cross-cultural concerns

Well, I don't blame you for trying to keep the peace, and I certainly understand your feelings. Hopefully, you will have friends/family who will be able to provide you the support you need and deserve. Not everyone in our lives can be all things to us at all times---even our spouses. My husband (43 years of age) was diagnosed with ADD at the age of 39. I have never viewed it as a mental health issue or an excuse. I too, however, was gulity of downplaying its effects as well as suggesting it may not exist as a valid diagnosis (books have been written which reflect that thinking as well!) Over time, with awareness and education, I have come to view it as a "way of being" more than anything. It has been difficult at times, however, and challenging as his way is not often my way. In addition, and getting back to multi-cultural issues, I have spent a lot of time educating even American-born friends/family on ADD as there is a lot of confusion out there as to what it means and doesn't mean. My father, though, who is foreign-born has suggested that I leave now while I can (we've only been married 9 months). I don't fault my Dad for his "practicality" as I understand that he is operating from a deficit model. And I am pretty sure this comes from his upbringing. Best of luck to you.

Mental illness and cross-cultural issues

Dear Wnkrip, I can really relate to this issue having friends from different parts of the world. When my best friends uncle comitted suicide I never understood why she felt so ashamed. She felt so bad about it that she misscarried her child. Suicide in her culture is the worst disgrace and failure of an entire family. It opened my eyes to how different we relate to psychological states. I don't agree with referring to ADD to as a mental illness nor a mental state. To me it is just a different way of thinking and functioning. It is my impression (I am not ADD myself) that it is rather the world around the people with ADD that makes it hard for them - to integrate in a society where chaotic thinking is not well-considered. When I speak to others about ADD I rather address it as a different way for the brain to function. Whether it is the "normal" or "right" way of functioning is not relevant. It is just different. Being myself in a cross-cultural relationship the accepting of differences has been key. I am even speculating if ADD can be perceived differently in different cultures - that some cultures maybe are more allowing towards a different way of thinking. At the end of the day we are all thinking differently and our brains work differently. Men and women focus on different things due to how our brains are constructed and ADD and non-ADD focus on different things due to how their brains are constructed. I don't like to call it a handicap, I prefer to call it different. Who knows, as evolution has it course ADD might even prove to be the evolutionary path that allows us to survive in a society where chaos theories are popping up like mushrooms. I suggest you speak to your wife and explain to her that you have a very creative brain, that it works a bit differently than some others. Make sure you also explain to her it means that you, unlike others, are able to think out of the box, face your fears more easily, see things others don't.... and so on. Your ADD might seem disabling at first glance but don't let that overshadow the fact that you have talents that most people don't. Good Luck!