ADHD and Marriage: What It's Like to Own an ADHD Brain

You are not alike, and one of the big differences between you is what it feels like to live with your brain.  You may be surprised at just how different your head feels than your partners, once you start to discuss it (go ahead – it’s a fun conversation!)  So, in the words of those who know first hand, what IS it like to see the world “through” an ADHD brain?

Fast, noisy

First and foremost, it’s fast and noisy.  There is a lot going on, and it often isn’t very well organized.  People wh ADHD say having an ADHD brain is like:

  • listening to a radio station with a lot of static
  • driving down the highway in a heavy rain with windshield wipers that work intermittently
  • having 49 television sets in your head going all at once
  • having everything in the room shout at you all the time
  • being in a really fast car without good brakes

Not Hierarchical

My brain tells me what’s most important automatically, filtering out stimulus and giving me direction in a way that I’ve learned I just take for granted.  Not so the ADHD brain.  Imagine this:

  • it’s like having the Library of Congress in your head, with no card catalogue
  • it’s like a puzzle out of the box onto the table.  You know there is a specific order to the pieces but it’s not immediately clear what it is, and you know it will be a lot of work to figure it out

The Sweet Spot is Different

Many of the people I know with ADHD thrive in situations that would just plain be stressful for me.  The other day one woman told me:

  • I am happiest when I’m with other people with ADHD and we are tossing ideas all over the place and it’s fast and furious and we are juggling a million things

This is her sweet spot and it’s important for her partner to understand that.  You can’t just take someone and say “no, you can’t be like that!”  It would be like someone insisting that I juggle a huge number of things all at once.  I’ll grant you, I juggle a lot, but I do it by laying out a schedule of when I’ll do what, figuring out my priorities, and attacking the challenges in a well-planned and efficient order.  My sweet spot is efficient organization.  This is quite different from enjoying doing it all simultaneously.  (Just the thought of that gives me the jitters!)

My husband’s version of juggling a million things is 35 windows open on the computer all at once, many of which he is working on at the same time.

Nothing Like the Present!

I’ve written before about the two ADHD time zones – “now” and “not now.”  Here’s a good analogy about time and ADHD:

  • I look at time through a paper towel roll moving from left to right on a timeline.  I see only what is in my vision at that moment…sights that are out of my little window are often forgotten

I’m sure there are many more ways to describe what it feels like to own an ADHD brain.  All you ADHD partners out there, will you share your thoughts with us?


Getting worse?

Maybe someone can answer this question:  my spouse is 48 years old.  We've been together nearly 20.  While the ADHD signs have been there from the beginning, the last 8 years have been full blown meltdown for him.  He's spiraling worse than ever with anxiety and severe depression.  Is this consistent with adult ADHD?  Or maybe is this an onset of separate independent issues?  Because while he's been spiraling downward for 8 or so years, the bottom is dropping out fast.

BTW:  he's on meds.  The impulsivity and aggression seem to be getting worse, though.

Getting worse

I have heard a similar scenario to yours many times with people suffering with mental illness. Things usually get worse with age. We are also experiencing this in our home. My husband, age 44, who's got ADHD-inattentive type, is having a much harder time handling petty frustrations, bad drivers, interruptions or any kind of stressful situation. We have recently discovered a secondary diagnosis of bipolar NOS. I would suggest getting back to the psychiatrist and explaining exactly what's happening and seeing if his meds need to be changed. Is he also doing the daily exercises, taking fish oil and limiting sugar? We've discovered after 12 years of marriage that if we don't take this thing seriously, as something that has to be managed DAILY, just like you would any serious disease, our marriage simply won't hold up under the strain, chaos and roller coaster moods. All the best to you.

annberg's picture


Insight on my experience with ADHD: think about it this way…your brain processes at the speed of a quad core iMac but has just 2 MBs of RAM...

Translation: it's like trying to run iTunes, surf the Net, check email and edit photos (all at once) with a computer (from the '80s) that was built to operate one application at a DOS.

Or this analogy... everyone experiences INPUT: a continuous flow of random, tangential pieces of information, images, sounds, ideas, experiences.  The PROCESSOR (or brain) sorts, organizes, reviews or rejects INPUT.  INPUT is PROCESSED in a logical, contextual and consistent manner, which in turn produces OUTPUT that is contextually appropriate, consistent and well organized or prioritized.  In the ADHD brain (at least in my experience) the INPUT is the same...but the PROCESSOR has a "glitch"...I'm able to process the INPUT in a logical, contextual and consistent manner for a while...but then something interruption, a change in the kind or speed of INPUT and I feel overwhelmed, become distracted or hyperfocused, and PROCESSING stalls and sputters...OuTpUT is random, tangential or misprioritized until I can 'REBOOT'.  This cycle of INPUT-PROCESS-OUTPUT-INPUT-PROCESS*glitch*OuTpUT-REBOOT-INPUT-PROCESS-OUTPUT is exhausting for my relationships and me.

sapphyre's picture


I'm in IT (and have been into it since the 80s) so I found this analogy perfect. Thanks Ann!

fuzzylogic72's picture

pretty much

That's about it. Plus we need to defrag about every 6 hours. Just if there was an easy way to do it.

I have never been able to put

I have never been able to put it into words.  But you have explained this TO A TEE.  WOW.  Thanks for taking the time to say what I haven't been able to.  My family just doesn't understand.

Mac and PC

I have ADHD, and while I'm a young adult- professional career and out of college- I still take meds and will probably do so for the rest of my life. 


I am in a relationship right now where I just had a similar conversation with my significant other.  Sometimes, especially when I can tell that my meds have worn off, it is VERY hard for me to be able to articulate my thoughts.  It literally feels as if all of the words in my brain- many of them $1 words, if you know what I mean!- are garbled together like Scrabble pieces, and I can't put them together fast enough to make a coherent thought come out.  In fact, I became so frustrated and flustered with myself during the discussion with him, that I began to cry. 

When you can tell this is beginning to happen, encourage metaphors.  They are the best way (that I have found) to bring your ADHD-er back to earth and the topic at hand, because they will entice their brain with having to think of multiple things at once- not only compartmentalize what they were trying to say, but how they could relate it to a specific baseball play or a scene from a movie or something that will anchor them to their thoughts.  The one I grasped for- because it feels as if I have to grasp and clutch onto something to save myself when my meds wear off sometimes- was that of a Mac and PC.  Through the tears and the frustration, I brushed my hair away and said, "It's like my brain is a Mac OS and my mouth and words are Windows-based.  They're just not feeling compatible right now.  ________ that is/was making me upset is not your fault, I'm just frustrated with myself for not being able to articulate what I'd like to right now."  He hugged me and understood. 

I reach for metaphors to explain myself or my thoughts often- it is the easiest way for those with ADHD to relate our thoughts that often seem far-reaching or random to others.  I busy myself with Bananagrams (similar to Scrabble), baking, reading magazines or and drawing almost every time I'm watching TV or on the phone, because it literally feels like my brain needs to be concentrating on AT LEAST two things in order to focus on anything.  Reining in our thoughts to convey to you is just another version of that: we have to be linking two or more thoughts together in order to make them click. 

kharris4's picture

Output random: Beware

Yes! This is exactly what I was trying to explain to DH yesterday. My day started with thinking about what needed to be done (bake a cake, shower, attend an event) vs. what I wanted to do (go for a run, watch TV for awhile). I ended up not running b/c it was too hot, but when I got up to go to the store to get the things for a cake, I couldn't find my debit card for over an hour. This set off the "glitch" and I was de-railed for the rest of the afternoon, now struggling to get through the steps of showering, and deciding to buy a store-made cake to take. I then couldn't find my swimsuit and degraded on and on from there.  The day ended in an argument with my spouse when I tried to explain to him how frustrating it was that he moved my laundry, right before I needed to find something. Sigh.**Output...random***  yes.

Exactly ...

Being a VETERAN IT NERD myself, your metaphor really hits home with me!

Just wanted to share a great explanation that my wife came up with, to explain to her daughter, how ADHD affects my brain:

"It's like when you're baking a cake. You need many different ingredients, flower, sugar, raisins etc. But one thing holds everything together, yeast. Without yeast it is difficult to make a cake, and when you have an ADHD brain, it is like trying to make everything stick together, without yeast."

That is, in my mind, a brilliant explanation for the trouble with ADHD and Executive Function.

Just the other day in

Just the other day in counseling my husband referred to his 'world' as feeling like he had 50 televisions on in front of him at all times. It is so odd that you'd post that. I will ask him if he has any input.

What its like to have an ADD Brain

I was 38 years old when I found out that non-ADD people actually have moments- minutes even- where absolutely NOTHING exists in their heads! Not a thought one, crosses their minds! I was totally in awe and as soon as the awe passed I thought - That must mean I have already forgotten more then they will ever know or learn!

Well, in my relationship it's

Well, in my relationship it's just the opposite.  My ADDer often says he has nothing going on in his head - just zoning out, while I cannot fathom a moment without a thought. Meditation, for example, has never worked for me since the brain is always going going going.

Always thinking

Agreed. I am not the ADDer and I am always thinking of something and also don't do well with "emptying my mind" with meditation.  Maybe this part isn't an ADD thing. 

Also, my ADDer husband can only study for a college test by having music blasting or by having the tv on loudly.  Also, the thing about the scroll or roll of towels seems to fit. With him, it's out of sight out of mind. He loves his family dearly but never calls, though he promises to every time they do manage to chat. He once took a 10 day trip without me and we agreed to talk on the phone about every other day. I heard from him once on the third day and not again until he was getting ready to get on the plane. I always thought he was just very much "in the moment."  It was one of my clues to puzzling out that he is very likely to have ADD.

Music Blasting

I did not know I had ADD when I was in college but I discovered by accident that if I played music loud in my headphones when I tried to study, then I could concentrate. I'm not sure I could have made it through some of the classes I took if I hadn't made this chance discovery. People always told me I was crazy, how could I study with loud music blasting in my ears? Seemed impossible. Somehow the music drowned out everything else around me I couldn't filter out. The loud music was only ONE thing I had to block out in order to concentrate on my studies, rather than the thousands of other things that could be getting in. Now that I know about ADD, I realize that it is an ADD thing and I found a way to adapt.

My husband is the same

My husband is the same way...the only time this becomes an issue is at night when he wants to sleep with the TV on. I can't even stand the 'buzzing' sound of a computer being left on when I sleep, much less the TV. We've reached a compromise that works for both of us but he still occasionally forgets to set the sleep timer and I wake up at 3 a.m. to the TV and then can't get back to sleep. He can't fall asleep without it, I wake up and can't go back to sleep if he leaves it on. It can be a pain in the butt sometimes.

I was studying the other night as he sat beside of me in bed listening to music on his laptop. I asked him to use his headphones, but they were still loud enough I could plainly hear it. He got frustrated when I asked him to please turn it down more, although I tried to explain I cannot study with the distraction. He is usually understanding..but he just didn't get why I couldn't study with the music blaring..since it worked for him.

Same problem here

I can't get to sleep without the tv.. but instead of accepting the sleep timer I was told to go to the living room.. This in turn allowed me to fall asleep but at 5am when she got up and I was asleep on the couch "I didn't love her enough to come to bed!".. not true at all... so much frustration over sleeping and my inability to get to sleep led to more and more nights on the couch, more and more fights, Less sex and more distance.. I wish she would have understood.. I just gave in to her wishes of "no noise and solid darkness or I could go to the couch".. didn't mean I didn't love her.. Quite the contrary.. She wouldn't compromise and the less sleep I got the worse Everything got.. I actually thought I was helping.. I even tried computer at night with no noise but the LIGHT bothered her so "Take that to the living room" .. Actually, I felt rejected and my needs ignored..

Me too

Music going when I studied drove my wife a little nuts. She couldn't understand it. Thank goodness for YouTube! I may not have made it through college this time around!


My brain goes all the time, too. You know sometimes when you shiver when it's cold, and just for half a second your body involuntarily jerks in response to how cold it has become? My brain will do that, and it sounds like going up and down on a radio dial and hitting that one frequency that emits so much static it hurts your ears -- but only in my head. Of course there is no physical sound entering my ears. It's more like my ears hear the static in my head.

Anyway, I find a standing "sun salutation" Yoga pose works well for me. My brain calms quite a bit. If you'd like to try it, all you do is stand up straight, put your feet together, bring your hands up to your chest forming "prayer hands" (like kids say prayers at night) and keep your eyes closed. No chanting, no mantras, just nothing. Stand there and be in that moment. It's as close to calmness as I've ever felt. There is nothing "religious" about it, really, but if you are a spiritual person, the time spent in the pose does much to help you calm down and figure out a couple things that may have been on your mind.

NOTHING exists in their heads

It does seem strange, I'm guessing you're ADHD with a capitol H - hyperactive, me too. My mind is constantly rolling through thought after thought, I can't imagine the peace that blanking my mind would bring. I can meditate so long as it is a moving meditation like Tai Chi. An acquaintance tells me she can meditate with chanting and beads. but being able to blank my mind sounds like science fiction.

Sometimes, when I'm asked what's on my mind, though, it's easier to say "nothing" than to try to recap everything that has flashed past my minds eye.


fuzzylogic72's picture


I hear that...


have you ever been in "relaxation therapy" and done visualization with a forest and trees etc. my visualizations of peaceful forests always end up like the chase scene on Endor in Starwars. And then there is the sound of the heating vent in the therapists office which ends up being a raging torrent of white water or something like that. Ad infinitum ad nauseam.

I really appreciate this blog

Living within a relationship that has the potential to be the most beautiful and creative of your life, but having to confront and understand the impact of ADHD type behaviours in us both is really scary. It really does frighten me. I see the huge positives as well, but within the relationship what seems to be normal, or the built up expectations of normal, re relating, communicating etc...........down to the simplicity of being thanked, or awareness of much seems different.

This blog and the people behind it are angels to me.............I want to undersatnd myself, my wife, our dynamics so as to minimise, anticipate and work against the negative aspects of ADD (HD) type things in our relationship.

So thanks for being here!

I really mean that. Succeeding in a normal relationship (excuse the use of normal) is hard enough without the ADD tag, I don't want to fail again.

I couldn't bare that.

fuzzylogic72's picture

fear of failure

My g/f and I just had fight/talk about this stuff tonight. We expressed that we are both so afraid of failing in a relationship again. It's like two people banging their heads against a brick wall, and I just want us to turn around and hug each other. It takes two to hug though. Sad sad situation to be in for two people who love each other.

It's a sad sad situation.....(the song)

Hey fuzzylogic72. Thanks for the response.

Just recently I started going to counselling because I valued this relationship and loved this woman so much, and saw the potential for its destruction by me and our combined struggles. Fortunately I found some government funding to be able to afford this. I live in NZ, my wife in USA until she moves over in Jan. While it is not focused on ADHD, ADD issues, I realise that understanding myself, and being responsible for myself is going to help my destructive behaviours, and understand her journey. Being different really is such a wonderful thing in relationship but it is incredible how subtle it is for me to slip into seeing her as a satelite of me or a moon tied to my gravitaional force, insted of seeing her from a beyond myself perspective, if that makes sense. I love that moment when it happens of realising how selfish and self centered I have become all the while thinking I was accepting and giving. We are all responsible for our own stuff, and I so see the turning anmd hugging picture you takes two and the one I can do something about is myself. I have made some progress I needed to for this love to flourish. I hope you guys do too. If you want to check out part of the journey, go to Lets stay in touch.

My ADHD Brain

While I am not really sure where I fit on the spectrum, I just know that there is something different about me...........and when I look down the hallway of my life it has always been there, right down to my childhood years. I am 53 now and really only in the last 5-6 years realised that I may be touched with the Da Vinci brushstoke of ADHD.

What does my brain feel like?

Sometimes it feels like it will burst with all the ideas and dreams, the possibilities and the givings. These things are not just centered on me, or about me, they are things I can do to leave a colour, or mark on the world, or humanity.

Sometimes it feels like I cannot order things. Where do I put the mail, where do I put my washing when I am dividing it into piles....

Sometimes it feels like I have to think about everything, I can't do filing systems, doing order is really difficult...............yet I am not always messy, nor disordered nor incapable of organisation.........

Sometimes it feels like there is so much I want to do creatively, sleeping is a tragedy, and yet I love sleep...........and wish I dreamed more.

Sometimes I feel like I will burst with all the love that is inside me...............I want everyone to feel loved, to see their uniqueness and know that God loves them......consequently I talk, communicate lots, write etc


All these things feel fast and urgent in my I am made for this........

My brain feels like it wants to drive on the open road all the time, to new destinations.........and then record it all and communicate the beauty of it all somehow.........or the insights on the way..........

I feel like the Suess character............are you my mother?


Its funny how you can be 53 and some things just start to make a bit of sense..........about yourself, and you can extend kindness to yourself because of that and also share the warmth with others of not being alone, or so different or in hopeless situations. This site is so awesome for that. I appreciate your encouragement. I love to write, and communicate with people who don't want to wear masks, and be real. Broken or put together.

Writing as a processing tool

Hi. i wrote this this morning, Saturday in New Zealand. I had a cup of coffee and wrote about the journey lately in my life. I dunno how ADD, or HD I am, but I know there's something different in me that lines up with that way of being. Writing has helped me see it as something beautiful if I can manage it.I am so not doing the share on a blog to get hits thing, this is a genuine sharing that you may enjoy, relate to.

Time, relativity theory, and AD/HD variable time

Somewhere I once heard/read:  "No one knows who first discovered water, but you can bet it wasn't a fish!"  How do you perceive time?  Are you aware that it's not the same as with most other people? 

With clients, I try to instill in them the knowledge that time for them is as variable as if they were traveling at 99.9% the speed of light compared to everyone else who was standing on a train platform.  Without getting any deeper into the physics of actual differences in observations made by those traveling at various speeds and the twins paradox, let's just say when an AD/HD-brained person speaks of time, it's an entirely different concept than the norm. 

To live in a world where one has to become synchronized with others who have a constant internal clock when yours is always changing by continually going faster or slower depending on how compelling the task is crazy-making if you're not aware that those other people perceive time differently than you.

It can be liberating to be free of that more linear time sense, but it can be a cause friction if the two different concepts of time (linear and variable) are mixed unknowingly with friends who's expectations are that you run on the same linear time scale as they do.


This is very very cool. I have come to realise more and more how non linear my thinking is, that's why I don't do filing systems, or other stuff that everyone else seems to be able to do. I had never thought of it in terms of time. Thanks for this insight.

It also helps me understand why I can multitask......and to varying degrees, coz I am not a linear can kinda be like a scatter gun, and the accompanied varying degrees of getting the target.


Hi, I've never blogged anywhere before so bear with me.   I'm 56, on my 2nd marriage (for 28+ years) and have only recently found out that I have been ADD since childhood!!!!   I have put my wife through the wringer, all the while being unaware that I was doing so.    Like many, I thought that SHE was the one with the problem!   I must be more of the "Sluggo" type as I couldn't multitask at all.   Not that my brain doesn't race, it does, but I could only focus on one thing at a time.   If I'm reading, working on something, or watching TV, DO NOT ask me a question or tell me something important until you first get my undivided attention, or I will just not retain it.  This has led to many an argument!  I am on Adderall now, along with Cymbalta for depression, and I can truly say --- D##n, what a  FOOL  I have been.  If only I had listened to my wife years ago.   Wasted years.  Painful years.   Now I can multitask, think clearly, follow a thought through to its conclusion, and see just how difficult I have been to live with all these years.   I have been accused of "zoning out"  many times, but that is actually an incorrect description.   It is more like a thought or situation takes over my entire consciousness.  For a brief while (at least I hope it has been only a brief time) I am lost in this maze of my own thoughts,one thing leading to another, whole plot lines forming in my mind.  Before I know it, I'm lightyears away, far far from were I started.   When I come out of this, I am aware that I have missed something, and I try to pick up the thread and fill in the missing interval.   I have quite often been wrong, which has led to misunderstandings and resentments.  So I can say that my mind is never really still.

Try not to focus on the past,

Try not to focus on the past, only the future. Now that you know, things can be different!

It is odd you say husband was diagnosed in June 2010, at the age of 37, and until he started taking meds in Oct 10, he was able to listen to the TV, be on his computer, and carry on a conversation with me. Now that he's on medication, he is unable to do any of that simultaneously. He said he used to could focus on 10 things, giving each only part of his attention..thus the reason things never really got done. Now he can only focus on 1 or 2 things and make progress with these things like he wasn't able to before.

The main downside is that he's gone from texting me throughout the day, while at work, to barely acknowledging my exsitence during the day. I am fine with it now, but at first I wasn't sure what was going on. When you get used to things being a certain way, it is hard to understand when they change drastically. He wasn't able to offer me an explanation until AFTER he had blown up and gotten mad at me for not understanding...something else the medication has caused.

Just odd how it works the opposite for some of you guys.

I wish you all the best!

Thanks Sherri,

Thanks for your reply!   I been feeling so very alone lately.  It is nice that someone *hears* me and thinks enough to discuss something with me.

For many years I denied that I could be ADD.  After all, I didn't have *Racing Thoughts*, nor could I multitask, I had low energy and I was always being told that I was *zoning out*.   I just didn't seem to fit with what I knew was ADD.  Here I must mention that I knew a bit about ADHD (or at least I thought that I did).   My mother was (and still is, sadly) a Foster Parent.  She has had many children go through her home that had ADHD.  I saw them daily, grew up with them, watched as she gave them their meds.   I put the checks she got from the state for taking care of them into the bank for her (she doesn't drive).   Yet some how, she (and I) missed the fact that I had ADD really, really bad!

True, I read very, very well.   I was reading at a sixth grade level when I was in the first grade, 1000 words per minute with 100% comprehension.  But that was because I could get lost in a book and shut out the real world.  Could everyone say Hyperfocus!!!   With all my reading, and I learned to hide in my reading, I was able to breeze through school.  In fact, I was pretty much bored out of my skull.  I used to sit with my reading book hidden by my text book and read all through class.  Tests were not much of a problem, as I would zip through all the chapters and questions on my homework as soon as I got the syllabus at the beginning of school for the year.  I had the whole year free!  Free to be bored.  I did so well, that twice I was asked to skip a grade.  But--my mother thought that I wasn't mature enough to handle that. 

Yet I was hiding in my room, being totally unsociable, even growling at my family because I was reading and they interrupted me to call me for dinner!   Sad but true.   Of course, I didn't know this until I was diagnosed with ADD  after a horrendous accident (that almost killed me) at over 50 years old.   My wife told me that I sometimes would growl at her when she would interrupt me when I was working.   I was appalled that I would do that to the woman that I loved more than I love myself!  But there ya go.   I was a real ass.  

My wife can multitask.  She always seemed to able to do this and she couldn't understand why I couldn't.  But I couldn't.   And I don't have a lot of energy, rushing around doing things.   I was sluggish, very slow moving.  And I seemed to zone out.  Not what you would call typical ADHD behavior.   But my memory was extremely bad (I would literally forget a question or a request within seconds, forgetting about picking up some milk or dinner on the way home from work).   I was (still am) socially inept, come off rude, seemed to argue at a moments notice, interrupted constantly (I knew I would forget it and it was important), had problems most everywhere I worked, shifted blame continually and, evidentially, had a mean and abusive mouth.  Something that is so out of character for me that I rejected that immediately--yet I seemed to do that.   Could you'all say Denial

As I said, I didn't seem to fit what I had learned was typical ADHD.  Yet I obviously had it.   Meds right off allowed me to multitask, I could talk/listen to someone while I was reading or doing some task (I have since learned that is rude).  Much less zoning out.  I was able to get a handle on the rages.   (Oh, didn't I mentioned them?)   It turns out that I did have racing thoughts.   That is what the *zoning out* was all about.  As I said,  I would get lost in a train of thought and my mind would go all hither and yon where ever it wanted.   Forget-ta-bout-it, I simply couldn't return to the start of it all.  No, I would have to begin all over again.  Things rarely got done.   And then only with a lot of resentment.

Just recently I read something my wife had found on the web.   It was explaining a newly noticed form of ADD/Inattentive type,  This the writer called *Sluggo*, as he would just sit in front of the TV and zone out.  Total lack of energy.  His description of it fit me to a tee.  That's not the actual name of this type of ADD, just what he called it.   I wrote the name down on a piece of paper.   Strange, I can't seem to find!

Thank you!!

This kind of insight, as many of us have said before, is so very helpful and really gives us a chance to better understand the ADHD mind. So many topics you hit on...all of the denial and rationalizations behind the behaviors is so interesting. Really? You didn't know you had a mean and abusive mouth? Do you this really denial (knew it was happening, but didn't want to admit it) or did you really just NOT know (not see your mouth as mean and abusive)?

I have lived on the 'other side' of so much of what you describe....and as painful as it all was (and sometimes still is) it really is fascinating to me (and helpful) to get this kind of insight. Please share and ramble anytime you feel you can! :)


I Really Didn't Know

Sherri, Hi again!  

I Really didn't know.   It wasn't *Denial* as I've come to know the word.   I didn't say these things and try to hide from them.   I don't remember actually having SAID them AT ALL!!!   The few things I DO remember, are totally different from what I am told I said and how I said it.  Oh, I know that I can , at times, be somewhat sarcastic, but this stuff, using the B-word and C-word.   I just don't talk that way.  I even bridle when I hear other men use those word.   My wife says that I don't, normally, use them either, which makes this all the most unbelievable.   Yet I am told that I, in fact, have done this.   

Talk about messing with your head.   I have even tried to use hypnosis in an attempt to recover some of these memories, they are just not there.   Does this sound like *Splitting*  or  *Disassociation* ?  I'm really at a loss here.   I just don't know how this could happen.   And this hasn't happened just once either.   It seems to have happened repeatedly throughout our marriage.   My question still remains though:   Why can't I remember these things, or how could I have a completely different memory?  

My wife thinks that this a case of a *convenient memory* and accuses me now of simply denying them because I find them too painful.   I maintain that the memories are not there or that , for some reason, the person that I know as *ME*  cannot access them. 

If these things happened, and I don't mean to say that I, now, disbelieve that I am guilty of these things, then I NEED to confront them and whatever is causing them.   But how does one confront something of which one has no knowledge?   And where does that place the few, completely different memories I do have?  This is just one of the many conundrums that I now find myself facing.   This is more that confusing or overwhelming, it''s....

I don't really have a word for it.   Except that it is terrifying.   Very, very terrifying..  

confused60's picture

You sound like me.  At first,

You sound like me.  At first, when I read your posts I thought I had written them and just didn't remember doing it.  The memory issue is indeed a serious concern, isn't it? I've always wondered throughout my life why other people can remember stuff that I cannot.  Sometimes, others can stir up something that will cause me to make the connection in my brain and I'll actually remember it.

I have always struggled with "losing" words that I know I know very well but I can't find them.  The other day I could not remember the word ginger and had to ask the person I was talking to what that spice was that is shaved for sushi and they put in salads in Japanese restaurants.  Maybe it's an age thing or worse. That's scary....

I have never experienced

I have never experienced this,  my husband forgets NOTHING. He has the best memory of anyone I ever knew. Well, he forgets (loses) 'things' a lot, but not words or movies or anything of that nature. He remembers so many things from his childhood that I'm blown away because I can barely remember last Wednesday.

It seems as though he keeps a running transcript in his head, actually...the only problem is that when he recalls to me some of the things I have said, he is dead wrong. I don't know, as someone else here said just recently, if he hears only 1/2 of what I am saying and concludes the thought with his OWN idea of what I'm about to say (or feel) or how this happens, but it happens..a lot. Especially since he started meds.

I would not focus so much on feeling bad that you cannot remember this, I have read that ADDers can lose a complete conversation. I think it all depends on how your brain "files" the information. From what little I remember about memory from taking Psychology this past summer, I can tell you that when things are happening there is a process that the mind goes through that decides if information is 'worth' saving or 'not worth' saving...and it files it or dumps it accordingly. VERY dumbed down way of putting it, but maybe this is what is happening.

I would say that focusing on living in the 'now' and watching yourself, creating tools that help you 'stop and think' before you speak...those sorts of things would avoid this in the future. I think these things happen when the ADD is completely out of control....because I've been called the B word and C word only a very few times by my husband...and 95% of those times were last fall when he was completely out of control. Maybe, hopefully, as a side effect of treatment these behaviors will become a thing of the past.

gigs26's picture

I forget what I didn't mean to say

Hi OldMan,

I've had many arguments with my boyfriend because I insist I said "abc" and he insists I said "xyz".  He has a terrific memory and powers of concentration, so really, he's more likely to have remembered our conversation accurately than I am, even if I am positive I never would have said "xyz" because it's not what I think.  At some point I usually realize he may be right, that I did say "xyz" - but I meant to say "abc", and I remember what I meant, even if it's not what I said.

Of course, telling him "that's not what I meant" doesn't help much, since he's still had to operate under/respond to whatever I said but didn't mean.  I'm trying to use this as fuel to work on articulating myself accurately - to actually say what I mean to say.  Much easier said than done, but I figure it's a better use of my energy/concentration to say the right thing the first time, than to try to remember saying the wrong thing.

If I had a nickel for every

If I had a nickel for every time he's said "I didn't mean it that way" when he said something that LITERALLY cannot be taken any way but just the one way it was said. It is nice to know that maybe what came out of his mouth wasn't what was in his brain. I am learning more and more that articulating his thoughts is very difficult for him, so it helps me understand why he says some of the things he does sometimes, and then 2 minutes later seems to change his thought completely.."but you just said not 2 minutes ago that...."

I have noticed it can take him as long as 24 hours to put a meaningful thought into words. This is why walking away from an escalating situation is imperative. He's mad, then nothing positive is going to come out of his mouth...period. Give him 24 hours (or maybe not always that long) and he'll come back with a much more rational, helpful...and most of the time kind thought.

Memories/Or Lack of Them

Hi, You'all;

I didn't know that my blog would result in this kind of response.   Suddenly, I don't feel so alone.   I can't count the number of time this resulted in fights   I too have sworn that I said, "abc" only to be told that I said "xyz".    I know what I am trying to say, what I thought I said, why is it that other people hear it differently?   Or perhaps I should say, why does my mouth put words together in a way that is contrary to what my brain means?  In other words, the language part of my brain interprets the cognitive (reasoning?) part of my brain in a skewed way and my mouth misspeaks.    (I think I put that right.   But maybe not....???) 

I also hear/interpret what I think another person says in a manner that they tell me is incorrect.   Not that they put it quite that ----pleasant.   It is usually more along the lines of, "Hey you stupid ass, what the 'ell did you do That for?   I told you to...."   Well, you get the picture.   I used to defend what I thought I heard, quite adamantly.   This has resulted in responses from others that bordered on assault.    (In this I am being literal.   I'm told that on one occasion I almost got shot.  On another I was nearly beaten.  No joking.)  And of course,  I thought that my DW was a little nuts when all the while it was me.   Which I'm told is called  *Projection*!

On a lighter note, I have frequently said,  "My brain is a storehouse of miscellaneous information."   By that I mean, since I read a lot, with 100% comprehension, my mind processes a lot of information.   I just don't really have control over how it stores this info.   Nor how long it remains accessible or if it ever is accessible.   In college I got into the habit of writing out study sheets.   Turned out that the simple act of writing things down helped me to remember facts and processes--at least for as long as it was necessary to pass the exams.   Then, if I didn't use it, it drifted away.    There are whole areas of my life where things that I need to do, names that I need to recall that I have lost access to.   I say lost access to because something I will see or hear, some question that someone will ask and volia-- there it is.  Some trace fact or tidbit that has no relation to anything currently being discussed but is something I found interesting or had learned in some class or other.  Sometimes rather involved facts.   That's it---miscellaneous!

But I still forget to put out the trash. 

Hypr1's picture

I think you heard what I

I think you heard what I thought I said? Yeah - like that. For me (the one with ADHD), I find I'll say something and later realize that my conversation partner heard something different. Almost completely different. I don't realize that has happened until I hear the feedback. When possible I ask for feedback, and I do the same when I'm unsure of meaning. It really helps me when I do that. I also find I hear things incorrectly, in the other direction, too. I think that is distraction and internal noise? I don't know for sure. It is frustrating for you I'm sure!

Hearing Something Different

Yes!  Yes! Oh---h, Yes!   I was SO----O glad that others had this problem.     I was beginning to think that I was nuts.   I was so sure of what I had said/heard.   Yet time and again I've been told that I was wrong.   When you are faced with a decision of  being nuts yourself or others being nuts (or simply mishearing)  the only real chose is that they are the nutty ones.   But to discount so many?    After awhile you don't know what to think.   I can't tell you the number of fights, hard feelings and lost friendships this has caused.   

Not that I wish others to suffer along with me.   It's just good to not feel so alone with this in this world.  I will try this *Feedback* technique.   Maybe I can smooth some extremely ruffled feathers with this.   Although it might be a bit cumbersome to use all the time.   Still, what I using right now clearly isn't working.


Hypr1 & OldMan

Thanks...again, his kind of insight is very helpful.

Yes, I often thought that it was easier for my husband to consider me the nut job...than to admit that he was not saying what he thought he was saying. I've been accused of being disrepsectful to him even, because he'll say things to our daughter, swear it was one way when I KNOW it was another, and then I say something to him because the reality was that it was very, very different than what he said it was. He is horrible at reading body language and tones too. It is getting better. Oddly, the medication has made this problem a lot worse.

Hypr1's picture

In the same boat and paddling up a creek...

Oldman & SherriW13 -- it is good therapy to know that one is not so unique, that the problems we experience (both ADD and non) are not some fluke we are solely responsible for, but something that has a root cause. NOT that this releases us from responsibility - it is the opposite. Once educated and realizing others are in the same boat, makes us empowered to change. Which has it's own problems, doesn't it. Thank you both for reciprocating that I am not uniquely "nuts", nor is everyone else.


SherriW13 & Hyper1,

*Nuts*  is a word that has many bad connotations.   Along with *Crazy* it is usually said in anger, condensation, derision and/or contempt.   I don't really like using them in describing anyone or any action.   (I know, I used it 1st, but still--I don't like applying it to someone.  Funny..... they never really bothered me before I got married lo-those-many-years-ago.)

Upon realizing that I have been acting, saying  and doing things that could only be described as being an a##h##e,  I find myself appalled, embarrassed, ashamed, and terribly stupefied.    As I have said, SOMETHING has got to change.    And that would be ME!    I've been through 4 therapists,  have gone through a whole rang of medications (The AdderAll made me irritable and argumentative--or so my wife said--and I thought I was doing so well on it), and I still find out that there are things that I MUST work on.    This is turning into a nightmarish struggle with no end in sight.   I mean, how many more things am I going to discover?    I see that there is still more work to be done, and more, and more.    It is very exhausting and discouraging!  and it is incumbent upon me to make these changes.   NOT my wife!   though the contempt is hard to bear.    Still,  it is MY problem, I'm the one who must correct it.

Here I must divulge something that I have only told my wife, my therapists and my family.    I grew up in a severely abusive and neglecting household.  (Not that my family see's it as abusive.   Nor will they admit it if they did.)   My coping defenses were developed there as a kid.   While they may have worked somewhat there,  they are completely untenable now.   I know that, but changing those behaviors has been the hardest thing I have ever attempted.   And then I find MORE things to work on!   I just want Joy to be back in my life!   I can't remember when I last felt joy.   It has been a long, sometimes dark, unending struggle.    Sometimes there was hope and (what I thought) were some good times, but now I am told that this wasn't so?    That this was only in my perception?    I really don't know what to think.  

But I just keep on trying!


When put in a quick defense mode or hurried response situation I can rarely if ever get anyone to understand what I am trying to say.. I can be eloquent (friends, co-workers description) but put me in a situation off guard and I can't find a single word for what I mean.. It is like my file drawer for words is lost and I can't find it.. then I am past  the panic or anger or fear and there they are again.. Quick recall isn't there but ironically lightening fast response to input is. it is usually processed and the thought is over before a single word comes out.. Then I get mad and angry trying to explain or just don't say anything at a loss for what to say and being forced to answer isn't PRETTY!

Needless to say, I don't do well in large groups and social gatherings.. I am always afraid of not saying the right thing or being taken wrong so I don't talk much and end up come off as gruff, or many other negative adj.'s .. I wish it were different.. My psych did a problem test with me once to show me..

Processing goes through channels like:

If A= B and B=C then A=C

A = B is processed then B = C and Then A = C.. for some reason my ADHD brain goes so quickly from  IF A =B to  A= C(answer) - processing the middle link nearly disappears.. so I am at C while others are at B and I can't get them to understand how I missed B or what C is even about... It isn't that I missed B.. it just processed so quickly... Needless to say I didn't do well in Calculus.. I always had the correct answers but couldn't get even the teacher to understand how I got there.. or put the work on paper... I just Knew it was the Right answer... then I got frustrated trying to explain and QUIT... AP Calculus in High School!  Then 3 more years of Calc in College.. and then I Quit again...! 

Fast processing is awesome

Processing so quickly that it is hard to put it into words is an amazing talent & of course frustrating at the same time.  I can understand getting to an answer so quickly that it is hard to explain how you arrived there.  Or even having everything go so quickly it causes words to tumble out together in a not very organized fashion.  I am the non in our relationship, but I think most of us have had this happen to us and understand what you mean.


When the above happens with my husband, it doesn't take much to tell him to take a breath, start again, whatever until I understand. 

The thing I can NEVER get a handle on is in your example above:   A=B B=C therefore A=C.........coolio, but with my husband sometimes this information gets taken to an incorrect point, A-HA  C=D!!!!   Ummmm what the heck?!?!!?   Due to his inattentive ADD, sometimes he just misunderstands the information or just draws a conclusion you really can't get from the info at hand.  It may even be LIKELY from the info at hand, but you cannot actually say it to be true.


Today I gave him some historical information I was reading about 2 ppl.  And he had recently read something different about the same historical ppl.  So he told me that this book he was reading said x and y.   So I said, that is interesting, so that means Y is X's father?  He looked at me like I was speaking Greek and repeated exactly what he'd said before (which has one of the ppl under a different name)  and I said "I understand, but if that is true, that means that Y was probably X's fathe, right?"  And he looked at me wierd AGAIN and said something that made no sense to me.  And I said, "ok so what is the family relationship between them?"  And he said it one way, and I said Ok but then wouldn't that also be correct that Y is X's father?  And he sheepishly said "yeah I guess so".

His brain just seems to lock at times onto the info as he is processing it but that makes it hard to use the same info to come to a different conclusion other than the one he is processing or has already processed.

Denial? Or just lack of conscious awareness?

I don't think this is anything as serious as denial, or splitting, or dissociation, at least not as any of those things are generally understood. I think its a simple case of you being relatively unaware that you are even saying them at the time, because your conscious mind is elsewhere. When your mouth is largely being controlled by your unconscious mind you are more likely to deviate from your usual moral codes & other consciously controlled behaviours, and so you might be more likely to say unpleasant things. And of course if you were barely aware that you were doing something, it's unlikely to stick in your memory!

I say this as someone with ADD who can identify with a lot of the things you've written in these comments, and as someone who has studied psychology so hopefully has some idea how these things work!! Just to clarify for anyone who might have preconceived ideas about the use of the distinction between the conscious & unconscious mind - I'm not really using the concepts in the Freudian sense, I'm talking more literally about conscious/unconsciousness as being about states of awareness. And by saying that your more unpleasant side might come out when you are less conscious of what you are doing, I'm not saying you are "nasty" underneath - everyone has to put a certain amount of conscious effort into being nice to people, it's just the nature of being human. The less you are consciously engaged with the words coming out of your mouth, the less "moral restraint" you will be exercising over what you say! 

So many things beginning to make sense now

Been married nearly 3 years (second marriage) to an ADD/ADHD guy. In his past he has been a heavy recreational drug user (from pot to LSD and PCP). Being a non-drug user myself, I've tried to understand what he would see in using these types of psychotropic drugs; I cannot conceive of anyone really ENJOYING the out of body, sensory bombardment that these create. As a BPD sufferer, I had one hallucinatory experience and it scared the hell out of me (thank God, there have been no more). However, after reading here about how the ADD/ADHD brain works, it makes sense now. I also would get upset when he would play his guitar and sing while the TV is on, or have it blaring (or music) while doing a couple of other things, while I HAVE to attend to one thing at a time with no distractions. Understand that better now...doesn't make it any less difficult, but can see how it works now.  BTW, my first husband had mild ADD/ADHD (at least mild by comparison with my current husband), and it drove me crazy. Looks like I've jumped from the frying pan into the fire!!

into the fire

Yes it sounds like you have, but it's cool you can see how it works. I hope he gets to see it as well and wants to manage it for himself and your relationship. I hope the drug thing stays in the past because that wont help anything to my way of thinking. This blog's great for feeling part of understanding something not often talked about and as a resource for your own needs. I have so found writing, painting, my faith and photography part of me coming to terms with and processing my life. (and its painful passages and mysteries) I think if I had my way all people would be encouraged to have a creative outlet that enabled them to express, reflect, develop belief and revisit their reflections in whatever media or form they chose. Observing  growth and seeing what I was like or where I had been comparitive to the now, is always a feel good situation and warm, even if that growth and most growth is accompanied by pain. I have recorded lots of my journey here, and its helped me heaps, towards an emerging healthiness and growing up beyond my wounds in good ways. ways that effect my life and relationship with myself and others I love.

I am glad I am touched by the ADHD brush.............

Re writing and good things for processing

I mentioned writing in my reply to you. It has always felt good for me to write with processing what ever makes me me and my brush with ADD/HD kinda stuff. I wrote this this morning as part of my Saturday morning muse on my life. I just thioght that I would share it. Writing has so helped me, and wondered if you had encouraged your man to write in some way or another.

Brain built by Hamilton Beach

I think the worst part of all this, and I see positive and negative things in having ADHD, is not knowing sooner. I was FINALLY diagnosed 2 years ago. And the only reason I found out was because I was reentering college and knew I always had a really hard time with the school work. Never even knew what ADHD was until a friend suggested I get tested. So the wayward journey began. The more I research the condition, I did a 20 page research paper for my Psych 101 class and boy did I learn alot, the more I realize its not so bad. The meds help with the focusing. I have inattentive type with a smidge of impulsivity thrown in there. My wife loves it because I turn into the italian Mr. Clean and in 4 hours you can eat off of....well everything in the house when I'm done. I have tried to explain to my wife what its like living in my head. This is the answer I gave her;

Imagine my brain is a blender that is stuck on frappe, you want me to focus and not drift off. For me its like sticking your hand into the blender stuck on frappe and try to grab words to make a sentence or grab focus to keep trained on what your saying to me. After all this time I have bloody stumps where my fingers used to be. I am rewiring the blender to drop the speed a few notches but I'm not sure a spouse will truly understand now matter how clever the example is. That is the downside. For all her trying to understand she doesn't but with effort and a lot of love things can be good.

The Bouncy Ball Effect.

This is is how I explain to my children what is it like in my brain.  If you take a bouncy and throw it as hard as you can against the wall, what will it do?  Go crazy all over the place of course.  That is what it is like trying to contain one thought, stay on task, keep things straight, keep things organized, well you get the idea.


Hypr1's picture

Inside out of my brain

I really enjoyed reading all these comments, and was bummed that the last one came through 12/10 -- more action here people!

I can relate to most every comment. I am also ADD inattentive with a splash of impulsivity.  Sounds cool when I say it. But it isn't really. Understanding is the key to progress though.

Here is the outward manifestation of what my brain has done in the last hour. I got home from the mall (which I hate malls), quick in and out to fix a DOA Xmas gift for my son. We got home, put the toy to use. Then I figured it was time to eat. So - I put a bowl of leftovers in the microwave, started that. Oh - then gonna make ham and beans from the hambone Xmas eve  dinner. Wait - cut a piece of cheese for the chili in the microwave but don't transfer it to the bowl. Get some ice for my drink, pour it in. Grab a container and go down to the pantry to grab some dried beans for the new dish - move a box around and a picture catches my eye. Whoa - it's memorabilia from the 70's. Start hashing through my High school diploma, old letters, pictures... wow - I should scan and email some of these pictures, cool got that done. Now where was I - back into the pantry to search for the container, can't find it. 10 minutes later - after looking at more pics, OH - there the container is. Pour some beans into it and go put  them in the pan. I notice my drink, melted and icky sitting by the sink. Pour it out and add more ice and refresh the liquid. Microwave seems hot, and smells good, whats in there? CHILI -- YAY! Take out my chili and remember I cut a piece of cheese, now where is that... find it under the cover of the trimmed hambone...  on and on.

What I do is a direct result of my inability to really get on one task from start to finish. Used to be funny. Not funny anymore. So now my brain fees injured, shook up like when you were a kid and you played too hard, ran too hard, fell down to hard. So - if you actually read all of the above your brain probably feels the same. But you asked...

Hyper1 out

Inside out...

You nailed it... Great example of what I have been through a million times.

I have improved a bit since Adderall and knowledge of what the insanity actually is. But I still can get that way, especially in the evenings when the Adderall affect is in it's decline.

That's me without the meds

Hypr1  hits it on the head for my brain.  I found the meds cut out so many of the extra "radio stations" I could function better.  I would add one thing to Hypr1's description--I'll bet it's as true of him as it of me: even when he's not doing several tasks at once, his brain is speeding from topic to topic.  Even if he's just walking down the street his brain and mine are jumping all over the place and not just about the what we're seeing on the street. 

Meds, therapy and exercise really help! 

Hypr1's picture

Radio stations in the head - loved that!

HK - you said I hit you on the head, for your brain... maide me chuckle.

I have been on meds now for almost 1 month. A week ago I was talking to some friends, and I put together a paragraph over 2 minutes or so that was topical, coherent, start and ending made sense. When I stopped talking, I realized that I'd actually listened to the prior conversation, formulated a response, verbalized it. I almost jumped up and yelled YEAH - ALLRIGHT - HoooYAAA. Only on the inside. I was astounded.

And.. but - still I am trying to cause that too happen more frequently and it is hard. I listen to audio books on my long one way commute of 45 minutes. I'll drift off into future planning, or past remorse at least a dozen or so times, so much so that I'll have to rewind the book because it went away forced out by the intense day dream. But even that is down to under 1 minute or so. So I am re-ripping the audio books so they have a track break every 1 minute. Then I can backup and resume where "I" left off! HA! It's all about tools now - and behavior change and consistency.

Let's cheer for each other! (oh - and I better start the excersize part ASAP!!!!) For me!

fuzzylogic72's picture


Great idea about the spaces in audio book rips. I just started doing that with my reading for my coursework; I put big red double lines every 4-5 paragraphs to remind me to focus, and sort of 'audit' my comprehension. It helps, WHEN I actually pick up the book to study. I am currently off work, "studying" a 6-credit, year-long correspondence psychology course. I started it LAST January, it's due in 30 days (had to buy two extensions of course). I haven't even done my first assignment.. so now I have to go back and re-read everything b/c it's been a year since I ve touched it. Im visiting the family in Mexico, and they are astounded that I started this the last time I visited in January, and still am less than 5% finished. My career is hanging on this course, and STILL I manage to avoid doing anything about it. SO EFFING FRUSTRATING!!!!!

Hypr1's picture

One more thing on radio stations...

I thought this should just be a quick - what about you - on static in our heads. I abused my hearing with loud rock music. Although I now really hate that I did, I don't regret watching Fleetwood Mac from about 6 feet in front of one major stand of speakers... Stevie Nicks was awesome!!! ;-)

BUT - I bring this up because I now have and have had for about 10 years a serious, constant ringing in the ears of tinnitus. In addition to having ADD/ADHD my entire life, the problem in my opinion has escalated the ADD.

Anyone else ever see this or is it another of my self diagnoses. Dr. Orlav or Dr. Hallowell, it would be awesome if one of you "rang" in on this... (funny - chuckle - grin)


Tinnitus sucks! I had a go of it when my daughter was little. I made a deal with myself, if treatment didn't work, I'd commit suicide. I hated it that much! I totally believe it could make ADHD worse, it is very stressful and would add another "radio station" to those that play in your head already.

You know what worked for me? A nightguard for my teeth! It was a very stressful time- newborn, 3 year old, husband who had broken his leg and consequently lost his business. I went back to work when my daughter was 3 days old. I was grinding/clenching my teeth while I slept as a result of the stress, and that caused the tinnitus. Have you looked into your problem with a dentist?

confused60's picture

Incessant Ringing

I played in a rock band in the late 60's and stood in front of a huge amp/speaker combo for hours every week, and have always blamed that on my tinnitus.  When it's quiet at night it drives me crazy once I tune into it.  Some of the meds I take list this as a side effect also.  I try and tune into something else but it doesn't always help, like right now for instance: it's late at night and quiet in the house and I'm trying to focus on what I'm typing but the ringing in my head is overpowering.  It makes me want to down another Vicodin pill and go to sleep but I'm afraid of killing my liver.

10 years ago I smacked my head on concrete in a 20ft fall and they put me in a morphine induced coma for a month.  When they brought me out of it the ringing in my head was enough to make you scream.  Ever since the tinnitus has been bad.  Wish I had a cure for you but I have never been able to find anything that helps other than sleep or background noise to drown it out.  Check your meds to see if this is a side effect.  If so, you can try stopping them and see if the tinnitus improves.  Course, now you aren't taking your meds...

disorganized thoughts

I explain to people that to understand whats going on in my mind especially when stimulant rebound occurs is this.  Imagine yourself hoovering over 12 lanes of traffic in the dark.  All you see is the car headlights going each direction really, really fast.  That what I feel like.  Everything is going way to fast  and there is entirely to much to see.  I love the analogy of looking through a paper towel roll.  It is so true.  Thank God my wife is a doctor and understands ADD quite well.  She does say I'm the worst case she has ever seen.  At least she is honest.  :-)

confused60's picture

Fish Bones and Windows

I have always compared the way I function to a "fish bone" diagram.  You know, the kind used to diagram cause and effect and frequently used in brainstorming sessions.  I start out to do one thing (the fish head) and end up doing many other things (the fish bones) before I complete my task.  At times, this drives me nuts.

It is not unusual at the end of my workday to find a window on my computer that I had opened first thing in the morning still sitting there waiting for me to complete that task.  MS Windows has exacerbated my ADHD by enabling me to easily get sidetracked by opening multiple windows into distracting places.  This hurts my productivity big-time, and when my laptop bogs down with too many windows open my mind starts to wander and I lose my train of thought.  I try to focus but have had poor success for years and years.  Back in the mainframe days this wasn't such a problem. 

My husband is like yours in that regard

I will call him at work sometimes because I need him to do something (that he never does). He always acts surprised, like he does not remember who I am.  One of the many things that make me feel that he cares more about the clients he takes care of than he does about me. I hate it but it's nice to know someone else has had the same experience.

I'm a computer

I always refer to myself as a computer (it's also very effective because men usually understand this) and that my brain has a task manager.

My head is an old computer running an OS that is a little too heavy for it, it's strong enough to be tolerable and useable but it's a little too heavy on the machine.
Whenever I have to do a task, or something comes up, and/or my husband is firing questions at me I feel like when you click Internet Explorer om this slightly too overloaded computer and you end up multi clicking cause nothing happens. The computer freezes for a tiny bit then all the windows come slapping you right in the face. Then the computer tries to load all these pages simultaneously, each with their own load of pictures, text and information.

That's how I feel my brain is like. And more often than not I have to press ctrl+alt+del and quit tasks because my CPU can't handle it. While my husband runs a new fancy computer with Windows 7. The fan barely makes any noise and his Internet Explorer boots immediately. Whenever he borrows "my computer" it drives him absolutely insane and he doesn't understand how I can stand a "computer" being this slow.


MIT: True Multitasking is impossible

I know, I know, some of you will object strongly.  But a study at MIT proved that rather than true multitasking, the brain has the ability to a great or lesser degree, to switch quickly from one task to another and back again in a quick series which can seem like multitasking.  But the brain can only focus on one thing at a time.  It can switch quickly back and forth, but still, only one thing at a time. 

It's not ironic that the MIT students, one of the most intelligent in the US, I'm sure, in spite of the proof (evidence) of the contrary still think they are the exception.  They accept the science of the multitasking study, yet emotionally they still believe they are the exception to the rule.  Somehow they think they can sit in class, take notice, notes, understand, and run two instant message conversations with friends while buying tickets to that weekend's concert.  They can't.

Instead of thinking in long complicated but thorough arguments, their (current college students) writing is similar to a series of blog entries with some meaty thoughts strung loosely together that do not measure up to the writing of students of only 20 years ago; before the personal computer had really taken hold and everything we hold in our hands or interact with seems to be connected to the "cloud" now. 

Things always change in the relative world; that's the one thing you can count on, but trying to study a subject of higher education while attempting to do two to six other things simultaneously is just a way of not doing any of them with 100% of one's brain and reasoning powers but some percentage thereof. 

Instead of multitasking, perhaps a better way to think of it would be successfully or not successfully switching quickly between different objects of attention which can change depending on the subject, the medication or not, the dose of said medication or one's own personal health or energy at the moment and a number of other variables.

When I notice I'm multitasking (switching from one task to another in sequence), I try my best to stick to the "one next thing" that needs doing.  When I do that I notice that more gets done and there are fewer unfinished projects at the end of the day.  I actually finish some things that wouldn't have been finished before I understood how my brain sabotages my task completion.  With or without medicine, finding some way to focus that works for you as an individual, will bring better results than trying to become a better multitasker, when that is not really a reality at all but an illusion. 

The other thing that sticks in my mind from reading the last 10 posts is a recurring theme of thinking of that past, past mistakes, past things forgotten by us but not by our spouse, wrongs we have committed and we feel appropriately shameful about it rather than unhealthy shame in which we are the thing wrong not what we did.  I deal with this the same way I deal with the losses I've suffered by not being diagnosed until I was 47 or not finding the magical medication until I was almost 63 (and I was in an environment with some of the greatest ADHD doctors, coaches, and laymen specialists that one could hope for - ADDA conventions and phone bridges to start with). 

I deal with the past by starting where I am, not looking back and living as if I've just awakened from a dream where there are affects from the past, but mostly I'm affected by what I do now and say now and plan now.  I can't afford to spend any more time in the past with so little future ahead of me comparatively.  I'm going to make the best of the time I have left (and that can be if one is 20 or 40 or 70) and by so doing will get a better result than if I tried to make amends to all those I had harmed and fretted about lost opportunities or "if I'd only's" ad infinitum.  That doesn't mean I don't make any amends or fix what I can from the past, but I let the present and future determine my actions not the past.  Let it go now.  Nothing is served by wallowing in the mud of the past (loose quote from Maharishi).  Who wants to go around covered in that mud?

Begin each day anew and make it the best day you can and that's all.  Nothing else.  If you do that, and "never do that which you know to be wrong-MMY" you will be all right.

Not Dwelling On the Past

Not dwelling on the past IS a fairly good model to live by, especially when there is more time behind you than in front of you.   But----one must examine ones past actions and comments When one has HURT someone.   Otherwise you risk doing it again.    Such as---I recently was very sharp with my DW over some trivial shopping bust.    Not only had the item doubled in price, but her comments indicated that she hadn't really been paying attention the last time (her right--it was my thing) but she started asking me rapid-fire questions and my brain went into overload.  Result----a flash of frustration that instantly turned to anger and I snapped at her.    Something that I had done countless times, not only to her, but family, friends, co-workers even bosses.   However, This time I wasn't able to 'get away with it'.  (Not that I was TRYING to get away with anything, it was an unconscious way of reacting when I'm stressed, something that I have seen done and have done myself a multitude of times.)   But this time I was told that was abusive and wouldn't be tolerated.    With the meds, the counseling and a new book that has been read to me, "Why Does He Do That" by Lundy Bandcroft,  I realized that yes, it WAS abusive, and I had been unknowingly been doing this for years.   Can you say resentment?  

Now, realizing this, I have to examine the past to find what other comment/actions I have done that could be seen as abusive, find their triggers and change them.    Being ADD means that we all have had to learn coping strategies and if you grew up in an very abusive household (like I did), many of those coping strategies can be also very abusive.  Not because you intend to, but because to you, they were normal! 

So, it is not that I am dwelling in the past, but that I am acknowledging the past in order to make the future better for those around me that I care about.   And, of course, also for myself.   I don't like the term abusive tied to my name.  

Have you tried to stop

Have you tried to stop yourself...and do a "count to 10" kind of thing before you react? It bothered me, for a while, to see my husband stop, take a deep breath, and obviously 'talk himself down' from whatever ugly thing was about to come out of his mouth. Now, I see where he was going and why he was doing this...and I'm glad.

Do you take the time to explain to your wife all that you're saying here? Do you take the time to say "you know, that was ugly of me to say...and my brain lags behind my mouth sometimes. If I could learn to hold my tongue for 10 seconds, much of this wouldn't happen this way. I am working on it. This is not the person I want to be to you" ??? Again, letting her know how much you hate this and want to change it is vital to her healing. "Man I hate when I do that!" kind of acknowledgement of your behaviors goes a long way. :)


I am the non-ADHD husband is ADHD.

First, excellent post...great information.

Two things to offer...

I am 42 and recently went back to college...I cannot do ANYTHING when I am studying or writing a paper. TV cannot be on, music cannot be playing, I have to have complete silence in order to comprehend and focus on what I'm doing. Even just typing this, if the dogs started barking I would lose my ability to think. I truly cannot "mutil-task" at all.

My husband recently started medication for ADHD and it has changed him in some odd ways. He explains it like this..he used to be able to focus on 10 things at once, but only giving each 10% of his attention..and nothing ever got done. Now he can only focus on 1 or 2 things, but each gets his attention and gets done. There is no room for interruption. It dawned on me the other day, as I am having a really hard time adjusting to him finding it difficult to text me frequently (while at work) like he used to..I just miss hearing from him, that's all...BUT..if I were studying, shopping, driving, or any other task that required my attention, I would be frustrated if someone was texting me too. It also wouldn't dawn on me to pick up the cell phone and text someone while doing so. It would throw me off task and frustrate me. I suddenly had a little more sympathy for what he must be going through.

parisottode's picture

Living with ADHD in a very distractable world

I love the fact that you acknowledged that your husband's behavioral change has made you miss something about him that was due to his ADHD. I have been diagnosed with ADHD going on six years now. It became obvious to my wife (though i of course had no idea) when we moved in together six months before the wedding. I never realized how easily distracted i was until i started living my life everyday with someone else. It's not that i never lived with anyone before, but not anyone with such a vested interest in me.

My wife and i are connected to Ichat at work and it maybe the worst invention for someone with ADHD. There is this constant pressure to change gears and do something else that will completely interrupt your train of thought as soon as the little bell rings and the little bubble starts bouncing at the bottom of your screen. The ADHD mind keeps saying, "can't you see that? why are you ignoring it?"

What i've finally discovered is that it's ok not to do something right away in this split-second world we live in. The biggest fear i have dealing with my ADHD is that NOW feeling to "just to get it out of the way". There's a handy little button on it that says "Busy" but that is no excuse to blow it off and not "do anything" with it. It's the same thing with Cell Phones! Can we all think back to WHY we got our kids cell phones. So we could get a hold of them and they could call us if they had an emergency. Now i get calls like "there's nothing to eat" or "she took my jeans again." It's no wonder i keep forgetting to take my phone off of vibrate. Then there IS an emergency, and since my wife can't get a hold of me (phone still on vibrate remember?) and become that ADHD spouse i.e., "not involved, don't care" and "don't want to change."

It feels hopeless.  To all of you ADHDers out there, i'd like to say, "it's ok to NOT do something right now because you are afraid you'll forget it later. Just make sure you make some kind of effort to find time in the future to do it then. make sure to TELL the people you love the time and place you'll be doing it and the most importantly, follow through by CARVING out the time, setting an alarm, and doing it then." It feels a lot better.

Love the paper towel roll analogy!!

I've always really struggled to explain how time feels for me, and the idea of it being a bit like looking down a tube is a really good one! It's always annoyed me a bit when people make out that people with ADD are incapable of imagining the future, or learning from the past, or that we only live in the present, because I just don't think that's true. It's more that we can't see the whole thing in one go very easily - we might have a very clear idea of where we want to be in the future, but the difficulty is in joining that up with the present. And I might be able to look back at my past mistakes and try to learn from them, but that doesn't always translate very well to changing my future behaviour - when I'm "in the moment" I am not good at remembering the lessons I've learnt from the past. And the tube analogy also encapsulates the kind of "tunnel vision" that can go with hyperfocusing too (which is when this "time isolation" can be at it's worst).

As for some of the other analogies, I think they're pretty good, but some of them don't entirely sit right with my personal experiences. For instance, I think the idea that the inside of our head is "fast & noisy" might give the impression that it's really loud & crazy inside the head of everyone with ADD. Whilst I'm sure that is true of some people, for me the "noise" is not necessarily loud, it's just "noisy" in the sense that people would describe "noise" disrupting a radio signal. You might say that the "static on a radio" one would fit me best but that implies that the noise itself is meaningless, or is just brief snippets of meaning (like when you hear a little bit of another radio show in the radio static), which isn't necessarily the case. An analogy I've just come up with is that it's a bit like swimming under water teeming with life - the water might be pretty murky with things like algae & plankton floating around, underwater plants keep getting in your face and maybe even entangling your body, and interesting fast moving creatures like fish keep darting in front of you, attracting your attention away from whatever it is you're trying to focus on. The sound of the water in your ears is yet another source of distraction & "noise", and the light filtering down from the surface isn't really bright enough to see properly so you have to focus extra hard to see the thing you're trying to see, all the while screening out the distractions of the brightly coloured fish darting by & other things floating through your field of vision. The great thing about the "swimming underwater" analogy is that it sums up the kind of effort involved in "swimming" through it all, it's not just a passive experience (well, it can be if you just sit back & let it all "wash over you", but if you're actually trying to get somewhere it's like there is resistance from the water making it all more difficult) - there can be currents you have to swim against too, which try to carry you off in another direction or just swirl you round in circles. I think this is something people don't get about ADD, that just doing apparently simple things can be a huge amount of effort, because it's not just about doing the task, it's about really straining to give it your full attention against all the mental noise & currents dragging you elsewhere; mental effort can be as exhausting as physical effort. It's not surprising we often prefer to just shut down and do something "easy" like surfing the internet or watching TV, where we can just get carried along with the flow rather than swimming against the currents through a pool of distraction!

Confusion at its best

Well im am 28 and I have been diagnosed with add then adhd terrets you name it,I havent been checked since I've been older but I am definately going to see someone when I get home after reading these testimonies.First off its good to know I'm not alone. When I was younger the mood swings were worse I would go into red rages where I didn't remeber what was said or what had happened some of the time.I would get confused then that would lead to anger,over the littlest things,and after I would apologize to my mother and sister who were usually the brunt of my mood swings and they would accept it and move on I felt guilty for many years for what I put them throu and didnt understand why I did those things.I thought I had grown out of it or been able to control it.In a sense it had calmed down but I still had feelings of frustration and I could feel myself getting angry with it.I didnt have "an episode" for a long time after just recently I was remarried and my wife had noticed it.I brushed it off sayin not im not the one whos crazy you are,Multiple times I have pushed the blame on her been verbally abusive to her and I didnt want to believe it.We would argue then we would calm down and she would try to talk to me and her account of things would be different from how I remembered them.Yet still I would deny and disagree and I had to be right I remember it going another way.I didnt want to belive her,that there was something wrong with me.The first year of our marriage was hell for her im sure,but she stuck with me and tried to help, but I refused to listen and she tried to give me websites to learn about it and i just blew it off.I have been in the army for 8 years now,many times I have gotten in trouble for not completing taskings on time,but still some how managed to eeke by,Im starting to realize my memory is shot,I am still having trouble concentrating on multiple tasks I seem to have up and down days,some days I can do multiple tasks and get them done and other days i seem to not be able to concentrate and having trouble with even the most simple tasks.I have days where I have a million things running through my head at once seems like im sitting at a busy bus station and everyone is talkin to me.I seem to find that sometimes taking a time out helps gets a breather in,but other times I get so overwhelemed with things I tend to flip out.Some nights its hard for me to sleep cause even though im exhausted,even in the days i tend to start thinkinIm running through simultions if you will off the day then my imagination gets the best of me and god only knows where my mind wanders then ive lost track of what im thinking and I feel frustrated cause I forgot what I was doing,More than a few times I have even caused myself migranes cause im so lost in thought then when I snap out of it its like my brain melts. Other occasions I will be haveing conversations with my wife over text and I get frustrated cause i misunderstood a text or how it was meant,or even in phone conversations.My memory is the most frustating,causeI cant keep up with sports or guns or cars  like most guys my age cause I cant remeber stuff Ive read or been told,(this is really frustrating being a soldier)and its not everthing that I forget but enough to not be able to socialize with people cause I dont know what their talking bout,then the depression kicks in and Im not wanting  to socialize cause I have nothing to relate,It's frustrating but, all in all its a little more reassuring that there are others with the same issues that I'm going through. Also that there is a silver lining that even thou it will get worse that there is help out there.

Thank you for describing

Thank you for describing me!!!  I want to print this out and share it with everyone that comes in contact with me so they understand that I do really care what they are saying but it doesn't always come together right in my brain.  It is like spaghetti...each noodle is a thought or a concern,or even an attempt to participate in a conversation...and it is all mixed together in a boiling pot which is overflowing.  Sometimes my anger feels like a great big ball of chemicals that builds up inside of me and needs to be released.  Figuring out how to release that energy without being destructive is the hard part.  After you realize that the way you act and the decisions you make in life have been heavily influenced by ADHD you start to question yourself and not trust yourself when making decisions or entering into a serious conversation.  And biggest enemy!!!!!  If only I had enough time to catch that positive emotion floating in my head and still share it with someone.  I'm still looking for that time that will allow me to sit and play with my kids.  How in the world do I grab it and hold on to it?  It goes by so quickly and the emotions catch up later.

Having an ADHD brain????

If someone has had ADHD from birth how would they know they are any different than someone else? I have an eye problem from birth. I only look out of ONE EYE AT A TIME. I could never know what is like to look out of both eyes at the same time. How could I tell people I see things in a different way than they do? So, someone with ADHD has always had an ADHD brain and can't possilbly know what it would be like to not have an ADHD brain. 

I ask this because I am married for 26 years to someone with ADHD. He has had a positive ADHD assessment. However, he is in deep DENIAL. I can understand why he would be in denial. How could he know he is thinking or experiencing life from an ADHD perspective when he has never had another brain to experience life? This is all he knows and he feels he is normal. 

Our marriage is so fragile now. I asked for a  legal separation a year ago. I love him and want the marriage to work. We don't want a divorce. We both just needed time apart. Shortly after I moved out he slowly moved back in with me. I knew he had a place to go if things got bad and I felt it was okay to have him live with me. About 8 months after he moved back with me I had a serious medical problem and couldn't cope with the ADHD and focus on my healing. With my therapist's help we asked him to move out. I was worried he would see this in "black and white" and think I was ENDING the relationship. Even though my therapist and I spent much time explaining his moving out was temporary he is in great trauma and doesn't trust me when I say it is okay to move back in.

We have a "weekend marriage" now and he is reluctant to even have that with me. He changes his mind in a flash and one day he wants to be with me and the next he doesn't even want an email from me. I can understand that ADHD has left him with so much stress to deal with when our relationship is so confusing and not "normal". We have so much painful history that both of us don't trust much.

I have done research on Melissa's site, read her book and plan to attend a conference in Oct/12 in Toronto with her speaking. My husband very reluctantly agreed to a free coaching/cousnelling session with a therapist who has taken Melissa's professional training. That will happen by Skype Tues Aug 7th/12. I am willing to do so much and he is pulling back more and more. The more I try to do things differently and lovingly, the more he pulls away. I am getting hurt most of the time. I have good reason to just leave this relationship and many times a day I think it would be the best thing to do. Then I just keep researching and trying differently, hoping, giving, reaching, loving. 

I did tell him last weekend how I am feeling. I used the communication styles in Melissa's book. He just spaced out. He is also diagnosed with dissociation. He didn't respond. He just shut down. The relationship is extremely stressful even when things are going well. It's like we are both waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Can anyone relate to my world. I feel very lonely with no support from family or friends.

You are NOT alone

Rozie dear....H*U*G*S

Yes, I most certainly can understand exactly how you feel.  I too, read the book, had him read the book, went to Melissas small group session last July in New York.  I go with him to counseling when he wants me to, I stay home when he prefers to go alone.  I go with him to the Psychologists and the Psychiatrist.  I am willing to discuss his medication, ask him about it frequently, ask him how he is doing, I tried to be everything he wanted me to be and more.  It lasted 4 months.  Then he just gave up and has now resorted to his old ways.

For the record, we are married 25 years.  He was only diagnosed a little over a year ago after 14 months of off and on separation.  I just couldn't live with him anymore.  But while I was home, taking care of the bills and the house and the kids and the cat and the dog, he was at his Moms playing bachelor.  Going places, doing things, LOOKING FOR CASUAL SEX ON THE INTERNET.  Yes, I was a fool to give this the ten thousandth try, because here we are once again. Communicating less than average roommates.

I am certain as well as the ADHD, mine has ODD as well and I am going to look up dissociation as well.  I'm sure we can add that to the list.

I am so numb, so angry and so heartbroken that this can't be fixed.  I wish better days ahead for you.  There are some couples (Melissa) of course, who can work it out.  I think that I will not be one of them, though I have been to hell and back and still he is living here and I suppose i haven't given up yet.

I am NOT alone :)

NJWINMOM, Thank you for taking the time to send me a post. I think we are warriors for sticking it out through such pain and hurt. I keep saying to myself: "it's ADHD doing this not my husband." Somehow that seems to work sometimes and I don't take things so personally. But you know, the best part of my day was reading your post. I read your compassion for me and for yourself. My heart goes out to you.


So glad I was able to make you feel less alone in this often times ALL ALONE marriages.

I generally am one who writes well, but when I come here, I am not normally able to express what I really feel. My emotions seem to jumble things up and I can get carried away more times than not.   I am so glad it all came across correctly to you.


Has he been formally diagnosed?  When? And any medications, treatments at all?

Denial and Dissociation


Diagnosis was made 6 years ago. He went on 2 different drugs and had a fast heart rate on both. He wouldn't try any more or try a smaller dose. He went to 4 adhd group support meetings and quit, saying they were stupid. He tried adhd coaching for 4 sessions and quit. Since the first year of diagnosis he has done nothing for his own treatment.

His DENIAL has been reinforced by his father and mother. Twelve years ago they took me aside secretly and said they had a "secret" to tell me and I was never to tell my husband. The "secret" was that my husband was seen by a psychologist when he was 17 years old and the doctor reported that my husband would "never make anything of himself and would never hold down a full time job". I was devastated. It felt like an atomic bomb went off in my heart. I did keep the "secret" for 2 days and told my husband what his parents said to me. My husband refused to believe me and said I made it up and didn't hear his parents correctly. I wonder to this day why my husband's parents shared this "secret" with me. However, I can see my husband's need to be in denial because his father and mother went into denial and hid the "secret". They  didn't ask for other opinions, they didn't help my husband at all. They were ashamed of their son and felt the need to hide what they felt was a shameful "secret". My husband's mother was a physical therapist and family counsellor at the time and she was not ALLOWED to help her son. She used to secretly send me articles and books that I was to use to help her son. She was afraid to let her husband know she was helping me or her son. She passed away 4 years ago and my husband's father is now 89 years old and in a retirement residence, on 24/7 oxygen and in a wheel chair. I recently spoke with him and asked if he would be willing to help his son by emotionally supporting ADHD treatment. He refused and blamed me for asking. It is obvious to me that my husband's father has ADHD.

About a month ago, I recorded a telephone conversation I had with my husband's father. I asked him for this emotional support. During this phone call my husband's father admitted that he had told me this "secret" about his son twelve years ago. I have told my husband that his father admitted he spoke to me about this "secret" and that I have a recorded conversation where his father admitted this to me. My husband just spaced out and would not respond. He went into his familiar dissociative response.

I don't see much help on this site or any other ADHD site to help me with this kind of denial and dissociation. What has helped me most is to just ignore my husband's denial and dissociation and go ahead and schedule appointments with an ADHD coach who has done the professional training with Melissa and go ahead and book two spaces at Melissa's talk in Toronto. My husband seems to go along with this. I am hoping the ADHD coach can take over from here.

I can't tell you enough how great it is to have you to share all this with. Thank you.