For five years, my husband thought I was I was a lazy, selfish, apathetic person with a questionable moral code. In his defense, and in mine, I never tried to correct his thinking because I agreed with it. I thought it was just who I was — who I’d been since I could remember. The first year of our relationship went mostly without incident, as it was still new, and I was trying my hardest to be what I assumed was a normal adult. I cooked, I cleaned up after myself, I brushed my teeth, I showed up places on time, and I took care of my financial- and work-related obligations. But as soon as I felt comfortable, I slipped back into being me. Not washing my dishes, throwing my entire wardrobe on the floor, forgetting to pay bills on time, not following through with what I said I would do. My actions became the impetus for all of our fights, which remains true to this day. My husband would call me out on my screw-ups, I would promise to change, he would give me another chance to fix myself and become what we both labeled "better," and then I would turn around and do the same things again. After five years of this, we were on the brink of imploding. It seemed as if he was threatening to divorce me at least once a week. To his credit, he stayed because the love between us is the kind you read about in books. But we were quickly realizing love wasn’t enough.
In February 2016, my husband sent me a midday text asking if I would pick up Tums from Walmart on my way home from work. Even after I responded that I would be happy to, he sent a follow-up reminder at 4 p.m. and then called when I was en route to the store to thank me in advance. He clearly knows his wife. After an hour at Walmart shopping for things we probably didn't need, I arrived home and started unpacking the plastic bags when he came into the kitchen to give me a kiss and to, presumably, get his Tums. When I heard him ask where they were in the nicest of tones, my heart sank as I remembered that I didn't remember to buy them. I gave him a wide-eyed look and said, "I'll be right back," while running out of house. Five minutes later he realized I left, called, and said, "You forgot the Tums, didn't you?" I said yes but assured him I would be back with them in 20 minutes. He yelled at me, saying he reminded me three times and wondered how I could have possibly forgotten, and then he accused me of not caring. You see, this offense, which would appear minor to most everyone, was magnified, as it was one of thousands of instances in which I told him I would do something and did not. After hanging up on me, he Googled the phrase "wife constantly forgets things."
The Turning Point
The first link he clicked took him to the 2010 New York Times article "Attention Disorders Can Take a Toll on Marriage." As he read, he noticed so many similarities between the information that writer Tara Parker-Pope included and what was happening in our own marriage. Hitting him especially hard was a quote from Melissa Orlov that read, "I felt like he was consistently inconsistent. I could never count on him. It goes from feeling responsible for everything to just chronic anger. I didn’t like the person I’d become either.” If asked to write a short statement about how he felt in our marriage, I am confident that his would have mirrored hers exactly. I arrived home, Tums in tow, bracing for a huge argument during which I would defend myself and try to make him see how this wasn't the big deal he was making it into–a familiar tactic I’d used for years–but instead, I walked into an "Intervention-" like atmosphere I’d only seen on TLC. He told me what transpired when I left, and he said for the first time in our five-year relationship he's starting to think the laziness and selfishness and forgetfulness and apathy he saw in me might be something else entirely. He excitedly read the article to me, and when he was finished, we both cried. I cried because it was the first time I considered that I wasn't lazy or selfish or forgetful or apathetic, and he cried because of the way he's treated me without knowing there was a real excuse, and we both cried because we'd been on the brink of divorce for so long, and all of a sudden there was hope.
The diagnosis of ADHD I received in the weeks following was the best thing that ever happened to me. It allowed me to make sense of my entire life, and it kick-started me on the road to understanding and betterment. Like most of us who are diagnosed in adulthood, the news wasn't the least bit shocking. When my therapist asked about my academic history, I was able to clearly see all of the signs and trace my first ADHD-related memory to second grade timed math tests. I couldn’t finish them until a math tutor gave me a Lemonhead candy to suck on while working, which created movement and stimulus, and allowed me to focus. That candy was a godsend.
I went on to struggle with ADHD and the associated anxiety and depression for the next 22 years of my life. Though it took me six years and several failed courses, I graduated from a top-ranking university with a bachelor's degree in journalism, and I’ve had a successful eight-year, award-winning career as a newspaper reporter, which, after excellent counseling and personal research, I attribute to the dopamine approaching deadlines provide. Dopamine is responsible for motivation, and, most unfortunately, the ADHD brain doesn’t produce a normal amount until there is a stressor (which also explains why I don’t start cleaning my house until 30 minutes before company arrives or why I don’t pack my suitcase until 10 minutes before walking out the door for vacation).
I know ADHD is not something that will ever go away, and I realize it will be a lifelong journey of management, but I am so grateful to be finally embarking on it. The majority of my life has been a crushing daily struggle, but thanks to the work Melissa does and the outreach and awareness she provides, I am no longer living in a square puzzle with round pieces. Thanks to that NYT article in which she shared her own story, my marriage has slowly but drastically improved over the last year. Where there was anger and resentment and an invisible blockade, there is now understanding and compassion and help. I am only in the beginning stages of treatment, but I have never been so positive about my future.
For the last six months I’ve been searching for ways to tell my story, and I am so excited to be sharing it with you via this blog. Receiving my diagnosis changed my life for the way better, and it’s become a passion of mine to help others who struggle with ADHD as much as I did and still do. While I feel it’s my duty as a journalist to be truthful and emotionally open with my audience, I’ve chosen not to use my last name to respect the request of my husband, whose story it is, too. But even with a missing last name, I promise to always be raw and real when telling my stories, no matter how ridiculous I make myself sound. So, now that it’s on the internet, I would like to take this time to officially introduce myself to you. My name is Katie, and I have ADHD.