I met my wife seven years ago. At the time, we worked together at a small locally owned company; she was an RN/Manager and I was the Network Administrator. We quickly became friends and talked frequently. About a year into our friendship we both went through divorces. Soon after we started dating; this was something new for both of us, as neither of us had ever dated a close friend. We fell in love and married pretty quickly. I brought a son from my previous marriage and we soon found out that she was pregnant with her first child and our first together.
About four months of bliss went by, then I was suddenly let go from my job for what I assume was my relationship with a co-worker (my wife). I was very distraught, depressed, and mad. My focus slipped away from my new wife and was locked on my troubles. Sadly, this was at the same time that she was a new mother and was struggling with post-partum depression and a long time chronic pain disorder. I was present, but absent from my marriage. Neither of us was happy. For her, she felt like I was not supportive, never listened, and couldn’t remember things she told me or things I said. I’m lucky that she didn’t find someone else that was there for her when she needed someone the most. I was unhappy just as much as she was, I felt smothered and like I could not live up to who and what she expected me to be and we had no sex life at all. No matter how hard we tried, we could not find our place together again. During all of this time I also had a short temper, no patience whatsoever, and sudden mood swings. I yelled a lot at my wife and my two boys for petty things. With my wife, I was angered easily and annoyed at what I considered redundant conversations about her problems. I was not supportive, I judged her, and was generally just mean. When I was mad at her, if I wasn’t yelling at her, I was ignoring her. There were many times that I didn’t speak to her for three or four days. It was safe to say that we were not friends anymore. This went on for almost four years; luckily I was never physically abusive, but I was abusive by any definition. Over those years I almost lost her several times. We frequently talked about divorce, how we would deal with our son after our divorce, our finances, property and all the other things you have to deal with when you end a marriage and a family. Luckily, we always put off actually going through with it. There always seemed to be a reason to delay, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Birthdays, etc. Part of this time I was self-employed; I started a small business that did okay some of the time, but in the end I could not have planned for the economy. Ultimately, my business failed but it took me a long time to realize that it was over and that just added to all the other stress in our relationship. Once I came to the realization that I needed a “real” job, I wasn’t able to find a well-paying job locally. We decided to relocate when I landed a job as a contract employee at a Fortune 500 company. We looked at this as an opportunity for a fresh start together, a way to reconnect and find the friendship that we built our relationship on in the beginning. We were rushed by the recruiter for my position because the company needed someone to fill a role in an important project, so we moved very quickly to a city about 300 miles away. When we got to our new place we realized that nothing was different, we were still the same people with the same problems and again discussed divorce.
Five months into my eight month contract, I entered the interview process for a permanent position with the company. I interviewed with my potential manager over the phone and then interviewed with a potential teammate in person. My last interview was over the phone with a man across country, in a different department with a similar skill set to mine. My first two interviewers were not familiar with my skill set, so they asked him to validate my experience and expertise. Soon after I was offered the position and I accepted. I gave a two week notice to my contract position and worked it out. The week before I was to start my new position the third interviewer, Ed, called me and told me he was in town for training and invited me to lunch. We met up the next day for lunch and quickly became unusually comfortable with each other. It turns out we were peers, so there was little formality to our discussions. Ed and I talked for about three hours about just almost everything; our work experiences, our childhoods and our relationships. I told Ed about how close I used to be with my wife and how drastically that changed. I told him about my patience, temper, yelling, and how I ignored my wife when she upset me. To my surprise, he had a similar story to tell, the characteristics of his relationships over the years almost mirrored mine. He told me that a few years back he was diagnosed with ADHD and told me it may be worth my effort to talk more about it to my doctor. At this time I had always thought that ADHD was limited to children and my opinion was that it was not a real medical condition, but rather just an excuse for parents of unruly kids. Nevertheless, I went back to my office and started reading more about it online and found that it extends into adults as well. I stumbled upon an online assessment and completed it. It was made very clear on the website that this assessment did not replace the advice of a doctor, but it calculated my results. My score was 99 out of 100; my recommendation was “Seek additional medical assistance as soon as possible!” As scary as that sounded, I actually found comfort in what I had learned about ADHD and the results of my online assessment over the course of about five hours. I immediately emailed my wife and told her about what Ed and I talked about, the websites I found, and even sent her the online survey and my score.
I followed Ed’s advice and the advice of the online assessment and made an appointment with a doctor. I had not found a new doctor since I had relocated, so there was a delay in scheduling my appointment since I was a new patient. I scheduled an appointment for a physical and an ADHD assessment, but after my physical was completed I was told I had to make a separate appointment for an ADHD assessment. I can’t begin to tell you how frustrated I was, but I followed through and made another appointment. The day of my appointment I woke up earlier than usual and I arrived early. I spoke to the doctor about what I had learned and had even brought in a printed copy of the online assessment that I took. The doctor asked me about my relationship with my family and my childhood; then I answered more questions similar to those on the online assessment. I was somewhat confused about the discussion of my childhood, until the doctor said I almost certainly have ADHD and have likely had it since childhood. We began my treatment using Adderall XR at 10mg once a day, but I was told to increase it to 20mg if I didn’t feel any effect after about a week.
I began my Adderall immediately, but I could not tell any difference. After four days I went ahead and increased my dose to 20 mg. That afternoon, at about 4:00, I was driving home and was overcome by a sudden “silence”. It’s the hardest thing I ever really tried to explain to anyone, but as long as I can remember I have had a “noise” in my head, except I never paid any attention to it because it was always there, until the day it just stopped. It completely stopped, it never got quieter, it was just there and then it wasn’t anymore. Since I increased my dose, I had to schedule an appointment to get a refill and to follow-up with my doctor. I went in and we discussed any changes that I felt or noticed. I mentioned the “noise”; then the doctor asked me about my relationship with my family and the temper, yelling, and mood swings. I hadn’t noticed until we talked about it openly, but those things seemed to have stopped. We continued my 20mg dose and agreed to quarterly follow-up appointments.
The New Beginning
My treatment plan from my doctor was limited to medication and quarterly appointments, but I continued to educate myself more about ADHD. The doubt I had before, was gone; ADHD is real! My relationship with my family changed completely. I was able to see things I had never even noticed before. It was as if someone removed a blindfold from my eyes. I was no longer emotionally and verbally abusive to my family. My temper was not quick, my mood swings disappeared, and I could remember things. I felt like a different person. My focus shifted back to my wife and boys. I bought a large amount of Christmas gifts for my wife and spent almost eight hours wrapping them and putting pretty bows on them because she loves pretty wrapped presents. One of the gifts I bought for her was “Married to Distraction: Restoring Intimacy and Strengthening Your Marriage in an Age of Interruption” by Edward M. Hallowell M.D., Sue Hallowell and Melissa Orlov, because I wanted her to understand what I had learned about ADHD. Over the next few weeks, we found that we had become friends again. I was totally and completely in love with her again. I had begun treating her with love and respect, supporting her, listening to her, and I could remember things and remember things I had already forgotten once before. Our relationship was great and our sex life was awesome. My life was different, better than it ever has been before. I was compelled to learn as much as I could about ADHD. I had not completely read a book since I was in the ninth grade, but I read the book I bought my wife cover to cover in a single sitting. I craved more, so I purchased “Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood” by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, and read it about a week later. I was somewhat disappointed in the information because I didn’t realize how dated it was. I actually finished it on a business trip to New York and was delighted to find out there was an updated version; “Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder” by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, so I bought it from Borders at Penn Station to read on the plane ride home. I read it completely during the four hour flight back to Texas, something that until recently was impossible for me. My thirst for knowledge has led me to online resources too. I have learned so much and have identified things that make me certain I have had ADHD since childhood. I have also identified that my youngest son likely has ADHD as well. We have begun jumping through the hoops to have him tested as well, but it is much different than diagnosing adults.
The Residual Effects
I know that medication helps many people, but it is certainly not a complete treatment. I’m lucky that Adderall has helped me at all, and I know that it has limitations. For me, it helps with my patience, temper and mood swings extremely well; all of those symptoms have basically disappeared. I’m able to stay focused and not be so distractible. I have learned though patience and education that I used to argue with my wife to win rather than resolve. I still have significant guilt that I can’t seem to let go. I treated my family horrible, especially my wife; the people I loved the most had to endure the bulk of my disorder. The damage has been done, the times that my wife needed me the most, I was not there. She has been through so much with her own struggles with depression and the like and she’s been through it alone. I have apologized to her an undecided amount of times, and she has forgiven me. She knows that I could not control the majority of my behavior and I know that as well, but I have not forgiven myself. I have a very high level of anxiety that I’m being treated for along with ADHD, and I also have an extremely strong ability to hyper-focus. Hyper-focus is an angel and a demon; I have excelled very quickly in my career, but I must learn to use it to my advantage. Working too much can take away my family just like ADHD almost did if I don’t learn to control it.
The Game Plan
I’ve come a long way in 5 months, but I still have a long journey ahead. I’m lucky that I was able to meet someone like Ed, who was comfortable enough to recognize my struggle and encourage me to do something about it. I’m lucky that I was able to seek treatment before I lost the love of my life. I’m lucky that I live in a time and place that ADHD is pretty well understood and resources are available. I’m lucky and I’m thankful! Moving forward I will certainly continue medication as part of my treatment plan. I will also continue to educate myself on ADHD. I’m certain that I need counseling to help me deal with my guilt and learn to forgive myself. I have already made my initial appointment with a counselor. I recently joined CHADD, and will attend the next local meeting. My wife and I have both committed to couples counseling as well as family counseling, even though our relationship is better now than it ever has been. We ask ourselves the question; “Could this get any better?”, and the answer is yes!