I’ve been married for 19 years to a wonderful man who just learned in the last year that he’s had ADHD all his life. We – everyone – thought his primary illness was Major Depressive Disorder. But after many years of treatment for depression, when the forgetfulness, distraction, hyperfocus, etc. didn’t go away, a therapist suggested ADHD. We’ve been reading lots of books and rethinking his whole life. Now we think that the primary disorder has always been ADHD, and depression developed because of the effects of ADHD on his life and people’s negative reactions to it.
I’ve been reading this website for several weeks and decided to tell my story because it seems somewhat different from what most folks are experiencing. Many posts talk about the ADHD spouse or partner being angry, belittling, supercritical, inconsiderate. My heart goes out to the non-ADHD spouses who are suffering with this. I don’t know if I could handle it. Fortunately for ME (not for him) my husband turns his anger inward, on himself. A lifetime of thinking of himself as a lazy f*up (because that’s what everyone told him and he believes it) has brought about his depression, and is very hard to eradicate, even with knowledge that it was ADHD, not laziness or ineptness.
Six years ago he tried to hang himself with a belt in our closet. Of course this reinforced his diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder. But now we have looked at that incident again. The night the suicide attempt happened was the culmination of weeks of extreme insomnia, where he only managed to get a few hours sleep a night. He was utterly exhausted and couldn’t stand to think of one more sleepless night. So he self-medicated with alcohol and prescription antihistamines, which caused a temporary psychosis. He heard a voice in his head tell him to kill himself, so he obeyed. It wasn’t depression so much as it was ADHD.
Sleep disorders are common in ADHD and my husband has extreme sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and periodic insomnia. He often stays up til 3 in the morning, hyperfocused on playing computer solitaire or a similar game. He says he can’t turn off his mind, so he intentionally obsesses over this one task. He always means to play for a short time, and loses track of the hours that go by. He’s also constantly losing his keys, his wallet, his cellphone, his credit card; being late to everything and with work assignments; working 12 hour days because he feels guilty that he loses track of time during the day and feels he has to compensate. All these “failures” he blames on himself. I’m glad he doesn’t blame them on me, like so many of you experience, but it breaks my heart that he beats himself up, that he has so much self-loathing.
He is “seeing himself” in the books we’re reading, in particular one called “Scattered” by Gabor Mate. This gives me hope that someday he’ll realize down deep that he is an intelligent, insightful, patient, loving man who has a brain disorder that nobody recognized. It would be so great to see him happy.
How do I cope. I suppose I have some “ways of being” that aren’t 100% healthy by some standards but they work for me. I am intensely grateful to be married to my husband, who loves me and needs me, and I need to be needed. By nature I have sort of a “cheerleader” personality and I get to use that with my hubby. I have a small group of women friends and we gather every week for what we call “Whine and Wine” – it helps a lot. He has been on Adderall for about a year but it’s not working, so we’re waiting for an appointment with his psychiatrist to get his meds changed. My husband and I have an excellent counselor who understands ADHD.
I guess what’s hardest for me to cope with is that, while our counselor has been giving my hubby lots of great strategies to help him be more organized, less inattentive, less distracted…my hubby isn’t doing them on a consistent basis. I struggle with what I’ve read many of you do too: is it inability or unwillingness? There’s a part of him that has given up hope on himself, that doubts anything will help. But even his inconsistent attempts are awesome, and heroic really. I’m a lucky woman.
Thanks for having this website. It feels so good to read about people who really get it.