ADHD, Mental Exhaustion, In-laws, and being antisocial. About runs the gamut of my weekend.

I"m engaged to a mostly awesome lady who was diagnosed with ADHD 15 years ago. She's now 32. I'm her non-adhd partner. I do love her dearly.

We're in the middle of buying a new home, and in the meantime to save on rent and not get stuck with a lease, we've been staying at an extended stay motel during the week, and with my family on the weekends. It's been this way for a couple months. It's pretty stressful at times, no doubt, to keep skipping around and living on a crappy, low budget diet.

Anyway, she just got a new job as a bank teller at the beginning of last week. She likes it, likes the people she's working with, etc.  Only bad thing is, according to her, being social and working under flourescent lighting is exhausting to her. I can see that, and try to understand it, but here's where the in-laws and anti social part comes in.

Over the weekend, while at my families place, she went out of her way to avoid all social contact with everyone (at least 6 people - Dad, Grandparents, Sister, etc) but me. Basically hid in the tent (we've been camping) the entire time. I tried my best to not pick at her and nag her, but it just made things worse. The best answer I got for being antisocial is "I'm tired, not feeling well, need to recharge batteries."  This was for 3 days straight.

It's very strange to my family that someone would come to their home and not join in on family dinners, say anything, and hide from them the entire time. I can understand being overtired. I can understand wanting to be away from people. But is it really that hard to join in on a home cooked meal, maybe come in and chat for 10 minutes, make nice with the future in-laws? I've gotten 3 phone calls today from different family members being a little upset over her inaction.

I'm kinda stuck in the middle here, now. I really want to support her and understand her, but I'm having a hard time believing it's that hard to make an appearance or two over a three day span.

My main questions are...

1. Have any of you experienced an exhaustion so heavy that you can't bear the sight of other people?

2. What do I tell my family? I'm a little paranoid about saying she has ADHD. They are backwoods country folk who don't get out much. ADHD sounds like a horrible disease to them. They are good people, though.

3. How can both of us avoid something like this in the future? Some sort of middle ground would be nice, but she wouldn't budge, no matter how hard I tried to get her out of the tent for a few minutes.

I really, really want to understand her explanation, but am having a hard time doing so. Hoping some other folks could help.


I can tell you that although you have a hard time believing it, she really, really WAS too overwhelmed to come out of that tent.  In addition to the new job, you two have been shuffling between your family and a motel?  Living out of a suitcase?  I'm surprised all of her hair hasn't fallen out.... seriously....

I have sooooooooo been there.

I can't go into all the stories I've got like this, but BOY, oh boy... I can relate. 

one thing you need to know is she is NOT being mean.  She is NOT being snooty.  She is NOT trying to piss anyone off.

If she's anything like I was in similar situations, she is at best overwhelmed and temporarily paralyzed.  I got to the point where I actually got physically ill in these situations.  (which would give me a 'real reason' to not socialize - I always said it was food poisoning.  It's quick, it's messy, nobody wants to know the details and you're covered for a couple of days).

At the time, my husband teased me - actually his whole family did, which made things worse for me.  I was embarrassed, homesick (in a foreign country for a month, spending time with relatives, when I'd thought we'd be spending time together).  My understanding of the language was not tremendous and that was a strain.... etc. etc...  They would crack jokes any time I ate something, warning it would cause diarrhea.  I would tell my husband (boyfriend at the time) I was going to go lie down because I wasn't feeling well, and he would say, "Yeah, you just want to sleep because then you can dream in English."  All of this made me really, really angry (probably completely irrationally angry) and I retaliated in very unhealthy ways.

I know it looked really weird to them to have someone come across the planet and then hide in a bedroom as often as possible, but it was like some kind of fear.  Dunno... wish I could be more helpful...



Sensory Overload

Hey sister,

I always said it was food poisoning.  It's quick, it's messy, nobody wants to know the details and you're covered for a couple of days).

Almost poetic... ;)  Food poisoning.  So funny. 

Yeah.  The need to escape.  When I was a an unmedicated kid, I used to go off by myself during family holidays at my aunt and uncle's house.  The thing was, I LOVED all my cousins and aunt and uncle; I was just so damn overwhelmed.  I hated going to crowded, noisy bars in college.  Sensory overload.  I couldn't understand how other people could focus and sustain a conversation in that environment.  I HATED IT.  Too many people.   Too much noise.    I still find ways to escape from people when I get overwhelmed.  When my husband's cousins, aunts, and uncles come over, I go to the bathroom more often than a small dog on a long walk.  Those few minutes are essential to me, still, even on meds.  I like his family as well.  So it has nothing to do with the company, just the volume of people.


Pbartender's picture

Double Yes. (And Hey! Aspen! Look!)

Hey Aspen!  This sounds very similar to some of the things you're seeing with your husband, too, and may explain some of his napping and anti-social behaviors in the company of relatives...

1. Absolutely.  Social situations -- especially those with more than just a handful of people or that carry on for more than an hour or two -- can be mentally exhausting for an ADHDer...  It takes a lot of effort for us to ignore the distractions (clubs and parties with flashing lights and loud music can be TOUGH!) of the crowd and keep enough of our attention and memory focused on one (or more!) people so that we can pick up on all the social cues and keep up with the conversations.  After a while, we start losing that focus, and it gets hard to keep up.  It'll look like we're starting to "zone out", and we might need to take a break to regain our composure.  My wife mistakes this for me being bored or not having fun, if we're at a party or visiting people and I start running into that wall.

I am what would be best described as an "industrial electronics technician".  I work closely with may be a half dozen other technicians and engineers.  Most of my job is building, troubleshooting, fixing and testing electronics and high voltage systems.  A lot of my work is done on my own, or working with just one other person.  A couple weeks ago, our workshop supervisor went on vacation for a week and a half.  As the most senior tech, his responsibilities fell to me for the duration.   I spent every day answering questions, making decisions, resolving conflicts, liaising with the engineers and scientists, assigning jobs and making sure the work got done.  By the time I got home in the afternoon, I was physically exhausted from the sustained mental effort of all the social interaction and the additional responsibility and thought and concentration required for the planning and decision-making I had to do.  With my meds slowly wearing off throughout the evening, it was all I could to get dinner made and then veg out in front of the television with a beer.

Understand that your wife is in a similar situation with her position at the bank, her job is requiring her to make a sustained 8-hour effort at social interaction, and to be reasonably cheerful and helpful throughout.  If she's got ADHD, it's no wonder she's mentally and emotionally exhausted.  (I honestly don't know how the ADHD teachers on this board survive dealing with 30+ kids every day!  WOW!)  Plus, she's kind of stuck living out of temporary quarters and with relatives and in-laws, who expect her to visit and be sociable, regularly on a long-term basis... So outside of work, she's getting little or no down time and has no quiet safe haven to spend it even if she did.

2. You don't need to make a big deal of it.  You can tell the truth without going into excruciating details.  Make sure that they understand it's nothing personal; that it's nothing they did.  Just say something like, "She's still getting used to her new job... it's pretty stressful and she's worn out.  She needs some time to herself to unwind."  I've got in-laws who are north woods red necks (in a good way) as well...  If you need to liken it to going on a solo fishing trip or hunting trip, and they'll get the idea.

3. DON'T.  PUSH.  IT.  I can speak from experience, here.  Forcing her back into a social situation before she's ready for it won't help.  She'll still be worn out.  She won't be social.  She won't be happy about being pushed into it.  She'll be sullen and resentful and irritable and liable to grouch and snap at people.  Even if she puts on a good face about it, they're likely to noticed she's not excited about joining in.  It's most likely to make things worse in a big way.

If the relatives are willing to keep things a little relaxed and low-key, you could try asking her to join in the meal, at least.  Tell her she doesn't need to join in the conversations...  she can keep to herself, but ask her if she can just be there at the table and enjoy the food and the company.  If she says no, let it go, but assure her that she's welcome to join in, when she's ready.

I hope that helps some.



Thanks PB. Yes, it does help.

Thanks PB. Yes, it does help. That's why I came here, so I could here from some other folks in the same situations.

I'm having a hard time with it still. I don't know how to make my family understand that she's not being rude without divulging private information about us. We have to go there again this weekend, and if it happens again I'm nervous that something bigger will come of it.

antisocial behaviors.

I have experienced this with my ADHD husband where he can't even stand to be around my kids or Mother for 5 mins.He would come in the house where I live and run straight back home almost right away,that's why we don't live together at least that is one of the reasons.I would have been able to live with him if I did not have my business home and my kids to attend to, but if the tables were reverse,I prefer it the way it is right now.I love my kids and I would never trade in my family for (A MAN) sorry to say.

I do in fact stay over at (HIS) place on weekends and some times visit during the week,when he use to live by me he would lock himself up in my room and me together with him and my daughter would ask to come in the room and I could not let her in b/c he was always either too tired or can't take the interruptions of the poor child just wanting to be with her Mother.This was hard for me for 6 months,luckily,I saved him some money and gave it to him found him an apartment and thank god he has moved out.I know how this sounds bit it's better for us this way.


This is a seriously embarrassing issue that never went away

Please do ask yourself this : Can you tolerate every normal family holiday being that way? This is exactly how every Christmas / Thanksgiving / Easter is. Explaining gets super old after several years, believe me, I know of what I speak all too well. You really do hafta decide how tolerable this issue is to you. In my marriage it's not gotten one bit better.