Communication breakdown: 10-months relationship and I am completely lost on my ADHD partner

Hi everyone,

my boyfriend and I’ve been dating since March and we were uber happy and in love during the first 3 months. I felt like the center of his universe and, even though it was a long distance relationship pretty much  from the beginning, we managed to get to know each other quite well thanks to Skype, Messenger and all kinds of other tools.
He had mentioned from time to time that he was a “bumbling boy”, that he had a hard time organizing his tasks and schedules, that his brain RAM was not as big as mine, that he had trouble with insomnia…  Always in a charming and half-joking way but honest at the same time. Once he mentioned that he had been diagnosed with ADHD during childhood but it didn’t seem to be an issue now. I guess I should’ve listened more carefully back then but I wasn’t that educated on ADHD.  He even told me that he cannot make friends as easily as he wishes and that he’s not good in keeping in touch with friends and family – sometimes he wouldn’t be in touch with his family for 3-4 months. Given his focus on me during those months I couldn’t imagine that he would ever be able to ignore me. 
In the 4th month he suddenly stopped calling and texting everyday. He was super busy with his work (he’s an artist, and yes, he can live off it ;-) ) and he was surrounded by his Mom and her second husband who is verbally abusive against her. He was diagnosed with a depressive episode and given some tranquilizers. The episode lasted for about 3-4 weeks. I figured that it had been caused by his moving back in with his Mom, reliving a childhood trauma full of verbal abuse by his father. I was relieved to hear that he would soon move to London to pursue his master’s degree at an elite university – far away from that bad environment. I was also worried if he could manage to settle down in spite of his recent depressive episode, but anything would be better than that environment.

He moved there in July and we had a deal that I would visit him in mid-August. I could tell that he was very busy with his studies but we were back to normal: long distance but with almost daily messaging and calling. Then, one day before my departure to London he suddenly canceled on me. Saying that he was way too busy – of course, I understood that he’s having a hard time managing working and studying in a completely new environment, but I just couldn’t hide my disappointed. A couple of days later we talked this over via skype and when asking him why he cancelled on me on such short notice… he could hardly explain. He had felt overwhelmed by his schedule and panicked. And now he felt ashamed and disappointed in himself: shame and disappointment in himself are now clear verbal cues for me but back then I just didn’t understand why he gave himself such a hard time over one “misstep”. I couldn’t put the pieces together; i assumed it must’ve been due to his depression. He had promised that i could visit a month later, when his entry exams were over and right before he had to start painting for 4 exhibitions. (I had a very bad feeling about his organization regarding four exhibitions on top of his studies and commissioned work. But who was I to judge after a mere 6 months of dating?)

Well, 4 weeks went by, he passed his exams, and we ended up having a very bad discussion via skype: he completely lost his focus during our talk, overwhelmed by the passed exam and following paperwork for his visa, he started to remember his other To Dos, started to mumble how he might not have time for me, although he so badly wanted to see me…  We got caught in one of those demon dialogs, where I kept pulling and he suddenly got all defensive. I just couldn’t shut up but kept pushing “so when can I come then? You said I could come next week…But you promised that...” I didn’t show my best side either: I pouted and nagged, I guess. I was just so disappointed by yet another broken promise. And he must have felt like a failure, again. He turned very cold and defensive. We kinda agreed that his work has priority one but that he would try to make some time for me. But we couldn’t “hug it out” and it felt as if the discussions wasn’t really ended on good terms. We both felt bad about the things we said. I apologized via message but he had already began to shut down. He told me he was sorry and asked me to wait. Wait for him. 

That was almost 4 months ago. After that bad discussion he went into a tunnel, focussing on work, painting day and night while attending his classes at college as well. Within 4 weeks after the discussion we just texted once in a while until he completely cut me off. I haven’t directly heard from him for almost 3 months now. I’ve tried to reach out to him several times with messages and calls, but he ignores them. Well, he had told me to wait for him, hasn’t he? (at least I haven’t lost my – dark – sense of humor). Even if he reads them, he does not reply. The only connection I have left are rare mutual likes and even rarer comments on facebook and instagram posts – this is very 21st century ;-) 

I can only tell by posts on facebook from his vernissages that he’s merely a shadow of his former self probably due to insomnia and working day and night in his tunnel. I now remember that he had told me months ago that he could “be like this” sometimes, that he really doesn’t mean to but somehow ends up shutting down. And he asked me to just ignore him until “it’s over” – I tried to figure out what “IT” could be. i started to read a lot on depression, anxiety and, finally, on ADHD. It all makes sense now thanks to Russell Barkley, Melissa Orlov and others’ books. I now see the pattern in his behavior and I logically know that he does not mean to hurt me. Nor does he mean to shut down. He had said that he wanted to become a better person for me and now I know what he meant with that. But it is still very painful and confusing when the man you love suddenly shuts down and shuts you out of his life. I feel like he went to a completely different planet. I know that he’s not even seeing his new friends in London but ‘hyperfocusing’ on work. And I’m worried that he’ll have a complete breakdown after finishing his last exhibition in mid-December. Moreover, I’m having a hard time at trusting him to come back to me like he said. Our relationship is still so young and he has kind of used up my trust for now. On some days I don’t know what to do anymore.

Should I do just as he said and how he’s used to cope with “it”: try to ignore him until he “cools down” after finishing his last exhibition? Until he comes back and out of his tunnel?
Or should I keep trying to reach out for him on a regular basis? ( I try to reach out him once every 7-10 days) 

It is very hard and the whole situation definitely made me reach my limits at some point, well actually several points. But I’m learning how to take care of myself instead of focusing my energy on worrying about him. I also have a strong support network by friends and family with whom I talk openly about everything. So I do have the confidence and the will to work things out with him, also thanks to all the literature and youtube lectures by Barkley and Pera. And, after all, I still love him. I cannot save him and that is not my intention. I would simply love to be there for him, by his side, so that we can grow together as a team. He has so much to give when he’s not taken over by ADHD. 
But… as long as he’s in his own world, I feel so helpless. I cannot reach out to him, not even to tell him that I now better understand what’s going on with him and that it is ok. He must feel so ashamed and anxious. 

Sorry for my awfully long story. I hope I can find some understanding for my situation and, honestly, some reassurance that I’m not a fool to keep believing in him and us although things are so incredibly bad right now. Looking forward to hear about your own experiences and feel free to give me any advice or feedback – I can handle the facts way better than uncertainty ;-)