(N)ever satisfied?


Today, another thing has occurred to me, another mechanism that I think weighs heavily on my life and my ADHD spouse's.

I've been thinking a lot how it's possible that she feels so dissatisfied with her/our life so often, when in fact so many good things happen in it. And I think I started to notice a pattern that might be quite revealing.

Before I explain, here's an example. We're going on a trip. She always does lots of planning, trying to put every possible attraction and place to visit in the schedule, and predict every possible scenario. It's exhausting for her and for me as well. Because of that, she always does her packing at the last minute, because she hyperfocuses on planning so much. Then, when we're on the plane or the train, she's still looking for more places to visit. The schedule gets more and more overcrowded. And one important category is restaurants and cuisine, so, for the sake of this story, let's just stick to this subject.

So, they way this usually happens is that she'd spend days on end looking for the best places to eat. She reads countless reviews, compares the numbers of reviews, the stars, ponders if maybe the type of cuisine influences the ratings, or is this the objective score, because maybe people like Hindu cuisine more than French, which would explain whe the Hindu restaurant got more stars, while, in fact the French one could be better, and so on, and so forth. She does this when I'm busy working, disturbing me constantly ("what do you think?"; "but there's one person who thinks it's not that good, what do you think?"; "here' read this review"; "I'll send you the link so that you can read it later"; "which one do you prefer?"; "but maybe it's better when they have a beer garden, or would you rather sit inside?"). She does this when it's time to go through security checks, when we're boarding, when we're checking in to a hotel, making these simple steps very messy and complicated sometimes. But I bear with it, because it often results in a great list of places to visit (even though we have 23 restaurants to visit during a 4-day stay and she still believes it's possible). I just try to be patient, participate when I can, and steer her to the nearest exit when she's buried in her phone at the train station.

She's really happy everytime we go for a meal together, and often is seems like she expects the place and food to blow her mind, like there will be some unimaginable wonders on the plate that we've never seen before. And sometimes there are, indeed. The problem is, her enthusiastic anticipation usually disappears once we step in. And when we sit there, she'll start doing things like answering her phone. "My friend just wants to chit-chat, please let me answer, this will only take a minute", but it usually takes much more, and inevitably leads to her starting a search on her phone because of something the friend briefly mentioned. So now we're hectically browsing for the information on this 17th century Italian composer who had a really interesting life, or doing research on the life cycle of some Australian slug. Another thing that may happens is, she starts talking even before we enter, and focuses so much on it that it never stops. Or starts looking for other places that we should visit as well, because they're supposed to be great too. So, again, the phone, the lists, the stars, the reviews. So the waiter gets ignored a lot, and I'm trying to divide my attention between her chatter and actually pushing this forward, because at some point we MUST eventually place the order (she gets offended if I interrupt her, nevertheless). Then the dishes start coming and I can see she's not even aware THAT she's eating, nevermind WHAT she's eating. I sometimes try to steer her attention gently to that fact ("how do you like your meat? not too spicy"?), sometimes it does the trick, often it doesn't. Sometimes she forgets about the food completely, just keeps chatting over a cold meal.

That's not very satisfying for me. I'd like to be able to share comments about the place, the food, as we eat and afterwards (when I ask her, she says "I must have been distracted, because I don't actually remember the taste"). But it's not what really bothers me.

The hardest thing is that after we leave I can see she didn't really find the pleasure in being there. She didn't because she failed to notice the great design, the great waiter, the great food. Or just hyperfocused on one spoon of pea mush so much she's missed the actual bells and whistles. So the whole experience becomes an easily-forgotten blur in her memory, and soon it's like it never happened. Sometimes she's conscious enough of it to comment: "I've wanted to go there for weeks, but because of that fucking phone call I didn't even taste that famous soup of theirs. We must return there, because I really want to try it." But even her memory of her saying that soon fades away too, it's like so many we-musts that just flicker for a second or two.

And now I'm getting to the point: she's very hungry for those new experiences, but that hunger never actually gets satiated. So the joy of experiencing it never appears. When she has that unique chance to experience it, when she's supposed to, when we're actually there, it's like her brain immediately tells her: ok, been here, done this, what's next. She loses her obsessive interest immediately. She sometimes regains it after we leave. And that, I think leaves her unfulfilled. It's better when she expresses it, because then she can at least say "I'm gonna do it again and next time I'll focus better". But often she is not even aware she's missed it, so she doesn't feel the actual "loss". She just doesn't feel joy when she could. Which, in general, leads to the conclusion we never do things together, that our life is boring, that I don't find enough time to go places, that I don't enjoy time with her. She often expresses these feelings. Which makes me "double-dissatisfied", because I have my own dissatisfaction to deal with, and also deal with hers.

Before the ADHD diagnosis, I used to think she was just so greedy, yes, greedy for experiences it was almost unbearable. I couldn't wrap my head around it. I used to say "Why can't you just enjoy the moment? Why are you complaining we never go swimming, can't you see we're doing something different now? We're having a walk, you wanted to go for a walk, so enjoy the walk, and then we can go to swimming". But when we go swimming, she's unhappy because we never go for walks. And I think now I get it more and more. She actually doesn't experience these positive things, because she's too busy obsessing with other things. Sho it's like she DIDN'T truly go swimming AND DIDN'T truly go for a walk. No wonder she's so down sometimes, because she never achieves the potential level of satisfaction, yet keeps dreaming about it constantly. She builds so much anticipation, but when the time comes to collect her gratification, she fails. Her brain constantly craves for stimulation, and when it get's that chance, it doesn't because it's so busy craving.

Seems like a very hard life, really. Disappointing. If joy was alcohol, it's like you want vodka, you get wine, but you feel like you're drinking diluted beer.

And mine is hard, too, because we don't share the things we should be sharing as a couple. I'm actually doing these things alone, with a distracting and complaining person around, who rarely lets me fully enjoy them.

I don't know, it's just my rambling again. But I thought it might be helpful to some of you.