I'm new to this site and forum. I have a lot of questions about living with ADD and with a spouse who has ADD. But before I get into my questions, let me give you some back story. Sadly, this is really long, but I don’t know how to make it shorter without leaving a lot out. Probably a lot of it will be familiar to many people.
My husband was diagnosed with ADD in college. Honestly, I never took it very seriously. He seemed fine to me. A little scatter-brained maybe, and he struggled with alcohol a bit, but he quit drinking for a long time and was more organized and involved in planning our wedding than I was!
We’ve been married for almost 13 years now and it has been quite a roller coaster. A little over a year after we married, we had our first child and proceeded to have two more within four years (as well as losing one to miscarriage). We bought a fixer-upper house while I was pregnant with our second child. When my youngest child was seven months old (and my other two were five and two), I had a heart attack and almost died. Can you imagine what all this was doing to my marriage?
A year and a half after the heart attack I had weight loss surgery. I think the two years after that were the best years of our marriage because I had so much energy. I was the happiest I’d ever been, partly because I felt so great (I have a congenital hear defect as well, which made me lower energy to begin with)! And then my weight stabilized, my energy levels went down again, and the downward spiral began again.
During all these years, my DH struggled off and on with alcohol. I was never a big drinker and of course, didn’t drink at all while I was pregnant and only occasionally while my kids were little and waking up at night. His behavior would be erratic – he’d go out partying, he quit doing things around the house (not that he was ever great – I paid my preschoolers to pick up his socks that he left in the living room). Eventually it would get bad, he’d scare himself and he’d get back in line. After my heart attack, he really toned it down. But his organizational skills really began to suffer.
Last year he had something of a meltdown. He had developed high levels of anxiety, which of course, he was treating with alcohol. He had also developed an irrational fear of heights. He had a couple of late-night “freak outs,” which left me terrified and unsure of what to do. I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone at all, because I didn’t want to damage my husband’s reputation (we were dealing with serious alcohol abuse in some other family members and of course, my DH wasn’t like those people). I promise, this post really isn’t about alcohol. But crazy things were happening with him and he refused to talk to me about it. I finally told him he had to get help. He did, although he wouldn’t tell me much. What he did tell me was that in addition to the ADD, he was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD and chemical dependency.
So I guess my real questions relate firstly to how I handled his meltdown. I didn’t push him. We didn’t fight – we still don’t fight. But it’s a year later and I still have all the unfinished house projects (it took him two years to patch a hole in a wall in our kitchen and that was with frequent requests), the expensive hunting dog that’s still not trained, the cluttered garage, the neglected yard, the kids he blows up at about leaving lights on when he leaves lights on every day, the drinking until he staggers upstairs every night. Oh, and our finances are a disaster.
I admit it – I checked out. I’ve been out of the finances for years. I couldn’t handle the stress with my health the way it was. I was just trying not to die. And then with this meltdown, instead of getting angry at him (or at his issues), I really just checked out. I couldn’t share with him how his problems were making me feel. I tried seeing a counselor, but she focused too much on his alcohol abuse and didn’t seem to see the other issues he’s having. He quit seeing his counselor. He refuses to take meds because he abused them badly in college. He claims he’s tried some things like meditation (which I fully believe in and practice myself), and for a while he was doing better.
I try to not enable him – if he can’t find his shoes or his cell phone, I try not to make it my emergency. I am in the process of taking over our finances because he’s terrible about paying bills. Since he does eventually pay them, our credit score is still good. I am naturally frugal and hate to shop, so even though we’re in bad shape, it could be worse. I try to be polite in my requests and not get angry when he gets all upset that we’re going to get mice because there’s popcorn on the floor and then he sits and plays games on his computer while I sweep (after putting the kids to bed, after making dinner and cleaning up the kitchen by myself). He used to help out around the house, but he really doesn’t anymore, although he yells at the kids about how I do too much for them and that they’re so spoiled. But he’s the biggest kid of all.
There’s two weird things about all this. One, my DH really is a good guy! He’s a good friend, he loves to help people, he doesn’t mind doing grunt-type work for his job, he works hard at his job, he's a lot of fun, my family loves him, etc. I know that he truly loves me and I think he thinks we have a great marriage. And I really couldn’t imagine being married to anyone else. But it's like living with two different people sometimes. He puts up with a lot from me, too. Which leads me to my second weird thing: I’m beginning to wonder if I have ADD. Even though I’m a housewife, I never get things to stay clean. I have clutter everywhere. He and I both leave cupboard doors open, which used to bug me, but now I'm just as bad. I’m very visual so file cabinets don’t work at all for me, but I don’t really see mess. I have lots of unfinished projects as well. I forget what I’ve told people. I over-commit and then burn myself out helping other people while neglecting the people I care most about. The main difference between my husband and me is that he’s extroverted and generally optimistic, where I’m introverted and pessimistic. I’ve been depressed most of my life, but I’ve begun to see that he has, too, and it just looked really different. To escape, he sleeps and watches tv. I stay up too late and read books.
Anyway, I really don’t know where to go from here. I’m realizing that I’m very lonely in this relationship and I want to change it, but there doesn’t seem to be any productive way for me to approach my husband, especially since whatever I would say, he’d be able (and justified) to turn right back at me. I’m a bit of a mess at this point – my time management skills are down the tubes, I’m drinking too much, I’m not getting enough sleep, I’ve quit exercising, which combined with increased alcohol, has caused me to gain back a few pounds, which makes me even more tired. It’s too exhausting to think about sharing my real heart with him and whenever I open up a little bit about what I’m thinking or feeling, I get shot down and I feel stupid for wanting a deeper, more meaningful life. I think a lot about faith, about meaning, about purpose and such things. He used to, but now it seems to just make him feel like a failure and he has all the reasons that I should be happy with the way things are. And I never know if he’s really listening to me. Sometimes I wonder if he truly likes me, because I’ve heard him listen to his sister and spend hours on the phone with her and then turn around and tell me that he doesn’t really like her.
Neither one of us handles criticism well (I get defensive too) and as I look back, I realize our relationship began to fall apart after our first child was born. It makes me really sad, because we did love each other. It also makes me sad because neither one of us will leave unless the other does something truly awful – we’re committed to each other and our marriage and I’m facing a lifetime of being lonely and of patching the wounds of my children. I yell at them plenty, too, but I know how to apologize and I do it frequently with hugs and assurances that I love them, plus I spend lots of time doing things like reading out loud, playing music, hanging out on the couch, etc., that my relationship with them can better handle some bumps. My DH is just not around, since he works, and he’s so edgy when he is home. Sometimes I just wish he would leave for a while. He used to travel a lot and while it was hard on me because the kids were little, I miss the time alone and I think he does too.
I’m sorry to have written a novel and I’m probably rambling now. Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated. I know that part of the root of my DH’s issues is his ADD and I need to become better educated about how to recognize it and manage it.
Thanks for reading, if you made it this far!