I have been spending a lot of time reading and reviewing comments and experiences on here over the past few weeks. I believe I may have stumbled on to some concepts that may lead to a better understanding of my situation. My wife was diagnosed with ADHD about 2.5 yrs. ago at age 41. You can read my earlier posts for the detailed background if you are interested. I am sharing this now at a very early stage in the hope it may spur some discussion to further develop the concept, or disprove it altogether. Let me know your thoughts.
I have observed that at least part of my wife's coping mechanism seems to be a kind of algorithm that runs in her mind. It appears she uses this algorithm to process visual information, e.g. body language, as well as auditory information e.g. intonation, and even to assess softer items like motivation or what she calls the "energy" of the person with whom she is communicating. We all do this in varying degrees. However, her ADHD distorts her perception ... particularly with regard to what I call the softer items and in many cases intonation. This distortion results in her making statements that are completely divorced from the social context or even topical aspects of a conversation. It can also trigger defensiveness. When this is seen by the non-ADHD partner frequently, over a long period of time it can appear the person is creating a kind of pseudo reality and can be absolutely infuriating for the non-ADHD person to deal with.
Like any algorithm, this one takes time to run it's loop or process. It appears if my wife receives input faster than the cycle time of her algorithm her default is that she is being attacked. Everything becomes a threat.
When we have been able to discuss ADHD symptoms and their affects in a civil manner it appears this algorithm will only allow her to introspect to a certain point before it crashes and resets back to a more superficial level. In a sense her ADHD is blocking her from really seeing her ADHD.
Last week my wife and I got into an argument in which she quickly became irrational and started yelling. I decided that in this case I would give ADHD no quarter. As she continued to get even more irrational and irritated I would calmly point out how virtually everything she was doing was a characteristic of ADHD. I have never in my life witnessed anyone as angry and out of control. It was like watching a tiger try to escape while it's tail was caught in a trap. I started asking her questions faster than I knew the algorithm could process and she actually started to drop her defenses and share some things she has never said before. Things like how she felt when she was young and her insecurities.
This entire situation lasted about 10 minutes. Interestingly, after she had calmed down and was talking again in a civil manner (algorithm reboot) she began to backtrack several things she said as well as attribute some behavior she had admitted was ADHD related as something else. And of course my fault.
In reading many of the posts it seems a good many adults are diagnosed with ADHD in their late thirties to mid-forties. Keep in mind that may or may not be true because the sample is limited to forum commenters here. If this is true I believe it is because that is when the wheels start to fall off for the ADHD person. In many cases the children have become more self sufficient which reduces the dictated task orientation that has been present for both parents when children are very young. It is also perhaps the same timeframe the NT partner begins to really burn out and starts asking some tough questions and tensions, conflicts and stress all rise. It is also a time in which long term planning starts to play a key role for couples. In our case it was a second marriage, consolidation of two families and houses, etc.
I believe my wife developed her algorithm at a very young age. I also believe the wheels are coming off for her because she is trying to apply a coping mechanism developed so she could pass an 8th grade final ezam into the context of a 43 year old woman with a career and a marriage. The work she is forced to do to sustain this is truly exhausting for her. It is getting to the point she can no longer maintain it.
I believe it was c ur self that stated "ADHD" is always the third person in the room". In our case it is a giant fanged, bloated, puss oozing beast, smelling of dung and decay standing in the corner. I hate it and I simply want to destroy it. What I have learned though is the giant is not ADHD. The giant is the coping mechanisms and denial. I believe when the coping mechanism was originally developed as a child one key feature was to shield my wife from the reality she was different. Subsequent layers were added like an onion until the beast was complete. Her secret locked away deep inside. It is her safe place.
So, I am not truly yet dealing with ADHD, I am wrestling with the giant of the coping mechanism. What l want to destroy she runs to for comfort and klings to with white knuckled determination. She protects the giant at all costs. It is her ally, it hides her secrets. The real her is locked deep inside those layers. She does not realize the freedom that awaits if she would only let go of the giant. She does not know it is in control, not her.
I believe the post by JJameson about skydiving was a very eloquent and symbolic representation of an ADHD person putting a silver spike into the heart of his giant. His leap from that airplane to join his wife in the freefall of life was the death of a coping mechanism.