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.
Wow, that really rang true to
Submitted by ICanSeeClearlyNow on
Wow, that really rang true to me right now. The whole idea about the wheels coming off especially, because that is what I see with my husband. The only problem is our children are very young and the way you describe it only getting harder scares me. This week, he has gone full force back into his poor coping mechanisms (drinking and video games) because there is some extra stress at work and with other relatives. But he won't tell me any of what is going on - it really is trapped under all those layers that you describe. Maybe kids who get diagnosed early learn more positive coping mechanisms, but I think you're right about those diagnosed much later - their coping mechanisms will stay those they used earlier if they don't really focus on changing them. As the partner I guess I have to decide if I can live with it if he is not willing to change. It just feels very lonely right now. Thanks for your insight - it was something I needed right now.
Submitted by thewrongone on
Yes. It is the denial and the coping, or lack thereof. There is no coping skill except to retaliate and point fingers back at me. I believe the cycle begins with ADHD but he will not that see that. It does, though. Begins with a symptom, followed by my reaction, which is usually an extreme sense of hurt, especially after all this time, followed by that him him being angry at me. Wash, rinse, repeat. I am so numb to the ADHD that I don't even know when I am being mentally abused. He did that a lot to me tonight, but throws in my face the times I have called him an a**hole, which I would only do out of hurt 100% of the time. I know it's not right, of course, but I make a bad decision when I am hurting. It's only when there is bad fighting and he is being cruel. He does not see his diagnosis. He does not believe it, I know he doesn't. He doesn't act in such a way that he owns it in the least. You are right - people who are diagnosed later in life have a much harder time unless they are very committed to changing.
After being told that I it's over and I'm a stupid fucking bitch, that he's so sick of hearing me and seeing me, I told him that unless he gets treatment right away that he shouldn't come home after work tomorrow. He said "well have a good weekend then". He has had a prescription for 5 weeks in his car but hasn't bothered getting it filled. And I haven't brought it up after he told me a couple of weeks ago that the only reason I want him "doped up" is so that I can talk to him like shit anytime I want. This, of course, is not true. But what an effective way for him not to face the prescription, as if I'm going to push for him to get it after he said that to me. I don't know what I will do - I have chronic back pain and can't work but don't get disability. My son is autistic and needs me home, anyways. We already don't have enough money to help him, how can I possibly support him without my husband here? Do I have a life on welfare to face? I haven't felt like more of a loser in all of my life. My 38th birthday is on Monday, and, as usual, it will be terrible.
Anyway, just wanted to say that I think you're right.
Thanks for the replies ...
Submitted by tfarmer on
My wife is on medication and will readily admit she has ADHD. However, this appears to be used as an excuse for behaviors e.g. chronically late, interrupting people in conversations, etc. instead of the basis for self examination.
I believe after several layers are added the real person gets buried and the coping mechanism essentially takes on a life of it's own (the giant). It becomes so integral to the person's self perception that the real person gets lost in a sense. While I separate the ADHD from her, she is only able to do that in very rare moments. Perhaps when the algorithm is interrupted.
Just like there are different personalities I think there are different styles of coping. For my wife, and perhaps also for your husbands, the aggressiveness and finger pointing IS the biggest part of their coping mechanism. The best defense is a good offense. I think this could be especially valid for those whose coping mechanisms were developed at a time when anger, resentment, and to some degree low self esteem were prevalent forces in their life. Perhaps like being teased at school, or admonished by teachers and parents.
I think this could also contribute to child.like behavior. There is in some way a child locked inside those layers that is either afraid to come out or perhaps completely forgotten. My wife was the valedictorian of her high school class and earned many scholastic and athletic honors in college. However, if the coping mechanism she developed was intended to be successful only at these things is it any wonder why it does not work in the context of a long term intimate relationship?
I also think the comment about being diagnosed at a younger age is spot on. That allows a person to deal with the core issues (if done correctly) without developing the protective and self deceptive layers that become destructive later in life. I read a comment from smilimgagain, a person who seems to be successfully addressing her ADHD symptoms, that she adopted the attitude of telling the world to basically piss off. I think that is also very true for my wife. It is the fundamental flaw in the construction of the giant in the corner of the room and why any approach is met with aggression and defensiveness. This is also the root cause of many of our problems.
The giant is the person they created, who they were forced to become or wanted to be. I would argue until she is able to see the giant for what it is, and find the real person it is hiding, protecting, and controlling there will be little real change. I also believe that Melissa is right in the non ADHD setting boundaries. I cannot kill the giant. I cannot control it's stature or personality. Only she can do those things. What I can, and will continue to do is try to show her the giant exists and continue pointing into the corner.
Sorry these are so wordy.
The Giant is still here ... alive and well.
Submitted by tfarmer on
I have discussed some of these insights with my wife and she seems to understand, and to some extent, agree with it. Especially the "good offense is the best defense". Her defensiveness is designed to keep people at a distance and perhaps off balance, to not let them close enough to see through her charade. The giant is always convinced that her flawed perception of reality is right. No room for self-doubt!
A minor example of how this works. At the store last week together we purchased three items. One was a cigar. At the checkout the cashier rang up the cigar and handed to me. My wife was looking at her phone, or in her purse, not paying attention. She glanced up as I was paying and in a very aggressive tone accused the cashier for double charging us for one of the items. She had forgotten about the cigar. I pointed this out. I think the cashier was speechless. My wife's response as we are walking out was "it is part of good customer service to deal with irate customers". This is madness!
She is very passionate about wellness, diet, etc. and can read volumes on those topics. After a long discussion and argument two months ago I challenged her to choose any ADHD book or article to read. So far, nothing. More disturbingly, as of two days go she has no memory of the discussion at all. So, of course I am crazy and making things up, just trying to pick a fight.
I have read many posts that indicate the non-ADHD partner is relieved to learn the problem is ADHD, not they are not loved etc. The message being "The ADHD person is not _____ (fill in the blank, defensive, narcissistic, self deceived ...) on purpose. It is just how their brain works". I have reached point that I really no longer care "why" she does these things. Narcissism is narcissism. Defensiveness is defensiveness. Denial is denial. Asshole behavior is asshole behavior. Why does not matter to me.
I cared until I realized that
Submitted by lauren07 on
I cared until I realized that he did not.
Very insiteful post...
Submitted by c ur self on
I agree with much of what you have said here and yes it does cross over with the way my wife handles life, and the changes that have occurred as the mundane scheduling duties have slowed or changed as we enter each new season (grown children etc.) of life. My wife's coping mechanisms ( a blue pill melting on her tongue every morning, 47 cell phone alarms w/different tones, before she gets up;)) are truly what brings sanity to her life. (Insanity to mine;)) Most of us have them, add or not..One of mine and your's may be as simple as the way we use our outlook calendar at work to bring organization and structure to our lives..etc...Dealing with Add effects and behaviors, make these coping effects more pronounced, because they are so often relied on for comfort, and clarity, in a mind that is much busier than others desperately looking for clarity. Not to mention you and I as husbands or full time students:) Addmomof2 because she has been so open about her add, and the effects she deals with...She has really shed some light on why many, if not most people with add lives in denial and blaming. They feel hopelessly misunderstood...Most discussions they encounter are negative, because the person addressing it is usually upset...Not to mention Add itself is a huge barrier to having the needed dialog, that we feel we need for understanding... I hope you the best...It's obvious from you post...You are quiet studious, perceptive, and patient...Patient being the one you will us the most...Just continue to love her, first and foremost:)...It's healing! They will never be us thankfully...draw from her strengths...Laugh at the rest....
ADHD vs. coping
Submitted by Smokey on
Hi tfarmer, your algorithm metaphore made a lot of sense to me. I agree with you that there are a few separate things at play here. The person themselves, the ADHD symptoms that can be treated to a certain extent, and the years of coping mechanism as well as thought patterns that usually need to be unlearned. In the case of my BF, the thought pattern is one of worthlessness, and the coping mechanism is defensiveness, such that everything I say is a criticism no matter how careful I am.
So far we've had some success in getting through these negative thought patterns.....but it's always a challenge to be walking on eggshells.