Talking with DH about his ADD

My DH was diagnosed with ADD in college, but to be honest, I didn't take it very seriously for many years. I started reading about it a year ago and have recently checked a bunch of books out of the library and started doing more research because I realize that I need to be educated about his ADD. Honestly, his coping mechanisms were really good and worked well for a long, long time without treatment. But finally, the stresses of work and kids and money and health crises have taken their toll and his mechanisms aren't working anymore. About a year ago, he was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD and has substance dependency issues. 

I have let him handle things on his own for the last year, but it's not working for me. The more I read about ADHD/ADD the more worried I get. However, he refuses to talk about it. He saw a therapist of some sort last year, but wouldn't talk to me about his treatment, other than the additional diagnoses. He's not seeing the counselor anymore. Bringing up the topic of ADD causes him tons of anxiety. I think he's always felt defective and the fact that I blew it off for so many years has made him reluctant to share anything with me. I think he's also a little embarrassed because he had to be the strong one for a long time and there's a few areas he really made a mess of. We're just starting to clean up those messes and it's not going to be pretty for a long time. 

I want him to feel safe and I don't want to nag, but it's not like this is going to get better. We've been married for almost 13 years and have three kids. Our life is not going to get easier any time soon and we need to be on the same team. How do I get him to talk without turning into Miss Nagging? The thing is, I need to feel safe too and right now, I don't. I mean, I'm physically safe, but emotionally, not so much. It's been a weird year.



I would suggest that first,

I would suggest that first, you be honest with yourself exactly WHY you want him to talk.  If you need assurance that he is doing what he can to clean up the messes and fix what's broken that is one thing.  If you want him to share because he has a problem and he should talk with you about problems because that's what spouses are supposed to do,  then that's a subjective part of the fairy tale you may have wean yourself from for the time being.  Distil down what you need to know vs. what you want to know so you can craft emotionally neutral statements of what you need and why you need it. ..later.

He is now questioning every bit of who he thought he was, and if that diagnosis was even remotely correct (I doubt it was more than 50% accurate, more on that below)  he has been haunted by the past year with thousands of different memories and whether he is to blame.  If he has actively embraced becoming self-aware then he has stumbled across websites like this, or support groups filled with non-ADHD parents and spouses, or an unqualified therapist, and apparently he is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse-leaving nothing but gloom, despair, misery and destruction in his evil wake.  Unless he has a comorbid personality disorder and is incapable of empathy, remorse or guilt, he has now shouldered far more than his share of guilt, doubt and erosion of his self-worth.  If the two of you have at least stopped the bleeding of whatever messes there are and are not in a four-alarm crisis mode, the two of you need to ACCEPT this.  Together.

If you want him to share and trust you with his soft and wounded underbelly, identify all the positives an ADHD person has.  Identify all the ADHD quirks that you KNOW he can still laugh about-the ones that used to make you smile and made him unique. Then keep that bag of traits and quirks with you and weave them into conversations.  "Do you think that did that one really creative thing because that's how ADHD people think?"   "Do you think that most guys with ADHD forget to put the twisty-tie back on the bread?"  "That one thing you said at the dinner party had everyone laughing, I could never come up with something that fast it must be an ADHD thing."  If you treat him like he's defective, he will wall off.  He's different, not defective.  He needs to believe that, and he needs to know you believe that.

After he feels comfortable with even having the subject of ADHD whispered, you can tell him what you need and why you need it.  Try to avoid statements loaded with the implication that he did something wrong or that a "normal" person wouldn't do.


Also, if someone diagnosed him with depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance dependency in addition to ADHD, they'd better be a psychiatrist very experienced in adult ADHD.  In addition, this diagnosis better have come over a span of months, probably years.  The reason for this is that the only way to have diagnosed all 5 of those issues is to play roulette with pharmaceutical cocktails and then peel back the layers and symptoms of each issue like an onion.  There's just far too many overlapping symptoms between those issues to diagnose them all without first successfully treating a couple of them.   and it is VERY difficult to find someone who knows enough about adult ADHD not misdiagnose it.

  I mean jeesh, I have every listed symptom of PTSD except "having troubling remembering the dangerous event".  Uh oh- maybe there was a dangerous event that I don't remember!!

I have enough symptoms of depression that a noob might make that diagnosis, even without the feelings of despair or suicide.

Everyone of my ADHD symptoms I've even slightly had are all on the list of anxiety symptoms.

So keep in mind that giving up on a counselor/therapist may not necessarily be an ADHD person's fault, and it may not necessarily be a bad thing.  But that person has to get beyond the feelings of hopelessness when a so-called professional messes with their head, and find someone who can help.



Thank you so much for your

Thank you so much for your reply. 

First, I appreciate what you say about my motives for getting him to talk. I'm not interested in hashing through all the ways he's "different." I just want to understand better the way he thinks about things. I am not one of those women who wants to talk about "our relationship" all the time. I'd really rather talk about books or movies or politics or whatever. But, from what I've read, an ADD brain approaches things differently and I want to understand that as we work though even simple things, like the schedule for the weekend. Really, I want him to be comfortable with joking about it - I don't view it as a "broken" thing, more like an "I can't have dairy and you can" kind of thing. It's a reality, but we can work with it. 

I was suspicious of the PTSD diagnosis. He didn't meet with the counselor (who's credentials I'm not aware of) that many times, although I know he took a bunch of tests. But honestly, even since before we got married, our life has been a series of crises. Both our families were difficult to deal with during our engagement and wedding. I have a congenital heart defect but we really wanted kids (I really wanted kids) and we got pregnant fairly quickly (which was a shock to both of us). We were married in 2000 and by 2006 he'd finished college (after 8 years - I never finished), we'd had three babies, a miscarriage, bought a "fixer-upper" house way beyond our means, Dh had changed jobs three times and ended up working for my dad (which I did not encourage him to do, but he's been there ever since), and we'd even had a dog we had to re-home because it had health issues that I couldn't handle (now we have another that my Dh promised to train, but he hasn't. Eh, the dog doesn't run away and stays in the yard with the kids, so he still has a job.). In June of 2006, I had a heart attack and darn near died. My oldest had just turned 5 and my youngest was 7 months. I had just turned 32 and my DH was 31. We went into survival mode and have been there since then.

My DH had a breakdown last year. He started having anxiety attacks and developed a fear of heights. He's always been a drinker (cheap beer), but it got bad (and obviously, I'm not giving many details). That's when he started seeing the counselor and got the diagnosis. To me, it makes sense. Even the PTSD. I am finally at a point where I am starting to take over things - like bills - and I think his brain relaxed enough to let it finally do the freak-out it needed to do 6 years before. I have struggled with undiagnosed depression since I was a child (my parents weren't big into doctors and that carried over) and I think my DH has too, although his general outlook is more optimistic than mine. I've learned to manage it with diet, meditation, gratefulness, etc. But his coping skills just weren't enough.

My Dh is not on meds and doesn't want to take them because of how he abused them years ago. While I think things are different now, I understand his feeling. And that's one of the things we can't talk about.

Really, at this point, I'm pretending we all have ADHD. I'm wondering if it's contagious, since I seem to have it too now. I'm pretty confident that at least one of my children, if not more, has it. We just don't notice that much because the disorganized life is normal around here (you need to do handstands while I read out loud? Fine. You can't put things in drawers? Whatever. We'll get baskets and hang hooks on the wall.). So, I'm working at making things easier for all of us. But I would feel better if it seemed like we were on a team, instead of all the elephants in the room. He has ADD, I have a heart condition (and possibly ADD as well). We're not "normal," whatever that is. I'm just trying to figure out how to make things work for us, how to enjoy the life we have.

So, like you say, I want it to just be part of our lives, not the "red-headed step-child." My DH is a good man and he loves me and our children. While it's true I'm not emotionally safe with him right now, I believe that it can be better. I married him because he was my best friend - not for a few months, but for years, through other relationships and through long distances. He loves me more than I deserve. I want to be able to love him the same way. If anything, the "living as roommates" complaint I've read about is more my fault than his.

Any suggestions about finding a therapist or a coach would be greatly appreciated!