This is my first post here. I've been together with my boyfriend, B, for almost three years, including a lot of long distance but also time living together (now we live an hour and a half drive away from each other so I see him every week-end). I read Melissa's book about two years ago, when B mentioned he'd had some trouble with ADD in the past, and it was absolutely illuminating. B was diagnosed with PTSD as well due to childhood traumas and has in general had a very tough life. Since we've been together we've helped each other a lot, he's now back in school (it's very difficult for him but he receives help from the school and has a prescription for Ritalin and anxiety medication that doesn't always help enough though) and we're working on understanding each other better.
Obviously there are ups and downs, we've just come out of a tough period but we always manage to reconnect and learn from what happened.
My question is this: while my boyfriend acknowledges that he has ADD and PTSD and that they have an impact on him and us, he doesn't like discussing it too much because he doesn't want to be defined by his "problems". If people take issue with his behavior, he takes it very personally and gets defensive (which spirals into yelling and crying matches when I'm myself feeling vulnerable for whatever reason and don't have the strength or ability to be soothing and rational). It's happened a few times now that members of my family witnessed such "episodes" of his (they live in a different country so we only see them every once in a while): one sibling saw him freak out and yell at a neighbor for what turned out to be a misunderstanding; one got very scared when B had a meltdown while he was driving us because we asked him to slow down (it's an old and tricky car) and he felt we were "attacking him" and "not trusting him"; and my parents saw him get verbally aggressive with an airport authority person when B felt cornered with all the (routine) security questions we were being asked.
Because of this, several members of my family have already approached me and told me that they worry about me, one even thought that B was physically violent towards me. They were especially shocked because they usually see him playing with the kids for hours, helping out in the kitchen, fixing electric appliances around the house when we visit my family, being caring and supporting towards me etc., all the typical ADHD qualities that make us fall in love with them in the first place... I tried to reassure them as well as I could by saying he was under a lot of stress at those times, but I know they worry that I'm in denial and possibly in an abusive relationship.
What should I do? On the one hand, I respect that B doesn't want his private life (and the state of his brain) to be a subject of discussion with his in-laws. On the other, I cannot stand the looks of worry and the whispers behind my back - it's embarrassing, it's damaging to my relationship with my family and with B, and I just wish I could tell them that it's not his fault, that he's working hard to control his emotions and that jeez, I'm not getting beat up or something!
I just want them to see him as the amazing person that he is, loving, fun, caring, attentive, he makes me happy - and not be side-tracked by some bad ADHD/PTSD-triggered episodes.
Have you been in such a situation? What did you do? How did it play out? What course of action would you recommend? I'd really appreciate your help.