Like walking on eggshells or diffusing a bomb

First of all, I appreciate Melissa's words and experience, and all of the people on this site so much. All of you dealing with ADHD in your marriages, your advice and experiences are getting me through the days right now. I wish I could buy each of you a cup of coffee or something:-)

I am so mired in a morass of sadness and helplessness that at the moment, I don't know where I went. I would appreciate any ideas anyone out there has. May be random, and long, but here goes: 

Hubby was diagnosed with ADHD by family doctor a few years ago, in early 40's. DH is currently ill and on leave at home. His condition is difficult for him and painful. We have been together 12 years and have 2 young school aged children. Family doc prescribed medication, but did not assert the need for any type of therapy or anything to go along with it. DH primarily used meds to work and to wake up in the morning (terrible sleep issues). DH is an artist and brilliant, successful in his field. He is charming and knows everyone. I don't think anyone who knows us would believe how horrible our home life has become.  The ADHD makes it increasingly difficult for DH and I to be together and function happily. I am miserable. He is not very happy, either. He cannot take his ADHD medication right now because it interacts badly with other meds he must take for his current condition, so the situation has degenerated fast. 

First issue: DH refuses counseling. Period. Everything from blatant honesty "I just can't take sitting there and dissecting everything over and over, it is like torture, like acid being poured all over me," to belittling it "I am my own best counselor, I am smarter than anyone else," to blame shifting "you are the one with the problem, you go to a counselor," to stonewalling, "counseling doesn't work, people don't change, you don't like me for who I am." I realize that this is partly just defensiveness and fear, but when I tell him that he may lose me and beg him to try it, and he won't, where am I supposed to go from there? We have been in this loop for a year or two now. 

Second: The fighting and tension is out of control. I have become a negative, sad, nagging person who is perpetually tired and hurt. DH is defensive, very quick to anger, quick to yell. We just can't resolve these things. I am trying. DH is very bright, an extraordinary debater, and wears me down. He picks apart the words I say and dissects things until I am in tears with frustration. Frequently he somehow ends up being the victim and I am a terrible, angry person and that is the problem. Here is an example: He makes huge messes and then does not clean then up. Starts construction projects without talking to me about them first and then can't finish them. Moves heavy junk into a main pathway to the garage and then just leaves it there. 2 weeks ago, DH decided to paint the room he sleeps in and convert it into an art studio. Great. Except, he used a helper and moved every, single thing, which was a ton of accumulated junk, out into our main living area. Including his own bed! I walked in one day and it was everywhere. Piles of things. Baskets full of things, bags of clothes and heavy pieces of furniture. And it has all sat there for two weeks now. You can't even walk through our house, literally. It looks like a pigsty, like crazy people live here. I can't function with it like this. He won't let me just move all of it to the basement, isn't physically capable of finishing the renovation to the studio himself, his helper is out of town, and he is just stuck. Can we talk about this? Are you kidding? All I said was, "This stuff everywhere is affecting me. I need for us to make it a priority to finish whatever you are doing in that room so we can clear it out." He heard some frustration in my voice, it's true, and that became the issue! That I was always mad at him! But you know what? I was PISSED when I walked in and saw the mess, and I waited until I was pretty calm. Every single time I try to tell him, "I don't feel like you hear me, I don't feel like you acknowledge or respect my feelings about this, your decision affects me," there is a huge blowup.  I told him once, "I could deal with anything, really, if you just spoke to me in a respectful, loving way, and if you just showed some empathy for my feelings," and you know what? He yelled, "I DO have empathy, I am NOT talking to you in a bad way. You are overly sensitive! I DID apologize!" To me, an apology that is yelled at someone is not helpful. I am at the end of my rope. I feel like if I committed every fiber of my being to not reacting to anything, to letting him do whatever he wanted, to being careful not to show any "negative" emotion or response, like walking on eggshells, I could live in peace, but I just can't do it. 

I tried Melissa's book! I had him read it, which he did, all in one sitting, and he told me that many of the things in it did not apply to him, that my anger is the problem, and basically dismissed trying any of the things. I just can't keep doing this. I cannot imagine one, or ten, or thirty more years like this. I am a strong, smart person and I can't believe how trapped I feel or how unable I am to change this! And why do I keep trying the same things over and over, when each time, they end in the same awful argument and don't work? How do I go about accepting that this may just not work, and how do I stay strong and believe that I am doing my best, and it is not my fault? 

Third: I am falling apart. I am in so much pain I feel like my chest actually hurts. My world is unraveling. I just don't get it. He is a smart guy. The consequence of not fixing this is going to be separating him from me and his children, maybe forever. I have calmly told him this. I cannot even fathom ending my marriage. I am loyal, committed, and I love him. And I feel like the world's worst person because he is sick and hurt and there is no one else around to help take care of him. His family will HATE me. My children will suffer. Our house is a nightmare, half finished in a renovation, and we don't have the money or ability to get it in shape to put it up for sale in what is the world's worst real estate market. And my heart will just be broken in two. I have never cried so much in my life. I am so exhausted, I feel like a shell and about a hundred years old. It takes all my energy to be "normal" at work and around other people, and to try to be sane around my lovely children, who are the greatest gift of my lives. 

If there were an empty, free apartment next door and one of us could just quietly move into it so I could think, and remove some strife and conflict from my life for a while, I would be ecstatic. But there isn't. We have a small house. No family in the area. No money--he is on disability. He is home ALL THE TIME now that he is sick. My job entails me not working during the summer, and I am already very worried about the dynamic of this structure being removed from mine and my children's lives. I don't have a lot of free time and my home has turned from a respite to a place I dread being. 

I appreciate everyone listening. I am sure many would say, "Why don't you just cut your losses and leave? Why would you put up with this?" And I don't mean to sound like I am not able to control my own life or that poor me, I don't have the power to change anything. I guess I just can't BELIEVE that two smart people can't do better than this. That I have to give up and walk away and this can't be resolved. I must be codependent to a point, always searching for him to validate me despite the repeated failures on my part to receive this validation.


My situation is not as

My situation is not as serious as yours but my feelings about it are very similar.  It is hard to leave.  Sometimes, life seems untenable and there seem to be no solutions.  I will say that if there is anything you can stop doing (so that you have fewer obligations and thus perhaps less husband-related stress) or anything you can start doing (moving the boxes and stuff; having those around would send me over the edge!), try that, just to give yourself a little bit more breathing space.  

I wish I could buy you a cup of coffee!


Hi there, Rosered. Thanks for taking the time to respond. And, I feel for you, too, and am so sorry for what you are going through. I have been following your posts on here. I have experienced the being ignored and a lack of connection, as well, although now I would give anything for a little distance, ironically. Your advice is good--trying to control the little things, the things we can control, is important, and I decided today to just work on the mountain in my living area for 1/2 an hour a day and make a little progress, rather than feeling overwhelmed by the idea of dealing with all of it. 

Hang in there! Cyber cup of coffee to you. 

I totally relate to you. I've

I totally relate to you. I've been in similar circumstances where I was angry and the blame was put all on me. You do feel like you're losing your mind when the blame ends up on you! I've literally screamed at the top of my lungs before (multiple times actually) just to get the wellspring of negative emotion out of my body. And it doesn't help when you have no one to turn to or the ones that you would turn to just tell you to get a divorce. It's sad and only compounds the futility of the situation.

Maybe you should consider an extended vacation? If you don't work during the summer and your kids are out--is there anywhere you could go and stay for a few weeks? With friends or family? You don't have to put a label on it--come up with an excuse if you have to protect yourself and the kids from unwanted advice. Your husband doesn't travel well or needs to be near doctors, or whatever it takes for you to get a little breathing room.

Perhaps your hubby's doctor can prescribe another ADD med that won't interact with the other meds he's on? Hang in there. I don't know what else advice to give you. Just hang in there and rejoice in time spent with your lovely children.

Thanks for relating

Thanks, dazedandconfused...your screen name makes me laugh. I went on a yelling rant the other night, and completely know what you mean. It had built up for so long and I was just so frustrated that we couldn't make any progress and that he couldn't seem to communicate that he understood or felt any empathy for my feelings. Yeah, I think the ones I turn to would tell me to get a divorce--my mom and I are very close but I made the mistake (maybe) of venting to her a few too many times and now the tension between her and DH is palpable when she visits--he perceives that she doesn't understand or feels negatively about his behavior and she can't fathom what makes him do or say some of the things he does. 

Nice advice--I am not so great myself at being structured but I do need to, and will, make sure our time is filled enough this summer and that we do take a break and get out of town for a while. 

Interestingly enough, just saw the family doc today with him who originally prescribed the meds and have a follow up soon. Will check into the possibility of interaction and other meds. 

Thanks so much, I appreciate your time and concern. 

How far has he gone with gluten free diet?

Hi lynninny,

I initially replied to another one of your posts, but it looks like it's old.  I signed up for an account here to reply to you after reading about your situation because it sounds like it might as well have been written about our family.  We are 40ish, both work professionally, and have a young son.

At one point you mentioned that your husband has undiagnosed celiac (that is how I came across your posts).  As unlikely as it may sound, celiac was causing this problem for us, and based upon your post I am nearly certain it is the root of yours too.  In fact, ADD/ADHD-like symptoms can be caused by celiac.

We have been married for 4 1/2 years, and even though I've discovered the problem (and stopped the bleeding), my wife tells me our marriage is not strong enough to recover from all of the damage done.  A part of me knew I was not carrying my own weight, but I didn't know how else to be.  It was like I was telling myself that being present was 90% of the work - wrong, I know.  I couldn't fall asleep at night and I couldn't get up in the mornings.  I didn't understand why my anxiety levels seemed to be through the roof at times.  My wife used to tell me I went into hyper-focused states that normal people don't do.  My behavior led to us having discussions about bi-polar, ADD, and Asperger's.  I was always aching, and I know I was complaining too much to my wife about it.  I was suffering from major depression but continued to "act" like I was holding it all together as long as I could - especially outside of the house.  I was continuously making promises to my wife that I was unable to keep because of not feeling "up to it" when the time came.  When there was a major need, I would rise to the occasion because I knew I absolutely had to get it done.  But, I now know this complicated matters in our marriage because it sent the message to my wife that I could do all of those other things if I only wanted to.  In my state, it seemed so easy (logical) to put off household tasks until a time "when I'm feeling better".  Of course, this only placed the burden on my wife.  To make all matters worse, I frequently used alcohol to self-medicate.  I had no idea what was wrong.

Last year, I finally began seeing doctors for fatigue and depression? (I didn't know what else to call it), but they were unable to help.  I was told I should take B12 supplements and take steps to lower my cholesterol.  I tried about 4 anti-depressants last year, but they didn't seem to do anything for me.  After searching for a long time, I finally self-diagnosed celiac using the web early this year and have been gluten free since.  I am still amazed at the wide-spread symptoms that arise from undiagnosed gluten intolerance.  Here are some of the things I was experiencing:

terrible sleeping patterns and too much required, fatigue, joint pain, anxiety, depression, "brain fog", irritability, abdominal discomfort (bloat, const., diar.)

They have all lifted for me over the last three months.  If any of this sounds familiar, my suggestion is for him to take the gluten free diet VERY seriously.  Also, if it's not too late for your relationship, get into marriage counseling now.  Your husband might be much more agreeable to this after achieving 20/20 hindsight as a result of newfound clarity of thought from the diet.  I felt like I "woke up" to the mess of a marriage I was responsible for.

It is a cruel condition when undiagnosed.  It robs you and everyone around you of your quality of life.  The person with the condition is the last to see it because they don't know what it's like to feel normal.  The stronger you are and the longer you try to hold onto a thread of yourself and not surrender, the more you hurt the people you love the most. 

Here is a good write-up on crazy celiac effects.

Also, this is just a shot in the dark, but from what you have said, he sounds as though he may have some of the eccentric and hyper-sensitive qualities of a gifted individual.  If so, I believe it exacerbates the situation with celiac but is not the root of the problem.  I have even read articles about an association between overexcitabilities in the gifted being tied to celiac and candidiasis.  Here is some information on what they look like:

Best of luck to you both!  btw - my wife read your other post and agrees that she could have written it.


thank you so much

Thank you so much, Texasceliac. You cannot even know how much I appreciate total strangers like you reaching out to try to help me on this forum. Wow, those articles are amazing. 

He is indeed a very gifted individual, perhaps a genius, and hyper-sensitive is a great word to use to describe many of the behaviors that he has exhibited. Your words make a lot of sense. My mother, a few years ago, ended up in the emergency room and was showing signs of dementia and such fatigue and confusion and pain that she could not function. Turns out that she is gluten intolerant or has celiac disease, developed late in life. She had been battling IBS for years and they didn't know what it was. Blood tests had come out negative (since then I know you have to hit a certain percentile on those blood tests to be "positive" for celiac.) Her condition caused her to completely stop absorbing vitamin B, due to the irritation of her digestive system, which led to all of her symptoms. Switching to a gluten free diet and taking large doses of B12 allowed her to fully recover in a month. So I completely believe that food intolerances can have an unbelievably huge effect on people. 

The situation with my DH is tough. He is on a completely gluten free diet and has been for a few months. I make or buy all of our food, and I am very careful. But I will start being more so. I do suspect there could be some other dietary component or something else that is making his immune system go awry and making him sick. I have also just discovered the true side effects of some of the medication he is taking, and believe that they are compounding and worsening his ADHD symptoms, to the point that he flies into rages and sinks into deep depressions (I am pretty sure about this--it all started when he began taking the meds for another chronic medical condition). At the moment, I cannot get him to call his doctor and the fact that he won't is just astonishing to me. He has always been very resistant to helping himself. I am working on it. I think quality of life is an important phrase--his is not very good at all, and mine and our children's is being altered of course. I have been begging him for two years to see a counselor with me. I am seeing one myself. He flat out refuses. Unfortunately, if he can't decide to help himself better than this soon, I am not going to be able to keep living with him or having my children around him. You would think that may inspire him to call the doctor, but so far, no. 

I so appreciate your care and concern, and the fact that you and your wife took the time to read my posts. I am so glad for you that you figured out what was making you so sick. Hang in there, and take good care of yourself. I will check further into the dietary thing, because this is just too strange and I believe there must be some explanation. 



you're very welcome

I'm sorry to hear that he is so unwilling to try to seek professional assistance.  I was the same way; however, until last year.  I thought I knew better than anyone else.  How could they truly understand my situation?  My wife would say stubbornness is an understatement for me.  Anyway, I think it was part of the fear of knowing down deep that something was very wrong but not wanting to consciously face it. You can't imagine positive change when you constantly feel like sh*t already.  Based on my own situation, I think he is "tuning out" a lot of desperation and insecurity, but it's the last thing he would want to admit to or show you. 

I can't get over how strikingly similar your husband and I seem(ed) in words.  My wife an I talked about one of your comments this weekend..the one about him suggesting that he "help you" with the kids or housework.  Like it is your responsibility first...  I brought it to her attention because it sounds just like something I would have said before.  The best way I can explain this from my perspective is that you are losing yourself and feel like you're in your own little bubble of "issues". Everything seems like too much to take in or handle.  I would look for escape in movies or games alcohol.  As time goes on, you feel more and more isolated and marginalized in the marriage and family dynamic (naturally).  My wife is still very bitter over the way I would "make comments from the sidelines" while in this state.  So anyway, you know you're not in the "game", but don't understand why and so you are being completely honest when you say "I'll do such and such to help you". I think in my mind I was saying "I'll do such and such to help you FOR A CHANGE".  I never would have been able to see all this while in that state though.  

The lingering problem in our relationship is that my wife says she cannot separate me from the celiac for the last few years because "she had to live it".  It's so frustrating because she says that she completely sees all of the positive change in me from sleeping habits being on track, to my new sense of calm, to "being present" and engaged.  Anyway, enough rambling... I was basically a dependent to her while at my worst, so I'm not feeling sorry for myself.  I do wish love could power over circumstance though.

You may already be aware and I know you didn't ask, but medications use gluten as a gelling agent.  You could ask the pharmacist about alternate options to get the same meds.  Other weird sources of gluten I have come across are BBQ and soy sauce, some hot dogs and lunch meats.  Modified Food Starch is almost always bad and Modified Corn Starch can be bad as well.

This is the best article I have seen on Celiac being at the root of ADHD.

Take Care,

TC   ( I sort of have this urge to meet my "alter" someday - what if we look exactly alike too?  LOL :)


Your response gave me lots to think about, and frequently it is just helpful to know that someone else has experienced something similar, so I don't feel quite so crazy. I immediately called the pharmacy to check to see if there were any gluten ingredients in the prescriptions my DH is taking. Safe for now, but I hadn't thought of it and I am sure some OTC medications must have some, too. 

I am sorry to hear that you are in a good place for yourself and have figured so much out, and that after you have done so, your wife is still in a tougher place. Try to give her time. It is fabulous that you are in counseling. It has only been recently that I have been aware of how angry and shut down I have been, and the part I may be playing in contributing to the degradation of our relationship. It is true, there were times in there when DH would ask me to go somewhere or watch a movie with him, and I was already so mad and shut down that I just wanted to be alone, from something that may have happened earlier that day, that he honestly didn't remember ("now, vs. not now" ADHD brain). Seriously, after working all day, being exhausted and the children put to bed, I would literally want to retreat to a bedroom with the door shut or watch a movie with headphones on. Can't get much more shut down than that:-) It is very, very, hard, still, to process the idea that DH can't help a lot of this stuff, or that he doesn't mean it, while it is happening.  

The "make comments from the sidelines" thing really hits home, LOL. I can't tell you how infuriating it is to be running around, late, trying to get myself and the kids ready for school and work, after years of him not helping at all in the morning, while DH not only sits there in a daze and watches tv, but also suggests that "if I just keep repeating things at them, I am teaching the kids not to listen to me" or that I should "stop snapping at everyone." He is probably right, but at that moment, I am so furious that he isn't helping but feels entitled to impart his parenting wisdom on me while I am stressed out. It is funny to me at that moment, like he has no empathy or awareness whatsoever, but perhaps he is responding to the moment and trying to fix it (me snapping) rather than the bigger picture (I am stressed out and we are late and DS just remembered he needs something for show and tell). He has a really, really tough time dealing with me being anxious or upset, and unfortunately, I respond to a lot of his issues with anxiety (I hate being late and he makes us late for everything: it takes him FOREVER to get out of the house.  

I think you are right on with your suggestions about why it is so rough for him to consider counseling or therapy to help him. Insecurity, too, and there is a huge ADHD element of just not being patient or able to "deal" with long, analytical conversations (I have heard a lot of, "I just can't keep going over it and over it!") And not wanting to face that something is very wrong and feeling like such [email protected] that initiating anything is hard. Every defense mechanism known is there, including "you just don't like me for who I am." 

I am not giving up yet, as I know his illness is immune system related and the gluten intolerance, etc., all have to be related as well. Thank you for all of your advice and words. Best of luck to you and your family.