I am a little confused about something. I understand that someone with ADHD has a brain like a Ferrari - in that it moves very fast. I have read that conversationally, someone with ADHD is "way ahead" because their thoughts race and I have read that "they know the end of the story way before the speaker gets there." And I know from experience that someone with ADHD talks and moves from topic to topic very quickly. My confusion is - if someone with ADHD thinks so quickly and talks so quickly, why does it take so long to formulate a response? Is it because switching from listening mode to speaking mode is difficult? If so, that also helps me understand why it is so hard for my wife to participate in the conversational "give and take" that I prefer, where one person says something, the other responds, the first responds, etc. As opposed to the monologue style conversation that my wife seems to prefer - where one person talks for a long time, then the other talks for a long time.
Ferrari Brain, well I am a car guy...
Submitted by YYZ on
I can only speak for how my ADD brain works, so I will take a stab at this question. Thoughts speeding through the brain is something I certainly understand, but it is like the Ferrari has a bad suspension and brakes. The thoughts and opinions are certainly there, but I could not change into to best lane and stop the other thoughts to respond when needed. When I learned about my ADD, this brain thing that I thought was exclusive to me, I was so happy to find that there could be some explanation for some of my behaviors.
I used to sit in silence as my wife would monologue about what was bothering her and I would see her frustration grow the longer my one word responses and silence continued. Medication has certainly helped this situation, but I still fight my 40 years of entrenched response to confrontation.
My wife always felt that my silence meant: 1: I did not care (Give a Shi*) or 2: Must agree with her
Who could blame her? This was how I have been for my entire life, and my life with her until about a year+ ago. When I explained to my that I had 150 things to say in response to her confrontation/conversation, but could not decide which was best, because I feared blurting out something that would be taken the wrong way, again... I needed time to prepare for the topic, because I needed to organize my thoughts. It sounds stupid, the need to prepare for a conversation, but I did/do... My wife did seem happy that there were, in fact, a lot of thoughts going through my head during her seemingly one sided arguments.
I take Adderall now, which helps slow these thoughts into something I can better organize, and give me a "Better" ability to respond when something that catches me by surprise. I still have lots of work to do, but I am improving and will keep working on this issue. My lack of communication skills has been our greatest issue since our relationship began.
I know this behavior MUST be really hard to deal with, because it looks like the ADDer doesn't care or want to discuss the issue in real time, but it only gets worse when the ADDer, again I can only speak for myself, feels attacked or approached in anger. I am not saying the non-ADDer Must tip-toe around the ADDer, but a calm approach surely helps me. My wife saved our marriage when I thought she was done with me and my issues after an issue blew-up in her rage and my silence and she stormed away for what I thought was the last time. About 30 minutes after the argument, she came and sat down by me and asked me if "I" wanted out of the marriage?!?! My history of silence had made her believe this, again what else could she believe... I was able to talk to her and we actually had a conversation. This was merely step one, my ADD diagnosis came later, medication and therapy, and lots of the Three Forward, Two Back routine.
I hope things improve for you and your wife...
ferrari engine, not wheels
Submitted by arwen on
Sometimes the *engine* in the Ferrari brain is going at 5000rpm, but if the car isn't "in gear", it's not going to go anywhere!!!
But your suggestion that the switch from listening to speaking mode is difficult is correct in some cases. For many ADHDers, it's not unlike shifting gears -- without a clutch. It's not impossible to learn to do, but it's a lot more challenging.
But I think there's another factor at work. Formulating an answer can often require a certain amount of memory retrieval and processing. That's something that may be easy and instantaneous to you, but frequently is a slow, step-by-step process for someone with ADHD. Think of it as trying to access information in a large document or book without benefit of an index or a table of contents -- because organizationally that's what the memory system of someone with ADHD typically lacks. Even a question that seems extremely simple for you can be a problem in this way for someone with ADHD. And, according to my ADHD spouse, if they take the time and attention away from their efforts to answer in order to say, "I heard you, let me think a moment", that is enough to disrupt their efforts to answer and lose their train of thought.
It was very hard, but I learned to just wait, a reasonable amount of time, and then some more -- and then some more. Eventually, after enough time goes by that even my Alzheimer-addled auntie would have said *something* (even if only, "Do I know you?", lol), I'll speak up, because by that point it's a sure thing that his brain is either lost in a mental infinite loop (like a hamster running on an exercise wheel) or his brain has moved onto something else altogether. The way I handle it, he doesn't get upset with me for breaking his train of thought, because he knows it wasn't going where it should have been. But I have to speak up in as non-challenging a way as I can figure out (e.g. "Hon, I don't want to interrupt you if you are still thinking about my question, but it has been 5 minutes sinced I asked and I do need an answer sometime before dinner [or whenever]").
Initially, this was incredibly frustrating for me to just sit and wait, and unfortunately, if I tried to use the time to do something useful like loading the dishwasher while I was waiting, it would just distract him that much more. So I learned instead how to use my brain for other purposes while I waited -- since he couldn't see any evidence of activity, it didn't distract him, and I didn't waste the time. Sometimes I think about what needs to get added to the shopping list, or what I might plan to work on at home over the weekend, or where I might like to go on vacation next year, or about which family member's birthday/anniversary is coming up next and what I could give them for a gift -- stop when he starts to talk or more than enough time has gone by -- and pick those thoughts back up when I"m done conversing with him.
This problem of the conversational "give and take" is one of the reasons I really strongly recommend the solution of regular meetings that my husband and I use. By segregating our conversations this way, into conversations that require my husband to work with his memory in our meeting, and conversations that are just light social interaction about what's current that don't really require him to work with his memory too much, it creates an environment where we can have the give-and-take most of the time, and during the meetings, he can take the time he needs to pull out memories and process them to answer my questions, without any time pressure from me. Obviously, some situations will spontaneously arise where I really need an answer from him about something right away, or very quickly, and then we just have to cope with the conversational problem as best as we can -- but when you take a hard look at it, you might be surprised how many thought-requiring discussions really can be deferred until the next meeting time.
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be." Albus Dumbledore
I like the other's comments.
Submitted by Miss Behaven on
I like the other's comments. I would also add that the window is fogged up and you are always on unfamiliar roads ... roads that are about 16 lanes of traffic. And its a traffic jam. Also the other cars are very distracting, blaring music, full of clowns, ice cream trucks ...
The island of wanting to do a thing and the island of doing it are on opposite sides of a river. For non ADDers that river is shallow and usually easy to cross. For me that river is deep, fast and full of debris.
Submitted by Hoping4More on
Hey Miss B, I lust re-read this post of yours and I love your analogy you used.
ADHD on the opposite side of the conversation
Submitted by marcr1 on
This is my first post; I just found this site. I have ADHD and began treating it with medication and behavioral modifications about nine years ago. I have the other side of the problem in a conversation. I am a great listener, but yes, I usually figure out where the other person is going with their words well before they get there. I've actually always been great at waiting for the other person to finish.
My problem is not being able to hold onto my strings of own thoughts. Another writer here wrote about this issue from the spouse's perspective; and I appreciate the effort she makes to adjust for her husband.
My thoughts are racing, but more importantly, my thoughts begin to spin off in multiple, simultaneous directions, with some trailing off on their own, while others link back with other thoughts/concepts, cross-referencing or synthesizing in ways that spur new concepts. I find that--almost all the time--I am trying to manage my thoughts on multiple planes simultaneously, and monitoring where I'm going with the whole collection -- while I'm trying to speak in a coherent fashion to the other person. My visualization of it looks like a fast growing nervous system, with strands and synapses sprouting out in all directions, doubling back, and so forth.
As a result, I may (a) get into too much detail, or (b) not provide enough context, or (c) skip over critical points without even noticing. If my wife interrupts me, or she does something like look down at her blackberry while I'm speaking, I can very easily lose my train of thought. When that happens, I might get frustrated, which of course, causes me to completely lose the ability to pick up where I left off. Sometimes, I might even need a brief "cool down" period, just to slow myself down, keep from getting wound up, and make a (sometimes futile) effort to speak again.
How have I learned to cope with this? For my part, I force myself to do with my own thoughts what I naturally do with others; that is, be aware of where their conversation is going way before they get there. But that's not the key management tool. The key is to tell the other person (as briefly as possible) that I'm trying to manage multiple trains of thought and to bear with me while I work on keeping them sorted out. I also often tell the other person to let me know if I'm beginning to confuse them. In this way, a dialogue can begin if necessary, rather than me going off in a monologue that loses the other person without my realizing it. I even do this in business settings, although of course it depends on the degree of formality in the situation.
I also try to teach my wife what I need from her when I'm speaking. Since she has a very short attention span, this is a continual challenge. It's been an enormous source of tension, explosiveness, hurt, and general drama on both sides for years, but she's gradually improved to the point where the flare-ups are relatively infrequent. To be clear, the majority of my flare-ups come from my knowing I've worked very hard at being able to ask with clarity in the middle of the situation for the help I need from her, and when she is unable to do what I request, I feel disrespected, hurt, angry, and sometimes despairing. It's incredibly difficult for most people to truly grasp the gravity of the ADHD experience and how "torture" is not overstating it.
I have lots more to say, but I'm going to stop. This is another "problem" of mine.
Submitted by Hoping4More on
Thanks for giving such a great description of what is happening in your brain while you are talking. This might help me be more patient with my wife when she goes into to much detail, leaves out key points, etc.
I do struggle, though, with what to say when I do get confused to get her to slow down, fill in the blanks, etc. so that we can get on the same page. Any suggestions on what I might say? I usually say "you are losing me" or "can you back up a minute?" or something like that. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not.
Sometimes I have to ask multiple, specific questions to get her to fill in enough gaps for me to understand what she is talking about, and she sometimes (often?) finds this very frustrating. I'm not sure if she'd frustrated because I have derailed her thoughts or if she feels insulted that I did not understand her, or what. And I often have a hard time getting her to clarify why she is frustrated.
I don't think its frustrating
Submitted by Miss Behaven on
I don't think its frustrating for nay reason other than its frustrating. ADDers have a low tolerance for frustration and trying to get your brain on track (for any reason) frustrates the brain, which frustrates you. Her frustrations may not be about you but just the internal struggle with her own mind.
my answer to your request for help
Submitted by marcr1 on
Here's the best I can do right now. I'll think about it some more or chat more with you about it too, if you wish. Sometimes, I have to roll things around for a while to get to the heart of a matter.
To begin, you seem to be taking a very sensible and sensitive approach. The easy answer, therefore, would be that your wife is the one who needs to do more work on herself and that you've done your best; but I have a slightly different angle on it. I do believe it's your wife who has to learn to calm down enough to help you understand, when you are making an effort to ask for her help in a respectful way. The problem is, though, she is showing that she can't quite figure out how to do that, and so she remains frustrated. Perhaps it's a trust issue, maybe not even related directly to you but instead built into her from years of growing up or just a prior relationship. My suggestion, then, is for you to acknowledge her frustration, articulate ahead of time that when it happens, you'll do your best to try to slow/calm her down and get back on track again -- but that she has to be willing to accept that you will be "doing your best" -- which doesn't always mean succeeding. She hopefully will love you for doing your best.
I'm laughing now. I just ran to the kitchen to save my muffin from burning in the toaster because I forgot about it while writing back to you. And lo and behold, life helped out. Everything I said still applies, but here's the key to the success I've had and will continue to have:
I have ADHD. I do stupid things. I am also a wonderful person. I have learned to laugh at myself instead of beat myself up or struggle mightily to change and not be like this anymore. And just like the lessons of yoga, or zen, the less you actively struggle, the more easily you find yourself changing. I'll never stop doing stupid or wasteful things, but so what? I can't help it. I do my best, I apologize if I need to. BUT, I insist now that those who love me accept me too. And at times, I have to remind them to do so.
When both my wife and I stopped looking at the ADHD as a terrible thing and instead started to laugh at it and do our best to manage around it (she's gotten quite good at preventative maintenance and I've gotten quite good at accepting that assistance without embarrassment), then life got a lot more fun between us. In other words, had a burned the muffin beyond recognition, I would have been annoyed, laughed at myself, told my wife this story, and she would've chuckled (laughing with my same sensibility would be overstating it; what spouse really wants to deal with anyone else's junk anyway?). I have actually reached the point where I can be teased about it and -- most of the time -- it's funny.
I read an article in the NY Times a while back that talked about how we can very quickly forgive our dog for peeing on the floor or shredding something, but we hold onto the mistakes our spouses make for way too long.
So, spend time during low-stress moments talking about what it feels like for each of you when you're in those high-stress moments; make some suggestions to each other about how to get through them alive; and most of all try to accept the imperfection of it all, and you'll start to feel the magic.
I hope this helps you.
Thanks for Your Reply
Submitted by Hoping4More on
That makes sense - acknowledging that she seems frustrated at my attempts to get her to fill in the blanks. I'll give that a try. Now, if only I could get her to acknowledge that I seem frustrated when she leaves so many gaps (smile).
Seriously, it seems that we are at the point where I am beginning to recognize where I am adding to her frustration and trying to figure out how to do that less often. Partly for her benefit - I don't want her to feel even more frustrated! And partly for my benefit - I don't want to be around her when she is feeling even more frustrated and likely to "take it out on" me.
It also seems that I am ready to move into problem solving mode, and she's not quite there yet. So, as Miss B suggested some days (or was it weeks?) ago, I should be careful not to overwhelm her with too much right now, while she is still coming to terms with how frustrated I feel and how often I feel it.
Because the difference is that I haven't been living my whole life with the notion that what I do frustrates others (and myself), and she has. I haven't been living my whole life with the notion that I disappoint others (or myself), and she has. I haven't been living my whole life feeling like a failure, and she has. Etc.
So, I am trying to find those places where she seems to indicate an awareness that, yes, she HAS been doing such and such and yes, she sees how such and such might cause me frustration, and yes, she doesn't want to do that anymore.
At that point, I will ask, "Do you want to work together to try and figure out how it might happen less often?" or "Can we talk about what to do when it DOES happen?" etc. To which she might answer yes, but is even more likely to answer no. (I have hope though that these "nos" will turn into "yesses" in time.)
Even so, it's the waiting for her to get to that point that is hard for me right now. I'm still working on getting her to see the impact of some of the things she does, and to see it in a way where she is ready to work together to come up with ideas on what WE can do differently so WE don't feel so frustrated/angry/sad so often.
Trying to get someone with low self esteem to see how her behaviors often cause me frustration/sadness, etc. without coming across as critical is quite a herculean task! But I'm still trying.
Slowly, she seems to be taking it in. She said in reply to an email I sent her just yesterday, about something that recently happened and how stressed I was feeling as a result: "I never realized it was so difficult" - despite the fact that it's something that happens often and that I had told her how difficult it was many, many times.
I think she is also beginning to realize I am not BLAMING her. That I know she is not *intentionally* doing thses things. That they have an impact nonetheless, but that that doesn't make her a bad person.
Although she does waver between saying she is beginning to realize how difficult it is to be living with a person with ADHD and saying that it feels like I am blaming everything on the ADHD or I am saying she needs to change (implying that if I loved her I wouldn't expect her to change). So that tells me she's not quite "there" yet.
But she is getting "closer." :-)
3 kinds of ADD
Submitted by Miss Behaven on
Now something that needs to be said is that there are three kinds of ADD
There is ADD-Hyperactive. A true or pure Hyperactive has the Ferrari brain. Running so fast even the person who owns that brain cannot keep up. The legs jiggle constantly, they walk and talk too fast. They jump from one though to another, have several trains of thought going at one time ... until the trains derail. They can't hold onto a single train of thought for a long time. My DS7 is a hyperactive it seems, as is one of my brothers. They literally cannot count to ten without loosing focus. On the outside they can be seen as counting to ten, but if you watch carefully, the eyes will shift gaze or go unfocused part way through. The brain literally starts looking for something else to think about around 6 or 7 and the mouth goes on auto pilot.
There is ADD-Inattentive. A true or pure Inattentive has what they call Sluggish Cognitive Tempo. In fact some doctors are pushing for this to be a seperate diagnosis in the new DSM. They have a mind that runs slower than normal. They get distracted just as easily but the distraction is drawing them away from being able to focus on one single, slow train of thought. They have one track that runs slowly and train get derailed very easily. They take longer to process thoughts and feelings, they may talk and move slowly. The get lost and confused easily. They live in a mind fog. They have the worst of the memory issues of all ADDers.
There is ADD-Combined. Most ADDers are combined, some leaning more toward Hyper and some more towards Inattentive. They have some combination of the symptoms, or may switch from one to the other. I am more Hyper in stressful time, when I am nervous, around large groups, over stimulated, in the mornings, and when I am angry, excited or frustrated. I am more Inattentive when I am tried or worn out, at the end of the day, hungry or thirsty, during my period, alone, bored or under stimulated.
Try it sometime, ask an ADDer to count to twenty and watch their eyes and face. Ask them at what number their brain shifted to something else. Watch how long it takes them to process the request and start counting. Do they count fast or slow? Does the brain switch away from thinking about counting and then come back, or does it stay away? Try again on a different day, at a different time.
BY THE WAY
Submitted by marcr1 on
By the way, when my son was a pre-teen and young teen, and he would do typical spaced-out teen boy things, I used to say to him, "do you really want to be like your dad in these kinds of things?" Wow, talk about parent-child psychology! I'd laugh, he'd sort of laugh, but he absorbed exactly what I hoped he would.
ADHD can even be used to our advantage!