By Taylor J.
My husband: “I don’t have ADHD. I can’t have ADHD. I’m a super-important, intelligent, successful, capable person who couldn’t possibly have ADHD.”
Me: “Yes, you’re super-intelligent. Yes, you’re super-important. Yes, you’re definitely capable. Yes, I love you with all my heart, and would never, ever want to live without you. My love, ADHD has nothing to do with your intelligence, importance, desire, or capability. ADHD means that you can’t always make your intelligence work when you want it to work.”
Sigh. My husband still didn’t get it. Okay, well. Now what do I do?
Welcome back to the “You, Me, and ADHD” Book Club.
Here, Taylor writes her memories of first reading Chapter 12: Solving ADHD’s Double Whammy, which explains why pursuing an ADHD evaluation and treatment often involves teamwork.
Stop Banging Your Head Against the Wall
When we as partners of adults with ADHD hit the wall of denial, it’s very, very tempting to bang our heads against that wall.
Instead, we must remember what Gina calls “ADHD’s Double-Whammy”: That is, the brain impairments that are causing so many problems for our ADHD partners can also inhibit their ability to accurately perceive those problems—as well as to seek, select, and follow through with solutions.
Underline that. Glue glitter around it. Make it your screensaver. Do whatever it takes to keep that thought in front of you.
(Okay, some of you dear readers do not have ADHD, and you have an easy time remembering this stuff! Well, not me! I have ADHD, too. And, sometimes I still forget that my husband isn’t doing these things on purpose.)
As frustrated as you may be at being “the responsible one” or “the adult” or “the one who fixes all the problems” that your ADHD partner creates, your actions and input also remain absolutely crucial to your partner getting successful treatment.
Chapter 12 (and heck, every other chapter in the book) brims with stories from support-group members whose ADHD partners received rotten treatment because the mental healthcare provider:
- Didn’t “believe” in ADHD, as though it were Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.
- Concluded: “You’ve made it this far in life, so you’ll be fine without meds.”
- Said, “Why reach for labels?”
- And many more potential responses that fathom belief.
Third-Party Information: Often Critical
But one of the biggest obstacles to a proper evaluation was the patient providing inaccurate information and the mental health provider failing to solicit third-party information (a partner or other family member, close friend, etc.).
I remember once, when we were seeking counseling for our oldest daughter, the therapist asked my husband if there was any history of mental illness in his family. He said, “No.”
My jaw hit the floor.
I was already resentful that he tended to think of the “mental illness” problems being solely on my side of the family. Yet, I swallowed back my smart-aleck retorts and managed to simply state: “Well, what about your uncle who takes four hours to wash his hands and shave?”
“Oh, well, yeah, there’s him.”
“What about your grandmother, who checks the light switches fifteen times upon leaving a room?”
“Oh, yes, her too.”
“And your sibling, who just got diagnosed with ADHD?”
“Right, I keep forgetting about that.”
Bottom line: We cannot expect a person with Executive Function deficits to give an accurate picture of their own Executive Function deficits!
Gina and I)repeat: Our actions and input as partners can be crucial to helping our ADHD partners benefit from effective treatment.
ADHD expert and psychologist Michelle Novotni is quoted:
Over time, the ADHD partner will be able to assume more responsibility for his or her own treatment. That, however, should be a goal in treatment, not a demand for beginning it.
I knew that I couldn’t force my husband into treatment, especially if he didn’t see that he had a problem. However, I’d continued to learn about and adapt coaching techniques and coping mechanisms for my own ADHD. Some of those technique just happened to “spill over” into my interactions with my husband.
- “Hey, is it okay if I call you to remind you to pick up the kids today?” It was. Sure enough, he’d forgotten, or lost track of time, so he was thankful for my call.
- “Don’t forget, you have to leave a half an hour early tomorrow. I’ll get your lunch together, set the coffee, and make sure you wake up in time.” Wow, thank you honey! You just made wife of the year! How did you think of all that? “It was in ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life’” (Then I’d get the stink-eye.)
- “Okay, I know you’re mad, but I don’t think you saw how you acted towards the kids just now. Can we go over it step-by-step?” Finally: “Stop using your ADHD coaching techniques on me!” “Ooookay…fine,” I said. “Then you go deal with the kids’ meltdown.” He responded: “Um…okay, let’s go over it step-by-step.”
- “Wow, I can’t believe I got all of that stuff done! The medication is really life-changing.” My husband: “I don’t want to hear it—I’ve got a ton of grading to do today.”
I couldn’t actively recruit him to embark on the Good Ship ADHD. But by showing him my better life after my own treatment, I was able to help him, as Gina puts it, “long for a vast and peaceful sea.”
Fortunately, my husband eventually was evaluated by my psychologist. That way, there were no “skips and gaps” in either of our evaluations—the psychologist could see through any wool either of us might try to pull over his eyes, intentionally or not
Eventually, he said to my husband, “You have the most severe case of ADHD I’ve ever seen, and I have no idea how hard you had to work to get a PhD.”
My jaw hit the floor again.
Remember, before I was diagnosed and read Gina’s book, everything was my fault.
- What’s been your experience with your own or your ADHD partner’s evaluation treatment? Did the clinician solicit your input during the evaluation or treatment process?
2. Did you think that the clinician soliciting your input was important or useful? If yes, how so?