By Taylor J.
Chapter 8: Explaining the Inexplicable
Now that we have a better grasp on what ADHD is—and the mystifying twists and turns it can bring to life and relationships—we turn to the other partner who needs support: the partner of the adult with ADHD.
(Notice that Gina never uses the term “The non-ADHD Partner.” That is because plenty of us in the support group have ADHD ourselves. Opposites can attract, but sometimes birds of a feather flock together.)
As the partner of an adult with ADHD, what are you experiencing? What are your struggles? What do you need?
We are now in Section II of the book: Roller Coaster Whiplash and G-Force Confusion: How Many Plunges Before You Say, “Whoa!”
Welcome back to the “You, Me, and ADHD” Book Club—and Giveaway Contest! Two winners are drawn from each post’s comments to receive a copy of my book (paperback or Kindle).
Here, Taylor shares her insights about Chapter 8, the section of the book that examines poorly managed ADHD’s effect on the partners. This was the first in-depth examination of this topic anywhere.
Struggling to Make Sense of What is Happening
As the first chapter in this section devoted to the experience of the “partners of,” Chapter 8 covers “Explaining the Inexplicable.” It’s a catchy way of summarizing how those of us in a confusing situation try to make logical sense of what’s happening to us. We try to understand it. We try to put it in neat little boxes. We try to reconcile the good parts of the person we love with the illogical behavior that’s smacking us upside the head. We tell ourselves, “All relationships take work.”
Typically, we don’t wake up one morning and say, “Oh noes! I married someone with a mental illness who refuses to get treatment, is draining our bank account, and makes me twist into a pretzel to work through all his double-binds while I churn out babies, work nights, and organize his collection of wrapping paper into scrapbooks!”
Rather, we say, “Oh, this month he forgot to pay the electric bill, so we have that one extra fee, and I forgot to get a babysitter, so I need to switch my work schedule…and dangit that leaves us $140 in the hole, so I have to figure out how to cut that out of our grocery and fun money…which means I won’t be able to go out with the girls’ group next weekend (dangit, that would have been fun)…and I’d better remind him to take the baby to her checkup, because I have to work, and if he makes me late again, I will get written up! Gosh, I’m so tired. ”
I didn’t set to do it, but check it out: I squeezed six out of the seven sections of chapter 8 into that one paragraph! They each describe, in detail, the ways we cope with inexplicable behavior.
It begins with denying and minimizing—and can end with becoming isolated emotionally and psychologically. Next stop, for some of us: depression, anxiety, addiction, and physical illness.
Sometimes, I Lost It
I never needed to walk on eggshells around my husband; he doesn’t have a volatile temper. But I’ll confess: He certainly walked on eggshells around me. I was wound up so tightly that I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe, emotionally speaking. I felt like I was always juggling money and children and schedules and crises—and that I could never, ever make anyone happy. Sometimes, I lost it.
I wish I could go back in time to talk to my unmedicated self. I’d hug her, try to calm her down, and let her know that it would all be okay—and soon! I wish I could go back and apologize to that confused, bewildered husband, who had no idea why his wife was so upset.
There Is Always An Alternative Explanation
For some ridiculous reason, we humans need to believe everything is simple and normal. We don’t want to face the fact that something strange or bad is happening to us. We blame circumstances, childhood upbringing, the economy—or in my case, not being a good enough Christian.
After seeing several family members’ marriages fall apart, I was determined to be a good wife. I read everything I could find on Christian marriages, and how God supposedly designed marriages to function. The current trend in some theological circles is that husbands are supposed to “lovingly lead” their families, and wives should “choose to submit” to their husband’s leadership.
In every circumstance.
As life became more and more complex, the advice rendered from fellow Christians was to trust God to lead my husband. God would hold my husband, “Dr. Math,” accountable for his actions. It was my job to follow Christ and follow my husband.
In every circumstance.
These theological circles also encouraged women to be stay-at-home mothers, and even to home-school their children. Oddly enough, it was still my responsibility if my kids didn’t have enough clothes to wear or food in the house. It was still my responsibility if my bills weren’t paid. It meant I wasn’t being wifely enough to inspire my husband to take up his manly mantle. The message was clear: I should be more positive! More encouraging! I should trust God more! And I should still submit to my husband’s leadership and trust God to provide.
In every circumstance.
The most fun part of these theological circles? They have their own “mental-health experts” who believe that anyone struggling with mental health is really struggling with sin. That is, taking medication for mental illness is seen as denying responsibility for sin.
My way of “Explaining the Inexplicable” was simply to be a better wife, repent of sin, submit more, and trust God. …until I awakened and realized: God had never approved of this course of treatment.
I believe in sin! I believe in right and wrong! I believe in God, that temptation is real, that the devil is real, that Jesus actually rose from the dead. I also believe that none of that has anything to do with whether or not biological brain disorders are affecting people I love.
ADHD is a brain problem. It can become a marriage and parenting problem. It shouldn’t also be a faith problem. I should not have been put in a position to question whether God exists, or whether I was disobeying God by not obeying my husband, simply because I got us both access to good mental health care.
Yes, the human tendency is to “normalize,” to rationalize experiences in neat little boxes. I learned the hard way, however, that some dudes with a masters in divinity may proclaim that they know more about the brain than neurologists. Sin may be a problem, but the brain may be a problem as well.
“Explaining the Inexplicable” may mean that, like me, you realize your faith leaders (or therapists, or physicians or…) do not have all the answers about every part of life. It may mean that you learn and grow and stretch your understandings of certain things in painful ways.
So, for this chapter’s reading:
- Which of the seven coping mechanisms of “explaining inexplicable behaviors” did you experience? Denying? Enabling? Carrying around a fire extinguisher?
- There’s a disturbing excerpt from Paul Wender’s book, ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adults (2000) at the end of the chapter. Did any of the scenarios remind you of your marriage?
- If you have a belief in a Higher Power, how did that help or hurt you as you tried to navigate the ADHD roller coaster?