Even now, 14 years after Adult ADHD was declared a medical diagnosis, ignorance remains. That means millions suffer in isolation. With this next question from the ADHD Partner survey, respondents detail the cost of that ignorance.
Question: What do you wish you’d known earlier about ADHD?
• I wish we’d known before marriage. That way, we could have put strategies into place. Instead, he couldn’t cope with being a husband and then a father while holding down a job, and I didn’t understand. The public needs to know that ADHD has a major impact on relationships and that their “problems” are not unique to them: they are, in fact, symptoms.
• I wish I’d known exactly what my wife meant when she said, prior to our marriage, “I’m going to drive you crazy. I want you to know that up front.”
• I wish more people understood the positive aspects to ADHD. With treatment, my husband has become more able to negotiate the “everyday world,” where things get done and people pay attention. This has supported, not diminished, the unusual, creative side of his brain that I was so attracted to in the first place.
• I wish I knew how full of nonsense these anti-medication blowhards are. I used to think they had a point. Now, I suspect most have considerable mental problems of their own. I want people who have ADHD to understand how much better things will be for them and their loved ones if they only seek help and honestly deal with their challenges. With my eyes now opened to how common these “minor” disorders are now, I can’t tell you how much undiagnosed and untreated mental illness I observe! Disorders that cause the person – and the world – trouble. Some people will admit that they think they have a problem, but are scared to seek help because of the anti-medication hysteria. I see these people throwing away so much potential because of their unfounded fears.
• This condition has so affected everything, but I didn’t know it. I always suspected something else was wrong, but because he is able to keep his cool around everyone outside the home, I was the one who looked unstable. I wasn’t. I was overwhelmed.
• I wish I’d known not to trust my husband’s mom, the psychologist. Her golden boy had no problems; he was gifted! Now, I really struggle with anger about how long this went undiagnosed. Her blind narcissism didn’t help any of us, least of all her son or her grandchildren.
• If we had known about ADHD many years ago, we wouldn’t be in the damaged emotional place we are in now. How could I ever have “coped” with some of the more challenging aspects of his untreated ADHD? How could he cope, either? Hard as he tried, he continually failed. He had to watch me begin to distrust him and see the pain that he caused to the family he loved, but he was powerless to stop the behaviors.
• The high cost of ignorance. Over the years, if other adults are like my husband, untreated ADHD causes people to make excuses for their behaviors and blame others for them. It erodes their self-confidence and generally destroys relationships they value most. My husband believed for years–and still does to some extent–that I was the cause of all of his unhappiness. Of course, there was the self-medication: loads of diet Coke, alcohol, E-bay and prescription pain meds. For years I put up with the “random” behaviors, but what finally threw me over the edge were his mood swings and verbal abuse. If I had only known that there was a medical problem, I wouldn’t have taken it all so personally – and he wouldn’t have felt like such a jerk.
• Our children are grown. Knowing about my husband’s ADHD when they were young would have prevented many upsets over his impulsive spending, irritability, and poor judgment of time. It’s hard for children to not associate these behaviors with lack of love, which sets up so many difficult dynamics for them later in life. If we’d known, we all could have supported him in getting some help and my children would have learned different lessons about love and family.
• I wish people understood how many divorces occur because of this “secret” condition. We almost ended our relationship many times before my partner was diagnosed. Now we try to have a sense of humor about it, and there is a lot more understanding.
• I wish I’d known all this twenty years ago. In the worst part of it, I looked forward to being dead and wouldn’t relive those years again even if they were the only years offered me.
• I deeply lament we went 30 years before finding out too late what had made our lives so miserable and unhappy. What a horrible waste. We developed such horrible habits in how we treat each other. And, the affect on my children. Gasp.
• I’m glad that there is finally a name for the behaviors, I’m glad that there are support groups to share what has worked. With more awareness comes greater acceptance. If people would seek help instead of hiding behind defense systems, unrecognized ADHD would not be destroying so many relationships.
• A whole lot of pain stems from the fact that I believed that his brain worked essentially like mine. That means, I kept viewing his actions through my frame of reference. Wrong-oh!
• I wish my wife’s parents had known. She and her siblings bear huge emotional childhood scars due to their father’s severe untreated ADHD, which led to alcoholism as well as spousal and child abuse. A sad “legacy” probably going back generations.
• I wish I knew it meant more than these folks couldn’t sit in their chair. Little did I know that was the least of his problems!
• To think I’m a teacher; I’m appalled at how little I knew! People are going through so much unnecessary pain. Facing retirement now scares me — I won’t have my office and coworkers to escape to, and he will be around 24-7 disrupting the order. Knowledge gives me hope, though. I see ADHD in so many of my friends’ husbands. We need a serious, national information push.
How about you? What price did you pay for society’s widespread ignorance about ADHD? Please share them in a comment to help educate the public. It’s easy, and you don’t have to register. Just write it in the box below.