By Taylor J.
Chapter 13 is the first chapter under the #2 Success Strategy: Dealing with Denial. As such, it covers the common psychological reasons behind denial of ADHD– that is, for either partner denying that there’s any real problem going on. (Or, if there is a problem, it most certainly is not ADHD.)
Most of these reasons for psychological denial can be traced back to F.E.A.R. or “False Evidence Appearing Real.”
Welcome back to the “You, Me, and ADHD” Book Club. Based on my first book, Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?
Here, Taylor shares her insights about Chapter 13, about some of the “fear factors” that keep us or our partners in denial of ADHD.
So much inaccurate information floats around about ADHD, it’s entirely reasonable for us to respond with some of these common defense mechanisms.
I’ll share a “denial patterns” that we experienced:
1. “Our challenges can’t be related to ADHD. That’s all about hyperactive little boys who can’t stop climbing the walls.”
My husband (PhD math professor AKA “Dr. Math”) reasonably asserted, “If we’re not communicating well, I can assure you that wall-climbing has nothing to do with it.”
It’s true, he wasn’t scaling the bedroom wall as we attempted to communicate. Instead, his hyperactivity was more subtle—the incessant finger-drumming to the beat of the music that was always playing in his mind. That music often kept him from hearing me, or anyone else he loved.
2. Lifelong rationalizations obscure reality: “I over-spent this month; everyone does that sometimes.”
Yes, but not everyone does that on a regular basis, due to impulsive spending. Not everyone forgets to pick up the kids twice a week. Not everyone oversleeps every single day.
3. The rationalization of “success.”
People who are top performers at work, or have a string of graduate degrees, can assume that their achievements rule out ADHD. “I can’t have ADHD. I make a lot of money.” Or “I’m a well-loved pastor who has a special relationship with God.”
Yes, maybe they are earning buckets of money—but they also might not be paying their bills. Yes, they’re successful at work—but maybe they pour every ounce of focus into it, leaving little or nothing for the rest of life. Yes, the congregation loves that pastor—but he shows a darker side of his personality to his family, during the rare hours he spends with them.
4. “I’m just being a man [or a woman].”
I’ve written before about how distorted, rigid gender roles were a part of our church lives for a time. So you can imagine how often I heard the man/woman excuse, to the point that I finally (rudely, unproductively) started throwing it in his face: “You’re so focused on your power tools because that’s what men do? Fine. I’m going to go talk on the phone for three hours, doing what women do, and see how you like it.”
While men and women—and people in general—can definitely be very different, even to the point of illustrating gender stereotype, ADHD symptoms can exaggerate normal differences to the point of impairment.
5. Fears of Playing God
The rest of chapter 13 covers fears that we may feel as partners of an ADHD spouse.
Prior to learning about ADHD, my greatest fear was “playing God,” or violating my husband’s autonomy.
It’s ill-advised to try molding a person into our idea of the perfect mate. There is a difference, however, between accepting people and letting them wallow so deeply in their dysfunction that they never have a chance to discover who they truly are beneath the weight of their symptoms.”[Emphasis mine.]
Chapter 13 covers many more fears about an ADHD diagnosis.
Please, if you don’t read a single other chapter of the book, come back for next time’s discussion on “Biological Denial.” This chapter truly changed how I interacted with my husband and helped strengthen my resolve to get him effective treatment. Treatment can be life-changing.
Discussion points on ADHD and Denial:
- What types of denial or resistance to the diagnosis (yours or your partner’s) has your partner communicated to you?
- What fears have you experienced in trying to get your partner treated?
- If you’re past the denial stage, what helped you or your family to overcome those fears?