Piecing Together My Broken Life

After an ADD diagnosis in his 30s, Michael Anderson lost confidence and hope. Here's how coaching helped him turn things around.

The Good Life, Part 2

Rawnee Trudeau, Mike's wife: Mike told me when we first met that he had ADHD. As a school social worker, I knew a little about the condition. But when you live with someone who has ADHD, you notice patterns in the way they respond to things, and learn how it affects their thinking. Understanding this has helped me get better at taking a step back when I get frustrated. Instead of getting upset, I ask what's going on, and we talk things over.

This isn't to say that ADHD hasn't caused problems in our life. Mike's been trying to clean up his home office for a while, and he was determined to do it today, because my family is coming to visit. I was on the phone, when I noticed the smell of paint. Mike was so focused on getting the job done that it never occurred to him that he should paint the shelf in the garage, not inside the house.

When Mike does goofy things like this, a sense of humor helps. We call them "McFly moments," after one of the characters in Back to the Future.

Some days are easier than others. If Mike is focused on something going on in his mind, and I need him to be focused on the here and now, it is frustrating.

Mike: David taught me that I'm a verbal processor. When ideas are flying around in my head, talking things out reduces my impulsivity and distractibility. Rawnee is more literal-minded, so there were a few times when she thought I'd already decided to do something, when I was still working the problem through.

Rawnee: When Mike has got a lot of ideas percolating, I know he needs me to help him talk things out. I sometimes tease Mike by saying I'm his "external brain."

David: When we started working together, Mike was going for a master's degree. He had all these great ideas, but they were coming so fast and furious that he couldn't get them down on paper. It was frustrating. He learned that, if he can write down even a few key words, the ideas will come back to him later. When Mike was working on something complicated, he'd call me, and within an hour he'd have 10 great concepts sketched out.

Mike: Learning how my mind operates has been invaluable. Sometimes I'll talk into a tape recorder, or jot down ideas as they occur to me. Then I’ll start mind mapping. I draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper, and label it with the main problem. Next, I write all the aspects of the problem or possible solutions in smaller circles, and connect them with spokes to create a network of ideas

Rawnee: Around the house, I've learned that Mike is better at big chores, like vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom. Organizing makes him crazy. If he tries to put stuff away in the refrigerator, it ends up all over the kitchen.

We complement one another. If he's being impulsive, it's time for me to step in and suggest we review the situation. On the other hand, there are times when I get stuck. I'd been trying to decide what color to paint the bedroom for a year when Mike said, "This is what we're going to do. If we don’t like it, we can paint it over."

By Michael Anderson, Rawnee Trudeau, and David Giwerc, as told to Carl Sherman, Ph.D.

This article comes from the February/March 2007 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Adult ADD: Late Diagnosis, ADHD Coaching, ADHD and Marriage

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