Before Lori Evans, a stay-at-home mom, found out that she had attention deficit disorder (ADHD), she would spend hours each day drawing and painting, and overlook household chores that needed to be done, like laundry, paying bills, and preparing dinner. Trying to meet the needs of her autistic daughter, Meredith, added to her pressure. Her husband, Doug, spent long hours at his job and wasn’t home much to lend a hand. Disorganized and overwhelmed, Lori took refuge in sketching her masterpieces.
Throughout school, Lori had struggled with schoolwork and tests, while excelling in art and photography. "I had low self-esteem as a child," says Lori. "I got in trouble in school for talking out of turn and squirming in my seat. My parents thought I was hyper. They thought my problems would go away if I just applied myself."
Her problems continued after she married Doug, 13 years ago. "Lori couldn’t handle the heavy responsibilities of running a household and raising an autistic child," says Doug.
Bills went unpaid, appointments were missed, and laundry stayed unwashed. Lori started drinking. Resentment built up between the couple, and they saw a marriage counselor. They separated twice.
The turning point came when Lori was diagnosed with attention deficit, at age 40, and began treatment for ADHD and anxiety. The combination of meds gave her the focus to complete household chores. In addition, she partnered with ADHD coach Dee Crane, who worked with her to banish negative thoughts and develop strategies to structure her day.
"My initial goal was to improve my relationship with Doug," says Lori. "But I also wanted to be a good mother and a good keeper of the house." Here’s how she became all three. Lori: I was diagnosed with ADHD five years ago, around the time my daughter, Meredith, was diagnosed with mild autism. I was reading a pamphlet about women and ADHD while I was waiting for Meredith to finish up with the doctor. I checked off most of the symptoms. When my doctor confirmed the diagnosis, I had mixed feelings: I was relieved to know the source of my problems. I resented the fact that I had struggled for so many years. Above all, I was sad.
Doug: The diagnosis explained why Lori couldn’t keep up with household chores. It explained the years of frustration and problems. I understood why she misinterpreted what I said or didn’t recall chores we’d discussed. It was important for Lori — and me — to know. You can’t make something better if you don’t know what the problem is.
Lori: Soon after the diagnosis, I met with Laura Jensen, a nurse practitioner who worked at the Melmed Center in Scottsdale, where Meredith was diagnosed with autism. We talked about treatment options. If ADHD medication would help me get organized, and save my marriage, I would take it.
Doug: When I married Lori, I didn’t know she had ADHD, but I knew she was different. Her differences attracted me when we first met. She isn’t cynical, as I am. She is spontaneous, and she will give someone the shirt off her back. At the same time, her ADHD made her mind race. We didn’t communicate very well.
Lori: My ADHD has had a big effect on our marriage — not a good one. I still think he resents marrying someone with ADHD.
Doug: Before Lori began taking medication and seeing an ADHD coach, she finished my sentences for me. She couldn’t follow through on anything. I yelled at her a lot. She would cry, and we wouldn’t talk about it.
Lori: We seemed to be living separate lives. Doug would work late, and I avoided him when he came home. I wanted to hide my mistakes. Early in our marriage, I forgot to pay the credit card bill. Managing the finances was one of the tasks we’d agreed I’d take on. So when Doug found out, it wasn’t a happy moment. Getting treatment helped me avoid such mistakes.
This article comes from the Spring 2009 issue of ADDitude.
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