Fiancee doesn't really get it- but she's trying

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      Spaceboy 99

      Hey everyone 🙂

      As some of you may know, my fiancee has Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome, and enough other names that its acronyms spell most of the alphabet.

      I’ve just been diagnosed with ADHD, and it turns out that a lot of the people in my life ALSO have ADHD. I’m being medicated, and I’m gradually getting used to the effects of the medication (so wonderful), learning my difficulties, limitations, and boundaries, and generally trying to reform my life.

      What my fiancee struggles somewhat to understand is that our conditions are reasonably similar, insofar as they seem to present as mental issues, despite having a physical cause, they pervade every element of your life, and they’re not something you can control with pure willpower. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that my condition is as bad or worse than hers is- M.E. is hellish. I’d take ADHD over M.E. any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

      The problem comes when I realise that behaviours in other people are the result of undiagnosed (or previously undiagnosed) ADHD, and the individual hasn’t been able to see clear to not do, or not learn the behaviour. My fiancee defaults to “that’s no excuse, they chose to be that way”. “I know what those issues are like, I dealt with them anyway”, or “Well, you managed to do it, why can’t they?” It also doesn’t help the matter that I previously used to get just as annoyed by some of these things as she did, until I started looking into ADHD myself. The problem is that now that I know I have ADHD, these attacks on others with the condition feel like attacks on me, because I KNOW that not everything is in your control, like you think it is. Being honest is not as simple as ‘not lying’. Being productive is not as simple as ‘stop doing this, and start doing that’. I’m very lucky, insofar as I’ve learned to drop many of my maladaptive behaviours throughout the course of my life, but doing so has always come at the result of great cost. There are still things I struggle with, that I think I can tackle now, thanks to the treatment, but I remember all too well (given that I’ve been medicated for all of three weeks) what being unmedicated is like. I remember every single struggle, and I understand the challenges I faced without really knowing they were there. If it were as simple it would appear she thinks, then most of the traumatic incidents in my life would never have occurred.

      We had a bit of a dust-up over this matter yesterday (the most recent of several), and she was able to realise that she’d been drawing false equivalencies- that while there ARE (and there really are) a lot of similarities between some symptoms of ADHD and M.E., there are fundamental differences, and that much like with M.E., they differ from person-to-person in terms of severity, manifestation, and manageability. She’s also expressed to me that part of the issue is that when I explain someone’s (or my own) behaviour as being impacted or directly caused by ADHD, it comes off as an excuse. We’ve agreed that I will use a ‘trigger phrase’ when I’m explaining the impact of ADHD on whatever, to remind her that while what I’m saying sounds like an excuse, it’s actually a valid interpretation of the events, and is something that should be taken into consideration. Her condition precludes her from doing a lot of research into ADHD, and she’s agreed, in concert with the ‘trigger phrase’ to take me at my word when I explain a specific element or aspect of ADHD, despite how it may seem to fly in the face of common sense. For example, despite people with ADHD having free will, our choices are never truly ‘free’ in the same way a Neurotypical’s are. We’re always influenced by it.

      Another part of the issue that we’ve realised is that, while I’ve had the best part of 3 years to get accustomed to her symptoms, and 2 years to get used to her diagnosis, I more or less knew I had ADHD from the moment I started looking into it. While I was starting the diagnosis process, I started talking about elements of the condition that were affecting my life, and how we needed to try to make allowances for that, where previously there had been none. Instead of a gradual build-up, my diagnosis went from 0-100 in nothing flat. I never needed accommodations before and I was “fine” (I really wasn’t, on reflection, but it seems that way), and yet suddenly we need to do this, this, this, and that? This is compounded by the strain some of these accommodations put on HER (M.E. is an exhaustion-based condition, and it’s vital that you never over-exert yourself) on her bad days (it’s tended to be bad days when we’ve had dust-ups in the past). I fully expect all of this to deteriorate over time, as she gains a greater understanding of the effects and impacts of ADHD, and I’m still very optimistic for our future.

      I’m not really asking for advice or anything, or maybe I am, I don’t know. I just wanted to get this written down and put out there as a sign to others that, though this stuff can be really hard, if you’ve got the right person in your life, they’ll understand. If they don’t, they’ll try until they manage it.

      I’m cool on the relationship advice front, I’m pretty confident I’ve got that down. I’d maybe appreciate some advice on how to explain ADHD without making it sound like an excuse, though 😛

      Thanks for reading, guys 🙂

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