Relief. Obsession. Resentment. Then Appreciation.
My emotional journey with ADHD began before my husband’s diagnosis. Today, my path is mostly straight but the occasional detour makes me begrudge ADHD, hate it, and ultimately appreciate how hard my husband and daughter work every day.
Sometimes I just need to unleash on ADHD. Sometimes it is simply too much to bear. Sometimes I allow myself to sink into anger and self-pity.
And I don’t even have it!
When my husband and I met, we didn’t know he had ADHD. And even if I had known, it wouldn’t have changed my decision to marry him. We were so in love; there wasn’t a thing in the world that could have deterred me from joining my life with his.
Plus, we didn’t really understand ADHD. It was a punchline; something you invoked if you were suddenly hyper one day. “This sugar is giving me a rush. I’m so ADHD!”
Uh, not really.
When my husband was diagnosed four years into our marriage, it was the biggest relief of all the reliefs in all the world. We had been fighting an awful lot for a year, and we couldn’t figure out why.
It was especially puzzling because our first three years of marriage had been true bliss – we worked at the same place, spent all our free time together, and honestly couldn’t get enough of each other.
But then… the baby came.
While we were both in love with our first newborn – and more in love with each other because of her – something else crept into our marriage: a whole lot of broken promises and boatloads of resentment.
Suddenly, our lives flipped upside down. I left my job and started teaching piano at home. My husband found a new job and had so much to learn. Our predictable commute to and from work had vanished, and with it – our understanding of who we were as a couple.
In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that this was the magic moment ADHD chose to reveal itself. My husband had had it all along, but with our similar, consistent schedules it wasn’t noticeable. I managed all the chores, but we split them evenly and worked on them together – so neither of us even realized I was the one in charge. Communication flowed since we were by each other’s side practically 24/7; we resolved issues before they had a chance to blow up.
Adding a baby can shake up even the most blissfully organized couple. But on top of the infant we added a completely new lifestyle for me, full of juggling childcare, work, and house care all alone. And we added a new career for him, something new and shiny that stole my husband’s focus and left me scratching my head.
So when we ended up in marriage counseling and the therapist concluded my husband had ADHD, we couldn’t have been happier.
And perhaps even more important – Blame!
Finally, there was somewhere else to place the blame. I didn’t have to be angry at my husband for monopolizing the conversation while the baby screamed. He didn’t have to be angry at himself for forgetting chores.
We worked our way to peace again.
But it was short lived, of course, because the problems never went away. We just shifted the blame for the same old problems.
So I began to research. I read book after book. I left the books in places where my husband could easily pick them up and read them. When he forgot to read them, I highlighted sections and told him to study only those parts. When he forgot to do that, I began explaining everything I was reading.
We had fantastic conversations and gained a whole new understanding of what was at play here.
But then… resentment. Why was I the only one researching? I was bending my mind to understand the way his worked. I was putting my own feelings aside when they were hurt because “He has ADHD and it’s not his fault.”
How long can that go on?
When I began to suspect our daughter had it, I went through the same emotions: Relief at the answers. Happiness that I could blame her behaviors on something outside her control. Obsession over the gathering and hoarding of information.
Then… resentment. Again, why am I the only one learning about this? Why do I have to constantly shift and change my perspective in uncomfortable ways?
Sometimes I really hate ADHD. I hated it yesterday – just out of the blue.
But today, I will choose to see it as a blessing in my life.
After years of research and working to understand my husband and daughter, I jokingly call myself an unofficial ADHD expert. I feel like I can spot it from a mile away. I often realize a friend has it, only to have my suspicions confirmed later when she reveals her diagnosis in quiet whispers.
Because I see its signs all around me, and because I am forced to practice understanding in my home on a minute-to-minute basis, I have developed a critical skill I may not have learned otherwise: empathy.
I see the struggles. I see the hurt. I see when someone is trying really hard to fit his brain into a neurotypical world, and I can give him the gift of non-judgment.
I certainly didn’t have that gift to offer 10 years ago – when ADHD was just a punchline.
And on those days when I really hate ADHD – when I feel resentment that I have to bend, twist, and mold my brain into thinking in different ways – a little voice comes and whispers to me: “This mind twisting you have to do sometimes? This is what your husband and daughter have to do just to get through the day. Every day. Aren’t they amazing for doing it so well?”
And while I’d rather wallow in self-pity, suddenly I am moved to find compassion.
Would I take ADHD away from my husband and daughter if I could? Yes. In a heartbeat.
But since it’s here to stay, maybe they can teach me a thing or twelve.
Updated on February 1, 2019