Marriage

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 everyday.

Father with ADHD holds baby while on cellphone and smiling at other child while sorting laundry
Father with ADHD holds baby while on cellphone and smiling at other child while sorting laundry

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.

Answers!

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.

1 comment

  1. It’s refreshing to see posts from an outsider who is struggling to get it and succeeding. The fact you actually CARE to understand it, and know that no matter what struggles you have theirs are worse, is amazing. You have an absolute right to your feelings, by the way. The one thing I would say, is that I would never want to take away ADHD from myself.

    The pattern-matching, Lightning analysis, context switching, creativity, empathy…its pretty much a superpower. And, like all superpowers it has some pretty awful downsides. The key is to celebrate the power and mitigate the damage. Honestly, I suggest anyone who wants to understand like you do should really, really read comic books. No joke its an absolutely spot on comparison. Sometimes I amuse myself thinking of the day to day of superheros. Like Spiderman, you just know he has had picked up a mug and had it stick to his hand for juuuust long enough and then fall to the ground and break.

    It can also help to see the humor in it. ADHDers are pretty good at the gallows humor/dark humor. Like, I’ll invert the “sugar rush” trope to help me explain what I’m going through to others. Like I say “yea…so I can’t adult right now because I feel like I’ve had an entire carnival’s worth of spun sugar”. And also my friends are so good at the humor – not laughing AT me but laughing WITH me. Like a lot of times I’ll say “oh so I have no idea what that reminded me…” and they’ll joke with me saying things like “you think like no one else I know. I know you have a train in there and all but how did you get from dinosaurs to toilet paper?!”.

    Just…find ways to have fun with it all. I know its hard when you find a plate in your kid’s room that is purple with mold even though you told them to put it in the kitchen a hundred times. But there are so many funny and cool things that come with this. And its awesome you are trying to learn that.

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