The Secret to My Success with ADD? A Support Network of One
It takes a special kind of person to be able to put up with someone like me day in and day out. My wife is that person.
One of the reasons I began writing for ADDitude was my belief— or at least my hope—that stories from my life would resonate with and inspire others. Mine is a success story, thus far at least, and I’ve used this platform in part to try to understand what makes me successful, and share that with others. But I haven’t shared my greatest secret to success. If I were to give any advice for dealing with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), it would be to surround yourself with accomplished, ass-kicking people, who support you and who know about and understand your limitations.
As a child, this support came from my mother. Self-diagnosed with ADD herself, she studied psychology, worked with adults with mental illness, and then switched to kindergarten special education. Two of her three children were diagnosed with ADHD, and she had the knowledge and the experience to help us through it. She was always there — sometimes with encouragement, sometimes with tough love — but never making us feel like a burden, even though, I can assure you, that I was a handful.
Now that I am an adult, my needs have changed, but the necessity for a support network that gets me has not. I have tended not to share the fact that I have ADD with others. I don’t want to be tempted to use it as an excuse, and I don’t want knowledge of my diagnosis to affect the way people see me. This has changed somewhat since I started writing about my experiences, and I’ve become more open to sharing with others, partly to try to change the perception of what ADD is. But it remains a private part of my life, making it all the more necessary that I have people around me with whom I can be myself, who can know all there is to know about me without judging.
Living as an adult with ADD is extremely frustrating—struggling with everyday tasks, seeing important deadlines sneak past. But at least I know what’s going on in my head that leads to these struggles. I can only imagine how much more difficult it is to live with an adult with ADHD, to rely on a person who, regardless of good intentions, will inevitably disappoint. It takes a special kind of person to be able to put up with someone like me day in and day out.
My wife is that person. She is more than a support. My relationship with her is the foundation on which I have built everything in my life. She is the constant in what is often an overwhelming world. She picks up the slack, and, let me tell you folks, there’s a lot of slack lying around.
She’s the one person around whom I don’t feel on edge. She knows me. I have no secrets. She knows the best about me, and she knows the worst. She’s watched me struggle with ADD for 12 years now. She’s been there for the triumphs, and she’s helped me deal with the fallout of the failures. She accepts me for exactly who I am; for a socially awkward introverted adult with ADHD, there is no greater gift in the world than to be accepted and loved. It’s impossible for me to disentangle the few things I could have accomplished on my own from all the other things I accomplished because of her, and I have no desire to. Everything I’ve accomplished, everything that is good in my world, is the result of her presence in it.
So for those of you with ADHD, don’t bother trying to find someone like my wife. She’s one of a kind. But do surround yourself with people who accept you and love you and support you. And if you are close to someone with ADD, try to be as strong, supportive, consistent a presence in their life as you can be.
Updated on December 5, 2019