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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.

[Click to Read: Coping With the Stigma of ADHD]

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.

[Free Download: 25 Things to Love About ADHD]

Updated on December 5, 2019

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  1. What a wonderful, sweet tribute to your wife and to all those who support us!
    You said it beautifully!

    Expressing gratitude is a strong “elixir” for discouragement (that we all feel at times).

  2. Lovely. Finding a support network who gets me has been extremely difficult. A lot of people in my life either don’t believe ADHD is a real thing, or don’t believe I have it.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. I’m glad you have an amazing wife and support group, but you are beyond lucky.

      My wife HATES me and is trying to take my daughter away from me. I have no friends, and I just lost my job.

      My ADD has caused me more grief than I can ever put into words.

  3. I normally do not reply to “lovey dovey” stuff like this but as someone with ADHD as well I am glad the poster found someone to accept them for who they truly are and not pretending to be and with unconditional love. It is true most people you meet, in my experience anyways, are not worth remembering but when you find that one person, like a needle in a haystack – never let them go. I hope I find this person in my life. I actually think I have found this person but he and I cannot be together and it nags at me and he is always in the back of my mind. It’s a long story.

  4. You are very fortunate. I was married for 18 years to someone who I could depend on, confide in and I felt supported in many ways. He was very frustrated by my inability to marry up my talents with doing anything about them. This was before either of us knew about ADHD and it was only after he left me for an accomplished, creative, productive woman that I was diagnosed.They did not last, but his next and current partner is a therapist and she diagnosed him with high functioning Aspergers. AS soon as he told me this, it all fell into place. I have to chuckle now and give us both credit for doing as well as we did for as long as we did, for what a bizarre and unlikely combination that was.Having said that, our marriage counselor did say that he was attracted to my emotional personality, my warmth and empathy and I was attracted to his detached and clearer take on reality.

    AS for telling others about my ADD… it hasn’t gone especially well. Even those who think they ‘get it’, really don’t. One of them has offered and inserted himself at times, to help with the chaos in my house, but his methods are alarming and hurtful. Every conversstion or meeting we have dissolves into a chiding session about all the things I’m bad at.His tough love approach only serves to make me feel like a total loser. His harsh remarks hurt, demean, degrade and fill me with shame. I’ve tried to fight back, but he responds that I am just making excuses. IN truth, I should probably end our friendship, but if I do I will have no one looking out for me, no matter how hurtfully. I just avoid conversations that can deteriorate into a rant about my lifestyle.

    I have encouraged them to look at the info and links I give them so that they are better, properly informed, but much to my surprise, none of them have followed through. It is hurtful to have people who presume to know and care about you, not want to know from an expert point of view, what it is you’re dealing with, much less how they can better help. Glossy mag or newspaper articles do not tell the story. Reading one does not make them ‘informed’, but they think they’ve done their duty.

    As a single, low income 67 year old woman, I find I have pulled inward more and more. The clutter and chaos I live in continues to be a burden, but the motivation to deal with it has lessened, because the desire to have people in has all but disappeared. It’s easier to stay home than it is to try to engage and go through the motions of getting to know new people, when I know they can’t really get to know me because the real me is a secret.

    I’m glad that you have such an excellent partner and you sound as though you fully appreciate what she is, does and means to you. She must also get back things from you that make her happy and fulfilled… don’t forget that. Hang on tight… you are very fortunate!

    Jeez… As I reread this checking for spelling errors, I can’t help but note how depressed I sound. Bit of an eyeopener!

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