Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Huffington Post: What if People Treated Physical Illness Like Mental Illness

I loved this article most recently published in the Huffington Post: What If People Treated Physical Illness Like Mental Illness by Lindsay Holmes.

Yesterday, I heard of someone who ended their life. I didn't know him, but I was deeply impacted by this news. Lately, I have been surrounded by persons so affected by sadness that is deeply entrenched and has become such a profound part of their lives, they find it hard to escape.

At first, depression was something I didn't understand. I remember having endless conversations with roommates who tried to explain to me that there is more to it than 'choosing to be happy.' Depression is not something someone chooses, it just is. 

Lately, I have learned that depending on the person, depression can just hit out of no where. One minute someone will seem like they are on top of life and the next minute, they are curled up in their bed wondering why they are feeling the way they are feeling. Granted, each person varies. Knowing and coming to understanding of this information has been eye opening for me.

A repercussion of my sweetheart's ADHD is depression. After going to an incredible 'brain' doctor, one who practiced EEG in terms of behavioral health, we found out that my sweetheart's brain never rests. Therefore, my sweetheart never feels fully rested. Imagine never feeling fully rested and how you would react being tired all the time. 

Because his brain doesn't rest, he often finds himself in a space he can't explain. He gets down on himself often, and finds it hard to be motivated to do things. While he struggles through these endless emotions, we have to remind ourselves that what he is experiencing is less him and more about this thing called depression.

The Huffington Post article was a good reminder to me that I can't expect my sweetheart to get up and get going and put his depression behind him. There are things that he can't explain because all he knows and understands is how he is feeling - and that feeling is often not something he can control. 

The articles states, "...despite the staggering evidence and rhetoric aimed at helping people understand, many people still don't get that being diagnosed with a mental illness isn't something that's in their control -- just like having the flu, or food poisoning, or cancer isn't in their control."

I will have more to say about this, but for the time, I wanted to also share this cartoon as seen in the same article. The graphic is illustrated by www.robot-hugs.com.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Where Did Your Attention Go?

Background: I am a spouse with an amazing husband who happens to have ADHD

As alluded to in my last post, after we were married, there were things that changed almost immediately. After the one week honeymoon was over, we got back to real life and that is when I started to notice some dramatic changes. Over the course of a couple weeks being back in our small apartment in Virginia - the weight of life became my sweethearts reality.

At the time, I didn't know what was happening. In retrospect, I saw that there were several life-changing things that led to this 'crash' including: 

  1. My sweetheart and I met while he was doing summer sales. This means he was only supposed to have been in Virginia for a short period of time. However, we met and fell in love, and continued our courtship when he was originally planning on going back to Idaho to complete his schooling. Imagine having somewhat of a life plan that took you away from family, and doing something you felt so right about, only to have it all changed within a short period of time. He sacrificed a lot for love - something I respect him for.
  2. Along with the move to Virginia, he moved physical locations twice. One move alone is enough to drive anyone up the wall, but he moved twice in a matter of 6 months.
  3. The question of "what am I going to do with my life now" was constantly on his mind. The almost immediate responsibility of being the 'head of a household' was very real and daunting. He went from having a plan to graduate from BYU-Idaho, to being across the country trying to figure out what to do.

What I Mean When I Say Crash

As a newlywed, I would come home so excited to see my sweetheart, hoping to get several kisses, and spending quality time with one another at night cooking, cleaning, R&R, working out, doing grocery shopping together - oh, I was so excited to be a newlywed couple. 

The fact was, I would often come home, my sweetheart would be frazzled, wouldn't want to leave the house, and would really have nothing to do with me or us. I often found myself leading a single life even though we were married. Here were some things I didn't expect:

  • He would often break down if I asked him to accompany me to do anything.
  • He hated the cooking process. There was always something wrong when I would cook dinner: The shelves in our apartment were too loud, and even when I tried silencing them, they were heard being opened and closed from outside our apartment. The smells were often too much. Without ventilation in the house, it was easy for smells in the kitchen to permeate the room. As the chef, I enjoyed those smells, but they were often too much for my sweetheart.
  • I would often eat alone. The sound of munching on food was too much for him, and we would often end up fighting about it.
  • I often felt ignored, ended up doing most of the chores around the house. If I mentioned chores, he would get angry and pout for the rest of the day - as if he were a little child and I had just scolded him or something.
  • When I wanted to be close to him in intimate ways, my requests were often not fulfilled. You can imagine what it felt like being in this situation.

After re-reading this list, it makes it sound like my sweetheart is this terrible person, but he wasn't and isn't. As alluded to in my other post, I had certain expectations during these experiences that made this newlywed situation even worse. My reaction to his sensitivities made the situation almost unbearable, and my heart was broken because I didn't know how to be.

It is Not Him, it's My Reaction and That Thing Called ADHD

Being a proud, stubborn, passionate woman - I found myself getting angry with my sweetheart for these sensitivities, blaming it on the fact that he hadn't lived in such close proximity to a woman, and he just needed to suck it up and learn how to be patient (the way I learned to be patient having worked on this attribute almost my whole life - yeah right). 

In addition to getting angry with him instead of trying to understand him, it was easy for me to ask: Why is he being this way? Why can't he just be patient with me? Is this just normal newlywed stuff? What am I doing wrong? What could I do better? Is it me? Did I make the biggest mistake of my life, I can't even make us a meal without a fight? Amy I really that needy?

There were other things that I won't dive into, but I think the situation that hurt me the most is losing the attention he gave me when we were dating. Where did it go?

After a couple months of feeling neglected, having constant anger, harboring resentment, having endless nights of fighting, ending up prostrate on the ground praying that it would get better, that I could understand, that he could love me again, it became apparent that something else was going on - beyond just sticking two people with very different lives and history together. 

Over the course of this experience, we really started to look at a previous diagnoses that we thought contributed to his focus at school, realizing that this was just the beginning of understanding what adult ADHD really meant.

As the researcher I am, I purchased two books that, admittedly, I still have not completed, but was the impetus for me understanding certain coping mechanisms, and that made me start thinking that I DIDN'T make the biggest mistake of my life. 

After reading several reviews, and reading more about these authors, I purchased the books:

The ADHD Effect on Marriage, by Melissa Orlov
Is it You, Me, or Adult ADD, by Gena Pera

In addition, Melissa Orlov has a blog that helped me in this pursuit of trying to understand better and be better in my relationships with my sweetheart. There was one blog article in particular that really hit home for me within the first 6 months of being married.


  • The start of the relationship is exciting and very focused, for the ADHD spouse is "hyperfocusing" on you and you feel amazed and excited that someone cares that much about you
  • The relationship can change its character rather sharply as the ADHD person loses focus.  The non-ADHD spouse becomes confused and begins to feel ignored.  This generates frustration and resentment
  • This frustration leads to anger, particularly when the ADHD spouse does not respond to criticism that he is ignoring you
  • The non-ADHD spouse, particularly if this is a woman, ends up with all the scut work around the house, feeling like the maid, rather than a cherished wife.  This leads to arguments, nagging and further anger
  • The relationship goes in an up-and-down, seesaw sort of pattern as there are longer and longer periods when resentment and anger are the predominant feeling punctuated by spurts of great fun, energy and togetherness
The issue was really two-fold:  First, he really wasn't as focused on me as he had been.  Second, in my response to this I made the assumption that his lack of "interest" in me was due to the fact that he didn't like to be with me as much as he had previously.


I can't tell you the relief I felt after reading this article. This woman just described my situation. The realization that there was something else going on in our marriage contributing to its dysfunction was one of those moments where I can only express gratitude.

It wasn't entirely that I lacked patience, or that I was too needy. It wasn't that my sweetheart hated me, or didn't love me anymore, or that he didn't want to be with me. I wasn't being punished for my lack of trust or faith in Heavenly Father. It boiled down partially to ADHD, and partially to our reactions - which always escalated beyond a level that was emotionally stable.

The article continues:

"Most frequently, even though it doesn't feel this way to the non-ADHD spouse, the ADHD spouse is not intentionally ignoring his partner. My husband and I went through this exact pattern (and more!) and he could never understand why I felt so ignored by him at the outset of this pattern (which started almost as soon as we moved from courtship into marriage).  In his own mind he loved me just as much as he had before, and because he was just following what was interesting him at the time (often the computer) he didn't realize just how dramatically different our relationship became once he stopped hyperfocusing on me.  I could tell him that his actions affected me in a negative way, but he just didn't get it because they didn't seem to be affecting him (they were, of course, because my response to his actions was to be angry with him, but he didn't connect this cause/effect yet)

...in my response to this I made the assumption that his lack of "interest" in me was due to the fact that he didn't like to be with me as much as he had previously.  In this scenario, my response to his actions was at least as hurtful to our relationship as his initial lack of attention.  And, because I assumed the worst (he didn't love me as much) I approached in about the problem in a resentful and angry way.  My approach - "why don't you pay attention to me any more?"; "why don't you listen to me?"; "why don't you ever bother to take me out any more?" made me hard to deal with...and suddenly he, too, was with a person whom he didn't really recognize.  As far as he was concerned, I was attacking him simply for being him, and he didn't like it much."


It was as if a bright light came on. I needed to look at our situation in a new way. I needed to stop being so angry with my sweetheart, and recognize him for the man I married. I needed to understand realistic needs, and develop more patience through this process of learning. That is where it started. There are so many other things I also needed to learn to make this work. 

I knew I wouldn't be able to make it through without a constant relationship with my Heavenly Father. I couldn't expect to understand the situation, and my role in it if I didn't have the enlightenment of heavenly help. I also understood that if the marriage was going to work that we needed to work together with a renewed commitment to understand and be patient with one another. 

This is where the learning all began.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I am a Spouse of an Amazing Husband who Happens to have ADHD

For fear of not wanting to offend my sweetheart in any way, I held this close to me for a long time. After much prayer and consideration, and talking it over with my sweetheart, I have decided to post about my experience so far.

Over the course of our first year, here are the beginnings of what I observed and learned as a spouse with an amazing husband who has ADHD:

  • Dating someone whose attention was unwavering during the dating process
  • Knowing that the person I was dating had ADHD tendencies, but nothing that sent up red flags that would prevent us from being married for all eternity
  • Marrying my (at the time) attentive sweetheart and underestimating how ADHD would impact my marriage, in both negative and positive ways
  • Struggling to understand how to have a lasting relationship, with someone whose tendencies changed - meaning the dynamic of the relationship changed
  • Trying to figure out how to be a wife and have a lasting relationship at the same time, only having had other relationships that ended less than 7 months
  • Separating the idea that he is not his ADHD, and that my reactions to consequences of his ADHD contribute just as much to the inconsistencies and hard times in our marriage
  • Learning that ADHD is more than just a hyperactivity - the message we are given, which becomes our perception when children are diagnosed with ADHD at a young age 

Everyone told me the first year of marriage would be hard. BUT, I didn't realize the emotional roller coaster we were in for. My sweetheart and I talk to people about our journey frequently because we know there may be others out there struggling with the same thing. 

Before I go on, it is important to understand that everyone experiences and deals with these issues a lot differently. That is the beauty of being an individual person with individual emotions and needs.

Over the course of the next several weeks, I am finally comfortable sharing my journey, because I am finally at an emotionally healthy place to speak about these things more objectively and with hope, than if I would have one year ago. 

One year ago, I was ready to give up. Some may consider this last statement as a sign of weakness, or that I am dramatizing my experience, and you know what - it was and is still a struggle I deal with all the time. My parents always said I was an over sensitive person, and I own that. What I share is real to me and my individuality.

I do not mind that you may consider me to be a weak person. I know myself well enough to understand that it is through my weaknesses that I can also find strength. I know that my weaknesses contribute to these trials I have, but I also know they give me the fortitude to turn to a loving Heavenly Father who has helped me (and us) immensely during this time. 

My hope is that I will be able to continue to heal and learn as I share my experiences. I also hope that if you find yourself in similar situations that you figure out what works for you by doing research, observing, keeping the faith, and turning to a God who loves you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Yup...I live in Idaho

A steady stream of snow has been falling today. I wouldn't say in droves, but steady nonetheless. When we moved here, I told my sweetheart that I wouldn't complain about the weather - that I would embrace it because weather is just weather, right? No need to complain about something beyond my control....

While we have had to adjust the thermostat depending on who is home and what time of day it is, I feel like I am handling it like a champ!

Here is what I feel that I look like:

But here is what others see: