Personally Speaking

ADHD has been both a blessing and a curse in my life. While it has given me a reason for much of the negative or less than favorable events of my life, it now leaves me trying to undo many of those things that have shaped me as an individual.

Good or bad, the decisions we make throughout our lives create who we are as individuals and help to define our personalities, morals, and values. Included in all of this, are the people in our lives. It is the people who come and go, our families, our friends, and even those unsavory individuals who would not have been missed, had they not show up in the first place. Sometimes it is the people closest to us that can cause the most grief. It is, in the majority of cases I’m sure, not done intentionally. It is because of their position in our lives as husbands, wives, close friends, and siblings, that they have the greatest impact on decisions that we make. It is these people that we look to when there are big decisions to make. Their thoughts and ideas carry more weight than those opinions from people we haven’t known quite so long or respect as much. As a result, their comments are sometimes hurtful.

Before I continue, let me give you some insight as to who I am emotionally. Of my mothering ability, my sister said to me when I was all of 15 years old, that she thought I was capable of raising a child even at that age. Not that I would have ever acted on this but I have been ready since that age, to be in the roll that I now have. My self esteem has always been on the low end. I think this comes as a result of the many struggles I’ve had associated with ADHD, undiagnosed until 6 years ago. I feel as though I have failed more than I have succeeded and when I do succeed, the moment is brief. My own family that I built with my husband, and the family that I have grown up in, mean more to me then the air I breathe. So it only made sense that I would want to instruct them on the dynamics of the ADHD mind so that they would be better able to help me. It was imperative that they understand the struggle that I deal with everyday so that when they wanted to give me advice, it would fit neatly into how my thought process works. It made total sense to me: if I tell them how everything works, then the information they give me is already in ADHD format.

There was one huge problem, they didn’t wanna know. In my mind, this was so totally out of sync with everything that made sense to me. These are my family, why would they not want to help me in the most efficient way possible?

I have had elaborate conversations with them about how I need to “just do it….”,  “just spend a few hours every morning…”, “all you need to do is…”, it gives me a headache just thinking about it. When conversations like this would come up, I would launch into my shpeal of how my thought process works. I thought they would be eager to know. I’d tell them how it’s not as simple as they make it sound, about what my brain is capable of processing at any one time, but it was never enough. It made it sound like I was making excuses. I have no reason to make excuses.

Here is some background history on a sensitive issue: my husband and I designed our beautiful little cape style house, from the size of the foundation to the shingles on the roof and all that’s in between. While working on the house, I went into premature labor with our first child. He delivered at 24 weeks and 5 days gestation. I spent my weekdays living in the Providence, RI Ronald McDonald House while he continued to work on the house. On weekends, I came home and helped out. Said child turned 12 this last October.

Now, I love this house my husband built for us. I have never, ever, regretted anything about building it or disliked anything about it. I beam with immense pride when people ask about the house or complement its design. The knowledge that is stored in Will’s brain to build something so fabulous, amazes me even still today. I’ll never forget him saying, “I want to build a castle for you and our children.” And he did. Blood, sweat, and even a few tears, were shed in its construction. There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t been proud to live here. On the few nights when the boys were afraid to go to sleep, I’d tell them, “Your dad built this house, monsters can’t live here.” It was always enough for them to snuggle down in their beds and go to sleep.

A few years ago, Will was angry with me again. We had been arguing and he said that I didn’t respect this house enough to take care of it. I was floored. I was hurt deeply, couldn’t even believe that such a statement was said out loud. This house is my life. It contains the lives of three guys who make my life whole. Me, as wife and mother, am responsible for keeping the home light burning, for keeping the house looking respectful and welcoming. Stay caught up on the laundry, keep the kitchen and bathroom clean, and be able to have friends over for dinner at a moments notice. While he was upset at my lack of skills, I felt like he was trying to make me be like his mother. I love and respect her but I will never be like her. We are very different people. She doesn’t understand me either, but that’s okay. She doesn’t need to.

As I sat mulling over his comment, I remembered something my mother said to me when I was a teenager. I was likely supposed to be cleaning my room or doing something around the house that wasn’t getting done. She said, “When you have your own house, its going to be a mess…,” and so it came to pass, my own self fulfilling prophecy. That will never leave my mind.

My sister is another story. Things have gotten ugly with her on at least one occasion. I was desperately trying to explain to her why I am the way that I am. She was here at my house. We were standing in my quaint kitchen with it’s white and green tile counters and maple cabinets that I had picked out myself. I was backed in a corner, literally, between the stove and sink. She kept on comparing me to her clients, she’s a recreational therapist, and there is no comparing. We are apples and oranges I said, they will heal, I will not. They can overcome their addictions, my ADHD will never go away, it can only be managed. I found my backside up against the edge of the counter, my heart was ready to break through my chest and the hair on the back of my neck was standing up. My blood pressure was rising and I was very angry. In a quiet voice I said, “You need to leave.” But she kept on talking. A little bit louder now, “You need to go home.” She didn’t leave but the rest of her stay, until the afternoon of the next day, was strained.

My dad has become my go-to guy. When I have issues relating to my ADHD, I call him. We’ve had lots of conversations, a few of them pushing an hour long. He understands better than most, partly because we think he has it too. He’s read tons of info which often gets passed on to me. While I don’t always remember to read it, I know its all there waiting for me.

My husband continues to be my biggest challenge. He says he understands what it is but he isn’t any more accepting of my different way of thinking. We often end up in a rut, both wanting the other to be something other than what we are. While I believe that’s its easier for him to be more flexible with me, he’s feeling cheated because he works all day and comes home to find out that I really haven’t done much, according to his way of doing things. “I can do in a couple what it takes you all day to do.” Thanks for the reminder.

There have been days when I feel as though he is lost to me. I often feel that I will never meet his expectations. I’ve been this way for at least 38 years. How much time do I have to figure this all out? How consistent do I have to be in order to redeem myself? How much is good enough? The large chasms in our relationship where we seem to just exist together, are frequent. He tolerates whatever it is I’m doing, or not doing as the case may be, and I try to work through the void that has been left in his wake. I have piles of reading that give ideas and plans but he gets frustrated when things don’t work and he doesn’t like reading. I want him to come to counseling with me but its always an infringement on his time and paycheck, even if its only an hour per month. Here, the little voice in my head says, he doesn’t think you are worth the time. Someone said to me, when I voiced this out loud, that maybe he is afraid. He may be worried about being thrown under the proverbial bus, worried that maybe he’ll be judged. My initial reaction is no, that’s not like him at all. I just can’t imagine him being afraid of anything. That being said, he is like most men and does not discuss his feelings with me. He would rather slink away and brood, letting hurt fester until at some point, it blows, widening the already wide chasm between us. While I hate being on the receiving end of his knife-like sarcasm, I’d rather he let it out. Better out than in, right? By going to counseling with me, he has a place to let it out where he won’t be judged. I desperately need his help and this is such an easy thing to do. Leave work a half hour early, join me for an hour session 2 times per month. Get things out. Work with a different clinician who has a better plan. Help me make a game plan for us and for the boys. What could it hurt? How much is “fixing” me worth?

So these people, these are the biggest, most important ones. They make my world go round. Now, my handsome boys can be added to that list, too. While my youngest seems more concerned with his next game of Minecraft, my oldest is grasping some of the issues I have and helps out on occasion. He is mature beyond his age and I hope that stays with him. While I’m not sure about this rollercoaster ride with my hubby, I can say for now that we need to find a happy medium, something that works for both of us. In the heat of the moment, that is hard to think, much less say. If he’s willing to work without pointing fingers, I am too.

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Don’t Leave Me Lonely

The need for human touch has been proven over and over again, to be a much-needed necessity of life. In this article from Living Social, they talk of how simple, affectionate, and compassionate touch, can improve everything from how an infant grows, to boosting our immune system, to how our heart functions. Our bodies and minds cannot exist in a vacuum.  As simple as it may seem, that pat on the back or that simple handshake with a friend that you haven’t seen in many years, carries much more to it then a simple, “Hey, how have you been?” A 1988 article from the New York Times says this:

In some of the most dramatic new findings, premature infants who were massaged for 15 minutes three times a day gained weight 47 percent faster than others who were left alone in their incubators – the usual practice in the past. The massaged infants also showed signs that the nervous system was maturing more rapidly: they became more active than the other babies and more responsive to such things as a face or a rattle.

Okay, so we know touch is a necessity. So what do we do when we are upset with someone and we want to avoid a confrontation? We ignore them, right?  At least until we can calm down then talk to them reasonably. With the frustrations that comes along in dealing with someone who has ADHD, the frustration can mount, tempers flare, and sometimes avoidance becomes a necessity to avoid a fight. That being said, with avoidance comes distance, distance that is both physical and emotional. The ups and downs can be dramatic for both people involved.

Speaking for myself, these ups and downs have come at a heavy price.  Not only do I feel as though I’m not always getting what I need, but I have developed a sense of anxiety that never seems to go away completely.  I am always wondering if I did enough, did I do it right, if I didn’t do it right or if I didn’t do enough, does that mean that I will be kept at arm’s length until I get things right?  How do I know if I did something right if he won’t talk to me? And, when I’m back to being sort-of-normal, how do we go back to regular living after one of these long episodes?   There is a double whammy here: we have had so many of these ups and downs that my mind now associates being back on track with getting affection. It is much more difficult for me to go back to that ‘normal’ way of living then it is for him. Somewhere in my mind’s eye, sex and intimacy have now become a reward for being productive and on the ball, but try as I might, it is very difficult to not think that way. Some instances are worse than others, as is the case with any type of problem, I guess. Sometimes his avoidance behavior can last as little as a few days but it has been as long as a month. The longer the time frame, the higher the stress level and the greater the anxiety.  With my husband working as a carpenter, the particular job he’s on at the time may be a difficult one in which case his stress level and anxiety is high as well. This makes our relationship very tense as we try to work through multiple issues. If the boys have stuff going on with school or scouts, well, that just adds another stick to the fire.

A common denominator in my worldly conflicts is my husband’ s abundant sense of sarcasm. He often tells me that I am the only one who doesn’t understand it.  I don’t think that’s the case every time. He uses his sarcasm as a tool to portray emotions he happens to be feeling at a given time. When used in a humorous fashion, even the kids understand it. But for me, when he is upset or frustrated, that sarcasm has a deadly edge that has left me emotionally bleeding.  Sometimes he catches me unawares, making a comment out of the blue. A comment that I am totally unprepared for and totally not expecting, as he did just this last Easter afternoon. These comments are the proverbial double-edged sword, especially when said in front of other people. Emotionally, they set me back so far, wondering what I had done after such a lovely day, to warrant such a remark.

Now, in his defense, he deals with a lot. He has been our sole provider since before the kids were born. This was a joint decision on both our parts so that I could stay home with the boys while they were growing. The boys are now ages 8 and 11 years old.  In today’s economy, just being the sole provider would be enough to stress anyone out. For the entire 21 years of his career, all of his work has come in the form of referrals from previous customers or as a subcontractor on one of his friend’s jobs. The majority of the time he gets customers that are much like those that referred him in the first place but, on occasion, we get a doozy that stresses him out a bit. Throw in my ADHD issues and the boys misbehaving, and he’s pretty much had enough for one day, never mind if the job has any kind of longevity to it. This brings me back around to the keeping-me-at-arms-length, part of the story. From his point of view, after a days work and chaos at home, he feels better keeping his distance from me in every sense of the word, rather than risking a potentially nasty confrontation. Even the simple kiss on the cheek on his way to work is avoided. I’m not sure that this is the best way to handle things. Yes, it does avoid confrontation, but it avoids everything else too. Part of this whole package is that when there is a confrontation, it usually isn’t about anything new. The same issues, the same complaints, and then me trying to defend myself. Every once in a while, a new angle is presented, a new perspective, if you will. One of us is able to make our feelings better understood by creating a scenario that better describes how we feel at a given moment. I see these little moments as very small milestones in our attempts to communicate how we feel. They don’t always get us very far but being able to see things from a new angle, with a fresh view, can sometimes lead us down another road that may have some potential. I do understand, immensely, the frustration that he feels.  What I don’t understand is how he can keep me so far away on the emotional level.

I live just over 2 hours from my nearest relative. I elected to pick up and move to Connecticut so that he did not have to start his business from scratch in another state. By doing this, it has made it difficult for me to just get in the car and go see my family when I’m feeling distress. There is an intense sense of isolation when we’ve argued and I have no family to talk to about it. I could call but it’s not the same as having a real person. He is my rock, my go-to person, he is part of my soul and a large part of my heart. Not being able to go to him when I have trouble is very difficult, indeed. There is an abundance of safety and security in his embrace.  There is reassurance, trust, and hope, in his heartfelt kisses. When all of that becomes unavailable, I start to wonder when, and if, it will come again at all. I lay awake at night, listening to him softly sleep and I think of how much of my world is wrapped up in what he created with his own two hands. He has told me on more than one occasion that he doesn’t think I care for the house or his efforts in building it because I am unwilling to keep it neat and organized. Flashback: early 2002, we have just found out that we’re going to have a baby. He says to me, “I want to build a house for you and the baby.” Oh the joys of that day! I knew these weren’t just words or wishful thinking.  I knew even then that he had the talent to do it, and he did, in between trips to Rhode Island and his regular work [see: To Much, Too Soon, coming later].  Little did I think that 10 years later, I would be accused of not caring about the blood, sweat, and tears that went into building this house. If it was only so simple as making a choice [see: Just Do It, coming soon]. ADHD isn’t about whether or not you have a choice.  It is often complicated by having too many choices. Even just an hour’s worth of time can be broken down into so many smaller increments, and if you don’t know where to begin, where to end, or the process to get there, the majority of us with this problem do nothing because we would rather do nothing, then to do it wrong, again. If he should decide my ADHD issues are too much to handle anymore, I have the potential to lose everything because of a deficiency that I was born with, a problem that I didn’t create, and one that I am not sure I will ever be able to control. I have told him on at least a few occasions, that I would rather he just yell at me and get it over with, then hold me, hug me tight, and help me feel better. As human beings, a simple touch can often portray those emotions that are difficult or scary to speak out loud. Yet even though they don’t make a sound, they speak loud and clear, the messages that they convey. There is a song called When You Say Nothing at All by Allison Krauss, that gives this same message. Here are the lyrics….

It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart

Without saying a word you can light up the dark

Try as I may I could never explain

What I hear when you don’t say a thing

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me

There’s a truth in your eyes sayin’ you’ll never leave me

The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall

You say it best when you say nothing at all

All day long I can hear people talking out loud

But when you hold me near you drown out the crowd  

Old Mr. Webster could never define

What’s being said between your heart and mine

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me

There’s a truth in your eyes sayin’ you’ll never leave me

The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall

You say it best when you say nothing at all

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me

There’s a truth in your eyes sayin’ you’ll never leave me

The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall

You say it best when you say nothing at all

Songwriters SCHLITZ, DON / OVERSTREET, PAUL

Published by Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing

When all is said and done, we need to find some happy medium where we each get what we need. He gets frustrated when I don’t get stuff done, I get frustrated when I feel as though I have been left by the wayside. Down deep inside all that churning emotion, is a solution of sorts, something that will work for us both.  How long will it take to find it? I don’t know. Will I ever find it? Don’t know that either.  What I do know is this: this man is my everything. On my worst of days, I think back to those simple moments that could be lost if we don’t find a working compromise. I think of those moments like when out of the blue, he will walk up to me and hug me. Not just any hug mind you, but a living, breathing, heartwarming hug that speaks volumes of security, safety, and above all, love and trust. This particular kind of hug is very different from the hey-honey-I’m-leaving-for-work-see-you-later kind of hug. This is one of those hugs where the house could fall down around us and we would still be standing there. Everyone needs one of those hugs every now and then from a special someone.  It’s spiritually uplifting, rejuvenating, calming, and helps to restore peace of mind.  Most of all it says, “I’m here for you regardless of what is going on, regardless of our differences.”  So, if you don’t know what to say, say nothing at all, let your heart and soul do the speaking for you.