Mental Wellness Challenge – October 24, 2019
October is ADHD awareness month… so more on ADHD
Last week my challenge was a two part challenge…
Part 1. Learn something about the operation of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. Maybe look up definitions/explanations for/of “executive function”, “emotional dysregulation” and “ADHD Impulse control.
Part 2. Hug someone. Give someone a caring hug.
I really hope that you were able to do some of both… to learn a little more about the complexities of the prefrontal cortex, or executive function, emotional dysregulation or the difficulties ADHD brains have with impulse control. Maybe even more of a challenge was the hug! Sharing your personal space.
As I had mentioned in my bit last week, this week I’d like to share a little from my spouse’s perspective. I asked her to jot down some quick points that would describe a bit of what it was like to live with someone with undiagnosed ADHD. She noted points of what it was like prior to my diagnosis.
I have shared what I have written here, with my spouse. She has corrected me where my descriptions/narrative haven’t reflected her perspective. I’ll share with you here, that this was a tough piece for me to write. Its tough hearing, learning and accepting that I put my K through all this…
Here we go… I’ve chosen a “call and response” model for this… I have given you her statements and followed those up with my understanding of those statements and where, I believe, my ADHD played a part. Nothing here is meant or should be seen to be presented to be “an excuse”, only an explanation. I refer to my spouse as “My K.” and I will do that in the text that follows.
* My K. – Feels like walking on eggshells or always having to be on guard/tempered to avoid blow-ups.
* My K. – Not knowing where or when (or even understanding why) a blow-up might occur. This is/can be embarrassing depending on the circumstances or social situation.
* My K. I have no control “this is a statement of helplessness”
* My K. – Like living with Jekyl and Hyde but never knowing which it was going to be and when.
* Kevin – Emotional dysregulation sometimes leads to “unreasonable” responses to different stimuli. There are many, many examples of this. An example – I can get angry or defensive if someone criticizes a comment or statement that I make. We could be at a gathering in a friend’s home and someone criticizes me, or something I have said/done. I can become unreasonably cross and make comments back, or worse yet and more often than not, aim my hurt and anger at My K. My K. would be the recipient of my tirade. In a social setting, I end up putting My K. “out there”… There have been times where My K. has made apologies on my behalf.
* My K. – Being frustrated with an immediate “must be done now” task or situation that isn’t necessary /wasn’t planned at that moment.
* Kevin – Impulse control here. “It wasn’t even on my mind 10 minutes ago… but as of this instant… it’s the most important thing in my life…” and because it’s the most important thing in my life – it’s the most important thing in your life.
* My K. – Always being the bad guy. (Responsible parent roll – Kevin’s words, not My K.)
* Kevin – Impulse control, emotional dysregulation, executive function, internal responsible adult/moderator took a walk. This is, unfortunately a common thread when living with someone with ADHD. Its often the cause of failed marriages in ADHD couples. I am so grateful that My K. is as forgiving, strong, courageous as she is. An example of this would be the irresponsible use of credit. Purchasing things that I don’t need. Often these purchases would be made to “fill a void” that, really, can’t be filled with “stuff”. I refer to this as “stuffing”. ADHD brains, to varying degrees, have troubles with the whole “internal moderator” piece.
* My K. – Being shit on for expressing an opinion, even though I was asked for it, or being railed on for my opinion on a narrative – even though I was asked for it.
* Kevin – This is a complicated piece for me. I value My K.’s opinion and feedback. I ask for her input and then there is critique that I am sensitive to or perhaps her opinion is contrary to mine and I don’t respond appropriately. I think this is where the Jekyl and Hyde comes in a bit. Its 100% irrational. My sensitivity to criticism is certainly ADHD related. I know this sounds absurd. This reaction to criticism happens even when I prepare myself for it. I don’t know if its especially potent when its from My K., because its from My K.? I really do work at this – and it’s a piece of who I am that I need to keep working on.
* My K. – Not feeling valued or appreciated.
* My K. – Lonely/unimportant
* Kevin – I own this. I don’t know that this is all ADHD though. There is certainly an ADHD component to all this – the whole “responsible adult”, inappropriate / unregulated emotional responses to “Sorry, not now, we can’t afford it…” or some other thing. There’s a part of this that is depression and anxiety related too. When I am in a significant depression, I don’t value myself, let alone value another… (I know this isn’t easy to understand – and it isn’t easy to explain. It is a truth.) This “smarts”.
Pieces of my ADHD sometimes make it so I DO NOT like be touched. Period. I almost never like soft touches. I often struggle with sharing my personal space at all. You can imagine – in a marriage – that this would be an issue. I do work at this. I understand it a bit better now… I didn’t for 30+ years.
* My K. – Stressful/draining – never really a chance to recharge.
* Kevin – There isn’t much I can say with this point. It’s a truth. Sharing life with someone who has an undiagnosed disorder is hard. For as much as my brain never stops and my emotions can be all over the place, My K. is in this relationship with me. For as tired/exhausted as I get, she is in the same boat, but on another oar. So very often she has had to row double duty to keep us on course. I am so very, very fortunate to have a best friend, spouse, wife who is willing to work hard for us. She’s incredible. I literally owe my life to her.
So where does that leave us now, post diagnosis?
My diagnosis wasn’t a “Ok, now that’s that… no more issues.”
Knowing a cause isn’t the same as having a cure… there is no cure. There are ways of managing, there are medicines that can help, there’s counselling/coaching and there’s acceptance of the disorder itself. My diagnosis provided answers to a bunch of questions. The diagnosis has given me a place to begin growing an understanding. I do my best to make certain I don’t use my diagnosis as an excuse… because it isn’t. I’m still responsible for my actions, I’m still subject to the same issues that I have always had.
The diagnosis has provided me with a perspective that helps me to – well, step outside my head – an awareness in which to better manage my “behavior”. The honest truth is that I still mess up. I still react poorly to criticism. I still have mood issues. I still don’t like tickly things. I know that the more fatigued I am, the less control I have. I know the more anxious or stressed I am, the more likely I am to have issues with impulse control, outbursts and the rest. The diagnosis hasn’t stopped my brain from racing or improved my ability to hold focus. It has given me an understanding that there’s a reason for those issues and the reason for them isn’t a flaw in character or that I’m bad or lazy or stupid or reckless or any of the other things I’ve been labelled with.
In/from the diagnosis is frustration too… I don’t want to have these negative things in the “who I am”, I don’t want to be this way, I didn’t choose to have a brain that’s different… I don’t want to have the issues I have. Sincerely, there’s no – “Then just don’t be that way.” I am this way… good and not so good.
My K. and I recognize that this piece has focused on the tough bits of living with a person with undiagnosed ADHD. Gratefully, there’s a sunnier side of things too. Maybe that would be a good topic for another bit, some other time.
I hope this piece helps to show a little of the challenges of “what it’s like for a partner of a person with the disorder.” Please be mindful that everyone’s experience will be different. While we all breath the same air, we don’t take the same breaths… and we never take the same breath twice…
This week’s challenge – “Things desired.”
This week my challenge is for you to find a quiet place/space and quiet your mind. Take a moment to breath in the quiet. Settle yourself. You can use the 5 4 3 2 1 exercise I have talked about before to help you with slowing down. Once you are in that quiet place/space/mind, read a poem, listen to a song, read a short story – do something that will help you to think about “Things desired.”.
I am going to include an old piece of prose here as a suggestion, you can read it and think about it or you can do something else. My challenge is about you seeing if you are feeding yourself. Are you giving your “self” the nourishment it deserves? Think about what you need. Are you being kind, gentle and loving of your “self”?
This challenge goes to self care and intention, supports, awareness, commitment, connections (to self), purpose and action in my model.
That’s it, I challenge you.
GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann 1927