Here I am, minutes out of an “episode” with my husband who has ADHD. It could also be referred to as a fight or a heated discussion, but it is so much more than a simple disagreement.
Yesterday was cold snowy day and Thomas, a landscaper, worked from home. For me, it was the usual Monday and I proceeded to do what I do on Mondays. We lightly engaged when crossing paths and all seemed kosher. Later, in the afternoon, after picking the boys up from school, I felt incredibly agitated and Thomas became my target. Being human is funny that way, especially when hormones are involved. They seem to crop up from nowhere and hijack a perfectly peaceful moment.
To prevent further damage, it felt like a good idea to go run a few errands by myself. During the time away, I crafted an apology for my husband … and everyone knows how THAT goes. He didn’t follow the script (ha!) because he needed to leave for an appointment. Based on his behavior, it was obvious he was still being affected by my irresponsible outburst earlier. So, I called him on the phone to find out what was in his space. Boy, did I get an earful!
It was revealed that his experience of me, during the entire day, was that of me avoiding him. For a man with RSD (rejection sensitive dysphoria), this small seed of misinformation grows quickly into a suffocating, out of control, noxious vine weed. He felt hurt and angry toward me for not spending more time with him. I had no idea all that had been simmering in his space.
In his classic ADHD triggered mode, my husband proceeded to yell at me over the phone followed by hanging up. I chose to not engage and left my phone lying on the desk to work on laundry. A half hour later, he showed up back at home after leaving a voice mail and 24 missed calls. He skipped his appointment. This was especially painful because we’ve spent the last 12 days in a space free from ADHD drama. (Yes, I count the days.)
The voicemail message was just over two minutes of heated criticisms and blame. The usual. It amazes me how much the daggers still hurt after having them thrown at me for so many years. We went to bed not speaking because I was incredibly hurt by what he said. Cognitively, I get how the RSD and ADHD work in his brain and body. They hijack him like a speeding car with no brakes. For neurotypical folks, the part of our brain that acts as the brake system functions properly. Not the case for an ADHD brain.
Today’s episode followed the same path as all the others. After 12 hours of bottled up emotions, I spew too intensely that then activates his spewing. It’s a hot mess. I reign myself in while reminding him to do the same. His civility lasts for a couple of minutes until overwhelm causes him to lose control. At the same time, anxiety floods through my system while I attempt to utilize tools to prevent this thing from escalating past a level five. (We’ve rated our heated exchanges from one to ten. Seven is the highest we can go and still be in the same room together. Anything higher calls for an immediate time out.)
At some point, I remember this will go nowhere and I want it to end, so I let him do all the talking. In his communication, I sense the shame and regret, though it’s not directly expressed. I still feel like shit and he says outright there is nothing he can do or say that will make me feel better. So it ends … because he’s right. He goes his way and I go mine. As much as I resist the fact, it will happen again. Begrudgingly, my anger hormones dissipate and allow feelings of affinity to return.
ADHD is the epitome of a double-edged sword. It’s the thing that makes him witty, charming and creative, while at the same time making him an overly sensitive foul-mouthed beast. Because I believe he is in my life to contribute to my growth and healing, clearly there is more work to do. <sigh> Until then, I can calmly report my shit show has come to its end.