2018, November

My Own Sh*t Show

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.

2018, November

Our Sensitive Couple

In the early days of our couple, I would have compared my overall sensitivity to that of rubber. This particular material is solid, yet not obvious like stone. Thick skinned might paint a clearer picture.

My husband, on the other hand, was completely the opposite, especially in response to my communications. Growing up a quiet, suppressed child, it was only a matter of time before I broke out of that cage and practiced speaking my mind. I’ll admit the pendulum had swung too far in the opposite direction and when I met Thomas it was still in the process of swinging back down to a sensible level.

For years, I examined our fights and discovered the sequence of events leading up to the tipping of the apple cart. Thomas would do something objectionable, in my opinion, motivating me to immediately communicate my dissatisfaction. Because isn’t communication a healthy practice in relationships? Some may have labeled it nagging, but from where I stood, the intention was to prevent future repeat offenses. Looking back, I can see how it may have landed for him as being parented by his partner.

After doing the work to uncover my femininity from the rubber coating, I was able to witness my negative habitual communication patterns and practice zipping my lips. Unfortunately, Thomas continued to react as if I were delivering a debilitating verbal lashing. How could this be? I had softened in my approach and only spoke what was truly necessary in moments of disagreement. It was as if he was still stuck hearing me based on our past exchanges.

The educated female coach that I am tried to explain this phenomenon to him and it only resulted in him feeling blamed. In my defense, my desire was to eliminate his over-the-top reactions anytime I expressed even a minor moment of dissatisfaction to him. Surely, if he was aware of the intensity, he could practice toning down his expressions. At some point, I started to call them emotional shit shows. Even when I was at my calmest and committed to having a rational discussion, he would go off the deep end. Widened eyes, increased energy, misplaced defensiveness … that all lead to yelling. No amount of research helped me figure this one out and I could not believe my man was bi-polar.

It wasn’t until early this year, after discovering the work of William Dodson, M.D., when I caught the break I was looking for. He introduced rejection sensitive dysphoria to the ADHD community. RSD is “an extreme emotional sensitivity and emotional pain triggered by the perception – not necessarily the reality – that a person has been rejected, teased, or criticized by important people in their life. RSD may also be triggered by a sense of failure, or falling short – failing to meet either their own high standards or others’ expectations.” Bingo! (Here is Dr. Dodson’s article about it in ADDitude Magazine.)

With this new information to explain his behavior, I have space to witness my own level of intense reaction to his activation. What’s that about? The inquiry is still in motion with a few theories about where the healing can happen within me. Oftentimes, with ADHD, the solution to the “problem” is medication. My intention with this particular speed bump is to be such that I can gracefully dance with his RSD when it arises, as well as be adept with the triggers.

Stay tuned as I report on our progress!

2018, October

Being Married to ADHD

Thomas and I met in 2009 and the most attractive things about him were his handsome charm and the depth of his emotions. To hear him share freely about his passions was so captivating. The man wholeheartedly loved his children, his customers, his friends, a random store clerk and any person who crossed his path. As a woman with my history, it was a gift to be included in his heart space, even if just platonically.

Over time, our friendship blossomed into a full-fledged romantic couple, complete with highs and lows. The intensity of the highs was unlike anything I had ever experienced … and I liked it! Unfortunately, in a universe of polarity, the lows were just as dramatic … and it sucked! It never really occurred to me that something might be going on “behind the scenes” until a few years into our relationship Thomas shared about his ADHD diagnosis from before having met me.

Like most folks, I visualized a little boy who couldn’t sit still or pay attention. That didn’t fit the man I knew, so I turned to the Internet and books. In 2012, I learned what I learned and it helped some. Getting Thomas reunited with his Adderall prescription became the first order of business (not knowing all there was to know about this drug). His experience was that it helped to slow down the thoughts in his brain, yet neither of us saw that it was also exaggerating his anger.

It didn’t reduce our intense fighting, though, which was the toughest part about being in relationship with him. I was training as a relationship coach and learning tools for us to use when in conflict. He agreed the practices could be useful, but when conflict came around, they all went out the window. In those years, I was a dirty, fiercely angry fighter who didn’t see there was a problem with my “authentic self-expression.” Based on Thomas’ past, the last thing this man would do was allow yet another woman to defeat him. Naturally, as a survivor, he would do what had to be done to win the fight.

After coach training, the topic of divine feminine energy came on to my radar. This is where I discovered how misaligned I was, as a woman, when I behaved like a distorted, angry man. New tools kept me grounded in my divine feminine space that allowed Thomas to stay longer in his divine masculine. Unfortunately, life stressors continued to get in the way of our flow and I forgot many of the things I loved about my man. To avoid triggering either of us into a negative state, I learned the art of walking on eggshells and biting my tongue. Obviously, these behaviors were connection killers.

Early in 2018, I was introduced to the work of Dr. William Dodson, who has specialized in adults with ADHD since 1994. He discovered that current textbook description of the symptoms – inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness – fails to capture the essence of this type of nervous system. Instead, there are three defining features of ADHD that explain every aspect of the condition:

  1.  an interest-based nervous system
  2. emotional hyperarousal
  3. rejection sensitivity

Those nuggets of information, and all that is contained within, opened a whole new world for us. (So that I don’t have to try to explain all of this myself, this article does it best.) Being part of the 90% of humans who are considered neurotypical and assume everyone’s brain functions the same, I was neglecting the other 10%, who have an ADHD nervous system. I was guilty of trying to “fix” my husband’s brain so it would function like mine.

With a new perspective to view my husband from, so much has shifted! I was able to comprehend why he did what he did, rather than just telling myself, “His brain is different and needs corrected.” Finally, I am able to combine my relationship tools with my divine feminine practices and effectively engage with this man! Certainly, I have not mastered it, yet we come out of the deep valleys so much quicker. Unfortunately, his intense emotional reactions still activates my emotional pain body and it has now become a signal for me to move toward self-healing.

Being part of a society that supports disposable relationships, I still find myself being drawn to the dark divorce conversation despite knowing I’m in survival mode. Thankfully, we’ve worked so hard to create a deep root system in our couple, I eventually return to the light and full knowing of who we are authentically for each other. Our love is true and real, and together we are extraordinary.

2018, October

Getting Back on Track

“Just dust yourself off and get back on the track. Each new part of the journey holds its own beauty.” ~unknown

Never quit. * If you stumble, get back up. * What happened yesterday no longer matters. * Today’s another day. * Get back on track and move closer to your dreams and goals. * You can do it.

Okay! Now that my head is mostly on straight, at least for the time being, let’s do this!

Early in 2018 I “quit” being a feminine relationship coach for a variety of reasons. Mainly, there were no paying clients and it felt as if all efforts ended at a dead end. Obviously, there was a misalignment and I determined being married to a man with ADD was preventing me from really understanding women who were in relationship with neurotypical men.

Throughout the summer, I worked with my husband in his landscaping business. It was fine … but not really. It was as if I had developed amnesia for how to access my highest self, embodying the divine feminine. I chalked the increasing irritability up to hormones.

At the start of autumn, I was so uncomfortable with my existence that I quit working for my husband and took on the job of scrutinizing, unhappy wife. I denied the misery, of course, when he pointed it out. The kids were back in school and I found myself sitting at home practically pacing the floors because you can only do so much laundry and cleaning during the day. I was convinced this was the next level of growing older.

The tension between my beloved man and me caused a considerable disconnect. We managed to sabotage every Saturday for six consecutive weeks! Again, I looked in the wrong place for the source of the pain and blamed Thomas’ ADD. Surely the stress of his business was affecting his brain and therefore disrupting our marriage. My solution was to join an online support group for wives of husbands with ADD/ADHD.

It was captivating, in the beginning, to examine posts from women about their lives at home. So many were suffering and I felt compelled to share tools I had discovered over the years that helped in certain situations. Of course, we are on different places along the path, yet much of what I shared seemed applicable for any wife.

Apparently my contributions caught the attention of the group owner and she made me an administrator. The acknowledgment was an honor yet the minimal receptivity by the members was disheartening. Bravely, I continued to post ideas that encouraged new ways of thinking. Some of these women did not take kindly to having their minds stretched and did not hesitate to express it. This was my first experience with cyberbullying. Generally, my skin is thicker, but with everything else seemingly tanking in my life, I couldn’t face this, too. I left the group.

At some point during that little jaunt, I thought the misalignment as a coach might be whom I chose as my target market. Rather than just general women in relationship with men, perhaps it was more specifically women in relationship with men who have ADD/ADHD? Yet, with the way I was rejected, that consideration was short-lived.

Though my higher self often, quietly suggested those weren’t my people, it took a few friends making the same comments for me to hear it. Yes! What if my posts resonated for some of the group members but they chose not to publicly express it? Honestly, they were smart to stay quiet and hidden from the cyberbullies. It was at that moment I turned to face a truth. My purpose.

With additional guidance from loved ones, I removed the self-positioned wool from my eyes and saw the hard work I put in, along with the positivity that resulted from it over the last seven years. A few tweaks and the willingness to investigate got me back on track. What a relief it has been to realize I hadn’t wandered too far off. Since exhaling, I’ve returned to my husband (energetically and literally), my purpose … and myself.

Want to know more of the story? Keep checking back for additional blog posts and/or fill out the contact form below.