Relationships are hard. When you or your partner has ADHD, it gets even more difficult. Just as a check-in, does this sound familiar:
“So, did you go to the store and get what I asked you to pick up?”
“Of course. Here.” I hand her the OTC medicine she had told me to pick up. She examines it. Then, with a granite-hard face, looks up at me.
“This isn’t what I asked you to get.”
“Yes it is.”
“No. I wanted ointment, not cream. You got cream. I texted you specifically what I wanted.”
“Really? There’s a difference?”
“If I had wanted cream, I would have asked for cream. How can I be more explicit? What do I have to do to make this more clear to you? And, did you get the rice, broccoli and chicken?”
“Uh oh,” I say in a small voice.
“Which one did you forget?”
She looks down, shaking her head. “I texted the list to you. It’s right there in your phone. What more do I need to do? When you agree to get what I ask for, then don’t, it makes me feel like you’re not listening to me, that you don’t care.”
“That’s not it. Of course I care!”
“Well, what happened? It was only four items. You messed up two of them?”
“Do you think I did this on purpose? I’m sorry! I messed up. I’m really sorry.”
Shaking her head. “Sorry doesn’t matter if this keeps happening. You had a specific list!”
“I’m sorry. I was in a rush. Traffic was terrible. I forgot my phone in the car. I didn’t take it in with me. Regarding your medicine, I saw ointment and cream…I picked the wrong one.”
“So…if you’re not going to take your phone into the store, why should I bother texting you the list? What’s the point? Maybe I should just go to the store myself from now on. Even though it’s less convenient, at least I know we’ll get everything we need.”
Resigned sigh. “Maybe you should…”
Been there? Done that? Has this happened to you? This is the part of ADHD that really sucks. No matter how diligent we are, there will be times when we’re off our game. The result is a two-fold negative. First, your loved one is disappointed, hurt, frustrated, angry, inconvenienced. It’s hard to be on the receiving end of an ADHD moment. For the one with ADHD, you might feel stupid, ashamed, guilty, hopeless. The more often it happens, the more depressed you might feel.
Really, it sucks.
And this type of scenario can happen at any time when we get off our program. Or when we’re in a rush, feeling overwhelmed. Or when we’re experiencing a lot of stress. There are pressure points and triggers.
One of the things you might often hear is: “Why don’t you manage this? This is completely avoidable if only you managed it better, right?”
On the surface, of course. But, much of ADHD isn’t on the surface. It’s nuanced and subtle at times. We might be managing the big stuff – remembering to take our meds, keeping a good calendar, eating right. But, there are times when we’re feeling the stress from being overwhelmed, or we’re just struggling to manage everything we need to manage.
To a “normie”, it seems incredibly inconsistent when one moment we’re highly focused, creating a masterpiece – and the next we can’t remember to pick up coffee on the way home from work. A “normal” person manages these little things (and quite often doesn’t have the skill or hyper-focus to create a masterpiece). So, while on one hand we’re doing miracles, on the other we can’t get simple tasks done – routine chores and requests that need to be done in order to maintain harmony.
ADHD is a neurological/biological medical disorder. We, and those whom we are with, often forget this. Unlike other disabilities, it isn’t readily apparent. I bring this up not to make an excuse, but to remind that a person with ADHD isn’t normal.
And it can create havoc in a relationship. Any kind of relationship. Whether with a spouse, family member, friend, employer, teacher or anyone else, ADHD “moments” have an effect. These moments build over time. While family members tend to have more tolerance (what choice do they have?) and learn to do work-arounds, friends, employers and others often do not have such high levels of tolerance.
A loved one will typically work hard to help and to create workable solutions. But even the most patient and loving spouse has a ceiling. The person with ADHD needs to have empathy, an understanding that living with their disorder isn’t easy for a “normie”. Communication is important, as is a sense of humor. The person with ADHD must also be open to hearing how their behavior affects others – and demonstrate humility rather than defensiveness. That’s hard.
In an employment situation there likely won’t be as much tolerance. Business values the types of behaviors that people with ADHD often find challenging. Organization, multi-tasking, meeting deadlines, being on-time, curtailing mistakes – these executive functions are valued in a business setting.
Do you have a job with a lot of moving parts which challenges you organizationally, leading to overwhelm, stress and brain fog? An employer may decide that you are not a good fit. They may be right.
Even if you are in a situation that seems to be a perfect fit, there will still be routines. If you don’t have a system for handling the dull stuff, you may just undermine your perfect situation.
I know. It can be really frustrating. There will be times when, literally, you just want to sell everything and become a gypsy – leaving everything and everyone behind. You don’t want to hurt people anymore, and you don’t want to feel like a failure yet again.
While there will always be a logical, systemic way to manage your challenge areas, I’ve found that something else is needed, too.
A spiritual connection is also important. When stuff happens, especially when you’re going through a series of ADHD moments and you’re feeling hopeless, having an active prayer life or a connection to the divine is absolutely necessary to manage the emotional side of the disorder.
For me, and for many others I know, having daily conversations with God is especially helpful. Combined with the other good things we do to manage the disorder (meditation, nutrition, etc.), having a talk with God can be extremely liberating.
I’ve said the following more than once: “God, I’m having a tough time right now. It seems like my disorder is getting the best of me right now. I recognize that my behavior is affecting others negatively, and I’m not feeling very good about myself right now. God, I’ve made amends to the people I’ve affected, but I need your help to feel better about myself.
“God, I know it is not my fault that I was born with this disorder. But I am grateful that you have given us ways to manage it and make it better. I realize that I won’t be perfect in this, so I forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made and for letting down my guard during times of stress. I am thankful that there is a prescription I can follow to bring more sanity into my life and into the lives of those with whom I am around.
“I also recognize, God, that you have created me for a purpose. That, despite this disorder, you have blessed me with gifts that can be used to help others. And in helping others, in utilizing my gifts, I find my purpose in your perfect will. You have made me for a reason – and it is good. I am grateful for the purpose you have given to me, I will be gentle with myself, and I will open my heart to your love and experience your peace. Thank you, God.”
This prayer, or something like it, always centers me. It creates a perspective that actually takes me out of my self-centeredness and gets me focused on the things I do well, and what I can do to help others.
For me, it works. Perhaps having a connection like this will work for you, too. Just keep in mind that if you’re breathing, you have a purpose.