S3 E16 - 7:8:21, 4.59 PM
9:05PM Jul 8, 2021
Lee Skallerup Bessette
Everyone, welcome to another episode of the podcast, all the things ADHD.
things that work. Oh, good.
I mean, it cut out a little bit at the end, but it was one of the better ones.
Our expectations are so low, but like getting close to meeting them now is like, yeah, Ray Ray was a metaphor for my life.
Seriously. I am one of your co hosts Lee Skallerup Bessette, also known as ready writing on Twitter,
and I am your other co host, Amy Morrison, also known as Did you want on Twitter.
So, um, we got an email from one of our readers that I read and then pass along to Amy, because that's how we roll. And this is from someone whose partner has just been diagnosed in their in her 30s with ADHD, and they are struggling with Okay, now what how can I support? How can I better understand? They've been listening to the podcast, which has been really helpful, but really asked us if we would do an episode about this. I mean, we are both in a fairly long standing marriages. Right, nothing happened in the past two weeks. And
that's like, Why are you hesitating with this variation? Do you think that I got divorced in the last two weeks or whatever?
I don't think so. I don't think so. It's just like, I haven't been on Twitter a lot. I was traveling, right. Maybe something happened. And I don't know something happened. Yeah. Sorry. Just missed, right. Because it's Yeah.
You know, the Facebook algorithm just didn't bother to show it to me, right.
That would be like a classic ADHD, awkward conversation mobile. And Amy and I are going to talk about how we manage this in our marriage that I mean, like, Lee, actually
would have been like, literally, like, Okay, so this episode is not airing it does. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Oh, what does stop the recording now? Sorry, everyone. Already, boom, just off to the side is on frame. So yeah, we thought this would be actually a really great sort of topic. Because I think it's something that that, again, because of both of our also sort of later in life diagnosis as opposed to a childhood diagnosis is that we, you know, we're in relationships and got married before we knew the diagnosis, we got kids before we needed the diagnosis. It was our kids that led us to our diagnoses. And so you know, still same kids, still the same husbands but you know, but but slightly different circumstances, right? Where there's this, there is the shift that that that inevitably takes place, right? Once you once Well, let's,
let's start there, let's get there and say like that, that narrative that you're describing of like, not diagnosed in childhood, right, comes to adulthood without a diagnosis, or being flagged for a diagnosis and you know, get married and have kids and then kids get diagnosed, and then you get diagnosed. Like, I think that's an important context here, because it means that everyone in the family is confused, right? Everyone is confused. This is a new diagnosis for everybody. So if you are partnered with someone recently, or diagnosed in adulthood with ADHD, this is a learning process for all of you. Right? And that, that it's going to be a lengthy process, and that there will be mistakes made by everyone, there will be things that you think that you understand about yourself as a person with ADHD or things you think you understand about your partner having ADHD that turned out to be wrong, but everybody's already lived their whole lifetime, up until this moment with their various sorts of coping strategies and their various sorts of self narratives and their various types of understanding of who they are as people and what parts of them are character and which parts of them are mutable or immutable. And you have a sense of your partner, and they have a sense of themselves. And you have a sense of your kids, if you have any kids and all of that changes for everybody because the diagnosis comes into the family. Right? It comes into a romantic partnership, it comes into the workplace because it fundamentally shifts. How the person who has been diagnosed is going to understand themselves. It's probably going to really rock their autobiographical sense of themselves. But also it may entail You know, a lot of doctor's appointments, it may entail some new therapy, it may entail some resistance, it may go into the Kubler Ross Ian stages of grief. Right? You may begin with denial, right? It may move into anger. Who knows but it's a it's a process. It's not like, you know,
yeah, it may move into a whole bunch of tried and failed medications. Were the side effects of the medication that didn't work are scary and confusing and, you know, awful. Which is, which is, you know, that's one of the things that that tends to scare some people off medication generally is that if you don't get the right one on the first time, you know, it's it can be so bad that you don't want to try anything else. Yeah, where where that that becomes, and so you're also dealing with, and you might not even associate even the side effects at first with the medication. Right? Yes, all of a sudden, this person has changed, and I don't understand why they've changed. And then, you know, you sort of make eventually free associate to like, well, maybe it's the pills, like you just started taking these pills, and then like, a week later, you know, so that's, I think that that's something that, like, is the first thing particularly as somebody who's trying to support someone if they are, you know, taking medication like and again, executive functioning isn't our strong point. So I'm not gonna keep track of the day I started taking my medication, and what day I started feeling like crap, right? It's like, every time I go to the doctor, and they're like, so when was your last period? And I'm like, I don't know. Not today.
Not today. Yeah. There's now and there's not now.
Yeah, exactly. Well, and so medication. Oh, go ahead. I was just gonna say that. Like, I'll go to the doctor and be like, when did you start having these symptoms? And I'll be like, I don't know. Before today, right? long enough that it got bad enough that I decided to come here. I don't know how long that is. Maybe it's a couple weeks, maybe it's a couple days? I'm not actually sure right now. Like, you know, what I'm trying to think was it before the meeting I had with so and so after the night I was I was on did I have this while I was. So like, if you can do some of that just on the side, you know, to be able to kind of help out because that's the kind of information that we eventually need to be able to have conversations with our doctors, but we don't necessarily have it. Right. And you don't even have to make a big deal out of it. Because then it'll be resentment and all that kind of stuff. But just be like, yeah, I've noticed this, I've been kind of keeping track of it for you. I hope that's you know,
right. That's something that's really dodgy and probably yes, no, I'm thinking about that because like so I mentioned like your autobiographical sense of yourself as a diagnose person may change and you may be wary about medication many people are all the Facebook groups that you and I seem to be really is always like, and if I take more vitamin C and cut gluten Well, I you know, get better. So I don't have to take these meds. Is there a fish oil
I can take? Is that mega?
Yeah. And then people be like, stop slamming on meds like every day? Yeah, was that conversation? Right? But yeah, when, like the medications here, it's not like you go to the doctor for a sinus infection, and they give you some antibiotics, and then you get better, right? When you get diagnosed with ADHD, it turns out all the things that you hated about yourself, were maybe not your fault. And then then it turns out that there's something wrong with your brain, which many people don't want to hear about themselves. Right. And then the medications that are highly stigmatized. You know, partially because you should not have to take medication for your brain, right? that's a that's a thing that continues right? I don't want to become a zombie. I don't want this that. But also because I want to be addicted to it. I want to be addicted. Yeah, that these are drugs of abuse also makes people very wary. So it's very good to be really careful about how to support someone who is beginning medication regime, because to say things like, like you're changing, like you're a different person now is going to be experienced probably as extremely threatening. So if you're, if you want to support someone going through the medication, regime, beginning like because as Lee says, you have to try different drugs, usually the first one doesn't work. The first dose doesn't work. And it is true. And it is terrifying, that sometimes when you are taking these drugs, you don't notice some of the changes, right. And that is profoundly disempowering to start a psychoactive medication, and have to be told by your romantic partner that actually you are crying everyday. Now you don't usually do that you feel like Oh, I should have noticed that. And, oh, I'm not in control of my own brain, it's like, almost like you are are being diagnosed with some type of cognitive issue where you aren't even entitled to narrate your own experience at this point. So something that that Tom and I went through and it's something I suggest for others as disk that's with your partner what they want, like the person who has ADHD gets to say, I just wish that I could organize a to do list I wish I knew what to start with in the morning. Like my main challenge is executive function and I am hoping that the medication will help me be able to start in the morning and finish in the evening. Do not jump in with like, well do you think it'll help you like stop talking so much like because if the person with ADHD is willing to admit they need help with one thing, don't dump a bunch more things on them and say, Well, these are the things about you that I think you need to change. And like nobody does that maliciously, right? No. So like, you can say, like, I'm going to start this new drug, and we're ramping up. And the side effects might be this, like, I think you should talk about this with your partner so that you can be partners in it instead of a patient and an observer, right? This is like, a family diagnosis. And so say, like, you know, I'm afraid like, if this kills my appetite, like, if you notice, I'm not eating, can you like, remind me? Or? Like, I feel like I'm a bit more anxious than usual? Like, is that your experiences? Are you seeing that? in me, right? So follow the diagnosed person's lead, and what kind of help they're asking you for about monitoring their beginning of medication, like Tom helps me remember to take my pills, right. So I think I've discussed this before, it's like he takes his medication at this one cabinet in the kitchen. And when he takes it at night, he puts it all on the counter. And then he puts mine on the counter so that when I get up in the morning, I can see I can verify that he took his nighttime meds. And it reminds me to take my daytime meds and then I put them back in the cupboard. And if they don't go in the cupboard, then at noon, he'll be like, Did you take your vyvanse today? And I'll be like, is it on the counter? He's like, yeah, like, shit, right? Now go back, like.
So those are ways that that's actually a really good system, because I'll sit there and I put them by, I put them by our we have a water filter, fancy thing anyway, right? And so I put it there. So I would see them. And I remember to take the water, take the pills, but then there's no system for me to know if I have taken them or not. So I'm sitting there going, did I take this and smoking? Yeah. So Russia working on that,
like one week at a time I have a bottle, I just put seven pills in them every Sunday. Great idea. Right? That's, that's the second failsafe like, but the thing with your partner here is that if they're going to start a medication treatment, they are probably already really nervous about what's going to change, right? Is my brain going to be different? Am I going to feel like a quote unquote, completely different person, right? Am I going to suffer these side effects that you see like the horror stories of people say going to turn my child into a zombie or like I completely changed like everybody who starts medication is really afraid of that, at the same time, as they are really, really hopeful that some of the hardest parts of their lives will maybe be improved by this medication. So it's a very emotionally and cognitively and physically very vulnerable space. So I would say to support someone in that before the medication regime starts talk about what the ADHD person's desired outcomes of medication treatment are, what they would consider to be an unacceptable side effect, what types of observational data they want from you as a supporting partner to to help them through that initial thing. And like what kinds of feedback they don't want, like probably the worst thing that you would have been able to say to me is like, Oh, this medication is like making you like crazy, or this medication is like turning you into a working robot, or like, maybe I should take some of that because it feels like you're cheating and getting all these things done, right? Because it was very scary. To start meds and be like, Am I gonna be the same person? And so the, your partner probably needs you to love them. Right. Yeah. And for you to follow their lead about what they want.
Yeah. And I think that there's a I mean, there is something there's those stages, too, right? Where, and we talked about this in one of the really early episodes around grieving after the diagnosis. Yeah. And around like kids, it there's, there's a there's a definite loss there. Right, there is a loss of, you know, there's the looking back, as you said, it changes the auto biography. But there's also this sense of what if, right, what if I had just what if I had gotten the diagnosis when I was nine? Or what if, you know, I had known or my parents had known when I was 14, and going through all this crap. And that it was because of the ADHD, what if I had, you know, recognized that internally beating myself up about things for not fitting in for not being able to do the things that everybody else was able to do was actually because of ADHD? And so that that's a, that's, you know, it might from the outside and you're like, Okay, well, you got your diagnosis, right, like, you know, now, you know, and knowing is half the battle, it's like, yeah,
totally, only half Yeah, only
half the other half is like, you've got a lot of, of, you know, it, it really does change the way you view yourself and your identity, and it changes the way. You know, you view you know, you have to get used to those everyday interactions. So all of those things that you took for granted that you've sort of learned and all that kind of stuff, all of a sudden that becomes, right. Like you're you're almost living it twice now where it's like this is a normal interaction that I'll usually have. But also now that I know that I have ADHD, I'm noticing that all of these things I usually feel that I either thought were normal or knew were abnormal, but didn't do anything. About because I just thought I'm a weirdo. Right now I'm recognizing them as ADHD, oh my goodness. Now, what does that mean? And how do I, you know, it's it's you as a partner's romantic partner, or even best friend, if that's the case, or probably one of the first people that they told, right? If not the first person, right, first person who knows is the doctor diagnosis it, chances are, you're the very next person. Right. And and that's, that's a lot, right? Like, that is an incredible amount where like they have just heard it. And then you are just hearing it. And they have probably not processed in any way. Yeah, that processing can take some time.
And it's continuous. Like it continues, right? I digging through some stuff in the attic, I found my grade 13 report card, my final report grade of senior year, and I got like a 64 in physics, and it says, low mark is entirely due to lack of effort on turn. Right? And I was like shit, and it brought me right back into that spiral. Because like it was because I didn't hand in the thing that was worth 30%. So I basically got like, 64 out of 70. Right. So it should have been an exceptionally good mark. And it wasn't and I like just went back through all of that. And I got angry, and I got sad and all of these things. And so like, well, people begin the medication, and they're afraid it's going to change who they are inside their brain. Just the fact of having the diagnosis and trying to read filter, all of your experiences of your life already makes you feel like you might have been a different person the whole time. And you don't understand yourself. And that makes the newly diagnosed person very vulnerable to feeling like now no one will love them or they will be rejected, right? Because their own sense of who they are as a person has been radically destabilized. They really do need for the people who love them to accept them unequivocally for who they are. Like when I told my friend, Megan, you know, the one who sewed the jacket pocket on the wrong side. Yeah, and then walked away. Yeah. When I told her I was like, oh, Megan, you know, I got and I've known her since I was like a wee child. And I said, I got this diagnosis, like I've been through the whole testing, and I've diagnosed autistic and ADHD. And she went, hmm, tell me more about that. Like, why? Why did you go through that? And I explained, and she just sort of sat there she just received, right. And then she said, like, okay, I can see that, right? Like it. It wasn't like, Oh my God, we all knew which would feel defensive or like, but you're so successful, which would have also made me defensive, like she just opened a space for me to tell her my story. And then she just kind of let it land for her. And then affirmed my reality without editorializing. Yeah, about it, right? And like, that is a really powerful thing to do. So probably, it's not great for you as a partner to say, Oh, God, yeah, you remember that time we went on the road trip, and we ran out of gas, because like you were like, that was probably your ADHD like, do not bring those things up right now. I'm sure the person is sifting through their own memories quite effectively enough. So it is not for you as a partner, to try to backfill the person's autobiography because they already feel a little bit threatened in their subjectivity and selfhood. Let the person rewrite their own autobiography and then receive it right. Don't add commentary on top of it, don't like try to readjust the narrative to fit something you want. Because it is a very dodgy process of rebuilding your sense of yourself without saying like, you know, I think all these times that people were talking about my, my potential it may have been I was frazzled, like Do not interrupt and then say like, what was it actually that? Or was it something different, right? Because that just to be able to be vulnerable enough to share that insight and say, I've changed the way I view my past is such a scary thing to engage, yeah, do not contradict the person, do not add more details, just listen, and be there and assure the person that you love them, right. So far as you are concerned, they are the same person, right? And just make a space for listening. And then hold that space and then hold that person. They're just so fragile, so fragile, even if it looks like they're yelling all the time, and getting really angry about third grade school teachers or their parents or crying a lot about something or, you know, making a lot of wild plans for the future when their brain works. Again, like all of those emotions are rooted in a kind of rescripting of the self that's quite vulnerable, even if it doesn't always look that way.
Yeah. And I think one of the biggest challenges through that rescripting process is going through and figuring out okay, what's been masking and what has not been, and trying to drop masks that even with you as their most intimate partner, they have kept up. Right? Yeah, because there are certain things where, especially when we're going through the process, unsane was, is this just a mask that I've gotten so used to wearing that this is quote unquote, normal. And I'm not doing it because I want to impress you, I'm doing it because this is how normal is supposed to look like. And so therefore, I will appear normal. And so they might, they might drop that mask. Right and, and behave in ways that you are not used to. And that may be also frustrating. Because in part because you're not used to it, in part because they are leaning into their neuro divergence. And trying it on, right. What does it mean to sort of just be okay with not remembering people's names? Right, like, I'm just taking a little one, right? What is it to be? No, but I like what is it to be okay, with, you know, maybe the dishes do stay on the counter and extra night, right? Where I usually beat myself up or like, go to bed super late, because I get up and be like, Oh, crap, I didn't put the dishes away. And I know that I, you know, like that those are small actions. But there's, you know, there's a range of things and a range of coping strategies and masking that people with ADHD have done. Some almost subconsciously, right, in an attempt to appear normal. Yeah. Which is how you get is exhausting.
Well, yeah. But that's how you managed to land in your 30s. Never having been diagnosed? Exactly. Yes. been very successful. Yeah, asking. Yeah,
yeah. And, and I think part of it is part of the reason why main maybe many of us actually get it in our 30s or later is because she's so damn tired. Like, we don't have that energy anymore. Yeah. Right. Like, it's just like, I'm so tired all the time. Why am I so tired all the time. And again, that often, because of the internalization, and the years and years of beating ourselves up internally, again, it is often diagnosed initially as depression and anxiety in women, and not actually ADHD. And so there are you know, there are all these different things where it's like, it's thinking about, okay, what was it about ADHD that made me depressed? Right, yeah. And then thinking through that process and saying, well, and trying out and saying, Well, what if I didn't do that anymore?
Yeah, yeah. What if I right? Is this an essential part of my daily life? Or could I let this go? Right, like, and I think that's really, that's very common. And you know, in my paper, we keep talking about not the Robocop paper now, but the the autism paper that had 92 things in the works cited list has a chunk on how often people once they are diagnosed. Other people experience the post diagnosis as you became more autistic. Right, you became you you turned ADHD. But that's what happens when a newly diagnosed person is like, what if I didn't suppress all my stims? Right? So the inclination to the behavior was there the whole time, they were just so busy masking it, that releasing the mask feels to outside observers, as though the person has created new behaviors whole cloth, I mean, and sometimes that is experienced by, you know, the bystanders as something negative, like, you know, fuck it. I'm just gonna leave my dishes on the counter until the next day, because it is in fact overwhelming. And I am, you know, holding to a Betty Crocker housewife standard, that is somebody else's values and not mine.
And I'm exhausted at night. I don't care, right? Like, it doesn't get me up at night. And if it does keep you up at night, then maybe you need to put the dishes in the dishwasher.
I'm just right or it's something we can we can negotiate right? Yeah, I am never going to do that. So if you take this on, then I will do this other thing you don't like to do so you can negotiate that. So it's like sometimes that that reduction in masking is experienced as a creation of new difficulties for the loved ones, but also, sometimes the reverse is true.
With that, we will end this week's episode and pick up next week where Amy is going to continue talking about some of the good parts that can come from embracing your ADHD your nerd neurodivergent self Blair as always, I am ready writing on Twitter and Amy is did you want on Twitter, you can email us at all the things email@example.com or visit our website, all the things adhd.com hope you join us again next week. for another episode of all the things ADHD, part two of our conversation about being in a relationship with someone with ADHD. Thanks, everyone for listening. Have a great day.