DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I was reading this article (https://www.doctornerdlove.com/why-wont-my-husband-treat-his-mental-illness/) and some points you made, hit too close to home and wanted to get your opinion.
The gist of my question is: Do I have an undiagnosed ADHD in my mid 50’s ?
Let me explain where I am coming from. I was raised as an only child, mainly by a grandmother, an aunt and dad. Mom, was not much of a mom and was not in the picture while I was very young. She used to disappear and go live with her family for months, before showing up again for a short time and this cycle repeated it self over and again. While she was around, she was not a lovey-dovey kind. As a matter of fact, I still clearly remember actions of hostility towards me 50 years later.
My grandma and my aunt, doted over me on the other hand and I never felt lack of parental love. My dad loved me too, no questions asked. He never married in order not to put me in an environment with a stepmother and my aunt, dad’s sister, never married just to take care of me in my mother’s absence. My mother left the family picture, for good when I was 11 and since then, I saw her for a day or two every year, when her brother came to our city for taking care of some business contract.
As much as this sounds like a dysfunctional family picture, I was a happy child and was happy to see my mother leave for good. I was a little more than usual reclusive person as a child and did not make friends with everybody in the grade school easily but I had a few very good friends.
I was an exemplary student throughout my K-12 education. I sailed through those years with no problem and got admitted to a reputable engineering program at the local (to our city) university. This is where I started to make friends with people and came out of my self-proclaimed, introvert shell. Even though I struggled in my first two years in college, I graduated without any loss of years or even a semester. If you haven’t figured out yet, I became ad engineer. A problem solver if you will.
Now, I need to point out something in my life. My family held education ahead of everything and this notion was instilled to me all my life. I also saw people who start dating early in their lives, faltering through school years. So,I did not have girlfriend while I were in school, till I graduated from the masters program. I had female friends and I had no problem talking to them, but having a girlfriend has never happened. And I need to take a big part of responsibility on that.
Let me dig into that a little deeper. I was never a small frame child. I started first grade as a 4 ft 5 inches tall kid who weighed 84 lbs. When I graduated from High school, I was 5’10 and 240 lbs. An obese person. This did a lot on me. I was not confident and always had a fear of rejection on the back of my mind. So, I did not even try to have a girlfriend. In the hindsight, I now realize, I was totally oblivious to some signs of interest from few “female friends” but, let’s say it like that, past is past and no need to dwell on that.
I had my first girlfriend when I was 35. Relationship started great. She was also obese but were doing great on losing the bulge battle. So was I. Our relationship blossomed and we had some troubles we got back together and we finally got married 3 years down the road. Marriage lasted almost 9 years. But our cultural differences caused the demise of that marriage.
2 years after we have been legally separated, I met my current wife. We lived in “sin” for about 4 years and I resisted the idea of marriage, probably because I have never seen a successful one, but since it was important to her, I gave in and we got married 4 years ago.
Sorry for the long preamble but, I thought you might see something that I might have missed. My wife is a good person in the core, but our marriage is not a match made in heaven.
My wife loves to talk. I do not. I try to listen to her but when she starts going into too many tangents of a subject matter, I start to lose concentration and she gets upset. If you remember, I am an engineer, a problem solver. Tell me your problem and I will fix it or tell you it is beyond me and you need to seek help from a person, who is qualified better than I am. She tells me stuff that happened between her and another coworker of hers. Yes it is interesting if there is something that can be done about it but most of the time there is not or she doesn’t accept my suggested solution and keeps talking my ear off. So, your comment about the “going in one ear and out the other” on the referenced article applies to me very well. And there are other instances of finding myself not listening to her as she talks.
She also loves to say the same thing many times, over and over again until it turns into a full blown fight. And once it is over (which is never quick, takes hours) she is fine and expects me to be fine with that. I am not. It festers in my mind for days. I try to let it go but some small snide remark she makes abut something, which is not rare, brings everything back up. And back to the rabbit hole I go, of not listening. And this is getting worse.
Also, The comment about, “you know you have to write that book report, but you can not bring yourself up to it and do other things with fervor instead” comment. Yeah that is so me.
I have never been diagnosed with ADHD or any other mental issue so far. But in its day, when I was growing up, you did not hear ADHD every day. But I was never that hyperactive kid who couldn’t concentrate on one thing. My parents never had a reason to take me to a child psychiatrist or similar. So, I am quite confused.
Do I have ADHD that I don’t know about or what ?
Looking Around Confused
DEAR LOOKING AROUND CONFUSED: OK, LAC, the first thing I have to remind you is that Dr. NerdLove is not a real doctor; I’m a real fake doctor, with the best doctorate in metaphysics that twenty bucks could buy. But even if I were, I couldn’t diagnose you via a letter. That’s something that you would need to actually discuss with a medical professional, especially someone who specializes in psychological testing. They’re going to be in a much better position to tell you whether you have ADHD or other mental health conditions than I ever would be. And hey, if some of what folks have shared about their experiences sounds familiar, that’s a perfectly legitimate reason to look into getting tested. My own journey to getting diagnosed started when memes on Facebook and Twitter just started getting far too relatable.
All of that having been said: nothing you’ve described in your letter — either in your preamble or in your current relationship — sounds like ADHD to me. Going by what you’ve written, it sounds like you had a contentious relationship with your family, issues with body image and acceptance and self-esteem. Now, to be absolutely clear: this isn’t a declaration that you do or don’t have ADHD, just that what you describe doesn’t match my experience with my condition. This is why I recommend talking to a mental health professional. The fact that my experience was different doesn’t mean anything; a lot of what I recognize as symptoms now were because of how much having this was an underlying factor. But like I said: it doesn’t sound like ADHD as I’ve experienced it.
Similarly, what you describe about your current marriage sounds like issues of compatibility and communication, more than anything else. Take, for example, the tangents issue and the idea that you’re a problem solver. This can cause conflicts, because you’re likely missing what your wife is getting at. The odds are that she’s not asking you to solve things; she’s just sharing this aspect of her life with you. To the extent that she wants anything from you in those moments, it’s likely that she wants a sympathetic ear and some commiseration. More often than not, she knows what the answer is or what she needs to do, she’s just venting.
This, incidentally, is an issue a lot of guys have. They look for things to solve or fix — active solutions that they can contribute to. What they often don’t realize is that listening is an active solution; you’re providing the sounding board that lets your partner sort things out. Letting things go “in one ear and out the other” is going to come off as incredibly disrespectful to her because she’s trying her best to connect with you. Since you don’t see a “problem” to be fixed, you tune out… and thus you’re effectively telling her that you don’t care.
I’m not exactly surprised that this leads to conflict. It also sounds like either you and your wife have different fighting “styles”, or that things aren’t actually getting resolved. Some folks blow up and things get very loud and dramatic, but when they’re done, they’re done; the moment’s passed, the fight’s over, everything should be ok again now that everyone’s aired their grievances via volume. Others need to process and chew on things until they get to a reasonable conclusion, and that can take time. When you have a person who expects things to be resolved, while the other is still dwelling on it… well, there’s gonna be ugliness if they don’t find a way to come to a resolution.
And if she’s needling you until you blow up again… well, from what you’ve described, it could either be that she’s just picking fights, or she’s teasing you over something she legitimately thinks is resolved and doesn’t realize its’ still an issue for you. And considering you go back to not listening, it seems pretty clear that s--t isn’t getting resolved, no matter what.
So while I’d recommend getting tested if you want to get an answer to the ADHD question, that should probably take a back seat to getting your ass into couple’s counseling right the f--k now. It sounds like you and your wife have major communication issues and frankly, the way you seem to be acting towards her is incredibly disrespectful at best. If you want this marriage to work, counseling is going to have to be the start, so that you and she can see if there are ways to get around this fundamental disconnect. And even if you don’t decide that this is something you want to save, working with a couple’s counselor might help you recognize why you two are having compatibility issues, so you don’t make the same mistakes next time.
TL;DR: it doesn’t sound like you have ADHD, but talk to a real doctor, not a loudmouth with an advice column to get that answer. But whether you do or don’t have it, you need to make couple’s counseling a priority — and it needs to be a higher priority than getting tested.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org