Saturday, December 12

Bad wife! No biscuit!

It only took me three and a half years to get a clue.

For three and a half years now, I've been yelling at Tim. Well, sometimes yelling. Other times, it was a rant or even a conversation. A lot of crying too. All of it trying to figure out why we kept having the same problems over and over. We'd figure out a compromise to a situation, but it wouldn't stick. Tim would still buy on impulse. He'd forget to tell me important things. And plenty of other instances. And I couldn't understand why.

Now that I'm reading some books on ADD -- right now, I'm working on a Thom Hartmann book, which stresses that ADD shouldn't be viewed as a disease or illness, just as a fact -- I see Tim in these pages. The traits described in the book practically paint Tim's portrait.

So many of the things I got angry about were listed as characteristics of ADD. It made me start thinking. About all the times I lectured and ranted to Tim, furious and exasperated over yet another misunderstanding. Or the times I angrily told Tim I couldn't deal with it anymore, had tried to compromise, and now he needed to come and meet me in the middle. And all the times he sat there, miserable and penitent, promising he'd do better.

It made me feel pretty terrible. I feel like I failed him in some very basic way.

Tim says that I'm overreacting -- though he certainly appreciates my apologies -- because there was no way I could have known. Except that I have known for years that he has ADD, and I've made very little effort to truly understand what that means. I figured it just meant he was impulsive and forgetful.

And it's not like Tim could have corrected me. Thanks to a lot of factors, he really doesn't know much about ADD either. I asked him if/how they explained ADD to him, since he was only about 10 at the time. He isn't too clear on the specifics, so he just remembers a general feeling of, "This is why Tim can't sit still."

So they put him on Ritalin, which was a resounding failure. Lacking other options (this was back in the late 80s, when Ritalin was more or less the go-to med), his parents put him in Special Ed. There, he learned a few classroom coping skills -- mainly how to focus by blocking everything else out. After a year and a half, they were satisfied enough with the results to put him back in his old school.

And then? Nothing. His parents never tried new medications. They never tried to find out more about the condition. They never took him to a doctor for it again, or had him see a therapist (psychological or occupational) to help deal with it. He was just expected to pick up and move on.

So, really, how could Tim know what sprang from ADD and what didn't? How could he have told me when I was making unreasonable demands? Neither of us realized just how thoroughly ADD affects everything.

But we're learning, that's for sure. As I read, it's becoming clear that ADD pervades most of his personality. In other words, he's spent most of his life beating himself up for things that are hard-wired into him. Not to mention all the time other people were giving him grief.

His parents would tell him to clean the kitchen and get angry when, hours later, he was not finished. They'd accuse him of slacking off. In fact, Tim sees every item in the kitchen as a separate task. Looking at the kitchen that way, it's no wonder he feels overwhelmed at the prospect. No wonder he never knows where to start.

Our solution? I'll get him started. If I want him to clean the kitchen, I need to write a list of what I want him to do, and then we'll decide together on which task to start with. After awhile, the list may become ingrained in Tim's mind. If not, he'll have an iTouch around the end of January. He can make lists for various chores, errands and other situations.

It'll be a lot of work. And it will involve more misunderstandings, I'm certain. Plus a lot of trial and error. But at least we'll be working together instead of butting heads. I'm kind of appalled to look back and see how much time Tim and I have wasted by trying to undo basic personality traits.

And yes, I understand that we have the rest of our lives ahead of us. I also know hindsight is 20-20. Still, I feel like this should have been a priority long before now.

I guess, in the end, what matters is that I'm making it a priority now.

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Anonymous Becky said...

well your ending comments is basically what I was going to say so all I have left is congrats on figuring it out now and good luck for thw future.

December 12, 2009 at 11:04 AM

Blogger M.Brayfield said...

And that's the important thing, that you're aware of it now.

December 12, 2009 at 11:12 AM

Blogger a.b. said...

In cases like this, my mother used to tell me, "you wouldn't beat yourself up if you didn't care so much." Becoming informed is the first major step; just remember for being forgiving of yourself and of him. You were both only doing the best you could with what you knew, until you knew better.

December 14, 2009 at 2:33 PM


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