Why can't I be heard?: So my wife is... - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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Why can't I be heard?

noles88 profile image
15 Replies

So my wife is super awesome and I love her. She's who convinced me to seek my diagnosis and it's changed my life. I was diagnosed at 30 about a year ago. I have had it my whole life though. But when I sent her an article that expressed how I feel (unable to be understood, acussed of anger when excited, told what to do, talked down to, and so on) she said it all seemed likes excuses or that she has another kid. It really sucked because I felt understood but was completely invalidated. What do I do?

15 Replies
Its18 profile image

I am in the same exact spot and have been for years. I believe for my situation it is that the struggle my wife has endured for years of promises of changing or thing being better never come or last, for me diagnosed 3 years ago at 40. It’s extremely challenging especially since “I’m” the one that is the cause of all the family issues. I know my wife is tired of all the up’s and down’s. So it a struggle even now as I still learn about my symptoms and actions and inactions, it hard as I try to improve and any miss step bring an avalanche of all past issues and disappointments and “you are never going to change and sick of empty promises”. I try not to take it personal as I know she doesn’t know what’s it like to have adhd or understand it more that just being distract able. I’m not sure what to do either, just wanted you to know you are not alone.

noles88 profile image
noles88 in reply to Its18

It means a lot. I know I do things that are unfathomable to a neurotypical but it works and makes since to me. We have 4 kids and life is crazy without ADHD. She has anxiety really bad and when it came up and she needed meds I was an advocate. I used my hyperfocus (this was years ago before my official diagnosis) to find out what I could do to help out and change how I interacted with her while have panic attacks or just down days. I just felt like when it came to me it wasn't an issue for her. I am also a pretty emotionally sensitive man, I grew up with 3 older sister, and I'm ADHD. I don't like it when people tell me I am though. What do I do when people tell me how I feel!?!?! That is probably the works it sets my skin on fire. Mainly because it's not how I feel. My excitement comes across as being mad, my confusion comes off as disrespectful or as if I shut down, and so on. I can't figure out how to say what I need to say because it comes out sounding like I am a dick. I want to feel equal and know she views me as such just can't take the down talk (which is how I process it) and I know she isn't saying it that way in her mind. Thanks for hearing and letting me know I'm not alone. I really do appreciate it.

Its18 profile image
Its18 in reply to noles88

I’m right there with you 3 kids, 5 dogs and I work a rotating schedule so consistently inconsistent. I am generally shut down because of “you are always grumpy” or “mad”. I have always been a people pleaser and not wanting to be a burden to people. So shut down emotions. For me communication is difficult especially about important issues that I might have the opposite opinion of I seem to come off yelling and I don’t think I am, I know I get anxious and I have a tendency to stutter, stammer and miss speak, so my frustration with myself seems like I’m yelling, so I just stop and shut down. My spouse help me with my diagnosis too and has the “cure” you just need to..., it is very hard to be “talked at” or “down to”. I feel the same as I have always been by her side with any issues she has had and not judging. I think for me it’s a case of rational and emotional. I think she is coming from an emotional place( mostly being hurt) and I’m coming from a rational place, so just constant miss communication and miss understanding.

noles88 profile image
noles88 in reply to Its18

It feels like you are in my brain!!! I have the same issues and have a tendency to get defensive about it. Communication has always been hard because I grew up in a family where we didn't talk or show feelings. Of course I couldn't help it and neither could my sisters, oldest wont say what she has and the other to are ADD and ADHD. That was part of why I slipped through the cracks My ADHD sister is a 10 on an 1-5 scales lol. I get the I am a man hear what I say, working on that, and my point is ignored or not understood. I really appreciate you opinion and understanding, which is so rare for me. What are things that you did that helped or didn't? Do you do other things besides your meds like exercises, avoid/eat particular foods, or supplements/daily vitamins?

Its18 profile image
Its18 in reply to noles88

Same here, third of 4, raised catholic. Ignore all feels and such. Don’t talk about feelings or anything. I felt like neglected or forgotten about most of my life yet oddly supported by my parents. Tried to not be too much of a burden. Older sister has depression, younger sister has depression and maybe ADHD not sure don’t talk about it. I am currently on vyvance 50mg, I take omega 3, super b and niacin. I try to eat generally healthy and try to exercise. Years ago I ran a lot and did yoga, which helped a lot, just trying to get back to those.

HadEnuf profile image
HadEnuf in reply to noles88

For those who mind-read—always inaccurately—I have had to use, “I'll thank you for not reading my mind: having to deal with what's in here would drive you insane.”

Nobody has the right to presume to know what anybody else is feeling; but they're always welcome to ask and to “get it” or not when told.

Crystalsphinx profile image

Hi. I have no advice but I’m running into the same problem EXACTLY!! With my sister. I’m trying to figure out some strategies. If you think of something please text me back

noles88 profile image
noles88 in reply to Crystalsphinx

I try to have important talks face to face or over a phone call. We usually know what we are saying and read a text and say yeah that clear to what I am saying. Then get a why are you mad?/You are being really rude/selfish/... If I have to text I have recently implemented a feeling so it is clear.

Example: Why did you not text me back when you finished at the store? I'm confused not mad.

Sometimes it works sometimes it works others I get back well you sound mad. Which makes me baffled how people tell you how you feel lol. But honestly it is different with everyone I talk with. I do different text patterns for my wife (anxiety), sister(ADD/ADHD), parents(defiantly something that hasn't been diagnosed with 4 kids with ADD/ADHD and my oldest sisters mystery disorder.) In person is always easiest because you can say pause or no that's not what I was trying to say.

I also try to have something I can write down notes so I don't cut them off but know what I want to say about something they said. Repeat what they are telling or confirm it with them.

Example: I don't like going to dinner with you because you always talk to strangers.

So you don't like me being friendly to people? But really it could be no I don't like you ignoring me to talk to strangers or vise versa. Hope this helps it's always hard to talk and I'm very social.

Crystalsphinx profile image
Crystalsphinx in reply to noles88

Hi noles88. Thanks for responding. I also forgot to mention that I have a problem with slow cognitive processing- An example of this is if my sister asks am I mad for some reason , I don’t respond right away but ½, hour later I know why I’m mad at her. So this also adds to my problems with communication. I’ve known about my ADHD for 10years and I’ve learned to live with it. I agree with you about text messages or email. Even if I explain myself that I’ve had a bad day after leaving a rude message- not knowing that it’s rude- I’ll still get a sarcastic message back because the ending was abrupt although I never intended it to be.

I hope this makes sense😗

Imoverthis2020 profile image

I highly recommend reading "Is It You, Me or ADHD?"

Verstreater86 profile image

Running into the same at 33 and just being diagnosed a year ago. I read and had my wife read "You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder". After I read it I realized that I'm done being talked downed to and completely did a 180 to stand up for myself not only for her to stop but also to get her to realize that she contributes to the emotional distance between us. The downtalking pushes me away. So my responses are now "can you please repeat that" or "please lower your tone" because it usually comes out in anger. So she read the book and has a much better understanding that my "flaws" are symptoms to this "disease" and that I didn't choose to be this way just like her cancer patients didn't choose cancer and just like she didn't choose rheumatoid arthritis. After that it really hit home for her and she has worked very hard to come at my in a loving manner instead of a resentful one. We also do a mirroring technique that we learned at a marriage Seminar through our church. It helps alot because many times for us, and likely for you, is that there are many times we say things to each other and the message we receive isn't quite the message the sender was trying to get across. Instead of letting the anger, concern, resentment ect. build up we hold it in and mirror instead. In mirroring the first person gets to talk while the other listens until they say they are finished saying what they need to say. If the speaker is rambling, the listener can request to stop so they can take their turn to repeat their understanding of what the speaker said followed by "did I understand that correctly?" If no, allow speaker to release without interrupting and then repeat. If yes, then ask "are you finished?" If no, you still listen. Otherwise repeat the process until you are able to rephrase what the speaker said in a way that allows the speaker to understand that you truly do understand what they were trying to say. After you are able to summarize the speakers side, the roles are reversed. This allows for both to voice their opinions in a calm and collective manner but you MUST respect the process and listen only when you are the listener. No quick responses or getting defensive. These are some things that work but we are definitely far from perfect and continue to seek counseling which I highly recommend so there is an unbiased middle ground but ensure they are trained in ADD so ask questions during intake like what their training is with ADD and what kind of patterns do you see in ADHD marriages. It helps me to know that the therapist doesn't look at the problem as my own and that we are a team and belittling only makes things worse. Anyway, I could go on more but it's bedtime.

noles88 profile image

I'll need to get the book asap. I try to do the mirroring technique but struggle with falling back into the heat of the moment arguments. I know I can be calm always and my emotions are lighter fluid which I pray about and work on daily. Thanks for the feedback and input I appreciate it very much!

Billy50 profile image

Life is measured in steps. I get gloomy when I try to tackle it all at once - Me against the World. The World has always been a stage, an ongoing play. It is not a TV Sitcom. Sometimes, I wish it were. I could create the plot. So, mainly just keep moving, motivated, and be okay with slow periods. It is okay to rest. It is okay to just start something new, just to keep busy. The World is hostile towards ADHD, because the World rewards people who are quick on their feet. So, we have to learn patience and to manage our moods.

TMeeps02 profile image

(Really long. Trying to include things for other readers with similar questions.)

Not that all the emerging above topics aren't important but many won't help with the original question, which was, "Why can't I be heard?", and (as well?), "What do I do [when a relative says something which I feel is invalidating]?"

There's a lot we could break down:

The answer to the first Q depends on your deeper intent. Is "heard" of this example, or in general? 'Be' heard, or 'get' heard? By your spouse, or everyone? What do you think it is you need in order to consider yourself heard, and in what sense? (Feelings, words, ideas, etc. …) Which is more important to you, a nod, an idea, an interaction? … Saying 'everything, all of it' doesn't help. That might be true but it won't help you do the work. Suggesting to take time and specify isn't a challenge but a way to investigate your own reaction and define your real needs to yourself.

… This leads to the second part.

The answer to the second Q has to do with what exactly made you upset. We can generalize about our own lives but you and your family are all unique individuals.

Let's pretend (what if) you, simply, felt in need of an ego boost after someone was nasty to you, or you had an otherwise hard day. No harm in that. But, opening up, saying so, and asking for a hug or something is very different than (essentially) demanding a person absolve you of something, or complaining about something they've already demonstrated they understand (which would be a round-about way of looking for the same thing). That would probably rub them the wrong way and they might feel kept at arm's length and disrespected instead of feeling like they were helping you deal with your feelings in an open and genuine way as an emotional partner. Especially for a spouse, a situation like that could seem difficult to respond warmly.

Ask yourself: So what, if her word choice made you feel bad? Do *you* think your point was invalid? Was it her word choice, or something else? We don't know why she said what she did or what your intention was behind sharing the piece. Arguments, like any interaction, aren't actually linear. Sometimes both people are in the wrong but each separately, and those things in turn separate from whatever other issues might be the case. Maybe you don't realize what she assumed your intention was. What was the goal? What were you trying to achieve or share and what was the expected result you didn't get? Why might that have happened? What was the context? What happened in the hours or day before the statement? Maybe it wasn't you at all and the writing style itself was to blame. Or, maybe your feelings would've come across better coming from you. Maybe it was simply the act of forwarding at all. Forwarding another person's words can go either way. Or maybe it was another thing entirely.

For whatever reason (maybe because they genuinely don't quite understand), there seems to be a very popular exchange out there right now, usually extolled or encouraged by family members, that a given problem when dealing with a developmentally different person is not and is never behavior at all -- it's neurology in total … and they'll say this for everything, which is the problem. Doing that invalidates the exact condition they're attempting to champion. Regardless of positive intention, when they say it for nigh everything they're actually enabling their loved ones in general and hindering their growth. As a counselor friend of mine says: sometimes it's a bit of both. Just because you're blind doesn't mean you can't "write" a letter.

Everyone makes the wrong behavioral choice sometimes, and behavior, in this sense, isn't about how I "gave" myself ADHD, or, whether it can "go away," or even how it manifests. It's the description of how I choose to manage and present myself in any given context. My behavior can be great at work, bad at home. You don't get to say "I have a condition" and that's that, because, in this situation, the condition IS about cognitive and emotional development, not personality or how wonderful your rapport with dogs. That's what it is, so that's what you work on. If you didn't need to you wouldn't have it.

Unfortunately, people with ADHD are often left to fight an uphill battle communicating with friends and family ... not because of disorder but resulting from social and cultural ideas of what the ADHD construct is and how to deal with it.

Older individuals (meaning, not young children), whether those diagnosed as adults OR those diagnosed as children but since grown with limited intervention, often have entrenched bad habits … Learned habits that can be worked with and in some cases unlearned. These aren't part of the ADHD but an expression of the environment the person knew, knows, and how they imagine themselves within it.

Is it fair that they get thrown to the wolves to fend for themselves socially and emotionally? No, but that was then this is now -- it's up to you to do something about it appropriate to your life. You cannot, above all, seek anyone else fend for you emotionally, even though it really sucks there wasn't a lot of leadership or education for when you were smaller and busy learning about self and life in a less hectic environment. There are certain advantages to examining yourself and your environment as a kid, but, to be honest, equal but different, maybe greater, advantage to doing the work as an adult.

There is vanishingly little encouragement (that I see, maybe I'm wrong) for ADHDers to enter any behavioral type of therapy. Whether this is because of people's mistaken belief ADHD isn't global, a belief therapy itself is an admission of guilt or brokenness, that the word 'behavior' is used, or that it belies overreliance on medication, the fact is, ADHD makes it difficult to control thoughts and emotions. That results in communication problems when incorrectly handled and these things exacerbate as time goes on.

It might not be fair that ADHD causes adults to have to deal with rubrics that, yes, are superficially defined as "acting like a child," but, unless you learn to examine where your behavior, not neurology, is falling short (just like anyone else has to, it doesn't matter that the playbook is different), what this comes to mean isn't that those with attentional issues do or will misbehave and act out like kids. It can come to mean the *individual* doesn't necessarily interact with themselves as an adult might … which is what defines social maturity.

To give an ADHD example, say I can never find my socks in the morning. This makes me late for work, my boss gets angry, I chastise myself about traffic instead of the real issue, I don't finish my priority task on time, I feel worse and worse. I stay behind after my coworkers leave. I get some peace but forget I was supposed to pick up dinner. I get home late (which normally wouldn't be a big deal but I was supposed to do dinner, which I've forgotten about). I don't notice I'm stalking around, gloomy, and I accidentally step on one of the children's toys I didn't see. It breaks and … I can't take it all -- the way *I* feel about *me* having caused a bunch of chaos and mistakes. I'm viewing myself stumbling around failing all day and that's what I'm currently upset about, but no one else knows that. What they see is: I came home late from work grumpy, no mention, no call, stomped around forgetting I'd promised to pick up dinner, rant about how my laundry isn't done, break my kid's toy then "yell" about it, and about how the floor needs to be clean and toys need to get picked up and the kids need to stop getting upset over their mismanaged stuff.

Don't mistake the situation; that might all essentially be the case. I'm not exactly incorrectly upset ... but by being distracted from the situation, focused on my feelings about myself, I didn't notice how the situation appeared to anyone watching or whether my *reactions* were appropriate to the moment. They had no idea I was worried about work, or was late home because I knew I had to finish a job, or was chastising myself about the laundry, or didn't mean to stomp around gloomy and ranting, or looked careless stepping on the toy which I probably wouldn't have done if I wasn't stomping, or was angry at myself, not the children. I might not have intended to appear like I was demanding my laundry be done for me, expecting dinner be served me when I forgot, or blaming my child for my stepping on his toy, or his emotions, but it seemed like that. Additionally, the entire debacle actually was my fault! Not that I lost my socks or got behind on my laundry; it was that I'd been dealing with it all badly from the get go, letting it build up. I created the situation, emotionally, inside my head. ADHD might have stolen my socks, so to speak, but ADHD didn't create the reality I was incorrectly perceiving and ADHD isn't stopping me from altering destructive patterns or asking for help identifying them.

My disregard for what actually happened in the greater picture ended up with me disregarding the needs and feelings of everyone around me, not the other way around. I never gave them reason or opportunity to understand the immediate situation or what I was thinking.

… but it could get worse. Maybe, I even got really defensive. Maybe I did something like, when asked why I was acting so grouchy, shot back, 'Why did you even ask me to pick up dinner? You knew it was a lot of trouble. Now everything is too late. I'll never get enough sleep.' I'm still intending to say I'm mad at myself for screwing up, and in my head, I'm busy watching dominoes of screw-ups arching into the future. But what they *hear* is me avoiding the question, as that is the objective interaction I put it out there. And what they possibly might *intuit* -- not because of what I said but because I avoided the question -- is me implying they are really responsible because they really messed up more than I did. Or, maybe, instead of just answering the question truthfully, I fly into some barely related topic about how they aren't perfect either (when it's not related, it doesn't justify anything, doesn't change anything, and no one asked *I* ever be perfect anyway).

The saying 'you weren't wrong, your behavior was wrong' is useful here, right? That might make one think of childhood tantrums, and cause offense, but that's not the point. The point is to take that message, understand it, then use it. Question what it reveals about behavior, not what it might or might not say about you.

In the sock example, I see I had what was essentially a big baby fit. But I'm only childish at the end of the movie IF I don't view it and say, "Wow, I'm so sorry, I was frustrated and lost in my head and wasn't paying attention. I wasn't talking to you guys, it was just me mad at myself. By the way, can we hang up a laundry board and sock organizer, and use the dryer alarm. It might really help me. I'll glue the toy after dinner. I'm sorry I didn't see it. I might not be able to fix it but I can put a box out next to the doorway, so we can always know where the toys are next time, okay?"

All we can all do is try our best. Mistakes happen. They can happen a lot. Apologizing for things or trying to make things right is something else entirely and is what makes you mature or not. No one gets an apology pass.

The first step is to realize these ARE emotions talking. You actually do have to accept vulnerability out of yourself. You do have to show or explain your inner workings to your loved ones. Showing emotions, understanding emotions, acting out, being sensitive, and getting defensive are all different things. There's being emotional and being over-emotional. ADHDers often have to work harder at emotional competencies … not being reactionary, not taking offense or being defensive. It sucks and not always fair but them's the breaks because that itself is part of what defines ADHD.

The second step is to define yourself. Define your needs and feelings to yourself. ADHDers struggle with sense of self. They often drift into people pleasing mode, which degrades the self, often because they imagine, whether aware of it or not, that the failure they secretly feel they actually are can be counter-balanced by codependent behavior. (It just makes things worse.) No one needs to be responsible for other people's behavior. Everyone needs to be responsible for their own.

The third step is to actually take control of that self. This is not the same as imagining who you'd rather be, or like to be. Take ownership if you do not. Give others boundaries relative to yourself (i.e. recognize when something is about you, or about them, and decide how to approach interactions between the two) and ask yourself where you can be more present (aware of your surroundings, aware of what's going on in the communal situation). It's *your* life, not a series of stories where things happen to you and you react to them like a piece of scenery.

It's also not a competition with a scorecard where you're losing and struggling to win bonus points. Exactly because of common ADHD difficulty with making decisions, following steps, working memory, tendency to impulsively act, react, and to get defensive as a result of past negativity, they run a real risk of being overly reactive adults in general -- kneejerk people who make assumptions and judgements when there's a laundry list of other evidence to consider which they might not have noticed, or a lack of evidence they haven't considered. They might turn into scorekeepers if not careful, or bitterly give up and come to expect things they haven't earned or are unrealistic for anyone anyway.

I'm banging that last drum pretty hard because I've seen how bad it can get. There is a line that legitimately does sometimes get crossed when people are made aware of their blind spots and don't know what to do, aren't offered direction, or don't want to hear it because they can't imagine they can work it out. Everyone's got blind spots, but some people get blinded by the blind spots, so to speak.

… Picture the person who refuses to go out because they believe they're overweight. What does that even mean? That IS an excuse, even though their feelings are real, and maybe that person is a different body type or heavier than their friends. But so what? It's about their high standards and what messages they can't overcome, whether the messages originated with them or not. That doesn't change objective reality, which is that they AREN'T too heavy to leave the house. If a person is so heavy they can't stand, or get through the door, that's the guy that can't get out because of his weight. It doesn't matter how those two people compare in size, what matters is that the questions and needs are entirely different.

Is it right to say (ADHD in this case) is an excuse? Not normally. Just like you wouldn't say leg paralysis is an excuse not to run. However, the word "excuse" can mean a lot of different things depending on when and how it's used. Here we are intending to say these conditions are real, not imagined. But that's not always an individual's debate. We sometimes imagine it is, because of cultural messaging that if you don't agree to something you are making an "excuse" using some imagined person, place, or thing … But if my daughter tells me she can't throw me a heavy ball because she's female, she's *using* an excuse, even if she can't throw it with as much power as her brother. The question you then have to ask is, who cares? Why? What is really bothering her? Why was that her response? Why was that more important right then than playing the game together? Even if she truly cannot perform identically to her brother, that's not the issue and was never on the table in the first place. What information she attempts to leverage in the slot of [the excuse expression] is not the point. I just asked her to toss me the ball, not be someone else.

So, when a person with what they perceive as baggage claims they can never do something or will always do something (absolutism and catastrophic black and white thinking) because of said baggage, that's using an excuse. There is something else at the root.

ADHD specific: I legitimately don't see the trash spilling out of my room. That's literal, not a figure of speech. But, to KNOW that I've likely left the trash too long, or left plates of food out, that's another matter all together. Nothing is stopping me from setting up coping mechanisms (to tidy in this case) but myself. And if I don't care that much and don't need my house that clean? That's cool. But I need to own that and not make excuses to someone who I feel is judging me if I am truly comfortable with my own behavior. That ownership is all up to me. That's what self realization is. It should be something people can sense from you, like when a person is admirable in their discernment and gravity even though you don't agree with them. Or when a person is magnetically attractive not because of how they cover up flaws but because of how they carry themselves and work what they've got even though they were never "traditionally" good looking.

If my friend is a manic-depressive, or so forth, and hits me in a fit of mood, which he knows I don't accept, and I walk out, it doesn't mean I don't understand his illness. His illness didn't hit me, he did. I might understand how his mind works and how it occurred to him that a fight right then might have been a good idea but that doesn't mean, and should never mean, I would or should accept abuse. Walking out also doesn't mean I'm suddenly abandoning him or our friendship, even though his moods might, at the time, tell him that I am. That his moods are making him think his reaction is the truth is the case, but that such IS the truth of reality will never be the case. The truth is, I walk out because I will not allow him to abuse me.

If I offer him a chance to reconcile by way of an apology, which I would as we are friends and I did not intend on leaving the friendship at that time, he can choose to apologise or not. That is up to him. But if he chooses not to apologise, and continues to defend his actions as unavoidable because of his illness (giving a hollow apology rendered meaningless or considering one unnecessary), or even, furthermore, that I should be the sorry one as I "betrayed and abandoned" him and should care more for him (more for him than myself, it is implied, as this would mean caring for his feelings of the moment more than caring for getting hit) as I know his moods are painful for him, he's the one who has made the choice to lessen the strength and priority of our friendship. If that's what he needs -- to walk away -- that can ultimately be valid, even if the catalyst wasn't right, but he's still responsible for being the one who pushed me away with his behavior.

Verstreater86 had good advice, and you notice how they pointed out that this type of communication and self work isn't unusual. They see a "normal person" therapist, but also suggest getting one with experience in ADD. It's what we all struggle with no matter who we are. It's just shades. The difference is, if you speak another language, and realize you are speaking another language, there's an additional onus on you to make yourself heard whether you use their words or your own. The other person can't know what they don't know and it's unfair of us to expect they suddenly do (and often we expect they understand better than we ourselves even can, thereby knowing how to solve our problems for us as well). Verstreater86 is yet again correct in naming it, "standing up for oneself."

RollingThunder profile image

Hi, I would try to Learn as much about ADHD as possible, learn how to live with it, make changes in yourself, and be the best you can then worry about your wife! She does not seem to be very understanding. In a way we are like children that have not grown up and that is our first order of business. I make a list of the top 3 things to get done today and usually can complete 2 of them and move the 3rd to the next day. Do the adult things first, like paying the bills, etc. My husband is really insulting sometimes, we are harder to live with than most people. So I need to grow up, take care of business, and not just the things I like to do, but the stuff I do not want to do! I think my husband is ADHD so that makes it real hard for both of us. Work on you, we really are “awesome” people so hug that!Hugs 🤗

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