It’s tough to carve out time for writing (or anything else, for that matter) when you have a career, a family –a life! – going on. And when you share that life with someone who has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), it can make every day a little more interesting, frustrating, and challenging – and sometimes more painful too –not just for your loved one, but for you. Although I’ve counseled adults with ADD over the years, this is also a personal issue for me, because my husband has Attention Deficit Disorder. Even though he didn’t know it when he was growing up, he understands now (as do so many other adults with ADD) that he’s been struggling with many symptoms of the disorder since childhood.
Adults with ADD often have an extremely difficult time staying focused. They may look at you blankly after a conversation and ask, “Can you run that by me again?” No wonder they’re often late, turn up at appointments on the wrong date and/or at the wrong time, and forget to stop by the grocery store to pick up something for dinner, even though you gave them a shopping list just half an hour ago.
It took me years to realize how specific I have to be when I ask my husband, Reese (as I usually call him) to meet me somewhere. If I say, “Meet me at Panera,” there’s a 50-50 chance he’ll be waiting for me at Starbucks. And there’s a 100% chance I’ll be totally frustrated, because I’ll be at Panera, of course, trying to reach him on the cell phone he probably left at home. What can make living with adults with ADD even more confusing is that, while they have difficulty focusing on some things, they also often have the ability to hyper-focus on things they find stimulating and challenging. Which means that even though my husband can sit at his laptop for hours working on a single photography project, there’s a good chance that everything else on his “to do” list will still be undone at the end of the day.
My husband’s distractibility affects me because I allow myself to be distracted by it. I get caught up in whatever crisis is occurring in his world at the moment. For example, the other day we decided to go to a coffee shop so we could both do some work on our laptops. We were on our way out the door when the following interchange occurred:
Reese: “I can’t find my phone.”
Me: “You had it 10 minutes ago.”
Reese: No response.
Me: “I’m dialing it now.”
Reese: “It’s ringing.”
Me: “Did you find it?”
Reese: “ Not yet. No, wait -- here it is, under my desk.”
Me: “Good. Let’s go.”
Reese: “Did you see my bag?”
Me: “Which bag, Reese?”
Reese: “The one that goes over my shoulder.”
Me.: “Not sure which one you mean. Can’t you take another one?”
Reese: “I used it yesterday.”
Me: “This is my writing time. I need to go. Do you want to meet me there?”
Reese: “I’ve got it. Have you seen my keys?”
Fifteen minutes later, we were on our way. In the end, I took my own car, drove straight to my usual Starbucks and finished writing this post.
I have no idea where he ended up – probably at Panera. I didn’t try to call him, because somehow or other – even though he’d found his cell at home and should have had it with him – I just knew he wouldn’t answer.