This blog was inspired by a webinar on ADDitudeMag.com presented by Dr. Ellen Littman. (drellenlittman.com)
Being a mom or a wife can be the job from hell, especially if you have ADHD. There’s an explanation.
It sounds bad but don’t despair, there is good news coming. I never tell you something dreadful without giving you a way to manage it. But first, let’s deal with reality (aka, the bad news).
Of course, we all agree that men and women are equal in work, pay, and abilities. However, our bodies are different. Our hormonal systems operate differently. That causes us to think, react, and feel differently.
So here’s the scoop. ADHD is different in women, even though men have some of the same traits, our brains process estrogen and glucose differently.
With women’s cycles always going up and down, estrogen is always fluctuating. When estrogen is high- our dopamine is high. Feeling calm, we’ve got it all together and can conquer the world. But when estrogen is low… look out, get out of the way, and do not speak (because whatever you say will be used against you).
Estrogen takes us on an emotional roller coaster. I’m not saying that it’s okay to scream at your husband when he asks what time dinner will be ready (it’s ready when it’s finished!), I’m saying that there is a physiological explanation of what causes us to turn into mini-hulks.
Sadly, our beloved men and children are often the recipients of our verbal estrogen outbursts. Believe me (and I know you do if you are a woman with ADHD), we are not happy with ourselves when our estrogen grabs us by the neck, blindfolds us, casts a spell on us and turns us into bad witches.
This is what it feels like when we are emotionally hypersensitive:
Everything (all inclusive) happens faster inside our head.
Everything is more intense.
Thoughts, feelings, reactions stick around much longer than they should.
We have a low tolerance level.
We are irritable, agitated, and feeling overwhelmed.
And as loud and cranky as we seem, we are not expressing what we really feel. Sometimes it’s just too hard to get the words out right. We don’t like confrontation, even though we are acting confrontational. It’s hard to say the words. We don’t want to upset anyone, so we hold our deep dark secrets inside. So what do we do? We pack it all up, hold it inside and then explode at the wrong thing, which is usually something totally unrelated.
Then because we only think in black and white, we see ourselves (and others) as smart or stupid, and we aren’t sure what is right or wrong. Everything is extreme. But please don’t point that out to us. We have to come to it on our own terms, in the right place and at the right time.
We start talking to ourselves in our negative voice. We’re trying so hard but can’t seem to hold it all together. Things are never good enough, or never just right. It’s not your fault. It’s not our fault.
Even though we adore being with our families, sometimes we feel lonely and misunderstood.
As hypersensitive people; sounds are louder, fabrics are scratchier, foods have more textures, and smells are stronger. It happens all day and we often don’t notice it. We are so busy trying to regulate ourselves by dealing with our over-reactive responses to what we touch, smell, and hear; that we are on edge, jumpier and react quicker.
There is an internal restlessness- a squirming inside- that makes us jumpy, and our mouths release words we soon regret. Embarrassed and ashamed, we try to hide behind ourselves, which makes us more tense and isolated.
Don’t despair. There are ways to cope with all this internal commotion.
1. Understand the ADHD brain- to prevent negative mental and verbal comments.
ADHD defies logic. Take comfort in knowing there is a neurological explanation (even though it doesn’t make sense nor is it visible). It is frustrating to those who have it because no one believes what we say we feel; which then confuses us even more, making us think that we are going crazy too.
2. NO judgment- NO criticism
Without understanding, it’s easy to be critical and judgmental. Criticism and judgmental comments are always harmful to the one who speaks or thinks them, (remember silent thoughts can be heard!) and for they are harmful for the one who is being judged. We are already hard on ourselves. Our inner voice is constantly judging and criticizing who we are; we don’t need to hear it from others. So please don’t roll your eyes and give us dirty looks. We know what they mean.
3. Get help!
Find a therapist who gets it, someone you can talk to who really understands what this feels like. It’s easy to isolate, withdraw, feel alone and misunderstood. Don’t let that happen. Unless you have it, you don’t get it. It is a confusing, contradictory mindset that doesn’t make any sense. Don’t pile up your negative thoughts. If you do, they will come out later. You will be screaming at your kids, and you could destroy a potentially happy marriage. Our minds are like pressure-cookers. The pressure needs to be paid attention to, and released in little doses so that it doesn’t explode.
This doesn’t mean you should scream at your kids or husband in little spurts, it means that you have to pay attention to your own thoughts and find a healthy outlet for them.
4. Men and women: Talk to each other, face-to-face!
Shut off the phones, turn away from the computers and have a conversation (not in moments of negative emotion but when emotions are calmer). Be open to hear what your partner has to say. Take the time to listen to each other. ADHD is hard on a relationship and can be destructive if not treated. If you’re willing to work to make it better, things will get better. If not, they will get worse. Problems don’t vanish. They come back to haunt us. Be willing to grow through the difficulties together. Know what to talk about. Not everything needs to be discussed. You have to decide what is worth talking about.
5. Focus on your strengths
It’s so easy to forget all the good times and qualities in a person when times are tough. Remember what you fell in love with. There is something good underneath all of those negative thoughts. Dig them out. Hang onto them.
6. Don’t judge yourself by society’s standards
Somehow, somewhere, someone decided that there is a time schedule for living. We judge ourselves based on this pseudo-schedule. No one lives on the same timeline, doing the same things at the same time. Moms do it at the playground and then it doesn’t stop. My child should be sitting, walking, talking, married, and parenting their own children on society’s schedule. It’s unrealistic, and it causes jealousy, unnecessary pressure, and sadness.
7. Find the time to enjoy each other- laugh, be silly, lighten up, and have fun!
Too often we get so bogged down with the hyper fast-paced world we live in, that we forget to have fun. When was the last time you were silly together? When was the last time you laughed?
8. TAKE TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF !!!!
Take time during the day to do something that makes you happy, not for somebody else. Nurture yourself. You can’t be a good wife or mom, sister, or friend if you feel edgy, agitated, and exhausted all the time.
Massage your soul. Love, laugh, and cuddle. Smile.
It’s fairly clear from your phraseology that you believe you speak for pretty much all or at least most women with the condition (“We” do this; “we” do that … in the service, I guess, of attempting to generate some feeling of fellowship).
And of course you’ll leap to blame my even daring to ask this question on my “emotional hypersensitivity”.
who – or at least whom do you believe – is “we” …?
When I speak of “we,” I am referring to anyone else who shares my experiences. That becomes a fellowship.
Hope this answers your question. Thank you for reading my post.
Hi, I have been reading and reading and searching and reading as a spouse of one with add/hd.
As it comes as no surprise to you after 13 years and a 6 year old daughter, I might be one who is at the end of his rope.
Let me tell you first what I am finding so far and then I would like to address this brief writing titled “1. “How to Not Get a Divorce or Scream at Your Kids”.
So far I am discovering here and elsewhere that I need to learn that my wife’s “problem” is special and that I need to learn to embrace it and not cause it to become the monster that it can become by saying or doing anything to bring it from the vast dark recesses it occupies in her brain.
OK. I can work on that.
So far all I seem to try to do is avoid setting it off anyway, albeit horribly so far. I am trying to improve. So far, I just make myself scarce and feel horrible when my daughter gets in the crossfire of the witch within.
OK, I said I would work on it. Be the cheerleader, Don’t do anything to upset the balance of the hormones. These are the things I have learned. Let it go, Let it go.
So, now, I read this posting. After all you said in the beginning you would not tell us ANYTHING bad without telling us how to fix it. I thought, wow, I should share this with my wife. Should be good!
“How to Not Get a Divorce or Scream at Your Kids” Your solution seems to be, correct me if I am too trite. ” “Take time to take care of yourself? Nurture yourself? Take time during the day to do something that makes you happy”
Seriously? One thing that is so hard for “us” to understand is how “those” can be so self absorbed. So selfish. So slothful – caused by, I know, being exhausted, since you don’t sleep at night.
Purchasing things that can’t be afforded or are just a waste of money because it “makes one happy”.
Well, I still don’t get it. I think those who are attacking these posts are wrong, but these are starting to sound like the strange thoughts of my wife. I will continue to read them. Perhaps there will come a jewel…
Great job trying to about this.
I totally understand. It’s so hard on the non-ADHD spouse or loved one to understand. Irresponsible behavior is not acceptable. ADHD is not an excuse for financial mismanagement, verbal abuse, or an irresponsible lifestyle. It is important to get help, for your ADHDer and yourself. When ADHD is not managed properly, it can be destructive. I am not saying that is acceptable (under any circumstances). I belive in the 3-part system of treatment for an ADHDer: medication (if necessary), CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and ADHD coaching. Please let me know if I can help.