View Full Version : Help understanding partner with ADHD and depression


Brie111
12-22-13, 06:55 PM
Hi all,

This is my first post to this forum. I am a non-ADHD partner. My partner of 5+ years was diagnosed with ADHD a couple of years ago. He has also dealt with depression on and off throughout his life, and he is currently experiencing a bout of depression.

About two months ago, my partner approached me saying that he felt like he wasn't getting the help he needed from me with his ADHD or depression. I felt like I had been supportive of both his ADHD and depression (taking on almost all of the housework, being very caring to him, trying to give him space when he had mood swings, etc.). However, he said he needed me to take a more active role in dealing with his ADHD/depression and that the status quo of our relationship was not what he needed. I appreciated his honesty and understood where he was coming from to some extent--for example, his depression was making his ADHD symptoms more pronounced, and my doing all of the housework was not motivating him to return to the pre-depression division of labor. In a way, I was enabling him to stay depressed. I feel I've took this request to heart--I've become more involved in his time management, have tried not to use his depression as an 'excuse' for his behaviors, have actively worked to cut down on behaviors of mine that might induce his mood swings, etc.

He seemed like he was getting a lot better, and lately he's been very open about how happy I make him and how much he appreciates me. Then, today, he experienced a very bad mood swing (a result of something I did that frustrated him). When I inquired about his mood swing, he told me that he felt like I wasn't making any changes in our relationship to help him with his depression. He said I seemed as though I was fulfilled by our relationship, but he implied that he was not. I was floored because this seemed to come out of nowhere, and I became perhaps more angry at him than I should have, yelling and cursing at him for the first time ever.

When he first approached me about his problems with our relationship, I felt guilty and selfish, as though I had not been putting enough of my time and effort into supporting the challenges he is facing with ADHD and his accompanying depression. However, I am now starting to wonder if I am not the issue, and if he is just pushing me away. To me, his interpretation of our relationship seems at odds with reality. He mentioned to me today that I seem like such as happy/content person and that I seem naive of the issues he faces. I realize that I don't fully understand his experiences because I don't have ADD or depression, but I also worry that comments like these indicate he has developed a resentment toward me. At this point, I truly do not understand what he wants or expects from me as his partner or if it would even be possible to fulfill his expectations.

I realize this is not a specific question, but I honestly don't know where else to turn for guidance. None of my friends are in a relationship with someone with ADD and depression. I thought our relationship was very strong--and most of the time, his actions and words seem to indicate that he thinks so too. However, it deeply concerns me to hear him say things like he did today. I am afraid that I am being selfish by thinking that his perception of my behaviors in our relationship (instead of my behaviors themselves) are the problem, but at this point I can't think of any other rational explanation.

Has anyone with a spouse/partner with ADD or who has ADD themselves been in a similar situation? What would be potential next steps for me to take in dealing with this?

Thanks so much,

RedHairedWitch
12-22-13, 10:57 PM
Two important words both of you need :
Depression lies.

Depression tells you things are worse than they are. Depression lays blame on others. Depression tells you that you are worthless, that your partner is worthless. That if only such and such happened things would magically get better. Depression tells you to push people away. And so forth.

Depression lies.

RedHairedWitch
12-22-13, 11:01 PM
Also this :
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.ca/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html?m=1

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.ca/2013/05/depression-part-two.html?m=1

Nicksgonefishin
12-23-13, 01:58 AM
It sounds like he isn't owning his adhd.

It took me months to figure out that i needed to deal with my adhd and depression. It wasn't anyone else's to deal with or compensate for.

All i would ask for was forgiveness...

It isn't your responsibly to deal with his adhd. It is yo ur responsibility to aknowledge and be understanding. It sounds like you are doing both those things.

I would encourage him to talk to his counselor about these issues. Also it would be wise of you to see a counselor as well. For no other reason than to get another perspective.

All that said make sure you are owning your half of the relationship.

Good luck.

dvdnvwls
12-23-13, 02:44 AM
This is the kind of area in which I have the most trouble. One of the reasons is that it's so easy to forget that ADHD = permanently weird. It's absolutely necessary to take this permanent weirdness into account when thinking about and building your relationship. The thing about weirdness is, ... it's weird. :) There are so many little things (and big things) about me that will never make sense from a "normal person" point of view. They are things that, in a relationship, can be worked around, compensated, minimized - in some cases to such an extent that they might seem to be obliterated - but only by a couple who both recognize and understand the particular kinds of weirdness involved.

Counsellors and therapists are in on this too - if they don't take the weird things into account, they will recommend nonsense or even harmful ideas.

Daydreamin22
12-23-13, 04:48 AM
http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=152916
Maybe that thread will help.

sarahsweets
12-23-13, 05:15 AM
I understand how you feel but you have to understand that yes you can do your best to help, but ultimately he is responsible for how he feels even if he has a mental illness that effects his perception. He cant put responsibility for his happiness on your shoulders. You cant be expected to be the key to his happiness. He has to maintain a good treatment protocol and he has to take some ownership over his illness. Yes you have been doing what you can but has he?

Brie111
12-23-13, 12:03 PM
Thanks everyone for the responses. My partner and I talked about this last night, and I really came to a realization about how the mood swings associated with his ADHD can contribute to negative thoughts and depression. My partner gets ADHD-related mood swings, which then pull him further into negativity and also make him fear that his depression is getting worse. In these situations, it's more the fear and negativity talking than anything else.

However, I also realized that the ADHD not only goes hand in hand with depression, but also creates a barrier for working through depression. For example, it's probably much more challenging for someone with ADHD to create an exercise regimen and stick to it (since exercise helps with depression) than someone without ADHD. I realize that's where I, as a non-ADD partner, can provide helpful support. While the person experiencing depression is the only one who can work through it, I realize I can provide more assistance and structure to compensate for the ADHD, such as providing reminders and keeping better track of his follow on 'getting better' activities. While I can't make him better, I realize that I can be more proactive in making sure his ADHD doesn't prevent him from making himself better. :)

VeryTired
12-23-13, 02:04 PM
Hi, Brie--

Welcome to the Forums. I hope you will find this to be the place of enormous help and insight that it has been for me. Like you, I am the non-ADHD partner.

Depression can be enormously difficult for anyone who has it and anyone who loves the person he has it. Of course. But other things can also be at issue in a situation like yours. What I am about to say may not apply to you, but take a moment to see whether maybe it might.

I have found that until my partner got diagnosed with ADHD and got treatment (in his case, both medication and therapy), nothing could get better for him or between us. Again and again, I found myself in tears after having heard about something wrong that was all my fault again and again, we sat at our couples counselor's office reviewing changes in myself that my partner felt I needed to make.

But the truth is, I had a fully functional and mostly happy and successful life before I met him. Whereas at that time he was teetering on the brink of disaster, and much of our early relationship ended up being me doing crisis management for and with him. And many of the problems he wanted me to fix didn't make sense because they contradicted good qualities that he is equally emphatic that I possess. The whole thing was very confusing. I ended up asking, was it ever plausible that most things wrong with us and him were all my "fault"? I decided that it wasn't. I have my faults, but this didn't ever seem to be about what those faults actually are.

Sorting this out was very important for us. It's not about blame, it's about recognizing how incredibly pervasive the effects of untreated ADHD are in the lives of the person who has AND of anyone close to that person. As soon as he began to understand his ADHD and how to work with it, and as soon as he began to use stimulant medication and understand what it can and cannot do, life improved dramatically for us both. And his complaints about me pretty much disappeared, to be replaced by recognition that his feelings aren't always based on realities in my behavior.

At one time, several years ago, my partner had devastating anxiety, and often crushing depression. He had PTSD and something similar to OCD. He had multiple drug addictions. He was a mess. After a drug overdose he landed in a hospital where they detoxed him and dealt with a few physical health problems, but the chief of psychiatry sent him home saying they couldn't help him with the mental health issues. Very harsh, right?

I don't know why that psychiatrist didn't recognize undiagnosed ADHD then, but he didn't. It took us many months and lot of misery, but we pieced it together and began to realize that all the disparate woes (not to mention a million relationship issues for us) perhaps had an underlying cause. I formed a private hypothesis. I went to a Barnes and Noble and spent a day reading my way through a whole shelf of ADHD books, and came home to make an appointment with a psychiatrist for my partner to be evaluated. It's all been positive progress since that day.

I am telling you our story at length, because it's the only way I know to illustrate the idea that ADHD lies at a deeper stratum of the psyche than other problems, and addressing it can take care of some of the other problems a person has. Or maybe, addressing it first makes it possible to take care of the other problems.

Red Haired Witch said depression lies, and boy, is she ever right. But ADHD does something worse--it hides behind other problems so it can be missed, and it persuades people that something else is wrong. If my partner had not gotten diagnosed and treated for his ADHD, I would have left him in desperation long ago. His unchecked ADHD was making both our lives not worth living, and his excellent successes based on his diagnosis and treatment make both our lives worthwhile today.

So maybe you and your partner should consider whether what has to come first for you is for him to get help with the ADHD before focussing on other things.

wishing you both all the best--

ginniebean
12-23-13, 02:18 PM
This is the kind of area in which I have the most trouble. One of the reasons is that it's so easy to forget that ADHD = permanently weird. It's absolutely necessary to take this permanent weirdness into account when thinking about and building your relationship. The thing about weirdness is, ... it's weird. :) There are so many little things (and big things) about me that will never make sense from a "normal person" point of view. They are things that, in a relationship, can be worked around, compensated, minimized - in some cases to such an extent that they might seem to be obliterated - but only by a couple who both recognize and understand the particular kinds of weirdness involved.

Counsellors and therapists are in on this too - if they don't take the weird things into account, they will recommend nonsense or even harmful ideas.


Awesome post!!!!! You've managed to say here something I've not been able to articulate for forever! :thankyou:

Mittens
12-24-13, 12:39 PM
Both DVD and VeryTired put it extremely eloquently and accurately.

I'm still very new to the ADD world - my partner is ADD and fairly newly diagnosed, but one of the biggest lessons I am (still) learning is that with the mood swings come the 'all or nothing'.
The blaming / shaming / emotional rollercoasters.
It's tough - but you *have* to tell yourself that you can't listen to those things that are being said by those in the moment.
When he is in a better mood I am willing to bet he may not even remember the things he says, or say 'oh, I was just angry I didn't mean it'.

Sometimes the best thing to do is just throw logic out the window. What would make sense to you - probably doesn't apply to the situation.

That's sort of hard to take, but honestly it will make things easier.

Remember to take care of yourself... It's very easy to have your life and emotions and everything revolve around someone you love dearly, and in doing so lose yourself. I'm not saying to be selfish, I'm just suggesting to do some reading on boundaries and remember to keep your own 'lines' in mind. It can help.

Not sure if any of this makes sense or helps in any way, but hope it does.

Happy Holidays from The Great White North

dvdnvwls
12-24-13, 02:17 PM
Both DVD and VeryTired put it extremely eloquently and accurately.
Thanks - I very much disliked my post because there was a lot missing from it, and I wanted to continue typing. I'm glad I didn't, because you and VeryTired have stepped in and written a better version of what I wish I had continued with.

I'm still very new to the ADD world - my partner is ADD and fairly newly diagnosed, but one of the biggest lessons I am (still) learning is that with the mood swings come the 'all or nothing'.
The blaming / shaming / emotional rollercoasters.
It's tough - but you *have* to tell yourself that you can't listen to those things that are being said by those in the moment.
When he is in a better mood I am willing to bet he may not even remember the things he says, or say 'oh, I was just angry I didn't mean it'.

Sometimes the best thing to do is just throw logic out the window. What would make sense to you - probably doesn't apply to the situation.A big YES to this - and... there's another step. After successfully throwing logic out the window, which is the painful, difficult (and absolutely necessary) part, you come out the other side with no logic - and therefore no clue. Even in that stage, stripped of the usefulness and comfort and reliability of logic, you're a million times happier, stronger, and better off than you were - but then comes the (relatively) interesting and maybe even slightly fun stage of learning the true logic of living with the partner you have. There is logic! It's just so strange and unexpected that (in my opinion) you'll never have a chance of finding it, unless and until you completely toss out your regular logic first.

That's sort of hard to take, but honestly it will make things easier.

Remember to take care of yourself... It's very easy to have your life and emotions and everything revolve around someone you love dearly, and in doing so lose yourself. I'm not saying to be selfish, I'm just suggesting to do some reading on boundaries and remember to keep your own 'lines' in mind. It can help.

Not sure if any of this makes sense or helps in any way, but hope it does.

Happy Holidays from The Great White NorthThank you Mittens for a great post. Happy holidays/merry Christmas/let's gloat that we're both not in Toronto. :)