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Old 11-02-17, 10:31 AM
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How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

Hey guys,

So my GF has had a better grasp about my ADHD than anyone in my life really has as she's a trained professional in the mental health industry...but she doesn't even get exactly how it is like having ADHD.

WHen I explain to her things, she just counters with 'well I do that too...but I can...' and I just don't explain it well enough.

She asked me what it's like and I remember a post on here where someone explained having ADHD is like being in a room and hearing everything all at once. She swears she does that too but she's able to focus on what's in front of her.

I told her it's not like that with me and I am trying to listen to it all at once. What confused her was if I am able to do all of that at once...and I kinda...don't know!

Do you guys have a better way of putting it so she understands?
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Old 11-02-17, 11:23 AM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

Well what you're describing to her is a sensory issue which is common with ADHD and other neurological impairments, including ASD's. However, this is only one aspect of ADHD, there are other aspects as well, such as being very disorganized, short term memory difficulties and doing things on impulse.

ADHD can't really be summarized in a short sentence, because it's far more complicated than that. But if I had to try and simplify it, I would describe it as external factors controlling where my attention is, rather than my attention controlling what external factors i'm focusing on.

In other words, my attention span is constantly being "tugged on" by whats going on around me, rather than it being the other way around.

My attention span works in reverse.
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Old 11-02-17, 12:10 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matador View Post
Do you guys have a better way of putting it so she understands?
Yep.

Say ďIím not going to explain myself to you any longer because one, I donít owe you that, and two, you donít seem willing to listen to me such that I could be understood.Ē

If she protests, take some time to think about if it is worth being in a relationship where the other person isnít willing to listen to you, and seems more interested in argument and invalidation than communication and acceptance.

Lifeís too short to tolerate that kind of behavior. And for sure, we teach other people how we want to be treated.

If she wonít engage in a way that is a reflection of her commitment to your happiness and well-being, go find someone who will.

Again, life is too short to waste it on people who donít respect you on a fundamental level.


Best Wishes,
Ian
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Old 11-02-17, 12:25 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

Quote:
Originally Posted by aeon View Post
Yep.

Say ďIím not going to explain myself to you any longer because one, I donít owe you that, and two, you donít seem willing to listen to me such that I could be understood.Ē

If she protests, take some time to think about if it is worth being in a relationship where the other person isnít willing to listen to you, and seems more interested in argument and invalidation than communication and acceptance.

Lifeís too short to tolerate that kind of behavior. And for sure, we teach other people how we want to be treated.

If she wonít engage in a way that is a reflection of her commitment to your happiness and well-being, go find someone who will.

Again, life is too short to waste it on people who donít respect you on a fundamental level.


Best Wishes,
Ian
Don't you think you're maybe jumping the gun a little bit?

As you say, communication is important. So perhaps explaining oneself in the best possible way would be good for a relationship?
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Old 11-02-17, 12:52 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

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Originally Posted by Fraser_0762 View Post
Don't you think you're maybe jumping the gun a little bit?
Maybe. That said, at this point in my life, I think that kind of feedback from others always points to a deeper, underlying truth about the nature of the relationship, and it isnít good.

When I was younger I might have ignored that red flag, saying it was small, or not waving so strongly. Now that I am older, I know I erred each and every time I ever did that.

But for years, I was scared and insecure that if I didnít let some things slide, Iíd never find anyone at all. I mean, you have to put up with little slights, regardless, right?

Nope. Wrong.

I donít have the time, patience, or lack of self-respect to accept that from anyone now. Red flags are red, and are never to be ignored.

And the amazing thing is, just when I stopped letting things slide is when I met the woman who has never once shown me a red flag. Not once!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fraser_0762 View Post
As you say, communication is important. So perhaps explaining oneself in the best possible way would be good for a relationship?
I agree with you on this 100%, and so my communication would be to explain that I donít tolerate being treated that way. Someone can do with that what they will, and if what they do is nothing, itís time for me to GTFO.

Again, life is too short not to create your own happiness and well-being. I like to engage with people who recognize that, and with whom I can engage in a reciprocal fashion.

And thatís not to say those who will not do so are in any way wrong.

I simply have to make choices and act in a way that is self-nourishing and self-protecting. Iím responsible for that, after all, and for sure, no one else is going to do that for me.

Sometimes having good boundaries and saying ďnoĒ is the most respectful and loving thing you could ever do.


Cheers,
Ian
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Old 11-02-17, 01:00 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

I get what you're saying, but I don't think a persons lack of understanding about a particular topic is the same as them treating you in a bad way.

A lot of these little red flags can be resolved with the right communication. Acceptance comes after understanding. If a person doesn't understand an aspect of yourself, that doesn't mean they don't want to accept you, they just want to better understand that aspect of you so they know how to recognize and respond to those aspects when they bring challenges to the relationship.
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  #7  
Old 11-02-17, 01:20 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fraser_0762 View Post
I get what you're saying, but I don't think a persons lack of understanding about a particular topic is the same as them treating you in a bad way.

A lot of these little red flags can be resolved with the right communication. Acceptance comes after understanding. If a person doesn't understand an aspect of yourself, that doesn't mean they don't want to accept you, they just want to better understand that aspect of you so they know how to recognize and respond to those aspects when they bring challenges to the relationship.
I agree with you, and this is reasonable and sound, in my view.

From the original post, the phrase “'well I do that too...but I can...'” smacked of ableism, and the use of the word “but” seems oppositional, contrasted with “yet,” and “and.”

I’m surprised a “trained professional in the mental health industry” would speak that way.

And when he shared her comment of “She swears she does that too but she's able to focus on what's in front of her.”, I noticed that “but” again. And it would be really simple to explain “And I can’t focus on what is in front of me.”

To be fair, I’m particularly sensitive to this kind of thing from others because as a child I grew up in an environment where emotional abuse and invalidation was chronic, and severe. So my “trigger” for it is slight.

That’s me. Other people will feel differently about it, and act accordingly. And none are wrong.

Edit: I should add that my having read Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg on Nonviolent Communication has certainly influenced my thinking on this as it regards listening and effective communication, where people are both heard, and understood.


Cheers,
Ian
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Old 11-02-17, 01:25 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

NO way. He has been communicating. He has been telling her what his experience is AND she is supposed to have training for mental health issues- yet she is purposely being contrary. Its one thing if an ignorant A-hole has a misguided opinion about adhd, its another if someone you love will not validate or accept what you are saying. It wasnt a theoretical debate.

Quote:
As you say, communication is important. So perhaps explaining oneself in the best possible way would be good for a relationship?
He has explained it in the best possible way. He didnt yell or scream. He didnt act nasty yet she felt the need to have the last word.
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Old 11-02-17, 01:29 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

This isnt a lack of understanding. This is dismissive and lacking empathy. He said she is trained in the mental health field. He explained himself a few times so now its a red flag.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fraser_0762 View Post
I get what you're saying, but I don't think a persons lack of understanding about a particular topic is the same as them treating you in a bad way.
Quote:
A lot of these little red flags can be resolved with the right communication. Acceptance comes after understanding. If a person doesn't understand an aspect of yourself, that doesn't mean they don't want to accept you, they just want to better understand that aspect of you so they know how to recognize and respond to those aspects when they bring challenges to the relationship.
What about what Matador said wasnt good communication?
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Old 11-02-17, 01:39 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahsweets View Post
NO way. He has been communicating. He has been telling her what his experience is AND she is supposed to have training for mental health issues- yet she is purposely being contrary. Its one thing if an ignorant A-hole has a misguided opinion about adhd, its another if someone you love will not validate or accept what you are saying. It wasnt a theoretical debate.

He has explained it in the best possible way. He didnt yell or scream. He didnt act nasty yet she felt the need to have the last word.
The OP stated at the very beginning:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matador View Post
So my GF has had a better grasp about my ADHD than anyone in my life really has as she's a trained professional in the mental health industry...
So the OP is stating that their partner has a better understanding of ADHD compared to anybody else in their life. Which I think is a good thing.

They then followed it with:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matador View Post
but she doesn't even get exactly how it is like having ADHD.
Which I think is understandable, as nobody regardless of their expertise will ever completely understand something that they don't experience themselves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matador View Post
When I explain to her things, she just counters with 'well I do that too...but I can...' and I just don't explain it well enough.
Perhaps the OP feels that he isn't quite explaining it well enough to differentiate between ADHD and mistakes and quirks that most people experience from time to time. Which is why they started this thread to get help finding better ways of explaining it, not to be told that their partner is a bad person.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matador View Post
She asked me what it's like and I remember a post on here where someone explained having ADHD is like being in a room and hearing everything all at once. She swears she does that too but she's able to focus on what's in front of her.

I told her it's not like that with me and I am trying to listen to it all at once. What confused her was if I am able to do all of that at once...and I kinda...don't know!
Reading this, I don't think the "hearing everything in the room" is the best explanation. As everybody hears everything going on in the room. The difference is being able to filter out what you hear and only processing the information that is relevant, despite your ears still picking up every sound in the room.
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Old 11-02-17, 01:42 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

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Originally Posted by sarahsweets View Post
This isnt a lack of understanding. This is dismissive and lacking empathy. He said she is trained in the mental health field. He explained himself a few times so now its a red flag.
The mental health field is a very diverse field. Just because she's involved (or has been involved) in that field, doesn't make her a professor on ADHD. Her understand of ADHD isn't going to be nearly as good as ours are on here.


Quote:
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What about what Matador said wasnt good communication?
See my previous response.
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Old 11-02-17, 02:22 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matador View Post
Hey guys,

So my GF has had a better grasp about my ADHD than anyone in my life really has as she's a trained professional in the mental health industry...but she doesn't even get exactly how it is like having ADHD.

WHen I explain to her things, she just counters with 'well I do that too...but I can...' and I just don't explain it well enough.

She asked me what it's like and I remember a post on here where someone explained having ADHD is like being in a room and hearing everything all at once. She swears she does that too but she's able to focus on what's in front of her.

I told her it's not like that with me and I am trying to listen to it all at once. What confused her was if I am able to do all of that at once...and I kinda...don't know!

Do you guys have a better way of putting it so she understands?
I would say "Yes, you do these things too ... but YOU can manage these
things because they aren't overwhelming for you. You don't do ALL of them
ALL of the time."

Does she have PMS? Tell her it's like that ... but without the cramps ... but
Every Day, day after day, with no respite.

Tell her it's like when you're coming down with a cold virus and everything
is fuzzy and you can't think straight and can't stay focused on one thing for
very long.

Print off the first few pages of this thread "You know you have ADHD when ..."
and give them to her to read.
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Old 11-02-17, 03:00 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahsweets View Post
she is purposely being contrary. Its one thing if an ignorant A-hole has a misguided opinion about adhd, its another if someone you love will not validate or accept what you are saying. It wasnt a theoretical debate.

He has explained it in the best possible way. He didnt yell or scream. He didnt act nasty yet she felt the need to have the last word.
Wow, you and aeon read a lot more adversity into their conversation than I (and Fraser) seem to have. I've dealt with my share of invalidating, gaslighting, and clueless people, too, but I don't (immediately) see that kind of dynamic here.

It's natural for people to try to relate things to their own experiences. Since ADHD isn't a difference in kind, just in quantity, of normal human traits, the girlfriend's response sounds totally reasonable (and not necessarily judgmental) to me. As I hear it, she's not invalidating his experience or insisting on having the last word, just comparing and contrasting his description of his experience with her own experience.

To me, it sounds like she wants to understand, but just has trouble wrapping her head around what it's like to be in Matador's shoes (or brain, in this case).

While I don't think Matador is under any obligation to explain himself, he and his girlfriend seem to be trying to connect and to understand each other. I don't see how getting defensive and writing her off as an incorrigible meany will help with that. I don't see the conversation (as Matador has related it) as cause for concern about the health of their relationship. If she were accusing him of experiencing ADHD symptoms "on purpose", or claiming that he was faking or exaggerating, or claiming that she was superior to him, or faulting him for not being able to do what she can do with greater ease, that would be one thing (4 things?). But she's not (at least, not from what I can tell based on what Matador posted). (If she is being an unrepetentant jerk, then go right ahead and tell her off!)

Given how difficult it is for many of us, who have lived with ADHD our whole lives, to understand ourselves, especially given how variable our attention, motivation, memory, and behavior can be from day to day or moment to moment, I think it's reasonable to cut other people some slack.

I wonder if, when your GF counters with "Well, I do that too, but I can..." you could say, "Yeah, I think that's how it's supposed to work. But I have trouble with [recovering my train of thought from those distractions / conjuring up the memory triggers at the right time / getting thing in the right sequence / stopping myself /etc.]." If it's in the context of responsibilities, and does come with some accusatory overtones, but the feelings come from a place of exasperation/misunderstanding rather than lack of caring or willful ignorance, then maybe talking about the strategies you have in place, or discussing putting strategies in place, or renegotiation who handles what tasks, might also help. She might be able to see better that you are actively trying to cope with your limitations, and that might make them seem more real or relatable.

Lunacie's PMS example seems apt, at least in my experience, given that it amplifies my ADHD symptoms a bazillion-fold. The analogy could be risky, though, depending on her experience of PMS and if she interprets that as an insult to her, or alternatively, sees it as evidence that Matador is inherently emotionally unstable and unable to cope with things.

I've posted it before, but I like this cartoon...

[xkcd.com/1106 The original has mouse-over text that reads "20 balloons float away while I'm busy permanently tying one to a tree to deal with it for good. Unfortunately, that one balloon was 'land a rocket on the moon in Kerbal Space Program."]

...and I think some of the old Hyperbole and a Half ones do a good job as well, if you can find them. And some of the Barkley videos, though they're geared towards parents, and depending on where your relationship is, may or may not help you two.

Otherwise, I think helping someone else understand ADHD at a deep level requires a process of communicating and getting to know and understand (and question and forgive) each other that no single clever analogy can really capture. At least, that's how it's been for me and my spouse.

Last edited by namazu; 11-02-17 at 03:13 PM..
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Old 11-02-17, 03:42 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

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Originally Posted by namazu View Post
Wow, you and aeon read a lot more adversity into their conversation than I (and Fraser) seem to have. I've dealt with my share of invalidating, gaslighting, and clueless people, too, but I don't (immediately) see that kind of dynamic here.
For all my life, anyone who responded to me telling them about my experience of self with some version of ďyes, butĒ without fail, over time, revealed themselves to be relationally toxic in some fashion.

I didnít really see any adversity in their conversation.

I did see what might be clues as it regards dynamics, sense of self and others, judgement, ability and willingness to actively listen, and boundaries.

I could be wrong, and with what has been presented, probably am.

That said, I can only go by what I (think I) know and what I have experienced.

I associate ďyes, butĒ responses to expressions of experience with being locked in a closet without food, water, or loo, and later being concussed.

Thatís why I am hyper-vigilant, and perhaps reactive, to that kind of feedback. I canít allow any slippery slope, because it is a matter of survival to me, my experience of it is one of life and death.


Blessťd Be,
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Old 11-02-17, 04:00 PM
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Re: How do I explain to my GF what it's like having ADHD?

I don't think it's possible to explain to another person what it's like to have ADHD, in a way that they would understand. It seems futile, to me. The few times I have tried, they just don't get it. I think it's more important for the other person to understand and accept HOW it affects your actions, not WHY. If they read a list of the symptoms and see how those symptims play out in your life, there shouldn't be much explaining needed. For instance, people with ADD are forgetful, therefore when you forget something, they should not be too surprised and angry over it, but accept that part of you and roll with it. If it's such a problem that they can't get over not being able to understand all the inner workings of your brain, that's their problem.

I don't think the OP gave enough info to really tell if their GF is being unreasonable, but it does sound a little like they're focusing on the wrong thing, instead of just accepting the symptoms of this disorder. I wouldn't want to spend my whole relationship trying to explain myself to someone. I am who I am, that's what I would say.
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