Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Discovering a Piece of the Puzzle - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

It has been a while since I updated our readers on my still pending divorce. I found, by happenstance, a very interesting piece of information that may help me to understand the “I don’t know,” I’ve always received as an answer when I asked my husband why he doesn’t even want to try to work on mending our family. I think I found the answer. Or, at least part of the answer.

Months ago, I chalked up his, “I don’t know,” responses as him just being, “not that into you.” I believe I even wrote a blog about it. Yet, it still weighed heavily on my mind because I just couldn’t understand how you could love someone with all your heart for 20 years, and then just, “not be into you.” It made absolutely no sense at all to me.

I was asked to write a short article on ADD/ADHD children and their relationships with their Grandparents. Interestingly, I found four fairly decent articles, but I continued my search to see whether I could unearth something additional to refer to. I came across an article that had absolutely nothing to do with ADD children and their Grandparents, but the title of the article struck me. I tried to move on but couldn’t. This article was begging to be read.

The title of the article was, “I’m OK - You’re Not!” written by Melissa Orlov from Additude Magazine. Very fitting title for my circumstance. I was already aware of Ms. Orlov’s interest in ADHD, as I purchased one of the books she had written, but never read. I quickly skimmed the introduction, paying more attention to the main categories. Halfway through the article, I stopped in my tracks. The title of this category was, “The Hyperfocus Courtship.” For those of you who are unaware of hyperfocusing in an ADD/ADHD person, the individual’s brain chemistry continues to keep firing until a certain task is completed. Thus, the person gives 100% attention to that task until the person is satisfied with the outcome. I have seen it many times with my son. If he hyperfocuses on schoolwork, that’s very positive. If he comes to me at 9:30pm and wants me to help him write a “book,” this is undesirable hyperfocusing because my son needs to go to bed. It is pointless to argue with a hyperfocusing person. You just elicit more power struggles. So I just said, “Mommy is tired and has to go to bed. Please consider trying to work on your project tomorrow morning.” He fell asleep on his “book” at 11:30pm. He actually brought about his own consequence. He was very tired the next day. This is just an example of an ADD person hyperfocusing on a task or project. I never knew that a person could hyperfocus on a relationship, though. Here is where Ms. Orlov’s words hit home:

“The biggest shock to ADHD relationships comes with the transition from courtship to marriage. Typically, a person with ADHD hyperfocuses on his partner in the early stages of a relationship. He makes her feel she is the center of his world. When the hyperfocus stops, the relationship changes dramatically.” The center of his world. How many times had I said those exact words to my therapists when describing my early relationship with my husband? The center of his world. I read her words over and over. Ms. Orlov hit the nail right on the head...mine to be exact! I was stunned by this revelation, but it also made so much sense. I needed to pass it by my therapy professionals to get their perspectives.

My ADD therapist thought that I found my answer. She said, when a partner’s hyperfocus shuts off, the non-ADHD spouse is left bewildered. And if counseling isn’t sought immediately, the relationship is almost assuredly doomed. I asked her whether my husband’s hyperfocus of me could have lasted so many years. She replied that it was not common, but it could certainly be found. She told me she felt that I was probably the very unfortunate victim of a hyperfocusing partner whose brain chemicals just stopped firing. That is probably why my husband “doesn’t know” why he doesn’t want a relationship with me. He is in denial that he even has ADHD, so he wouldn’t know of nor understand his hyperfocusing of me and now the lack of it. The other therapy professionals agreed.

So there you have it. I am a victim of ADHD hyperfocus burnout. I suppose it is not much different than having been in a relationship with a partner who was in denial about their manic/depressive disorder or alcoholism or other myriad psychological disorders. I am in just an extremely unfortunate circumstance.

The good news is for my son. He already has an ADD diagnosis. He will learn coping strategies and techniques to work through and around his hyperfocus episodes. He will be able to identify when he hyperfocuses. He will have me to guide him through his younger years and help him figure out what to do in various situations. And because I know all of the tell-tail signs, I can gently discuss them with him and coach him through. With a blessing and a kiss, I pray he never finds himself or his family in the situation we are currently facing. Once is more than enough.

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