KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Discussion

Well, my husband (Ed) and I had that discussion about how his lack of time-management skills affect our relationship and our family life.

If you're uncomfortable with my openness on this topic and this part of my life, I'm sorry for your unease but I don't apologize for being upfront. Because attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) often has a stigma attached to it—the way anything to do with mental health does—I'm committed to being honest and public about it, to help get rid of the stigma that's imposed by silence and to let those who have AD/HD or live with someone who does know they're not alone. That commitment is also one of the reasons why I use my entire real name on this blog. I stand behind what I write, and I want people to know that if what I experience is similar to what they do, I'm a real person, which means their experiences are just are real as mine are. I love Ed and our son Neil, who also has AD/HD, with all my being, but love doesn't make living with AD/HD easy; just ask my Paxil, which I take because of situational depression. (That means that living in a situation of constant stress, caused by all the AD/HD around here, causes my depression—not that my abusive childhood didn't predispose me to depression, but that's another story.)

When I sat down with Ed for our talk, I wasn't nonjudgmental at first, the way I'd planned to be, though I was beforehand when rehearsing in my head. ;-) Don't we all behave better in our imagined scenarios than in reality? I confess that I started out yelling. Several years of Ed's increasing lateness had gotten to me, especially during last week, when our sons were camping locally with Ed's parents so that we could have a break. I'd very much wanted Ed home from work on time so that we'd have the maximum amount of time together possible—he's my favorite person in the whole world.

But when I'd calmed down, I explained how I knew that his time-management problem was a handicap but that people learn to work with handicaps—someone with a broken leg learns to walk with a crutch rather than give up walking. Ed's come so far in learning new behaviors since his AD/HD was diagnosed in 2000; he wouldn't have been promoted to foreman at work if he hadn't. It's just that relationship skills are the last area for him to work on, and I'm tired of being last. (And of course this isn't intentional on his part.) I explained that by working so late all the time, he's trained his boss (the company owner) to believe that he's superhuman and needs no rest away from work. But if he keeps this up, he'll burn out and suffer physically eventually. And I said that I knew he didn't mean to deprive me of himself, but by not setting an alarm on his cell phone or using some other method to remind him when the workday ends, he is depriving me. And he's depriving our sons of himself, of an on-time dinner, and of an on-time bedtime, which makes them crabby and groggy—and increases Neil's AD/HD behaviors from lack of sleep.

Besides Ed's AD/HD, his upbringing is operating against him. His parents both have AD/HD, and they came to believe that employees don't have the right to ever speak up when they're placed in an intolerable situation—that being assertive means in-your-face nastiness, so it's best not to speak up at all. That is, they mistakenly think that assertiveness means aggression. And that's par for the course with AD/HDers; they see no gray but only black and white.

Ed has been slowly unlearning this, but he's not done yet. He will have to retrain his boss to think of him as a human being who needs rest and has family duties, and that will be a long haul, because Ed's worked there 13 years, just as long as we've been married. None of the other employees' wives have jobs, much less their own business like I do, so Ed is an oddity among his cabinetmaker peers in that he is expected to share family duties equally with his wife. This has never been a problem for Ed, but it is foreign to the culture at his job, so he may encounter resistance because of this when he starts to change his behavior.

Going on Ed's past history with learning new behaviors, I predict it will take him a few false starts before he gets this one down. I've often said, exasperatedly, to him that it must be a requirement for being a cabinetmaker that one have no concept of time. A dear friend of mine is also married to a cabinetmaker—and both she and he have AD/HD—and they both agree that he operates on what they call "glacial time."


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