My friend’s husband Mr. B arrived late for his appointment to be assessed for Attention Deficit Disorder. “He got lost – as always. He turned the wrong direction and had to get more directions.”
The doctor shrugged, “We always schedule the ADD folks an hour before their appointment. We know they run late.”
After decades of marriage and ministry as missionaries, Mrs. B had insisted, “Something must be done. Go find out what is wrong that you forget important events, arrive late and cannot take care of details,” she told him.
To illustrate, one day she asked him to pick up their son after school. School ended. No dad. Their son called. Her husband answered, “Where are you?”
“I am at school.”
“Why are you still at school?”
He had forgotten and not even the phone call reminded him.
The problem began early. “As a child he had trouble concentrating on anything for very long. He repeated first grade. There were things he really wanted to do but he forgot and missed them.”
“I never dared leave the little ones at home with him. I had to take them to the grocery store.” By 2007, the stress severely affected her health. She told the mission director, “If you cannot help with this, I can’t go back. It is affecting my health.”
“We tried counseling, but nobody hit on the real problem. I had to carry all the responsibilities for paying bills and keeping appointments. He was supposed to read ‘Driven to Distraction - Loving and Living with ADD.’ He didn’t. There is a chapter about spouses. It says ‘you have a secret suffering that no one can ever see or understand unless they go through it.’ I knew he was responsible, not irresponsible. I realized his forgetfulness was a real mental problem. Getting a diagnosis really helped us on our journey as a couple.”
Mrs. B recalled that when he entered the ministry, “People enjoyed being around him. When he forgot important things, they thought he was irresponsible and talked to about it spiritually. That made him feel worse.”
“Whenever we had an international move, he would zone out. He could not handle the changes or the paperwork. I was ready to quit.”
Their first clue that Mr. B may have ADD came when they talked with the school psychologist about their daughter. The psychologist said, “She may have a mild case of ADD.”
As they researched that, her husband recognized, “she takes after me.”
The difficulties came to a head when Mrs. B had to have surgery. “I was doped up and in terrible pain. He had to take care of the insurance and call the mission headquarters: all tasks that he usually left to me.”
Frustrated with his floundering at routine tasks, she insisted he make an appointment with the psychiatrist who assessed him, “You don’t just have ADD, you have ADHD – ADD with hyperactivity.”
He agreed to try medication. For him, Ritalin worked, and he learned coping skills. “We feel like ‘thank God.’ He learned to make lists, to check the lists and keep them in one place. He had to quit denying that this was the way his brain works.” They also found that for him select natural supplements worked.
“It made a big difference in his work. For the first time in 30 years, I could relax. We have always loved each other, but I had begun to lose respect for him. I could not trust him to do anything.”
The struggle was real. The diagnosis was not desired. But finding a solution allowed my friend to relax and enjoy her marriage and ministry as she never had before the ADHD diagnosis.
Joan Hershberger is a former staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and other columns from the El Dorado News-Times.”