Hey everyone, this is my first post here. I just need to get this out there. I'm 21 and my fiancé is 22 and we've been together for over 2 1/2 years. He started taking ADHD medication (Ritalin, Concerta, etc.) when he was 7 years old. He hated this medication because he said it made him feel like a zombie, just not himself. Around age 13, he became depressed, made several suicide attempts until 17, and was hospitalized twice for it. He was put on a cocktail of depression medications during this time (at this point, his ADHD was not being treated anymore).
He flunked out of college twice before we met. He would procrastinate, not be able to complete all of the work, would get frustrated, and just give up. Since our relationship began, he hasn't kept jobs for a long time. Also, until recently, he would find a career for himself to pursue and end up not sticking with it. He tried to go for a personal trainer certification over a year ago, but little did he know it was one of the most difficult ones (hundreds of multiple choice, ten essays, and a self-made video explaining 25 exercises without using notecards). Needless to say, he didn't finish it and hasn't tried a different one since, although he says he will. He also wanted to design video games; it was a great idea at the time, but he never followed through. He also wanted (still wants) to be a fantasy writer. His story is quite compelling and he's an amazing writer, but it involves hundreds of characters, five different worlds with their own countries, and a vast array of stories. There is so much to write about that he can't even organize it into a book! He is like this with everything: he starts many different things, but can't finish any of them.
For the passed few years, he has been riding his bike everywhere. Only very recently was he able to buy a car, insure it, and register it. He's just now practicing to get his license. His parents are very reluctant to help him with anything, given their relationship with him during his teen years. His dad makes $120,000 a year (not including what his mom makes), but they won't help him beyond paying for the first two months of car insurance and letting him stay with them for the time being (he had been staying with a friend for over a year until last month, when he suffered a knee injury from biking so much).
He has been very happy with his driving progress (as have I), but for the passed few days, when I ask him what he did that day, it's just: playing some video games, talking with my brothers, watching some TV, exercising. He has a course starting in May to become a Certified Nurse Assistant (he only wants to be a nurse now because I told him that'd probably be the best, most stable job for him!), but he is never curious about it. He doesn't research how much they make, what the job would be like, how he can get his LPN/RN after the CNA, or anything like that. He seems like he's just totally disinterested in it and wouldn't do anything if I didn't make him do it. Every time I tell him about this, he gets kind of defensive and sees it as me being "annoying" and having a bad attitude; then he says "Okay, fine, I'll do it now" and wants to get off the phone right away. I'm trying to help him, but it seems it isn't enough. He doesn't want to think about the future. We're living in New York now and I'll likely be leaving this fall/winter to go to North Carolina with my parents, and I want him to be ready so we can at least get an apartment down there. I'll be finishing my Bachelor's in Political Science/History in August. At the rate he's going now, he won't be ready and we'll have to live apart indefinitely. I don't want that to happen and I tell him this, but he doesn't seem to get it.
Until last year, I never realized so clearly how all this could be due to ADHD. His big problem areas are: not being able to multi-task (I can't give him too many projects to do at once or else he'll get overwhelmed), forgetting important things, not taking initiative on important things, not being able to focus on reading or writing things that he is not intensely interested in, and not being able to finish tasks that he starts. He also forgets smaller things, like putting dishes away or cleaning up messes.
I don't know if I've painted him in a bad light here. He really is a wonderful, sweet, affectionate guy. I know he loves me more than anything and is completely faithful to me. We both just get along so well that we feel as if we're extensions of each other. We have an amazing sex life, too. He helps me in ways that no one else could and I couldn't imagine a man more perfect for me. He's also extremely intelligent; sometimes he just blows me away with his ability to understand/explain things or come up with new ideas. He is very mechanically-inclined and is a fast learner. I know he is not stupid at all, but his ADHD affects him so badly. I want him to try out a medication before his course starts in May, but I'm not sure it'll be possible. He'll be starting a job soon, but I don't know if it'll be enough to pay the costs. He has also been very wary of psychiatric medications due to his terrible experiences with them, but I think if he had the money, he'd try them out.
Sigh. I know this is so long! I just really need some help with him. What should I do? What CAN I do? What are his options? ADVICE PLEASE!
Yes, that does sound pretty thoroughly ADHD, especially the big ideas and little follow-through. I was engaged to someone like that, it eventually fell apart, because I just couldn't deal with him constantly failing and then lying to me about what he'd done or hadn't done.
If I was 19 again, and we'd just met, I honestly don't know what I'd do differently. Definitely, you can't be his coach or his therapist or his mommy. I tried to be one or all of those to my ex, I knew it was a bad idea, I thought I was smart enough to pull it off anyway. Guess what, I was wrong. He couldn't be honest with me about his choices and his problems and his fears, because his actions affected me, too. I couldn't be objective in my advice, same reason.
I would look for some professional help here. There are a lot of medications available to treat ADHD, it's quite likely there is a drug that can help him focus without making him feel like a zombie. I did pretty well on Adderall.
Also, an ADD coach is someone who helps people figure out how to get through life. Not therapy exactly, training. I personally recommend Jeannette Wasserstein, I went to her for coaching when I lived in NY and I partly credit her with the 2 advanced degrees I've since earned. The psychiatrist Jesse Rosenthal is also as sharp as a tack when it comes to picking out mind drugs.
Mind you, neither of those people come cheap. But if it will help him get his life together, it's worth the cost.
Unfortunately, I don't think there's much you can force here. From what I've seen in your post, your boyfriend suffers from the 'primarily inattentive' subset of ADHD. He needs treatment if he's going to have a chance at being the focused and successful person you're hoping he'll be. If not, he's going to continue dreaming big dreams without following through on anything.
All I can offer in the way of ideas is something along the lines of this: He needs medication. On the plus side, I can guarantee that the meds will make him feel differently than they did when he was a kid. Children react to medications in different ways than do adults, and while stimulants tend to make kids feel like zombies, they make adults feel more awake and aware. While children complain that stimulants leave them in a fog, adults tend to describe the experience as a fog being lifted. That's not to say that he will definitely be free of side effects, and finding the right med that offers the right combination of effects vs. side effects can be a long and frustrating process. Again, he needs to be convinced of the fact that ADHD is holding him back, and he needs to want treatment.
This is the process as I would recommend it:
1. Find a psychiatrist that specializes in adults with ADHD.
2. Find the right med or combination of meds that give him the most benefits with the least side effects.
3. Get a referral from the shrink for a psychologist or ADHD coach that can lead your boyfriend through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Seeing as you're from the US, all of this will likely cost a significant amount of money. If there's no option for really good health insurance, you could try sending him to a general practitioner and get Adderall (Vyvanse is probably better, but Adderall is generic in the US now), and try to get the treatment by doing your own research. Go pick up a book called You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?! by Kelly and Ramundo, this will be a good jumping off point in your search for information and possible routes to treatment.
Thank you so much, janewhite1 and Thunor, for your thoughtful replies! You've both given me some things to consider here. I checked out that book, Thunor, and I might have him read it (and me, too). I also might have him read this thread; maybe it'll help.
I refuse to give up on him, because he is perfect is every other way and I know he could be highly successful if he could just overcome the effects of ADHD. I talked about this topic with him last night again; we got into a huge argument at first. He really does not want to take medication and said that he wants to change his "habits" instead. He thinks that he can change his habits by simply trying to focus on what he needs to do and getting certain tasks done... but he is just using his own willpower to do this, nothing else. Plus, I still have to remind him to do things, so he's not really accomplishing anything. I tried to tell him this but he basically just said, "Well, the medications only mask the symptoms, too" and got very defensive. Eventually, the conversation became less heated and we worked something out, that was kind of his idea: he will read his entire personal trainer book and I'll assign him essays each week, on each chapter. I agreed with him that this will help him read, write, and organize, and will prep him for his course in May... but it won't allow him to fully conquer his ADHD, as it pervades other areas of his life as well.
I want to marry this man and I don't want to end up divorced after a few years. I keep telling him that taking the Nurse Assistant course is his last chance; that if he doesn't successfully complete the course and get a job afterwards, that we will have to be separated for some time or I might have to leave him, and I don't want this to happen. To this he says, "Well, if I'm that much of a screw-up, then you shouldn't be with me anyway." It's like he doesn't even want to try. I wonder if he's hiding some negative feelings about ADHD, or shame. I just really want to help him overcome this issue, and since his ADHD seems to be really bad (I have another friend who says he has ADHD, gets straight-As in college, and apparently doesn't take medication for it; he's baffled that my fiancé can't do this on his own like he can), medication seems to be the best option for now. The problem is that, not only does he hate medication because of the side effects, but he also believes that because he has a car now, is driving, is getting a job soon, is taking a course, that he does not need to address his ADHD; he thinks he's conquering it by doing those things. However, I can still plainly recognize that it affects him negatively. How can I convince him that medication could be used as a preventative measure against future failure?
Adults with ADHD often have major self-esteem issues, and a correspondingly touchy sense of pride. Even when medication helps them succeed, they worry that it's just the drugs, that they haven't really accomplished anything on their own. If a marathon runner takes an aspirin before a race, did the medicine run the race, or did the runner do it? Medication just removes some of the obstacles.
This is the tragedy of ADHD: Great need and great determination can overcome the symptoms, at least temporarily. When I was in high school, I knew I had a hard time listening to lectures and doing assignments, but I could get it done when I really tried hard. I assumed I was just lazy, and everyone else tried really hard all the time! I was surprised to learn that, while everyone sometimes daydreams in class, most people don't have to fight off daydreams with a cannon and gunnery crew. [I'm ADHD and functional, my ex-fiance never became functional.]
He knows he can function like everyone else, on occasion, when he puts in the effort. So deep down he thinks all he has to do is try. It doesn't help that (I'm sure) dozens of people have told him hundreds of times that he just has to try harder!
I really think you need an outside perspective here, someone he can talk to that he's not emotionally involved with. Possibly a therapist, although you need one who actually understands ADHD and isn't wasting his time and money exploring his subconscious fear of success, or some such nonsense.
I definitely see the problems here, and wish everything works out for you. "He will just change his habits" - we all know that won't happen. It's a good idea and he wants to do it... for now... My friends make fun of me because my great ideas I get stick with me for around 3 days until I'm chasing a new butterfly
I definitely think a therapist is needed- due to the outstanding complexities involved (fearful of the drugs).
Oh, also, I've just started my third med (trying to find the right one myself)... Some people swear by Dexedrine, however, Dexedrine made ME feel like a zombie. So always remember, meds affect people in different ways.
My older brother and ex boyfriend (from many years ago) both have ADHD. My brother is in his late 30's and ex bf is in his early 30's. Unfortunately, many people with ADHD (such as these 2), can never change and find a correct balance. ADHD, even with medication is very difficult to deal with. Neither of them have much direction in life, and they both have trouble holding down jobs. My brother has never had a job for more than a year, and there are certain jobs he just can't do. My ex can hold some jobs down, but they have to specific jobs, such as bartending/bouncing, as he's doing now. Neither of them can have jobs that require a lot of concentration or organization... it has to be something active.
I honestly don't see either of them ever changing. I think that will continue to be their lives for the rest of their lives. They will never have a "stable" lifestyle.
I'm not saying your fiance will be the same way, but it is very common with ADHD. Something to consider is that when you marry someone, you should marry them accepting them as they are now, because they may never change. If you marry someone with the hope they'll change, or even marry someone because you see what they can be SOME day, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness.
Can you accept your fiance as he is now, in case he never changes? There's a chance he will, but there's also a chance he will always be like this...
I have a little bit of a different perspective on this, in that I can see his point about not wanting to take medication. I know you only want to help him, but if I heard my SO saying something like "he needs medication to avoid future failure," I'd be pretty offended too. It might not be so good for the self-esteem to feel pressured into taking amphetamines so as to not "fail."
I am a little biased because my parents wanted me to take Adderall in college, and I got addicted to it. Meanwhile, another friend of mine who is a doctor has ADD and says it changed his life.
Adderall really is a very powerful stimulant and I think the negative effects from ADD should be really all-encompassing to take a stimulant every day for it. Some of them aren't as powerful though. If he really doesn't want to take stimulants, there are other things that could help and other supplements, like L-Tyrosine, for example, a natural way to boost dopamine apparently. I just think he might resent being pressured into taking medications that he doesn't wanna take, and it could backfire. Does his ADD really cause him stress? Does he feel frustrated by his ADD and feel that it's really negatively affecting his life, or does it stress you out more?