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Caregiver fatigue, anyone?

This is hard for me to admit, but…maybe it will hit a chord with someone else out there. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m going to toss it out there and see what happens.

I discovered recently that I’ve pretty much hit the wall with my capacity for caring much about the depression and other issues my husband struggles with. Been there, done that. For the last 25 + years. And have the PTSD symptoms to prove it.

A few weeks ago, I found out that anxiety and adult ADHD issues had gotten the best of my husband yet again. So much so that he lost his job as a result. And – here’s the difficult bit – I couldn’t have cared less what he was going through. I was so absolutely worn out with a lifetime dealing with his problems that all I had the energy to care about was the near-breakdown the situation created for me.

Selfish? Probably. Understandable? I hope so.

I think he understood where I was coming from at the moment when the crisis hit. In the aftermath, though, he seems truly puzzled by the fact that I’m a whole lot more concerned with myself this time around than I am about his feelings. I’ve had to say to him a couple of times, in various ways, “Your health issues just about drove me into a place I couldn’t get out of this time. Just now I don’t want to hear your side of the story.”

It’s what they call caregiver fatigue, folks. It’s not a pretty place to be in.

But I’d be willing to bet some of you have been in that place, at least to some extent.

I’ve got an arsenal I can use to help myself survive caring for a depressed (and otherwise diagnosed) person. Not sure what strategies I’m going to need if I ever want to get back to a place where I care about the feelings of the person I’m meant to be caring for. For now I’m managing by being busier at work than I’ve ever been before.

Distraction is a good tool in the short term.


…Squirrel!!!…And other aspects of adult ADHD in a marriage

image credit to the ADHD Guy

image credit to the ADHD Guy

Because we’re feeling very optimistic about the success of my husband’s new CPAP and cautiously optimistic about the success of his increase in antidepressant dosage, we’re now looking at how to whip his raging ADHD into shape.  In case you’re not familiar with what it’s like to live with an adult who has attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, here’s a little slice of our life:

 Scene 1 (when there’s something – anything – I need to communicate)

            Me: Honey, are you able to listen right now?…I’m going to say something to you. (wait until he’s actually looking at me) Are you listening? (proceed with communication, stopping frequently to check for understanding). 

Scene 2

            Him: I’m going to tighten up the screws in the bed frame so it doesn’t come crashing down in the middle of the night.

            Me: Good idea.

(half an hour passes)

           Him: I found a whole basket of different kinds of tape in the garage while I was looking for the right screwdriver.  I got it all sorted out and cleaned up.  By the way, while I was refilling the wiper fluid in the car just now I noticed somebody had spilled some popcorn in the back seat, so I cleaned it up.

           Me: Thanks, that’s great.  Did you find the screwdriver so you can fix the bed frame?

           Him:  Screwdriver?  Ummm…no.  I forgot to look for it.

Scene 3

           (Incredibly loud, goofy, and rhythmic mouth fart sounds coming from upstairs as he walks around trying to find the notes he made about the latest screwed up TMobile bill)

Me: Would you PLEASE stop making that noise?

(rhythmic noises continue for 15 seconds)

           Him: What did you say?

           Me: I said would you please stop making that noise?  You’re driving me nuts!

           Him: What noise?

(shortly afterward, the mouth farts resume) 

Scene 4

          Me: Just want to give you plenty of warning: Supper will be ready in 45 minutes.

           Him: Okay.

          (Ten minutes later)

           Me: Hey, supper in 35 minutes.

           Him: (clicking away on the computer) Right.

           (Fifteen minutes later)

            Me: Supper will be ready in 20 minutes.

           Him: Huh? Okay. (computer still clicking away)

(Fifteen minutes later)

            Me: Five minutes to supper.  Could you please wash up and come to the table?

           Him: What???  I can’t stop what I’m doing right now, in the middle of this!  You said supper in 45 minutes!

           Me: That was 45 minutes ago.

(Ten minutes later, the rest of us have started on our meal.  He comes upstairs to wash his hands, upset about feeling rushed.  EVERY DAY.) 

Each of these scenes, on its own, is kind of amusing.  Add a dozen other extremely difficult behavioral symptoms, repeat them a hundred times a day for years on end, and that’s what it’s like to live with adult ADHD in the house.

And then there’s how he describes what life is like for him.  He can’t think if there is any noise or motion anywhere near him.  He has intense difficulty putting his thoughts into words.  It takes him several tries to read a page of text, and if there is even the slightest  bit of noise in the room, has has to move or give up.  Any activity that involves sitting still and listening for more than five minutes makes his eyes dart around the room for escape. His legs start to twitch, and he either has to be up and moving around or he zones out and nearly falls asleep.

On the upside, my husband is:



•child-like (in a good way)


•patient with children


•fantastically calm and competent in an emergency, and with three kids we’ve had plenty of those

•incredibly intelligent, well-informed, and interesting

As I noted, we’re working on tackling his ADHD, for both our sakes.  He sees his psychiatrist next week and will discuss the possibility of a new type of non-stimulant medication that we’re hoping won’t lead to panic attacks for him.  We’re reviewing behavioral coping strategies – things that worked in the past but have fallen by the wayside, as well as new ideas we’re reading about.

In the meantime, I’d like to know what strategies have been helpful for other adults out there with ADHD.  In other words, HELP!  🙂


Living with an adult with ADHD…and other conditions


The conversation (see link) about ADHD in adults on “Talk of the Nation” this week caught my attention immediately.  I had the equivalent of a “driveway moment” (wherein you get hooked on a story on NPR while driving home, reach your house, but can’t go in until the story’s finished) in my office. I’ve been married to an adult with ADHD for 27 years.  It’s a serious problem, and it’s getting worse for us all the time.  Excerpts from the show that really hit home for me:

(The following are quotes from Dr. Russell Barkley, a professor at the departments of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina, also the author of several books, including “Taking Charge of Adult ADHD”):

“…what we often find is that the A in ADHD is a gross misnomer and I think oversimplifies the seriousness and pervasiveness of the problem. It’s really a disorder in the brain’s executive system, which is the system that allows people to regulate their own behavior, stay organized, manage time, show self-restraint, control their emotions to a socially acceptable level and so on… 

Over 80 percent of adults with ADHD have at least one other disorder. Typically it is either demoralization and depression or anxiety disorders or learning disabilities and to a lesser extent difficulties with substance use and abuse… 

Also we find if they have another disorder with their ADHD, we often have to bring in the medication to help get control of it because we can’t treat the other disorders until the ADHD is managed, and that’s because ADHD is a self-regulation disorder. And there’s no way we can get you to engage in treatment and reorganize your life and benefit from self-improvement programs if, underneath all of that, you’re having a lot of trouble with self-regulation…

So that’s why ADHD is almost always the first disorder to get treated before we try to tackle depression, anxiety, drug use, marital problems because of its ubiquitous effect on self-regulation.”

My husband and I have known for a long time that his ADHD was a major underlying factor for his depression and anxiety.  He wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until long after the depression and anxiety took over his life.  Around age 38, he tried Ritalin, which brought immediate and drastic improvement in his ADHD symptoms, but also brought immediate and drastic increase in panic attacks.

Jump forward 15 years…his depression and anxiety were under control for seven years but are now again creating havoc in his (and my) life.  His ADHD is raging – I’m convinced the issues created for him by ADHD are a major contributor to his current depression symptoms.

Recently we’ve been dealing with some aspects of his conditions (sleep apnea treatment and increasing his dosage of antidepressant).  But having listened to Dr. Barkley this week, I recognize now that we’re going to have to address my husband’s ADHD again as well.  I’ve already reserved Dr. Barkley’s book at our library as a starting point. Next we’ll probably need to look into finding a therapist who can work with my husband once again on behavioral strategies for tackling his ADHD symptoms.  And next time he visits his psychiatrist, there will be a discussion of new ADHD medications mentioned by Dr. Barkley on “Talk of the Nation;” medications that are NOT stimulants and which, therefore, a person suffering from anxiety and panic might be able to tolerate.

Honestly, as an already-worn-out caregiver, the prospect of all this work ahead of us is exhausting.  Not to mention that we have a son graduating from high school next month and a daughter graduating from college and moving to the east coast (with a lot of help from us) this summer.  And we have another daughter, who, thankfully, is NOT in a state of transition and whom we don’t want to ignore.

I know quite well that what my husband is dealing with due to his multiple diagnoses makes his life hell some – many –  days.  I care about him, and I grieve over what he’s going through.

I also recognize that all of these issues have very serious consequences for our marriage, for our family, and for my own emotional health and ability to cope.

Caregiving can be very difficult.