COUPLES THERAPY REVEALS ADHD SURPRISE
Janet Miller Wiseman LICSW
Mark and Marissa came into Couples Therapy in Lexington, Ma when their twin daughters Jodie and Andrea were 7 years old. Mark was the director of a NGO and Marissa, a free lance writer and photographer, working very part-time while being with the children.
The girls were super active; it might even be said that they were hyperactive. Did they have ADHD? The family did many activities. The parents went with the girls to a group of friends’ homes for dinner weekly. Marissa did pilates every week, Mark did martial arts weekly, and the girls took weekly gymnastics lessons. Mark and Marissa even got out together for movies and or dinner several times per month, with the help of her parents who babysat. But they were feeling anything but close, very disconnected and each of them was feeling very lonely. They were great at individual and family activities, not so good at activities that truly connected them as a couple.
Marissa asked Mark to come to Couples Therapy with her to become more connected and closer. Since the birth of the girls, Marissa had felt Mark to be a million miles away. Their initial goals were to begin communicating and connecting more deeply, to deepen their verbal and physical intimacy, and to build trust in each other’s parenting styles. Marissa felt that Mark was very disconnected when he tried to parent the girls.
After starting Couples Therapy here in Lexington Ma., Mark spontaneously wrote Marissa a letter telling her that he so understood how difficult it had been for her with his frequent headaches, lack of communication, and his distractedness and inattention. He knew that he never, ever would want his family to break apart, and he was ready to work on their relationship for it to become what they both desire it to be. Marissa was very moved by Mark’s expressions, crying and talking with him for several hours. She said she wished these times of feeling so connected would happen far more often.
At my suggestion, Mark read “Finally Focused” by integrative psychiatrist, Dr. James Greenblatt and began taking a combination of 400 mg. of magnesium, 30 mg. of zinc, and a vitamin B6 to attempt to address with a mineral and vitamin combination some of the distraction which he believed and knew in his heart was ADHD. He felt that the symptoms became somewhat better.
A while back, Marissa had suggested that Mark schedule an appointment for neuropsychological testing to determine if he had ADD or ADHD. He had had the testing, and they were just waiting for the appointment to learn the results of the testing. Later another appointment was to be scheduled to assess whether ADHD medication would be indicated.
The results of the neuropsychological testing were that not only did Mark exhibit the inattentive type of ADHD, rather than the hyperactive type, which he felt he had as a child, a battery of intelligence tests demonstrated that he was in the upper 97th percentile in intelligence.
Initially Mark was disappointed. Well, yes, he was happy to test so highly for intelligence! But, if only he had known about the inattentive ADHD earlier, he could have perhaps received medication and shrugged off the distraction and inattentiveness, been much closer to the girls and Marissa, and more productive at work. He and Marissa talked about the ADHD as “being lead blocking the gold in his brain”.
As time went on, Mark realized that the time spent not knowing about the ADHD was water over the dam, something he couldn’t change. Rather than fearing and being reluctant to spend time with his girls, Mark began to look forward to it. And he was excited to come for the Couples Therapy sessions. He started being much more talkative and interactive with the girls and Marissa. Jodie, one of the twins, began throwing her arms around Mark’s neck saying how much she loved him, for the first time in her life. Mark was delighted; and Marissa too!
Marissa expressed that there was a great deal of hope that life could be so much better, now. She also said how scared she was that these wonderful changes in Mark would go away. She said that she was very afraid that “this” Mark would disappear; he seemed like a completely different person, so unfamiliar. She expressed that she didn’t accept or adjust to change all that well.
Andrea, one of the twin girls was suddenly diagnosed with ADHD, hyperactive type. Mark and Marissa were determined and dedicated to getting her the help she needed much earlier in her life than Mark was beginning to get his help.
Marissa and Mark don’t just work during their hour of Couples Therapy. They report that during the week they both look inward at themselves, talk together much more, keeping the therapy alive every day. They both share the desire to raise their children to be loving, kind, compassionate and productive people. Their therapy is not yet finished. Mark and Andrea’s ADHD were confirmed during the time they have been meeting here. Mark has already received several stimulant medications for the ADHD which have proven to have too many side effects. He is determined to keep trying to get one on board which will help him focus, be less distracted and more attentive.
Mark and Marissa are beginning to feel more verbally close and intimate and are agreeing to respect the other’s style of parenting, rather than trying to change it. They want to dive into the areas of improving their communication, their physical intimacy, their financial and parenting cooperation. Working on these almost universal couples’ issues often has to go hand in hand with discovering impairments such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, OCD, grief, life transitions etc.
Marissa and Mark are a delight to work with and it is a pleasure for me to be a witness to their progress. They are an example of needing to work simultaneously in Couples Therapy in discovering any impairments like the ADHD so it may be treated alongside those frequent couples issues such as deepening communication and connection, improving emotional and physical intimacy, building or rebuilding trust, improving co-parenting and co-financial skills. Let them be an example to the many other couples in need of traveling the road towards love and progress in their relationships.
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Mark and Marissa are participating in Couples Therapy Lexington MA at Janet Miller Wiseman, Mediation and Counseling Services, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.mediationboston.com.