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THE MOMENT I REALIZED ADULT ADHD IS REAL

By Ava Green (Yes, I’m Rick’s wife)

I didn’t always believe that adult ADHD is real. That might surprise you. Especially since I’ve had a hand in almost everything to do with TotallyADD.

But I do not have ADHD. I certainly had no master plan or burning ambition to create this resource. Have you ever heard someone say, ‘Life had other plans for me’ ? Funny how that happens… I’d like to share my unplanned life story with you.

Flash back to 2001, and I’m dating the person I’m now married to, my partner, Rick Green. We are both recently divorced and, to add to the turmoil, Rick has just been diagnosed with ADHD. While the diagnosis made total sense to him, it garnered disbelief and some snide remarks from friends and family.

I’d like to tell you that I was enlightened and supportive… but that wouldn’t exactly be the truth. No, instead, I questioned the validity of the diagnosis, and gently encouraged Rick to stop taking the pills he’d been prescribed. I told him, ‘I’m worried about them.’

Fear & Misunderstanding

In fact, I was afraid of all of it—the diagnosis, being labeled with a ‘disorder, medication. Why? What exactly was I worried about? Everything, actually. Everything I’d heard. The things I’d heard from others, unaware that what was said was based on fear and misunderstanding. Ignorance. Not a speck of science-based evidence.

I hadn’t done any reading or research. I was listening to people who knew as little as I did. I bought into the mainstream myths, instead of doing the work to understand both the person and the science. I had my opinion, based on, well, other people’s opinions.

Wasn’t I interested in facts? Actually, I thought I had the facts. Ugh! Luckily, Rick didn’t give up on me.

It Tore Me Apart

In 2008, Rick pitched a television network on the idea of a documentary about ADHD in adults. The result, ADD & Loving It?!, was a hit, won awards and continues to be seen and loved by millions of people. Rick and I co-produced it. As well, he wrote and directed. I edited it, and it tore me apart. Try reducing 26 hours of amazing insights, and information into one 57 minute story!

But ADD & Loving It?! forever changed our lives. This is the “Life has other plans for you” part…Consider that before this program, we had worked on mostly comedy shows. What did we know about creating a medical documentary? About as much as I knew about ADHD at the time–very little.

Producing ADD & Loving It?! was so illuminating for me, like taking private classes from some of the best ADHD experts in North America. I kept thinking, “I wish everyone could sit and listen to the wisdom of these specialists.’ Wait! That’s why we were there, recording the interviews, so everyone could hear what they had to say.

It was during these interviews that I finally realized everyone’s brains work differently. Not that I didn’t understand that concept before. But something Patrick McKenna said suddenly made it very real.

During an interview with Patrick and his wife Janis, he talked about looking forward to trying medication so the he could finally experience the calm other people have, but that he has never known.

NEVER?

It hit me like a ton of bricks… ‘He has never known calm?!’

Wow. There are people who have never experienced calm. Is Rick one of them? It was like a lighting bolt to my heart, and I realized, ‘I have no idea what it must be like for Rick.’ I felt humbled. I’m eternally grateful to Patrick for sharing something about himself that reached right through to me: Adult ADHD IS real!

Understanding this aspect of how a brain works differently, a seemingly simple, but critical realization, had been hidden from me. Not understanding what it was like for Rick, was having a huge impact on my romantic relationship. It was in fact the core of my initial negative response to his ADHD diagnosis. A lack of understanding of what it was like for him, day in and day out, minute by minute.

Instead, I was growing more, and more aggravated…“If I can get through a day and be somewhat organized, why can’t you?”

“If I don’t need medication to focus, why would you?” Ugh!

And, of course, “I’m getting tired of searching for your keys, aren’t you?!”

I was transposing my experience of life on to Rick. Double ugh!

Ironically, I suddenly understood that I didn’t understand, and might never fully know, what it’s like to have this disorder.

Build It!

As we travelled from city to city, interviewing amazing ADHD experts, we began to appreciate the dire need for good information and help for people with ADHD, their families and their friends.

The confusion, misinformation, and shortage of qualified doctors was and is shocking. We began to suspect that releasing ADD & Loving It?! without an online resource would be irresponsible. Viewers would recognize themselves and be desperate to know! Did I mention we had 26 hours of interviews? The opportunity was there.

So we built this website we’re all hanging out in now, TotallyADD. Our mission is to create a safe place for everyone to learn more about ADHD in a hopefully, fun way, and to be part of a community that supports and empowers.

Ending stigma. Encouraging understanding. Fueling people’s progress.

ADD & Loving It

 

My Greatest Joy

The thing I love most about TotallyADD is hearing from people like you, sharing your stories. And I love creating videos about what matters to you.

I’m especially proud of, Living With ADHD, which reveals how and why ADHD can destroy relationships, and what to do about it. It’s based on our own experience as a couple, as well as Patrick & Janis McKenna’s story. I love this video! Why? Because, people who have ADHD, and their partners who don’t, watch the video, and finally ‘get’ what it’s like for each other. The way I got it when Patrick said he was hoping to ‘finally experience the calm that everyone else knows.’

It can take time for loved ones who don’t have this disorder to understand and be truly supportive. Trust me, I know! For those of us who don’t have this mindset, understanding your ADHD can be just as unimaginably foreign as experiencing a sense of calm was for Patrick.

Looking back, I can see that while ADD & Loving It?! has transformed millions of lives, the first life it transformed was mine. It tore me apart, and then put me back together again, with a new compassion and deep admiration for people with ADHD.

My life will never be the same because of TotallyADD, and of course the guy with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (Predominantly Combined Subtype) that I love! Thankfully.

February 16, 2017 Ava Green

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7 Responses to “THE MOMENT I REALIZED ADULT ADHD IS REAL”

  1. klmillscats says:

    Ava,
    Thanks so much for your open letter. I’m sure most ADHD spouses, especially of our generation, have similar stories of that “ah ha” moment when they get their first hint of understanding the depth of ADHD and how it impacts their spouse. My husband and I have been married 35 years. When I met him in 1981, among other things that attracted me to him was what I called his somewhat eccentric behavior. I was also attracted to his intelligence, creativity, and sensitivity. When our daughter was 8 years old, her teacher recommended we have her tested for ADD. I was vaguely familiar with the term by that time, and we took her to a counselor for testing. The counselor met with my husband and me, and went over her test results, describing those behaviors and responses that identified ADD. At one point, my husband asked, “Isn’t that normal?” The counselor and I looked at each other, smiled a little, and shook our heads. Ah Ha, my “eccentric” husband also had ADD, and had been accepting his struggles as “normal”. We began our journey of meds, behavior modifications, and hacks to make life better for both of them, but nothing has helped more than a program we caught on our local PBS station called ADD & Loving It!? Rick Smith and Patrick McKenna had already delighted our lives through the Red Green Show of which we’re avid fans. And now, here they were speaking right to us, candidly talking about themselves, and making all the puzzle pieces fall into place, with humor and real-life experiences. Many thanks to you, Rick, Patrick, Janis, and all the other professionals involved in your work, to enlighten, educate, and create a venue for interaction and resources. You may never know how many lives you’ve touched, and perhaps even saved.

    Ava, thank you so much for introducing yourself to us. Your work and influence in the ADHA community is immeasurable. It is an honor and privilege to meet you and hear your story.

    Blessings,
    Karen

  2. Vanilla says:

    Such a nice letter and story, dear Ava.

    You really are a very accomplished lady as is your very accomplished husband. You both look so beautiful in your picture together! Hope you enjoyed a pleasant Family Day.

    All the best and thank you again, to both of you!

  3. wolfshades says:

    You and Rick are the perfect team to have brought the original video (plus so many more!) and the website to life.It’s because you and Rick worked so hard together that so many of us get to benefit.

    So…thank you very much Ava! I appreciate your hard work, and can tell you that because of it, there’s a huge positive difference in my life.

    When I suspected that I’d had ADHD all my life but had yet to seek out a doctor, I went to a number of Rick’s seminars, and I saw the video and recognized myself. Because of you and him, I got to network with so many other people with ADHD.

    Going to the doctor and getting the diagnosis changed my life! And getting hold of the resources you guys have put out, plus meeting even more people with ADHD has helped me with my journey.

    I’m so grateful. Thank you for sharing your story, Ava!

  4. madreamer says:

    Oh Ava, thank you for such a candid post. I just read the one Rick posted before it, and this one. I recognize myself of many years ago. Fortunately, I didn’t say all of what I was thinking to my best friend when her son (and shortly thereafter) and she were diagnosed with ADHD. But I did say some of them, and it was clear I didn’t “buy into it.” A few years later she recognized it in my son. He’d been battling depression, which began with his dad’s serious problems related to addiction and continued through our eventual separation and divorce. My friend gently tried to get me to read “Driven to Distraction,” but I was having none of it. Looking back I can clearly see my fear, that my son would have ADHD, begin medication, and end up with addiction problems himself. No one wants that for their child. It made me afraid to learn more.

    When my son was in 10th grade, he was talking to me one day after school. In my classroom. Yes, I’m an Elementary teacher. During the years in between, I’d had some experiences with students who had ADHD. I’d come to “believe in it”, and saw the value if medication. “For some kids. You know, those who REALLY need it.” Thankfully my son is amazingly self aware for a young man with ADHD. Or any young person. He said, “Mom, I can’t pay attention.” I stopped what I was doing, and listened. “I think I’m listening, paying attention,” he said, “Then suddenly the teacher is talking about something completely different and I realize I’ve been daydreaming again.” Most of the “problems ” my son listed that day sounded perfectly normal to me. I did all those things, too. But the teacher side of my brain was listening, and recognized the pattern of his behavior. It all clicked into place for me about my son right then, and I made an appointment for him. Several months later I spoke with his psychiatrist. “None of what he said sounded odd to me because I do all of that, too.” Which began my own journey.

    My son has had some rough times, but he’s 22 now. Back in college, and doing well. His attitude and outlook are both more positive than at any time in the last 11 years. He’s looking forward in life, and feels hope for a good life. Dr Hollowell’s book and your website have been my biggest resources. I still have much to learn, and I’m so grateful you folks are here to help. With your lovely humor you make it all seem less frightening and far more survivable. Thank you so very much!

  5. ginapera says:

    Beautiful, heartfelt essay, my friend.

    i remember interviewing you for that profile piece in Attention, many years ago.

    You were still a bit skeptical then. 😉

    xo
    Gina Pera

  6. coffeeanalog says:

    Fortunately for me, it was the other way around. I was out with some friends and my wife (who doesn’t have ADD) was at home. When I got home she was glued to the TV. She immediately said “You have to watch this!”

    It was “ADD & Loving It”.

    I sank right in, seeing myself in almost everything Patrick said. Finally, after all these years, things started to make sense. I had to check the local listings to find out when it would be on again, so I could see the whole thing (and I’ve since watched it many, many more times).

    But the important thing is the my wife has been by my side throughout the whole journey. She saw, even before I did, how well this diagnosis matches up with my experiences. Without her, I may never have known.

    In ADD & Mastering It, the guys talk about finding the right spouse. Well, I did that even before I knew I needed to! It was the luckiest break of my life.

    And as a result of all of this, I have a much better life than I ever dreamed I could have, and things are gong great.

    I hope you and Rick continue to work on this site, and continue to be very happy together. It makes all the difference.

    Thank you!

    Doug

  7. richardpeter says:

    Ava, I am so thankful for the work You, Rick, and the rest of the crew has done creating the videos. “ADD & Loving It?!” is a wonderful and insightful resource. When I read this post about your “Discovery” of ADD I was encouraged by it. My wife is one of those that believes, as you did, that I should just be able to “Pull up my boot straps” and find my own keys, remember my own appointments, and get my self together. She read an online article that said “ADD doesn’t destroy relationships, you do” (referring to me). While I wait for the official diagnosis I am trying to work toward a better understanding of my condition. I see my doctor and psychologist regularly to deal with my depression and anxiety and I’m watching and reading as much as I can. While I do take responsibility for my actions I can’t always explain them and now see how the ADD is affecting me. I only hope that I can get my wife to recognize it as you have.

    BTW I realized that I had ADD because of a CBC radio interview with Cathy Jones who talked about her experiences with ADD. The interviewer, who also has ADD, mentioned that he found out that he had it after interviewing Rick and mentioned TotallyADD.com. When I started reading through the articles and forums I knew I was in the right place.

    Thank You!

    Richard

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