I don’t really know my husband, and he really doesn’t know me. We have been together for six years, and we have changed so much in that time, but what has not changed is how fundamentally different we are. Don’t get me wrong, I can usually predict 75% of the things he will say and the ways he will react, but at his core, I do not understand him. This goes beyond a gender divide; we have a mental divide because of our respective mental disorders.
My husband has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). These are things we cannot fix or change in ourselves, so we have had to learn how to adapt and compromise aspects of our lives in order to make our life together a bit easier. It is a beautiful thing when two people can depend on each other in a healthy way to make their own problems not feel as threatening.
From the beginning, our issues played a large part in our relationship. Duh— this is to be expected since we cannot simply press pause on ADD or GAD (eventually, our goal was for us to learn how to control ourselves and to decipher the needs of our minds and bodies, but let’s not jump ahead). We met in high school. He was a junior; I was a senior. I walked up to a group of our friends and asked for someone to stand in line with me to buy a cookie, and this random boy I had never met before jumped up and offered. In this situation, I needed someone to come with me because my GAD would not let me be alone for much longer than it took to go to the bathroom, and my GAD would not allow me to make a situation awkward by saying no to this random boy. His ADD would not allow him to control himself in social settings, so he jumped at the opportunity to accompany me without thinking first. So off we went.
This guy started to show up outside my classes; he learned my schedule and carried my books, dance shoes, and cheer bag. I would find myself avoiding him, telling myself I found it all very annoying — not wanting to admit to myself how truly endearing and flattering it all was. I knew that if I did, I would commit, and it would probably be one of those relationships that never ended — like the one we have now — and my GAD would not allow that level of commitment. His ADD compelled him to pursue and endure through my rejections.
It wasn’t until about a year later that I finally wore down and let the GAD fight with the commitment. We struggled for a good long while during a time in which my internal battle of “Is this the one?” vs. “This is the one!” went down while simultaneously fighting the external battle of doubt on my part vs. persistence on his. No matter how much I struggled and pushed him away, he always did something to remind me that he wasn’t going anywhere and that he would love me more than I love myself until the end of our days.
We went to college, got engaged, and sought out our careers, but the struggles didn’t end there. My husband decided he wanted to move across the country and pursue his lifelong dream of a career in NASCAR — something his ADD had taken hold of early in his life and had continued to manifest in his dreams and goals. I had never known anything besides the suburbs of Los Angeles and Southern California. I embraced this adventure with equal amounts of excitement and fear and followed him 2,500 miles away from home the day after we got married — which was both a challenge and a practice for control of my anxiety.
So now, my husband and I find ourselves embarking on a new venture that will test our disorders more than ever: We are about a week away from becoming parents. The journey of pregnancy has already made us hyperaware of how our issues can easily affect our relationship. We have had countless conversations in preparation for the trials we will face as new parents. Fortunately, we have always been able to be open up about our issues and have honest conversations that lead us to having a better understanding of each other and our thought processes.
If you have a mental issue that you feel limits you in your social, romantic, or family relationships, just remember to be honest with yourself and everyone in your relationships. Honesty and open communication are key to having success amidst the doubts in your mind that are telling you it is impossible.