Living with Neurodivergence: My Spouse’s Experience

I write a lot about my feelings regarding my neurodivergence. Looking back on past posts, I started to wonder how my conditions and diagnoses have affected the people around me. Did it change their perceptions of me? Did they already know?

I’ve decided to ask, starting with the most important person in my life, my husband. Here’s what he had to say:

We’ve been together a long time– over thirteen years. What were the first clues to you that I wasn’t neurotypical?

That’s…that’s a tough one. When you’re together this long, you kind of just get used to the way the other person is, so there were some little things where I was like, “Huh, that’s weird,” but didn’t think much more of it. 

I do remember when I finally convinced you to go to a doctor. You were writing a French paper and you kept breaking down over having to write it. That’s when I could tell it was more than weird; you needed help.

How did you feel when I was first diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder? Were you relieved, scared, frustrated, confused?

With the generalized anxiety disorder, I was mostly relieved because I had told you to go and it proved I was right to make you do that. I had already been through learning about another person’s mental health conditions with my mom. It wasn’t my first rodeo, so to speak, and this was a much less scary experience for me. I think that earlier experience made your diagnosis a lot easier to handle.

How was your reaction different when I started showing new symptoms (the tics and tremors) and we later learned my initial diagnosis was incorrect?

Learning the initial diagnosis was incorrect was a big relief. When the tremors and tics started again, I was really worried. We didn’t know at all what was wrong. When it happened the first time, we had thought it was serotonin syndrome, caused by medication, but this time you weren’t on anything. I was preparing for the worst. I was thinking it was a degenerative neurological disorder or something, so finding out it was a tic disorder and the symptoms weren’t going to progressively get more severe was actually great news.

There are a lot of ups and downs to neurodivergence. What are some of the harder parts of being married to someone with ADHD, provisional tic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive anxiety? (Don’t hold back! I won’t feel bad.)

For me, I think the hardest part is understanding that what I think of as simple isn’t always easy for you. Like, when I ask you to do what I think is a simple task and it doesn’t get done right or you just don’t understand what I want you to do, it can be really frustrating. I want everything to run like a well-oiled machine, but it’s not that easy. I’m really trying to keep in mind that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.

And the best parts?

I mean, all this stuff it makes you…it makes you you. You wouldn’t be you without these conditions. And I really like you. So I can’t really separate out and say, “oh, this is the best part,” because you can’t separate it like that. I like that you are who you are and I like being married to you.

I’ve sung your praises as a supportive partner on this website before. What do you think you do well in supporting me through these discoveries? Are there any areas you would like to improve?

I think I’m good at reminding you to see doctors and things and helping with your meds, but still letting you make your own decisions. I try to be an outside perspective when things get overwhelming without taking away your agency.

And like I said before, I’d like to do better when it comes to getting frustrated over things you can’t control.

Finally, what advice would you offer to someone who has just learned their partner is neurodivergent?

It sounds trite, but I would just say be there. Be supportive. Try to help whenever you can. They’re going to need someone to vent to and talk to, so just be as supportive as you can.

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