ADHD Pastor // Part 2

“This doesn’t change anything. I’ve checked out and don’t know how to check back in.”

Her statement was as if a ton of bricks had come crashing down onto me. After the rollout of the assessment results and the official diagnosis, Carrie and I went to a local coffee shop to talk. I naively hoped that hearing that I had an actual neurological disorder would turn everything around. I wanted her to “love” me again and forgive me for all the horrible ways I had hurt her so that we could live happily ever after. I’ll just put it out there… I’m an idiot.

It was at that moment that I realized I couldn’t keep chasing her. I couldn’t keep trying to fix our marriage. If there would be any hope of us ever having a great relationship, I had to start figuring what was going on inside of me. The ADHD had absolutely influenced my thoughts, actions, and decisions, but it didn’t justify any of them. I knew at that point that I wasn’t going to get support from her. Honestly, I don’t blame her. She had supported and carried me for years. She was tired, disillusioned and was not in a good place personally.

The day after the diagnosis I went to my family doctor and asked to be put on medication. I showed her the assessment and she agreed it was worth trying. I also started doing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I had read that a combo of meds and therapy was a strategy that seems to help most adults with ADHD to learn how to cope. I also found an amazing counselor. His name is Dustin and I love him.

Through all of this, my work life didn’t suffer. It became a safe haven for me. My bosses are the most amazing men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. They supported, encouraged and walked me through the darkest period of my life without any judgment. They called me to integrity, to fight for what was right and always pointed me to Jesus. I am forever grateful for Marvin, Blaine and the whole Elim team . I’m a better man, husband, father, and follower of Jesus because of them.

I started meds in October and didn’t get fully regulated on them till January. The months in between were confusing. I felt numb on the meds. Even Carrie would tell me I was like a zombie which was very hard to hear. I took my meds daily, I did my CBT worksheets as much as I could. Slowly, I started to change. Some of it was the meds, but a lot of it was that for the first time in my life; I felt like I was winning. I could remember things. I wasn’t as emotional. I was completing tasks that normally would have overwhelmed me. I was enjoying moments with my kids and was not distracted. I could actually pray and read the Bible without losing attention. Friends were noticing that I was calmer and present when I was talking to them. I was changing and it was affecting everything.

Carrie through this whole process was still hesitant. Were these changes real? At the end of January that year I had just come home from speaking at our church’s young adult retreat. It was like any other normal Sunday night. Carrie and I talked after we put the kids to bed. She said she had noticed the changes in me, that things were different but that she was also afraid that everything would slip into the same tired patterns we had always known. I honestly thought that this was it. I thought that this was the conversation where she would finally tell me that she had made her decision to leave. Instead, that night she decided to meet me in the middle and to give our marriage another try.

The journey since then hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. I’m still on meds and I will be for the rest of my life. I’m still practicing the principles I learned through CBT. I still have off days where I forget things, can’t accomplish as much or am just simply struggling. But overall, things are completely different. I’m different. I’m married to my best friend… We’re actually friends. Our relationship is no longer co-dependant, it’s a partnership. Carrie doesn’t complete me, she’s not my soul mate… She’s the person I choose to do real life with. It’s sweet and it’s stable.

I finally feel like I contribute to our family’s success. Carrie went back to school and completed her education because I was able to handle things on the home front (imperfectly of course!). We started a business together that is succeeding in ways that we could have never imagined. Our kids have a dad who is present. Our life is not grand, it’s mundane in many ways, but it’s the life we are building together now, all five of us.

God took the mess I had made, and like a good parent gave me the tools I needed to clean it up.

Part 3 tomorrow // Tools to help you lead in pastoral ministry when you have ADHD.

ADHD Pastor // Part 1

” Have you ever been tested for ADHD?”

My wife and I were in a counseling session when the counselor blurted out this question. I immediately dismissed it. I had only ever associated ADHD with elementary school-aged children. I was definitely not a child. I was a full grown man in his 30’s who was on the brink of losing his marriage, and here was this therapist associating my behavior with a disorder that only hyperactive kids on Ritalin have. I was insulted… But I was also desperate.

After we got home, I fell into a web MD vortex of self-diagnosis. The scary part was that everything I was reading wasn’t just applicable, every case study was like reading my own story…

For the first time, it seemed like things were making sense. There was potentially a reason as to why I couldn’t be content with the positions at the churches I had worked in. There was a reason why I was a strong starter, but couldn’t keep things together over the long term. There was a reason why I could never remember to bring milk home or show up for supper on time. I was frustrated with myself. My family was frustrated because I was letting them down. Something needed to change and maybe, just maybe there was something to this whole ADHD thing.

I found a psychiatrist who specialized in adult ADHD assessments. I made an appointment and tried not to throw up every time I thought about how badly I was screwing up my life and the lives of the people I loved most.

On the surface, things looked ok, but I couldn’t keep anything together. I never remembered important info, I was late for everything and my wife felt like she had a fourth child. She not only had to keep everything together for our three kids, but she also had to deal with the fact that her husband was completely unreliable. My kids were constantly having to put up with a dad who would either show up late or not at all for their activities.

The lead up to the assessment was awful. Carrie was convinced that if I was diagnosed with ADHD that I would use it as a justification for all the neglect and pain that I had caused her over the years.  I was scared. I was lost. I knew that if the results came back as positive, I had no more excuses. I couldn’t hide behind being a busy dad or an overworked pastor. If there was finally a reason for all of it, there would have to be a major overhaul in my life.

It was three sessions in total. I shared every detail of my past, the struggles I had experienced as well as the patterns that seemed to reoccur over and over again. We talked, I did tests and then… I waited three weeks for the results. Those weeks were awful. There were so many “what ifs” rolling around in my brain.

The day finally came. I met Carrie at the therapist’s office. She read out the results. It definitely was ADHD. I found out that ADHD is the umbrella term. There are three different kinds: Attention (ADD), Hyperactivity ( in adults it shows up as impulsivity) and finally, a combo of the first two. Of course, I have the combo and on a scale of mild to severe, I’m three-quarters of the way to severe. It was bad. I was in shock. Carrie was crying and said: “I wish we would have gotten this diagnosis three years ago!”

She was done, I felt like a failure and only God could clean up this mess.

Part 2 tomorrow.

LET’S GIVE THIS ANOTHER TRY.

It’s been ten years.

A decade ago I hit publish on my first contribution to the blogosphere. I was 24, I was arrogant and unmedicated. I ended up hurting more people that I ever helped. And so, after 2 years of experimenting with blogs and the new world of social media, I quit. I deleted every post I ever wrote on this blog. I still used Facebook and Instagram to highlight work stuff and to have an online persona like everyone else.

In that time I’ve been through a lot. I moved my family twice. I burned out professionally. I almost lost my marriage and family. I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. All the stuff that isn’t “post worthy” on Instagram. I’ve wrestled with God and with myself trying to make sense of how I had made such a mess of life in such a short time.

Ten years later, I now walk with a limp. A limp that is a constant reminder that God loves me too much to leave me the way I was. Don’t get me wrong… I’m still learning and journeying, but I’m no longer obsessed with arriving. I’m happy, I’m content and I’m starting to understand how to not wish away the time I’ve been given.

Let’s give this another try.