Letters from the ADHD Roller Coaster Mailbag

Since my book was published (Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder), I have been receiving letters from readers worldwide. I have permission to share the following three.  These mens’ words might strike a chord for you.

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Hi Gina,

I am a man diagnosed with ADHD. I have accepted the diagnosis only after realizing that focusing on myself and exercise is not the only answer. True, it took me 50 years to discover this, I feel the combination of my medication, exercise, and focusing has proven to be successful. At least in my mind, less so for my wife, apparently.

From the first day I took medication, I realized how effective the results could be. Upon my first dosage. I had always been criticized for being hyper and loud (but entertaining) as well as disorganized and easily distracted. Since the medication, I can hear myself and have more sensitivity to my own volume. I am now more aware of my ranting. A good argument was like food for me. Now, I don’t have to be in the ring with every discussion, and I can focus on a discussion that I am engaged in.

With all my celebration, I have never been more ostracized and condemned by my wife. I can’t celebrate because my wife is obsessed with blaming me for a failed marriage. Sometimes I think that while I was not being treated, her obsessions were much more tolerable and I was able to deal with them.

My wife has lots of support from your online group and local meetings. There’s a lot of sympathy to the spouses out there.

I am the happy owner of a company that has been in business for 30 years. My employees tend to stick with me and like me. I have never had a moving violation nor an accident. I never, never swear. Don’t smoke, don’t drink, never eat sugar, and no drugs. Just the opposite of my wife.

Sorry ladies, not all the stories are what they seem. I think you have to let yourself take some responsibility for your life, and stop blaming your partner on your unhappiness. We are not all the abusers. We do heal. We do make amends.

My psychiatrist and therapist do agree that my therapy is not only working, but is a success story.
I am celebrating in my heart. Too bad no one’s there to toast with me……..

G. H.
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Dear Gina,

A little while ago I purchased Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder . I purchased the book on the recommendation of my Significant Other. She is a medical professional who realized on her own she has ADD. She has had treatment and is taking medication. Yet, we have had some real ups and downs, the roller coaster ride, if you will.

I did not understand her behavior and thought most of it malicious on her part. For her part, she did not recognize it. Yes, I did say she is taking medication, but she still exhibits much of the behaviors. Once I started reading your book, though, it was as if a light went on where there was none before, and a fog lifted. I realized that much of what I thought was a malicious behavior was not really. Once I realized where or why she acted like she did, it became easy to understand where this behavior was coming from (and she was not the only one). I have been around her when she has been off her medication for a while, and that was not pleasant (we were out-of-state for an extended period and she could not get her prescription renewed when she used to be able to – the State laws were changed).

It has really changed our relationship. I understand where a lot of it comes from and now know it’s not malicious. It really has made things a lot easier for me to accept (now I laugh at things that, before, would have me emotionally reeling). I know it’s not personal, which she has always claimed it was not. To her credit, she has also taken a deep interest in the behaviors noted in your book and is now even more aware of behaviors that, before, she simply did not recognize in herself.

She is very much a workaholic, and that can be directly attributed to her inability to organize and concentrate. I must say that she is brilliant and very much the epitome of a medical professional, and I now, more than ever, appreciate the self-discipline it took for her to get there and keep there. (I must say that all of her peers all have the same opinion, which tells me that I am not just being kind to the one I love.) I do not see her making the mistakes mentioned in your book, but I do see her taking extra care to ensure she does not. Now, though, I can really appreciate how much she puts into it so that she does not and I have learned to be even more supportive so she can.

I have read other books on ADD, many by medical professionals, and they cannot touch your book. It has really opened my eyes and made a difference. If you were to look at my copy, I have highlighted it and made notations in it as if I was studying (which I was, in a way).

Thanks!!!!!

Jack
————
Hi Gina,

Yours is the 3rd book on ADHD I am reading. Call me thick, or whatever, but I find myself thinking about this quite a bit now. Of course as I read through the other 2 books, one by Edward Hallowell (admittedly haven’t finished this one:-) and the other by Nancy Ratey, I find myself relating to a number of the symptoms and individuals offered as examples.

Then I read in your book about John on pg 28; I can relate! I took the self screener on page 25 and have marked the 1st 4 in the dark squares (assuming I answered them right … this is where it gets a bit fuzzy, in my opinion). But having said that, I could be very motivated to seek an evaluation and treatment for ADHD if I learned that I would not have to work as doggone long as I do to achieve what I want to achieve (which always seem twice to three times longer than other people of similar intelligence and ability).

I look at one of my sons who is on medication. I can see so many similarities between personalities. But one area where we are not similar is that every one of his courses in High School has been honors and AP; and he continues to get “A’s”!

What I wouldn’t give to be able to do this (or to have been able to do this)!!! Yet, I know I could have and still can … and this would be a dream come true. While I have a number of certifications, they came with much effort. Not that I mind effort, but what if it was undue effort? What if I could accomplish the same or more … faster?! Guess what? When I got one of my certifications, when I took the test, I took Sudafed that day for a sinus headache. Discovered this by accident (just like the example you have in the book), but what a difference it made! I was able to focus so well … passed first time, no problem (wish I knew this when I sat for the CPA exam). I do not take Sudafed anymore though; take some medicine for atrial fibrillation.

As I continue to read in your book about Edith (pg 31) being married 25 years and then Joe was diagnosed at age 55 … well, I have been married for 25 years and am close to the same age (and my wife, very successful in the medical field, has complained about being codependent and that I am controlling). Maybe it is time to stop denying and to investigate.

By the way, your book has been addressing all my questions … extremely thorough.

J.T.

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  1. D.’s avatar

    It truly never fails to amaze me just how individual each story is yet how very similar at the same time. The key to the success stories with respect to relationships seems to be the genuine commitment and compassion and acceptance from both partners.

    D.

  2. Abigail’s avatar

    Yes, kind acceptance….but what if one of the partners is abusing the other? That sort of behavior can not be accepted, for then it would be enabling and/or co-dependence.

    I do agree, however, that so much of the behaviors are now, so predictable.

  3. Gina Pera’s avatar

    Hi Abigail,
    Thanks for your comment. I can’t speak for “D.” but I think his/her meaning of “acceptance” is accepting the reality of one’s ADHD challenges and, it’s implied, doing something about them.

    And absolutely, no one should accept abusive behavior.

  4. oliver’s avatar

    Gina, I’m unsure on rereading your last comment, when at first I understood you to be drawing the traditional line at physical abuse, regarding what’s reasonable to be put up with, I thought back to the relativistic ratings you recommend in another post, which I think is wise and seemingly a radically different way of evaluating experience and behavior. Rereading, I see you’re not necessary singling out physical abuse at all and offering maybe only an irrefutable (but nontrivial and worthy) rule-of-thumb. I can see you might regard spanking to be ratable as a (tolerable) 5 in the contexts of some relationships (mother and child?), and not, simply because it’s physical, label it “abuse” and unreasonable. Oh well. Never mind.

  5. Gina Pera’s avatar

    Hi Oliver,

    Thanks for visiting. I’m not sure I’m following you. (Our Adult ADHD Discussion group went late last night, so maybe my brain is fuzzy this morning! It was a great meeting, though.)

    Perhaps you’re referring to my comments on US News interview with Larry Diller, who advocates spanking as a way to prevent ADHD and other nonsense?

    Or maybe you mean something else.

    In general, I am not as quick as some to label behaviors “abusive.” Because to me, this often just helps to create a volitional abuser/victim dynamic.

    It’s true that many ADHD symptoms can be “abusive.” But I think it’s important to look for the cause of behaviors and thereby increase the chance of finding solutions. There are some therapists who just seem to “self-medicate” with their perspectives on abuse — who attribute all kinds of conscious motive to said abuser — and I don’t find it helpful.

    Many ADHD symptoms are as “abusive” to the person who has the symptoms as to the people around the person. In short, unrecognized ADHD symptoms can hurt everyone.

    I hope that makes sense. If that doesn’t address your question, maybe you can tell me more and I will try again. ;-)

  6. oliver’s avatar

    I apologize for being unclear. I’d pondered thoughtfully and edited myself many times, so in clicking “post” I assumed I’d at least left something coherent. Yes, you did in effect address my curiosity. I didn’t know you that you’d addressed spanking anywhere. Something(s) you wrote here gave me cause to wonder, until I decided it was just me. I appreciate your answer and think alike–albeit, self consciously, and fearful of the moral hazard it seems to imply. I suspect you could probably defend yourself well though if invited on O’Reilly or Dr. Phil.

  7. Gina Pera’s avatar

    Hi Oliver,

    I’m sure you were clear — my brain is just on overload. (This week, it’s catching up on a year’s worth of accounting — for my husband’s business AND mine….not a pretty sight!)

    Now that I re-read my response, I see it might make little sense! With nary a transition, I jumped from talking about Larry Diller’s nonsensical ADHD-prevention technique (spanking) to “abusive” behavior related to unrecognized Adult ADHD symptoms. That’s sort of how I see the subject of ADHD — complex and far-reaching.

    Here, by the way, is the US News interview with Larry Diller — if you want to really give your neurons a whirl, read all 82 comments; many of them are from pwADHD who testify that spanking really did not work that well for their unrecognized ADHD. It only made them fearful, shamed, etc.

    http://www.usnews.com/health/blogs/on-parenting/2008/06/09/one-view-a-spanking-might-beat-ritalin

    On the other topic I alluded to above: Adult ADHD symptoms as “abusive.” At one of my talks, a man with ADHD told me that his wife had read the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship and concluded that he was abusive towards her. Moreover, his abuse was intentional — a “power trip.”

    If you read the list of verbally abusive characteristics in that book, you will see that some of them closely align with some ADHD symptoms. Sorry I don’t have time to find the book and excerpt a few, but they’re along the lines of forgetting, not paying attention during conversations, denying that conversations took place, arguing, etc.

    The takeaway point: It’s important to recognize when these “abusive” behaviors might be symptomatic of ADHD instead of being willfully abusive behavior.

    For the ADHD Partner Survey, I actually listed all the “Verbally Abusive” traits and asked respondents to check which ones were present in their relationship. I also asked if they considered them abusive before and after the ADHD diagnosis. Will write that post on the ADHD Partner Survey blog some day soon….. http://www.ADHDPartner.org

    g

  8. Gina Pera’s avatar

    As for this: “I suspect you could probably defend yourself well though if invited on O’Reilly or Dr. Phil.”

    LOLOLOL!!! I’m afraid I’d let them jerk my chain, and I’d come off looking like a nincompoop. But I’m working on it. I’m working on it……. ;-)

  9. Jane’s avatar

    Gina…My husband finally agreed to try medication. At first it seemed like a miracle. Then as the dosage increased, I noticed more aggression when it had worn off. He is now totally focused but on his computer, i phone….anything but me and our marriage. We saw his medical psychologist this week and I reported what I am noticing and my husband told him he is tired of trying to please me and that this was his last straw. He said he was willing to take meds but if that didn’t make me happy, he was at the end of his trail and would not try anything else. We have been married for 26 years and have been on this rollercoaster the whole time. I have to say that he has changed since being on the meds but not for the better. I am devastated as I was sooo excited when he first started with the meds. We have worked so hard on this marraige and have seen more counselors than I can count. Of course, none of them worked because his severe ADD was never addressed. I believe in my heart that is the root of all of our problems. I so hoped that the meds would be the answer but now things are worse. The psychologist doesn’t think the increased dosage is a factor since he only increased the stimulant 15 miligrams. I don’t know where to turn. I am afraid our marriage is over when only 3 months ago we were the happiest we had ever been. He won’t listen to me and is back to his usual blaming and projecting. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  10. Gina Pera’s avatar

    Hi Jane,

    I’m so sorry to hear this, for both of you. (Your husband is probably as frustrated as you are. He did what you asked and it still didn’t work!)

    I wish I heard stories like this only rarely. Unfortunately, they are too common. That’s why I devoted a good chunk of the book to medication issues, especially the importance of following a protocol — AND paying attention to co-existing conditions. To what else does this “medical psychologist” attribute the increased aggression if not the increased dosage? It could be many other things, but that is the first thing to rule out. But there are plenty of other factors, some of them quite simple, such as is your husband consuming caffeine? That can severely interfere with the stimulants working properly.

    If you both were happier two months ago than you’d ever been, HOLD ONTO THAT AND INSIST ON BETTER MEDICAL TREATMENT. And don’t assume you can just turn it over to any professional. People with ADHD and their partners must be their own advocates and must be smart mental healthcare consumers — or suffer the consequences. Passivity just won’t cut it.

    It’s only an anti-ADHD myth that treating ADHD medically is a “quick fix.” It takes care and attention, from both patient and physician (and with a third-party pitching in with feedback). PLEASE re-read my book’s chapters on medication (assuming you’ve already read them) and re-evaluate the treatment process. Did you use the tracking chart in the back of the book?

    Also, sign up to receive Dr. Parker’s excellent free white paper (Predictable Solutions for ADHD Meds). Look for the sign-up form in the upper right corner at his blog: http://www.corepsychblog.com/

    g

  11. Jane’s avatar

    Gina….thanks for your speedy reply…. The psychologist says that we came there with marital problems and that the meds were not going to change that. I told him I didn’t think you could separate ADD from marital problems; the two go hand in hand. He said, if you couldn’t communicate before, taking meds won’t help that. I told him that he WAS listening far better and that certainly improved our communication. I asked why he did so well initially and he said maybe he was working on it at the time and isn’t working on it anymore. I don’t know that he has given him anything to “work on or with” e.g. books. I agree that his self awareness was at an all time high initially and now he just expects the pill to work it’s magic and if it doesn’t work then it’s because I expect too much. My husband drinks coffee all morning before taking his vyvanse. He drinks tea during the day as well. I’m not sure that his doctor has addressed this with him.
    I had a difficult time finding anyone with experience to treat my husband. This doctor is in a group that treats ADHD almost exclusively. I thought he might be more knowledgeable about co existing disorders e.g. anxiety than a G.P. might be. It would have been months before getting in to see a psychiatrist and I wanted to move on it quickly while my husband was willing.
    The psychologist suggested seeing another marriage counselor but my husband refuses. Don’t know that I care to go that route again. Haven’t met one yet that thinks ADD could be the problem.
    I have read your book cover to cover and highlighted every other word!! It described our lives to a ‘T’ and my husband agreed. He has since changed his mind…I think someone who has no knowledge about ADD has convinced him that I’m just trying to put the blame on him because now he says “what part do you play in this, it’s not ALL me”.
    Any further suggestions would be appreciated!
    Jane

  12. Gina Pera’s avatar

    Oh boy, I just hate reading stories like this– and I’ve read hundreds of them.

    1. That psychologist is WRONG about the medication not being able to change marital problems.

    It won’t change everything, of course. There is often “baggage” and even damage to deal with. But for a time, you both noticed improvements. For this psychologist (or even you) to blame it on your husband not wanting to “work on it” anymore seems wholly unfair to me. Why? Because it sounds like this psychologist is extremely poorly informed on helping the pwADHD.

    2. Please don’t get locked into the “who’s to blame” game. Look at it from your husband’s point of view: He did what you asked, he went to an alleged ADHD professional, and it’s still not “good enough.” What is he supposed to do now? His back’s up against the wall. Not a comfortable place to be. (Especially when one’s stimulant dosage might be too high or when it has aggravated other conditions).

    3. He MUST stop the coffee. We had a big discussion about this at our last local ADHD discussion group. The stimulant can mix with the caffeine in a very bad way, making it equivalent to double the stimulant dosage or more. Moreover, caffeine is not a targeted medication; it is a messy one that can create irritability, anger, and worse. (This is in my book.)

    4. I’d hold off on the marriage counseling until you get the meds optimized. It will just frustrate both of you, IMHO.

    5. Please assure your husband you know it’s not all “him” but whether he realizes it or not, the caffeine and perhaps the medication (wrong choice, too high a dosage, etc.) are working against him.

    If you don’t have a more knowledgeable physician in your area, I highly recommend that you and your husband consider the Neuroscience testing and a phone consult with Dr. Parker. (We have no business relationship whatsoever.)

    good luck and don’t give up. Take a deep breath and focus on those good times from a few months ago.

  13. Honor’s avatar

    Reading this book was such an eye-opening experience. As I read through other peoples’ cases, I found myself keep saying, “that sounds exactly like MY RELATIONSHIP”. It helps me understand my ADD partner better because I realized his behavior was not necessarily intentionally hurtful.

    My boyfriend was taking medication when we met and stopped about a year ago. I don’t need to go on and on about how he acts because it’s textbook ADD behavior. He had me convinced that I was the one who was the problem.

    After reading the book, I sat down with him and told him that I thought he needed to go back on medication. I told him I wasn’t happy with the way he acts and treats me. He refused. He hates the meds, he hates shrinks, he hates ADD books. He began to deny that ADD is a real condition. He said I was attacking him and bringing him down.

    We are not married, we don’t have kids. He refuses to take meds again…. he outright refused to even read one passage from this book. I love him very much but my happiness would suffer if I stay with someone in such denial. Why would I want to live my life the way all the partners in your book do…miserable! It seems the only partners who ended up being happy were the ones that left the relationship.

    Is there a better approach to get him to take me more seriously, or to realize he needs more help with his disorder?

  14. Gina Pera’s avatar

    Hi there,

    Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you found the book helpful.

    I’m wondering, though, if perhaps you skimmed it, because it is surely not the case that “all the partners in the book” are “miserable.”

    Many work through the issues of denial, treatment, etc. But those who are dealing with “denial” often have it the hardest.

    I would ask your boyfriend about his experience with medication and doctors. If it was similar to many others’ experience, it wasn’t an altogether good one. Many physicians are careless in their prescribing, and their patients with ADHD suffer. The side effects can be worse than the symptoms!

    So, before you “lock horns,” talk to him to gain his perspective. If you cannot listen to him and don’t give him the respect of asking for his perspective, why should he respect yours?

    If his treatment was many years ago, he should know that much has improved. We have much better knowledge as well as more sophisticated medication-delivery systems that minimize side effects.

    Other than that, please read the book’s chapters on denial carefully. They are full of information on understanding denial and getting through it.

    good luck!
    Gina

  15. J’s avatar

    Hello Gina!

    My husband and I watched Totally ADD on our public station and ordered some info and your book was one of them. Just this week my husband and son have both been diagnosed with ADHD and will begin medication soon.

    I am trying to find a support group in my area and wondering if you have any suggestions. We live in the “north counrty” in Minnesota.

    Thanks so much!
    J

  16. Gina Pera’s avatar

    Hi Jill,

    Congratulations! You’re moving swiftly! :-)

    The first place to check is the CHADD chapter locator. CHADD is the national non-profit serving the ADHD community. The website: http://www.CHADD.org click on “finding support” and then “find local.”

    I moderate an online discussion group for the partners of adults with ADHD. You are welcome to join. It is not a “chat” group; it is a Yahoogroup wherein you send an e-mail to the group and others response. It works on your own time, in other words.

    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/ADHD_Partner/

    I hope this help.
    Gina

  17. J’s avatar

    Thank you. :)

    I have been on the CHADD website before and the only support group listed is the CHADD group that meets in Minneapolis and we are about 2 1/2 hours north. I did find an email address and sent a message to see if they have additonal info for our area.

    I will also check in to the yahoo group as well. My only dilema is we do not have internet at home so staying connected via the web proves to be a little more challenging, but sure worth a try.

    Thanks again. Your book as given me some vital education tools and even more vital undestanding of what my men live with every day. The greatest help has been to know I am not crazy!. My life statement from the book as become “I do not have to attend every argument I am invited to.” what a life saver! :)

    God bless!
    J

  18. Gina Pera’s avatar

    haha — that line was a lifesaver for me, too, back in the day. Fortunately, I don’t need it anymore. And I wish that for you and your family, too.

    You might want to talk to the CHADD Minneapolis folks about setting up a satellite meeting in your town. That way, you could advertise it (it would also be listed on CHADD’s list) and build up interest over time. All CHADD chapters/meeting are initiated and run by volunteers.

    As for the online group, it might work well for you. You can post your mail, leave, and check for responses the next time you are at a computer. There is a search function that lets you enter terms (e.g. your subject message) and find responses quickly.

    Meanwhile, just keep reading that book. I wrote it as a “support group in a book” specifically for those who needed a crash course! :-)

    g

  19. j’s avatar

    Dear Gina, I’m sure you’ve heard this story before…we became aware of my husband’s undiagnosed ADHD when we became aware of my 9 yr old son’s diagnosed ADHD. Now I have so much hope that maybe we can put the reins on the irritability, unpredictability, overprotective, etc etc behavior through meds and/or therapy. Who should I contact first? I am in the Toronto area. I will not be able to deag my husband from dr to dr (he will lose patience :) ) so I want to get it right the first time… Thanks!

  20. Gina Pera’s avatar

    Hi J,

    Yes, I’ve head that story a few times…. ;-)

    Hope is a good thing to have! And you are wise to “get it right the first time.” You’ll increase your chances of that if you educate yourself first. The best ADHD treatment outcomes — even with the best care providers — require a pro-actiive patient (and partner). Reading my book will give you a strong foundation on optimizing medication and understanding the type of therapy that research shows is effective for ADHD.

    I don’t know specific care providers in Toronto, but I bet you can connect with the Toronto ADHD community my friends’ blog: http://totallyadd.com/forum/

    I hope this helps!

  21. j’s avatar

    Many thanks. I have read and reread your book so many times…and Hallowell and Ratey and anything else I can get my hands on. One thing we are afraid of…are there instances where one’s life can be affected for the worse with the identification and treatment of ADHD at age 45

  22. Gina Pera’s avatar

    You know, that really depends on the person. I don’t know anyone, though, who has not benefited from understanding the nature of their challenges and gaining solid information to help them.

  23. j’s avatar

    Thank you. I put through an email to caddra and hopefully they will be able to direct us. Once again, your book is the most useful resource that I have found and refer to it time and again, even showing chapters to my teenage children to explain why Dad acts the way he does (not willfully or maliciously). it really helps.

  24. Gina Pera’s avatar

    Good work, J.

    You might also want to check out the excellent treatment guidelines for adult ADHD, recently posted for public benefit by Canada’s fine ADHD experts, through CADDRA. http://www.caddra.ca/cms4/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=26&Itemid=353&lang=en

  25. Karl M Johanson’s avatar

    My ex-wife, childhood friend, and still close friend, gave a copy of your book to my wife, who has suffered since childhood with depression. She is currently on medication. I am 69 years old, a formerly licensed counselor with a Ph.D. in Education. I have recently been diagnosed by a phychiatrist as having ADHD and started medications. I was also tested on the TOVA and but only scored – .2 with – 1.0 to – 1.8 being an indicator of ADHD. When my wife read your book, she like some who have posted here, immediately identified me as the sole cause of our marital stife. I have tried to point out that I could write a book, “Is It You, Me, or Your Depression?” and that she reacts often reacts/overreacts to the same behaviors in me that co-workers and friends do not. Most of the examples in your book seem to assume that there are no underlying issues with the partner of the “identified patient.” Would you comment?

  26. Gina Pera’s avatar

    HI Karl,

    If you read my book, you could see for yourself. ;-)

    I emphasize repeatedly that ADHD is not a cookie-cutter condition, that the partners of adults with ADHD are not perfect and might indeed have problems of their own.

    But, understandably, this book focuses in-depth on ONE topic: ADHD.

    Perhaps your wife is not truly saying that your ADHD was the “sole” problem. Perhaps, though, it was the “elephant in the room.” When something as big as ADHD goes unrecognized, it can block the way towards shared strategies and equal responsibility.

    If she suffered all her life from depression, that was something you knew going in, right? So, I wonder if you blamed her depression as the “sole” problem in the relationship. The stress from living with a partner’s untreated ADHD can cause depression and anxiety in those without a proclivity towards others, and it can greatly exacerbate it in those who do.

    Moreover, when someone who has been living in this situation for many years finally reads my book, it can come as a shock. There can be anger that no other physician or therapist pointed out the issue, that they have been dealing with unnecessary stress. There can be even more anger if for the longest time the partner with ADHD has been “in denial” of his or her problems and blamed the partner for any relationship troubles.

    So, you see, this is a complex issue. I hope that as your treatment progresses that you can both start teasing out the issues and working on solutions.

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