Why An ADHD Roller Coaster?
What’s the connection between Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a roller coaster?
Roller Coaster is the term most commonly used by the new folks joining my support groups—both the adults with ADHD and their partners.
For years, I’ve led two discussion groups:
- Partners of adults with ADHD (online and in-person, in Palo Alto)
- Adults with ADHD (in-person, in Palo Alto….we tried to launch an online discussion forum, but no one followed through! ha!)
When the partners of adults with ADHD join our group, they frequently use the “roller coaster” metaphor.
They say that life with their undiagnosed or “in-denial” ADHD partners is sometimes thrilling. But too many times it’s whiplash-inducing—from sudden, unexpected drops on the roller coaster of moods and impulses, distractions and forgotten promises.
Yet, the adults with ADHD also talk about living on a roller coaster—or drifting through heavy fog, sometimes on a roller coaster—until they learned they had ADHD.
One night, I was driving home from one of these meetings, still puzzling on how to open Chapter 1 of my first book, Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?
Then it hit me. I write about what goes on in that meeting room, month after month. You can read Chapter 1 here.
On A Roller Coaster…Through the Fog
Suddenly, these adults with ADHD have an explanation.
They finally understand why—no matter how smart they were or how hard they tried, they had a much harder time with some things than did the people around them. (Things like being on time for important events, paying bills, staying focused throughout a meeting, or being able to pay attention to a loved one’s words or feelings.)
Unfortunately, many of their partners are in denial, too!
I can’t quote the adults with ADHD, because I don’t take notes during our meeting.
But here are some examples from their partners, excerpted from their posts from the online support group (with permission):
I was on the verge of filing for divorce when I read about Adult ADD. I was amazed that a medical condition might explain my husband’s video-game fixation, his moods, his absent-mindedness, his impulsive spending, and our roller-coaster life!—Jeanette
My girlfriend and I can have a great conversation, lay out plans, and the next day she has forgotten it—or has an entirely different memory! This mental roller coaster is messing with my mind! —Sean
We just learned that my husband has ADD. We dated long-distance for five years, but only after marriage did this roller coaster of mood swings and miscommunications begin. I really need to exit this ride soon, but I’d like my husband to come with me. Is that even possible? —Susan
Our relationship has been a roller coaster of good times and bad for 16 years. We have something special, but I’m getting too old for the frustrations. I thought she’d learn to stop doing things without thinking of consequences, but she never does. I love her, but something must change. —Christopher
For years, my husband and I blamed each other for all the confusion, hurt, and miscommunications. Meanwhile, the emotional and logistical roller coaster—of unpaid bills, bad judgment calls, and co-parenting issues—kept us both too dizzy to see straight. The idea of ADD is the only thing that’s made sense in our lives for a long, long time. —Abby
After two years of arguing with my new wife about her saying or doing inconsiderate things, we read an article about ADD. After being diagnosed, she tried medication and life was good! Now, she’s decided she doesn’t need it, and it’s back to the roller coaster. —Jack
Ack! I feel like I’ve been living on a roller coaster. I never know whether my husband will be up or down, loving or critical, on time or late. Before he was diagnosed, I blamed myself for our unhappiness, because he convinced me that was true.—Suzanne
Ride the ADHD Roller Coaster—
Without Getting Whiplash
For 16 years, that has been my motto. My mission? Helping adults with ADHD and their partners to tighten their roller coaster’s brakes and secure the loose planks so they can live happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.
My second book was published recently: Adult ADHD-Focused Couple Therapy: Clinical Interventions (Routledge, 2016). Psychologist Arthur Robin, a longtime ADHD expert, and I reach out to professionals with solid guidelines. We merge evidence-based Adult ADHD treatment strategies with empirically sound couple-therapy principles.
It is the first book of its kind, with a foreword from Dr. Russell Barkley. Our four contributors have particular expertise in their chosen topics.
Right now, I’m developing online training and in-person workshops for people with ADHD, their partners, and treating professionals. Stay tuned! Sign up to be notified in the box, above right.
Don’t worry: I don’t have time to bombard you with e-mail.
I mean, seriously, working at this for 16 years and only now developing a mailing list?
Plus, you can also unsubscribe at any time.