Chapter 10: The ADHD Relationship Roller Coaster’s Third Plunge

The ADHD Roller Coaster's Third Plunge


Welcome back to the “You, Me, and ADHD” virtual discussion group —based on my first book, Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? 

It’s always here for you, open 24-7.  Read a chapter based on each essay—or just read the essay. Then share your thoughts or experience—and read others.

Here, Taylor shares her insights about Chapter 10. It’s the third chapter in the book’s section that examines poorly managed ADHD’s effect on the loved ones. This was the first in-depth examination of this topic anywhere. Still is the most in-depth and informed.

This chapter describes what I call the ADHD Relationship Roller Coaster’s Third Plunge. It’s where you breakdown—from exhaustion. Or where you breakthrough—to clarity.

I Had Dreams — What Happened?

By Taylor J.

I shut the bathroom door, sat on the floor, and sobbed. I’d just watched a mouse saunter through my disgusting kitchen. It didn’t even feel the need to run. Why should it? This well-trod path had a long history of bestowing tasty treats. No doubt the supply would remain plentiful.

I was a horrible, horrible housekeeper.

What happened to my dreams of being a writer, of being a musician?  Here  I was a work-at-home mom with two children, ages 3 years and 6 months.

How did this happen?

I’d met the man of my dreams, and thanks to several birth-control failures, we’d stumbled into parenthood. I’d tried keeping us afloat with various jobs while my husband finished graduate school. I had put my dreams on hold.

Our oldest daughter was defiant and explosive. Our youngest never slept.

With everything I was juggling, I could not write. Nor could I make music. Obviously, I was not a very good parent. I could not even keep my house clean. Everywhere I turned, I was failing.

“Why? Why? Why?”

Sobbing on the floor, I cried out to God. “Why? Why can my friend with an autistic son keep a spotless, while I struggle to wash the dishes? Why do our friends have stable jobs, while I struggle to balance our budget? Why can I never sleep? Why am I a horrible parent? And why is my house so filthy​?”

Call me crazy if you like, but I’m one of those people who believe that, when we ask God a question, we can actually receive an answer. In the depths of my heart, I felt God respond to me, “Whose house do you feel the most comfortable in? Which friend has a home where you feel the most accepted?”

That question was so unexpected that I stopped crying long enough to consider it. Well…that was easy. It was my friend and neighbor, Amy. She had two kids and a husband and a whole gaggle full of roommates, and her house was clean only when everyone was asleep. Just like my house.

We both worked so hard, usually with a baby on our hip, just to make it through each day. Sometimes we’d swap kids—to catch a breath, or a nap, or get a project finished. “But Lord,” I said aloud, “Amy and her husband both have ADHD, so I don’t think it’s a fair comparison.”

Deep in my heart, all I heard was silence.

And more silence.

“Wait a minute.”

More silence.


Could I have ADHD too? Was it a possibility?

ADHD is a Joke, Right?

Sure, it was a running joke among my friends. I’m the hyper one. The impulsive one. The one who always says exactly what she’s thinking. I remembered a counselor once saying, “Well, you have this ADHD thing going on, and your husband has this math genius thing going on…”

Was she diagnosing me? I thought, as with my friends, she’d made a joke. I mean…ADHD is a joke, right?

I flung open the bathroom door, and called to my children: “Hey guys, we’re going to the library!”

I’d taken the Internet out of my house, because it was too distracting. So, I dressed the baby, carted the kids to the library, and came home with every book available on Adult ADHD. (Reading only one book would have been too “neurotypical” of me!)

I then spent the rest of the day crying, as I read what felt like my life story in one book after another.

“Working Twice As Hard—For Half the Results”

I read how a person with undiagnosed ADHD can work twice as hard—and achieve half of the results. How we can flit from one job to the next or hyper-focus on work while the house burns down around us. Worst of all, how we always, always, feel like we’re failing, because we can’t put a name on what’s happening, other than “lazy, stupid, or crazy.”

Diagnosis followed in short order. Unfortunately, I had to wait until my daughter was through breastfeeding before I could try medication. It was another three months.

My husband would later say, “Watching her get medication was like watching someone put glasses on for the first time, and realizing that trees have individual leaves.”

Again, our lives eerily dovetail the experiences detailed in, Is it You, Me, Or Adult A.D.D.? The catalyst for my diagnosis was a breakdown. Yet, it was also a breakthrough, because I was finally able to see my life and my circumstances accurately—and take action to change them.

Chapter 10 marks the third “plunge” on the ADHD Roller Coaster. The first plunge, remember, is “Explaining the Inexplicable.” The second plunge, “Managing the Unmanageable.” The longer you attempt to cope with ADHD—your partner’s or your own—without knowing exactly what you’re dealing with, the more exhausted and de-moralized you can become. No matter how hard you try, things don’t get better.

Finally—The Breakthrough to Truth

Chapter 10 describes the sadness, the loss of one’s sense of self, the sleeplessness, the heartbreak, and the feeling of utter neglect by one’s ADHD partner, all of which can contribute to a breakdown into illness—or a breakthrough into truth.

It is the darkest time, just before the dawn. Whether it is you or your partner who has ADHD, this “third plunge of the ADHD Roller Coaster” marks the intensified efforts to cope with an unseen force.

Right now, I sit at a (mostly) clean desk, and I can see my kitchen floor. There are no crumbs. There are certainly no mice. Yes, there are dishes to be done. Yes, we still have problems. Yes, I would still say that I’m not the world’s best housekeeper.

Yet, I am writing. I’m about to go work on some songs for a showcase. My kids are doing well in school. Heck, I’m enjoying my kids. After so long on the ADHD roller coaster, my marriage is stabilizing. And, my friend Amy and I joined Gina’s ADHD free online support group for the partners of adults with ADHD.

Keep Learning

There are answers. There are ways to improve your situation. If you keep asking, seeking, and knocking, I truly believe you’ll find them.

For Chapter 10’s discussion:

  • Did you develop any symptoms as you tried coping with your daily struggles? Sleeplessness, migraines, ulcers, and depression are just a sampling of what’s mentioned in the book.
  • Did you experience emotional fallout? Depression, loneliness, “ADD-by-Osmosis” and strong feelings of unworthiness were all common among the partners of adults with ADHD

Next in Chapter 11:

We enter the third major section of the book:  The Success Strategies.  The first item of business: Self-Care Strategies for Right Now 


The Book Club is Always Open!

We welcome your comments.

—  Gina Pera


6 thoughts on “Chapter 10: The ADHD Relationship Roller Coaster’s Third Plunge”

  1. Brain fog, fatigue, depression, sleep troubles–YEP! About the brain fog–I was a really great student, always got good grades, and now I just feel DUMB. I mispronounce words that I KNOW I know. It’s so bizarre.

    Thankfully I am reclaiming my life and am beginning to overcome all of those things.

    Thank you, Gina, for writing this chapter so I know that I’m not crazy for experiencing these things!

  2. My husband and I come at this topic from a vantage point that many couple who struggle with ADHD do not: We were both diagnosed and taking medication before we met. Not long before we met – but that didn’t really matter. With that knowledge we entered our relationship with a context for understanding each other better from the get-go. I am grateful for this, having heard many stories of struggle from others in this situation. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have challenges – but there’s a lot of baggage that we have never had to carry and probably never will. Which is good, because the everyday challenges of dealing with life in general, AND life with ADHD, give us plenty to grapple with!

    I have skipped around with Gina’s book – and read chunks as they become relevant, or as I feel I need to refer back to something. (Is that really surprising, I DO have ADHD after all, lol) I feel like this actually makes sense for my situation though – because we haven’t really ridden the roller coaster so much, because of our awareness before getting married. That’s what’s so great about this book though – the metaphor of the roller coaster is a very apt one, but the book is so packed with information that it’s a deep and wide reference manual of immense usefulness and applicability to couples with ADHD, no matter their entry-point into acknowledging the presence of ADHD.

    Taylor, I love your thoughtful and thorough summaries and illuminations.

    1. Hi Katy,

      I designed the book to be read any way you like — including browsing and jumping around.

      Thanks for your comment. And yes, Taylor has done a fantastic job with leading the discussion.


  3. Illness AND breakthrough…they go hand in hand. Before a layman diagnosed my husband just from my description of him and we got her recommended books (not the best ones, but a start) and found the list that fit my husband almost to a tee, I sent out emails to his family and friends with my terrific discovery. At last! An answer and a direction to go.

    His mother chided me. I’m really not sure why. Was it too public an announcement or did it cut too close to home for her? I thought about it and decided not to care.

    Just knowing that there was something we could DO was so freeing. It wasn’t a mystery any more. I didn’t have to be so hurt when he had rages, broke things, forgot the simplest things. It wasn’t willful. There was help to be had.

    Now, getting that help has been a battle in itself. Doctors are so uneducated about ADHD even to how the drugs affect people with ADHD vs non-ADHD. They say stupid things like “Ritalin is going to make you hyper” when it does just the opposite for DH.

    And now that we had direction, we could also address some of his other problems like anxiety issues and sleep apnea. He could see that the drugs helped him. Before, he was afraid he was going to be a zombie, but then again, they’d diagnosed him with depression and wanted to put on drugs for that which would change is personality for the worse (at least we didn’t like the side effects indicated when we researched them).

    Now we were on this roller coaster together rather than in separate cars going in different directions (which really felt more like bumper cars than a roller coaster…no….it was a roller coaster too). But, now we could work together rather than me constantly asking “why can’t you do these things that are so easy for me?”

    I also joined Gina’s on-line group (and oh man was I excited to meet her!) and read what other spouse’s experienced. I came to realize right quick that my husband was easy to deal with compared to what other’s had to deal with. It really made me appreciate him even more.

    And Gina’s book was just what I needed. I don’t think there is another book out there for the spouses of people with ADHD. It became MY book. Something for what I was going through. Reading it and knowing Gina has been a total gift for us wandering out in the darkness that is the general experience with doctors/therapists treating ADHD.

    1. Penny, I love this: “I decided not to care.” It made me LOL…and it’s true that sometimes the best we can do in a situation is decide not to care, when it’s clearly someone else’s baggage that THEY need to deal with…

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