“Stop it! Stop it!” My mother’s shrieks garnered my attention and appealed to my sensibility.
Rarely does she raise her voice.
“I can’t take it anymore! Finish your sentences! I can’t get a word in edgewise!”
My father and I looked at each other, blindsided and dumbfounded. We had been communicating with each other at lightening speed, transmitting fragmented thoughts and answering each other’s questions before they were even asked. Naturally, my mother’s input was secondary. She was incapable of matching our verbal dynamic, or better stated, she couldn’t match our mental disorder—Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. The problem only compounded when we looked at her like she had the problem, like her outburst was unreasonable.
Fast-forward a year. An ex-girlfriend calls me an “animal” as we are discussing after dinner plans. I was heatedly trying to persuade her to make the three-hour trek to the casino even though we were blocks away from our apartment. I had a hankering for card games and flashy lights. She was thinking ice cream.
Most people who love someone with ADHD will understand the above scenarios. Hopefully, they can recognize the disorder for what it is, and know when it is flaring up. If they are capable of doing this then there are a few basic tools that may help them tango with the ADHD beast that lives in their partner’s prefrontal cortex. A graveyard of failed relationships and the gift of retrospection have helped me realize these simple steps. They are especially tailored for the man or woman who lives with an unmedicated partner.
1. Let the Beast Lead
When the disorder manifests in sloppy jumpy thoughts—in simultaneous thoughts of yesterday, tomorrow, now and next week—cease trying to fight it, or correct it. That is like protecting yourself from a fire hose with an umbrella. The afflicted person’s brain is compensating for its lack of stimulus by acting up. Instead, try and jump in. Don’t analyze what is being said, or even respond to it unless specifically asked. Instead, notice the pattern and throw your own bullshit into the mix. It can be anything, trust me. You may be surprised how contagious and fun the jumpiness can be.
2. Rope-a-Dope the Beast
Arguing with someone who has ADHD is a losing proposition. They don’t respond to reason and logic, and even when presented with blatant, undeniable facts, they generally won’t acquiesce. So here is the winning formula, straight from the People’s Champion, Muhammad Ali: tire the beast out. Calm, cool responses will eventually bore the beast and tempt it to retreat into it’s hole. It wants nothing more than to fight, to rear its head and beat its chest. However, when presented with humdrum tranquility it will undoubtedly retreat. And with the beast’s retreat will return the man or woman you love. Minutes or hours later, they will mull over the things you calmly put forth.
3. Take the Beast to the Park
On particularly bad days when #1 and #2 aren’t working, it’s time to employ more drastic measures. Treat the beast like a puppy that is tearing your apartment to shreds. Take it to the park and run the critter till it’s about to drop. In other words, exercise with your man or woman. High intensity cardio always does the trick. If you live in a city, I would recommend a spin class. Think of this solution as a neurochemical intervention. It works better than the finest amphetamine salts that your local psychiatrist is slinging.
4. Bang the Beast
It is hard to be distracted while having sex. So much of ADHD is just a series of banal intrusive thoughts saying, “ What’s that? Where’s that? What’s next? How come?” I can assure you those thoughts dissipate during intercourse. And they don’t immediately resurface afterwards. So when times are tough, bump uglys and skyrocket your partner into the fourth dimension of existence—the present. Also, #4 compliments #3 nicely.
5. Appeal to the Beast’s Sensibility
People who have ADHD aren’t sociopaths. We have feelings and want the same things from life as any other person—to be loved and to love. Most of us know what that entails, even if we don’t always live it. Just because we don’t pay attention to our partner doesn’t mean we don’t love him or her. If you are feeling unappreciated, let your significant other know. Chances are that if they really love you, they will make the effort to change. Moreover, a simple conversation may reveal that your deepest fear is just that: Fear. Distance and breakups occur all the time because one partner pulls away from the other over fear that the love is lacking, when in reality ADHD just often causes someone to be distracted and overly interested in pencil sharpeners, hummingbirds or Sudoku.
Author: Christopher OConnor
Editor: Alli Sarazen
Photo: Derrick Tyson/Flickr