Four episodes on ADHD and relationships with Melissa Orlov wasn’t enough so we’ve got an encore for you with our Part 5 Reunion Show — kicking off with a conversation about therapy and ADHD and what patients and providers need to know about working with ADHD-impacted couples.
Then journalist Sarah Gelbard shares her observations from her role as researcher for our interview with Melissa. What stood out to the healthcare reporter when she started diving into the history of Melissa’s work and ADHD?
Finally, coordinating producer Phil Rodemann makes his show debut and we share some of our biggest ah ha! moments from the four conversations we shared with you throughout the month of February.
We’re putting February to bed — a little late but in a big way on today’s show! And we would love to hear from you! Share your own observations or antecdotes by emailing us at [email protected].
Lindsay Guentzel (00:01):
It’s the very special, not originally on our content calendar, but came to fruition thanks to the good old ADHD brain, part five reunion show. My name is Lindsay Guentzel, and this is Refocused, the podcast where we talk all about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Throughout the month of February, we shared four episodes with you highlighting the expertise of marriage consultant and ADHD relationship expert, Melissa Orlov.
And as you heard as I wrapped up episode 68, impulsivity, and the grass is always greener where you water it. I told you we were going to talk about the future of therapy and making sure providers are equipped to work with ADHD impacted couples. And then we didn’t get to it.
Here’s where I tell you that the second my afternoon with Melissa came to an end and I was in the car on my way home, it hit me that I forgot. And it’s just the worst feeling that I’m sure so many of you have had before probably many times.
The good news, Melissa and I were able to connect to answer that very important question, and we will hear from her here shortly. But there’s so much more ahead for you on today’s show, including a conversation with journalist, Sarah Gelbard, who led our team’s research for my conversations with Melissa.
I’m really interested to hear some of Sarah’s observations, what stood out to her as I sent her down the rabbit hole. Not as a neuro divergent person, but as a journalist who has spent a lot of her career covering the complex world of healthcare and everything that fits underneath that umbrella.
Sarah and I worked together at Minnesota Public Radio, and when she told me she was freelancing, I jumped at the opportunity to bring her expertise to the show. And you’ll also get to meet for the first time, but for sure not the last, Phil Rodman, our team’s coordinating producer. Phil is someone who also falls into the later in life ADHD diagnosis that came thanks to the pandemic category.
And as people with ADHD who are in relationships with people who don’t have ADHD, we each had a few things that stood out from my conversations with Melissa that we’re going to talk about.
But first, let’s get right into my catch-up conversation with Melissa Orlov from ADHDmarriage.com.
Support for Refocused comes from the team at ADHD Online, a telemedicine mental healthcare company based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that provides affordable and accessible ADHD assessments and treatment plans. Including medication management and teletherapy. To learn how they can help you on your journey, head to ADHDonline.com.
Let’s just skip all the pleasantries and just jump right in with Melissa Orlov. We had a conversation. You mentioned that one of your concerns is the future of therapy, and how therapists look at ADHD and how they’re able to help the people they’re working with. So let’s just start right there, because it’s loaded. I know that.
Melissa Orlov (03:23):
Actually interesting that my concern isn’t the future of therapy as much as the history of therapy, because I think that it has taken a while for therapists to catch up to what these couples need. And that’s in part because the basic therapeutic models that were taught to couples therapists and others haven’t really overtly addressed ADHD, and yet so many of the couples have ADHD.
And some of the models, and I’m not going to name names here, but some of the models actually go in reverse of what a couple impacted by ADHD needs. So if you make the assumption, for example, that the first thing you have to do is reconnect the couple in order to be able to get them to start working on things, you’re not really working in an ADHD friendly mode. Because the issues with the repetitive symptoms and the under managed ADHD symptoms, and then with the responses to those symptoms, are in real life, they’re going on every day.
And so it’s very hard to reconnect a couple where the injuries continue and where there is great emotional volatility. And so you’re working against yourself, and that’s where you tend to get misunderstanding of what the symptoms are or what the role is that they’re playing.
So when you’re working with a couple impacted by ADHD, the first thing you have to do is calm the relationship. And you do that in part by addressing this symptom response thing where you’ve got the symptoms, you’ve got the responses to the symptoms, you’ve got the responses to the responses, and you start fighting about all those responses.
You really need to calm the symptoms, improve the reliability, improve some, open up some hope. Because you don’t have much hope when you’re in a relationship where these things keep happening again and again, and you talk about them. And then they happen again and you talk about them. And they happen again, and it’s a really difficult cycle to break.
So it’s almost the inverse of what some of the therapeutic models would have you do. And so therapists who understand ADHD better can help couples do that calming first, and then reconnect to start really addressing the underlying emotional issues. So that’s really been the issue.
So that’s been the traditional way of doing it, and I think as more and more professionals learn about ADHD and all of its machinations, the better things will become. And actually one of the things that I wish to do in the future is work on helping spread the word in the therapeutic community and doing more of the professional training that I do.
So hopefully I will also help in that. I won’t be the only resource, there’s more and more discussion about this in the professional world, which I’m thrilled to see. The more people we can get, the more professionals we can get in this topic, the better.
Lindsay Guentzel (06:07):
When a couple is looking for a therapist and they maybe have limited resources on who they are able to even use, there’s things like insurance or even just where they live. What should they be keeping in mind when they’re trying to find somebody to work with? Because there are so many things to keep in the back of your mind and that can be overwhelming.
Melissa Orlov (06:27):
So there are some therapeutic modes that seem to work better for couples impacted by ADHD, emotionally focused therapy, cognitive, behavioral therapy, and couples internal family systems all seem to be relatively well attuned to what the ADHD couples need.
So I think generally speaking, I try to send people in that direction. If there’s trauma, trauma therapy as well. And I also encourage people to ask overtly, what proportion of your practice includes or is with couples impacted by ADHD?
And if they say not much, that’s one thing, and that would be somebody I probably would avoid because it probably indicates that they’re just not as aware of ADHD. But if they say, look, 40 or 50% of my couples may have this or do have this or whatever, then you can be pretty well assured that they’re used to dealing with the issues. And with the fact that it’s not just talk about emotions, it’s also there’s a coaching element to working with partners.
I think practical, try this, see if it works pieces of advice can be very useful for these couples.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:40):
The coaching side, it reminds me of when I go to therapy, I always am saying, “I don’t want to be beating a dead horse, being told to do the same thing over and over again.”
And that can be incredibly hard, and then feels like just such an overwhelming thing. And I’m curious, I want to go back because you mentioned it’s not necessarily the future that concerns you, it’s the history. Was there a point where all of a sudden the professional community was like, oh, ADHD is something we need to be thinking about, especially with couples therapy?
Melissa Orlov (08:10):
Yeah, I don’t know if I think there’s a specific point. I think it’s just been building. As more people have been looking for it specifically and asking those questions, and as more people have been talking about it at conferences and in papers and things like that. It’s still not an area that there’s a lot of research in, so it’s not coming through the research journals.
And to the best of my knowledge, not coming into too many of the current professional programs in the schools, the training programs, but there is much more emphasis on it in the continuing education programs than there used to be. I know this in part because I get asked to talk about it a lot.
And I’m thrilled to see that increase. And there’s a lot of interest in it from people. As couples come to them and more and more adults and more couples are aware of their ADHD, because still the majority aren’t. But as more and more are, they go to their therapist and say, “Well, we think maybe ADHD might be playing a role here.”
If you’re with a therapist who says, “No, probably not.” And you know there’s ADHD, you probably need a different therapist. Because at a minimum it should be explored if you know there’s ADHD and you are struggling. Because chances are actually quite good that there’s something going on that has to do with the ADHD and the repetitive nature of these symptoms, and how they break trust and et cetera.
And the other thing that you need to look for is if you have a therapist who repeatedly says to an ADHD partner, “You just need to try this, you just need to try harder.” That’s not typically what works either. It isn’t that people with ADHD don’t know what they should be doing, it’s that they don’t know how to implement it at the right time, or even how to implement it effectively for themselves given how their brain works. And understanding that is really important to getting good professional help.
Lindsay Guentzel (09:57):
In your opinion, what is one of the biggest things that the professional community should be doing right now that they aren’t doing when it comes to adding in knowledge about ADHD in this therapy setting?
Melissa Orlov (10:10):
This is one of the reasons why I am actually trying to create this professional training program and really working into it, getting exposed to other people who have focused on this, other professionals, and what their ways of approaching these very difficult conundrums in these relationships is important.
And hearing from people who’ve been doing it, “Look, here’s how we approach it.” When I go out, and sometimes I go and train groups, therapeutic counseling offices and groups, and things like that. And when their questions come to me, they’re often based in a different modality than what would work.
So talking to people who’ve actually gone through this with ADHD on board is really important. So that’s one step. As more and more training programs become available, taking those as part of the continuing education programs that you’re doing would also be really important.
I hope to actually have a very deep program that people can really engage in both in the coursework but also in personalized small group work, which I think will really help people. So I hope to get that done. That’s on my wishlist and I’ve started it, but I’m pretty busy, so I’m trying to clear space.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:19):
You mentioned some of these groups that you’ll go to and you’ll talk to people. What are some of the things that make you hopeful when you are in that setting and there is interest?
Melissa Orlov (11:27):
There are so many smart counselors out there, and there is a huge appetite for this information. It’s mostly a matter of it not having been available. It isn’t because people don’t want to learn it. And so that’s what gives me great hope. And also just that there are more and more knowledgeable people.
I have a lot of conversations now with professionals who do get ADHD and who are really eager to help these couples. And one of the things that’s really great is that as a professional, working with couples impacted by ADHD and working with adults impacted by ADHD can be extremely fulfilling, because the changes can be so huge in these people’s lives once they understand what’s going on and start to manage the ADHD and start to manage the volatility.
And there are ways to do this. And so it’s actually a really fun area for a professional to work in. So there’s eagerness. People who’ve had a taste of it are like, “Oh, I’d like to do more of this.” And so that’s always great. So that’s part of it.
Lindsay Guentzel (12:28):
Last thing I want to ask. We know there’s a lot of emotional things that come tied in with ADHD, and so I’m just thinking of people who are in a scenario where their therapist isn’t a good fit and they need to find somebody new. And starting that conversation or bridging that gap. What do you recommend to people when they’re like, I’m in a situation with a therapist, it’s not the right fit. I need to make this move. Where they can feel comfortable cutting those ties.
Because I’ve talked to a ton of people who say, “Yeah, it’s just not working out.” I’m like, “Then why are you going?” It’s like a bad breakup, just pull the bandaid. But we’re not good at that.
Melissa Orlov (13:02):
Sometimes in couples therapies, the answer to that is because the partner doesn’t want to switch. And so that’s an issue that needs to be addressed with your partner. And I think there are actually two different scenarios. One is a therapist who is pretty good, but who doesn’t really understand the ADHD and so can’t get you from 60% to 90%.
And sometimes, and this happens more often than you might think, if you go to that therapist and say, “Hey, I’m really genuinely interested in this, are you interested in learning a little bit more?” And give them some information, or send them to me and I’ll talk to them or whatever. And again, a lot of therapists are really open to this information once they decide it’s worthwhile to pursue it. So that’s one.
If you’ve got somebody who really just is a bad fit, then I think you have to make a case for that to your partner and say, “Look, we’ll stay with this person for a while,” to make sure that part of the reason you don’t want to leave is you don’t know we have somebody else, and you’re afraid I’m just going to quit. And I’m not trying to quit. I just feel we could be better served by a different person for the following reasons.
Let me go out and find somebody and propose that person to you. And then you do ethically need to tell the person you’re working with that you’re moving on. You can’t do two couples counselors at once. But I think there’s anxiety sometimes on the other person’s part where they go like, “Oh, well this means we’ll never get back to it or whatever. We won’t find anybody as good as this.”
And that’s usually not true. There are lots of different folks out there. You just have to find them. And there are often wait lists. So it’s unfortunate.
Lindsay Guentzel (14:30):
And I like that you suggested even bringing up, are you interested in learning more about this? This is something that we would be interested in looking into. Because I think sometimes we forget that we can ask for what we need in therapy, and it’s not always just supposed to be the therapist leading. If you know there’s something that you would like to dive into, you should feel open to being like, yeah, let’s do this, or let’s try this.
Melissa Orlov (14:52):
And sometimes the therapist will rebuff that because they see something else that they want to work on, but sometimes they won’t. There’s actually a book that I contributed to a number of years ago now called the distracted couple, which was written for therapists. And it’s one of these compendiums where different experts write chapters on their specific area of expertise, and this one happens to be about couples impacted by ADHD.
And that’s a good resource for therapists who might be interested in learning more. It’s got all the footnotes and all the research studies, and all the stuff that therapists need to feel comfortable that what they’re learning isn’t just the latest craze. So that’s a good resource that you can share.
Lindsay Guentzel (15:32):
Once again, to learn more about Melissa and the work she’s doing, head straight to ADHDmarriage.com.
Joining us now is Sarah Gelbard, a freelance journalist whose work has appeared on Minnesota Public Radio, PBS Frontline, in the USA Today, Chicago Reader, as well as the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and the Cambodia Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Program.
Sarah also spent time as a clinical researcher in the Friedreich’s Ataxia Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta. She has a master of public health from Emory Rollins School of Public Health and a master’s of Science from Columbia Journalism School.
Sarah Gelbard (16:20):
I really appreciated that Melissa seemed really comfortable bringing her personal experiences into her work.
Melissa Orlov (16:30):
I found that I really wanted to talk about what had been going on in my own life, because my ex had ADHD, and we, I hate to say it, but we were completely average. Everything that happens in relationships impacted by ADHD happened to us. And I thought to myself, well, maybe I’ll blog about this. Just maybe a few people will learn from it and learn from what we did, because there really wasn’t much available at the time.
And some of it is incredibly embarrassing actually. There are many things that I did that I’m not proud of either. And again, completely average. This is just what happens in these relationships. You’ve got these symptoms and then they lead to patterns that are almost inevitable if you don’t know the ADHD is there.
Sarah Gelbard (17:15):
I thought Melissa’s sharing her personal experiences made her relatable, and I could see the value in how she drew from that to help the community access information. She shared that her partner was comfortable too with her discussing their relationship publicly.
Melissa Orlov (17:32):
I did ask my then husband, “Okay, what can I share? What can I not share?” And he was very gracious and said, “You should help people, just stay away from this area and that area.” And I’m like, “Okay, I can do that.”
Sarah Gelbard (17:43):
And I liked that. I think personal stories can certainly help others, and I give a lot of credit to people who are comfortable sharing them with the world. She wrote about being really hurt by actions that aren’t rejection, but that could be perceived as rejection, like a partner being really busy.
Melissa Orlov (18:04):
Dating is also an area of great rejection. So when you are in the online dating communities in particular, there’s a lot of rejection. Even if it’s swiping, it’s a huge amount of rejection. And that is really triggering for people who have ADHD.
So it’s a real area of landmines for people. And there there’s another part also, which is the timeliness expectations around online dating, you’re supposed to respond within a certain number of hours. You’re supposed to respond in a certain way. You have to keep people separate. There’s a lot of organizational stuff that goes on. I know when my daughter was dating, she’s like, “I hate online dating, mom. I hate it, because I’m expected to respond within a certain amount of time and I’m doing other stuff.”
Sarah Gelbard (18:47):
You talked about rejection in dating, when one partner has more intense feelings than another.
Lindsay Guentzel (18:55):
We had to have a very difficult conversation very early on in our relationship as I was love bombing him from left and right, where he said, “I really am enjoying spending time with you, but you like me right now more than I like you. And that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to get there, but I just need to be honest with you.”
And he said it probably in a nicer way than that. I cried and slept on the couch. It was very dramatic.
Sarah Gelbard (19:17):
And that’s so recognizable and hard, and I thought that it should just be a part of the discussion about mental health and self-esteem. Id love to hear from someone who isn’t afraid of rejection, and any insight or wisdom that they might have. And from people who do struggle with it, to hear more about how it holds them back or how they try to manage it.
She talked about one couple, where both partners have ADHD, but it manifested very differently for each of them. And they both had such different schedules and tendencies, and I thought that that was so important to look at. Because before going into journalism, I worked in medical research, so I saw a lot of patients. And I also have many friends with the exact same diagnoses who have very individual, very different experiences with the same diagnoses.
So friends and family members and medical and mental health providers need to keep that variation in mind. So I thought that was a really good thing to find. I really liked that she talked about various treatment methods, and that medication might work for a lot of people and not for others who might struggle with side effects. And that even when medication does work, it can’t be the only thing in a toolbox. That managing a condition includes awareness and learning and counseling and figuring out different strategies.
Melissa Orlov (20:49):
Not everybody can use medication, so 70 to 80% of folks can find a medication that works for them pretty well or very well without meaningful side effects. That means 20 to 30% can’t. It’s not just about medication, it’s about a bunch of different ways. In fact, medication alone isn’t particularly effective in relationships. But it’s about the learning how to optimize that management of the ADHD so that the partner feels they have agency, that they can get things done that they want to get done, that they’re more reliable, they’re addressing shame or reasons to cover things up or whatever. All of those impact their relationship.
Lindsay Guentzel (21:31):
That was freelance journalist Sarah Gelbard, sharing her observations from our conversations with Melissa Orlov that she led the research on. To learn more about Sarah and the work she’s doing, I’ve shared all of the appropriate links in our show notes.
I am so grateful to both Melissa Orlov and Sarah Gelbard for sharing their time with us on Refocused. And here’s where I invite you to get involved in the show. We would love to start sharing your thoughts, observations, moments of joy or frustration, whatever stands out to you after listening to an episode of Refocused. We want to share your voices on the show. And there are a couple of ways to do that.
The easiest way, record a voice memo and email it to us.
Hi, my name is Lindsay. You can include your last name if you want, but no pressure. I couldn’t believe it when I heard Melissa Orlov explain hyperfocus courtship, it brought me back to, well, my whole life really of having massively over the top borderline obsessions in the very early days of dating. And not even just with dating, most of the time it started in the crush phase.
Hearing it is something actually connected with ADHD, made me wish I had known about it sooner because I could have saved myself from so much heartbreak and frustration. Stop recording, upload it into an email, and send it to us at [email protected]
You can also just send us a note to read on the show, whether that’s through email or through social at Refocuspod.
Phil, I think anyone who listened to the episodes on ADHD and relationships will agree. I was blown away when she said hyperfocus courtship. But let’s start at the beginning with our first episode with Melissa, episode 65, ADHD and relationships with Melissa Orlov. What was it that stood out for you?
For me, I think it was the realization that 80% of the adults that have ADHD don’t yet know it.
Melissa Orlov (23:33):
There’s been a ton of growing interest in adult ADHD and understanding of some of the elements. The most recent part actually is understanding just how much emotional dysregulation is a part of ADHD, and the huge impact it has on whether or not you keep your job, on whether or not your relationship is successful, et cetera.
But unfortunately, we’re still in the beginning phases, because about 80% of adults who have ADHD don’t know they have it. Until you know you had it, you’re just wandering around going, why am I so different? I don’t get this. Why is it so easy for everybody else? And once you know about it, things can change dramatically.
Lindsay Guentzel (24:14):
Yeah, there were so many statistics that really caught me off guard. Melissa had a ton of them through all four of the episodes. And I think you and I are in this unique position because our diagnoses are rather new, and they’ve been life changing for both of us. So to then hear this number, 80%, to know that there’s that many people walking around who either don’t have access to proper testing or resources, or literally have no idea that they might fit into this category.
I have a daughter who was diagnosed beginning of college, and there are genetic traits. And both my wife and my daughter were recognizing traits in me. And when they first talked to me about it, even though my daughter had been diagnosed, I was still under the preconceived notions that, well, I’m not hyperactive, therefore I don’t.
But sometimes it can be life changing just to have a name to put to it and then the ability to, even if it’s just modifying behaviors, to be able to start to do things a little bit differently and realize that it doesn’t have to be as hard as it always has been.
Lindsay Guentzel (25:27):
Absolutely. The one thing that really stood out for me in part one, episode 65, was definitely the parent child relationship patterns.
Melissa Orlov (25:38):
The most common patterns include parent child dynamics, where you have a non-ADHD or perhaps more organized ADHD, if you have two ADHD people in the couple, who is the manager of stuff that’s happening. And then they become the manager of the relationship and then they become the manager of the other person, like, remember to do this and nagging about that. And they’re over-functioning in the relationship essentially.
Lindsay Guentzel (26:04):
To be sitting with someone I had just met and have them be describing my relationship without describing my relationship. My partner is neurotypical, very organized, very A to Z, he has a very mechanical brain. And there were parts of our conversation where I just felt so seen. And it was funny in ways, yes, but also very eye-opening. And you touched on it, having knowledge allows you to recognize how it’s affecting you in life.
And as I listen to all of these episodes that we are doing together, so far there isn’t a single day that goes by that I don’t hear something, a story or a statistic, or see it and relate it to what has gone on in my life.
Lindsay Guentzel (26:56):
I definitely agree. I feel like I am learning every single day, which is awesome. And also scary, because you then have to figure out, well, what did I learn and what’s the most important thing to put at the top of the to-do list?
Because I think what we’re all trying to figure out is a great balance of learning to live with our ADHD in a way where it’s not incredibly detrimental, but also embracing what makes us special. And a lot of that is tied to our ADHD.
That in and of itself, as someone who was diagnosed late in life, discovering what it is that is special and applying that to the way I want to live my life, that can be a huge benefit of just getting diagnosed.
Lindsay Guentzel (27:40):
Well, without a doubt, one of the most important things Melissa touched on in episode 66, Melissa Orlov on dating and divorce, is the genetic connection and how many parents are finding out about their own ADHD, thanks to their child’s diagnosis. You touched on that a little bit there.
As a woman, I also appreciated her views on how women with ADHD, who are in ADHD impacted relationships, have more to deal with thanks to societal pressures. We still have this very strong pull towards traditional gender roles, and that can be really hard for women who also have ADHD symptoms to manage and overcome.
Melissa Orlov (28:17):
My observation of women who have ADHD is once they find out they have the ADHD, it does a lot to help them figure out, okay, how do I address this? But they face a whole lot of different pressures I should say, than men with ADHD face.
A lot more women are responsible for managing things around the household. This is just statistically, again, not ADHD, or not ADHD, this is how our society works. And those things tend to be boring. They tend to be never ending. They tend to not have a particular structure to them. And all of those things are not strengths for people who have ADHD.
And there are these expectations that it’s going to be easy, and that they’ll remember to go pick people up at the right time and all of that. And so there’s this huge pressure on women with ADHD who are sometimes doing both jobs, often doing both a job and this. It’s a lot to juggle and they often really struggle.
Even if you take the gender roles out of it, when you have two people that are living their lives together and they each have to assume them responsibility for various things. Then you add the gender roles on top of that. And that was difficult even when it was just the wife working at home, the husband is off making the money. That was not necessarily easy, because nowadays everybody’s working. So the wife or that role, they don’t stay home.
So if the other person in the relationship isn’t taking on some of that responsibility, it’s difficult. And then you add ADHD on top of that.
Lindsay Guentzel (29:57):
The way things have changed for women, the story that I always share is my mother going to the car dealership to buy a new car. And the guy she’s working with, the sales guy calling my father to get permission for my mom to buy this vehicle. And I think we have come so far, but we still have so far to go. And even just acknowledging how you fall into patterns in a relationship and how to-do lists can be off balanced, and setting those expectations with your partner, it’s incredibly important.
How did Karen deal with that?
Lindsay Guentzel (30:35):
Well, I will say this. I am cut from the same cloth as my mother, so if you imagine how I would handle it, yeah, that paints a pretty good picture for you.
Episode 67 has such a fun title, emotions and having a Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes. I love a good analogy, so that little visual was a great one for my brain. What was at the top of your list after listening to episode 67?
When I got my diagnosis, one of the things that I was able to realize about my behaviors when I was young was a difficulty in controlling anger. And Melissa’s comment in the episode talking about how one of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD was emotional dysregulation, and it was taken out.
Melissa Orlov (31:26):
I listened to a talk not too long ago about the history of ADHD and emotions. And it turns out that one of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD for a long time was actually difficulty with managing emotions, and that it was taken out by the APA in their wisdom at some point not that long ago. And now they’re having a conversation about putting it back in. Because the research is really clear that one of the core characteristics of ADHD is emotional dysregulation, ups and downs.
Lindsay Guentzel (31:58):
I’m glad that you brought up emotional dysregulation, because that was actually one of my biggest takeaways from episode 67. It’s interesting, I opened the episode with the line, we survived Valentine’s Day, which in my case is actually very fitting.
I did not have a good Valentine’s Day this year. I am not someone who worries about Valentine’s Day too much, but it still wasn’t great. And I’ve shared a lot about some health stuff that I’m dealing with on social media, but I haven’t mentioned anything yet here on the podcast.
But basically for the last seven weeks, almost two months now, I’ve been dealing with a very scary medical mystery that’s turned my life, and of course my partner’s life, upside down. And I broke the cardinal rule of keeping your sanity during a medical mystery. I looked at one of my test results knowing I wouldn’t be able to talk to a doctor until the next day, total rookie mistake.
So I’m standing there, no joke, apron on in our kitchen, making this really lovely pasta dish with shrimp and veggies, waiting for my boyfriend to come home on Valentine’s Day. And my watch dings that there’s a new test result. And within minutes I am inconsolable, like highest of highs to lowest of lows.
Still in my apron, still trying to make dinner. So John gets home, he tries to comfort me, and of course he doesn’t say the right thing. Because he can’t say the right thing. There isn’t the right thing to say in this moment. And my emotional dysregulation made the most over the top appearance that ruined the night. Yes, I’m justified in my feelings, I’m not discounting that. But I also need to hold responsibility for how I let those emotions crash down around us.
And I will say, thank God we had therapy the next day. It was on the calendar and it just so happened to align perfectly. Because it was tense, and rightfully so.
The hilarious part is after therapy, which was great. It’s always great. I love therapy. Please go to therapy. I realize it’s a privilege to say that, but it has been such a game changer in my life.
So we get out of therapy. We both decide that we should probably do our own thing for the evening, because time apart makes the heart grow fonder. Whatever they say, it’s a good thing. John goes to the gym. I went to Home Goods. And I’m proofing episode 67, listening to it on my phone in the store as I shopped around. And I was laughing out loud, because little did I know I had recorded an episode that fit our current situation so perfectly over a month earlier.
You had me at pasta. How was the pasta dish?
Lindsay Guentzel (34:33):
The pasta dish was wonderful. Thank you so much for asking. The uncomfortable silence that we both sat in while we ate it was not the atmosphere I think either of us wanted. But as I said, it was a really big moment for us. And I’m so glad that we had the opportunity to work through that. And I’m so glad that I had that episode to reset and remind myself that he can’t read my mind, and I have to communicate in a way that works for him.
Communication is so key.
Lindsay Guentzel (35:05):
It is, isn’t it?
Lindsay Guentzel (35:06):
It’s funny once you start to realize that.
Let’s move on to episode 68. Impulsivity and the grass is always greener where you water it. What’s at the top of your list from this one, because we talked about a lot of different things?
Really that people can organize their lives around not getting rejected.
Melissa Orlov (35:27):
When you talk about walking into a room and having all of these emotions, you’re also responding to that room in a certain way. And people organize their lives around not getting rejected, not moving into the shame that we talked about last week.
And so you might organize your life to be a pleaser, for example, so that there’s nothing to reject. Or you might rage so that nobody can get close enough to you to reject you. Or you might be a perfectionist, so that, again, there’s nothing to reject. But some of these behaviors come up and it’s a very almost physiological, like your body feels this rejection. So it’s very intense.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:08):
I loved how she was able to lay that out, and I think some people have tendencies to fall into all of the categories. You don’t have to necessarily be somebody who’s people pleasing all the time or raging all the time or managing shame all the time. Some of us get to deal with all of it, which is super exciting.
Well, and some of the other behaviors tie into it. If emotional dysregulation is part of the way that it expresses in you, being that rager can feel natural.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:36):
I also really loved how she explained the bumblebee method of getting through life. I will beat a dead horse, and I’ve said it a million times on this podcast, it should honestly be like a drinking game. Or maybe I should get you a buzzer, and every time I say it, you just buzz me.
Because once I realized that life isn’t one size fits all and that I really get to live whatever life I want, and I have the freedom to do that as long as I put on my blinders and don’t pay attention to what the world is telling me. And just this visual of a person as a bumblebee, hopping from flower to flower.
And I think we all grew up thinking that those people were not responsible, or we’re not living life the right way. And then you become an adult and you’re like, oh, I can see some benefits to being a bumblebee and hopping from flower to flower. And really just enjoying life.
Melissa Orlov (37:29):
The adulting idea is actually a really interesting one as you’re talking about how to identify ADHD. If you have a partner who seems to be trapped in adolescence, and this is typically men that are this way, that may be an indication of ADHD.
It might also just be a happy-go-lucky, very present moment focused person who just doesn’t have a point A to point B philosophy, and that’s fine too. The bumblebee method of getting around is great for a whole lot of things, including enjoying the journey. So it’s not a bad way to get around, it’s just a different way to get around.
Lindsay Guentzel (38:02):
You mentioned something similar in talking about your own later in life diagnosis, like you could sit and wallow that it took you 60 some years to find out this answer. And instead you’re choosing to take this information and make the most of it.
There is no benefit in looking back and regretting. The only thing that you can do is to take that new knowledge and use it. And decide to be happy and decide to make progress, the beauty’s in the journey, not in the destination.
Lindsay Guentzel (38:36):
Perfect way to end it there, Phil. That’s the line to deliver. You just set me up to head right into credits.
No, but seriously, I learned so much from my conversations with Melissa, and I hope you all did as well. I’m glad that we got to take a second and go through the episodes and talk about what we learned. And I’m hoping that we can continue to do this. I hope that we build this into a show we do weekly, where we invite listeners to come and hang out and join the conversation.
That’s one of the cool things we can do is we can do call-in shows. You can call in and share your own observation, and that’s the goal. But you got to learn to walk before you can run, and that’s what we’re doing right here, working out all of the kings.
This has been really fun.
Lindsay Guentzel (39:20):
It has been really fun.
Hopefully everybody that is out there listening to us feels comfortable enough in the space that they will call in, that they will share their stories with us.
Lindsay Guentzel (39:31):
Yes, because I think what we’ve both learned, one, from our friendship and working together on the podcast, but also from our experiences being people who found out they had ADHD later in life, is that we learn so much from talking to other people. Because when you can hear it and see it and feel it from someone who can explain it in a way of how it actually plays out in life, it is so much better for our brains than reading a textbook.
Very much so, and creating a space where people feel comfortable to do that is satisfying.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:05):
Oh yeah. Come here. Bring your freak flag. We welcome all.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:09):
I think my freak flag’s the biggest of anyone’s, it is big.
Lindsay Guentzel (40:14):
Yeah, exactly. That’s why we get along so well. Well Phil, it’s been so much fun talking with you today. I love what we’re getting to do on this podcast, and I love that you guys show up week after week. It’s just the best job I’ve ever had, and I feel so lucky to get to do it.
And I’m so lucky to get to do it with this incredible team of people that I’m going to thank right after this.
Refocused is a collaboration between me, Lindsay Guentzel, and ADHD Online, a telemedicine mental healthcare company that provides affordable and accessible ADHD assessments and treatment plans. Including medication management and teletherapy.
As you heard more about in today’s episode, Sarah Gelbard provided incredible research for our conversations with Melissa, and I’m so grateful for her talent and expertise.
Sarah Platinitis and Phil Rodman provided production support for today’s episode. And let’s all give a big round of applause to Phil, who not only made his Refocus debut, but hit it out of the park.
Al Chaplin continues to create incredible social media content for us alongside the team at Dexia, that includes Mason Nelly, and Corey Kearney. Hugs and high fives to my team in Michigan. My colleagues turned to friends at ADHD Online, Keith Boswell, Claudia Gotti, Melanie Mile, Suzanne Sprewit, Tricia Merchant Dunny, and the entire team at ADHD online for all of their ongoing support.
Our show art is created by Sissy Ye of Berlin Gray, and our music was created by Louie Englis, a singer-songwriter from Perth, Australia, who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 at the age of 39.
Links to all of the partners we work with are available in the show notes. To connect with the show or with me, you can find us online at RefocusPod as well as at Lindsay Guentzel, and you can email the show directly. [email protected]. That’s [email protected].
As always, thank you guys so much for listening, and we will see you back here next week.