I worry a lot. Let me rephrase that – I worry often. Additively I think my worry amount is low, as if there were any way to measure worry definitively. Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, to me, shatters my day into so many small moments of time. When I worry about something, it doesn’t last long because my brain is moving onto some other concern or input. What do I worry most about? People and relationships.
I worry about friends, family, coworkers, and how all of those relationships mean something to me and to them. I dug deep into this feeling of worry a while back and came to the realization that I don’t often do much about it. Sometimes I’ll reach out to the person and resolve that worry. Other times I go down a small rabbit hole of permutations of a a possible conversation, of the history between us, and even of the future. I suppose it’s a form of analysis paralysis. By the time I come up out of the rabbit hole, I forget to engage and I’m off to the next thought.
I presumed that from the outside, being friends with someone with ADHD can be difficult. I started to write a letter to all of my friends and family to tell them more about me, how I think, and not to take it personally if I forgot to say something about a birthday or remarkable achievement. It was then I realized that maybe people I don’t even know could benefit from reading this letter.
You might have a friend, coworker, or family member with ADHD. See if this letter gives you any coloring around your relationship that can help it down the road. If you are reading this and you have ADHD, feel free to send the letter to people you know.
Dear Friends, Family Members, and Coworkers:
I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (sometimes the H part doesn’t apply). It’s hard to explain what my universe is like although I suspect you generally have an understanding as we all go through problems with attention and focus. Like other forms of neurodivergence you can’t see what’s different about me, you can only see how I act differently than yourself. If you don’t understand those differences enough, you can’t apply context to them and you may think my intentions are different.
Through thoughtfulness, therapy, medication, and meditation I’ve ruminated enough on what makes me different and have come to understand it. I feel like ADHD can be a super power as well as a super burden.
Maybe you see me as:
- Easily frustrated.
I see myself as someone who sees a lot of things. Imagine a room filled with screens – televisions, tablets, phones, beeping signals, dogs barking. A normal person can see the thing that’s important and let the others become background noise. I have trouble picking the signal out of the noise. I have less noise because it’s all signal in my brain.
I see the random things on walks in people’s yards. I notice the painting behind you when you’re talking to me. I feel the seam of my jeans on my right knee when I’m driving. I hear the washing machine clicking in the basement when I’m on a call upstairs.
I have good days and bad days. I know that anxiety goes hand-in-hand with ADHD. There are times I get overwhelmed with stimuli and need to exit a situation. I know that can be hard to take when I might have to leave your birthday party at a Mexican restaurant when the table next to us gets fajitas delivered. Sometimes sounds, smells, and lights can send my brain off into an adventure.
There are other times when ADHD lets me see many sides to a discussion. When I can focus and listen to a story and connect, I can ask deep questions about things you may not have thought of. Maybe you think I’m insightful or thoughtful.
Then there are those things I miss. I forget to wish you a happy birthday or call you when you finish a race you told me about twenty times. Maybe you wonder how someone so insightful can be so forgetful. At times I bet you think I might not care about you as much as you do me.
The reality is I think about you probably 100 times a day in microsecond bursts. I remember those things you told me – I can see you at last year’s birthday party and remember it’s your birthday soon. But when I recall this fact, the next thing pops in my head and I don’t transmit that recognition of the day to you.
I leave cupboard doors and drawers open. You’ll find tools I’ve used in places you wouldn’t expect them. Then other days I’m criticizing your organizational skills because I see 15 different things out of place within moments. I’m also a creature of habit, and I have a habit of needing to change those habits for the sake of doing something different. I crave stability but I also crave change. I move furniture around a lot.
I want to be normal but I also want to be me. Maybe I take medication to help things out but I recognize that the medication changes my personality in subtle ways. Medication isn’t always the answer for everyone. Not everyone feels the need that they need to be fixed. I feel that if I’m honest with the people I live with, work with, and spend time around that we can learn how each other sees the world and we can help each other out. At times I may need a helping hand which can come in the form of therapy and/or medication. Don’t judge me if I’m doing either of these things. I’m not a pill-popper or weak-minded.
Even though I appear to be this self-aware, I need help from my family and friends. Remind me of things that are important to you. Make sure I’m putting important things into my calendar. If you notice me staring through you when you’re talking, connect with me on the subject and tell me why its important to hear your story. I need to feel accountable for things to be a better signal in the noise of my brain.
Thanks for listening, and I’m always here to answer questions. I’m glad we know each other.