Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Friends of the Friendless: How those with ADD/ADHD struggle with friendships
Its kind of become a goal of mine to not only educate myself on ADD/ADHD but to find ways to help others understand how we think. One thing coming to mind right now is the episode of I Love Lucy where she thinks everyone forgot her birthday and then she meets the friends of the friendless. I think pretty much everyone can relate to the way Lucy felt and I don't think there would be anyone that wouldn't be overjoyed when everyone yelled happy birthday. I've been realizing in the last couple of years just how hard it is for me to make and keep friends and now that I'm doing some research I'm finding that the biggest reason is because of a lot of second guessing. When my mind has a lack of stimuli it starts second guessing everything that I have done and trying to figure out what I did wrong to cause this pain but not really understanding that the pain is more of just a lack of stimuli.
I look at my 1 yr old niece and see how she can be so upset over something but simply turning on Bubble Guppies will make it all better because that is a stimuli that she really enjoys. Many might say it's a simple issue of taking her mind off of the pain but the reality is that it literally takes the pain away and makes everything better. A child's brain is wired like this because they are in a serious learning stage and stimuli is of utmost importance. While I don't have any scientific quotes to support this I can say that, in my experience, someone with ADD/ADHD never fully leave this stage of their life. This isn't a bad thing and I think that calling ADD/ADHD a syndrome would be like calling someone who is 6'4" a syndrome. A person's height can be genetic and can give that person a pre-disposition of being great at something like basketball the same way that ADD/ADHD can be genetic and can give a good pre-disposition of being great at something as well. What makes one a syndrome/condition and the other not? Someone who is over 6' tall can try all they want to be shorter but there isn't anything that is going to change that and it's the same way with ADD/ADHD. No matter how hard I try I'm not going to be able to change the way my brain is pre-wired to behave so, like the tall person that finds that he is good at basketball, I need to find out what I am good at and how I can layout my life to work with who I am and, the same way a tall person learns quickly to duck before walking through a door, I need to learn how to avoid the same type of obstacle. The thing is, for that tall person, it often helps for someone to bring his attention to a short door that he isn't really paying attention to and an ADDer needs the same thing -- it's just more difficult because you can plainly see that someone is tall but it's really hard for someone to identify someone with ADD/ADHD. There is one additional struggle for an ADDer to avoid obstacles and that could be best compared to someone who had perfect eyesight and then had an accident and went completely blind. To someone in that scenario they know what a couch looks like, they know what a stair looks like, and they understand what these are and how to use them but they just can not see them and nothing is going to change that. For them it's about having a lot of support and learning tricks to figure out how to avoid these obstacles and, while one day they'll be able to manage just fine, it's going to take a long time of learning and above all else, lot's of support from others. Having ADD/ADHD does not mean that you don't understand what these obstacles are or even how to deal with them but it does mean that no matter how hard you try you just can not see them. We need lots of encouragement, support, and understanding but we have the potential of doing some really great things and being extremely awesome friends.
When Lucy became depressed in this episode she couldn't see that all of her friends were planning a surprise party for her and it was that lack of vision that caused her depression. While depressed she went to the park and was crying on a bench when the friends of the friendless came by and offered their support. To an ADDer this is the stimuli that is needed but it's a little different in Lucy's case because the pain was still there but it was being masked. To someone with ADD this stimuli will likely actually make everything better because we know in our hearts that all hope is not lost but because of a lack of stimuli we simply can not see this but give us stimuli and instantly our vision returns. The harder part about this scenario is that stimuli, in a distant sense, becomes like a drug to us. When the surprise party happens, our fears are totally destroyed and our stimuli and excitement boosted we, in a sense, get high. What happens is that the next day we may not have solid stimuli and we kind of have a crash -- ee go from being high to being depressed. This is why there are lots of ADDers have a really hard time on Mondays after a great weekend but after a week long vacation they are fine. It's the abrupt end to something that kills us because we don't have time to "ween ourselves off of the high".
Friendship to someone with ADD/ADHD is probably one of the most critical things in our lives followed closely by encouragement/appreciation. Unfortunately it's also one of the hardest things for us to deal with and that is mostly because our actions are interpreted by the other person in different ways. If there is a lack of stimuli for us at any given moment we frequently start trying to figure out why we are feeling so down and we start looking at what we did. If a friend forgets to call us we may know full well that these things happen but our vision of that situation isn't there... we just can not see it. Immediately we start thinking that we pissed that friend off and that's why they haven't called and the longer that this goes on the more negative we become. If the other person doesn't understand this then we run a very large risk of losing that friend simply because we just couldn't see what we already knew.
This week has been exceptionally hard for me and it doesn't make logical sense because the weekend was the best weekend I had all summer. I've been struggling to stimulate myself and, whether it's perceived or fact, I have very little friendships to support me with this. It is something that I know will pass but it always takes longer to pass when I have nothing to do and, more importantly, no one to do something with or have someone encouraging me along the way. It's a very painful place to be. If you have a friend or family member with ADD/ADHD you have a very large potential to make great things happen in someone's life and with very little effort but you first have to understand more about what ADD/ADHD is. Someday I know that I will find that one person that will truly be the greatest thing in my life (behind, of course, God) and she will be someone who will take the time to understand me and, while I know this, all I can see is that I'm 32 and still single. When it does happen I know that it will change my life forever for the better so until then I will continue to just try to be me one day at a time and try to learn better ways to make ADD/ADHD work for me. I've done it extremely well with work and I know I can do it with personal as well even if it is harder because of a lack of support.