“I’m sorry y’all. I know I said I would come today, but I’m just not feeling up for it.”
“I feel so bad. I forgot it was your anniversary party and I can’t come tonight!”
“I’m such a terrible friend. I forget everything!”
When you have #ADHD, there’s so many things that happen in our minds that causes us to feel as if we are bad friends, and sometimes do make us bad friends. After standing our friends up for the 3rd, 5th, 8th time, they will eventually stop inviting us, and of course, our Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria will point that out and say:
“See, they don’t really like you.”
"You don't deserve friends!"
So we become more insular, we hide away, because the pain is just too much. Our symptoms make things too complicated, and we drive everyone who cares about us away with our behaviors.
Well. Never fear. There are ways we can fight back against loneliness, and here’s 12 things you can do.
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Talk To a Psychiatrist and Therapist
A lot of the issues that we face with ADHD comes from the issues that are inherent to it. Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria and Imposter Syndrome for example. Many things that we face are common comorbidities. Social Anxiety, Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder, the list goes on. Talk these things out with a therapist and work with a psychiatrist to get the medication that you may need to manage your symptoms that are causing the most harm to your relationships.
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Talk To a Life Coach
Now, these tips are just that, tips. It’s a place to start, but with the difficulties that we face with ADHD, and how hard it is to do things because of executive dysfunction, we find we may need help to do the damn things. That’s where a Life Coach comes into play, especially one that understands ADHD. When you deal with ADHD, you need that push, that accountability, and that’s where I come into the picture. A quality ADHD Life Coach can help guide you and find the path that fits your journey. As a coach, I help with Self-Discovery, Purpose Finding, and Habit Forming, and these will help with all of your relationships. The more you know yourself, the better you can advocate for yourself.
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Connect With Your Old Friends and Family
In our last blog we talked about connecting back with old friends, and I’ll include family in this one. Talk to them about what you’re going through. Those who you can trust, those who have stood by you for the long haul, even when you were dealing with the worst aspects of your pain. Talk to them about your ADHD, explain to them, and be honest about it, and apologize to them for any pain you may have caused, even inadvertently. Talk to them about RSD, Imposter Syndrome, and any comorbidities you may have. Once you’ve identified what triggers those feelings with your therapist, explain that to them, and ask them for help. Explain that sometimes you may not be able to follow through with plans, and that they may need to check in with you to make sure. Explain how your memory works, and that you may forget things. Work with them, and if they are genuine friends, then they will have your back.
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Find Your Tribe, Build Your Networks
We talked about tools that we can use to find people, groups, and events in our area where our interests align. Use Meetup.com to find groups that meet your particular needs. There are a ton of groups out there, nerd groups, car enthusiasts, motorcycle clubs, sewing clubs, art groups, hiking groups. If you can think of a hobby, there’s likely a tribe on Meetup.com that can meet your needs. If not there, check out Facebook Local Groups and Events, find those concerts, festivals, car shows and break out of your shell and explore them! It doesn’t matter if it’s a short-term hobby, the people you meet may be worth more than the hobby itself.
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Online Friends Are Great
We don’t have to just make friends in real life. Some of my most meaningful friendships are online, people who live in completely different parts of the world. Having these different relationships helps us put our world into perspective. It also helps if you’re awake at 3 a.m. on the east coast of the U.S. that it’s only 5 p.m in Australia. Having that friend you can talk to may let you ease that stress that’s keeping you awake.
Now that we’ve listed out some ways to connect with old friends and family and to make new friends. What about tips on how to maintain and be a good friend? With our impulsivity issues and the way our brains work, our conversations skills, memory, and focus make it hard for us to keep up with things that other people take for granted; staying on topic, being considerate of the flow of conversation, remembering important dates just to name a few things.
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Talk About Your Particular Issues
When we are talking to our therapist, we will discover things that we go through. Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, Imposter Syndrome, Depression, Anxiety. We need to be up front with our friends and family about these things. We need to advocate for ourselves and explain our triggers and ways that they can help us if we have a crisis moment. Check out our Self-Advocacy Blog here.
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Figure Out a Way to Backup Your Memory
One of our biggest issues is our memory. We can’t just promise to remember a thing, or a date, or an important task. We need to take the time immediately to use whatever tool that we have to create the reminder. Google Calendar, Phone Notes, Evernote, a notepad, these are all valuable tools so that we can take ownership of our memory and use external tools to back it up. Working with an ADHD Life Coach can do wonders to find the tool sets each person needs to maintain their working memory.
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Take Time to Ask Questions and Listen To the Answers
Before you tear off into that new hyperfocus conversation with your friends, check in on your friends and family. I know that small talk isn’t our greatest skill-set, but taking the time to do it, especially if we have talked to our people about our difficulties, will make them appreciate the effort we put into it. If you have an important thought that you want to share or discuss, use your tools above to remind yourself when it’s a more appropriate time to talk about it. This will help keep you from interrupting someone when they are discussing something that they may think is important.
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Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Quirks
We all have quirks. Some of them may be ways we talk, or we may have tics, or ways that we stim to manage or cope with any situation that may be happening. In our Self-Advocacy blog check the Files tab in the group), we talk about communicating these things with those around us so that they are aware of them, and not to be ashamed of them. These are things about yourself that, as long as they aren’t disruptive, are things that our bodies/brains do. They may be coping mechanisms, or in the case of writing in a notebook, ways that we manage the issues that we deal with. A genuine friend or family member will understand and be patient with us. If you do have disruptive behaviors, then do your best to manage it. Personally I click a pen to process stress. This is extremely annoying for a friend of mine, so when I am around them, I do my best not to not stim that way.
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Celebrate the Behaviors That We Need
If someone does something that really helps you, whatever it is, thank them. Explain how it helped you. Mirror the behaviors that you need for yourself. Having people who cheer us on helps us with so many of our issues. Having someone that’s in our corner with words of encouragement helps us with Rejection Sensitivity, Imposter Syndrome, and keeps us out of our funk from Depression and Anxiety. By being proactive in this, and discussing how it helps us, it will help them understand us better. So celebrate those wins, no matter what!
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Perfectionism is a Myth
Our friends and family will not be perfect, nor will we. Most times, our ADHD minds will want that perfection, and will seek it out. But that’s an unrealistic expectation, and detrimental to our relationships. Before lashing out from a perceived rejection, criticism, or insult, do your best to pause and ask what they meant. Work with your therapist on how to recognize the things that may trigger these reactions, especially considering how Rejection Sensitivity works in our brains. If you need a break, or time to process, and feel that imminent, do your best to walk away or take time to work on the coping mechanisms your therapist will help you with. If you do blow up, then realize that you may need to apologize if you are unfair to those around you.
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Rest Is Not A Reward, It Is a Necessity
Stress is our biggest enemy. It builds up in us. It creeps in, and pushes us, and drives us to where when our RSD kicks in, that we explode. One of the biggest ways that we can manage it is Rest. As we’ve talked about before, we need to schedule time every day for resting. There is nothing that should interfere with our need for an hour or two to ourselves so that we can do the things we need to do to destress. If we’ve been dealing with overwhelming stress, we may need to reschedule hang out times where there may be a high likelihood of a trigger for our RSD, because this build-up of stress is just looking for a reason to cause an explosive outburst. So take the time and Rest when you need it, you deserve it.
So that’s it. Twelve things that we can do to connect, make and maintain friendships. I know it’s not as easy as just getting out there and doing these things, but these are a place to start. Baby steps are fine, and every failure is a part of the process of success. If you need help and can’t manage to start this process, reach out to me and let’s move forward together.