Because of their executive and social challenges, it is difficult for some adults with ADHD to maintain the rituals of holidays that have become almost sacred in many families. I myself spent the early years of my marriage putting all my energy into hiding my ADHD-related problems from my husband's super-competent sister and mother, and coping with the growing anxiety resulting from not knowing how to help at family holiday gatherings, not knowing how to talk about it, and not having any techniques developed yet for surviving these events.
This stemmed in large part from my lack of domesticity, the fear of revealing it to my family members, the years of avoiding these events and then the years of avoiding these people because of the negative expectations. I just didn't want to hear the judgmental disapproving tone in the voice on the other end of the wire I was sure would greet me if I did attempt to connect.
Isolation comes from the disconnection adults with ADHD often experience from family and friends. It can lead to depression or plain old loneliness and sadness. One of the most poignant phrases I've heard was from a client who described the difficulty of not being able to relate in ways that reflect who you are and that you care. She said, "people don't know your heart." This holiday season, let people "know your heart" with the gift of one small gesture: Reach out to them, and reconnect.
Little Things Mean A Lot
Reduce "all or nothing" thinking and be realistic. Don't obsess over sending out Christmas cards to every friend and relative if the process of finding addresses, writing, buying stamps and remembering to mail them puts you into a tailspin. Just get in touch with the people who have meant the most to you in the past. Ask yourself: "What is the smallest yet meaningful honest heartfelt way to re-connect?" That is your only goal. Who might need a little note of encouragement or to know someone is thinking of them?
Breaking the Ice after Disconnecting
Pick one person you want to reconnect with or to give to. Focus on them. Call, send an e-card or mail a personal note or card to let them know you've been thinking about them. You can say simple things like "I miss you," "Thinking of You" or simply, "Happy Holidays." If you've been out of touch, you can briefly describe what has been going on with you if you must explain your disappearance, but don't put yourself down. No mea culpa about how bad or shameful you are. Just reconnect - don't try and solve all the relationship issues of the past.
If you have had a falling out with a friend or family member, leaving an ice-breaking message by e-mail, faxes or voicemail messages may help you "test the waters" out without having to face the tone of disapproval or disappointment you may fear. A return message can relax or prepare you for their feelings about reconnecting. Usually you do not get the negative response you may fear. Remember, other people are usually just as preoccupied with their own lives as you are.
Make it a Real Thanksgiving
Have a goal to spend an hour with a person who has meant something to you, or who you laugh with, or who knew you when you were a kid, and reminisce with them. Or think about someone who is going through a rough time. Find a warm cozy place for tea or coffee and enjoy each other.
The holiday season is a whole season, not just one or two big days that call for huge efforts and loads of people. The point is to think small and meaningful - not big and traditional and overwhelming. Think about giving and getting pleasure and enjoyment. Find little ways to connect and to show you care - that's the true meaning of the holidays. It's the way to come through on the other side of the holidays feeling a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, and gives relationships something to build on in the New Year.
As a matter of fact, right now, as I have been writing this I realize I need to make a call and re-connect with someone I miss. It has been a long time...
I wish you meaningful connections this holiday season. Remember to start small and go slowly. Happy Holidays!