Lessons from a Toxic Friend

I was falling for people—friends, bosses, and potential suitors—who ordered me around and treated me like a child. Was my ADHD asking for it?
ADHD & the City | posted by Jane D.
Jane D.

Continuing on part one, my blog post from Monday:

We had moments ago finished the 24-miler, and my swim partner, (the Ph.D. to my ADHD), left me. Just like that. I wanted to ask him about the race, about our performance. Instead, I celebrated with other swimmers and my home-stay hosts.

The swim partner is one of the few people who I have told about my diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. He knows a lot about me, so I've always felt naked and vulnerable before him.

Relationships and friendships are a bit like a dish. Sometimes you taste one, and maybe it’s the color, the day, or the company you are with that leaves a good or bad impression. I admired and respected everything about the partner, except what seemed like a lack of heart. The mind does not easily forget.

So the next day I wrote to him. I hemmed and hawed about it, but did it anyway, and what I got back made me sad. I certainly did not want a friendship to come so abruptly to an end. Should I apologize? Am I hypersensitive? Friends say to leave it alone and move on.

The future does not exist—this comes as second nature to those who share my condition—but, you see, the past does. And I find myself mourning because, ADHD or not, I am only human.

Here it is.


Hi Jane,
Thanks for your thoughts on Saturday's swim. I honestly believe you should be commended for your effort and achievement this weekend. It was a long swim, made only more challenging by nature's elements. Through it all, you stuck through and pleasantly surprised me.

Given the elements on the bay (e.g. chop on the water and tide), the sheer joy of completing the last leg of the swim precluded any selfless notion of sharing the moment with you at the same time. And for that, I'm truly sorry. Also, I apologize for not counting your swim strokes. Frankly, I have learned that the number of strokes one swims per minute does not necessarily equate to a certain "success" or "failure." It's what you do under water that makes the difference.

Here are approximate times spent in the water on Saturday (they should not be used to gauge actual distance):

And with the close of this email I thank you for joining me for the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim this year. I believe the time is right for both of us to part ways now, and I wish you every success in all your future endeavors.

Goodbye, Jane,
Mr. Ph.D.


Hi Mr. Ph.D.,
I hope that you had a nice flight back and got some rest from the long race. I want to thank your mother again for her hospitality (the shrimp pasta meal was a perfect pre-race meal), and I really appreciate your help with the transportation and that trip to Publix :-) To be sure, I was happy that we finished under such rough conditions. It is an accomplishment for both of us. What do you think of the swim?

That said, I tried my best and gave the swim my all but also felt empty and kind of hurt afterwards. It is an overall feeling in the aftermath of it all. Being that this is a team effort, it would have been nice if you had waited for me to get into the water and cross the finish line too. I was happy to save the last leg for you, and made sure that the Snickers bars were not totally consumed by the boater's girlfriend. I recorded an estimate of your strokes per minute, and I understood that you would do the same too. In the big picture, these details are seemingly small and I know that one should not have expectations of others, but it would be dishonest to not share how I feel.

Also I've said this to most friends before and may have forgotten to mention it to you, but please don't text me if I call, since it's hard for me to text entire conversations and messages, and my phone isn't equipped for that :-( I have always honored your preference for communication, and trust that you'll do the same :-)

That said, I did have fun and I strongly believe that two is usually better than one, especially in rough waters! It was a worthwhile swim and well deserved since you swam 8-plus hours of it.



In the meantime I celebrate my completion of the race and the sweet taste of success and follow through, things that seemed all but unreachable since the layoff. This much the partner has taught me—the importance of focus and sticking with it.

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