I've finally found someone to share my life — but I haven't shared my diagnosis.
by Jane D.
Stranger things have happened in ADHD land than finding love when one is just about to throw in the towel. I've spent many a post writing about the search for a soulmate, my litany of dating disasters, and more recently being resigned to the idea of my spinster status. And then, just when I least expected it, there was Cupid.
Over the past two seasons I’ve had a boyfriend in the picture. He’s a former colleague, an old friend. We’ve known each other for nearly a decade. And then there it suddenly was: the chemistry — or some say karma.
The relationship has blossomed at a distance. He’s on the other coast. We’ve not yet lived together, but when we're with each other the sparks fly. We seem to thrive on distance, or at least we tell ourselves that distance makes the heart grow fonder, because in the interim we have no other choice. Maybe distance is what has kept us together.
The boyfriend was there in rough times, sticking with me through the breast cancer bout, staying steady as I've struggled with the journey into academia (and some scary paper-writing periods). But there was the uncertainty of distance and the unknown of this relationship. There was my impending 38th birthday. I found myself craving commitment — and then demanding it.
“I have an idea. Why don’t we get engaged?” I said to the boyfriend after a period of fighting about how and when we would finally get together. To my surprise, he said yes. That was three months ago and about two months ago he gave me a ring, a symbol of that commitment. Within a day there was a flurry of congratulations from our constellation of friends via social media. Fireworks flew. I found myself walking around with a 1,000-watt smile. Finally within my chaotic life there's a bit of normalcy, the slice of stability I've been craving.
Since being diagnosed with ADHD at 30, I’d often wondered if the disorder was more of a blessing or a curse. I’d read all that I could about the pros (creativity, genius) and the cons (disorganized, losing interest). In romance I had considered it a hindrance, a curse, as it seemed that traits such as impatience and lack of focus, were at best not attractive and at worst dealbreakers. Simply put, I’d become convinced that ADHD prevented me from having someone. And then for a brief season I stopped worrying as there were more pressing matters: the cancer, the PhD, the struggle to return to life in the U.S. after being bicontinental for so many years.
And then came the proposal and the sense of disbelief that remains. I’m elated, I’m doing figure eights, but at other times I wonder if the boyfriend-turned-fiancé would have loved me just the same if I’d shared the ADHD adventures with him, too. In recent years I’d become gun-shy about sharing it with new friends and new lovers, especially after an ex-boyfriend used my ADHD as a negative, consistently blaming me for not remembering things, suggesting that perhaps it would be better if I were medicated than simply let my chaotic mind swim itself into focus.
So I've purposefully not once mentioned the ADHD to the fiancé. There is happiness in this engagement, in the promise of a new chapter, but also frustration in knowing that after nearly a decade of being diagnosed I still feel shame and guilt in living with it. A good friend’s words occasionally surface as I contemplate these two worlds I straddle. “Be true to yourself,” she’s always told me. Perhaps in time, but first let me celebrate, I think.
Here are some books on ADHD and romance that I’ve found helpful: A.D.D. and Romance: Finding Fulfillment in Love, Sex, and Relationships and Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit.