I may be late with a birthday card, but if you’re my friend, know that I will get in a bar fight to uphold your honor.
by Stacey Turis
In the traditional sense of friendship, I make a pretty crappy friend and family member. I don’t know how I’ve managed to keep anyone in my life. I say “I’ve” as if I can take credit for it. I can’t. It’s all them. Those people who love me despite me. I think that most of us in the ADHD tribe feel that way. Maintaining relationships is not our strength.
I say I’m not a good friend “in the traditional sense,” because if I were judged by societal norms on my relationship skills, I would get a big, fat F. If you were a friend of mind, I can tell you what not to expect— phone calls just to catch up, on-time birthday presents or greeting cards, casseroles if you have surgery, or physical affection in general.
One of my best friends, who also has ADHD, is the same way with affection. So, finally, last year, we decided that we weren’t going to hug each other good-bye anymore. We get to see each other only five or six times a year because she lives in another state, but still, neither one of us likes to give each other hugs. We did it because that’s what we thought we were supposed to do. After 4,567 awkward hugs, we threw in the towel and are happier because of it. For the record, I love hugging people that love to hug. They usually have warm energy and a nice snug embrace. It’s the loose, floppy-arm hugs, accompanied by the “seal pats” on the back, that freak me out. Lucky for me, I haven’t lived in the vicinity of “traditional” for quite a while. Nothing about me is traditional, and friends who are still around understand that about me and don’t take my ADHD quirks personally.
Though I’m crappy in the ways I’ve mentioned, there are other ways that I shine in relationships. When you are with me, you have my full attention. Not only do you have my full attention, I live and feel everything you tell me, because it’s so important for me to relate to you. I will go to the ends of earth and back to do something for you. I will fight for you. I will build you up. I will see everything you are capable of and remind you when you are feeling bad about yourself. I’ll never judge you. I’ll never tell your secrets. I’ll never say anything about you that I wouldn’t say to you. Oh, and I’ll understand you...deeply. Like no one has before.
The people who still love me understand the value of what I have to offer. I may forget to call you on your birthday, but I’ll get in a bar fight with two girls at the same time to defend your honor. OK, that was in college, but who knows, I may still have a little bit of fight left in me. The point is, as ADHDers, we have to stop comparing ourselves to people around us. We don’t work the same way, and that is OK. We do things our way—the way we know how—and that’s good enough. Better than good, it’s great.