“Could ‘Impulsive’ Be My ADHD Term of Endearment?”
“She’s used to disappointment, but my partner’s birthday was a chance for me to try and demonstrate my love once again. How ADHD ruined the party, then saved the day with a little help from Bagpuss.”
I’m always late for everything. Late for school. Late for dates. Late at being late. I shrug off my tardiness, joking that I still haven’t quite figured out that there are 60 seconds in a minute. I also recently learned that one of my close friends intentionally adheres to what he calls “Danny Time,” arriving 10 minutes after our agreed-upon meeting time to avoid waiting. The tactic works so well I had no idea he’d taken this approach.
Through some miracle, I’ve mostly gone through life unscathed like this. Luckily, I have met good people who make space for my ADHD disarray. At times, of course, I have found myself in trouble and been reprimanded by supervisors at work and by friends.
It’s rubbish when my condition hurts the people I love most — especially when it happens over and over again. I know I’ve let my partner and family down a great many times unintentionally by not stopping to consider all of the details involved or by being distracted from a thought long enough for it fall from my grasp. (For me, this can happen in a microsecond.) Time management is part of the equation, but impulsivity is no small factor as my attention flits from promises are broken.
How ADHD Derails the Best Laid Plans
For my partner’s last birthday, I planned several surprises — all hatched with the greatest of intentions. I phoned her up on my train commute home to sort out her work schedule and avoid conflicts.
Surprise number one was to happen on her actual birthday (a weekday) — dining after work at a restaurant that she loves in central London. I hung up, eager to engage. I started thinking practically about logistics… we had just adopted a rescue dog who could not be left by herself for more than a few hours. I thought about dog sitters and other issues, looked at train schedules, and restaurant table booking times. A little while later, I lost the thought — probably because I had to bolt for a train connection.
Fast forward one month, the morning of her birthday. She opened a few presents — including concert tickets — and I told her of plans for a lovely meal after work that day. When she asked about the weekend plans we’d discussed on the phone call a few weeks back, I froze. I had forgotten all about that part. To make matters, the concert date turned out to be a day she’d be working, so the tickets would have to be refunded.
I felt so ashamed. I wanted the universe to open up and swallow me whole. Despite my great intentions, two seismic ADHD blips ruined her birthday morning. I’ve let a great many people down in many different ways, but this one felt especially heartbreaking because I had worked so hard to make an effort. She was kind, but I knew she was hurting. Just one more plan I had made that would never materialize. More words with no action.
During these moments of despair, I kick myself for trying. “Why bother,” I say to myself. “You’re only going to mess things up.” This sad little mantra is the theme of a pity party that has consumed me many times before. It’s discouraging but doesn’t keep me down for long. Thankfully, something eventually sparks me to feel motivated to try again.
Romance and Redemption
Not too long ago, my partner was lamenting the loss of Bagpuss, a Teddy bear she bought herself as a present to redeem her lost childhood. Her son took a liking to Bagpuss, so Mum let him have it because that’s what mothers do. Much to Mum’s dismay, the wee man didn’t form a very strong attachment to the Teddy bear and it was never to be seen again. (My guess is our dog knows the truth.)
Hearing her heartache, I impulsively stopped what I was doing and began researching where I could find another Bagpuss. Later that evening, I surprised her with a new Teddy. She felt seen and acknowledged, and I felt loved and appreciated.
It’s always a risk trying to plan something for someone when you’re not neurotypical, as things are more prone to go wrong. I know I need to be more careful but even when I put protections in place, like writing details in a diary and taking my medication, mistakes still happen. Since that’s a reality unlikely to change; the trick is to anticipate the fallout but keep trying anyway.
I’m resolved to keep on trying and keep on risking. I have to stay curious, work hard to carry out the details, and sometimes let my impulsivity take control! It’s those little surprises that often keep compassion in the relationship bank. You might get it wrong a lot, but when you get it right… joy!
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Updated on March 18, 2021