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“ADHD Is My Big Secret”

I met a new man but fear being rejected when I tell him about my ADHD. Do you tell loved ones — friends, family, potential partners — about your ADHD, even when it means facing their criticism and judgment?

Since the Ex-boyfriend left, I haven’t dated much. But while working abroad in Asia, a new man arrived on the scene: a short, small-boned, extremely calm guy I call my Indian Yogi Boyfriend. He’s the exact opposite of the alpha males I typically date, and while he may be a rebound, I’m also seeking to break bad habits and patterns in the New Year. Maybe he will help with that.

The Indian Yogi Boyfriend is not only the opposite of my exes, he’s quite different from me. From eating to shopping, he is as steady as a snail in everything he does. He is frugal and not flashy, doesn’t care about sports, and loves reading and meditation. Unlike former boyfriends, he pays a mortgage on a simple apartment and he is a meticulous planner. (Imagine this: He opens his mail with a letter opener and staples all of his papers in exactly the same spot.) Despite his calm demeanor, he seems to have accepted that I can, at times, be impatient, curt, and testy.

The more I back away, the more he pushes for commitment. When he asks to set specific dates, I shrug him off, wanting to say, “I’ve told you that my top priority is getting settled in my new job.” After one particularly frustrating date, I ask my aunt if she thinks I should just say that to him and her jaw nearly drops. “Too rude!” she exclaims and I realize that I agree. How would I feel if someone I liked told me they were too busy?

The problem is that I want to use my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as an excuse. I want to explain, “Well, you know how ADDers can be prickly and just blurt out whatever we’re thinking.” But I stop myself. My aunt and grandmother, my two closest relatives in Asia, don’t know I have ADHD, and so far, neither does my suitor.

I’ve been in this position before, and it didn’t go well. If I bring up my ADHD at the wrong time or at a bad time, it could mean an end to our relationship — one that has barely begun. Can’t I wait just a little while before I shake things up?

To some, my condition is obvious, even if they don’t know what to call it, what it means. My aunt has been less than accepting of my quirks, having already pointed out my shortcomings to me. “Why do you always repeat yourself and talk about the same things?” she asks. “And why don’t you pay attention to what others are saying — I mean truly listen? Sometimes you seem to miss the point.”

I want to tell her about my five-year struggle since being diagnosed with ADHD — the search for the right medication and the right shrinks, the support groups, the checkered work and dating history.

As much as I want to, I won’t. I fear rejection from my extended family as much as I fear it from a boyfriend. Every time I imagine telling my aunt and my grandmother, the conversation I play out in my mind ends in reproach. “You need to stop blaming other people and things for your problems,” my aunt would tell a me that would feel even worse, and even more overcome with guilt and shame, than the me who says nothing at all.

Confused about what I’d like in a relationship, I want to tell the new boyfriend that I’m not ready to settle down — at least not yet. Mostly though, I’m afraid to be rejected yet again, so for the moment, I stay silent and bite my tongue.

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