“My Best Friend Doesn’t ‘Tolerate’ My ADHD. She Values It.”
“Seeing how he navigates through chaotic situations taught me to let go of my constant urge to be in control and to rely more on the unique skills that neurodiverse people, like Les, have.”
Having a best friend with ADHD can be one hell of an experience — or so I’m told.
When I meet someone else with ADHD, we ping along together in an exciting way, having finally found someone who gets it. But what’s it like for a neurotypical person who has formed a close friendship with someone who has ADHD? I never actually asked someone until now.
Meet Laura, who kindly offered to share what it’s really like being my friend. We’ve been friends for more than six years, and I’ve come to see Laura as my little sister. We’ve lived together, we’ve traveled across the world together, and we own a company together. She has experienced my highs, my lows, my heartbreaks, my struggles, and my successes.
When I was 30, Laura’s honest and blunt, no-nonsense talk led me to get my ADHD diagnosis. In many ways, Laura is fundamental to who I am today, and she remains a big part of the support system that helps me manage my ADHD.
Here’s what it’s like to be a neurotypical with an ADHD friend, according to Laura:
Initial Opinion of Les and How That’s Changed
Laura: When I first met Les, he came across as hyperactive, extremely talkative, and impulsive. Les didn’t fit into the larger group (neither did I). I’m a typical introvert, distrusting of people when I first meet them. (I’d rather read a book than go on an adventure). But there was something about his enthusiasm and openness toward the world that grew on me. I realized that I enjoyed being around him, and we became close friends.
What It’s Like to Hang Out with Les
Laura: Les has a lot of crazy ideas ranging from ‘let’s go to that dodgy-looking bar’ to ‘let’s buy a van together, convert it to a camper, and go on a six-month road trip from London to Malaysia.’ It’s never a boring night out with my friend! You can easily get sucked into his plans and into ideas that sound great at first but may just as easily turn into a disaster. Simply put, I do not always have the energy to follow his fast-paced brain or double-check every other plan he makes.
Why We’ve Stayed Friends
Laura: When our different personality traits inevitably clash, it all comes down to setting boundaries and insisting, sometimes a little forcefully, on clear communication.
What Event Solidified Our Friendship?
Laura: Two years after we graduated, I asked Les to work with me on an investigation in Chile. The project was a big one: Five weeks on the road, conducting multi-lingual interviews and overcoming many personal and professional obstacles. I invited him because I trust Les to get me out of a sticky situation and his energy levels are unmatched. I needed that driving force to push me to succeed at a project of that scale.
During the trip, despite my initial concerns, I realized we were a perfect journo-team. Les creatively solved issues on the fly. His open attitude to talk to anyone (including gun-toting riot police at a protest!) resulted in interviews I never would have considered. Even our writing techniques are complementary. I provide facts, numbers, and background, and Les brings flow, wit, and readability. We were a powerful combination that made the project a massive success.
It wasn’t always easy, of course. We inevitably had arguments on the road, but I learned a lot about myself while working so closely with Les. I meticulously plan everything, and when things go wrong I often panic and find myself unable to communicate. Les is used to things going south and naturally adapts. However, he doesn’t always recognize someone else’s moments of pure panic. I had to learn to communicate my panic clearly so that he could truly understand certain arguments, why we were having them, and that a little breathing space is good right after things have gone sideways.
What Did You Learn From That Experience?
Laura: Seeing how he navigates through chaotic situations taught me to let go of my constant urge to be in control and to rely more on the unique skills that neurodiverse people, like Les, have.
It also helped me figure out boundaries. When do I need a break from work? When is it time to go home during an exciting night out? Les is always ready to go on and would always persuade me to stay longer. It’s difficult to say ‘no’ to a friend, but sometimes you need to say it out loud for your friendship to remain healthy and lasting.
We’ve grown up alongside each other over the years — from students to full-time freelance journalists. We went from friends who spend too much time in the pub to best mates who can talk about anything and will reliably support each other through all of life’s turbulence.
After the Chile project, Les and I decided to set up shop together and regularly partner on projects as our careers grow in tandem. We learn from each other’s quirks and skills with every new assignment and problem that comes along. We also still spend a lot of time in pubs and we fight like siblings. But we do so with absolute mutual respect. Les is one of the very few people who have the confidence and bravery to handle me at my worst.
Has Les’s ADHD Diagnosis Changed Your View of Him?
Laura: Les’s ADHD diagnosis has played a big role in his life over the last few years, but for me, as his friend and colleague, I don’t see him any differently from when I first met him. He’s still a fun, creative, and loyal person who will always be there when you need a real friend. (Though his driving is god awful.)
My Best Friend: Next Steps
- Download: Manage ADHD’s Impact on Your Relationship
- Read: Why Can’t We Be Friends?
- Read: “Forgiveness Is the Most Precious Gift a Friend Can Give”
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