Guest Blogs

“An Open Letter to the Friend I Disappointed”

If timely birthday cards, gourmet cookies, and punctual coffee dates are important to you, we might not be friends. But if loyalty, dedication, and fierce love are, I implore you to look past my faults at the woman hiding beneath.

Dear friend (potential or former) whom I disappointed,

I am sometimes inconsiderate, but never intentionally or maliciously.

I am late to important appointments. I forget important papers. My house is messy, my car is worse, and I procrastinate. I interrupt people. I don’t always wait my turns. I blurt out things best left unsaid. My attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), at times, looks a lot like bad (even selfish) behavior. But please know that my symptoms are not a choice.

Adults with ADHD are five times more likely to speed, 50% more likely to be in a serious car crash, and three times more likely to be dead by age 45. None of these is an attractive choice. We also have anxiety disorders out the wazoo — some estimates hit 50% — and half of women with ADHD have contemplated suicide.

We don’t mean to act contrary to social mores. We try, sometimes desperately, to stick to societal expectations. It’s just hard for us. Sometimes impossible.

Take being late. People with ADHD tend to experience time, as researchers Donald and Susan David found, “not as a sequence of events the way others usually do, but as a diffuse collection of events that are viscerally connected to the people, activities, and emotions that fill them.”

We struggle to put events in their proper place. We may visualize past, present, and future all as one, concurrent, flowing thing. The rest of the world sees time as linear, a distinction that proves problematic when we’re trying to make an important appointment. This different time-sense causes us to procrastinate and hyperfocus. It causes us to miss deadlines, “underestimate the time needed for tasks and trips, and do things in the wrong order.” Now do you get why we missed that PTO fundraiser or library play date?

[Take This Test: Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Adults]

On top of it all, we tend toward clutter and mess. Many people with ADHD also have an executive function disorder. It affects the way our brains work: They are wired for chaos, not for order. People with an EFD have trouble “organizing materials and setting schedules.” They lose things. They can’t keep track of their personal, or keep their personal areas neat. So not only do we succumb to the clutter, we also lose things — not because we’re lazy, but because of a brain disorder.

You’ve no doubt noticed our weird social interactions. Some of us talk at the wrong time. We blurt things out. We say the wrong thing at the wrong time. As kids, we did not learn to make eye contact, take jokes well, or not interrupt others because our ADHD impulsivity got in the way. Social skills training was not a thing back in the dark days of the ‘80s and ‘90s, if we were lucky enough to be diagnosed back then. So we’re left to muddle along on our own. Many ADHD coaches won’t even treat social issues. I should know, I’ve looked for one.

We act the way we do because we’re impulsive, not because we don’t care about you. We’re not trying to be rude, or trying to draw all the attention to ourselves. We just don’t know any other way to be.

I don’t want to annoy you. I also don’t want to be ostracized or belittled because I have a disorder. Think of it this way: You’d make obvious accommodations for a friend with a visible disability. You’d make accommodations for any number of invisible disabilities, too, that are better understood. Please make the same concessions for those of us with ADHD.

Give us grace. Give us space. Understand why we do the things we do. And get to know us. You’ll find that most of us make loyal, dedicated friends — the kind who care about those we love, almost to a fault. Give us a chance. We will cherish you forever for it.

[Free Resource: Get There On Time, Every Time]

7 Comments & Reviews

    1. Can’t believe I didn’t catch my typos! Meant to read “Sadly accurate. The pain of lost friends and people who believe I don’t value them really stings.”

  1. Perfect, and if my friend hadn’t already closed the door and changed her email I would send this to her. To this day I don’t know specifically what I did to chase her away.

    1. *sigh* what you’re describing is a horrible feeling, I know. I’m sorry you are having to feel that. I hope that somehow, someday, you can get back in touch with your friend and work it out. In the meantime, however, I encourage you to consider this resulting time and space to be your friend. Sometimes it’s better to let someone have their space, and allow them to think their thoughts and feel their feelings. Doing so will naturally take a lot of the emotional charge out of them, after which reconciliation is more possible. Were you ‘friends’ with this person on Facebook or other social media? If so, perhaps you might be able to keep up with them from a distance until an opportune time comes to reach out. Even if you were not on Facebook, your friend might be, and it is possible to see their profile to a limited extent even if you’re not connected as ‘friends’. There are other ways you might keep track of your friend online. Or perhaps you have a mutual friend or relative you might send a message through. And when the time comes, if it does, you might just ask your friend straight-up what it was you did to put them off. Who knows, perhaps you will discover that it wasn’t you at all but some other occurrence or circumstance in that person’s life that brought about this outcome. You never know.

  2. I lost one of my very best friends two years ago because she thought I said something negative about her on a comment I made on an article on Facebook. The truth is that the comment was not about her, although she and the person I *was* commenting about were similar. I’ve never reached out to explain any of this to her because I figured that if she was so quick to accuse, try, and convict me, then what is the point? I would really love to reach out and explain my side, but it’s been too long, and I don’t think she would understand why I never tried to explain any of this in the first place.

  3. “Take being late. People with ADHD tend to experience time, as researchers Donald and Susan David found, “not as a sequence of events the way others usually do, but as a diffuse collection of events that are viscerally connected to the people, activities, and emotions that fill them.”

    I’m very interested to read up on the research quoted from ‘Donald and Susan David’ regarding ADHD and time. Is it possible to please post a link, reference, or citation where you found this research?

    Thank you in advance!!!

  4. I’m crying as I write this because I was the ‘disappointed friend’. For a few years now I’ve tried to figure him out, he didn’t seem mean, or to have bad character. Yet over and over again communication would lag, he would disappear for day and even weeks, only to say “I’m sorry, I’ve just been home doing nothing except binge-watching multiple series on Netflix and watching anything on Youtube, for hours. He wouldn’t text back and didn’t seem to understand what my husband and I considered ‘basic friend etiquette’ –you return phone calls and texts. You show up when you said you would. How did he forget so quickly?? Conversationally unaware, say too much, answer out of context. Completely shut down when a nice girls was around. I began to wonder if he was “on the spectrum”.

    He could never sit still during movies or conversations. We would be in the middle of a business conference and someone would say something about the Amazon and he would be lost down that rabbit trail for an hour and look up like ‘huh, what did I miss?’.

    After a really annoying time for me, I lashed out telling him if he didn’t change he would be alone and broke forever. The pain on his face haunts me. But he quickly covered up with a joke and then went into hiding for days. I was ready to say “buh-bye” for good but didn’t. Finally, after talking about a girlfriend needing her Adderall but not having a prescription, I fell into a deep dive of ADD/ADHD. And in every article, blog post I see him. All the pieces of the puzzle finally fit. I remembered a convo we had that when he was a kid he was put in special class because he was a trouble maker. His aunt verified that when he was little he was on some type of medication. But when his parents split, his dad denied he had a problem. No more meds.

    We brought the idea of ADHD up to him a few months ago. He agreed it was probable but he’d never take drugs for it. We asked if he would consider getting a diagnosis and seeing a therapist. He’s thinking about it. I finally got him to take a short online ADHD test. I don’t think he’s looked at the email results yet. But I’m hopeful, as he really want to move on in his life that he’ll consider taking more action.

    As much as some of those things still drive me crazy, I understand it’s not his bad character, it’s the way he’s wired. It’s taught me to give him grace and enjoy the really special things I love about him. It’s given us a chance to repair our relationship. And it’s so worth the work!

    Keep the awesome articles coming! I keep reading them and sharing them!

Leave a Reply