Guest Blogs

“How Do You Keep From Being Socially Isolated as an ADHD Adult?”

I’ve tried hard to make contacts in my new community, but all of the connections seem to fizzle, no matter how hard I try. Is it me, the ADHD, or something else?

After a much-needed visit with loved ones back in the States, I have returned to the Asian city I’ve lived and worked in since last year to start all over again in a new job. In sitcom speak, this is season two. And how will I fare with my anxiety, and various attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) hang-ups?

Starting over again would be fun if I had the brain of, say, a jellyfish. Jellyfish don’t have memory capacity — or do they? Somewhere between along my trip in the states — I went from New York to the Bay Area and then through the pretty, tree-packed terrain of the Pacific Northwest — I slipped into an abyss just thinking about returning to Asia. What security would await me? What social support? Sure, there is much to look forward to, like a new job and in some ways, a new lease on life. But at the age of 35, I am well aware and have come to accept that there are basic — but crucial — skills that I lack to hold down a long-term relationship and what may be long-term employment.

On Sunday, I landed here again and returned to the grandmother’s apartment. The aunt has given my room an entire makeover with all new furniture, and the kitchen sparkles with a new stove. The grandmother and the aunt are perhaps the only two people happy to see me, and they secretly cross their fingers and hold their breath as to whether I will finally find my place in life. Elsewhere, the contacts I spent the last year making have all faded away. Again and again I have reached out and tried to reconnect without much reply. When I left in June, there was a real feeling that connections were made and friendships solidified, and now I am left with a list of phone numbers that seem to have run their course. What happened to these connections and so-called networks? Living half a world away from home, on another continent, I am hit yet again with the triple whammy of homesickness, loneliness, and cultural shock. Without the familiarity of home turf, I feel naked and exposed in my efforts to connect with others.

To compensate, I quickly spin into ADHD-fueled overdrive. I’ve called home a half-dozen times already. (When I told the Father my problems, I admitted, “I’ve come to accept that my next challenge is to learn how to make lemonade out of lemons.” To which he replied, “Strive even higher — make lemonade with a bit of spice and vodka in it.”) I’ve started to plot my escape and the next adventure, and the itch to plan the next trip back home has already kicked up a notch. Thanksgiving looms, and then the holiday season, coupled with the inevitable 36th birthday. Sensing my frustration, the family tries harder to help. “The only thing that you should be thinking about is your job, not dating, not marriage. There is a time and place for everything,” the grandmother and the aunt advise.

They are right, but with a birthday inching towards 40, time is not on my side. I need to prove them wrong and myself wrong, but deep down I am also well aware that an ever-changing landscape is part of my personal history and my DNA. Maybe for the first time, I ought to celebrate and embrace this instead of facing reality with a huff and a sigh. ADHD is my reality.

“Living on the Rhythm of an Oven Timer”