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“Why Do I Keep Forgetting Things? Learning to Forgive My ADHD Brain”

“People are the most important part of my life. I’m loyal as a dog to people who treat me well (and, unfortunately, sometimes to those who don’t). So, when these forgetful blips happen, I beat the crap out of myself — the shame is pretty intense.”

A person ties a string on a finger to remember to ask the doctor, "How does ADHD medication work?"
A person ties a string on a finger to remember to ask the doctor, "How does ADHD medication work?"

I recently had an awkward moment with a friend who quietly mentioned that I forgot his birthday. I’ve been a very busy bee lately and pretty knocked out after work due to a blur of meetings, new hands to shake, and new responsibilities to learn. I completely forgot. It’s sad because he matters to me. There’s no worse feeling than being forgotten — it shows a lack of care from someone who matters to you.

Why Do I Keep Forgetting Things?

Since the pandemic, I’ve avoided social media because it’s not good for my self-esteem to see other people’s highlight reels. (Why are some people seemingly on holiday every weekend for no reason?)

But with intentional and positive abstention comes ignorance around birthdays and party invites. It doesn’t matter if I’m directly told something. I still forget what neurotypical people instinctively remember.

[Self-Test: Do You Have a Working Memory Deficit?]

I get so engrossed in what’s immediately in front of me and what I’m doing that sometimes little notifications about non-urgent things get lost among my endlessly shifting priorities. It’s not to say I don’t acknowledge them, but I have days where I realize that it’s no longer April but almost mid-May. Months fly by, and I don’t notice that the seasons have changed until it gets suspiciously sunny or cold, and it’s always cold here in England!

So, I do my best to keep putting things on my calendar. But sometimes I just forget. As a result, I’ve started adding personal to-dos to my work to-do list. If a friend’s birthday happens while I’m on deadline, I can pick up on it at the end of the day. But there are always cracks and days when my working memory fails.

ADHD Forgetfulness

While much of my forgetfulness and other memory-related traits are related to my ADHD, a lot of it is simply being human — not a bad friend. I don’t like hurting people, and I rarely do so on purpose. (One of my friends with ADHD has the same issues with being forgetful. I’ll only hear from her every two months, usually with a flurry of messages starting with “Sorry, sorry, sorry, I’m so s***!”.)

People are the most important part of my life. I write for an audience. I learn from conversations. I work with and for my colleagues, and I’m loyal as a dog to people who treat me well (and, unfortunately, sometimes to those who don’t). So, when these forgetful blips happen, I beat the crap out of myself — the shame is pretty intense.

[Free Guide: Is it Adult ADHD?]

To mitigate this, I’ve learned that it’s best to simply say “sorry” and send a friend a little something, even if it’s just a late card with a corny joke. A small token gift doesn’t make up for forgetting, but it does acknowledge them and ensures that the other person knows they matter to me.

Why Do I Keep Forgetting Things? Next Steps


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