5 Ways ADHD Makes Me the Best, Rudest, Most Caring, Totally Frustrating Friend You’ll Ever Have

I’m loyal. I’m funny. I’ve got ADHD. It makes me who I am. But it can also make me seem uncaring, self-centered, or downright ditzy to new friends. Here’s what I wish they knew.

Dear Prospective Parent Friend,

Congratulations! We’ve made tentative moves toward genuine friendship. You seem sane. Our kids are potential playmates. You hold no over-the-top offensive religious, political, or societal beliefs. If you do have them, you’ve hidden them very well.

We have some things in common, like persistent exhaustion. You seem like someone who could develop into a person who might help me clean my house, or who will not frown on my yoga-pants-heavy wardrobe.

We could share war stories about poop. We could celebrate wine o’clock.

Before we make the tentative steps into full-on friendship, there’s something you need to know. I have ADHD. So that it doesn’t ruin the thing we’ve got going on, here are some forewarnings about what friendship with me will entail.

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1. I Will Be Late, or Not

I am constitutionally unable to arrive anywhere on time. I make plans. Oh, I make plans. I set alarms. I leave extra time. But sometimes my alarm doesn’t go off, or I lock my keys in the car, or small children act excessively like small children. I get stuck in traffic. I need a Starbucks run. I just forget to look at the clock. But whatever the reason, the best-laid plans go bad, and I show up 20 minutes to an hour late. My average is about half an hour. This has happened for every play date that I’ve attended in the history of ever.

Or I get up three hours early and getting ready only takes two hours. I frog-march the kids through the morning routine, and they’re shockingly docile about it. I don’t need a shower. I make lunch too early. I misread my watch. Whatever the reasons, the stars have aligned. Except they haven’t, because now I’m not late: I’m half an hour early. This happens about a quarter of the time.

2. I Love My Phone

It’s not you. Smartphones zap all the good neuro-receptors in an ADHD brain. You can click-click-click rapidly. Something’s always happening: an e-mail, a Facebook notification, an Instagram like. If you think it’s hard to put down your phone, it’s triply hard for me, whose brain is hardwired to stare at it all day. This means it’s difficult for me to have a conversation without checking my phone.

I don’t think you’re boring. I’m not trying to tune you out. I often can’t stop myself. And when I do get a text, an e-mail, or notification, I have an obsessive need to respond. I can do all these things while carrying on a full conversation. I’m paying attention to you. I’m just paying attention to something else, too.

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3. I Forget Stuff

I try really hard to be prepared. I try to pack bags, to stock snacks, to remember mittens. But a lot of the time, the intention doesn’t match the reality. I always think my diaper bag is packed when it’s not, or that the kids’ jackets were left in the trunk when they’re hung up in my hallway. This can put a damper on outings. I might have to run home. I might have to visit Target. You might be kind enough to lend me something for the tenth time. For that, I will be eternally grateful. Especially if the thing you’re lending is a diaper.

4. I Will Interrupt You with a Completely Unrelated Thought

You’ll be talking on about your kid’s night waking. I’ll nod, and nod, and when you pause, I will say something like, “Oh, my gosh, did I tell you how my kid keeps eating dirt?” I will launch into a lengthy diatribe detailing said dirt consumption, a diatribe that keeps you from getting a word in edgewise.

This is incredibly rude. I should still be nodding and murmuring consolations about your kid’s sleep issues. But the dirt thing came on so suddenly, and so strongly, that the need to tell you superseded all social convention. I’m not ignoring you. I’m not obsessively self-centered. My conversational skills just misfire – sometimes badly.

5. I Forget Important Intangibles

I will not remember your mom’s name, even if I have met her three times, once over a long lunch. Vital events tend to fade in my memory; I can hardly tell you what I had for breakfast, let alone who was present at a six-month-old play date gone bad. It’s not that I see these things as trivial or unimportant. It’s just that I can’t freaking remember. My mind is a sieve for certain details. When important stuff comes up, and I can’t remember it, you’ll need to gently jog my memory, not take offense.

I’m a good friend. I’m fun; I meet new people easily (even if I don’t remember their names). I can chat with you until the sun goes down or the toddlers start beating each other up. I’m loyal. I’m funny. But I’ve got ADHD. It makes me who I am. But it can also make me seem uncaring, self-centered, or downright ditzy. Make sure you know that going into this. We can be great friends. But remember: ADHD’s always part of the equation.

[Read This Next: Is Your ADHD Causing Social Slip-Ups?]

9 Comments & Reviews

  1. So true! Maybe I should print this article out and hand it people I would want to be friends with. But that would be weird. It’s easier to just not get close to anyone; it’s less painful that way. Good thing I’m an introvert. Actually, next to my husband and kids, I’m my own best friend 😉

    1. I have always felt the same way and have accumulated many acquaintances throughout my life. I’m just now learning that I have ADHD and I’ll be 30 on June 5th with no wife or kids, so I’m still figuring it out. 😁

  2. I’m going on 49 and really have no close friends. I’m mostly fine with it, like the other commenter said it is less painful if you just don’t try to get close to anyone. I am married and even in my marriage I go through phases where I’ll be more open to my husband and it always ends in me regretting it. It ‘s just too difficult to constantly be watching everything about yourself trying to be a person others will like.

    1. Before i go on and only offer advice here, i want to let you know that it is hard feeling like things are passing you buy and you are not accepted for the person you are. Its especially hurtful when we are at our worst randomly and ironically need it most and do not recieve the validation that we matter and our feelings mater and that we are also not crazy. We just simply have an executive function based deficit (adhd) that makes certain things harder and us work a bit differently. But we still are human, and we still matter. and for that mam, i wish to simply say that you are right, it is frustrating and at times even hopeless. just know there is hope, and if able check out the two things below.

      I Recomend looking up 2 things online seperate from the link below but also check that out too. its a skill i feel every one of our families would benefit to practice and learn together, for our sake and theirs.

      1) Emotional Validation – likley a skill you need to learn as much as your family. Note we tend to have a way of being more invalidated due to the unique nervous system we have. its important people in adhd relationships recognize the importance of this skill in their families and relationships.

      2) look up Motivational Interview – its how to get people to change not in a permissive or directing way, but in a guiding way that is collaborative and cares about the persons capacity to change.

      3) only a calm mind can actually see reality and help to solve these problems, get a talking stick to prevent interrupting, and a cup of tea and possibly sit down with them.

      if any of that helps, im glad. otherwise just know that if anything i have always learned that even in hitting rock bottom that there is always a way forward, and even in the fog of life, there be always an answer to return us to the path of life.

  3. I have found that I have another peculiar behavior, that I know hurts my friends who move out of state, or who I no longer associate with due to changes in my life. I always have the best of intentions, to keep in touch, to send the occasional card or email, or a text… Anything! But I don’t. I tell myself that I know where they are, I know they are fine, they’re living their new life, and I’m content with that. I don’t need to hang tightly on to them. But they are often bewildered as to why I don’t respond to their reaching out, their emails or calls or cards. I’ve explained to some, that it’s not them, it’s me. I don’t have the emotional or mental energy to keep up with the people who move out of my life, out of my reach, out of the circle of space where we would occasionally see each other or talk. (This is not a tolerable situation for me, I know I need to fix this about myself. And I will.)

    As to trying to be that person that other people will like, that is classic adhd thought process! We expend a lot of energy in people-pleasing. It has to do with our self-esteem, how we were treated growing up, and not just by parents and teachers. I never effortlessly fit into any group, I was always that awkward kid who tried too hard, who never really “got it” about the other far-more-popular kids. So I tried to mold myself into someone who fit into that group. It never really worked. I finally had a very profound insight, I think I was in my 40s by then. I realized that there are 6 billion people on this planet, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to please all of them. I still do, of course, when I say “yes” to things that I shouldn’t. “Sure, I can write that website, when do you want it? Tomorrow? Ok!” I think the key things are, keep learning about ourselves. Have compassion for ourselves. Heed our insights, and try to choose whether we consciencely want to continue a certain behavior or thought pattern. Try not to only choose the easiest way. Also key — find our tribe! They’re there. And they accept us as we are, with all our gifts, nothing held back. Hmmm. Didn’t mean to lecture… 🌟💙🌟😎

  4. Ouch! I am with you re “out of sight, out of mind” and keeping up long distance friendships. And I spend mucho time berating myself for not reaching out, even though I know positive feelings will result from these contacts. Wish I had a fix…

  5. Yup. Me, so much. “My mind is a sieve” I’ve claimed this for years, combining it with Abe Lincoln’s phrase that his mind is like steel; hard to scratch something into it, but one it’s there, it’s there.

    Me, I claim my mind is like a steel sieve – the trivial stuff stays in, and the important stuff falls thru.

    Oh, yeah, so many of these. Late, forget things etc. Oy.

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