I’m a Type 2 on the Enneagram, which means I need to express my love and feel loved by everyone or I will die. Or something like that.
While I’m generally skeptical of personality tests, I’d say this is pretty darn close. I love people. I need them to know it. And I need them to love me back. The problem is that I have ADHD.
I care about the lives of the people in my circle; I want to celebrate their achievements, to comfort them in their sadness, and to be there to listen as they vent about everything in between. My empath side makes me a good listener in the moment.
But because I have ADHD, my short-term memory is shoddy. I struggle to remember details of past conversations — was your big exam this week or last? Who exactly is this “Kelly” person at work you keep mentioning? And did you tell me this already because I’m really sorry if you did.
I love making the people I care about feel special. My alter ego, Neurotypical Taylor, would most definitely send out birthday cards right on time like clockwork year after year, along with perfectly curated gifts. She would remember every anniversary, every kid’s birthday, every little milestone. She would send random thinking-of-you gifts and notes to family and friends to brighten their days. She’d be SO on top of it.
Instead, ADHD Taylor, the one who lives in reality, struggles to remember dates. My husband has an above-average memory of dates and times in contrast to my very below-average one; I find myself asking him when my cousin’s birthday is or how old I’m going to be next year.
Facebook, embarrassingly enough, is how I keep track of birthdays. Because I have trouble with estimating time, even when I plan to send someone a birthday gift, I often end up waiting until the last minute and the gift arrives long after the birthday has passed. I want to get better about sending birthday and anniversary cards but I know it’s always going to be a challenge. And at least a few of them will always be late.
I thrive on social interaction. COVID has taken a toll on my soul; I am refreshed by spending quality in-person time with people I love. My extrovert side would be delighted if I crammed every day chock-full of coffee dates and shopping trips.
And sometimes I do cram my calendar. But a combination of time blindness (being unable to accurately estimate how long things take) and my prefrontal cortex’s inability to fully imagine the future means that I’m prone to rescheduling or canceling events. Sometimes it’s because I’ve misestimated time and I’ve double-booked myself. Other times it’s because I didn’t accurately imagine how tired Future Taylor would be after five coffee dates back-to-back or a weekend of events.
When I can’t see people in person, I love staying in touch over Facebook message, text message, etc. But my short-term memory and racing mind mean that messages often go days without being answered. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I forget!
Being a good friend as an adult, especially during a pandemic, is challenging. Being a good friend when you have ADHD is even more difficult.
While I don’t believe that mental illness is ever an excuse to be a crappy person, it certainly impacts my ability to be the kind of friend I want to be. No matter how hard I try, I will always have an upper limit to how many things I can remember and how much I can do.
To my friends, or to those who have a friend with ADHD, know that your ADHD friend cares a lot about you. They may not be the most on top of it. They may not remember your birthday or what you last talked about on the phone. They may cancel plans.
But, you can expect your ADHD friend to be there for you no matter what. Just don’t expect them to remember your birthday.
Love, Your ADHD Friend