Does anyone even want to hear the opinion of a nerdy archaeologist on how her ADHD has impacted her romantic life?
But this blog has always been cathartic for me; I write what I feel. And writing helps me feel better. So here we are.
Maybe I won’t post this, and add it to the slew of unpublished blogs I have collected over the years. If you’re reading this.. I did — Hi future employers Googling me 🙂 Don’t you just love the idea of hiring someone so unhinged? Don’t worry, I won’t spill company secrets.
Lately, I have been feeling a tad…sad. I guess you can call it Valentine’s Day blues. Love has been in the air, you know. Red hearts, candy, and flowers everywhere. I am not saying any of this to sound bitter in any way. I love, love. If you’re in love and you have someone that loves you, good on you friend. Love that for you.
Usually, I am not one to make much of such holidays – capitalistic creations that they are. But this past Valentine’s Day, something got to me. Maybe it was due to being alone in a foreign country, on Valentine’s Day with all these messages of romantic love around me, that made me feel particularly sad. If you didn’t piece it together already; I spent Valentine’s day watching Gilmore Girls, eating my many snacks, and being generally mopey. The irony is I actually really enjoy spending time on my own. I’m kind of a recluse/hermit anyways, so Netflix nights in are one of my fave ways to spend an evening.
I am not sharing this so you feel bad for me. Please, don’t. As the great Miley Cyrus once said; I can buy myself flowers. The point dear friends, is to analyze how I got here – for the good of science. Who knows, maybe it will be helpful for some of you making your way through the world with undiagnosed ADHD and depression, wondering why you, too, are so unlucky in love.
I have good news for you dear one, it’s not you. Really.
I was diagnosed with ADHD over a year ago. The diagnosis came as a bit of a surprise, to be honest. I originally went in to get tested for dyslexia. I have always struggled with writing, spelling, and grammar. Turns out I am not a bad speller, I am just very, very impatient and couldn’t be bothered to make sure I spell things correctly, as long as it is close enough. Boring repetitive tasks, and remembering stupid grammatical rules (“i before e,” which doesn’t even hold up half the time) well, bore my chaotic brain.
I’ve kept my diagnosis mostly to myself, mentioning it as needed. Not because I am ashamed of it or anything. I don’t think there is anything wrong with me. But like other identities I carry, I never felt the need to project it. It is a part of who I am, and I accept myself as such. Dare I say, I even love myself as such?
I have also tried to be conscious of claiming or broadcasting any minoritized identities I may identify with in the age of hyper-white fragility. Yes, I am an immigrant, yes I have ADHD and other things. But I am also an able-bodied, white woman with multiple college degrees who carries a passport that opens many international doors. I am privileged. The fact that I was even able to get diagnosed is a sign of my privilege (and my university’s health care because no way could I have paid for the testing out of pocket). But still, I have access to that healthcare.
My diagnosis was in many ways relieving. I have always had a lot of personal quirks that made functioning day-to-day and having healthy relationships difficult. Interrupting people mid-sentence, having multiple racing thoughts at once, and having trouble staying present. Turns out these personal quirks aren’t so personal – this is my ADHD doing its thing. I started making sense to myself.
I turned my attention to how I could healthily deal with my ADHD so that it would impact my academics less. That’s why I went in for the assessment originally, I was really struggling with school, writing in particular. I researched studying and writing methods, found ways to eliminate distractions, and tapped into my dopamine-seeking tendencies to trick myself to work and get tasks done (so I could get the treat awaiting me at the end). I made a lot of progress.
I also learned to be kinder to myself. Gave myself time and space when I got stuck in the doldrums so to speak. When I became immobilized by making decisions or starting a task (easy as it was – like sending an email or opening up that database I need to edit).
It never occurred to me however to think about how my ADHD impacted other aspects of my life. Because the disorder is associated with attention deficit, for some reason I thought it would only impact domains where I needed to pay attention, aka. school and work. Maybe I should have paid more attention when my doctor was talking to me about potential impacts.. Whoops. But anyways, one day, after doom scrolling on Instagram for a few hours I stumbled upon a video that talked about how ADHD impacts women, and to my surprise, it turns out my ADHD doesn’t magically turn off when I am doing nonacademic things. It is ever-present; a constant companion.
Suddenly, I made even more sense to myself. I thought I was just lazy and scatterbrained. I struggled to do easy things like getting out of bed, cooking, or doing the dishes. I would walk into a room or start a task and then forget what I was doing, procrastinate for some time and then remember. Start again, and then forget again. And I would do this a few times before I finally got the thing done – if I did.
My ADHD impacted all aspects of my life. This was a major light bulb moment.
But it was not until this week, however, that I realized the impact my ADHD has had on my romantic relationships. Another lightbulb moment. At almost 30, I have had my fair share of failed relationships. Now I know what you’re going to say; 30 is young, and you still have time!
You’re damn right 30 is young! We are not buying into that ageist bullshit that women expire after a certain age. This is not the page for that kind of mentality. I mention my age more so to show that I have been in the dating game for some time now, so one would think I would have figured out a thing or two.
This week, as I was moping in my apartment listening to Adele, trying to get work done, and wondering if I will just be one of those people that dies alone. I started to think about why so many of my relationships had “failed.” They had failed for good reason, let me tell you. But I wanted to get to the nitty-gritty. What caused the fractures that lead to the relationships coming apart? Was there a pattern? And it dawned on me, that there was.
It was my specific need for a certain level of communication and assurance that often lead to conflict in my relationships. This need for communication and assurance was influenced by my ADHD; which caused me to forget things, hyper-focus on things, worry excessively about everything and struggle to make even the simplest decisions. I found that I compensated for “flaws” by placing a lot of emphasis on confirmation, communication and repetition. These ADHD symptoms, or traits, or whatever you want to call them often made me come across as controlling, obsessive, impatient, and untrusting.
If I wanted detailed plan with a time and place – I came across as controlling.
If I wanted to talk over and confirm plans again – I came across as obsessive.
If I needed an answer right away – I came across as impatient.
If I needed confirmation of feelings and commitment – I came across as untrusting.
I would get frustrated with my partners that they saw me this way when I was just doing what I needed to calm my racing mind. And they, in turn, would often get frustrated with me and why I was unable to be patient, trust them or let certain things go. This, of course, led to conflict.
I am not trying to paint my past partners as monsters, they were (are) actually nice people. Things weren’t always hellfire doom and gloom. In fact, most of the time things were really good. I learned a lot from these past relationships and have many cherished memories. Obviously, or I wouldn’t have stayed as long as I did in some of them. We were just, clearly, incompatible for one reason or another. And part of that incompatibility came from my ADHD.
Knowing now how my ADHD impacts all aspects of my life, I make a conscious effort to address it when it works against me. I tell the people in my life that I have ADHD and explain how it manifests in my day-to-day activities so they can work with me and be patient with me. I still place a lot of emphasis on effective communication, but now know that everyone’s mind is wired a little differently. That “effective communication” differs for different people and try to be more flexible – and patient. But mainly, I have made a lot of progress in loving and accepting myself. And regardless if you are neurodivergent or not, this is an important step to living your best life, single or otherwise.
Congrats on making it to the end of this winding post. I hope you got something out of it – At the very least, some entertainment.
Yes, I am in therapy.
Yes, I know there are typos.
Peace, kindness and self love, my friends.
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