Hey, Y’all! Today I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart. What your ADHD loved one wants you to know. It is so hard for neurotypicals to understand us, and part of that is because we don’t really know how to tell them what’s going on. Our symptoms are so intertwined with our sense of self we struggle to tell the difference between them. So, I’ve compiled a list of things I wanted my neurotypical loved ones to know about me in hopes that it helps you understand your loved one a little better.
They’re Not Stupid
Granted, I may say and do things that make it seem like I’m a few crayons short of a full box. Yet, in actuality, most people with ADHD have a fairly high IQ. At the very least, an average one. It’s one of the markers tested for when getting diagnosed. The gap between IQ and knowledge achievement is a red flag.
Your ADHD loved one may fail a test in school because they answered questions without reading them entirely, forgot to show their work, or couldn’t recall the answers because there were too many other things floating around in their head. Given a second chance or a different testing method and your ADHDer may have thrived.
And trust me when I say they’re likely beating themselves up over that “stupid” mistake more than you ever could. So, instead of adding fuel to the self-hate fire, try encouraging them. Remind them that they are smart; they are capable, and help them find the tools they need to be successful next time.
Your ADHD Loved One is NOT Irresponsible
This one is still like a knife to my gut all these years later. My parents were big on RE-SPON-SI-BI-LI-TY. So much so that they broke it down into syllables every time they said it. As a kid and a teenager, I severely lacked responsibility in their eyes. Yet, none of us knew I had ADHD back then. They thought I just didn’t care about things or was ignoring them.
I did care. I cared A LOT, and your ADHD loved one probably does too. The problem is their symptoms make them forgetful and impulsive. What you see is the 3rd lost cellphone in a year, the credit card debt, the pile of papers marked urgent, the missed appointments, and the unanswered messages.
What you don’t see is all the tears cried into the pillow at night. That cellphone was our lifeline, all the things we needed to remember tucked safely in one place, and we couldn’t even remember to make sure to put it back in its place! We refuse even to open the credit card bill because we know we made a big purchase but can’t even remember why it seemed so important at the time. The pile of papers that we put there to remind ourselves to deal with but keep forgetting about the second we leave the room. The unanswered text that we answered in our heads but never actually typed, and now we’re afraid we’re going to lose yet another friend because they think we ghosted them.
What you see on the outside doesn’t even begin to show all the things happening internally for us. We LOOK very different from who we ARE! Be kind in the midst of our turmoil. Help us, don’t scold us. This brings me to…
They’re Not Lazy
This is the same concept as responsibility. What you see is not reality. Your ADHD loved one may look like they’re binge-watching TV or playing their fav video game and ignoring their chores and responsibilities. We’re lounging and giving off a carefree attitude, but inside is total distress.
We’re screaming at ourselves to get up and fold the laundry, wash the dishes, finish our homework, and a thousand other things we should be doing all at once. Yet, no matter how loud we yell at ourselves or how hard we try, we can’t seem to get moving. We have this mental block about things we don’t want to do that is STRONG. It takes a long time for us to do these blocked tasks, and we have to learn the proper tools to overcome our internal wall.
To make matters worse, sometimes not only are we blocked, but many times we’re presented with multiple blocked tasks at once, which triggers us to shutdown. We get overwhelmed and typically try to ignore the stress with something we like. Hence, TV watching and game playing. The shutdown can lead to us hyper-focusing on these enjoyable tasks. At this point, everything outside of our focus is pretty much nonexistent.
For more on ADHD Frustration Shutdown, click here.
Your ADHD Loved One is NOT ignoring you
Whether it’s the unanswered text or the name called 20 times without a response, ADHDers find themselves frequently accused of ignoring someone. I’ve been called the B-word more times than I can count because someone believed I’d ignored them. I hadn’t, of course. I was completely oblivious until they got upset with me.
I explained the unanswered text back in the irresponsible section. Here I’d like to explain why you can say something to us, and we have no recollection of you ever saying it. This is due to a thing called hyperfocus that I briefly mentioned in the last section. Hyperfocus is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the ability to have such a laser-like focus that nothing else can divide or pull away your attention.
When I’m in the zone, you can call my name until you’re blue in the face, and I won’t respond. Or worse, I respond with something like, “huh?” and you think I’m listening, but I didn’t even realize I made a sound or that you’re talking to me. I really get chewed out for that second one 🤦🏾♀️.
Think of it almost as if we’re sleepwalking. Physically we’re there in the room with you and may even talk to you, but mentally we are somewhere else entirely. Personally, the only way to pull me out is to touch me. No amount of noise will be enough… or at least I haven’t found that level yet.
So instead of getting upset about your ADHD loved one ignoring you. Walk up and touch them and/or do a quick check and make sure they’re actually listening. Look for eye contact and/or responses that are more than one word and acknowledge what you said. Don’t trust a quick “yeah,” “uh-huh,” or “sure.” Do trust a “yeah I’ll do it,” “uh-huh text me the details,” or “sure can’t wait.”
They’re already trying harder
I saved my biggest pet peeve for last. I absolutely hate it when neurotypicals tell us to try harder. Like we don’t have to give 110% every single day just to be somewhat “normal.” We literally can’t try any harder.
I want you to imagine you’re in a classroom, and the room is filled wall to wall with people. You’re in the center of the room, and there’s a small gap between bodies where you can see the teacher and the board at the front of the room.
Now imagine everyone in that room is talking all at once. You’re trying to pick out the teacher’s voice from all the other voices, and you’re trying to focus on the board even though people keep blocking your view.
That’s what it’s like to be in our heads. All those voices and bodies are other thoughts or attention-grabbing things in the room. Honestly, it’s a miracle we ever do anything when it takes so much effort to stay focused! So, I know I’ve said it a thousand times here, but I’ll say it again…
Lead with kindness and empathy. We are doing the best we can with the hand we were dealt.
To close this out, I just want to say. Just because your ADHD loved one is different from you doesn’t mean they don’t want the same things you do. We all just want to be loved and accepted for who we are. We get so beat down by the world that doesn’t understand us or doesn’t think our condition is real.
Don’t add more pain and rejection to your loved one’s life. Commit to learning about what makes them tick and be supportive because I’ve learned that people with ADHD, especially women, LOVE HARD. They will always be there for you as long as they can trust you to attempt to understand them. And it doesn’t hurt that we’re super fun to be around too 🙃.
Until Next Time….