COLUMN: Friendship and ADHD is harder than you think

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Ian Stobaugh, Columnist

Before I go into this, I’m going to let you know that not every person with ADHD is like me, and I’m not like them. We’re all different, and some people may have traits of ADHD without having ADHD. People are so diverse that it’s impossible to put everyone in a box. So, I’m only speaking on my own experiences and no one else’s.

I was diagnosed with ADHD in April of 2021. When most people think of ADHD, they think that I just have trouble focusing and sitting still. I thought that for a long time too. But after seeing patterns and getting diagnosed, I can tell you that lack of focus and distractions are the absolute least of my worries.

One of my biggest struggles with ADHD is with friendship degradation mechanics. That’s a big phrase, but it’s a simple concept. If you didn’t talk to someone at all for months, or even a year, would you still consider them your friend? The answer might be no. However, because of a distortion in my friendship degradation mechanics due to ADHD, I would still consider them a friend. I could strike up a conversation and it would feel like we’ve been talking for longer than we really have.

Another thing that I deal with is object permanence. You may be thinking of babies and how if they can’t see an object, it doesn’t exist to them. I experience something like that, but not really. I know things exist, but if I can’t see it, I forget about it. This also happens with people, and it’s so frustrating to keep up with.

I forget people exist. I have people I’ve left on read or unopened for weeks. But 99 percent of the time, it isn’t because I don’t want to talk with them. When I remember them (usually from seeing something they might like), I then have to explain that I forgot about their existence. Most people don’t take that lightly, and they take it very personally. But here’s the thing, there are no exceptions with my object permanence. I forget that my own mother exists sometimes. But it isn’t by choice, and it isn’t done with harmful intent.

You would not believe the amount of times that my friends have gotten angry with me because of this. They aren’t wrong for being angry, so I’m not going to say that they shouldn’t be. However, it is incredibly exhausting to explain these things to so many people only for them to say that they kind of get it or that I shouldn’t do it anymore.

I’m not sorry for things I can’t control, or things that I’ve tried so hard to fix and can’t any longer. I’m not blaming anybody for their emotions, as we can’t control how we feel. But I am trying my best to educate as many people as I can, so that the world becomes a more accepting place. And I hope that you’ll try, too.

Ian Stobaugh is a freshman German major. He can be contacted at 581-1812 or [email protected]