For a good chunk of my life, I suffered greatly in the friendship department. The feeling of being hopelessly abnormal started in elementary school, where, as a child with ADHD, I struggled to sit still like the other kids, feared getting called on by my teachers, nervously solved math problems on the board while everyone watched and teased, and stumbled through sports whose rules I could never quite grasp. I truly felt like I was beyond the reaches of friendship. At an early age, I was intimately familiar with intense loneliness.
I found comfort in my cherished books. If I had no one to play with, I could always lock myself away with a good book and hyperfocus on a different life through its pages. But stories, though wonderful, are no substitute for friendship.
As a parent, I struggled to fit in with other mothers. I joined local mom groups, but quickly left once I realized that I was a different kind of person than the rest. Given all of my experiences, I had no difficulty discerning by then that we wouldn’t be friends.
[Read: “My Best Friend Doesn’t ‘Tolerate’ My ADHD. She Values It.”]
What Makes a Good Friend? A Dash of Neurodivergence
Lest you pity me too much, I haven’t been devoid of friendships completely. I’ve been lucky enough to make friends whom I love deeply, and who love me. Most of these friends happen to have neurodivergent traits. Some have received a diagnosis, some have not. Either way, the way we think, converse, and go about life is the same.
At this point in my life, I can often tell right away if a person is neurodivergent, and most of the time these are the people with whom I have an instant connection. Their friendship is a joyous relief. I am free to stop masking, let my guard down, and be myself. I can be as weird as I want, and they are weird right back, and we celebrate our mutual weirdness. It is wonderful.
We have great, intense conversations about our latest hyperfixations and discoveries – my favorite type of conversations. I love sharing my new knowledge and interests with my friends just as much as the next person with ADHD.
These are friends who understand my oft-messy house, forgetfulness, or sudden need to bail when I am overstimulated and need to decompress. When I’ve missed an important appointment or misplaced my child’s birthday gift, it is so comforting to vent to people who have been there, and who understand. They tell me that it is not my fault, and that I am not the only one struggling with these things.
[Read: “The Gift of a Friend Who Requires No Explanations, No Excuses”]
True Friendship, Found in Neurodivergence
How do I describe the pure bliss of finally meeting people who will sing along to the song playing in the grocery store, make up funny lyrics for it, and dance in the checkout line because it’s the only way to pass the time? It’s like finally being able to say, “Yes, I’m different – and that’s okay!”
I am approaching my 40s, and I’m not sure I have a single friend who is neurotypical. It’s not an intentional omission. It just so happens that most of the people I click with are neurodivergent. How lucky for me.
True Friendship: Next Steps
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