ADHD and Being a Loner
I’d had to travel out of town for a medical appointment which I’d dreaded, and decided to stop at one of my favorite restaurants for lunch on the way home.
The appointment went far better than I’d expected, so instead of driving home feeling sorry for myself I felt happy and celebratory. I began wishing I’d had company for lunch.
This got me thinking about why I hadn’t called ahead to make a lunch date with a friend. That’s when it struck me: for nearly half a century, I’d believed I was a natural-born loner. By the time the waitress brought my food, I’d started to deconstruct that belief.
Like the layers of an onion I peeled back each reason why I found myself sitting alone that day when I would have far preferred company.
Layer 1: ADHD Time-Management Rationalizing
Since it’s next to impossible to know if an appointment with a specialist will start on time, or how long it will take, it’s much easier to just go to the appointment and drive home rather than scheduling a lunch date when I’m not sure when I’ll be available.
Thinking this through, I realized that the friend I would have invited to join me would have been flexible as to when we met for lunch. Still, I’d chosen to eat alone.
Layer 2: Untreated ADHD War-wound
With the uncertainty of the length of time of my appointment and when I’d be available, I’d automatically chosen the default of going to lunch alone rather than trust myself to handle this minor time management complication. As I ate my Greek salad, I realized that this was a learned avoidance behavior, a hangover from my pre-diagnosis days.
In the past, it was just too painful to let people down, evoke their anger, and hurt their feelings if I didn’t manage to get myself somewhere on time, especially if it was a meeting that I’d requested.
My knee-jerk reaction even now was not to bother meeting with a friend if it meant I might screw up.
Layer 3: ADHD Moodiness / HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)
So what would have happened if I had decided to trust my new-found time management skills and gone ahead and made a lunch date with my friend?
Thinking that through, I realized that another reason I avoided taking advantage of my out-of-town trip to visit with a friend was that I didn’t know how I’d feel after my medical appointment.
I hedged my bets by avoiding making plans to see anybody, in anticipation of a mood quite different from the one I felt as I sat in the restaurant longing for companionship.
As I thought about this, I realized that it didn’t really matter why I’d had to travel that day. Just as I’d learned not to trust my time management skills, I’d also learned that my moods were far too unpredictable to guarantee whether or not I’d enjoy someone else’s company on any given occasion.
Although ADHD treatment (and my current age) have definitely stabilized my moods, I’m still an HSP (highly sensitive person).
For me, being an HSP means that occasionally a shock to my system will render me emotionally unfit for company.
For example, I recently visited a special exhibit at an art gallery where the final photographs of the painter were of her in her coffin, deceased. I hadn’t been emotionally prepared for these images. My mood instantly plummeted from happy and satisfied to upset and shocked; so much so that I needed to take some time out to regroup before I could rejoin my friends.
That was then, this is now
I now recognize that these unpredictable 90° turns in mood are far less frequent than the near-hourly shifts I used to suffer with untreated ADHD.
Maybe it’s time to take more calculated risks in making plans to meet with friends.
So, am I a bona fide loner?
Maybe I’m not as much of a loner as I’d thought.
Still, time alone on a daily basis is key for me to recharge my batteries and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
I’m also beginning to think that an ADHD diagnosis and treatment isn’t quite as straightforward as I’d thought.
Just like questioning my post-diagnosis identity, as I unravel the impact of ADHD in my life I’m seeing that there is more to it than meets the eye, especially if your diagnosis comes late in life.
You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but as the years go by I’m seeing both obvious and subtle shifts that tell me I’ve grown far more than I realized along the path to living and managing well with ADHD.
Kessler, Z. (2013). ADHD and Being a Loner. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-zoe/2013/01/alone-again-naturally-adhd-and-being-a-loner/