Two small smiling girls with wild hair peeking above a hedge

My Autistic Self Has Friends, but My ADHD Self Is So Lonely.

Since my autistic burnout, my ADHD side terribly misses people of her own kind.

During my life, I always had two kinds of friends, even if I didn’t realize that. When I got the diagnosis, the distinction became much clearer. One group is friends of my autistic side, and the other is friends of my ADHD side. These are very much different groups. But the second one isn’t really safe for me right now, so I don’t have them in my life anymore – and I miss them so much that it hurts.

Autistic burnout and social phobia left me unable to make connections

Five years ago, I had an autistic burnout that left me completely socially crippled and unable to take care of myself. But even before that, I developed a social phobia. It was during my college studies. I couldn’t cope with the academic demands. Well, not exactly the academic demands, but every other aspect of the college experience, especially the social ones.

I can learn well when I’m not all stressed out, but I learn best by reading quietly, by myself. I gained nothing from the lectures as I don’t process information in an auditory way. And being present for the group work… that was my kryptonite. It always took all of my strength just to endure it. As a result, I didn’t really learn anything there. And that kept backfiring on me during my master’s thesis. I was lacking crucial skills, and I felt like a fraud. It got worse and worse. And lo and behold, a social phobia was born.

I didn’t have any academic accommodations, because I was not diagnosed by then, and because even if I was, in my country people don’t really know a thing about autism. Or ADHD. Also, I couldn’t cope with living in a dorm room with another person that I didn’t know, that kept changing every year or even more often. I cracked, and kept cracking, and started hiding, and kept hiding… until I couldn’t be among people almost at all anymore. It continued after school and got only worse and worse. Hence, the burnout. And social phobia.

Social situations overwhelm me immensely

It isn’t just a social phobia, though. As an autistic person, I have always needed a lot of time by myself. And what I feel isn’t a fear of social situations, as would the social phobia diagnosis suggest. It’s more of an anticipation of the immense overwhelm that they will cause me. And then the actual overwhelm. And then the rumination over what I have said or done wrong for hours after I leave the situation.

When I’m among people now, whether I know them or don’t, I always get overwhelmed. I sometimes hide it even from myself, until I collapse and I’m unable to do anything but hide in my bed for a day or two, crumbling inside.

I need only safe people around me right now

My mental health is really bad and I’m terribly fragile right now. Have been for years, since the burnout. This has led me to keep only safe people around me. And guess what? Those safe people are mostly the ones who are autistic. They are always calm and rational. They don’t show many emotions. They speak softly. They don’t argue but talk things out in a rational manner. They have a quiet, dry sense of humor. They are not prone to outbursts of emotions. They won’t hurt me. They are safe to me as I am now.

I don’t mean to stereotype, because every autistic person is different, and I’m sure there are those who don’t fit into this description. But this is how my autistic friends are.

But my ADHD side yearns for the people who are everything but safe for me right now

My ADHD side, on the other handShe needs wildness. She needs unpredictability. She needs laughter. She needs silliness. She needs adventures. She needs freedom.

But being AuDHD, I will always need two different kinds of things. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe I can have both. Eventually.

Don’t take me wrong – I love all of my autistic friends dearly. They are all amazing people and I’m grateful for them. I value them so much. I wouldn’t want them to change in any way. And I feel like I’m betraying them somehow by the fact that I need something more.

The people who fit the needs of my ADHD side don’t have to have ADHD themselves, but they are generally wilder, more impulsive, more spontaneous, more playful. They can can go with me on unplanned trips and adventures. They create whole imaginary worlds with me. They always do silly things, and I LOVE that more than anything. I love being silly with my friends so, so much. They create imaginary worlds with me.

They can do really amazingly crazy stuff and make amazing crazy plans… And now I can’t participate in those plans anymore, because I would fall apart. That’s one of the worst things about my current life. I can’t do things that I want with my friends anymore. Those are the things I miss terribly in my friendships right now. And my friends are leaving me behind. They go on without me. And it breaks my heart. I feel kind of betrayed, even if it’s just the way of life.

I can’t deal with those of my friends who aren’t careful with my emotions

But the same people who fulfill the needs of my ADHD side are also highly emotional. Unpredictable. Dangerous. Dangerous to the mentally fragile being that I turned into after the burnout. They could easily shatter me. They wouldn’t even know.

They will argue with me or among themselves. They create drama. (I HATE drama.) They sometimes can be hurtful, mostly unintentionally, but because of carelessness. And even if they later apologize, it still hurts. They don’t always get my quieter, autistic ways and needs – they don’t understand me as I am, and I need to be understood. That’s the basis for any intimate friendship I have. (And my autistic friends, on the contrary, don’t understand the wild ADHD side of me, the one that wants to run with the wind.)

But who am I really? Even I don’t understand how can I exist as two completely different people in one brain, each of them with a different set of needs and wants.

So I have slowly let those people go. It wasn’t even my intention, just my way of avoiding pain. They gradually disappeared from my life, because I didn’t have the strength to cope with them. But I miss them. I miss them a lot. I think about them often. But I can’t let them back into my life, not yet.

When I’m who I want to be again, I can have the relationships I need – and more.

First, I need back the capacity to be hurt. To bear the unpredictability, the heightened emotions. The occasional careless words that cut deeply. Because when I will be able to accept all those things again, I will get in return all the amazingness (is that even a word?) of these people in my life once more. And I will be so happy when that time comes!

I will finally be able to have friends for my autistic side for quiet times and dry jokes, and friends for my ADHD side for wild adventures and spontaneous silliness again. 

I miss the friends of my ADHD side deeply. I miss them so much that it hurts. But most of all, I miss myself. I miss who I used to be. What I used to be able to do. The freedom. My wild, unpredictable, silly, authentic self. Not only the quiet, careful one.

I need the kind of friendships that help my ADHD side thrive. I need them so much.

But most of all, I need myself back.

I hope this dream will come true one day.

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