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How I Learned to Balance Community

When people think of who will be there and support us when we need it the most we thin of our friends and family. When I was newly diagnosed I used to spend a lot of time explaining all the things I was experiencing and learning about ADHD to my friends and family. I was trying desperately to get them on the same wavelength as me. After a while I was totally worn out and so were they. It was frustrating and confusing. How was I supposed to make them understand me?If they couldn’t understand how could I still count on them to support me in times of need? Here’s a little about how I did it.

I gave them a break

For starters I had to give them a break from all the material I was drowning them in. Not because it wasn’t useful, but because they couldn’t absorb and appreciate it the way I was. Instead they were sitting it to they side or jut becoming annoyed. They needed a break from my epiphanies and it wasn’t because they didn’t care, it was because they couldn’t appreciate it the way I did. In other words, I was overwhelming them with information and they were frustrated. I was frustrated with them too. I wanted to be understood by them and I wanted to feel like they were putting effort into understanding my plight. I had to understand that my friends and family just couldn’t understand at the same level I was able to because they weren’t living it. That didn’t mean that they couldn’t love and appreciate me and support me, it just meant I needed to understand their limitations. Over time I stopped expecting my people to be as interested in the particulars as I was. Instead I gave them a break and only shared information when they asked for it.

I found other places to express myself

I may have needed to give my friends and family a break but that didn’t mean I was ready to stop talking about my ADHD opinions and exploration. I was learning so much and needed someone to talk to about the things I was excited about. Fortunately there are spaces for us to express ourselves. I am a firm believer in the community and there is plenty of community for people with ADHD in the world now fortunately. There are wonderful groups by CHADD and ADDA for you to join both online and in person. There also are so many different groups all over the internet – anywhere a group can form there are ADHD people assembling to talk to each other so don’t be afraid to look. For me, I had no in person groups near me so I had to participate in communities online, and as I said there are many of them to select from. It is critical to find community in those places in addition to your support from your friends and family.

I learned to clarify what my needs were

I realized somewhere along the way that I wasn’t asking for what I needed, and I wasn’t always certain what I needed. When you are going to people to ask for support, it can be easier for them (and you) if you are clear on exactly what you need. Sometimes it is difficult for us to know what we need and that’s ok but it is most helpful when we are approaching people with a clear description of what we need. For instance, you may need someone to just listen without offering advice. Or you may need someone who can give you a hug and comfort you through reassuring words. Make those needs clear to people and let them know you are there for them in return. Remember that you’re all learning – you’re learning to express your needs and they’re learning to listen to you and support you the way you need to be supported. This is a process that requires love and patience from both sides of the challenge. If you are able to express clearly what you need you’ll find more times when you receive understanding and patience from the people you need it most from.

Your support system works best when you’re able to work with it not against it. Giving your folks a chance to breathe, finding new places to share and build community and clarifying what you need can be incredibly helpful. It is so important to know what combination of different types of community with be best to help you feel supported. You got this!