Looking for connection

I think many of you can relate to feeling like your brain runs on a different operating system than most people’s. Seeing other people connect with each other just fine. Like there is some mutual understanding that you’re just not part of. Often feeling like the outsider. Lonely in a crowd…

Social gatherings are the worst. Places where you need to talk with lots of people you don’t know. Trying to make casual conversations. Trying to connect. Of course there are those rare moments where you do connect with someone. And this can be very exhilarating. But usually conversations just feel forced, awkward and strange. And the other is just looking for the first chance to be rid of you. And you usually just end up feeling rejected.

Learning about my ADHD this all finally started to make sense. And I kind of accepted that I’m never going to be good at making connections with most random strangers. That I’m never going to be someone with a ‘rich’ social life. Even though I would have liked it.

Over the recent years I’m finding myself somewhat friendless. My inner circle diminishing due to… life. I used to have a few like-minded people around me. But they either moved away and/or are too busy with work or family to meet on a regular basis.

Apart from my wife and children, I nowadays mostly meet neighbors, other parents on the schoolyard and coworkers. And with them it’s usually the same social gathering nightmare I just described. Everyone around me seemingly connecting and content. And me either avoiding contact or in total motormouth mode.

I talk too little and people don’t notice me. I talk too much and people can’t follow. Some even point that last one out to me. And it hurts because I already know I do this. But I can’t help myself. Because that is me looking for (my kind of) connection.

Like throwing coins in the slot, yearning for that little spark of dopamine, while knowing I’m probably playing a losing game.

And there goes another….

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Yes, I think that many of us have shared something similar. However, I don’t believe all ADHD Brains experience this social awkwardness. One famous example would be Richard Branson. People seem to like him, his effervescent personality, the energy he brings into the room.

Another example I’ve gotten to see all my life is my dad. (I believe that my dad is subclinical Combined ADHD.) I was reminded that he still exhibits ADHD traits when I went to church with him this morning.

  • While I don’t have much in the way of hyperactivity, when I need to sit still, I end up fidgeting with whatever I am holding (which this morning was my Bible)…but I am aware that I keep changing the position of my feet every few minutes. (I noticed today that most of the people I could see kept their feet much more still than I do…it’s not the first time I observed this, more like the 500th or 1000th time!)
  • So, this morning, I saw that my dad got up from his seat for a long time during the service, and then again during a meeting that was held shortly after. He doesn’t make excuses or apologies, he doesn’t seem self-conscious, but he gets up, walks around the back of the room, or goes out to the foyer to make conversation with someone.

I take after my mom…I feel very awkward in social situations, like I don’t know how to conduct myself. If I’m chatting with someone one-on-one, or in a small group, I do fine. The bigger the crowd, the more awkward I get. Even in a small group, If there are two or more people that I don’t know in the group, I might get very awkward.

I’m an introvert. But I’m also a “true blue” kind of friend. There are some people that I feel like I will always be friends with, even if we don’t talk for years at a time.

  • For example: A few days ago, I had a Facebook Messenger conversation with the guy who was my best friend back in High School. We had a deep conversation, probably even deeper than most we’ve had in the past. I revealed my ADHD diagnosis to him, and he revealed to me that he was diagnosed with ADHD, too! He and I are the Odd Couple kind of friends, opposites in almost every way. I was the good kid in school (Boy Scout, Altar Boy)…he was the juvenile delinquent! The same goes with ADHD: I’ve got the Predominantly Inattentive presentation…he’s got the Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive presentation. (Well, I think that explains why we made a connection in the first place. We each recognized that we were different from the majority of our schoolmates. Oh, and we were both in the school band!)

((Sorry, getting back on track.))

Experience has shown me that this is just how things go. A lot of the neurotypical friends I’ve had are just very superficial most of the time. (I find the neurodiverse people I meet who get into deep conversations with me are much more fulfilling to spend time with.)

I tend to develop friendships with people at work, or at church, simply because I don’t go out and do much else. However, when I leave that job or that church, it’s hard to keep the friendships…the common connection is gone.

However, even though I’m introverted, I’ve learned that I can sometimes create new friendships easily…at the new church or at the new job. I’m counting on this, once I move in a few weeks. I’ll have custody of my kids every other week, but I’ve decided that in the alternate weeks, I’m going to intentionally go out at least a couple of times during the week. I’m going to go socialize (maybe finding a Brain or two that I can connect with), which isn’t that natural for me.

Why? Because I know I’ll need it. I’ll be 2400-3000+ miles away from all my other family and the friends I’ve had thus far. I haven’t set out to make new friends intentionally since I was a kid in school. But I know that to stave off depression, I can’t let myself wallow in loneliness.

So…how do I expect to make friends? By doing the things I enjoy, and trying new things that I think I’ll enjoy, and meeting other people who enjoy the same sorts of things. …Connection comes from having something in common.

  • (My son is interested in martial arts. I’ve been interested in martial arts since I was his age, but have rarely pursued it intentionally. I’m going to look into dojos in the area I’m moving to, and actually sign up for lessons. // My daughter wants to take dance lessons. I don’t know if I’ll make any good connections as a dance-parent, but I’ll see what happens there. / She and I do both share a love of art and science. I’m very interested in STEM education, homeschooling, and related things…so maybe I can find a way to find kindred spirits around those things.)
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Yes! And this is what interests me. ADHD being full of extremes. Some ADHD’ers can actually light up a room with their presence. While others are barely noticed. What’s happening here?

I have always described myself as an introvert too (ADHD pi). And you could say it’s an just extravert vs introvert personality type (if you’re into Carl Jung Analytical Psych.). And how ADHD is established within those overlaying types. But I don’t believe that.

Because I know that in the right environment I can be very extraverted. I like being extraverted and even want to be it more. The part of me that says I’m introverted is also the part that is looking for excuses not to face it’s fear of rejection.

Because in the end I think that, in my case, fear is what really separates me from people that don’t experience the social awkwardness.

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I don’t appear to be socially awkward most of the time. But I have spent the past 20 years learning how not to be that way. More than that, really… since I am 43 now. I spent all my time in school being the extremely quiet person. I tried to play with some other kids one time, was rejected, did not try again-- ever.

But behavior in all animals has always been a fascination. Once I was pulled from school and began going to college at 14 (many homeschooled kids do this) I really began learning about such things and examining other people.

The anonymity of the internet when I became an adult helped me hone social skills I was working on with very little consequence when I crashed and burned.

I am an INTJ and I am naturally introverted, I don’t require the company of other people to be completely content. So I conditioned myself to let go of the fear. I refuse to hang on to irrational fear, I will examine it, trace it to its origins and decide whether it is reasonable or not and purge myself through repeated exposure until it is of no more consequence.

Exposure, practice and a change in mindset. I made a decision a long time ago that I am the one who decides who my friends are. I behave as if a person is my friend, with no expectations that they feel or behave the same way. It’s not for me to dictate how other people feel and the majority of our disappointment in life comes from expectations we place on other people, whom we have no control over.

Interestingly enough, once I let go of expectations of friendship, I have come into the company of a good few friends.

Listen, observe, treat people like they are not copies of yourself and must like and react to the same things you do. Put in the effort to know and understand others as you wish they would understand you.

Kindreds will be found.

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My ex’s best friend definitely seems like an Inattentive, yet she is very extroverted. I believe I’ve met a number of people who are extroverted and seem to have Inattentive ADHD traits. (Perhaps some or many of them have the Combined presentation of ADHD.)

I just count ADHD and it’s various presentations as additional color and texture in the tapestry of life.


Coincidentally, introversion is said to make up 25% and extroversion 75% of the population, while about 25% of ADHD Brains have the Predominantly Inattentive presentation, while 75% have the Hyperactive-Impulsive traits (25% Predominantly H-I, plus the 50% Combined)

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Like I said. I don’t believe that introvert vs extravert has anything to do with it.

For me it is definitely fear of rejection that makes me feel anxious and awkward.

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I am an INFP. No matter what, I “feel all the feels”.

What I’ve learned to do (in more recent years) is that it’s important for me to acknowledge what I feel, and why. What I learned to help me with grief also helps me to manage fear and anxiety…
…I’ve adapted the concept of the ACCEPTANCE “state of grief” as a tool in my toolbox, but to help reduce fear and anxiety (and hopefully to help prevent further grief).

I tell myself, “this fear exists for a reason”, I remind myself that, “emotions are real, and they are the body or the mind telling me something about my current state.”

I don’t rationalize what I’m feeling. I analyze, but not dispassionately. Instead, I examine with curiosity, and with empathy for myself (just like I would use empathy and curiosity to try to help someone else).

I’ve come to realize that, whether or not I agree with someone about their perspective or opinion, in can validate that it is there, it is real to them, it is a part of their state in the moment.
…and now I do the same with myself. I accept what I feel (even if I rationally think I shouldn’t be feeling that way). I validate my thoughts and feelings as real things, because they are real…they are affecting me in the moment.


Sometimes, it’s as easy as taking a breath and then taking action.

Sometimes, it takes some effort, but I can do it myself.

Sometimes, it takes a lot of effort, a lot of start attempts, before I can move forward, maybe with some help from others.

Sometimes, it’s just a lot of “the Wall of Awful”.

(And then, there are times it’s just not worth it to throw good effort after bad, and it’s better to just let it go.)

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So I’ve been giving all of this some thought. And realized this simple truth is really the gist. Thing is, I’m still figuring out who I really am underneath my 40+ years of masking persona. I already made choices careerwise. Choosing the kind of Job I like instead of what others expected of me. But the same should also be applied to my personal life and my hobbies.

So this should be the next step in my journey.

I’ve decided that I’m going to take acting classes. I’m really anxious to do this. But I have to try. Because I’ve always enjoyed acting as a child. But never went through with it as an adolescent/adult. The same applies for drawing and also board games. Or writing, movie editing, Sometiing creative. One thing at a time of course :smiley:. But at least there is enough to try out!

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I recently joined a Dungeons and Dragons club and it really helped me make friends, so I can attest to shared activities being useful for controlled socialization. And theater/acting seems to attract lots of unique people, so odds of you finding someone interesting there is pretty high. I also write (fiction) and found a writing group because of it. The people I met in said writing group are now my closest friends.

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you’re a good writer.

i think it does not help that we get messages that work and family are the stuff of adult life. most of us have far fewer models of robust, fulfilling adult friendships, and we’re not really taught to nurture those relationships.

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i dunno but my sister and i are an amazing example of this. everyone is instantly drawn to her.

she came to visit me when i was in school and we went out to eat. i was paying and looked at our bill. i waved the sever over.

me: sir, you forgot to charge us for our sodas.
him (exchanging a look with my sister): oh, um, that’s okay.
me: oh, it’s no problem! i can wait while you reprint the bill.
him: i know you’re students. don’t worry about it.
me: oh it’s really fine! i can pay it.
him (pleading with me at this point): please, it’s on the house.
me: are you sure?
him: …

after he left my sister explained that he didn’t forget to put the sodas on the bill. she was like, “what? don’t you always get free sodas?” i was so horrified.

anyway, i left the money for the sodas in a separate pile next to the tip.

i wish i had an easier time making friends but i prefer being invisible to that.

i did get a free drink another time one other time, 10+ years later. i was ordering carry out, on foot, in the middle of winter in the midwest. the person brought me a free coffee to keep my hands warm on my way home. i told my sister and we laughed about it. that was a free drink i was happy to accept though.

but i definitely want to be the person who gives someone a free drink because they need it not because i want something from them.

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