When I was first diagnosed with ADHD, I was absolutely clueless. I didn’t know what that meant, or if it would change anything about life as I knew it.
All I had was some medicine my doctor gave me, a few books to read, and an internet connection. It was time for me to educate myself about what I could do to better manage my symptoms.
After spending hours researching and learning about ADHD, I began to feel this huge sense of relief. As I determined which challenging parts of my life were my fault and which were part of a condition that I could figure out how to manage, I began to feel very empowered.
There was only one problem: I felt completely and utterly alone.
Here’s what I did to combat that loneliness, and find the people who would understand me and my ADHD the best.
Finding others to relate to
When you have a chronic condition, it’s helpful to meet and talk with people who are living with the same condition. Why? You won’t feel so isolated, you’ll learn from shared experiences, and it feels good to be around people who are able to relate to you.
For many people, ADHD is still a diagnosis that is highly controversial and stigmatized. It’s helpful to have the support of your family, but unfortunately, some people may not. And as much as our families can try to support us, if they don’t also have the condition, they just may not be able to relate as well.
I’ve especially seen this within the African-American community. Many times, when looking to family members for support, we’re told that our disorder doesn’t exist or that we’re allowing mental health experts to manipulate us.
It’s difficult to explain what mental health issues are really like to people who don’t understand them. When your community doesn’t acknowledge a condition that affects every aspect of your life, it’s normal to feel lonely.
It’s one thing to feel rejected because of the symptoms of your mental illness. But it’s another thing to feel as though you are unacceptable to your own people because of something you never asked for.
So, in the absence of people in my real life who would understand my struggles, I turned to the online community. It was a great idea, since it’s one of the first places I look when I want to learn about something new. There are so many resources online that are packed with information — from groups and forums within sites, to the comment sections on various websites.
What to consider when seeking a community
If you’re looking for your own ADHD community, know that while it may take some time, your people are out there.
Here are some things to consider when you’re trying to find your tribe:
What other identifiers are important to you?
Many people identify with attributes other than having ADHD. When you’re looking for a group, what is one area of your life that you want to focus on the most?
There are groups and sites for parents with ADHD, parents of children with ADHD, women with ADHD, and general purpose groups. Pick a mixture of these qualifiers to find helpful tips and connect with people who can relate to you the best.
What is the easiest way for you to access and digest information?
Do you prefer to meet with people in person? Is it easier for you to find a group that you can access at any hour of the day or night? Do too many people in one place overwhelm you?
All of these factors are important for you to consider. If there are too many people in a group and that makes you feel uncomfortable sharing information, you won’t get the full benefit of being there. Although it’s important to note that you can learn from some spaces just by being in them, even if you don’t contribute.
What works best with your schedule?
If you can only attend a meeting once a week or month, that’s fine and may be all you need. For me, I prefer to join online forums because I can connect with someone no matter what time of day it is.
On holidays and in difficult social situations, I can log on and talk to people in real time who can lend me a hand and help me along. What does your schedule leave you with time for?
You are never alone, no matter how bad it seems. Take the time to find your ADHD community, work it out so your time with them fits your schedule, and keep growing. You will find the support of others with ADHD to be an invaluable source of strength and comfort for you.
ADHD-US-NP-00032 SEPTEMBER 2018