Sunday, March 2, 2008

Friend or Foe?

Welcome to all Experiencing ADDvantages readers!

When I started on Ritalin 2 years ago, I realized an interesting residual effect of being medicated: I made many poor choices in friendships.

Taking Ritalin felt like that last piece of one of those 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles was finally put into place in my brain. I felt like a truly functioning human being. But as excited as I was about Ritalin, I only wanted to confide in a few trusted pals about it, including G. When she and I met several years ago, I think both of us thought the other was the sister that neither of us had. Both of us loved beauty products as much as we loved our favorite sports teams and flying to new vacation destinations.

The week before G. and I headed for a warm winter getaway, I excitedly shared my medication news with her. Immediately, the lollipops and rainbows in that conversation exited stage right. G. noticeably feigned enthusiam for my news, and the reason quickly became clear. She felt that I could easily manage my ADD with natural cures. And while not mentioning it directly, I could tell that she believed ADD to be a ficticious diagnosis.

Now, I don't think Tom Cruise and the Thetans got to G. before I broke my news. Nor is G. a skeptic about pharmaceuticals. In fact, she takes many of them herself. I explained to her that ADD isn't the just little kid that runs around the restaurant. It's also the adult who has never read a book in a Starbucks because the conversations and espresso machines derail one's train of thought.

I can't remember how our conversation ended that night, other than me feeling alienated and misunderstood. I swept the matter under the rug while we were away, and didn't raise it again for another 4 months. I decided to tell her how the ability to focus and concentrate had changed my life. She mentioned the natural cures yet again, and then remarked that my home must be really clean because one of the Desperate Housewives took Ritalin and then cleaned her entire McMansion in one fell swoop. When I told G. how Ritalin works on the ADD brain, she changed the subject on me. Within a couple of days, the friendship was over. It wasn't only because of the lack of support for my ADD. I'd also had enough of her passive-aggressiveness, which permeated our friendship.

Because my mind felt off and awkward for most of my existence, my self esteem had always resided at the lowest levels. I know for sure that's what kept me from saying anything in response to the hurtful remarks that G. had made to me even before I went on Ritalin. In some respects, I felt as if I was lucky to have any friends at all. As a result, I tended to befriend many people who fell into two camps: Camp Narcissist and Camp Commiserate. The former includes people who should be named Mimi, because that's all they talk about. And the latter includes fellow low self-esteemers who like you best when you're down in the dumps like them.

To be sure, I had chosen these folks as my friends. But now I realized that the friendships either had to change or cease to exist. In some cases, I indeed salvaged the friendships, and usually this came from talking about my struggles with ADD and how they affected my life. Many friends of mine had no idea how much I was trying to overcompensate for my distracted brain. But in a lot of other cases, the friendships had to die on the vine.

On the flip side, I treasure the friendships that I have. These pals enrich my life. To be honest, I'm also very cautious when making new friends. I'm not aloof with people; I easily make acquaintances. But I do consider whether the person will enrich my life or only cause grief. Oftentimes, I don't figure out the latter until a few months down the road. But fortunately, I've been spot-on about the former, and have forged some wonderful friendships since ADD-Day.

A couple months ago, I saw an excellent quote in a magazine from the actor Jack Black: "A friend is someone who doesn't f----n' want anything from you. Just wants to hang." Reading that reminded me of several people I know, which are the ones with whom I could sit on a park bench and drink a Slurpee and tell stories and just have a blast all afternoon. They're the ones that call to see if you're doing OK when you're feeling blah, and the ones whom you buy crazy regional snack foods for when you're travelling because you know how psyched they'll be to receive them. (Of course, vice versa on both accounts). After reading the quote, I dialed up a few pals and told them, "I just read something that reminded me of you..."

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