Congratulations, you are totes in love! She is sensitive, creative, and intelligent! How did you get so lucky? You reflect upon this as you bask in the glittery cloak which has shimmered around your every movement during these months of falling in love. When suddenly, it falls to the ground. You look down to see that your glittery love cloak is among the many things scattered across your sweet lover's bedroom floor. Her many single socks, crumpled Starbucks receipts, five half-drunk glasses of water, a $5 bill, and an empty Garden State DVD case also lie among the carnage. You look to her inquisitively and before you can speak she interrupts, "Are you hungry, let's go see a movie, do you want to hang out with me and Kelly next week, I was thinking of making burgers tonight, also I have ADHD."
You have fallen for a woman with ADHD, a superhero with supervillain tendencies. It is wonderful, frustrating, and your responsibility to know what these are specifically so that you don't act like an uneducated dick for no reason. (And if you do act like a dick, at least you can do so for a valid reason.)
We are like superheroes because our brains have very high levels of activity and also because it sounds nicer than having a mental disorder. ADHD stands for "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" and for women, the hyperactivity tends to be emotional rather than physical. Instead of fidgeting and itching our butts like your younger male cousin who, like, loves video games and hates math class, it's our thoughts that cannot sit still. "ADHD is not really a deficit, it's a different way of thinking and if you know how your partner's brain works, you're going to be great. If not, you're going to be very frustrated all the time," Shanna Pearson, an ADHD coach and the founder of the world's largest ADHD coaching company, told VICE.
Every person with ADHD is different, some are great and some are probably very mean, but they all need people who understand them. I talked to Pearson to help you understand me, my ADHD, and how best to be my lover.
I am very charming, fun, and cool.
Let's start here because the rest of the stuff is kind of stressful. There are so many reasons to love someone with ADHD! Since ADHD helps me have so many thoughts at once, people like me tend to be very sensitive to how you feel and the situations around us. Your mom's gonna love me! Killed it!
I feel a lot of things very deeply and all at once.
According to Pearson, 80% of ADHD symptoms are triggered by feeling overwhelmed. "Everything is on steroids, good is on steroids and bad is on steroids," she says. Having so many thoughts is great because I can help you come up with thirty different (racially sensitive) party themes for your housewarming and I love having long conversations about everything that's ever happened to you in your life. But I also tend to be a little, uh, intense and if too much is going on, I get very tired and I might need to be off the grid for a couple of days. I once read a pamphlet that said I even see colors more intensely than other people, I need time to process this shit!
I am either super focused or super not focused.
Hyperfocus is a common symptom of ADHD, which counterintuitively causes me to be very distracted sometimes. If my brain energy is being used so acutely for one thing that I am very passionate about ( The Keepers episode 3), it's hard to peel it away to direct it towards something else (your birthday dinner)—even if the latter thing might be more important—it's science! "People who don't understand ADHD would label them as spacey even though they're thinking up the most brilliant things, the cure for cancer, while you're drinking your coffee," says Pearson.
Please let things go when I can't. "I say 70 percent of women with ADHD tend to be argumentative, so if you're argumentative, then you're going to have an argumentative relationship," says Pearson. I find this statistic to be very accurate! When I think I'm right, I super think I'm right. This might be doubly worse for me because I'm a Taurus. And also because I am probably right.
I am probably (maybe) smarter than you.
Pearson says that since your ADHD partner has such a unique way of thinking, being aware of each other's computational differences is integral. "You're dating someone who has a completely different way of thinking than you do. It's as likely as anything that they're smarter than you. If you don't understand why, you're going to make yourself and your partner super miserable," she says.
I am forgetful and I am going to cancel plans.
"Remind them how you feel often because they forget. People with ADHD tend to be very 'in the moment' and even if things are going great, they'll doubt or forget it a week later," says Pearson. It's helpful to be very good with reminders, not only about logistic things like appointments and birthdays but also about emotions. For instance, I know you said you love hanging out with me but things could change in a week and you haven't responded to my text from five hours ago. Five! Hours! Ago!
But I will remember your favorite Sandra Bullock quote!
Pearson says ADHD people prioritize emotional information ; I can forget that I said we were going to meet for coffee two weeks ago, but I will make you feel so special when I remember that you have always wanted that Crystal Castles t-shirt (the one with the web on it, not the Madonna one) but you couldn't make it to the concert in grade 11 so I special order it from an eBay man in Iowa for your birthday. You're welcs.
Don't make me feel more irrational shame.
Pearson says confidence is not the opposite of low self-esteem and many ADHD women have both. "Women who have ADHD almost always have confidence and low self-esteem because they live in a world where they are so powerful and passionate but constantly hear, 'Why don't you just…?'" says Pearson. She says she has worked with decades-long marriages in which successful business executives are made to feel so ashamed that they have never even discussed their ADHD with their partners. Please don't do this to me.
Be honest and straightforward.
I cannot help but say how I feel as I feel it, so I speak out about injustices and whether or not the outfit you are wearing looks good. You might not appreciate this but this is the only way that makes sense for me and I expect this from you, too. "People with ADHD despise bullshit and, in general, they wear their hearts on their sleeves and they won't be playing games," says Pearson.
I'm for sure gonna interrupt you! Many times!!!
There is not much to say about this one, other than I'm truly sorry about this one, buddy. It's going to happen, please tell me when I am doing it so that I know to stop. ALSO, HAVE YOU READ THE THEORY ABOUT HOW THERE ARE GOING TO BE ZOMBIES ON RIVERDALE?
Also, my room is a mess, just let this one go.
Just like my emotions, I have my own way of organizing my items. I could tell you exactly where every piece of clothing I own is located on the floor, but I don't know if you just stepped on a bag of chips or a plastic water bottle and I'm sorry again.
Your ADHD lover does not need to be coddled and they do not have a get out of jail free card for every time they forget something important or act like an asshole. You are certainly allowed to be frustrated because I have been late meeting you every day for the past two weeks. But we do need understanding when you are frustrated, especially when the conversation we're having is just one of the many things that are going on in our brains.
I was also considering writing a piece about how jet skis are douchey—just a thought.
Follow Celeste Yim on Twitter.