ADHD and the single girl

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As I mentioned earlier this week, although I hope this blog will benefit women of all ages, I created it with one group, above all others, in mind: young women. And you know what many young women have in common? Their relationship status: single.

When you’re — pardon my French — “une jeune femme célibataire,” a young single woman, you aren’t beholden to anyone else, but that means you have to hold yourself accountable. And that can be pretty darn challenging if you have ADHD.

As Kathleen Nadeau and Tanya Shuy write in “Understanding Women with AD/HD,” 

Whether a woman with AD/HD is single by choice or circumstance, the realities of life as a single person impacts upon AD/HD issues, in both positive and negative ways. She has fewer responsibilities for others, but less support for herself. She isn’t required to accommodate the needs and schedules of others, but must learn to provide her own structure to keep her daily living patterns from spiraling into dysfunction. 

However, if you have the right friends, can at least try to manage the mess, and don’t set yourself up for disappointment, you may just find that the single life is the most fabulous life of all.

If you have the right friends, can at least try to manage the mess, and don't set yourself up for disappointment, you may just find that the single life is the most fabulous life of all. Click To Tweet

ADHD and single and loving it

What’s so great about being a party of one when you’re a female ADHDer of the young adult persuasion? Here are just a few of the myriad reasons:

  1. You can give in to your true nocturnal nature without worrying about waking up sleeping neurotypicals.
  2. You can wait as long as you want to take out the recycling, in case that one piece of paper turns out to be important three months from now after all.
  3. You can pause and rewind a movie or show as many times as you damn well please if you space out during a Netflix session. 

In short, a young, single ADHD woman, to again quote Nadeau and Shuy, “doesn’t face the pressures typical for most married women with AD/HD … running a household, keeping track of children’s schedules, organizing family meals, and keeping up with family laundry,” and she doesn’t have to contend with “the daily challenges of negotiating with a spouse that may not accept or understand her AD/HD.” And while it’s true that “AD/HD patterns of messiness, disorganization, night-owl habits, avoidance, and escape may dominate her existence,” who’s to say that’s a bad thing?

I live with my parents now (hi, Mom and Dad!), but when I started grad school, I moved into my very own apartment for the first time, and let me tell you, I loved it. It was so incredibly liberating not to perpetually have to apologize for something that really was and is beyond my control, i.e., my ADHD. I could run from my bathroom to my bedroom naked if I realized I’d forgotten my bathrobe when it came time to shower; I could go to Starbucks, bring home a Frappuccino to drink while studying on the couch, and leave it on the coffee table overnight with no one judging me for failing to clean up. I maintain they’d have no grounds — no pun intended — for this; after all, what is a coffee table for if not, well, coffee?

But I digress.

My second year of grad school, however, I got a boyfriend, and while he lived in another city, he did come to visit me fairly regularly. As a result, before long, I had a pretty good idea what it would be like to live in domestic bliss (or sin, depending on your moral bent). And, well, wow. I don’t mean to imply it would have been a COMPLETE shitshow; it was perfectly lovely to have someone to binge-watch episodes of “Parks and Recreation” with at night and wake up next to in the morning. But it wasn’t a consummate fairytale, either. Every time my boyfriend was going to visit, I’d develop some pretty severe anxiety about him seeing how his girlfriend really lived (read: in squalor), come to his senses, and promptly break up with me — this, despite the fact that his own apartment was far from spotless.

I had subconsciously internalized the rule in our society that respectable young women are tidy young women. In other words, I’d caught myself failing to fulfill prescribed gender roles, and even though my major was women’s studies, and I was (and am) a die-hard feminist, that made me feel like I had failed as a female, and like no guy in his right mind would want to shack up with someone like me.

I see now how ridiculous I was being. I know now that any guy who really loves me will accept my ADHD symptoms, clumsiness, messiness, and forgetfulness and all. And that’s the only kind of guy I’ll ever be willing to give up my beloved singleness for. 

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