There is no time being around others (outside of immediate family) where I am not feeling awkward, clumsy, or overly self-conscious. I imagine it gets pretty annoying for my wife when I’m constantly asking her to remind me who people in her family are, or that I’m shy around them, even though we’ve been married for 9 years. Equally as strange is the feeling that I don’t belong when I’m around my mom’s family or my dad’s (all of whom live parts of the country far from me). The same goes for when I’m hanging out with a group of guys (or just one guy), and also with any number of women. Although this started as a child, I can now comfortably play with kids under 5 with minimal issue.
So what causes this? I think anyone with ADHD can relate to some level of social awkwardness. I’ll start with family. You might ask me: “Andrew, how could you possibly feel out of place or awkward around family?” Well, they all know each other,and can laugh and talk about shared experiences. I have very little common ground with many of them. I don’t remember people very well, so it’s strange to me when my wife’s family talks about past holidays or weddings and I don’t remember. In my mind, not being remembered is the same as not being important. So of course I feel like I am offending people when I don’t recognize them. The same goes for my cousins, aunts, uncles. I recently called an aunt by another aunt’s name, because I couldn’t remember who she was. She teased me about it and wasn’t offended, but I was embarassed.
Also embarassing: how poorly I relate to other men. Again there is usually very little common ground, with the added fear of judgement or rejection. I’m not into sports, and I’m just not very macho. I like video games, though i’m not very good at multiplayer games. I like books, puppies, and playing with babies and toddlers. I’m almost more comfortable around women.
Women. My lack of socializing made relationships difficult. Even if, somehow, a girl was into me, I became completely different as soon as we started dating. I didn’t have the first clue on what to do with a girlfriend. Just as with men, there was and is fear of judgement, and overwhelming ignorance.
Most of my life, I have been bashful around people in general, regardless or gender. The one exception is being around the elderly and the very young. I’m talking 80+ and toddlers. I know how to be polite, so old people are easy. They respect manners above all else. And I certainly know how to be incredibly goofy, so toddlers aren’t a problem.
In fact, most of this applies to my whole life, past and present. I am married, so somewhere along the line I did something right (or she did something wrong and I have no idea what). However I still have a hard time fitting in. I tend to either be too quiet or too obnoxious. I speak loudly due to partial hearing loss, which adds to the problem. I am often very angry when I shouldn’t be, and it’s usually because people don’t when to take me seriously and when not to; and I don’t know when to take others seriously and when not to.
What sucks about all of this is that I love people. All races, genders, etc. When I have been around you long enough to be myself with little worry, I don’t care where you’re from or what your beliefs are. But sometimes I feel like I come across as an asshole, either from talking too much, telling the wrong jokes, or just not talking to some people at all.
At the end of the day, I know I am not an asshole. I am a decent guy going through many of the same struggles as everyone else in the world (bills, kids, education, career, etc.). It can become overwhelming, thinking and behaving differently than others; not of your own volition, but because you don’t understand people or think the same way as everyone else.