Staying in Touch

by Dr. Thor Bergersen

It takes time and effort to stay in touch with friends. When every day is a race to keep up with everything you have to do, getting around to the things you should do seems to happen rarely. Many of us could spend every minute of every day putting out fires, juggling too many balls and dancing as fast as we can.

I see a lot of people who feel like “bad friends” because they don’t actively maintain relationships. It seems like their friends are always the ones calling them, trying to arrange activities and asking how things are going. Because most of my patients have ADHD, they tend to pay attention to what is in front of them. They have a hard time keeping track of time, are easily distracted, and people who are out of sight are generally out of mind. That is not to say people with ADHD don’t care about their friends. They care a great deal, in fact. It’s just that work, school, keeping their living space organized, remembering to open mail and pay bills and taking care of themselves takes up all of their time.

Friendships require care, attention and maintenance. Some friendships need more cultivation than others, but most have minimally acceptable criteria to endure. The occasional phone call, text, Facebook or email might substitute for physical presence, but hanging out with friends is the best way to feel connected.

When keeping in touch becomes one sided, the person making the effort can feel neglected. Even though you might have every intention of reaching out, time passes and at some point it starts to feel embarrassing, as if making contact is out of context. Emotions like guilt and shame can creep into your psyche, convincing you that you’ve dropped the ball and abandoned your friends.

When you don’t have enough time or can’t seem to organize your life enough to make room for friends, it may be time to step back and take a deep breath. Perhaps there really are too few hours in the day to cram in anyone else. However, if you can find a way to make room for communication and connection, you’ll probably find the return on time investment is greater than the satisfaction gained from putting out metaphorical fires.