Your job is your identity. I've lost both, and health insurance for attention deficit medication might be next.
by Jane D.
In the land of job layoffs, there is no structure for the typical adult with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD or ADHD). Time seemingly loses its meaning. The alarm on the cell phone goes off, and I roll over and slip back under the covers. The nightmare of a roommate is gone for now, and I am engulfed in much-needed silence.
At the end of the first full week of unemployment, there are two things that mark this new chapter of my life: time has slowed to a near halt, and I feel as if I have been stripped of my status. The fashionable fur coat that I wear is from two winters ago, and half of the winter clothes are courtesy of my fashionable ex-roommate. who would have had the Salvation Army pick it up.
While I am unsure of this, I feel as if the new scent I carry is called "Negativity." I can sense it when I talk to others. They shake their heads when I tell them of my fate, then they do a cluck-cluck and say, "I'm so sorry." I try to smile and put on a happy face, but saying "it is okay" sounds ridiculous.
It is not okay. I have until February to find affordable health care, a looming deadline that keeps me in Gotham City. In a few days, I will have run short of the stimulant medication I've been taking, Adderall. I should have been nicer to the jerks who I had dated. Maybe I might have married one of them and benefited from his health care. Too late for a sugar daddy.
In the past week, I read a passage from Psalms, a passage from The Alchemist, and most of the Oprah cult must-read, The Secret, but positivity is fleeting. Maybe I am suffering from depression or seasonal affective disorder (also known as winter depression or winter blues). Whatever the health professionals label it, it's all a result of too much city air and too little natural light.
Sometimes in a moment of darkness, I think that maybe God was testing me as he did Job. Being unemployed is the ultimate test for the ADD self, a Houdini that waits to be untangled. I am left to structure the day, and it sucks. I am responsible for the drive and the fuel that so many ADDers lack.
I ask the father for the Word documents with the tables that he created for projects and daily schedules, I ask the sister how she organizes her finances, I ask the stepmother what guru taught her patience. I envy how the basic skills of surviving adulthood seem so second hand to them.
In the job search I am forced to face my list of strengths and weaknesses. The positive traits—the colorful and sparky personality, the out-of-box ideas, the romantic and idealist.
Then there are habits that are either personality or ADD driven, or maybe both (which came first, the chicken or the egg?)—disorganized, impulsive, impatient, forgetful, and terrible at details. It won't change, I know.
The father spit out a statistic. "Twenty percent of people ages 25 to 35 have attention deficit disorder," he says. "Most children are diagnosed with ADHD and suffer behavior problems or learning disorders, but they grow out of it." [See "Can Children Outgrow ADHD?"]
The words are a slap in the face. It is insulting when people say that to me, that I suffer from some childhood disease like being cross-eyed or having lice. If it is a childhood disorder, then why does the brain respond to Adderall and other ADHD stimulants? I give up. Maybe I should go into denial too, and pretend that ADD and ADHD don't exist.
Most of the time I feel like cutting the cord from my current connections, the friends, the ex-boyfriends. The family: the mother who abandoned me in formative years; a sick sister, which meant that my ADD—or whatever it is—slipped through the cracks; a father who buried himself in work, as escape perhaps. What I needed most was a disciplinarian. The father knows this and reminders of the past make him sad, so the truth is unspoken. Something did slip through the cracks, and I feel as if it is too late. "It is water under the bridge," a voice in my head says.
There are people without arms and legs, those who have been raped by loved ones. There are people dying in cancer wards, and what am I complaining about? At least I can still swim—that black line on the bottom of the pool is the only certainty that I have.