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“Dodge Ball in Cubicleland: The Struggle to Organize with ADHD”

How does an adult with untreated ADHD find herself in a workplace that demands multitasking and prioritizing? The whole thing is laughable, and I wonder how I will survive this job.

I feel like a fourth grader in gym class all over again. I can see it so clearly in my mind when I close my eyes. I am standing against the wall clinging on to dear life as an entourage of classmates throw rubber balls at me. I try to dodge, duck, and avoid a travesty, and it is exhausting. I run around in a circle and wish I were an iguana, so I could shed my tail and run away from my predators-in this case, a new job.

The new job feels like a constant series of fires that await putting out. The He-Boss barks commands to my bosses non-stop. Although a hierarchy exists, in the end there are only two tiers, the He-Boss and us serfs. We all suffer under his wrath and what is clearly the signs of someone very unbalanced. Like I said, maybe he suffers from attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

He works 24/7 and the messages fly from his BlackBerry way past midnight. Does this guy sleep? When I come into work there is never a dull moment. I brace myself for multiple projects, a barrage of emails and phone calls, and I feel like an Octopus on roller skates-totally out of control.

I have relapsed back to bad habits including acquiring more notebooks and organizers. I will walk into a pharmacy, a bookstore, a stationary store, and reach for a legal pad, a Mead notebook or the Mercedes Benz of notebooks, aka the Moleskin. I will start a To Do list on the pad, the notebook, in Google calendar and in Microsoft Outlook, and before I know it, I’ve missed an appointment with a colleague, a source, a professor. I sigh and pinch myself and tell myself I’m a Fuck Up. The trouble of keeping a balanced schedule. Therein lies the vicious cycle of being a high-functioning ADHDer. I am my own worst critic and for the rest of the day I end up looking like Eeeyore the depressed donkey from Winnie the Pooh.

The good news is that the boss recently told me that my counterpart-the woman around my age who seemed to hate the job from day one-quit and is moving to another city with her boyfriend. Although this might mean more work for me, I relish feeling needed. When the workplace is chaos and someone quits, and someone else gets laid off my own flaws are less visible. By the basic economic rules of supply and demand, I can survive on the job for now even though, without proper management of the ADHD symptoms, I continue to feel like I’m being pounded. Everyone is too busy trying in this all-hands-on the-deck mode, and it gives me time to seek help. From the verbage of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” lifeline please.

I turned to an ex-boyfriend yesterday, who discovered my disorder by stumbling onto this blog. He’s a Silicon Valley-entrepreneurial-type, an Ivy Leaguer, who operates much like a Richard Branson in his own right. He was the one who went through the clutter in my life and organized them into potential piles, and suggested that I get a manila folder for each.

After being thrown another pile of tasks, I texted the ex and asked him if he had time to chat. He texted back and said I sounded kind of frazzled, and he hoped that wasn’t the case. I needed his advice on how to handle super-multitasking. “I hope that I stay afloat,” I wrote. “You have the wind at your back now, Jane,” he texted back. “All you need to do is chart your course.” It gave me a brief and perhaps false sense of hope that I’d be fine in a job that is clearly all about prioritizing and multitasking. They might as well have asked me to balance their books. The whole thing is laughable. I am always forced to face my greatest fears.