Reply To: PTSD after workplace abuse – Long post

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Last year during the start of the COVID lockdowns, I was experiencing a lot of feedback from my supervisor that my coworkers were concerned about my behavior. As the breadwinner, this was potentially devastated. I was anxious and not feeling controlled in my ADHD symptoms. I already started counseling around the same time and asked my doctor for a med increase. Initially, I felt VERY strongly my coworkers were misinterpreting my words or the things I was saying. I didn’t know if I could continue working with coworkers (who are all also professional helpers) who couldn’t empathize with me. I already told them about my ADHD, one of them already revealed they had ADHD too. None of that mattered to them, because I was falsely accused. They were the problem in my eyes, because they didn’t ask follow-up questions to my innocent comments to confirm their intent or meaning. I talked to the counselor and they said when you’re written up, only half of employees survive in that job.

Eventually, I was hauled in front of HR and put on that written work plan. If I didn’t show progress on improving my behavior, I would be out of job. I felt very upset in front of the HR person and my supervisor. I cried and felt deeply ashamed. My brain wasn’t working right, and I didn’t get diagnosed until my mid 30’s. I had previously tried sharing information on ADHD to my supervisor before the HR meeting. ADHD doesn’t look the same in everyone and I was already taking medication. I was already in counseling and was learning how to self-advocate.

During my episode of shame, I was very vulnerable in front of two powerful people who were attacking me. Not only that, but the data there getting from my coworkers was a sham. No one at work understood me. At that point, I felt justified if I lashed out at the workplace, because I might have a disability and they were discriminating against me. I wanted to harden up and blame them for not doing the research on ADHD.

But something switched inside of me.

I had to decide that I COULD be wrong in this whole situation. Even if 1% of me was in the wrong and everyone else was 99%, that is something I needed to work on. ADHDers are not understood by most people. We’re called lazy or stupid by some. We’re also told its not a real disorder and that it’s what children area always like.

I knew I had the OPTION to accept this workplan and sign it. I didn’t have to like the workplan or how it came to be. But I had the option to accept the situation for what it was. If 1% of me was wrong, that’s still something I have to work on. If I don’t fix that 1%, I won’t do my next job any better either. However, this was a job I loved with even though there was a 50% chance of termination. I get to decide what happens next: acceptance or avoid.

Last summer, I worked on steps of my workplan. It reminded me of the people who are in alcohol recovery who work the 12 steps. After each step, I felt more confident. My supervisor continued to meet with me regularly and had been gathering information from my coworkers. I already decided they were 99% in the wrong, but I still valued their opinion of me. My supervisor said they noticed I cut down on the idle chat. I wasn’t acting arrogant anymore. That felt good.

Six months afterward, I had finished my steps and the workplan was completed. Today, I realize now on the 1-year anniversary of being put on the workplan, (the Friday before Memorial Day), that the plan was a gift. I wasn’t managing my ADHD symptoms enough at the time of the lockdown. Besides, I limped along my whole life without knowing I had ADHD. Once I found out I had it, I got complacent. Maybe a little lazy.

In the last year, I’ve worked harder than ever at TWO things:
1) becoming a better speaker by using careful words
2) becoming a better listener by paying attention when someone talks
I realized this: if I work hard on listening/speaking, it makes the opposite speaking/listening better. By speaking carefully, I then LISTEN carefully so I know they understood my intent. By listening and paying attention to someone talking to me, I then SPEAK carefully to let them know I heard them.

Maybe I am still only 1% at fault a year out. Even if I’m only 1% wrong, I get the OPTION of how to respond. I must learn this now so my kids who have ADHD have a chance to listen and speak better. I must learn this now, so the next job’s coworkers don’t misinterpret me. Living with ADHD is hard. I don’t want to make it hard than it already is.