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Hi Ingrid,

I could have practically copied and pasted your letter to define my problems at work, I’m in an amazingly similar situation at the moment. Sorry for talking about myself at length below, but for me,’distraction and motivation’ are only a small part of the problem. I already know the tip/ have the app/ read the book. Maybe my story will resonate with you? I don’t have much in terms of solutions, but possibly some insight into the problem. Or, not!:) Keen to hear your thoughts.

In my office (language school) I’m temporarily assigned to the curriculum department where they need me to proof read, format documents and organising content into booklets- a huge cut and paste job. (Teacher guide, student guide, hand out book). I also work in an open office, next to the door, and my back is to the middle of the room, with three people able to see my work station including my supervisor, and I’m not able to see if they’re watching me or not. I find this so unnerving. I am a language teacher normally.

I was anxious about it for months leading up to the secondment because I’m great at being a teacher. I get energy from things most people find draining and vice versa. With ADHD, I actually get fuel from the moment to moment pressure of performing for my class and guiding them through the challenge of language learning, I get thrills from successfully helping students, especially struggling students, overcome their difficulties. They all need different types of support and I love scanning them to hone in on what it seems they need (more complexity/ summary, visual, aural, kinesthetic etc.) and then seeing them light up with awareness when I meet their needs.

I don’t mind the nature of this new, boring work so much when I can get into the swing of it- now, with the curriculum books, I’ve developed a system for each one. I Pomodoro, break, stretch, tune out voices with music (classical). But like you, as soon as the next type of job comes along, I’m going to fall back into anxiety. And even if I do it right, it’s all consumingly exhausting! Where I often trip myself up is that I don’t understand instructions well. At best, I understand them randomly or I misunderstand them very well. (Make sense? Like a language student who accidentally mixes up the words for ‘me’ and ‘you’ for the first few days of the course, it’s then very difficult for them to unlearn that.) This is where I start to procrastinate. I can’t just follow a tip or a formula for this- I know what the issue is, being afraid of seeming incompetent or inattentive (ineffective, disinterested, unprofessional) so I just stare at it for too long until the work starts backing up, which applies pressure and I use this to just do the best I can, a good job but always with errors, because I never got the right information.

And with the proofreading, it’s so soooo hard to concentrate when that is all you do all day, don’t you think? It’s tiring. ‘Take a break’ my boss says. I do, but when I come back, I’m even more loathe to dive back into the document because I’ve taken myself away from the task. (Getting started is the first hurdle for me.) If I work 8 hours a day, taking breaks regularly, I still end up exhausted. Way more exhausted than if I was teaching the same amount of time, or even designing resources for 12 hours a day! (I’ve done that, I’m super productive when I’m ‘in my zone’.)

To sum up: difficulty grasping highly specific instructions, boredom doing the same thing endlessly, unease at possibly being watched/ surveilled all day long, as well as noise, distraction, work and gossip chatter, hallway meetings outside the door. I prefer to work on my lap top with at least privacy of my screen, I need this to concentrate. But because I’m only in the department temporarily, I don’t want to make a big deal of anything and I don’t want to disclose my ADHD.

I lose sleep over it, I’m too exhausted to chat with friends and family at lunch or after work, so they haven’t heard from me after a while. I do maintain my ballet and jazz dance classes after work because it gives me a creative, physical challenge that I’m passionate about as a hobby. I go four days a week. But I’m doing it all on 3-7 hours sleep per night and am exhausted. I’m home today because last night was sub-three hours. I have other worries keeping me awake at night as well, but damn I miss my old job- the distraction and fun of being in the classroom, experimenting, or, if in front of the computer, preparing cool resources that will tap into the wide variety of brains in my class. If I was back there, teaching and designing posters would revive me, not suck me dry.

I just feel like there is no ‘patch’ for this- it’s deeply psychological. Even if I do a good job, I have a heavy dose of the ‘imposter syndrome’ which revs my brain night and day, all the time except in dance class. My treating psychiatrist discusses this with me but ‘best of a bad situation’ is the only realistic aim for me. Do you find the same thing at all? Do you already have good systems that treat some symptoms only? I’ve been helped a lot by all the advice, apps, and commiserations with others with ADHD, but my real issue is that I can’t do boring work without privacy and extra unhurried time to internalise instructions so I can work independently (with Mozart.)

I’m actually thinking about telling a senior manager who loves my creativity, passion and pragmatism (and wishes people, in her team would be more like that) because I think she’ll be supportive and discreet, and she has the political and diplomatic ability that I lack, to suggest the best way, with our particular work culture, to make my job more friendly to my needs.

So, so sorry for the length and tangent of this reply. First time poster 🙂

I hope your work situation improves, you must be so tired!