Reply To: The Workplace and ADHD

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Dear Todd,

I’m in your shoes too. In fact, I’ve been there more times than I can count. Even though I take medication. This happened to me over the last year and a half at work; I was doing great, then not so much. My manager only understood how to work with a certain type of neurotypical brains, and so rather than try to learn and help me, he began to see me as the problem and, well, you know…

The lucky part of this for me, however, was that necessity is the mother of invention! (and discovery!) Because of the dire situations I faced, I was desperate to find a solution. Things that helped:
– I started working with a therapist weekly on the workbook, “Managing Your Adult ADHD” to learn techniques for managing my symptoms (such as distractibility, time blindness, etc.) and was able to improve my performance substantially. I started to also accomplish more in my life outside of work.
– I did lots of googling and discovered great resources like
– ADDitude magazine (yay! you’re already here!)
– How To ADHD YouTube channel (I cannot say enough good things about these videos. They are perfect and they were made for us!)
– Job Accommodations Network: suggestions for ADHD accommodations in the workplace. (this is a good one to give your manager if you decide to “come out” of the ADHD closet at work!

Some of the (many!) new habits I learned (yes, this was lots of hard work, and very humbling, but it was SOOOO worth it.)
– Meditation
– Keeping a calendar and notebook, and prioritizing my tasks in it every day, even if it’s just for 5 minutes.
– Using timers. Also, using timers, timers, and timers. And did I mention timers?!! This helps both with those inattentive moments, and the hyperfocus moments, too.
– Working out!!! I found out that doing at least 30 min of exercise in the morning made me WAY more effective. My attention span soars and I can keep track of things way more effectively.
– I started meditating more (I used the Self-Esteem pack on the Headspace app, and it worked beautifully in terms of helping me be OK with failing— which you have to try to get at least somewhat cool with in order to win at this! I hear the “Acceptance” one is good too. BTW, there is a coupon you can google for 3 free months of the Headspace app.)

As I learned more about ADHD, I kept having all these moments where I realized, “Oh wow! That’s why I do that! And there’s a solution to it! Cool!”

The outcome of my journey was ultimately great.
– Because of the changes in my habits that I made, I did my job more effectively WITHOUT losing who I am as a creative problem-solver (and all of the GREAT things that come with having ADHD). I even started finishing my work early!!! (This is a HUGE thing for someone who is almost always late and working on things down to the wire!)
– I was able to win back the trust of almost all the coworkers who had been frustrated with me at some point or other. Projects were now a lot less stressful, and I was able to enjoy them.
– I was depressed before, and now I’m not depressed. In fact, I’m actually hopeful for the future.
– I’m now better at getting my work done and am excited about what I can now accomplish in my life.
– I got to know myself better, and stopped feeling so guilty about my failures all the time. Instead of beating on myself, I can now access a place where I can forgive myself and come up with a new solution to try out. This takes me to a great cycle of “observe and experiment,” where you can learn so many things, so fast.
– It dawned on me that I’m actually a pretty valuable person. Not just to my friends and family, but to companies that want to make money. And to myself.

Now, unfortunately, my boss was not one of the people whose trust I was able to win back. Even though he had to admit that I made improvements on all his negative feedback, he still fired me. But this time, instead of feeling hopeless and beaten down (which is how I felt the last time this happened), I now feel better than ever. I’m still searching for a job, but now that I know how to structure my time better, that’s not such a terrifying situation anymore.

In summary, I don’t knwo what your situation is exactly, and what things you’ve tried, but I want you to know that there’s hope. There are jobs (I’ve had them before!) with good managers who can see your value and appreciate your abilities. Success is absolutely a possibility for you; maybe even in this current job of yours! I mean, it was an unfortunate coincidence that my boss couldn’t update his opinion, but almost everyone else in my workplace did.

We know so much more about ADHD (and the human brain in general, for that matter!) now than we ever did before, and there are all kinds of things we can try and habits we can adopt, and there is a community of us out there that talks to each other.

I’m sending you (and anyone else who reads this who’s struggling at work) encouragement and love. Remind yourself that you are awesome, whether or not the people in your current workplace are capable of perceiving it, and keep trying; where there’s a will, there’s a way.