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“Who Will Accept Me as an ADHD Adult If I Can’t Accept Myself?”

Searching for a reason for why I don’t fit in at my new job and why no one from my old job keeps in touch, I begin to wonder if it’s them, me, the unusual place I’m in in my life, or because of the ADHD.

Though I’ve been discouraged by how quickly the relationships I formed at my last job have faded, I still gave my ex-boss a courtesy phone call to check in — and she ignored it. Meanwhile, the other former colleagues never surfaced. (And why would they? I was temporary anyway, and as the grandmother says, “People are practical and believe the saying, ‘out of sight, out of mind.'”) The swimming pool crew at the elitist club that let me swim as a guest has turned a cold shoulder and some members have said that the club’s head honchos have clamped down.

On top of all of that, in less than a week in my new job as a professor at a university in Hong Kong I’m going to need to juggle five classes with at least 30 students each — no teaching assistant, just me, myself, and I against a classroom of native Chinese youth and school administrators who watch over me with an eagle’s eye. I’m the new kid on the block once again.

And did I mention that the new colleagues haven’t exactly warmed up to me? They regard me as a bit of an enigma already — and they don’t know about my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — a girl who speaks two and a half languages and reads one and a half, the native English speaker who speaks Mandarin and a smattering of bad Cantonese, the one who can read all-English text and any Mandarin Chinese menu fluently but not a Mandarin or Cantonese newspaper. Within one conversation, I can swiftly speak three languages, two of which are not very good but I’m stubbornly giving Chinese a shot since I want to be part of the posse at the new job.

In the few moments that I’ve had to take a step back, I’ve had to laugh at the absurdity of it all, bicultural, bilingual (sort of), and bicontinental and sometimes totally confused and drowning in this linguistic tossed salad and in ADHD symptoms. It must be puzzling to the Chinese people around me here in Hong Kong. I look Chinese and I am Chinese, but I’m also as American as baseball and apple pie, a Yankee through and through.

While I take this step back, I notice another thing. This new job, this new address is a total tangent from the life that I had planned for myself — that white picket fence (or I’d settled for a condo overlooking the sea) and that steady career. I know this career sounds great, but the worrier in me can’t be sure. Can my life ever be stable? I awoke in a bout of panic the other night. Doing the birthday math, I realized that in less than 15 years, I’ll be 50. “What a waste of gray matter,” the stepmother would say.

As I adjust to this new place in my life, I’ve been battling temptations to revert to the old self, to revert to the tendency to take on too much, to call more people, to seek out more activities, and to throw myself into more noise so that I won’t have to deal with the painful silence of being with my own thoughts. This is perhaps the scariest part of being me, the part that so desperately wants to be accepted by others, to find a home and stability that hinges on others, but as the stepmother, who is a Buddhist, would recommend, the remedy is adopting the “less is more” philosophy. If I really want to help myself, I should take the small and simple step to do just that — seek help.

I’ve sought the wisdom of Google and, after some searching, created a list of various potential lifelines, including a priest from a local cathedral (I’m Catholic) and a psychologist who specializes in talk therapy. I’ve left messages for these lifelines and as I wait to hear back, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. “It will be OK, Jane,” I whisper to myself any time my thoughts slip near that dark abyss of overwhelming ADHD and anxiety. It is going to be just fine.