Can I have your attention, please? (Can I even manage mine?)

ADHD is a really complicated thing to talk about, especially at work or with people who don’t have it. It’s funny to me that people with ADHD (or people whose kids have ADHD) pick up on the fact that have ADHD without me ever having to say anything…but when I try talk about the symptoms with people who don’t have it, I’m met with blank stares and a round of I-don’t-get-its.

I think I have the tendency to come off as rigid or serious sometimes. (People have certainly told me so, although I hear it less as I get older.) I also have organizational skills that I can sometimes employ, which means I can come across as not having ADHD (especially around people who don’t have a clue about how ADHD presents itself).

And because of some things that have happened at work recently, I think I need to let the cat out of the bag.

I have ADHD. I am not organized. I am not Type A. I am impulsive and I daydream a lot and I seem to make careless mistakes no matter HOW HARD I TRY, regardless of whether or not I know that I knowthat I know how to do something. The neurological wiring of my brain that made me zone out in math class no matter how hard I tried to pay attention has not changed over the years. (And for the record, my inability to concentrate and actually hear, let alone process, the teacher’s lecture would sometimes leave me in tears because I felt like I was failing to be “good” and “just listen.”) But in spite of these challenges, I’ve worked my hiney off to develop skills to help me quit losing my keys on a daily basis; I have attended online seminars and read books and articles that give me pointers on how to keep my life together; and I have studied the behavior of others in depth so that I can be fairly functional in social settings and relationships. I even maintain a 3.925 GPA while in college and working full time. I’m not lazy, and I’m not an idiot.

But I still have ADHD. And I still screw up and zone out and somehow make “careless” mistakes – especially when I’m under high amounts of stress. (The last four months, in addition to my heavy work load, gave me the opportunity to walk through the death of my grandfather and a cancer scare with my mother. As you can imagine, my productivity fell apart in some ways. It’s already incredibly painful when the parts guy, who is pretty forgetful himself, drops the f-bomb over the phone when he’s stressed or lectures me when he’s not happy with something I did; but September 2017 through January 2018 have been a whole new kind of stressful for me.)

I don’t know what to do about this. I didn’t even get diagnosed until I was 17, so I had zero preparation for how to deal in the workplace or even in school. I’ve been winging it ever since I can remember. I know I can ask for accommodations, but I don’t know how – and the thought of doing so makes me feel ashamed. Not only do I work for a few “good old boys” who grew up in a generation where ADHD was, if anything, a boys-only disorder that could be grown out of; I don’t know what to even ask for. Like, can people stop sending me 37 emails a day? Can responsibilities be restructured so that I can focus on what I’m good at – which is a lot – and someone else can tackle the other stuff (that they’re presumably good at)?

The problem is that I don’t live in a world that’s wired for ADHD. It’s really too bad; I and my ADD compadres have a lot of strengths that are so freaking underutilized it’s not even funny. I’ve also done enough research to know ADHD may not be a disorder at all, but simply a neurological difference (with many strengths conducive to the survival of a group) that results in “a set of behavioral traits that don’t match the expectations of our contemporary culture” (thank you, Richard Friedman). Even if we take away the stigmatization of this neurological difference, people still won’t restructure their classrooms and businesses to accommodate take advantage of it. That would be too inconvenient! This means that people with attention differences will remain underemployed and the rest of the world will miss out on the incredible strengths we squirrel enthusiasts have to offer. (And for what it’s worth, although I love squirrel jokes as much as the next girl, ADHD is so much more than stopping mid-sentence to exclaim over the presence of cute, bushy-tailed woodland critters.)

Okay, reader. This has been a great talk. Thanks for listening. If this blog post has piqued your curiosity about ADHD, I can recommend some resources to you and/or send you a paper I wrote about it. You can also click this link for a fun Buzzfeed read about ADHD.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some squirrel videos to Google to get some sleep.

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