For those that don’t know, I have ADHD. And sometimes, it freaking great! It’s how I can hyper-focus and grind on my blacksmithing in Skyrim. It’s how, when I get a fantastic project at work, what I thought was only 10 minutes later, is actually 3 hours later. It’s how I can finish 800-page books in a day or even when I become that hyperactive squirrel everyone is used to seeing at Networking events. At one job interview, the manager asked if I always have so much energy. But all those things aren’t how one goes about their everyday. In fact, all those things are actually the opposite of what should be productive.
The thing is when I am not hyper-focused, I can’t focus. I try, I really do. I say to myself, “Shepard, you are going to do this one thing, and you are going to get it done!!” 5minutes into that task, something will pop into my head or a notification goes off and then BOOM, I’m off down a rabbit hole doing something completely different. Trying to clean looks like a toddler ran through the house and dumped everything they could get their hands on. I find random things in random places. My life is just me looking for things that I picked up to put away and got distracted along the way. Or I start daydreaming through a task and realize that I have been sitting in one spot for 30 minutes living inside my head. Having conversations with people is the hardest thing ever. I have to constantly remind myself to listen to their words and not let my mind drift. People tell me information and less than a minute later it’s gone.
Listening to lectures is almost impossible. During long talks, I usually pull my phone out to play Soduku. And it’s not because I am not paying attention, it actually helps. Otherwise, I get this deep sensation in me that requires me to move. It is overpowering if I sit still too long without something to do. I bounce my leg, I fidget, I pick at random things, and literally feel like my insides will come out of me if I can’t just move or scream or something!
Before my therapist thought of treating me for ADHD, I always just thought I was broken. The synapses in my brain just didn’t work like everyone else’s and there was nothing I could do about it. It sucked, but it also was great in some ways, as I processed information fast, it helped me think of ways things were connected differently than others. And in my high-stress jobs, being able to focus and multitask made me feel like a conductor of a symphony. I was unstoppable and amazing, and I loved it.
But in the career field, that initial excitement, then eventual boredom isn’t great. You get a new job, and you are excited about the new challenges it offers, new software to learn, and even the new people you meet. You impress all with your ability to learn, adapt and take on projects. But soon, that gets old, and you start taking shortcuts, or not caring. You may even think you need a bigger workload, and take on so much, there is no way to keep up. Then, you hit that tipping point, and either quit in a rage or get fired for not completing things on time.
Here’s the other thing about ADHD that no one knows. And why it takes a long time for some people to get a diagnosis. ADHD looks like depression and anxiety and they are often a comorbidity of it. So imagine, trying to learn something new, not being able, and every time getting pulled into a depressing cycle? It destroys you in every way and you always feel like a failure. Every job change, every unfinished project, even failed relationships. It all points to you being lazy or not being dependable.
So, what is the fix?
First off, getting a therapist or a meds provider to recognize your ADHD and medicate, at least for me, was the biggest help. Meds aren’t the 100% answer either. Once I knew HOW my brain worked, I was able to start learning how to work with it instead of against it. Here is how you do that.
- When you start to feel bored, talk to your manager. Ask if there is a way to switch up your job a bit. (DO NOT TELL THEM YOU HAVE ADHD!!!) Say that you are wanting to try something new to help the company. Just a little change in your day-to-day at work could be all you need.
- Do not just ask for more work. This will lead to burnout.
- Consider what career field actually suits you. This one is hard because it could mean retraining, more school, or there could just not be any opportunities around you. It is useful to think about and consider though. Once you know what direction you want to go in life, you can at least take small steps to get there.
- Have a creative outlet you can do on breaks or in your spare time. If you aren’t creating at work or at home, it is easy to hit that ADHD wall of BORED.
- Know you aren’t alone and you aren’t broken. All of us with ADHD feel like this and have the same struggles. There are whole online communities of us sharing our experiences. It can just help to know that there are others like you out there.
For those in management, even though your employee is not required to tell you their mental health diagnosis, remembering that ALL people get bored and keeping an eye out for your employees makes you a star manager. If you notice a change or an employee that is struggling, ask them what you can do to help them and be willing to work with them. You will be surprised how much this means to that individual and what a difference it can make in their performance.
ADHD is a very real and hard-to-live-with mental diagnosis. For more about it, you can go to https://www.additudemag.com/ for more information. Or follow my favorite Youtuber, https://www.youtube.com/@HowtoADHD for her funny, but useful insights on having ADHD.