Knowing I had to make a change
I have always felt that I found some things harder than others. Despite being very committed, I struggled to get down to study and usually underachieved in exams. I could never focus on a lecture. My mind would wonder and would often “wake up” to realise I had missed an important point.
In my working life I wanted to be the person who sat quietly and listened before sharing my carefully considered (and extremely important) view point, but I could never cultivate this quiet thoughtful persona.
As a result, I always felt like I was trying to prove something to the world. This caused me stress and anxiety making life just that bit harder every day. Covid was the turning point for me. My tried and accepted “fixes” were no longer as effective as they were. It took me a while to work out new coping mechanisms. When the business moved to Teams and its multitude of sub groups, chats and alerts were added to everyday email, my mind was blown by the utter chaos of it all.
There have been a lot of celebrities who have been diagnosed with ADHD well into their working lives. Gradually, I realised that I had struggled with a lot of the symptoms of ADHD despite being well into my second, (or maybe third career). Here is an assortment of the symptoms which persuaded me to seek a diagnosis following my own research.
- Time is a flexible concept to me. Two minutes to finish a task can quickly become an hour. This means I am frequently late, and my diary events run into each other. I am then scheduled to be in 3 places at once.
- As a solicitor, and then a tax accountant, I was terrible at organising my work to meet deadlines. I would achieve this but by working long hours, often clocking up 60-70 hour weeks to do it.
- I found others struggled to follow my chain of thought. My family would joke about what it must be like inside my head!
- A slightly odd one which ironically for me was the catalyst to seeking a diagnosis. I can never watch a film to the end. (I usually fall asleep if I am forced to focus on just one thing) and I don’t easily recognise different characters. There is a reason why the good guys used to wear white in old films and the baddies dark colours!) This has long been a family joke – I often need plots explaining to me, and my family have fun making up ridiculous endings to many films for their own entertainment.
I felt like everyone was judging me as a failure for all of the little things that I am not good at. ADHD seemed to explain some of the quirks which I had tried to hide.
Seeking a diagnoses
There is an initial pre-screening test of 6 questions which gives you an idea of whether it is worth pursuing a full diagnosis. Adult ADHD self screen tool. I scored 5/6 so decided to pursue it.
Last year, I sought out a diagnosis. It is quite a long process and felt quite painful. It does force you to focus on what you may not have done well during your childhood and as an adult. For me this triggered lots of negative thoughts which took me a while to process.
To answer, I need to think about what has changed as a result of my diagnosis. I could have sought out medication, but I have chosen not to do so yet.
I am now more aware of the areas where I struggle, and I can take steps to manage them better. For me this includes;
- Diary management – if possible, I ask people to send diary invitations to me, rather than the other way around. I tend to enter the wrong details.
- Emails – I avoid replying to emails on the hoof, even though this is my natural inclination. This avoids accidental and impulsive replies.
- Being open in meetings about what works for me and trying to use the reaction buttons rather than just jump in on calls. This means I can avoid being seen as rude if I appear too enthusiastic but also I do still get to share my ideas.
- Asking people around me to support me – sometimes just asking someone to remind me about a meeting makes a difference.
- I am also aware that on some days I really need to take time out to allow my brain to relax before I can work effectively. On these days the dog may be treated to a bonus walk.
The biggest change for me has been that I am now kinder to myself. It seems easier to admit that some things are not my forte. These are not things which I can change about myself. Instead, I am looking for work arounds to help make those tricky areas a bit easier to manage.
I have also allowed myself to recognise that my ADHD has brought some benefits to my working life. Without it I would not have been able to grasp new opportunities to the same extent or to throw myself wholeheartedly into new projects and challenge the status quo. My crazy chaotic brain is able to throw up some wonderful solutions and ideas!
I read a lot of books following my diagnosis and found some of them quite negative. (ADHD 2.0 by Edward M Hallowell MD and John J Ratey M.D.) has a wonderful chapter where it runs through all of the superpowers of ADHD. It does warn of where these could become a little too much to a neuro typical person who – let’s face it – just cannot keep up! Sometimes on a bad day I remind myself of the benefits these superpowers have bought to my life rather than focus on the negatives.
If you think you may have ADHD, please think about seeking a diagnosis. If this isn’t an option for you have a chat with your coach and read around the topic. What is important is what steps you can take to create an environment which allows you to shine. It is also important that you are able to recognise your own strengths (as well as the weaknesses) and be kind to yourself.