My ADHD empowers me

My ADHD empowers me

Erin    Age: 30   Chicago, IL

What do you do for a living? Do you love it? 

I work in HR Systems at Etsy! I love working for Etsy since I actually use their product :) It's also great working for a company that supports small businesses and creators!

How does ADHD show up in your life?

  • Hyperfocus, unable to stop until it's done and I'm burnt out 
  • Cannot get off the couch to even do things I WANT to do. I call the two states "Tornado" and "Blob." 
  • My memory is absolutely awful. 
  • I lose things or find them in weird places that I don't remember putting them. 
  • My processing speed can also be super slow.
  • It's hard for me to listen even when I want to. It's as if I go off to another world or into a trance. 
  • I am chronically late 
  • I have body focused repetitive behaviors (scalp picking, nail & cheek biting) 
  • I can get stuck on a sound or a feeling and not be able to tune it out to concentrate. 
  • I can also have trouble with emotional regulation. 
  • I feel things very deeply. I'll get so angry over small things like how long it takes to curl my hair or how long it's taking to fold the laundry. A sad song can bring me to tears, and a happy moment can bring me so much joy it's intoxicating. 
  • I am incredibly clumsy. 
  •  I have 1 million hobbies because I pick up one thing, hyperfocus on it, and then lose interest after a few weeks/months. 

How were your school years?

I actually did really well in school. I got good grades, which I think was a product of being in a really good school system, having parents who pushed me really hard academically and being creative enough to work the system a bit. 

I was a chronic procrastinator, but give me a project or a paper or an exam that's due the next day and I would always shine even if I woke up at 5 AM the morning it was due to do it. It would become my hyperfocus and I could almost always make it happen. 

I did have slip ups But overall, I really did do well. I was ALWAYS late to school from sleeping in. And I did fake being sick a good amount because I just didn't feel like going to school that day.

How did you feel right after getting your diagnosis? Did it help in your career? 

I was diagnosed at the age of 29. I felt a lot of emotions. I wasn't that surprised because I did all the research beforehand that ended up leading to me seeking a diagnosis and my brother and dad also have ADHD. I felt validated and it really felt like the puzzle pieces were coming together. It was nice to have something concrete to attribute certain things in my life to. I also felt imposter syndrome. Since I did well in school and my career thus far, I would tell myself I must not have it so bad, and that I didn't need to take any actions to alleviate my symptoms if I could handle it up until this point - but at what cost?

Do you think you "look like" the ADHD stereotype?

Not to people who aren't super close to me. When I told my husband the symptoms of ADHD, he told me they were me to a tee! And I agree. But I do a lot of masking around people and since I have the combined type that leans more toward the inattentive, it can be hard to see outwardly.

What are you struggling with currently?

Perfectionism became my coping mechanism because of ADHD. I never wanted to slip up and I always had to prove I'm capable. I get anxious about decision-making, so I plan things out extensively to the point of exhaustion to avoid unknown situations and circumstances.It can be really exhausting. 

I feel guilty for some of the symptoms that affect my relationships like being forgetful, not responding to messages, or not listening to the people I love. 

I also feel guilty when I go into "blob" mode and can't get myself to do anything. I was called lazy so much as a kid and now I can be hard on myself when I'm "acting" lazy, even though it's out of my control. 

Lastly, I struggle with the stigma around medication and Adderall specifically. It does wonders for me, but I still feel guilty for taking it too much or get worried I'll rely on it too much. I've come a long way in this space, but there's still room to grow!

What are your ADHD strengths in life? 

I am really good at so many things! If I get into something, I can be really successful at it. I have a wide range of interests and genuinely enjoy most things! I'm extremely creative and an amazing problem solver. I am positive and optimistic and I love lifting people up!

What about your ADHD srengths at work? What do you think makes you really good at what you do as an ADHDer? 

I am an incredible problem solver. Having ADHD can make it tough to do things the conventional way, so I've learned how to do things my own way which helps me find solutions to problems that no one else can. 

I can tackle a huge project in just a few hours (if it's due the next day, ha!) with incredible quality from hyperfocus. I'm also a people person, which is crucial in the corporate world.

How would it change your life if you had been diagnosed earlier?

A little. I think I wouldn't lean so hard on perfectionism and I'd be more comfortable with slip-ups and bad days. I've come a long way in the past few months when it comes to self-compassion, but starting that journey earlier would have been a blessing.

What things do you do or use in your daily life  that helped you the most? 

  • Post-it notes/writing everything down; 
  • a personal calendar to keep track of events, appointments, and birthdays; 
  • a running to-do list for groceries (when we run out of something) and important things
  • Exercise is huge for me - it energizes me and clears my hyperactive mind. 
  • I also thrive with structure and routine. 
  • Medication & therapy :) 

What are some tips that helped you perform better at work? 

As soon as I'm told or realize I need to do something, I add it to my Google Doc to-do list. I have fidget toys at my desk that I use when I'm in meetings to help me listen better. I write down important things from meetings because it helps them stick in my brain better. I ask for explicit deadlines and priorities so I can organize my to-do list.

What about school? 

This is a toughy because I was lucky enough to be able to procrastinate until the last moment and still do well. I think I had a planner? It's hard to remember now - I told you my memory is horrid. I do remember making study guides for myself by going through the chapters that would be on a test and typing out important points, printing it, and studying from it. I'm not the best to give advice in this area - I haven't been in school for a decade! Ha!

Do you ever feel scared that ADHD might ruin what you have built / achieved ?

I don't! I feel like I know this disorder like the back of my hand, so it's become easy to identify where I personally struggle and ways to combat it. I feel empowered to overcome the challenges I face. Even though I sometimes fear whether it will be a tornado or a blob day, I know that blob days will not completely undo everything I've achieved!

What advice would you give someone who’s worried about ADHD ruining their chances at being successful?

Learn everything you possibly can about ADHD and make a list of your specific symptoms. Write them down, reread them, and know them. The more familiar you are, the easier it will become to attribute slip-ups to your disorder and feel more self-compassion when you do make a mistake or have a hard day! Knowing your symptoms can also help you identify coping strategies that may be helpful or hurtful in the long run. Talking to a therapist can really help with these things. Also, medication can really, really help! It's not for everyone, but it might be worth a try! Just remember you deserve treatment. You deserve tools to make your life easier and happier.

What are your best hacks and tips to thrive with ADHD?

  • Be kind to yourself. 
  • Remember that you've made it this far. 
  • Find what works for you and write those things down so you don't forget! 
  • Try new ways of doing things often to find what sticks. 
  • If you feel motivated to do something, do it now if you can (you might not want to later!). 
  • Look out for "future you" when you remember to. 
  • Allow yourself to rest. 
  • Ask for help. 
  • Remember that you deserve to be happy too and taking shortcuts, getting help through therapy/medication, and sitting on the couch for 12 hours are A-OK daddio.
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