I’d like to shout it out loud for once, but I can’t. So, I’ll write it out here, ” I have adhd!” It’s nothing to be ashamed of, right? Especially now that there’s all these movements toward eliminating stigmas against mental illness and disabilities, right? Nope. It’s not that simple. While I don’t feel like people devalue me or think less of me when I tell them I have adhd, I do feel like they (even if accidentally) discredit my work. Interestingly, if my adhd condition is kept on the down low, my many projects and ideas appear innovative, fresh and exciting. However, if this sticker of adhd gets placed on my forehead, my projects and insight suddenly look disorganized, unfocused or unrealistic to others.
So, I’d rather not shed too much light on my “disorder” in a professional setting. I never did officially disclose it to HR. When I asked a coworker if I should, she answered, “Well, do you need any accommodations?” I answered honestly, “Just patience.” This was a few years ago, and at the time, I was a super rookie. I didn’t know if disclosing it to HR could help or hurt me career-wise. As much as I wanted more sound advice from another more experienced colleague, I was too scared to bring it up. What if it soiled my reputation as reliable or what if people began to hold me to a different standard? It’s not easy to think about it.
I decided it was best to not say anything at all. I made it this far without any special accommodations or disclosures, why stir the pot? What do I have to gain from telling anyone? I thought to myself. Nothing I guess.
But now, I’m not so sure. After a few years in the field (higher education), I am feeling the itch again to “come out of the closet.” It’s really distressing internally because there is literally nothing to gain from announcing it, but if I was openly adhd in the workplace, I think my performance would improve (if there was no stigma that is). Keeping adhd under wraps is like hiding a puppy in your purse all day. You can only keep her content in this bag for so long before she starts yipping and yapping with impatience or boredom or even sorrow.
I can manage of course. I always have. Me and my puppy named ADHD have been partners for a long time. If I did let her out to breathe and bounce around, I think we’d both be happier. There are small behaviors that help me cope in a professional setting, but even these little techniques can seem odd or childish to non-adhd folks. For example, standing up and stretching, doodling, note taking, bringing my ESA dog to work with me, cracking jokes (this one slips out often), switching or rotating tasks and taking breaks. Using brightly colored pens, highlighters and paper, even stickers and stamps make me so much more productive. It’s like little mini treats to encounter throughout a mundane activity. Also, being able to play a little music while I work is nice. If I could sit through meetings in a rocking chair or balance on an indo board, my focus, confidence and energy would spark up.
While all these mini and meaningless details could really help me out, I don’t typically partake in them. Ironically, without the adhd label, standing up and stretching my hammies during a meeting just looks unprofessional and sort of comic. So, I don’t make use of these benign and easy ways to improve my productivity. Instead I cope, feeling muffled, a little sad and different. I crash like a crooked helicopter when I get home, exhausted from acting normal and squinting to focus in a way that is unnatural for me. It’s a battle, being different, but trying not to be. For now, it seems it’s the only strategy.
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