Category Archives: ADHD

Happy New Year: Embracing Myself as Myself

 

Quite randomly I ended up taking a neuropsychological screening this week. Well, it wasn’t entirely random. I was attempting to find a therapist (psychologist, psychiatrist, MFT, social worker, what have you) that accepted my insurance plan since theoretically I am supposed to be able to have $20-per-session visits for outpatient mental healthcare. Searching my insurance provider’s website however returned the names of hundreds of doctors who are no longer practicing or specialists for something that, despite being rather special myself, I’m not special enough for (i.e. serves youth or geriatric patients only.) I admit I didn’t call the entire list, but after about 20 google searches, emails and contacts I felt like giving up. Then, I found someone who responded to my email and said he was covered by my insurance (sort of) and could help.

This doctor didn’t do talk therapy. Instead, he is a neuropsychologist who does neuropsychological screenings. What on earth is that? Yesterday I found out. The screening itself is $1700. Insurance may cover that BUT they only decide after you get evaluated. Also, I believe it goes to my deductible anyway, so I’m basically paying for it out of pocket, or at least out of FSA. So much for the $20 per session mental healthcare. Continue reading

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When It All Adds Up: Am I Autistic?

In the course of my mental health history, I’ve been diagnosed with, in no particular order, major depression, bipolar II, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, ADHD and, as I aged out of hyperactivity, Adult ADD. Yet my current therapist first to allude to the suspicion that I may be “on the spectrum,” so to speak. At first, I thought she was nuts. Well, I generally think she’s nuts because unlike my other therapists who have been more traditional talk therapists who don’t give direct advice, she’s more of a crossover psychologist and coach. And, maybe she actually sees something that others have missed. Or maybe she’s just crazy. Continue reading

The Vicious Cycle of My Adult Professional Life

One of my longtime readers Taylor Lee left a comment that said what most people in my life tell me over and over again —

Not to be harsh, but I feel like you cycle through the same issues over and over again regarding work, depression, family anxiety, etc.

My advice is to break the cycle by choosing the path you haven’t taken before:
(1) Get a job at a bigger company. I think this will help solve a LOT of the problems you’ve been having with start-up life. Preferably some place near to where you live so your awful commute gets shortened.
(2) Figure out what triggers your anxiety/depression and what you can do to mitigate it. Whether it’s diet, exercise, more sleep, medication, therapy (I think you might benefit from CBT), your #1 goal should be getting your mental health on track.

I want to address both of these suggestions as they are good ones, but also aren’t necessarily solutions to the problem.

  1. Get a job at a bigger company. Is startup life the problem? Maybe. In my 10 or so years in the workforce, only six months were spent in a company larger than 100 employees. In the six months I spent in that larger company I witnessed so much inefficiency and bad middle management getting away with practically murder, I promised myself I would never go back to a large company. In between then and now I have applied for roles at larger companies – knowing that one poorly run large company does not make them all bad – but my experience in startups means my job prospects in larger companies are moot. Larger companies tend to look for someone with very specific experience in one area, whereas startups value that I’m a bit of a jill of all trades.
    I just honestly haven’t had any luck with even getting interviews at larger companies – whereas startups see me as the perfect fit (at least on paper.) I did get one job offer from a 300 person startup – which maybe would have been better – but in this case I did not feel I had the experience needed to lead the team I was going to be given and the stress would have been even worse. I also received a job offer for a poor-performing smaller public company that made business software which reminded me why I disliked larger companies in the first place – people pretended to be passionate about their products but you could tell they were just completely burnt out because they didn’t care. I checked a few months later and most of the people I interviewed had left the company (given its poor performing stock it may not have been by choice.)

    This would likely be different at a consumer-focused public company, but I’m far too unqualified for these roles to land so much as an interview. Believe me, I’ve tried. I can keep trying and maybe eventually something will stick. It isn’t even the money anymore (big companies would pay significantly less since I’d be in lower level roles with less responsibility) – it’s just the reality that no one will hire me at a larger company – at least one I’d actually want to work at.

  2. Figure out what triggers my anxiety/depression. Well, I’ve figured this out, and there’s a lot of things…
    1. Doing a job where I’m supposed to know what I’m doing on day one and there is no room to be developed or to get better at what I’m doing before I’m judged and thrown to the curb (ok, this is a startup thing.)
    2. Being responsible for too many things at once without clear definitions of what those things are (i.e. unlimited number of things I can do, and not knowing whether to focus on the few things I know how to do well, or spend time on the things that I know will add a lot of value that I don’t know how to  do well, so I spend too much time on them and get extremely anxious over them versus being product)
    3. Having to be social on a daily basis with the same people. This pretty much will be an issue in any office environment. As I’ve noted before I’m an ENFP with massive social anxiety, so over time a “work from home” job would also be draining… I need human contact. But having to be the person who makes that contact on a regular is anxiety causing. I often think it would be much better to be an engineer because it’s a given that you’ll be socially awkward and that makes it easier.
    4. Work hours. I am not a morning person. My ideal situation would be working 11am to 7pm. Well, now I work about 8am to 7pm. If I work for a bigger company it’s unlikely my hours would get any better – right now I theoretically take an 8:30 train and get in at 10. If I worked at a big company job closer to home I likely would have to be in at 9, so the commute would be shorter but the time to wake up would be the same. I might get home earlier, which would be nice, but doesn’t help matters as I want to be able to sleep in and work later if possible. I guess if I get to leave at 5 everyday, if that exists in big companies, then maybe getting to work at 9 would be fine. But even bigger companies require long hours.
    5. Work location. If I could work two days from home that would be hugely helpful. That way I could get a few days of social interaction but also have time to just focus on getting my work done. I think this would be the ideal situation.
    6. Money. Whether I’m paid too much or too little when working for a business I’m always anxious about money. I’m anxious about it for many reasons. One, it’s ridiculously expensive to live where I live and my soon-to-be husband does not make enough to cover what we need to live a comfortable life here. I estimate that to afford a comfortable family life in the Bay Area you need to make at least $300k as a couple and even that is tight. So if I make $200k and he makes somewhere close to $100k, we might be ok. He’s at more like $60k right now and I’m a bit under $200, but we’re getting closer. I’ve saved a lot right now which is great but I’m now at the age where I’m about to have kids (if my body allows me to) and the numbers don’t add up if I take a lower paying job. Can we live on less money? Of course we can. A two bedroom apartment here will set us back $36k a year. Beyond that we can cut costs on food and clothes and entertainment. Lots of people survive on less. But I don’t want to. I want to have a comfortable middle class life. I want to buy a house or at least have an apartment in a safe area that feels like a home and not a temporary residence. I could go and make $140k and that’s still a great salary — and maybe that’s fine. Together we’d make $200k and we should be able to live on that. But will a $140k job really be that much less stressful than a $200k job? It might be. But then if I want to actually get back to $200k+ salary I’ll just have to move into more stressful positions and I’ll end up back where I started, only at that point I’ll be so deeply handcuffed to the lifestyle and supporting a family that I won’t be able to just pick up and leave or check myself into a mental institution.
    7. Lack of completion. I really like jobs which are projects that have a beginning, middle and end to them. Without a sense of completion, I am extremely stressed out. And those projects must be substantial enough that my boss and peers see that there was significant effort put forth to do this thing and it was done and we all agree it was done well. I need that in my life to feel ok.
    8. Not being trusted/respected to do what I was hired to do. I guess this is a double-edged sword… either the person who hires me doesn’t trust me and then I am constantly feeling judged or the person trusts me a lot and then I eventually cannot do the things they trust me to do and then they get very upset at me… but they were delusional in the first place to think I’d be able to solve all of these problems. But not being trusted is worse. But then I don’t exactly earn trust given that I tend to over commit to things and deserve that lack of trust. It’s just when I start out not being trusted, it’s a deep hole to dig out of… and so much of the trust stems from the ability to pretend like you have your shit together and everything is fine. And I’m the exact opposite of that where I am just too honest and will tell you when something is an issue and explain why. And this is going to be a problem in bigger companies even more than it is in smaller ones. In bigger companies it’s less about 1:1 relationships and more about politics, which is a game I can’t and don’t play.

What can I do to improve my mental health? Sleep? Diet? Exercise? Therapy?

All of the above.

I know when I sleep I feel better and less depressed/anxious. But I don’t sleep enough. I go to sleep at 1am and wake up at 6am and still end up late for work because I’m too anxious to move despite doing work in bed.

Eating healthy helps a lot. As does exercise. But when I exercise at 6am I lose out on sleep so I think it kind of offsets its productivity.

Therapy… I have a love-hate relationship with therapy. I’ve been to so many therapists I know that it’s a huge time and money suck with no successful outcome. It’s sanity maintenance which has value in and of itself, but not for how much it costs. Yes, I make a lot of money and yes, I can afford to spend it on therapy ($700-$1000 a month for 4 sessions) but then I end up anxious over the value of those sessions. It’s so expensive and this year I decided to put my money into personal training ($600/month) – my physical vs my mental health – because I’ve spent so much on therapy to date and where has it gotten me?

I’m not on any antidepressants and maybe I should be, but I know that sleep and diet and exercise all can help me be a lot less stressed and sad all the time. Drugs don’t change my work situation.

So… do I need to address these issues and make a significant change to my life soon? Yes. How? I don’t know. I’m spending all my money on my wedding right now – which is stupid but it is what it is – and then I’ll have time to figure out what to do with my life.

An old boss of mine from my journalism days offered to review a freelance pitch from me if I had any ideas – so I just sent one off and I haven’t felt this engaged and motivated about a potential paid project in a long time. I have no idea if they’ll accept my pitch but I’d love to get back into non-business journalism where I’m writing about issues that actually help people and represent those who do not have a loud enough voice to be heard. But I can’t make a living doing that, so it’s only a fun side project for now – but pitching the story this morning was rewarding in and of itself.

It’s a Man’s World

Isn’t it ironic that as I sit here at a city Starbucks pondering my gender than  the context of my recurring professional setbacks I noticed that “It’s a Man’s World” was playing on the speaker system? Well, it is. Here I am, for the thousand billionth time, at a point of failure. I’ve done a lot of good work, but it’s never enough. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes. But it still feels like there is something more than just making mistakes that gets me where I seem to always end up.

My office has public calendars and I wasn’t calendar stalking but happened upon an interview occurring with someone who clearly is in the running for either my new boss or my replacement (I can’t figure out which.) That someone is an old dude. Maybe he’s great. His resume certainly is impressive. Maybe he is what the company needs. But I also see an unfortunate trend in my life – I accept roles where no one can succeed and then when it finally is possible for someone to come and be successful (and the role is more desirable) I get replaced with someone who is a lot more charismatic and better at faking being good at things or maybe is actually good at things – I am not sure if it matters. What matters is I can’t fake it. I’m honest to a fault and then some. It doesn’t fly in business. Well, it flies me out of every single job I have.

I’m learning a lot. I’m the kind of person who likes to really understand what I’m doing before I do it. I enjoy systems thinking and understanding the architecture of a broader infrastructure and envisioning ways to fix what isn’t working. I’m not so good at actually getting things done – which is enough of a reason for a company to kick me out – though when I am being productive I’m probably much more productive than most other people might be. I’m a poster child for ADHD though now a woman and no one in real life has the patience to put up with my occasional bouts of extreme productivity paired with stilted outputs due to anxiety, depression and distractedness, in no particular order.

I’ve been writing a lot about gender biases and I do wonder if bits and pieces of my situation happen to be caused by my being female versus male. It’s a catch 22 and all – am I doing bad work because I’m anxious caused by the way I’m treated due to my gender or am I treated the way I am because I’m anxious and doing bad work in a way that’s embarrassingly and stereotypically “female,” whatever that means. The ADHD is real and it doesn’t help. At best I’m seen as a creative savant who is hopeless when it comes to maintaining usefulness in business. At worst I’m characterized as a hot mess that can’t even motivate herself to be lukewarm.

What’s even harder is being in management. I really do enjoy managing employees from the sense of coaching them and helping them grow however I can. It’s just the day-to-day smalltalk that is so draining. I think back to bosses who would always put on a smile and ask how things are going even if they didn’t really care because that’s just how they knew how to be great managers – and although some of them faked it better than others, it worked. I find myself struggling to so much as say hi and bye to my team each day. I know it’s so dumb – as I can envision myself with a big smile asking them about their weekend plans, but then whenever I try I end up feeling so drained just by the effort to come across personal without being too personal. Friendly, but not a friend. Boss-like, but also cool boss, but also someone who has her shit together, despite clearly not having her shit together.

The long and short of it is that I can keep doing this to myself over and over again… for, oh, I don’t know how long… or I need to find a completely different path. I know I’ve said this before a zillion times but now I actually believe it. I mean, I went from making $90k six years ago to nearly $200k today and that’s helpful in terms of my bank account but only feels like an accomplishment in deceit. A good friend of mine – now long-time colleague – has suggested that I take a job that doesn’t pay quite so much in order to provide a little less stress – and less having my bosses constantly calculating if my ROI is worth my cost and then being so passive aggressive about earlier negotiations.

I’ve been rather aggressive when it comes to negotiating because as a woman all we’re told is that we get paid less and we should ask for more. Ok, I did it… and I still have no idea if a man of my “level” would have asked for even more or less, but I felt good about pushing and I had two offers at this rate (actually the other one was for even more) which made me feel justified in accepting one of them. However, getting a salary offer and having that salary not haunt you for the entirety of your tenure with a company – especially if that company is a small business and your boss knows that every dollar spent limits his changes of success and wealth – is probably worth more than $10k or even $20k more a year after tax.

There are two paths here that are the easiest, and then many others which will be much harder and more scary. I stay on the path I’m on, and with my newly-gained experience try my best to stay in this role as long as possible and then when I need to (which may unfortunately be sooner than later) I interview like crazy and try to convince someone that I’m great and negotiate strongly again and walk away with a similar salary and another six months of attempting to do my best without that actually being anywhere near good enough. OR – I find a job that’s maybe lower level by a bit – maybe at a bigger company (though it’s really hard to get hired at a bigger company when you mostly have smaller company experience) and take a salary of anywhere from $120k-$140k (which isn’t bad by any means but it’s a massive pay cut) and then just see if I can maintain that job.

Or I just take another path entirely. Open my own small business. Go back to school for design. Return to my earlier profession as a journalist. Write a novel. Or a yawn-inducing memoir. Learn about shooting film. Move to the middle of nowhere and take college art classes until I’m credentialed to teach. Make a living selling crafts on Etsy. “Come out” as the author of this blog and make a name for myself as this depressed, anxious 30-something who is so remarkably spoiled that despite her disability the only response she gets from the universe is a series of eye rolls and “woe is you’s.”

It’s just at this point where I am at my wit’s end. I can’t even talk to my fiancé about this anymore because he doesn’t like hearing about how I’m failing over and over again. I don’t blame him. He also doesn’t work in business, so he can’t really relate. And he knows a lot of it is my depression and a lot of it is me being lazy but I swear that due to this constant ridiculous anxiety that just builds and builds and builds.

And it’s all fine and well to fall over on my face as many times as necessary to get through life / build a nest egg … but not if I have kids (which I want to do and have to do soon if I want my own.) And so I feel like I’m running straight for a brick wall that someone told me is made of styrofoam but we all know damn well it’s just made out of actual very fucking hard brick. I know I can’t keep running straight ahead, but the older I get, the faster my momentum, and the harder to slow down, the more impossible to stop and turn away from the inevitable outcome of shattering into a million pieces.

The Reality of My Professional Apptitude

As I review my next steps, I have many, many, many variables to consider. Above all, I want to take on a role where I can be successful *long term,* not just for a few “burn myself out” projects — OR, take on a role where “burn yourself out” projects are the norm. I’d be much better off in a creative industry working on television shows or movies, but it’s a bit too late for that, especially given my massive fear of change. I’m trying to work with what I’ve got here. And, at the least, I have options. And good ones at that.

Ten years ago at about this time, I was getting fired from a marketing internship at a non-profit. It was my first year out of college and I didn’t know what on earth the future held or what I wanted to do. I applied for hundreds if not thousands of jobs and rejection emails gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling that someone or something out there reviewed my experience, or lack thereof, and decided to personally not give me a chance. Since the full-time job thing wasn’t working, I applied to a pretty-much unpaid reporting internship and, when I found a place to live, found a part-time admin job which was never a good fit for my ADHD self. I survived the entirety of the internship, but the part-time admin gig was, well, a predictable disaster.

Although I moved on and continued to apply for job after job after job, I didn’t know what I wanted in life. I had no friends in the area, very little family, and the only reason to live was to try to make money… to save a little bit… to build something when everything around me was crumbling. I somehow impressed a magazine that I was a worthwhile hire for an editorial assistant role and I stayed for a year, writing articles and attempting to become a better reporter. But my social anxiety really got in the way of that. I did the blogger thing for a short while, which was even worse, because bloggers need to be super aggressive and not let anxiety get in the way of getting a scoop. My journalism career practically ended before it started.

Without rehashing my C.V. for the thousandth time, the point is that I haven’t really massively succeeded in any one role. There have been pieces of roles where people have seen my strengths, and there have been times in the past 10 years where I’ve really poured my heart and soul into projects, and they’ve been considered significant successes. But nothing has ever been sustainable – you can say I just need to suck it up and work, but when you have ADHD and bipolar disorder, it’s not that easy. My mind doesn’t work that way. I have the potential to do great things, or not so great things, but very rarely anything in the middle. I seem to be failing at acceptable.

When it comes to my two or three job opportunities that are getting closer to being real, I consider all of the elements of the role and companies. A few of you long-time readers have warned me that it would be absolutely idiotic to take on a role at a smaller company again. But – there are reasons I failed at those companies that #1, are unique to the companies (not due to their size) and #2, there are similar issues that would happen at a company of any size. If anything, I am more suited for smaller companies because I need to move fast and get things done, or else I get bored and demotivated, and that’s when I do my worst work. If I’m just a cog in a corporate machine, I might keep my job longer just due to HR policies, but I certainly won’t be helping myself or my firm.

The smaller company job is exciting to me right now because I can see many things I can do in a very short amount of time to make a huge difference. I want to compare this opportunity to my past failures at smaller firms to try to hash out the difference, and realistically explore why a smaller company is or isn’t a good idea…

My past two companies, which have ranged in size from 20 to about 100 employees, had significant challenges unique to each opportunity.

Upon leaving a smaller firm where I stayed four years without getting fired(!), I took on an opportunity I knew I wasn’t the right fit for. The head of the company was an expert in my field, and while it’s his fault for hiring me without asking some basic questions to establish if I actually knew what I was doing or what he expected me to do, I also had a boss who had a very set way of how he expected me to get my job done. I really didn’t know what I was doing and it became clear pretty quickly that I wasn’t the right fit. If I were to take on that job now I’d actually do  much better at it. I still wouldn’t be the right person for the position, but I now know enough that I could have lasted longer. I was just clueless and five months in when I was let go, it was the right decision for the business. Given the industry the company was in, I couldn’t even do the things I do best there because of the industry. It was just a very bad fit from the start.

My next job, where I stayed a year (which is respectable in startup time), I picked a company in an industry that I care about. Yet again I found a CEO who was starry eyed about me and recruited me so aggressively I had no time to discuss my strengths and weaknesses. I was thrown into the fire, but at least was given a reasonable budget to work with. But everyone at this company would agree – there are some serious management issues teetering on schizophrenic. Another trend – the head of the company had a background in something similar to my role, so he had a lot of strong opinions on how to do the job, and would basically force me to do a whole bunch of things that didn’t make sense at the expense of time to do the things that had to get done. I did fail to hire a team for a number of reasons, some of which were out of my control – the biggest problem was that the company had a lot of fundamental issues and it still does (lots of people have quit by choice over the last few months and the trend seems to be continuing.) Beyond the basic issues of the core business, the head of the company’s behavior teeters on sexual harassment (anyone working at the firm would agree) and everyone working there is so stressed and upset that they end up taking it out on each other.

Despite the challenges at the company, and it being the right time to leave by choice or by force, I learned a ton in the last year. I worked with an outside agency who taught me a lot about how to do my job. I learned how to not waste money through a bunch of trial and error and how to do things faster. I also discovered a bit about the types of people I like to manage and the types of people who I cannot manage. I learned how important recruiting is and how challenging it is at any company but – it’s actually easier at a hot young company than a big corporation or a startup that has been around for years and is on the verge of falling apart. If you can’t attract the right candidates to your firm, you’re pretty much fucked (or you’re spending a whole lot of time on recruiting that you should be spending on getting your job done.)

Ok, so why even think about going to a smaller company again? Haven’t I learned my lesson!?! Well, as you can see, a lot of the issues had at these companies were company-specific, or addressable by the fact that now I have about two more years of experience and I much better understand the bigger picture. I understand how much things should cost so I’m not freaking out every minute about budget and wasting too much money or not spending enough. I’m not saying I’ll be perfect at my next job, no matter where I go – but I do know I do my best work when I care about the product my company is making and respect the people who are making it.

The smaller company I am considering is SMALL, don’t get me wrong — there will be challenges for sure. But the founders are a bit younger – closer to my age (I think the head of the firm is maybe 2-3 years older than I am) – and this makes a huge difference in team chemistry and respect. I’ve always worked for teams where the execs are in their 40s/50s, and much older than I am. I’m fine being the only woman in a senior leadership role, but it helps with the others aren’t all dudes who are going through their personal mid-life crisis while making the younger women of the company feel uncomfortable.

What’s great about the small company is that I believe in them. I see that their product is already getting a lot of traction, and I see a lot of ways I can quickly help – and I’m super excited to jump in and do just that. I know I have some hiring to do – but I also have the momentum of the company and it’s early stage to help source the right talent. There are really two types of employees in Silicon Valley – the ones that like early stage startups and want to be part of growing something — and then the ones that want to work for a very late-stage startups or public companies that are big and somewhat stable and come with that fancy brand name and cult-like culture. It’s really hard to hire for the middle ground… the companies that are not hot, sexy startups but that haven’t made it… the ones that are dying a slow and painful death, who often have second or third CEOs who are brought in to “save” the company which had about a .00000001% chance of actually saving.

So, in short, not all small firms are created the same AND my experience today is vastly difference than my experience from a year ago. I have a fairly strong opinion on what to do and who to hire, and I won’t be floundering quite as much for the first six months on the job. I’ll certainly hire a detail-oriented person to be on my team, who balances out my big-picture strategy style. And I just think I can knock this one out of the park. If I didn’t, I’d never even consider it. But something tells me this is a really good opportunity. But I could be delusional. I could be lying to myself because it’s the most exciting opportunity, but not actually the best fit. I’m trying to sort that out.

The larger private firm is also a really good option. What I can’t figure out is how much is broken right now and how much is working. It’s not a stable public company and it’s not a small, early-stage company with the fun moments of cherishing each win and feeling part of that with the whole team (I really love that about smaller companies.) My role would be very vital to fixing some of the pieces that aren’t working right now… and I can see what those are and have some ideas how to get things in order… but once I get the basic stuff functioning, I’m not sure where I’d go from there. The role seems a bit more limiting. The company’s product, while useful and needed, is not something I can get super excited about. Maybe that’s a good thing? But I’m an INFP and I really need to feel morally connected to my work. I told myself I’d never work for a company selling to marketers again, and, quite frankly, the two larger opportunities I have are selling to marketers. I’m not sure that’s the right fit for me either. Yes, it may be more stable and it may be closer to home and the salaries may be higher (don’t know that yet) but… if I’m not feeling passionate about the product I’m just going to crash and burn pretty quickly.

There are other jobs out there — but so much of the business technology lacks the human side. I like to have that human piece to spin stories and generate buzz. The smaller firm has so much going for it around the stories I can tell, and that’s what I do best, with the right company and right stories. I think I could help all three companies but I see my value being most at the smaller firm. I think what they’re looking for and what they value is a lot more in line with what I do best — they very much appreciate that I can do all the other stuff, but I do feel like they’re hiring me for the skills I actually have, and will value my ideas and contributions in those areas vs constantly debate me and tell me I’m wrong.

So… I am most enthusiastic about the smaller opportunity, but I’m also not 100% on it. I think that the feedback from my readers warning me to not go to a small company again has merit. I hope the above explanation shows why I’m not just jumping into any smaller firm, and that this one specifically excites me for a lot of good reasons. It will be hard and a lot of work… but I want to feel inspired and work hard. I want to go to work everyday thinking that I feel good about building something great with people who deserve to be winners. Good people who aren’t sociopaths or narcissistic or delusional or suffering from borderline personality disorder. Just people who want to build something great. That’s where I want to be, and that’s why I’m excited about this opportunity, history be damned.

 

 

The Unemployment Rollercoaster

There are so few times in life when you have your health and you’re neither in school or employed. For the lucky few who can afford a period of time out of work without a complete financial meltdown, this should be a time to stop, reflect, and even, god forbid, enjoy life for a minute or two. I really wish I could do that, but as always I’m a heaping ball of anxiety. I can’t just let go and allow life to roll me on its merry way, wherever that shall be. And all the anxiety is getting me sick, for I’m coming down with some kind of cold, because my body has finally let go and accepted its own weakness.

I don’t know how to interview right now. I have interviews — interview #5 with a larger startup and interview #2 with a smaller startup and interview #1 with a global firm. I’m a decent interviewer, but I always feel like I have to fib a bit to get the job. It’s not like huge lies — but someone may ask me if I know how to do something and I say sure and if they ask me to explain results from said thing I find some numbers that sound obtainable and throw those out there. How many leads did I generate per month? Oh, great question. What number do you want to hear that is actually something I might be able to deliver at this company, even though it’s in an entirely different market? Hmm. Even telling the truth can bite you in the ass — for at one company it might be much easier to deliver strong ROI than another. You just can’t win, but what you say at that interview, if you take the job, will haunt you forever.

And I don’t want to have to fib my way into an opportunity, or just accept the blind  delusion of some CEOs who think I’m god’s gift to this field until they’ve hired me and see my limitations. I just wonder how people who do this for a living actually get good at it. Some of the job is just mindless repetition and detail work, which I’m intuitively horrible at. But there’s a lot of strategy and execution around that strategy as well. I mean, it’s not rocket science. Why do I suck so bad at it?

For starters — the field I’m in has a zillion / infinite things you can do at any given time. This confuses the shit out of my ADHD brain. I want to do EVERYTHING! So I start a whole lot of projects with the best intention. The few that do get finished are usually pretty good. Problem is, most don’t get finished, or at least not in time. Even when I try really hard to not do this I end up in the same hole, over and over again. If I were to take a job where I was assigned tasks I’d probably be ok with that if it required some level of creativity to solve the problem at hand, but not if those tasks were detail-oriented and repetitive. I know I’ve gotten so far in my career — to a $160k salary — by just saying the right things and trying my best until the anxiety just exhausts me and I can no longer think straight and I start making one careless mistake after the next.

Some of my commenters have suggested that I move somewhere with a lower cost of living. That’s certainly an option. But I have (some) friends here. And no matter how little money I have, driving down the freeway and seeing the beautiful rolling hills at sunset with the fog rapidly dancing over them is just – worth more than anything I could pay for. There are so many reasons why I love living here. I could move, but at the least the frequent sunny days and blue skies here keeps seasonal depression largely at bay — it was just so, so bad in other places I’ve lived. My fiance hates warm weather so there aren’t many places we can go that are sunny yet not so hot. I’d like to somehow stay here. I don’t know if I can.

I guess I’ll see if I end up getting offers for any of these jobs. I’m way too over qualified for roles in other fields that I’d like to pursue, and ironically the only way to switch into a job paying less than half of what I make now is to go back to school and spend about $150k-$200k for a master’s degree. Which is also an option. Right now, I just need to relax. I’ve been getting more and more upset about this entire last year and there’s just not point to that right now. What’s done is done.  I have to just move on, and hopefully not too fast to the wrong thing, just because it’s there.

 

 

New Unemployment/Unemployed Budget

Well. Here I am. Unemployed. Since I received no severance and was not eligible for payout of any PTO (side effect of the supposed unlimited vacation perk), I’m left with my final paycheck and waiting for unemployment to (hopefully) kick in.

When you apply for unemployment they ask you a whole host of questions and I’m concerned I won’t qualify, though I should. Even if I do qualify, it’s a whopping $1800 a month (before taxes) and they make you wait a week to start claiming, so the first month is actually more like $1350 for the month. And $1350 is about how much I pay in rent. Thank goodness I’ve been somewhat smart about saving this year (I knew the job was not going to last long given how I performed with the heaping of anxiety and lack of sleep brought on by a very non-supportive work environment and a long commute I should have never signed on for in the first place.)

I thought it would be a good time to check in regarding my networth and budget. My networth goal for this year was $400k but that was a stretch to begin with (a $100k increase from 2014 including savings and interest.) Right now, counting all my assets I’m at about $350k – which isn’t bad considering the way the markets have performed this year to date. I’m sure with some better investments and less stress spending I’d be a little closer to my initial goal, but not by enough that it would really be meaningful. I have to take a moment and applaud myself for reaching $350k networth. Even though it’s not the big $500k, $350k feels sizable enough to merit a moment of self congratulations. For some reason, this amount makes me feel better about my lack of job stability due to my mental illness. While I can’t touch all that money immediately, and after taxes it would be less, if I was desperate there’s enough there to get through my own personal instances of deep depression (yeay bipolar life.) I don’t feel secure enough yet to have kids, or quite frankly, to get married (which is happening this spring anyway), but I feel like this is an accomplishment of some sort I can be secretly proud of… especially given that just 10 years ago I had about $5k to my name and was basically living paycheck to paycheck.

Here’s how the $350k breaks down:

  • $27.5k – cash
  • -$46 – credit debts
  • $153.5k – stocks (taxable)
  • $178.3k – retirement funds
  • $6.5k – 529 / grad school fund
  • $8k – approx car value

Now, my goal for the rest of the year, revised, is to end the year above $350k. This just brings me back to my older goals of saving $50k a year – which I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. I though this year given my income increase I could save a whole lot more, but you know, markets fluctuate so much, and maybe I actually bought enough stock “on sale” this year that I’ll have a really good 2016. Who knows.

The trick at this point is not significantly dipping into my cash to live between my current job and my next job… especially since I don’t know when said next job will start (or what it will be.) The $1350/$1800 a mo in unemployment is barely enough to cover standard recurring expenses, so I’ll have to dip into my savings a bit. I’m hoping that by Dec 1 I have a job so this leaves me with just 1.5 months of unemployment, which shouldn’t hurt too much. With the wedding coming up, and all the expenses for that, I really, really, really need a job – even though I admit it’s nice to have a few weeks to just stop and focus on planning this crazy event since the lack of time to do that was also stressing me out.

But I want to plan for “worst case scenerio” 3 months without a job. I’ll give myself 3 months to find something I really think I can be good at – because the last thing I want to do right now is to jump into a position where my anxiety will get to me again. I’m hoping to find something with a bit more flexible work environment – the amount of work I can get done at home in a quiet space far surpasses what I can do in some horrible open office environment filled with stress-inducing distractions. I’ve made a pact with myself that I’m not going to apply for things I know I’ll ultimately fail at given the work environment. I also am probably going to apply to grad school because I know the field I’m in now rarely meets my minimum requirements for sanity, so despite the great pay, I think I need to take a break from chasing income and now start to actually plan for sustainability. In short, I can’t be crazy mommy who gets fired from her job every year – my future kids don’t need to see that. I want them to see me in my best state – one where I actually like my job more or less. Not the me who I am now. I would never want them to see that person.

So I’m assuming I will need to spend about $2000 a month additional from my savings in order to cover everything from gas to get to job interviews to food to grad school applications to a potential trip home to the east coast to spend some quality time with family when I have the time (dad’s cancer isn’t getting better and despite that he drives me nutso whenever I see him I always think – will this be the last time?) So… say I have $5k of my savings to spend over the next 3 months… give or take. That puts me at roughly $350k at the end of the year – but I’d then be worried I couldn’t find another job. I know that I have some talent and abilities… but I just need to figure out where and how to apply them in a way where someone will pay me money to do so, and I won’t flip out after 3 months or so feeling like I’m so overwhelmed but the piles of things to do and not be able to prioritize those things or even know where to start. Yes, this is the life of a woman who has super anxiety, bipolar II and ADHD. I’m not saying those are excuses for anything – I take full responsibility for losing this job, for falling into the same pattern. But there’s a part of it that is just inherently who I am. I’m different than most people, that’s for sure. I just need to figure out where I fit.

And I’m going to be 32 in a month, which is – such an adult. My body definitely feels like I’m in my 30s — I pinched a nerve a week ago and my back and arm are still in pain. If I don’t sleep a full 8 hours a night I feel it for many days later. And don’t get me started on drinking / hangovers, oy. That’s just to say that I’m not a kid anymore. I’m a full grown adult. Looking around at my apartment I have to stop and wonder if this is what I pictured adulthood to be like. Well, I never actually envisioned myself as an adult. Maybe that’s part of the problem. But when I envisioned adulthood as a general concept, it certainly didn’t look like this — unfinished apartment, used couch that’s falling apart, bike in the corner of the living room because there’s no where else to keep it, a career that doesn’t feel right at all, getting married (ok that’s a start) to a man who also doesn’t have much of anything figured out yet either, to a long life ahead of me that I imagine will poof suddenly transform into one filled with maturity once I have my own kids (I know it doesn’t happen that way, I just like to think there’s some kind of inciting incident to finally growing up.)

Oh well. Today, I just need to focus on not dipping in too deep to my savings this year, and ultimately continuing on to my “round 1” $500k goal. That was supposed to happen next year. It won’t. But maybe I’ll get there before I’m 40.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surprise, Surprise – it’s been a good week

I’ve been really hard on myself at work these past couple of weeks. One of my direct reports reminded me today that I should be proud of how much I’ve accomplished in just the eight-ish weeks I’ve been at the company. Putting this perspective on things made me smile. Of course, I could do more. Of course, I could be better. But work isn’t about perfection. It’s about GSD and learning from your mistakes.

Things are starting to come together. Don’t get me wrong, I have more work on my plate now than I did a week ago, and the pile of to do list doesn’t show signs of stopping. But I’m starting to get a handle on what I need to do to be successful. I’m still not sure if I can do it, but I do my best work when I know what I need to do and can focus on getting it done. When I’m not clear about the steps to achieve my goals is when I flounder. I need to just pick what to do and do it. Getting something done is much better than freezing out of uncertainty, which tends to be my schtick. Well, schtick no more.

I also am so happy that my talented friend is jumping in and committing more contract hours to helping out. He’s just a machine (in a good way.) I’m trying to get over this stupid inferiority complex where I have this deep rooted fear of bringing in people who are smarter than me because people will wonder why I’m on staff in the first place. The reality is that smart leaders hire people who are smarter than they are. I still wish I could be great at everything but that’s not realistic. It’s better to show that I can effectively bring in smart people to get the job done well.

Relatedly, I had a really good conversation with one of my direct reporters today. They have a lot to offer and I need to learn to effectively manage and nurture their potential. If I can get my shit together next year can be really good. I’m glad that I’m not expected to hire a giant team. I can focus on a few key people and try to be a good leader. That means very different things to each employee/consultant. Ultimately a good leader provides clear direction and isn’t flaky on their decisions. Once the leader commits to something they follow through with it unless they have a really good reason to change course. Make a decision, get shit done, learn from said shit, rinse & repeat, repeat, repeat, suds and all.

There is so much more I have to do to become an effective leader. I’m still terrible at communication. Somehow everything I say comes across as defensive or overly critical… unless I just don’t say anything at all. It’s really frustrating that every word that comes out of my mouth is, well, wrong, if there is such a thing as ones words being wrong. I tend to earn trust and respect via my work so people overlook my inability to communicate, but it’s going to hold me back a lot as I try to move up the corporate ladder.

A big part of what I need to work on is listening. With ADHD it is a bad habit to talk out of turn and blurt out things that I am thinking. The real reason I do that is twofold – one, because I tend to forget what I’m about to say and want to get it out before I do, and secondly, moreso, because I don’t know how to actually organically enter into a conversation, say what I have to say, and exit at the right point, without it being too late to talk about what we were talking about a few minutes earlier. Either I’m butting into a conversation too soon or I’m going back to something that everyone stopped talking about once they’ve moved on to the next topic. It’s really frustrating and embarrassing.

I wish I could be one of those people who everyone else just wanted to listen to, because everything I said was stated so eloquently that who would want to interrupt? There is someone at my company who is really good at that, and is equally as frustrated at my foot in mount disease, which I’m trying to curb significantly around them to avoid destroying the relationship. I admire their ability to just say the right things at the right time. I might not always agree with their ideas (actually most of the time I do) but I’m talking more about how they present themselves and their words.

If only I could just copy their demeanor and communications style, but it isn’t quite so easy. In lieu of giving up on being an executive I need to fix this huge challenge of mine. The other option is that I change course and, I don’t know, become a best-selling novelist, or a beach bum in a third world country. You know, at least there are options.

 

Why I’m investing $400 a month in an ADHD Coach

Despite wanting to believe I’m capable of being a highly-functioning adult on my own, data has shown that this is not quite the case. While I manage to pick myself up after every fall and keep going, each time I fall the cut is a bit deeper and harder to recover from. This isn’t the first time I’ve sought help, but this is the first time that I felt that I desperately need it.

There are so many different kinds of “help” one can buy. Psychiatrists seek to uncover a chemical imbalance to explain your shortcomings and treat you with costly medications. Psychologists use talk therapy to help you approach situations differently, largely looking at your childhood and how that has affected the current scripts your replay over and over again in your mind. Acupuncturists poke and prod you to reduce stress. Hypnotists claim to be able to help you achieve your goals through mind control. And coaches, well, help you with practical advice and ongoing support so you can determine and then reach your goals.

ADHD coaches are unique in that they focus on helping people who are driven to distraction, as they say. The reality is that so many of the simple tasks that high-functioning individuals can do without batting an eye present a huge challenge to the ADHD mind. I dislike jumping to conclusions that my mind is somehow different than the norm, yet anyone who knows me at all and believes ADHD actually exists would say obviously I have it. I can check off every single requirement in the DSV.

That’s why I’m splurging this year on a coach. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on therapy and what has it got me? Maybe I’m a little more aware of the scripts I play in my head that aren’t really rational, but that hasn’t helped me avoid losing my job (multiple times) or fix my relationship (which is great except for the fact that I’m a huge mess and my boyfriend can’t marry a girl who can’t keep her house remotely clean.)

If you don’t have ADHD or know anyone closely who does, it’s easy to say “just clean your damn house” or “stop losing your job.” It’s not that easy. Ultimately people with ADHD have issues with their temporal lobe functioning properly as well as a lack of dopamine to drive proper task-oriented motivation. Tie this with years upon years of beating myself up for my challenges focusing and staying organized and I end up wasting so much time lost in anxiety and failing to accomplish anything – until it’s late at night when I should be sleeping and only then can I start to hyperfocus and get my work done well.

This clearly isn’t a sustainable model. Now that I’m in my 30s I even feel my body starting to break down. I can’t pull all-nighters anymore. I’ve been sick three times in the last three months. I’m pretty much driving myself batshit and I need help.

In selecting an ADHD coach I wanted to find someone who has worked with ADHD individuals – especially adults – over the years. I want someone who can share tips and tools that have worked for others with similar minds. And I want someone grounded in reality, not someone who is going to try to flatter my ego (one woman kept saying that people with ADHD are brilliant so it’s clear I must be brilliant. While I briefly enjoyed the flattery I need more tough love than some ego boost.)

ADHD coaches are also often very expensive. This is largely because parents – many who have disposable incomes – are convinced their children have ADHD and are willing to send a ridiculous sum on coaches so maybe their kids can do well in school and make it to an Ivy League. And it happens – kids with ADHD, taught the right strategies and put in the right educational environments—can do very well academically. So maybe it’s worth it for parents who have the money.

However, these big-spending parents inflate the cost of help. I wrote to quite a number of ADHD coaches online (many of who do their coaching via Skype so location is not an issue) and one literally responded to me that “if cost was a concern” I would be better off talking to someone else because she charges more than others due to her “years of experience.” When I responded to ask exactly what that meant she didn’t respond. I assume she was in line with another organization I talked with where ADHD-specialist psychologists and psychiatrists charge anywhere from $300 to $500 per session.

The woman who I found is not cheap but she’s not ridiculous. I understand that coaches do this for a living and thus their expertise is worth a reasonable rate. The more standard fees I found were in the $150-$200 per hour range. Some coaches refused interactions between meetings while others – who clearly understand how ADHD works – note that they allow emails throughout the week as long as they don’t get excessive.

I’m meeting with my ADHD coach for my first 90-minute session. She already sent me an intake form and an anxiety/depression questionnaire which I had a strange kind of fun filling out (man, I am SO ADHD.) I am not sure exactly what to expect from this project but my primary goal is to learn how to be better at time management and organization… and ultimately not lose my job (or boyfriend.)

The plan is to invest in the $250 intro session and then three months of $390 worth of sessions (3 45 minute sessions.) We’ll work intensively on very tactical strategies while I’m sure discussing options (not included in cost) to resolve my problems further through the use of medication ($$$.) I’m going to try to solve them with coaching and willpower alone, but if shit starts to hit the fan I’m going to head back to a psychiatrist and see what they think would help this crazy little mind of mine.

That is, it seems to be I have Bipolar II co-morbidly sharing the space of dysfunction with a solid case of ADHD and a touch of anxiety to top it off. Mental illness is real even though I’m the first person to try to avoid labeling my issues as being anything more than just some personal crazy. Yet at 30 I have a pretty good view of my life thus far and these are the reasons for what is going on in my head and heart.

I’m not self-diagnosing either, I’ve been officially diagnosed with these issues (as well as others) but these three seem to make the most sense. I’m going to be entirely open with my coach about this too – and I already have been (bipolar/depression/anxiety are often found co-morbidly with ADHD, so this isn’t going to throw her for a loop at all.) I’d really like to make significant progress and fast. It is certainly worth $400 a month to remain gainfully employed and highly productive. At least for the short term until hopefully at some point I can sustain such “normal functioning adult” baseline on my own.

 

10 Traits of a Great Manager: The ADHD Challenge

As I’ve noted in previous posts, management does not come naturally to me. I think great managers often had parents who taught them many of these managerial skills from day one, or other parental figures who did the same. Evolving as a manager I am also going through the process of determining whether management is for me. I am hoping I can sort it out and make it work as management is where the money is, but ultimately I may be better suited as an individual contributor. How many of these 10 Management Traits do you have?

1. Multi-Tasking Genius: The ability to multi-task is the requirement of a good manager. She needs to be on top of the goals of her direct reports, not only designing goals that map directly to upper management objectives, but also helping those who report to her achieve these goals. While great managers know that the best way to win is to step aside, there will always be times when their guidance is sought and they need to have a good answer or be able to quickly find it, all while working on numerous other projects and priorities. Continue reading