Tag 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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s the Drug to Forget Who You Were to Become Who You Are

I don’t have many happy memories of childhood. The memories I do have seem to jump from one moment of being yelled at or hit by my father to being bullied in school. Fourth grade. Dad is pissed I am too scared to swallow a pill needed for my chronic infections. He slaps me across my face. Hard. I’m stunned because this is the first time in his hitting me where I am convinced I did not deserve it. Sixth grade. Other student in art class takes a stuffed animal I brought in to draw in a still life and completely destroys it when I’m not looking. Third grade. Kids call me the cootie girl and make fun of me. I spend my recess times along singing by myself waiting for this supposed “fun” time to fly by. First grade??? I didn’t clean my room. Dad comes home from work, screams at me to come into his room, bend over the bed. I know what I’m in for. His belt slides quickly out of his oversized pants, (the woosh of leather sliding through pant loops is unforgettable and so sharp in my mind), and I don’t know which is more horrifying, his uncontrollable, inconsolable rage, or the snap of the belt against my back and behind as I squirm and learn to, in some ways, appreciate the pain. It is the only thing in the world that feels right. It is what I deserve. Twelfth grade. Half-assed attempt at suicide. Cry for help.

Yet here I am… still here. I guess I should give myself credit for that. But I’m still that girl whose only understanding of self was someone who was not worth much of anything at all. My comfort zone was playing the role of scape goat. Want someone to blame for all of your problems? Blame me. It’s easier that way. Everyone needs a scape goat.

The problem is, no one really needs a scape goat. No want wants a martyr. People want people who are confident and effective. They want leaders who can get shit done. A good friend recently explained to me that one of my biggest flaws in leadership is that I don’t communicate decisions clearly. I’m so whishy washy. You want to know why I don’t communicate decisions clearly? Because I can’t make them. If a decision must be made by instinct than I don’t trust mine. I grew up being told time and again that whatever I thought wasn’t right. If it’s a decision made by data then sure this should be easier but there’s never enough data to support decisions that in large part must be based on intuition and enacted with full confidence.

So every single day, I’m faced with this huge problem — if I don’t trust my decisions, even on the most minute detail, how can I expect anyone else to? And the way leadership works, you don’t really get a lot of chances. You fuck up once and your cover is blown. You need to be clear, solid, directed, and consistent. That shouldn’t be so hard. But my challenge is I make my decisions based on understanding what other people want. That’s how I was raised. I take in a lot of information, pay close attention to how people react to something, and then come out with a solution which is a compromise of what everyone else wants. Only when I really feel it is what “other people want” can I confidently back it up.  My own opinions/ideas/thoughts have absolutely no worth. At least not until I can create a final project/result and it is a big reveal moment. When I can show versus tell – then, and only then, can I have confidence in my own ideas and outputs.

This all is rather disastrous professionally. I’ve clearly added value in the past when I’m able to just run with things, but I crumble when I need to lead. I can’t quite decide yet if I just don’t want to be a leader or if I want to be a leader but I really suck at it today. Every single tiny choice builds up great anxiety in my chest. I have physical pain in my chest daily due to being frozen over decisions. I fear I’m not intelligent enough to pick door number one or door number two. My communication skills are beyond pathetic and people run out of patience with me. I find myself fantasizing about moving to New Mexico and working as a waitress at a diner for the rest of my life because then I don’t have to make any choices – I just have to take orders.

But I also don’t like just taking orders. Even if an individual contributor-type job paid the same as a managerial position, I would feel stifled in that. I do have ideas. I do like to make processes better. I do see the bigger picture and understand very quickly how one thing can effect many others. I feel like there’s something there of value, though not everyone values it. And often this skill, if you’d call it that, is actually a determent to success. Instead of focusing on what moves the needle now I want to fix the bigger picture. I feel this unrelenting, heavy, exasperating pull to fix the architecture of the bigger picture. And I spend too much time stuck in this as a way to avoid dealing with the real issue – that I can’t actually make day-to-day decisions… whether that be what to wear or how to delegate a task. And, as a result, I drive everyone nuts. I wouldn’t want to work with me.

At the end of the day, I do need a job. And if I have to have a job – which I do – I want one where I know I’m adding value. As someone who was raised to “serve” versus to “lead,” I am only happy when I accomplish a task set out for me and am rewarded for not just meeting expectations but overachieving on this task. The clearer the goal and more my own doing can get me there, the more productive I am and the more success I achieve. When things aren’t so cut and dry, when there’s a thousand things to do in order to do a remotely good job and there’s only time in the day for four of them, I am crippled beyond belief. I still get work done, but I do it at night, when I can escape the confines of the office, where I can breathe and think and focus.

I want more than anything to be successful right now. It really isn’t about the money, though that’s a nice plus. I want to make a difference. I want to prove to myself and others that I can get shit done. That I can lead. That I can be a great leader. But clearly I don’t actually believe this to be possible. How could I? I’ve been beaten down so many times throughout my life, I’ve been told I’m into good enough and others are better than I am, I’ve been bullied and ridiculed (sometimes for good reason) and I am at the point where I must admit that will always be me… that is never going to change. Either I learn to deal with it – or embrace it – or I’m not sure what.

I know I have to stop being so hard on myself… I honestly feel like I might have a heart attack any day now… or at least some full-blown “take me to the mental hospital” panic attack — but there isn’t time to deal with it effectively. I mean, you can say there isn’t time to not deal with it, but nothing I’ve tried so far has worked. I’m tired of costly therapy that goes no where. At the end of the day, maybe I’m just not cut out for this… business world. I don’t know. There must be others out there in the world who were raised in a similar way I was — children of narcissists, low self esteem, bullied as children, bipolar II, highly anxious, and still making their way in the world somehow. Who are they and how do they cope? Is it possible to rise above all of this to make quick, confident decisions and actually lead effectively? Or is this hopeless? No psychologist would tell me it’s hopeless – they get paid to “fix” these problems – but I want to know, really, if this is hopeless – hopeless in that I’m never going to be the right fit for this, and hopeless in that I should get used to lower-paying jobs where I can maintain a stable living and “dot the i’s” all day in someone else’s vowel-only alphabet.

 

L is for Leadership

You know that quote about how leaders are made, not born? I’m not sure I believe that to be the case. Sure, anyone can become a “B” quality leader, but the best leaders are people who just have something in them that I’ve never had and I never will have.

The hardest part is being able to so easily break out the qualities that I believe it takes to be a leader and look at why I can never achieve these qualities.

1. A Great Leader has The Ability to Say Exactly What She Wants to Say… in as few words as possible
I’m naturally, howdoyousay, verbose. While in writing this verbosity can come off eloquent, in person I am a rambling mess. While I can certain optimize my speech and communication skills, it takes all of my energy, as someone with ADHD, to be able to follow my own train of thought, store relevant comments, and hold them for just the right moment to share them, while also following what everyone else is saying. Typically the scenerio is that I have so much on my mind that either I hold it all in, say nothing at all, and feel frustrated about it — or more often I just blurt out what I feel needs to be said. The thing is, in my world, there is never a good or right time to talk. Unless I literally raise my hand and wait my turn to be called on, I don’t feel comfortable jumping into conversations. I acknowledge that 50% of the time I’m oversharing or overasking, but sometimes I do have good, relevant questions. The problem is that once you’ve shown that you suck at communication, no matter what you say, you’ll never really be listened to again. A great leader never runs into this massive road block in the first place.

2. A Great Leader Can Say No with Authority and Doesn’t Have to Explain Why
The best leaders are so confident that they can navigate the complex world of office politics and prioritization with ease, or at least it seems so “above the water.” When she says no to a project or ask, it’s clear that she has done so for a long line of really good reasons. Simply said, she has her shit together, and whenever she’s asked to explain something she’s able to quickly process her thoughts to output a very clear, simple statement that is taken and accepted as the way it has to be.

3. A Great Leader isn’t an Artist
Leaders cannot be perfectionists — unless they are Steve Jobs and even then there’s a balance of business savvy and communication skills that makes that level of OCD-ism acceptable to certain followers. But 99.999% of leaders are not setting out to create art everyday in everything they do. They do the bare minimum possible to reach the best possible results and move on. Quite frankly, they do not invest so much of their heart and soul into everything they do, because if they did, it would crush them. On the Myers Briggs scale, they rank low on the “Feeling” type. They rule their world by logic, efficiency, and the fastest, most acceptable route to success.

4. A Great Leader Loves to Delegate and Take Credit for Other’s Work
The best leaders know that their success is built on top of the shoulders of an amazing team. Sure, they may have hired and motivated that team to do their best work, but ultimately the success of any given leader is the result of all that work going on behind the magic curtain. I mean, just look at politicians — while they have a natural ability to speak with confidence and to only say the bare minimum, they also have a team of experts advising them on what to say, what to wear, how to move, et al. Leaders are only as effective as they are in convincing people to do a lot of work for them and to then take the majority of credit / reward for that work, all in the name of being a “great manager.”

5. A Great Leader Doesn’t Care What Other People Think
When you’re raised day after day that your opinions are wrong, that anything you think or do that conflicts with your fathers one take on every thing in the world, you get to a point early in life when you become so neurotic about what everyone else thinks and how everything you think or do is wrong that you have no hope of coming off remotely confident. What’s worse, that horrible relationship between you and your parental figures gets played out time and time again in your life, whether that’s a boss who treats you like you’re worthless or worse, you’re set up to return to that sort of mildly abusive type of relationship. It’s the only thing that feels safe and completely awful all at the same time. A great leader would never get caught in such traps. She would immediately showcase her charisma and confidence, and handle any conflict with ease. And if she messed up a small thing, she wouldn’t obsess over it for hours, letting it ruin her day. She really doesn’t give a shit what people think, unless it effects the primary goals she is aiming to achieve.

Here’s the thing. I’m not a leader. I am an operations type person as I see inefficiencies and patterns and can creatively come up with ways to fix them. I come off overly critical of others when in reality I’m much, much more critical of myself, but I can’t for the life of me provide constructive criticism without it coming off like I’m some distant cousin of satan once or twice removed. Either I’m too apologetic or too bitchy or both. I don’t know how the fuck I manage to be both but I do. And every time I hear myself speak I want to fling my fist at my face and run out of the room.

So why write about all this? How does it help? I guess I keep coming back to the question of – do I HAVE to be a leader? Yes, leaders make more money, and yes, I like being in charge (to an extent) and yes, I prefer to lead then to follow bad leadership, but — I’ve never really been a leader even in leadership type roles. I’m always some peon who speaks out of turn and accidentally misses a typo in an email that was blasted out or who can’t multi-task a dozen projects at once and effectively delegate/complete them all without feeling like I needed to have my hand in everything.

It’s challenging to go from being raised focusing on art – where the details matter and you’re supposed to spend time to make things the way you want – to a life where the real world is all about just good enough, not giving a fuck, as my friend puts it, and just getting through another day. It’s sad to me if that’s all life is. I want to care. I know at the end of the day certain things don’t matter… and certainly at the end of the year who will even remember whether something was flawlessly executed or just a step above half assed? I’m not sure. I just know that I have entered a level of stress I haven’t experienced before because this time around I really do care. I care and I love the opportunity on a lot of levels and I want more than anything to be successful. But without having this innate ability to be a leader, I’m not sure how long I can last faking it.

Tenacity and Intellect, the Perfect Combo

For the longest time, I believed that people were either smart or not smart. Either you could easily figure out how to do something or it just wasn’t meant for you. Now, to some extent, that’s true, as some people find certain things easier than others naturally. But one of the things I’ve come to appreciate in life today is that intellect only gets you so far – it’s tenacity that gets you the other however many miles you need to go. But everyone can get there as long you try hard enough.

It has been interesting getting to know my friend better over the last year as he has been preparing for a major exam for graduate school. The amount of focused studying, both self-study and via outside tutors, he put into the exam, showed me how even for a very smart person, the amount of practice required to get a great score takes a lot of work. In fact, even after taking the exam once and scoring very well, but apparently not quite as high as he wanted, he went back to the books, studied even harder, and walked away with one of the best scores you can get on his second try.

Most of my anxiety stems from not knowing how to handle being challenged. When I was a young child, I loved math, doing multiplication workbooks over dinners out waiting for the food to be served in first grade and probably kindergarten. I loved it when it came easy. Then it got harder and I gave up too quickly. My father would get frustrated at me for not understanding things fast enough. I grew distracted and antsy and sad that I couldn’t just get everything as easily as I once did. I gave up way too soon. I gave up because I figured most things in school were irrelevant to my life.

Fast forward X # of years and – I’m still that person who gives up too easily. Who freaks out over every minor imperfection. I’ve never actually witnessed the work it takes to succeed at the highest levels of intellectual performance. And for everyone, even the most intelligent people out there, it takes work. But it’s the work, and the efficiency of that work, that defines their intellect. Focus (to keep attention on one problem until it is solved, even if it has multiple steps), creativity (the ability to think outside the box for answers to problems that are trick questions or don’t have obvious answers), processing power (how fast do you compute?) and memory (how well do you store and receive information) and determination (how quickly do you give up when it gets hard?) are the five core tenants of intellect, IMO. As a person with ADHD I struggle with all except creativity. Every person can become smart is they can fix those four tenants of themselves. Not everyone will be Einstein but we can all get good scores on exams, or be loved by our colleagues for the work we produce, if we try hard enough.

I’m thankful for being able to get to know this friend better over the past year, as his refusal to give up on what he wants, and ultimately walking away with a major victory en-route to the prize, has shown me the truth about being the best person you can be. In 2015, I want to be the best person I can be. I feel inspired. And I know this is going to be a trying but great year.

 

Becoming an Executive Malfunctioning

It’s a rough transition from individual contributor to executive, especially for someone with ADHD. While I’ve gotten to the point in life where I value my innate abilities, I also acknowledge that there are many things vital for moving up in the workforce that do not come naturally to me. I am currently at the point where either I figure out how to fake it well enough that no one realizes this, or giving up.

I don’t want to give up. The opportunity I have today is so great, so exciting, so overwhelmingly awesome that I end up getting to the end of every day and kicking myself for not doing it better. Because I know the best executives know how to be those ducks with their feet kicking hard under water but their faces never flinching. They manage to instantaneously prioritize thousands of projects or project particles while also not slipping up on any details. They are human gods.

There is a reality to my existence, which, at best, puts me into the absent minded professor type category and at worst has me tripping from job to job impressing on one project but failing magnificently on the next. The trick, I’ve learned, is an executive must learn how to make friends and influence people. She must have such charisma that even if other people come up with a great idea and execute on it flawlessly, she will somehow take part of the credit without hoarding all the credit to herself, and seem somehow to effortlessly manage so many moving parts at once. And while she embraces conflict in the right moments, she avoids it in all others. She is everything I’m not and will never be. Continue reading

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.

 

The Thing About Growing Up That They Don’t Tell You in School

Somehow, I’m turning 31 in two months. Wasn’t I just turning 30? Wasn’t I just turning 21? And all that time I had the thought implanted in my head that I was so ahead of so many others because I had a career and didn’t have kids or a husband of my own to get in the way. Those come later – like, once you’re old enough to really have a kid and a husband. I don’t know when. Just later.

With the exception of a few women I grew up with and know who are my age, most have at least one child by now. Many have two. God help me when they start on their third and I’m still not married yet. I’m just in this mega rut. Why can’t I focus at my job? Why can’t I believe in myself enough to get another job? I just feel like I’m living all of this life for absolutely nothing. Of course one needs a job and money to have kids, so there is that. But I don’t know about how to go about a life where I both want to be a mother and be a working woman… when I don’t even really want to work… and I don’t even really want to not work.

I don’t enjoy sitting around on my ass all day doing nothing, despite being awfully talented at it. But I also don’t enjoy spending my life trapped in corporate hell tearing my body apart with stress to promote some product that often times isn’t very good in the first place, so someone else can likely get rich off of it. This is life I know, and a very privileged one at that, and I should stop complaining. But suddenly those stars on shows like Teen Moon and 16 & Pregnant seem to have it all figured out. Meanwhile I’m just wasting away with no purpose. Woe is me, I know. But it makes me so depressed. It makes it hard to do anything at all. And I can’t believe I lost a really good job because I spent too much time worrying about wasting away my life. Well, now I’m wasting away my life and I’m not making any money. That’s not really any better, is it?

I’ve done good work before, I have. But every interview I have is filled with little white lies. They often get called out. I lean on my improv training to bs this or that. I know that I shouldn’t be hired. I worry about not being able to fulfill the job responsibilities. I worry about starting work and then it going so well that I put off having a family for another few years until it’s too late. And no job is really going to be better than my last one… I had such a great opportunity and I blew it. The company wasn’t perfect but no company is. I am the one who blew it. And now I have to deal with the repercussions.

Yes, I’m getting interviews, or at least a couple of them. One this morning I wanted to just stop in the middle and excuse myself from the application process because I just don’t have work samples to support all those things I had to say I’ve done before to get the interview in the first place.  Then the one company that really wants to hire me wants me for the most senior role of all, one I’m ill equipped to succeed in, one that I want but one that I want in about 10 years when I’m actually ready for it and by then god willing I’ll have two children and won’t want to spend all my time in upper management and never see my kids.

Part of me wants to just apply and hopefully get some basic administrative role. It won’t pay as well at all and I haven’t been that great at administrative work previously, but maybe now I’d at least appreciate it more. I just wish I had someone to talk to about all this, someone who could provide good advice but also who isn’t delusional about my actual abilities. I just feel like everything is falling apart, no more than normal except the slowly draining bank account, but I just can’t deal with it all. So I get further depressed. I start thinking about how lovely it would just be to disappear right now because no matter what I’m going to fail.

I understand from the outside that sounds dramatic but it’s reality. People want to hire people who can come up with things to do and get them done. I can’t do the first part. I have no confidence. My parents taught me to doubt myself every possible instant I could, and I still do. I wish I knew what it was like to feel confident, like I could be successful, like I deserved anything at all that I have. But all I feel is hopeless. Incompetent and hopeless and miserable. So what I wonder is, what is there that I can do where I can make some kind of money to survive and also consistently offer value to an organization? Is there anything I can do? Is there anything I won’t mess up?