For the first 50 years of my life ADHD held me back, but I didn’t know it. It wasn’t good. All my running in one spot was frustrating. With a concerted effort I could make progress, but only so much progress and only for so long. The strain of concentrating on one objective was overwhelming, and often I’d fall behind in other ways.
I never stopped to wonder why “making progress” wasn’t a state of being I could achieve and maintain. I mean, should I not have been able to become a progressive person who could set a course for constant improvement, advancement and promotion?
Why couldn’t I just, in my own awkward way, move not only through, but also ahead in life?
Being unable to keep up with the multiple requirements of a normal existence, I would often lie in bed at night and take inventory of the things I’d forgotten to take care of. No big surprise that I figured out early in life that being in management was not an option for me. I couldn’t manage the multifaceted requirements of day-to-day life as a young man, how could I manage other people’s days?
In 1979, Katherine Lawrence and Marianne Schreiber of Hewlett-Packard referred to an invisible limiting barrier to promotion as the “Glass Ceiling.”
The “glass walls” of ADHD can be just as limiting. They have the distinct additional feature, however, of being maintained, to some extent, by the person with ADHD. I don’t mean that we actively hold ourselves back, but that our ADHD makes it difficult for us to apply consistent effort.
The limits placed on women in the workplace are, in my opinion, unacceptable. My comparison to the term “glass ceiling” is only for visual effect. They see advancement that is not attainable due to the prejudices of others who are in a position to hold them back.
We, on the other hand, see opportunities for lateral distraction that cause us to relax our efforts to maintain forward momentum. Worse yet, we can often be distracted from the advances we make laterally by further distractions. (Heaven help the woman who is up against the glass ceiling and surrounded by ADHD’s glass walls.)
We have an additional problem. We don’t notice the the lack of forward movement in any detail. The “big picture” shows that we are falling behind, but when we try to focus on why, we lose ourselves in minutiae. We can see the forest, or we can see the trees, but we can’t look at the trees and maintain a working map of the forest in our minds.
To put it in “glass walls” perspective, we’re looking for a door in the wall, but once we find it we’ve lost our direction, we’re not sure whether to turn right or left, or go straight ahead, once we get through the door.
While these things I’ve described here today are the result of ADHD and not of being undiagnosed, they are the things I’ve observed in the undiagnosed part of my life with my 20-20 hindsight.
Being undiagnosed and going through what I’ve just described means that you deal with it without knowing you face more barriers than others.
On Friday I’ll be discussing what changes can occur with a diagnosis.
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Last reviewed: 2 Nov 2011