I’ve been at my part-time job longer than anyone. Even though it’s only been a year, everyone else has either quit, or been fired. This may not sound like a triumph, but given my past work history and my struggles with undiagnosed ADHD, it is. Even if no one but me knows it, it is. In the past, it was me quitting or being fired.
Prior to my ADHD diagnosis, one of several part-time jobs I’d held was as a salesperson in a bookstore. I thought it was going to be a dream job because I love books. The reality of it was that I cracked under the pressure.
Retail and untreated ADHD don’t mix
I hadn’t realized that a job like retail sales – dealing with bad management, cranky and irrational customers, while multitasking and working for peanuts during hours that no one else would want, was difficult for anyone. For me – as it turned out – it was next-to-impossible.
At the time, my confidence had been badly shaken by years of being repeatedly misunderstood, and decades of spinning my wheels, going nowhere. My pre-diagnosis roadblocks plagued me, and no amount of therapy, meditation, positive thinking, peace, love OR pixie dust, could turn my frustration into stable, happy employment.
This is why I treasure the changes I can measure today, now that I understand how untreated ADHD affected my life. I savor the small triumphs of enjoying going into work; of a warm, easy rapport with my fellow employees; of actually being happy when a customer walks in the door. I’ve come a long way, baby!
In my previous retail job, the younger staff members’ gossip and chit-chat bored me to tears. My lack of social skills left me with no clue as to how to fit in, and as a result, I always felt tense and on guard while at work. I dreaded the next time when I’d inevitably mess up or offend someone with an odd remark or a question that seemed incomprehensible to anyone but me.
Working the cash register was disastrous. Even though I have University-level math, the anxiety of working that clanging machine made me break into beads of sweat. At the same time as I looked down my nose at the teeny-bopper clerks who couldn’t count back change, I couldn’t remember the right buttons for this item or that, which discounts apply to what, or how to properly execute a return. I could write a full-length non-fiction book, complete with five years of research and hundreds of interviews, but I freaked out under the pressure of a queue of impatient shoppers.
Given all this, it’s even more amazing to me that I’ve lasted at my current job as long as I have.
Headed for an ADHD melt-down?
Everything was going swimmingly until, recently, I was put on full-time for the Christmas rush.
Knowing that ADHD is a context-driven disorder, I worried that this would be the beginning of the end.
“Context-driven disorder” means that, while those of us with ADHD may function well in certain circumstances (like working, say, 9 or 12 hours a week at a part-time retail sales job), in other circumstances (like me at a cash register at Christmastime), we lose it. Our brains get overwhelmed, overloaded, and our ADHD symptoms run amok.
I’ve been imagining my hard-won workplace success quickly dissolving into a stress-fuelled disaster. I’ve fantasized about having 10 people waiting impatiently in line, and me suddenly being unable to understand my Mother Tongue or do simple math.
Then there’s the energy thing. Even with treatment, many ADHDers feel like it takes them 20 times more energy than others to accomplish the same tasks. I am no exception.
I’ve been worrying that working full-time will suck me dry, leaving me with little or no energy to work at my own office.
So far, so good…thanks to divine intervention!
How am I doing so far? Last week, I worked three full days and went home early, feeling ill, on the fourth.
This week, we’ve had so much snow that the army’s been called out to rescue stranded motorists; after trudging to work in my winter boots and snow pants, I was sent home early as the town shut down. Today, I was told to stay home for what we colloquially refer to as a “snow day.”
It’s 10 more days ‘til Christmas. So far, so good. With a little help from providence, I think I’m going to make it! Ho ho ho!!
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Last reviewed: 20 Dec 2010