When your best isn’t good enough… reassess

(This is a hard post. My head keeps finding ways of not sharing it, so bear with me)

Some people like making new years resolutions – new year, new me.

 

Others, like myself, get fired at the beginning of the new year and are forced to start anew.

 

I wish I could blame my ADHD for my getting fired, I really do, but the truth is, though I have a hard time keeping a job, it’s usually me who quits. More often than not, I’m an extremely valued employee by all, most of all by my colleagues. Out of the 3 times I’ve been fired in my life, I can honestly say that I was only once at fault; it was only once that my ADHD caused me to act up and blow up in my boss’ face – and let me tell you, even without shouting and insulting, that boss of mine a couple of years ago had every harsh word coming to her.

 

One other time, I was caught in a wave of layoffs and selecting me was a political move (I was too close to the worker’s union).

 

This time, I unknowingly annoyed the boss’ mommy. I’ll spare you the details, I’l only say this much: it’s not normal that a grown-ass woman refuses to even look somene in the eye, after that someone got her ass ripped by the boss and is humbly saying “I do apologize for causing such a misunderstanding”. You at least look at that apologetic person in the eye, if not with your chin up high and your hand triumphantly on your hip.

 

But I received not so much as a glance while apologizing for a slight I did not even commit. There was only an incompreehnsible mumble from someone who herself had accused me of being unpolite. And after a month of depressively dragging myself to work everyday because I knew my being fired was eminent, it happened.

 

I was summoned to the boss’ office and fired the first week-day after New Year (mind you, I was working on the 1st of January), after I had finished my shift. I still had two weeks left to work according to my contract, though no one – boss included – would expect me to show up. Since I had the next two days off, I decided to sleep on it. I was considering on keeping up my end of the contract and go to work, show up two days later, chin up and enjoy the shock and horror on the face of the lady who was the reason for my being fired. But I do have a tendency to depression and anxiety and my feelings eventually got the best of me.

 

Constantly torn between the beginnings of an anger black-out and the verge of tears, I decided to do the best for my health and go to the doctor and apply for sick leave on grounds of temporary mental instability, no matter the financial consequences. I thought I’d be in such a state of shock that I’d be very coherent when talking to my doctor, but as soon as she asked what was up, I turned into a snotty, sobbing mess.

 

It’s easy to hit a low when you have ADHD – or any other form of mental impairment, I would assume – but it’s even easier when everything around you crumbles down despite your best efforts. Despite informing myself about my condition, things can still go to hell when they’re not supposed to – I won’t say I’m never snipety with people anymore, but I’ve been getting very VERY good at managing it, and I ended up alienating someone with whom I had never had a real problem anyway.

 

I wallowed in self pity for a few hours and after remembering myself and feeling a bit positive, I’m indulging in cooking, talking with friends and family and reading up even more about avoiding and solving work conflicts for people who have ADHD. But what is more importment, I’m reassessing what really is my best effort and why it’s not working.

 

So far, I’ve come up with the notion that my best effort might be brilliant but totally misplaced. I’ve had the feeling that I need a dramatic change in my life, and I’m going to put my best efforts into making that change now. I just hope it won’t come back to bite me in the ass!

Stand up to your bullies! – my dealings with irritability

I have a really big problem with people. Like massive! Like I’m all thumbs when it comes to people – that intricate, living piece of work. I also suffer from extreme irritability because of my ADHD – the one symptom that finally tipped my shrink off. But I try. It’s extremely tiresome. For a long time I shut up and kept it all in in fear I might explode – the occasions on which I could muster up the inner peace to talk it out with a “Workplace-bully” were very rare. I did this because I did explode once in a while – when I couldn’t keep it in. But my shrink, prescription drugs and lots of soul-searching, ADHD-literature reading and blog-chatting with fellow ADHDers has made me take amazing strides lately I wouldn’t have believed possible a few months ago. A huge one was today.

I’ve had a new job for 3 weeks now, which is always very tough for someone who is irritable – everyone trying to tell you what is what, many people assuming you might be some kind of retard when it comes to small stuff and then assuming you’ve been there your whole life when it comes to big stuff… the works. At my new workplace, although no one will get loud, there is a MASSIVE lack of respect for co-workers: quickly mixing something on your work bench and leaving an uncleaned mess, taking stuff and not returning, using all the butter up and not replacing it… There is one colleague, though – and I’ll call him Lenny – who is worst than all others.

Lenny is an old-fashioned man who is used to have it his way because he’s about 60 at a workplace where the average age is 25. He’s used to play the age card among kids and claim to be important because of the extra-time he makes – like no one else makes extra-time. Lenny likes to bring his old cartons to weigh stuff on our scale and wordlessly toss the cartons into [b]our[/b] pile of carton for recycling, without even flattening the boxes, instead of disposing of them himself. Lenny also insisted on telling me yesterday, when I was getting rid of our carton – our boxes neatly flattened and folded and his in original shape – that I’m supposed to flatten the cartons (insert ORly owl here). Lenny likes to come in our room and, while turned my back to pick up a shovel of sugar, wordlessly toss my container from the scale and put his own carton for weighing there. Lenny likes to come into our room and, when I turn my back to pick up something, spread his shit all over my work bench.

Lenny is an entitled asshole.

Today I had enough. When I left the room for a minute to pick something up and caught him mixing something my work bench, I called him on it: “No, Lenny. That’s my work bench and I need it, go work someplace else, plenty of tables around” (2 empty tables, to be exact, and several other surfaces suitable for what he was doing at the moment) and Lenny says “I’ll be done in a minute.”

I sighed. The nerve! “Lenny, I don’t need my bench in a minute I need it right now. I don’t care, I’m squeezing in, so scooch!” I picked up my trays and started carefully squeezing them between my setup and Lenny “Get away! I said I’ll be done in a minute!”. Jesus, seriously?

Since I didn’t want to fall in the ridicule of being brushed off of my workplace, I decided to start pulling jokes. I started playfully squeezing more and more and leaning into him – people who don’t like to be touched usually get the drill and move away, but although he only had one small item on his hands, he was still taking up all of my space and refusing to move or see the flaw in his behaviour. It was unnerving.

Since he had replied in a very snippy fashion, I moved away from him and walked around him to face him and told him “This is some nerve coming from you, Lenny! There are plenty of tables around here and you have to take my bench. This is not right! I don’t go to your workplace and get in your way!”. Ridiculously, as if anyone would believe it, he replied “Well, you can.” Well, I told him “No, that’s just not how it works. …….. Lenny, I’m gonna take your bowl away pretty soon.” and still that entitled asshole wouldn’t budge. So, instead of being agressive and snapping the bowl from under his hands – which I could, standing where I was – I resorted once again to playfulness, grabbed his bowl with both hands, and very gently as not to disrupt his work, I started slowly pulling his bowl “Lenny, enooooough, I need my bench…” big mistake. Oh, did he snap big time. He almost shouted at me to stop, not pester him, how rude of me, etc. I was flabbergasted. Really, I was. I didn’t even feel like smacking him, I was just so shocked at such an anti-social behaviour I had no words left in me.

But funny enough, he was either very upset or he really did finish his work and grumpily moved away from my work bench. I was, by then, feeling very jittery and shaky from the conflict, but I took a deep breath and started working. Lenny, however, would not let it go. He still had to use a machine in the other end of the room, and he mauled at me from there the whole time. Mostly stuff along the lines of me being rude, and the nerve on me to disrupt his work and that I needed to respect him. I replied from where I was “The same goes to you, mister!” that only agitated him more. I realized he wanted to have the last word and whenever he angrily mumbled I had to respect him, I said “right back at ya!” – I will not have someone this disrespectful get away with such comments about me – and he got even more rude and said “You just shut up! You be quiet right now! The nerve, trying to take my bowl away from me while I’m working…”. I said he was the one still talking and, after musing on giving in to my mean streak to provoke him unendlessly and deciding against it, I forced myself to let him have the last word.

But he wouldn’t stop. I realized he didn’t want the last word, he wanted the last 100 words. He kept on ranting and ranting to himself, and first I kept quiet, but eventually it became so tiresome I said “You’re the one still talking, I’ve been quiet for a while now.”. When I heard im again ranting about how disrespectful I was and he wouldn’t stand for it and he’d go to the boss if I didn’t show any manners, I suddenly snapped.

Truth be told, I would’ve LOVED to go to the boss. Because first of all, I can’t imagine the boss would take drastic measures and secondly, even if I got fired, I don’t want to work with disrespectful people who will get away with anything. But I did realize I had ruffled feathers up with no intention. I dropped what I was doing, and calmly walked to him.

That’s when I saw the man was red like a tomato. I could swear even his eyes and hair had turned red. He refused to look at me. Not in an arrogant way, but in a furious and beaten down way, like he couldn’t believe anyone had dared stand up to him. Because you see, no one does. He’s like a big child. People all around me will let people like him be disrespectful and will shrug it off with an “old dogs don’t learn new tricks”. They enable this. And I simply refuse to play along. Not when it’s this bad.

Although he kept telling me to shut up and go away, I said “Lenny, I think I unintendely offended you, it is not what I was going for. I simply wanted to get to my work and decided to make a joke out of it, I was obviously unsuccessful at that…” – “You’re damn right you were!” but still no eye contact. I kept looking at him straight in the face and went on “I realize that now. I didn’t mean to offend you and I’m sorry. I need you to know that I meant no disrespect and will try my best that it doesn’t happen again in the future. (where the hell was all this coming from?! I kept surprising myself) I do need, however, that you try not to interfere with my work”.

The rest is kind of history. He was obviously still very upset and kept ranting at how disrespectful I was and how he’ll always take my table if he feels like he needs it. But after I told him my mind, I went back to my work, still jittery and obviously distracted, but I did my best and he eventually had to leave the room. He was flustered, but quite on his toes for a while (“this filth here on the microwave wasn’t me, ok?! Just so you know! Before anyone tries to pin it on me!”).

There was, you might surprised, a 3rd person present in the room the whole time – another colleague who I’m still not very fond of and who made no attempt to mitigate the situation or help in any way. She just came to me after a while and said “Boy, I think you really struck a nerve with Lenny….” I said I noticed it too, but I’m very particular about my workplace and I simply cannot have it when someone not only takes my space, they refuse to apologize or even admit a fault on their side. She added “I’m just saying, don’t be surprised if he’s in a bad mood when he needs to come in here…” I told her “I picked up on that already. But  I already apologized and explained what’s up. From here on, I’ll just stay polite and things normally work themselves out. And if not, it’s certainly not MY problem.”

It was a great achievement for me, keeping my cool in a situation like this and still confronting someone. I just felt it was too bad I had to have a similar situation with my sister later on, but this post is long enough as it is.

“Victims” standing up for themselves

Kinda had another fight with my sis a couple of weeks ago. She, a regular person, is of the opinion that our society is a big meanie that doesn’t leave any room for people with mental disabilities (syndromes, abnormalities, special snow-flakeism, whatever) like ADD/ADHD. Me, having ADHD, well I got my feathers quite ruffled. While I have no problem with calling my mind abnormal or saying I’m disabled or that I have an attention deficit, I have a big… no a HUGE problem with people trying to put me in the role of the victim. So not only are you telling me I’m not normal, you’re telling me I’m sub-par (which isn’t the same) AND I’m a poor helpless little thing who can’t function unless the cream of society enables me to do so? Well, screw you very much.

A couple a days ago, there was another “incident” at work. I work on a bench opposite to the section chief. When the section chief is done pouring batter into about 20 cake-pans, he starts pushing the pans in the oven 3 at a time and he expects someone, ANYONE in the room to notice and wordlessly run to help him.

Not only that, he sometimes decides it’s a good idea to shout at the closest person (usually me, but only because of the working place arrangement, it’s not personal) when they fail to help him. So I was dividing my sparse focus between what I was doing and my wandering mind – sometimes I notice him, sometimes I don’t. Last week I didn’t. The colleague working behind me actually did (!) and promptly helped him. Not happy enough that he was getting help, my section chief, imagine that, started shouting at me for not helping him (!): “It’s amazing! It’s amazing how you fail to help! Just look away and screw the rest! Can’t count on you for help!”

This sort of daily abuse is especially hard for someone with ADHD and anger issues, but it’s still abuse. Well, my meds were actually working fine that day, so instead of unbearable anger, I felt deeply annoyed at the most, shrugged and told him “I’m totally focused on what I’m doing, didn’t notice.” which prompted my colleague into joining the bullying “Sure you are, where as I’m totally unfocused on my work and notice stuff like this!”

Fuck…

I kept my jolly face and admitted my mistake with sarcasm “Of course you are unfocused. I wasn’t trying to imply anything else!”. Still, my section chief kept angrily yapping at me, about my excuses, about this, about that, so I turned to him and said in the most jolly tone of voice I could muster “Look, you’ve known me for MONTHS now. How can you still expect me to notice? How can you still think I’m doing it on purpose, really?” eventually, the chief kept going on with his angry banter, but a friendly grin had creeped onto his face. Crisis averted. With a lot of nerves and effort. And ritalin.

Here’s the thing: the ADHD patient in me is annoyed and insecure because, once again, I didn’t notice something obvious that someone else in the room noticed. I felt that I wasn’t dealt a whole hand for this game. Again.

But the human in me can’t help noticing that f***ing asswipe of a human being would rather open his mouth to humiliate someone instead of opening his mouth to ask for help. And THAT has nothing to do with me, ADHD or society’s ability to accommodate any sort of minority.

blind-Luck vs look-between-the-lashes-Luck

Some people think that life is all about blind-luck, but the thought of not being able to control anything is way too spooky for me. I’m not a fan of thinking you can control everything through hard-work and sheer willpower either – because well, you’re definitely not getting anything if you don’t work for it, sure; but working for something is not a complete guarantee that you will get it, you’re not god! You’re not omnipotent! There are external factors and you can’t control it all! And I think anyone will know at least one person to whom this applies. I do feel one has to keep optimistic, but assuming you didn’t get something because you just didn’t put your heart into ir or because – bullshit alert – you were unconsciously sabotaging yourself because deep inside you knew it wasn’t for you…. well, that’s the slippery slope towards self-loathe.

But it doesn’t all come to blind-luck. If you remember being a kid and trying to fool someone, you might remember closing your eyes to the point where they really looked like they were closed, but you could still see through a fine blur of your own eyelashes and “guess”. We grownups seem to have mastered the art of seeing life’s choices through the eyelashes and make what we called “pondered choices” or at least “educated guesses”. Looking between the lashes will sometimes even help focus things that aren’t clear.

You still need a certain amount of luck. You can write a kick-ass job application to your dream firm and if you get the job, you might become successful enough to be quoted in bold in a magazine saying you “worked hard and that’s how it goes”, but if you get to a certain age, you’ll know more than one person who wrote a kick-ass job application to their dream firm, worked really hard and only got a nervous breakdown and lasting psychic damage to show for. And you better pray that someone isn’t you!

It isn’t me. At least so far, and I’m still willing to try everyday until this ridiculously resilient body gives up or I get into a constant comfort zone. But on a bad day, the thought of this randomness will knock the air right of my lungs. Some mornings, I’m performing the easiest tasks at work that even a simple monkey can do, listening to the same people telling me the most obvious stuff I already know about my tasks, alternating between “Yessir” and “I know, I know, you told me before” and letting my thoughts roam free, and I’ll suddenly have to force myself into sighing for breath and mutter “Jesus f***, how did my life get this complicated?”.

I’ll tell you how: I squinted, like everyone else. My best friend squinted and got all the happiness she deserves. I’m still working at it: trying to make better choices based on squinting, waiting for the results of my squinting to land me to a better place and working on accepting what I can’t change. I’m miles away from where I want to be and miles ahead from where I was only a couple of years ago. Like the Germans say “only those who don’t do anything never make mistakes”. But just in case the mistakes aren’t really always mine, I’m looking for solutions. 

Dear special snowflakes, what’s so wrong about being disabled?

After my ADD diagnose,  I decided I’d look for people who were facing the same stuff in WordPress Blogs. Well, that was fun. I stumbled upon the same two types of posts over and over again:

  1. I have ADD/ADHD. My life is so f***in’ hard and I’m so worthy of comprehension and everyone should totally adapt to me!
  2. I have ADD/ADHA! I’m not disabled! I do not have a deficit in anything! My thought process is f***in’ special and you either should worship me if you’re normal (ptui!) or I’m going to show you why you’re better than everyone else for having ADD!

This was like a rage trip to me, because well… I had just found out why some things seemed to be so hard for me, and finally I knew what I was up against! I knew what and where to look for the tools to make my life easier! Sure, people around me are entertained by my gripping way of telling stories in a detailed zig-zag fashion to the point where they sometimes don’t remember if they saw it or if I told them about it”. BUT!

Most people aren’t telling you we usually have it rought at work. Damn it, I have it rough at work because I can’t really focus. That doesn’t make me better than others, that makes me a person in a percarious work-situation. Worse: a person who is easily upset and anxious from noticing how bad the situation is.

I’m not bothered by the word normal because normal *drumroll* is the norm We live in a society that, for the most part, actually makes room for the abnormal. I don’t feel at liberty to tell at work that I have ADD, but I told my friends about it and they’re part of *drumroll* society. Two of actually them told me to my face, they don’t believe in my “disability” (seriously?) but they’re so happy that the pills I’m taking are having such a positive placebo effect on me (SERIOUSLY?!) and guess what: we’re all still friends.

Now, I see others insisting that “attention deficit disorder” is an awful way to describe it. We’re neither disabled nor deficient. Guys: normal people have the use of their legs. A few don’t. It’s a disability. Normal people have brains capable of making enough dopamin and serotonin. Some of us don’t. That’s a disability too, ableit less visible.

It’s not helpful for people in wheelchairs to think they’re “just different”. It’s not helpful for us to think like that either. I’m very able to walk up the stairs and they have to find a ramp, yes, they have it rougher than me. But guess what: when they finally get to their deskjob, they sit there and focus on their work. I run to work and struggle to focus on the job.

It is helpful to me to work on this. The fact that it’s helpful for normal people is just collateral.