It doesn't always have to be about technology. Being diagnosed with ADHD about two years now, it’s time I start sharing some of the feelings encountered and tricks to deal with it. This post is a little introduction to ADHD in general and a few behind the curtains in the story of my life. After this post I will start sharing how I learn to deal with it.
I’ve always had somewhat better capabilities than what I was doing at that time. The logical result of that in our modern society is that you rise through promotion to your level of incompetence (Peter Principle). I’ve encountered this path twice now in my 15 years of working.
This first time was shortly after I left school at 18 (in the middle of a class) when I got into the graphics industry. I started as DTP-Operator, moved on to Graphical Designer and was Project Manager at the age of 23. I managed interior signage projects for the biggest architect studios or 5-star hotel chains in Belgium. At age 26 and after 6 years of service I got “thanked for my services”. The company would be heading a new direction and I was not included.
Having followed a bachelor program Networking Engineer in evening school I started from scratch as a Systems Administrator, moved on to Systems Engineer, Implementation Consultant en within again just a few years made it to Team-Lead. And yet again, there were cracks in the system. I was working over 60 hours a week including all-nighters, but with very little efficiency, losing about 80% of my projects.
It’s here and then that my manager at the time jokingly said, probably to avoid to embarrass me, to have a look at ADHD. He went to a reading at his son’s school about the subject and it related a lot to me.
Every-time there is a conversation about the symptoms of ADHD someone will say “oh, I have that too”. This is very normal; ADHD is not a yes/no disease/disorder/malfunction/… like cancer or blindness or being paralised. No, it’s a combination of symptoms that all together will lead to a diagnose. Let me elaborate with a graphic.
ADHD will be diagnosed when most of the symptoms are consistently there and cause problems in the life of the person. That’s why the psychologist and psychiatrist you contact will interview your spouse and/or parents. They will investigate for example your school reports. This by the way is my school track record in a graph:
From the moment I needed to work for my grades – aka performing efficiently according to a specific program – we notice a consistent failure. This could be normal for someone that is not able to cope with subjects that are above his/her head. This is NOT normal when the difficulty level of the followed courses consistently drops and the person has an above average intelligence. So I got labelled “lazy”.
Deal with it!
After reading a few books I had hit a wall mentally. Seriously, if you get confronted at age 30 with something that has caused the most problems in your life till then, I can assure you it’s not going to be pretty. Suddenly you do realise that you have failed dozens of long term projects right at the end, that your obnoxious behaviour from time to time is not bad behaviour, that forgetting details is not laziness or arrogance, … they are all ways your brain is tricking you.
The best part? I can deal with it now! I will start writing a series of the things I have changed in my life. Having ADHD has a big impact on your family. I have a few tips and tricks that have helped us (while still not easy!). It has a big impact on your career path. As many of you have noticed I am on a non-standard career path now and this is one of the reasons. But the biggest impact is on the day-to-day job. Family and Career Path are things that grow but there is a day-to-day life with specific hurdles and dangers for failure.
What’s in it for you? As most of the things I have changed are ways to cope with an inefficient lifestyle, they are universal tips that can help anyone! For me they are necessary, for you they can be optional benefits.
I have noticed that there are more people in IT with AD(H)D so I would like to encourage them to engage in the conversation and tell me their tricks as well. I will create a list of links on a separate blogpost.
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