What It’s Really Like To Build A Career When You Have Severe ADHD

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Getting a job has never really been the difficult thing for me — I’m fairly outgoing and am a very positive person. I’ve always been able to at least make a favorable impression in interviews because I have a good personality, and present myself professionally. For me, it’s keeping the job that is the real problem. Once I’ve started working, my difficult habits start to surface. I’ve bounced around from so many positions simply because of my shortcomings, that come with a disorder I only found out I had within the last year: ADHD. I’ve never been in an office job for longer than two years and it’s very draining, emotionally and physically, especially if you move through most of your life not understanding what’s causing you to struggle.

I would often call myself “stupid” or say, “I’m an idiot,” and I truly believed it until I was diagnosed. It’s very easy to experience depression when you lack the self-esteem to accomplish simple things that “regular” people do every day in an office. As a young professional, ADHD has definitely changed how I am perceived. Office life is a constant challenge. Before my diagnosis, I was constantly making careless errors, which ended up costing me the respect of my colleagues. I often make spelling errors, forget items for events, forget to reserve rooms or order items, etc. I’ve been trying to get this problem under control, am taking medication, and have started to develop good habits. Even though I’m working on it, I still feel like I’m treated differently than my other coworkers. I’m scrutinized more, and feel like I’m often portrayed as incompetent.

In college, my grades suffered, and I wasn’t able to engage in a lot of opportunities and activities on campus. I miss deadlines, forget to show up to things, and have trouble sticking with one task. ADHD makes seemingly normal tasks, that your average person can complete with relative ease, an absolute nightmare. I suffer from the inattentive type of ADHD, which means I miss and forget the simplest of details because my mind will drift off in the middle of a task, and I’ll forget what I was working on initially. 

The best way I can explain my situation is like this: having ADHD is like having a block attached to your ankle in a race, and not knowing that it’s there. People are always getting ahead of you, and you wonder why everyone can move so freely when you’re struggling just to make a single step. I try to remain positive, and do whatever I can each day, so that I can eventually live the life that I want to live, as opposed to the one I think I have to because of my disorder.

I’ve been bouncing from job-to-job, but I now know that I want my path to lead into teaching. Unfortunately, I currently owe at least $18,000 to my alma matter as an unpaid balance, which is preventing the release of my transcripts. This has completely blocked my ability to go to graduate school, as colleges and universities will often hold your official transcripts hostage if you don’t wipe out that balance. I also have a few other bills that I struggle with — an unfortunate trait of people with ADHD is our inability to handle money well, but I am trying to improve. I used to often forget which bills needed to be paid, or would pay them in advance, and forget. For the last decade, I’ve always lived paycheck-to-paycheck, barely moving the needle on my debt. It’s crushing because I’d like to eventually go to grad school, or become a homeowner, but in my current situation, it seems extremely unlikely.

I would love to be an English teacher, but in Massachusetts there are a couple of obstacles to clear before you can get to that point. In order to obtain a license of any sort, you’ll need to release your official college transcripts, which I am unable to do thanks to my unpaid balance situation. I have looked at many different positions that offer alternative pathways, but the transcripts are the one constant that hold me back. I am currently an administrative assistant, who really works as an events coordinator, which, as you can imagine, is an incredibly difficult position for me. I coordinate events weekly, and I’ve been here for a year and half. I’ve rediscovered my passion for teaching through my part-time job teaching acting and personal development. I’ve been doing this for five years now, and was actually promoted recently. My success with this is reaffirming, and I feel so strongly about pursuing teaching, but with the amount of debt I have, and my disorder in hand, I have two very real threats to my future success and overall happiness.

Currently, I’m 28, and am locked in at a relatively low salary, trying to figure out how I can move up, or make more, to expedite paying down my debt. I am still learning, and looking for any good advice I can get.

Image via Unsplash

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