October 28, 2010

Memory & Sleep & Something Else But Can't Remember

So this is a quick post, coming after having had a poor sleep for nearly a week. Our little boy got sick with a virus, and had a rash and joint swelling. Poor little guy couldn't walk with the pain, and he hardly slept. Lots of crying (him, not us...). He is feeling better, and my wife is staying home today and tomorrow to be with him. Poor little guy.

I've been sick myself. Another accursed headache this morning - I've popped some Tylenol.

Like a lot of experiential knowledge, you just don't know until you know, but this I feel exquisitely this morning: lack of sleep exacerbates memory problems. And all the more so if you have ADHD, i.e. where you have a pre-existing memory condition. I write about working memory deficits elsewhere in this blog.
"[...]adults with ADHD are thought to have deficits of working memory as exemplified by less ability to attend to, encode, and manipulate information. Such deficits in working memory may decrease the ability to filter out distractions, which contribute to further symptoms of inattention in adults with ADHD."
I forgot to put the recycling out this morning. I haven't forgotten in a LONG while. I forgot a bunch of things and have been procrastinating getting things done. Admittedly, it is hard to do work, and cross off to-do list items when you're taking care of a little one, so I'm not being too hard on myself there... but the memory thing is quite tangible today. I am going to keep my notebook with me at all times today (my personal 5" by 7" paper notebook in which I record to-do items and notes).

I will return to writing shortly - hope all is well in your world,



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October 15, 2010

Adult ADHD and Workplace / Jobs & Employment Issues

I went to a seminar at the Ontario Science Center earlier this year to hear psychiatrist Umesh Jain, and ADHD advocate, writer, and comedian Rick Green talk about Adult ADHD. The topic being discussed at that point was employment difficulties for adults with ADHD. The person who sat beside me leaned over and told me that she'd had over 35 jobs and that she was 35 years old. I was stunned - I think I was at 17 at that point, at age 39 (more below). It was not such an uncommon story amongst other audience members.

Sitting there in the audience, I was stunned to see over a hundred other adults who had been diagnosed with ADHD in their adult years. They all looked normal - no prehensile tails, no little horns... and at the same time, I felt like I was with a group of people who understood everything about my struggles. Because they'd gone through them too. It was uncanny, it was almost surreal. I had not yet been diagnosed, and had been recommended by a therapist to look into an assessment.

But back to jobs.

The typical diagnostic triangle for Adult ADHD is impulsivity, distractibility and (generally mental) hyperactivity. This does not bode well for an employee at a conventional office workplace.

Impulsive comments and behaviours can flag you as erratic, unusual, weird, and lead to you being excluded from the group to which you belong. Being in management as I am, this can be disastrous, because trust, conformity and communication is key to management relations (perhaps more so than in non-management roles).

Being distractible will help ensure that you never quite get priority items done on time, because you're off on a tangent and never sticking with that documentation or presentation you needed to get completed. Not delivering on deadline can be a career-limiting habit. Plus you'll miss essential discussion points during meetings and probably be perceived to be annoying as you keep looking at your BlackBerry, or out the window, or start twirling your pen in circles around and around and around and around and around. You will not be perceived as being 'present'. People may regard that as disrespectful behaviour, even though it has nothing to do with disrespect, and everything to do with attentional inconsistency.

Hyperactivity - which in adults becomes internalized as opposed to the stereotypical whirling dervish child, racing from place to place, screaming out loud - becomes internalized as the adult develops coping strategies over the years. Hyperactivity presents in the Adult ADHD individual as fast thoughts and speech. You may talk so much and so intensely that no-one gets a chance to add their own perspective and opinions, and you'll have a difficult time getting to hear and learn about other people. Getting to know other people is important at the workplace, and if you don't develop relationships based on mutual understanding and respect, you may be shunned from the group. It is quite annoying to be on the receiving end of someone's fast-paced talking. And because they're thinking so fast, they'll be jumping ahead in topics faster than the pace of the average person, and be perceived as being erratic and disjointed in thought - even though they actually are simply naturally progressing through the topic as you would - if your brain was sped up.

These symptoms have affected me negatively at all of my jobs.

Since I left university (where I studied cognitive psychology), I have worked as the following:
  1. Butcher
  2. Support Worker for developmentally handicapped adults
  3. Counselor at a custody facility
  4. Developer / Programmer
  5. Lead Developer
  6. Project Manager
  7. Production Manager
  8. Project Manager (contract)
  9. Business Analyst / Information Architect (contract)
  10. Project Manager (contract)
  11. Operations Manager
  12. Project Manager (contract)
  13. Development Manager
  14. Program / Project Manager (contract)
  15. Project Manager
  16. Project Manager
  17. Applications & Systems Manager
17 jobs in the last 15 years. The first 15 jobs took place over the first 11 years. The last 2 roles have been at my present company and have lasted nearly 4 years. This is a good trend, I'd say.

And now, since I have been diagnosed and taking treatment and medication for Adult ADHD, I see my successes at work increasing, and my satisfaction improving. Work can be hard and trying for all, and for those with Adult ADHD all the more so. I may even have more jobs to add to this list in time, but I now know that my experiences will improve and my struggles will lessen. This gives me great hope.

I would love to hear comments from other folks about any ADHD related employment stories - do share!


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