it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I‘ve been working retail for years, despite the fact that I hate it and am not very good at it. I can fake it well enough that I’ve kept jobs and got raises/promotions, but it’s not healthy for me. I’ve also been doing freelance video work, mostly for artists and musicians, which has given me a nice, freaky portfolio that I love.

Then COVID happened, and as I’m lucky enough to be married (even though COVID also took the wedding we had planned away from us, we got married in a friend’s garden and it was perfect anyway) to someone who makes decent money and wants me not to be a nervous wreck (I was working at a grocery store, which was chill enough until…you know), I was able to take a leave of absence to look for something else.

Well, I was busy during lockdown! I temporarily de-freaked my portfolio (though I left the non-raunchy artistic stuff), I took online job searching courses offered by a local nonprofit, I reached out to my connections, I volunteered to do social media stuff for my martial arts gym, I worked on my motion graphics skills — and one of my connections reached back with a tip about a job! He recommended me highly, I interviewed with six people. and I found out yesterday that I got it!! I’m supposed to get the official offer today! Goodbye, retail!

I was a little worried because I had dyed my hair blue literally the day before I got the tip about the job (lockdown experiment, I’ve been dying my hair red since I was 15 and I’m almost 35 now) — I think one of the things that has held me back in the past with professional jobs is that, with the spotty background and freaky work, I seem maybe a bit too eccentric? — but it doesn’t seem to have held me back. Gotta love Silicon Valley! And the icing on the cake is that every single person I interviewed with wanted to chat about the weirder and more artsy stuff in my portfolio, which made me feel like I didn’t have to hide what I am actually good at.

2. First a big thank you – your calm way of looking at things and practical scripts have been invaluable in navigating my way through some tricky situations in our small business. 

But the good news I wanted to share is not about our business, but my family. And for that I want to say a truly huge thank you to the AAM community. 

Back when the Covid lockdown first started, there was a thread about maintaining focus when working from home. Someone commented on the problems they were having because they had the inattentive type of ADHD. “Hey!” I thought, “those struggles sound so much like my teenage son. But what’s the inattentive type of ADHD?”

A few Googles later, I sat with tears streaming down my face. The description of signs and symptoms, and the personal stories from many people, were finally an answer to what he had been going through. His counsellors had not been able to spot it, but once we knew what we were looking for, it was so clear.

The AAM community helped even further with the question and comments recently about ADHD in the workplace. It’s been an emotional time as we try to figure this stuff out, and we are still in the early days of finding the right support, but the AAM discussion really shifted our thinking from “How do we beat this?” to “How can we work with this?”

So I just wanted to share the wider impact AAM can have, and again to thank all of you thoughtful commenters (with and without ADHD!). You’ve changed our lives.

3. For the past two years I’ve been in a job that I otherwise love, but was incredibly underpaid relative to both our salary band and the market. I had been asking for an increase almost since the beginning (I was hired from a contractorship so never had the chance to negotiate despite knowing what others were paid). For at least the past year and a half I have performed awesomely and got a stellar performance review, but only a small raise in July. My manager left, and using his backfill we finally had some budget for a raise for me. They gave me a very significant bump that starts in October, which puts me a lot closer to market rate. I also got a shout-out today from the CEO in my 8,000-person company’s All Hands, for implementing the ability to display pronouns in our company’s directory. Enough people went to add their pronouns that they temporarily crashed the site!

Thank you so much for writing this column; I would not have been able to negotiate or be an awesome employee were it not for your sound advice.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 41 comments… read them below }

  1. Alison Smaalders*

    LW 2, I’m so happy for you and your son! I wasn’t diagnosed until 26, but the signs were all there when I was younger. I’m so glad he’s able to get the support he needs now, before college, and he has some time to figure out what that support looks like.

    (Side note: ADHD runs in families. If he’s also your bio kid, you or his father might have it as well, so if either of you has struggled with focus, impulsivity, memory, or organization, ADHD could be responsible. My brother was diagnosed in HS, myself at 26, and my parents are both clearly symptomatic. It can also totally crop up on its own with no history, though! I just bring it up because ADHD is commonly underdiagnosed in women, in particular.)

    1. Lucky*

      This^^^ My younger sister was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid in the late-70s, when Science decided that girls could have it too. That missed me by about 5 years, so I wasn’t diagnosed until my 40s. Now we both recognize symptoms that our dad showed.

    2. Aerin*

      My dad called me a little while ago to say he’d finally gotten diagnosed with ADHD and was doing so much better with medication. And my older sister reached out to ask me more about it, because she’d seen me sharing stuff on social media and started realizing how much of it applied to her.

      And yeah, college suuuuuucks for people with undiagnosed/untreated ADHD. You don’t realize how much of a structure high school life provides until it’s all gone. So it’s great that LW figured this out now!

    3. soontobephd*

      I’m a diagnostician / therapist at an ADHD clinic. While many of our clients are young elementary children, we see a surprisingly large number of college age kids and adults. It’s a great job!

      1. Jen*

        It’s also becoming more common for grown women to be diagnosed, since childhood inattentive ADHD isn’t as ‘disruptive’ particularly in girls. I’m 33 and was just diagnosed this year – but I was a fantastic student who struggled with procrastination and daydreaming. I’m so glad LW 2 got to work this out – my mother has been saying how she feels guilty that she didn’t notice the signs, but honestly I don’t blame her because there were perfectly reasonable explanations at the time (my inability to regulate emotions was due to the divorce, or inherited from my father – which is true, but we think he had undiagnosed ADHD too – and my procrastination was because I was smart and therefore bored, etc, etc). Now I’m struggling to figure out coping mechanisms while also adjusting to WFH – though at least I’ve settled on a med dose that’s helping.

        1. yala*

          I just got diagnosed last year at 34. It’s…like, I’m REALLY glad to have my diagnosis (and I hope the new meds we’re supposed to start soon work better than the old ones), but part of me is just so angry, because I feel like I could be in a much more secure place if I’d had a diagnosis and treatment even just a few years ago. At the very least, I’d probably have a better relationship with my boss, considering most of our contentions came down to ADHD (and Autism) related issues I was having that I just had no way of mitigating.

          All that to say, I’m so glad for OP’s son–both for getting a diagnosis, and for having such a supportive family (literally I refuse to tell my mom about my diagnosis). Well done, y’all!

    4. OP2*

      Hi, thanks to you and everyone for their kind comments.
      I’m sad that we haven’t picked this up earlier and sad about just how much stress and anxiety it’s caused my son. But I’m very happy that we’ve picked it up now, before university.

      As I said in my original letter, there’s still quite a way to go (on the merry-go-round of trying to find specialists who actually understand – one told us our son couldn’t have ADHD because he can sometimes focus on stuff he’s interested in). But we’re discovering lots of resources too, so we’re hopeful. There has been some great suggestions from the AAM commentariat and I’m making lots of notes!

      As for running in the family, which several people suggested, I am pretty sure it has affected my sister and brother. I can only wonder what difference it would have made to their lives if diagnosis and support had been available decades ago.

      1. Jane*

        I *think* I was the person who wrote the comment you reference, but am having trouble relocating it to confirm.

        I am so incredibly glad that this comment, whether it was mine or not, found you and your son. I was only diagnosed right around the time I wrote that comment – at 34. My ex-husband was diagnosed a month and a half after me. He is now going back to college to finish his Bachelors.

        The difference in my life, in my ex’s life, in my (un-diagnosed) mother’s life, if someone had figured it out at 17 would have been so incredibly profound. I’m glad your son will get to have that.

        Also, do remember that there are tremendous benefits to being adhd – it is not only about forgetting things and the incredible stress of trying to fit in a world that isn’t built for us. I built an entire successful career around my pattern recognition and hyperfocus tendencies, and many of my favorite parts of how I think and move through the world are related to my ADHD.

    1. Old Woman in Purple*

      So do I! I hope it continues indefinitely, even after the pandemic eventually winds down.

  2. beanie gee*

    Yay yay yay! They are all so great, but the second one, well, I must have been cutting onions.

    1. Blueberry Spice Pancake (OP3 today)*

      Thanks! People had been asking for it for a long time and it was by no means my idea, but it needed a final push and I led that part.

  3. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

    Best wishes and congratulations to all OPs – sincerely it’s so uplifting to hear people’s good news.

  4. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP #2, I’m so happy you have found some info that can help your son! My husband has ADHD, and though he was diagnosed early (in grade school), it was a long enough time ago that no one really knew a lot about how it worked or how to deal with it yet. He took some medications, got put into and taken out of special ed and private and regular public schools, and generally didn’t have an easy time of it. Hearing him talk about it made me realize that if our kid shows signs of having it too, I’m really glad that there’s a lot more known now. I can imagine how hard it must be to see your son struggling and not know how to help him. I hope you can now use this new perspective to help him succeed.

  5. EPLawyer*

    #2 — I actually cried when I read your update. the good kind of cry. So glad you found out about your son and it was because of AAM you found the resources you needed.

    I gotta say, that this is one of the nicest commentariat on the web. Even I have toned down my bluntness a bit here.

  6. AGD*

    I’ve started actively looking forward to these! Thanks to everyone and to Alison for sharing. These are always a little chain of small treasures.

  7. MAGC17*

    As another inattentive ADHD person, I’m also cutting onions ;D after reading #2. AAM FTW yet again!

  8. blepkitty*

    #2 I’m glad you found out now! I’m dealing with a probable diagnosis in my 30s and had a long cry over how much different high school, college and grad school could’ve gone if people had believed me when I started to mention attention problems. Also I might have picked a career more appropriate for me than my current one, which involves a lot of sitting at a desk trying to read really boring stuff.

    Seconding that if you have any other kids, especially daughters, take a look at them too. There are special lists of symptoms in women and girls. We’re more likely to pick up coping strategies of our own (for me, for example, bad anxiety about missing homework kept me from forgetting it, and by college I’d figured out that if I didn’t take notes when I read, nothing was going to stick).

    1. juliebulie*

      I cosign all of this. The diagnosis in adulthood and the grief over lost opportunities. The coping strategies and the anxiety. The different symptoms for girls. The feeling that I had gone through the first 40 (forty!!) years of my life with one hand tied behind my back.

      #2, I’m so glad you looked into this for your son. Thank you.

  9. Former prof*

    LW#2 – my youngest kid is ADD. A really useful resource for us was Mel Levine’s book The Myth of Laziness and also the All Kinds of Minds organization. He was evaluated at their clinic in NYC and it was a huge turning point for us. They break down the problem into different kinds of attention issues – is it a sensory problem? Is it organizational issues? Is it uneven mental energy? That helped us figure out appropriate accommodations for him.

  10. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    LW 2, I’m crying. The shift from “How do we beat this?” to “How can we work with this?” is so essential for anyone neurodivergent—your son’s ADHD is a part of who he is, and you’ll find it has benefits as well as drawbacks if you keep an open mind. So so glad for you and your family.

    1. Persephone Underground*

      This exactly! The ADHD brain has strengths as well as weaknesses, and it’s essential to find ways to work with it. I love that line in this post so much.

      Favorite metaphor for ADHD, very relevant to working with it and not against it- Your brain is a race car with a really powerful engine. There’s only one problem- you have bicycle brakes! (Not my original metaphor, paraphrasing a professional.)

  11. Noblepower*

    I love these Friday good news days, and today’s post seems to resonate with me even more than usual. Congratulations to all the LW – your good news has put the whipped cream on top of today for me.

  12. Bookworm*

    Yay! Thanks again and as always to the LWs for sharing their good news. It’s always nice to end the week with upbeat notes. :)

  13. NeonDreams*

    Today’s updates show how awesome the internet can be sometimes:D

    OP1 especially resonates with me because I’m in customer service and burnt out. I’d love to get into a creative career but have NO IDEA how to start. Especially when I’m in a location where creative jobs are hard to come by, even in a good economy.

  14. nonee*

    I’m so happy for you and your family, LW2 – I got diagnosed with ADHD-PI this year, in my 30s, and an earlier diagnosis could have changed the whole trajectory of my life. It’s a relief to know, anyway!

    Thank you so much for caring about your kid enough to chase this up and get him the help he needs. It’s rarer than you’d think!

  15. Nott the Brave*

    #1 sounds like imposter syndrome! I bet you’re amazing at your former job. Glad you are now working on something that you prefer.

  16. Persephone Underground*

    #2- So happy to hear that about your son! I have ADHD and had a lot of struggles at various points in my life, even medicated and diagnosed as a child. Skills coaching has helped me so much, as well as a YouTube channel I pretty much go to whenever I need a pep talk called “How To ADHD”. I’m sure you can find your own resources, but I wanted to share those because of how much they helped me. Good luck to you both!

  17. Lyla*

    I put the pieces of the puzzle together when I was 45. I also have inattentive ADHD. It’s a journey and you’re an amazing mom to be supporting your son. Diagnosing at a young age can give them support tools and systems that as adults can be difficult to learn. I love the adhd comics, they are spot on. Dani Donovan and Bired Panda are my favorites. It’s often hereditary as well. I think my grandmother and my mom had it.

  18. Old, but Not Set in my Ways*

    I hope you have “Driven to Distraction” by Edward M Hallowell. Reading it when my kids were in school changed everything. It’s also good for skeptics, like my mom, who became an advocate instead of an obstacle. He’s a shrink with ADD, but able to write clearly and plainly.
    I was a girl with ADHD in the 50’s. I still struggle with being bad, bad, bad!
    Being your kid’s advocate will always mean the world to them.

    1. Middle Aged Lady*

      Great book. The how to adhd youtube channel helped us, too. It is important that your child believe there is nothing wrong with them, they have different wiring. There are advantages to ADHD. You will get so creative at finding ways to structure life. Smartphones really help but I find a manual timer with a moving face helps with time on the computer when distracting info is all around.

  19. Kivrin*

    I was diagnosed at 51, and Ritalin is a miracle for me. I was always able to function as a kid and young adult, compensating for attention deficits with strong memory and reasoning, so I flew under the radar for many years. I didn’t get a diagnosis until I started talking to my kids’ therapists and realized that my attention difficulties and poor impulse control might not be just because I was a lazy person who didn’t want to put in the effort.

  20. Jane*

    #2 – I think it was me who mentioned ADHD – inattentive. I am so incredibly glad that it helped your son to not slip through without diagnoses!

    Note: If it was me, I think the wrong post is linked – I believe it was a thread about what could be expected of people during the pandemic that had veered toward parenting and WFH. I posted to mention that children weren’t the only thing causing ordinarily functional employees to completely lose their ability to cope, and that supervisors needed to keep in mind that their non-parent employees needed increased flexibility as well – It was probably some time in April.

  21. Amy Dancepants*

    LW#2–That’s amazing news! I was diagnosed earlier this year and having that new frame of reference has already had such a huge impact on me. I’m not lazy/careless/ditzy/etc. I’m neurodiverse. It will take a lot more work to learn strategies to manage my ADHD in a productivity-focused world and to undo the impact of all the years of teasing and shaming about my organization skills, my weird sleep habits, my lack of initiative, etc. I wish someone had recognized the signs in me earlier in life. Good luck to you and your son! He’s lucky to have such a supportive parent.

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