I’m currently enrolled in a leadership class to sharpen my skills of self-awareness and building my ability to acknowledge places where I need improvement. Having ADHD brings a lot of shame and self loathing, so it hasn’t been as much of a positive experience as originally intended. I know what my faults are and am constantly trying to keep up with myself. But sometimes I take a nosedive and face plant into my ADHD hard. And boy, does it hurt.
Within the last 5 years or so, I have been very open and honest about my ADHD to friends, coworkers, supervisors and family. Not only does it hold me accountable, but it also provides another avenue for discussion on my work performance and the benefits of having something “ADD”ed. For the most part, it has been positive, but when it has been negative- hurts like the nosedive. Most recently, I’ve been grappling with the negative effects of my ADHD at work because of a switch up in staff. The chief of my division, Stella, who I have written about before, left the park, which meant one of my coworkers were elevated to acting chief to fill that need. The last time the hierarchy switched like this, the vision seemed to split in two, drawing lines in the sand between “us” and “them.” Of course, I always landed in the “them” category, and it has only been exacerbated this time.
I received my new performance evaluations and goals while then receiving at the same time unsolicited advice from my “acting” chief on how to “lead by example.” She slammed my time management skills and my impulsiveness without really giving solutions or allowing some discussion as to why these two things were an issue. I’ve NEVER had any supervisor in the 7 years I’ve worked for the NPS and in both undergrad and graduate school bring up my impulsiveness being an issue since that is usually something I keep to a minimum or channel it through other means. She has commended me on my attempts to stay organized, however, she lacks any sort of empathy or ability to compassionately compromise with a coworker with a disability. This also seemed to be written into my evaluation, that the physical manifestations of my ADHD, my disability, can now be used to hurt my rating and my ability to move up the hiring scale. I’m not okay with this at all. When expressing my frustration, it was just taken to be given to the “chief who will actually be hired in this position.” Great, I thought that’s where it would stay.
Around this same time, I had brought lunch from home in a reusable lunch box I specifically bought to reuse and help with keeping on task, on budget and on time. I brought left overs from my dinner, which was a Parmesan cheese chicken and broccoli pasta dish that I just loved. Of course, running scattered into my lunch time, I scarfed down half of it and then brought the rest to the visitor center to store in the fridge to bring home. Well, things got crazy and I forgot to bring it home. There were many moments where I would think to myself “I need to go back to grab my lunchbox” throughout the work week. Running around made the fleeting thought just that, a quick thought that was gone by the time I left the park. I’d remember on my way home and tell myself I would bring it home next time. Lots of people leave their dishes or their lunches in the fridge to take it out later, so when my weekend rolled around, I realized while packing for the next week, I didn’t have my lunch box. But that wouldn’t be a problem, because I could go the next day, use the bowl and fork that was in the box while taking the actual box home to wash.
The morning seemed to rush by to finally bring me to lunch. I came into the visitor center to grab my frozen lunch to not only cook it, but to then use the fork and bowl in my box.
My lunchbox was gone.
The entire thing, with the box, the separators, the bowl and fork from the park headquarters was gone. I searched through the break room with no luck. I then went to cook my lunch at the headquarters because I now needed a fork and bowl. By the time I got there, I had enough time to cook my lunch, grab a fork, throw it back into the bag and take it back to switch out my coworker at the desk. While scrambling, I looked in the other fridges, the trash cans and in the freezers to find my belongings gone. So there I sat, panicked, angry, frustrated, hurt, hungry and swirling in my own self hatred at the front desk of the visitor center where I had left my lunchbox only a few days before. It was an overwhelming feeling of disregard and isolation.
Another coworker of mine noticed that I was trying to secretly eat my lunch quickly behind the front desk before a visitor came in and made some crack. I told him to leave it alone. “I’m barely holding it together. I mean it, don’t.” He suddenly seemed concerned and continued to ask what was wrong until I broke down for the first time since starting this job. I sobbed, hard. I just kept saying how I will never be able to escape myself, this problem that I can’t seem to run away from. No amount of diet changes, sleep, coffee, medication, organization hacks and tricks, techniques or paperwork documenting my disability will ever fix this constant fight I have with myself on a daily basis. And no amount of discussion will bring compassion either. Obviously, this coworker immediately backtracked and started rambling about what helps him stay on time and “Maybe these techniques can work for you, have you ever tried it?”
I finally told him to stop, that it was obvious that he was uncomfortable because he had no idea how to deal with a crying girl at work. What he was saying was actually making it worse, so I quickly wiped my tears away and held myself together for the rest of the day, feeling completely exhausted.
Following in the steps of my leadership class, I sent an email out asking what had happened to my lunchbox and guess who threw it away- the “acting” chief. She didn’t apologize, didn’t say she’d replace it. She just said it stunk and was smelling up the break room and she took care of it since she knew I was gone. “Maybe making a checklist before you leave each day might help. Just a suggestion…”
I have never hated myself more than after this. It has taken every ounce of my energy to get up and push myself through this. When this was brought up to the superintendent, it then brought down harsher, strict rules of a “packing in, packing out” mentality. Anything you bring in to eat must be brought out. So once again, I’m carrying everything on my back to be prepared and not to leave anything out. That’s not really the best thing to do for someone who struggles to keep up with so much structure and rigidness.
Ironically, before the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, I was sucked into The Hunchback of Notre Dame soundtrack to cope with this whole mess. Quasimodo was (and still is) one of my favorite Disney characters and his want to be normal, to be “out there” resonates with me so much at this moment. All I want to do, all I have ever wanted to be apart of normal people, normal friends group and a normal life.