How your ADHD brain is f*cking you over
Living and working in the modern world, while your brain runs a mile a minute.
“Weird, abnormal, scattered, too excited, too anxious” — those are just some words that people have used to describe me. I never really understood why I stuck out like sore thumb, no matter where I went.
Everyone from teachers to employers told me:
“Why are things that are easy for everyone hard for you. And why are things that are hard for others are a breathe for you.”
Others would say: “Angelina, slow down”. Everyone always encouraged me to slow down. They told me that I walk too fast, think too fast and talk too fast. That’s because when you have ADHD you are either ON or completely dead lying horizontally.
Peter Shankman, author of ‘Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD Brain.’ writes:
“Most people with ADHD only have two speeds: “sleeping,” and “1000% on.” Because of that, when we’re on, we have a tendency to go a lot faster than normal, and if we’re not careful, this can cause issues.”
I wrote this article 3 years ago and of course didn’t finish publishing it :). I somehow discovered it in my Google Docs and realized “wow…I’m still the same person…nothing has changed.”
I just learned to cope living with ADHD — much much better! And I’ll share some tactics with you in this post and in this post.
Do you also live with ADHD?
See if any of the below sounds like you!
I used to have absolutely zero focus most of the time. I used to overburden people around me with a ton of ideas. I franticly made to do lists to try to organize the noise and ideas in my head.
All of a sudden at 1:00 am I would have a brilliant idea about something and stay up till 5:00 am working on it because a spur of energy all of the sudden hit me! Each idea would scream out “Pick me! Pick me!” If I was interested in something I over-worked. I was hyper focused. I would even forget to eat and had to get people to remind me that food was important.
I’d run around and do 10 things at the same time. If I was physically still, my brain wasn’t. It would be running around doing 100 things too. One time I was so lost in thoughts I forgot I was sitting on the floor, practically inside the fridge with the fridge door open, eating a cucumber.
During these “lost days” I’d forget the trash day, lose my keys, cards and ate my roommates squash thinking I just bought it. Lost days would be followed by frantic “found days” where every aspect of my life would be meticulously organized – from color coded wardrobe to a 10 page quarterly life plan. All in the effort to control the next set of lost days to come.
I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD when I was really young, as a teenager and adult but failed to really do anything about it for a long time. At the end of the day I graduated (barely), started a company, founded a not for profit, moved alone to San Francisco, grew a career in product management and traveled the world. I survived by slowly learning to cope with ADHD.
Here’s my tips on how to keep going if you’re trying to be a functional adult with ADHD.
Embrace Your Ways
Don’t be so hard on yourself
This is you! ADHD comes with all of the craziness I described above. But it also comes with hyper-focus, energy, creativity and most importantly the ability to think about complex problems and tie together many, different thoughts and patterns.
There is no reason to change who you are, so don’t lose yourself trying to fit in. Instead, learn to embrace all of your different ways of doing things and channel them to achieve your potential.
Learn to embrace your ups and downs
Every time I speed up, I feel bad for being too fast. Every time I’m completely “off”, catching up on sleep I apologize for hiding and taking time for myself. Hyper-focus needs balance. One way to do it is to retrieve and recharge periodically. You need time to relax and catch your balance.
Another way is to learn to live a more balance life, but that will take a lot of time, patience and practice. The lesson of balance is a life long lesson that you will need to master. Until then, embrace that you will have days when you are completely “on” and days when you will sleep 12 hours to recharge. Learn to work with both sides of you, anticipating when you need a break and when you want to work 24/7 because you’re super interested in something.
Learn to Work with It
Deal with your constant boredom
You’ll be distracted, or feeling antsy because…well because you’re probably bored. Remember those 10 or 100 things that are screaming for your attention, try to pick one…or maybe two and start on those. Moving forward with a side project, or your favorite hobby like playing guitar, or planning that vacation with friends will get you outta your bored phase, that can make you “stuck”. You need the variability — your brain loves it. So don’t be shy, and don’t worry if you’re juggling a few cool things you want to learn or do at a time.
Get help with the little things
Do you find that you delay things like filing taxes and always forget to do the “little things” around the house? Little things may seem small but they stack up and can make a huge difference in how happy you are in life.
- Find what you like and share responsibilities that you don’t like with your partner or room mates. If you like cooking, make dinner and ask those around you to take care of house chores. If you like washing the dishes, delegate shopping for home essentials to someone else.
- Automate! Use delivery services for your groceries, pre-packaged meals and get meal instruction kits sent to you. Set pre-payments on your credit cards. Use a chat bot that reminds you to pay your bills. Set up auto transfers to your RRSP and robo-investment accounts.
- Delegate! Some services are worth the money, for the peace of mind — like a tax consultant or even a virtual assistant that you can pay $10 to deliver flowers to your mom on her birthday. You can even try to delegate the planning of your social life to a very extroverted friend, in return for unconditional love and gifts.
Anything that you can make simpler for yourself — do it.
Here’s an example — What takes more cognitive power than shopping and getting dressed? Probably nothing. I hate it — so here’s how I deal with it:
- Shop from the same stores. Uniqlo for 10 pairs of the same, long sleeved, different colored shirts. Pants all from Zara. Blazers all from Zara. Sweaters all from Banana Republic.
- Delegate. I made a Pinterest board with my ideal style and asked my mom and grandma to go shopping with me. Within 3 hours they helped me pick out everything I need that looked like my Pinterest style for the next 2 years. Maybe you have a trusted, fashionista friend or family member too?
- Hang clothing in advance on one hanger — pants + shirt =10 combinations for the next two weeks of work.
Oh and here’s one more just for inspiration: I have one jar out where I put my keys, headphones, wallet in every day. Basically training myself to put important stuff in the exact same spot and minimizing how often things are lost.
Find people that love you for who you are
This one sounds completely cliche but it’s true. It could be really hard to stay in friendships and relationships if you have ADHD because you run on your own clock, with your own energy level. It’s also extremely difficult not to wear other people out when you have high energy, and piss them off when you want to hide.
Everyone is looking for stability and a partner with ADHD will need to learn how to try to provide that. People can get frustrated because you have zero consistency and zero predictability. But the right people will understand, and will be able to provide you with the stability you need.
Living with ADHD is a learning process and you need to partner with people that understand it, accept it and encourage you on the journey to embrace all your weird ways and turn them into super powers. :)
Like what you’ve read?
I’m Angelina Fomina, and I’m a Product Manager at Facebook, Oculus VR, and ex-Shopify. I also built a 7 figure start-up, and thriving non-profit. I didn’t learn to speak english till I was 12, and I didn’t study a technical degree in University. I also didn’t even know Product Management was a career path until way into my 20s. Now, I’m here to help you build a career you love and tell you that you can thrive in Product Management too!
Want to become a product management? Check out this email course on Product Management and learn everything you need to know in 6 easy lessons.
If you have any questions — any at all I’d LOVE it if you joined Product Circles. It’s a private Facebook group for you to ask anything you’ve ever wondered about product management. You can also just reach out to me as well — firstname.lastname@example.org! I’m happy to help.