Masking my ADHD at work was exhausting, so I stopped

I haven’t always felt comfortable disclosing my ADHD — especially in the workplace. I’d have a lot of anxiety about being vulnerable and honest with people who in the end may not understand. Instead of sharing, I’d mask my ADHD and try my best to hide my challenges.

I thought masking my ADHD would be easier. Over time, I found that this wasn’t the case. Hiding my ADHD was actually pretty exhausting. It was draining to pretend that I understood tasks when I should’ve just asked those follow-up questions. It was overwhelming to pretend my brain wasn’t getting off track when I tried to complete certain tasks. I just needed to stop pretending. So, I did.

I stopped pretending that my ADHD wasn’t real, and I started finding ways to better support it. Step one was to be honest with myself about having ADHD. Step two was to remind myself that my neurodivergent mind doesn’t make me a failure in any way. Finally, step three was to find ways to best support my ADHD brain at work. And luckily I found many.

For starters, clearing my mind before diving into work has become a huge game-changer for me. I’ve found myself coming in to the office a few minutes early to sit and map out how I’ll manage the day. This helps to keep me from feeling overwhelmed about where to even start.

Making accommodations for my own needs has also become key. When I need to step back and take a break because my mind is becoming too consumed with racing thoughts, I do. That may look like tapping my fingers, or straightening up the objects in front of me to help with clearing the “mess” in my head. It may look like going into the bathroom to jump or wiggle around. It may even look like finding a quiet area where I can eat lunch.

I know these strategies may look a bit funny, but they work for me. These brief pauses before starting or transitioning to the next task help to calm my anxiety and re-center my mind.

The greatest help, though, has been finding a colleague to confide in about my struggles. Support is a huge help when you’re feeling alone in your challenges. I don’t disclose more than I’m ready to. But being even a little bit open at work about my ADHD has helped me feel more confident in my abilities.

ADHD will always be a part of my life. It’s not going anywhere. And it doesn’t stop me from being successful.

Originally published on our Medium publication for/by. Check out our full collection of stories by adults who learn and think differently.


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