By Bruce Eastman
I had a 35-year career as a Registered Nurse. I followed this with 10 years as a Nurse Practitioner, Family Practice provider. But that all came to a screeching halt a few months ago when I lost my job. And I’ve decided I’m going to stop trying to fit into a work environment that doesn’t work for me. I decided to retire and not renew my professional licenses. To some, this may seem like a failure. But upon reflection, I realized for me this is a magnificent decision.
A Failure? Or a Change for the Better?
ADHD symptoms affected my entire career. Lack of focus. Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria led me to overreact to every criticism. I couldn’t complete tasks. I couldn’t control my mouth. I was always speaking out at the wrong time or interrupting. This has been a struggle my entire career!
These struggles led to my ADHD diagnosis. I began medication to help with emotional regulation and focus. With medication, I thought the battles were over. But a “race car brain with bicycle brakes” was not a good fit for the demanding pace of a Family Practice provider.
A “Race Car Brain with Bicycle Brakes”
Working with the underserved in community health clinics, I was always under pressure. I made hundreds of decisions per day. I had to see as many people as possible. We worked 10–14-hour days. Charts piled to the ceiling. I had to keep up in a work environment moving at the speed of a factory production line. With or without medication, I failed in working with others. I often said inappropriate things. I was always in scrapes with coworkers.
The Common Denominator Was Me!
I now realize these “failures” were not always other people’s fault. I am smart, talented and compassionate. But that wasn’t enough to let me work in an environment that wasn’t friendly to my ADHD. Staying in a Family Practice was too stressful. My ADHD needed a work situation where I had control of my schedule and could work fewer hours. I needed supportive coworkers. And I needed someone who could give me truthful, frequent feedback to help keep me on track.
It’s Time for a Heart-to-Heart
Not every adult with ADHD will thrive in the same type of work environment. But my advice applies to anyone diagnosed with ADHD. It doesn’t matter whether you have a new ADHD diagnosis, or you’ve been treating your ADHD for a long time. Have a real heart-to-heart with yourself. Be honest with yourself and talk to your family. Could you end many struggles by working in a career more friendly to your type of ADHD?
Wherever You Go, There You Are… So It Better Be the Right Place
I spent years trying to improve my skills and education. I changed jobs and even careers. I was always looking for something better. But no matter where I went, I brought my problems with me. As Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote, “wherever you go, there you are.” We all must look in the mirror and see who we are and how we can use our ADHD super powers in a positive way.
Now I have a new career marketing health and life insurance. I have complete control of my schedule. I make use of my medical knowledge. I still help people. And I have supportive and understanding coworkers! My wife and I are working on finding the right blend of working and living together as she works for the same agency.