Unpack your ADHD

mirrored image of seaguls flighing up into the air

So there are a couple of reasons for this post.

1: The first is that our manager found the following definition of an inclusive work-environment in the Microsoft eLesson Unconscious Bias Resource:

What does an inclusive culture look like?
People are respected, valued, and seen
People can be their authentic selves. There’s no need to hide elements of one’s identity to fit in.
People are heard and feel safe sharing their ideas.
Each person is able to bring leadership, influence, and knowledge.
An inclusive environment allows everyone to bring their ideas and contribute their best work.

2: Working in a team where not being neuro-normal is normal. Within the few months of working together,  idiosyncrasies have become normalised. We are not generously and graciously given permission to be ‘other’, but just given space to be who we are, and be able to do our work without being told to do it the way someone else envisages it that doesn’t make sense to us.

3: #DisabilityConfidence I saw this hashtag and remembered being put on the spot during an exam board. I was covering for a colleague. I had oodles of these admin forms and tick boxes in front of me. Now, if I see a form, all I see is noise, lots of noise and I start getting anxiety attacks, because I cannot hear words in the noise of the forms. The structures usually do not make sense, and it takes me hours to get into the linear expression of one form, let alone a whole pile of them. A large part of this is that these forms are noisy and boring, so keeping with it till the end of a sentence costs a massive effort.

Anyway, I struggled to make heads and tails of a form, which I saw the first time during the meeting, and was put on the spot by the chair of the board to answer a process question I was not yet familiar with. I desperately scrambled for the answer, and my colleague said it’s in the footnote. Yeah … dense point 8 text of quarter a page length, and I needed to find a tiny piece of information in all of this. All I remember from the meeting was noise, racket. I looked at my colleague and said:  ‘I cannot read this right now. I cannot read this.’ The chair was entirely oblivious to my struggle. All the time the paper screamed at me, the darn wall-clock was ticking like a time-bomb, and the erratic colour coding in the tables looked like a printer had vomited all over the documents, making the noise worse. Someone was smoking outside the window, my colleagues were stressed because of earlier arguments, the chair was chewing his pen, and you could have cut the tension in the room with a knife.

4: I stumbled across a blog-post: Unpacking your ADHD and it made me wonder if I should give it a shot, because it focuses on the good things too.



The good thing about hyperfocus is that I can go through thousands of data sets in a short amount of time. I am not kidding I worked for a consulting company during my summer holiday and in 4 weeks time I went through 4 times the amount of data sets, my predecessor took half a year for. During my PhD I could get up at 5 and by 9 I would have written 3.000 to 5.000 words. Okay after I would have a cognitive hangover for a couple of days…


During my undergraduate degree I was working on an assignment. My roomie called and said she would be home in half an hour, would I mind to start the pasta-water she was hungry. I put the pot on the stove (it was a three liter pot, we both did lots of sports and would easily eat 500gr of pasta). I went back to just finish this one paragraph. Perceived 5 minutes later a flatmate knocked on our door and asked if the orange glowing pot in the kitchen was ours. The water had evaporated and the heat had began to make the stainless steel glow orange. Needless to say my friend had bumped into another friend on her way home and ended up chatting and I had entirely sunk into my assignment.


My brain can do the splits. If I manage to find the right amount of ‘drown out’ entertainment for the back of my brain, such as audiobooks, movies I know, or the right music, then the front of my brain can focus on something else—basically the audience who constantly shout out interesting things to contemplate or do, is busy watching a play.



I read in a book description that this surround-sound awareness was actually important for hunters, before farming appeared as a favourable way of life. So I do notice things. I will notice slight shifts in behaviour, face expression, tone of voice. I see disturbances in patterns of behaviour, data, and logic. Actually I see patterns full stop. I am creative, there is a constant flow of output and creation. I can cook really well, usually once I ate a dish I can cook it, unless there is an ingredient I have never encountered before. I find everything fascinating from how a motor works, to a butterfly sitting on a flower, so tell me your hobby and I will truly think it’s awesome.


Meetings are so boring that they are physically painful, anxiety inducing. People speak sooooooo slowly. What is it with not finishing a sentence. It’s like driving behind someone who drives with 20 mph in a 40 zone. Impatience. Why do people always have the need to state truisms and tautologies? Is it not enough to say something once and omit the obvious? To walk the same distance can take me 15 minutes or an hour.


My students regularly tell me, that I am really patient, and that I do have a calming influence. Yeah I know! Beats me, too. I have not yet figured this one out. Maybe it has to do with the complexity of the issues the students usually posed in our meetings. Or my little ‘pre-meeting a troubled person ritual‘.



It makes for really good stories, and stand-up jokes. So, I am going to a Halloween Party, only knowing one person there. Didn’t see that there were a couple of steps down into the room. Fell flat on my face in front of everyone. Did some elaborate stage bows and courtesies. Was a great icebreaker. I hated weeding as a child, really did, it was so boring, so I intentionally pulled out a couple of carrots, and granny never even suspected a rouse to get me out of weeding.

PS: I apologized to the baby carrots and put them back in.


Breaking all my favourite dishes, loosing jewellery, constantly being covered in bruises and cuts, or burns. Literally running (as in walking) over people, I am tallish, I didn’t see them. Food-stains—I know all the really good stain removers and household hacks! If you need tips, ask me. (I guess this is a pro?)


I make my own clothes, and knit, and if I put my mind to it I can play with ancient artifacts and not break anything at all (but am exhausted after and my heart-rate goes up.)



I love stories, and you can tell me your life-stories over and over again and I will find them awesome. It prevents the CPU from overheating. Sometimes it works in my favour, less energy spend on something I should not prioritize anyway. A friend and colleague always describes me as highly organized—yeah that’s just self-defense.


Forgetting to check emails, forgetting to … I forgot. Lunches sitting in the fridge so long that they’ve become out of date.


I forget your name, what your subject or research interest was, or where you are from, but I remember that you were really sad when your dog died, and I brought you that book I thought might be helpful for something in your work or life at the moment. And by the way, while I still can’t remember your name, I see that you struggle with something right now. Do you want to go for a coffee?

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