This post starts out discussing compensations, how to balance between strength training versus accommodation when trying to improve on a skill or problem area, and finally talks about self-advocacy.

  • I think glasses make me look smart.
  • But an eyepatch – that would probably make me look tougher.

Sometimes I have trouble processing all the information being exchanged and discovered during a work meeting. For several years, my approach was to spend the entire meeting transcribing every word that anyone said. This sometimes meant I was presenting slides, asking questions, and processing the responses from multiple participants, while constantly typing notes. It took me a long time to realize that I was not listening effectively during some of these meetings. And because I put myself in a position to be overwhelmed, my experience was negative, and that made me less likely to review my notes later to take action on what I had learned, what had been decided.

This right here is a perfect example of the way my ADHD brain presents challenges, and my trauma background (really high ACE score) makes it unlikely that I will see the problem, recognize it as serious, and take action to change the results I’m having.

I don’t know what it is that makes it hard for me – sometimes – to track what is being discussed in a meeting, to lose the thread, to feel overwhelmed with the flow of conversation. But I also noticed I had (ok have) a habit of dropping in something that may be unexpected, abrupt, or inappropriate. The trouble with processing input I place in the area of ADHD symptoms. The habit of making side comments to relieve the tension, that’s not really a direct symptom, is it?

Roll Up Your Sleeves, People

I don’t have that many tools in my belt, but I know how to make lists.

I make a list of symptoms, and next to it I have a list of what I call Compensations. These are behaviors I have adopted, mostly unwittingly, to cope with the symptoms. What I know about my compensations is this: they don’t work very well, and they usually cause more problems than they were meant to fix. Like making weird comments or jokes during a meeting could backfire, even if I don’t say something straight up inappropriate, because it might make people think I am not serious about what I am asking them to tell me about.

Oh, and also, most of these compensations have been arrived at without much conscious thought.

I approached CrossFit as a compensation, an off-label use altogether. Mostly I wanted to use the extra Testosterone to boost my mental energy and become more decisive. I didn’t care that much about getting super healthy, but I certainly didn’t intend to stress out my family by becoming terribly cranky. Nor did I intend to cause repeated injuries that would take years to heal. But all those things did happen.

A Big Boost From a Little Bit of Thinking

When I think about my response to having trouble tracking conversations, I realize that one of my major compensations is to try ONE THING, and keep doing it whether it works or not.

If I had to design an icon for this compensation, I am tempted to use a tinfoil hat.

After spending a little time every day studying, reflecting, journaling about ADHD, I have found that I can unwind some of these things and take another tack.

Looking for Spectacles Wherever You Can

A while back I started working at a shop that uses MS Teams, and even though I am not a huge fan of it in general, there is one great “spectacles” feature – it’s really easy to record meetings. So when I was new in the position and learning how stuff worked and who was doing what, I got permission to record most of the meetings. Then I knew I could relax, review the recording if I needed to, but I did not have to transcribe the whole meeting. This meant I could listen more carefully, take more time with my responses, and generally run a less harried meeting for everyone.

Using the “EyePatch” to Self-Advocate

Also, I learned to gently advocate for myself. I would say, do you mind if I record this so I don’t have to work so hard to take notes? That little shred of simple self-advocacy gave me a kind of courage I realize I have been doing without for a long time.

Eventually, I kept recording meetings, but found myself reviewing the recordings less often.

Now You Answer One of These Questions

  • What Compensations do you use?
    • Are they costing you?
    • Have you written them down lately?
    • Have you found yourself switching tactics?
  • When You Try To Fix a Symptom, What’s Your Go-To?
    • Eyeglasses. Nobody just randomly slugs a person wearing glasses, right?
    • Eye-Patch! What does not kill me makes me stronger!
  • Tell about a time you advocated for yourself.
    • If you think you never do, keep researching on these topics – I predict you will find yourself sticking up for yourself in clever ways, without playing “the victim card.”

Share something in the comments.

Don’t be a stranger forever.

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