a rant about ADD and work

16 October 2002

Oh, I'm just a ball full of hatred and fury today. I'm telling y'all what. I am one tired bitch.

I'm tired of political office bullshit, tired of the silent accusatory stares from my boss, tired of him harping on me for an incident that is now close to a month old, tired of being tired, and goddammit, I'm fucking tired of having ADD.

My biggest wish in life right now is that I could somehow magically become the type of person who can pay attention to all those little details, follow up on projects flawlessly, and remember appointments without being a slave to my calendar. I can't remember my appointments long enough to pull up Palm Desktop so I can write them down. I am not exaggerating when I say that there have been times where I've thought of something I need to do on the Web -- say, check my bank balance -- and in the time it takes me to start up Internet Explorer, I've forgotten what I wanted. I sit there staring at that damn blank browser window with no idea in hell what I was just about to do. It happens every day, several times a day. It's enough to make me want to throw things.

I can sort of get around this because I own a PDA, which means I set alarms for all my meetings and daily tasks and such. But I'm a systems administrator. My work is driven by interruptions. Systems have a tendency to hang or crash at the most inconvenient times. Users only call with problems when I'm in the middle of something that I've been wrestling with for half an hour, and when I finally nail it down and get into the groove of being able to pay attention to it for more than a few minutes at a time, the damn phone rings. I answer the phone, fix whatever's broken, and it takes me another half hour to get back to what I was working on before. My attention goes in and out; I don't want to do it, but it happens in spite of my best efforts.

I miss details. I forget to follow up -- it's the equivalent of cooking a meal and forgetting to clean up the dishes, put away the leftover ingredients, and wipe down the counter. There's no reason in the world why I shouldn't be able to follow up my work; it only takes a few minutes, and it's not like I don't know how to do it. But I don't, because I don't think of it without something or someone getting in my face right when I finish a task. My mind is already racing on to the next thing I have to do, and I drop the ball. My work history at this particular job reflects that: I've done mediocre work since I got here in December of last year, because I keep missing things. Don't mean to do it, but when the details get overlooked, that's what happens. Since March, I've been busting my ass trying to improve my work, but it's like sand slipping through my fingers: I just can't get a handle on my job.

Unfortunately, missing those little details almost cost me my job a few weeks ago. Briefly, what happened was this: I upgraded a Solaris server acting as a NIS+ master around the first part of August. After the upgrade, a couple of applications began failing and some people were having trouble logging in. I didn't catch most of this until the tickets started coming in. Why? I wish I knew. I planned the upgrade. I thought I performed it well. I even went through the logs after it was done. But still, the upgrade was a failure, because I didn't notice some very glaring errors in the installation that should have been obvious to anyone with sight. My boss wants to know why I didn't realize I'd screwed it up. Why I didn't catch the errors. What the hell is wrong with me that I can't perform a simple upgrade procedure after six years in this industry.

The frightening thing is, I don't know.

Well, that's mostly true. I know I have Attention Deficit Disorder. I know the symptoms of ADD are in line with the trouble I have with details and attention span. I know I have a psychiatrist and a therapist who agree on my diagnosis. I know the psychiatrist has prescribed me medication, which I'm taking religiously. I'm aware of all these things, and yet, I still miss these details even when I'm straining to see them.

It is just about the most frustrating thing in the world.

So the shit hit the fan with this upgrade crap about a month ago: my boss found out what happened and hit the ceiling. Since then, I have not been allowed to do anything on any of the servers, except helpdesk tickets and my normal tape rotation duties. He doesn't trust me. I guess I can't blame him. We've gone over my job duties, I've filed a report on what happened with the upgrade, I've filed a five-page document of suggestions on how I can improve my work. He's had me in his office no less than four times since 20 September to chew my ass out, and every single time I've cooperated and been a good girl: "Yes, I'm aware of the problem... yes, I'm aware of how badly this went wrong... yes, I'm aware of my poor work history... YES, I'm aware that you think I'm incompetent and it was a bad decision to hire me... yes, yes, yes, I'm aware I have to improve my work. Yes, I know all this, yes."

Every time, it has not been enough. I don't expect the guy to just sweep it under the rug like nothing happened; I'm willing to accept disciplinary action. But goddammit, I want some fucking help from these people. I want to be treated like an adult. I want my bosses to believe me, my doctor, and the therapist when I tell him ADD is a real neurological condition; I didn't just pull it out of my ass as an excuse for shoddy work. I want someone to believe me when I say I'm busting my ass to improve my work, and have been for six months. I want someone to meet me a tenth of the way and accomodate me just a smidge when I need some help. I want my boss to stop acting like I have a contagious disease, and I want him to get the fuck over this and let me know just what is going to happen to my job. We've been in limbo for a month. Since I work for the state, they can't fire me just now; there's a procedure to follow for that. But I'm sure as hell being treated like a fucking leper, and I'm getting fucking tired of it.

It's pretty obvious my boss is pissed he can't fire me. He says that's not the case, but he also says he's still "perturbed". So be fucking perturbed, what do I care. If I can't get fired, you need to try to get some work out of me so I can at least be worth my paycheck. I'm not a ticking time bomb here; I just need some help. Give me some help. I have the technical knowledge; I have the ability to do this job, but I need help. I can come up with all the great ideas in the world for improvement, but without some help I won't be able to use them.

Christ, either can my ass, or give me my mid-term review and a little assistance when I ask for it. It's not that fucking difficult. Either way, at least I'll know where I stand.

Today I got the joyous privilege of signing a memo from my boss to me, cc'ed to his supervisor. Basically it said the same thing as the four times I've been chewed out in his office: he's concerned about my performance, he's asked for this and that documentation, I've provided it, sign here please. Does it go in my personnel file? Hell if I know; he didn't say. "It's just a memo," he says. "It's for my records." Yeah, I bet. I bet if I go and review my personnel file in HR a month from now, I'll find this in there. Motherfucker.

I also found out he never sent copies to his supervisor of the report I filed, or my suggestions for improvement. Interesting, since his boss also signs off on my performance review, and is so over this whole thing. He still wants me to improve my work, but he's not giving me the death glare when I see him, and he actually listens when I talk to him.

I'm documenting all this shit. I have a copy of the memo. I've requested "reasonable accomodations" for ADD. I've even talked to HR. All I want right now is to know my supervisor is going to back me while I struggle up this glass mountain known as ADD so I can do my damn job. I don't think he's going to, though, and it really pisses me off. Fair shot, my white ass.

I'm really not trying to be overly dramatic here, but it's becoming obvious I'm on my own. My supervisor seems like he's given up on me. It doesn't look like he wants to help me, and he's keeping this whole thing away from the guy who would help me: his boss. Paranoid, who me?

Well, we'll see about all that. In the meantime, I'm going to walk over to the student union and take an hour for lunch, like the state says I can. In this department you're subtly encouraged to grab fifteen minutes at your desk and scarf down a sandwich instead of getting out of the office for a full hour. Fuck that. Just because my boss has zero life and works seven days a week, eleven hours a day, doesn't mean I'm going to follow suit. See y'all after lunch.