A quick and dirty post about my first year-ish with ADHD

A year and a bit ago I got diagnosed with ADHD, moderate severity, inattentive type. I’ve been meaning to write a bit about what I’ve learned since then but I keep, you know, getting distracted. It came up in a Slack conversation today which resulted in me barfing 500 words into a relative stranger’s DMs and then I was hyper and couldn’t sleep so now you get a blog post. Squirrel!

Experts

I have accepted at this point that I need to work with experts to be an effective/productive/sustainable human. I’m fortunate to have the resources to do so, and I recognize that that’s a privilege. Working with experts is a power-up that lets me be more effective in doing good in the world. Currently, this is my roster of experts, with a rough cadence of how often we work together:

  • trauma-focused psychotherapist (weekly. I’ve been through Some Shit in the past couple years and I keep wanting to go less than weekly but then reality kicks my ass and I keep going weekly)
  • ADHD coach (monthlyish)
  • psychiatrist (~2-3 months for med management)
  • personal trainer (twice weekly-ish)
  • professional organizer (couple times per year + more around moving)

I wanted to expand on the professional organizer bit and share a resource that’s helped me an absolute TON: “Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD“.* There’s an existing Twitter thread so I won’t summarize it much much except: your inventory must not exceed your space. Less inventory = easier organizing.

The pro organizer I’ve been working with in person specializes in working with folks with ADHD. If you’re in San Francisco and want to see if working with a pro can help make your space more sane, functional, and sustainable, give Debra a ping. I’ve also previously worked with Denise up in Seattle, if you’re looking for an organizer up there.

Tactics

Pairing is the biggest one. I get sooooo much done when I’m working with someone else. This is a known thing with ADHD – it’s called “body doubling“. One of my poor colleagues sometimes just sits with me while I whine about emails I’m writing (as I’m writing them). I’m grateful for every minute of her time even though I know it’s kinda a boring thing to do.

Rigorous calendaring – I do a lot of magical thinking about time and how much I can get done in it, so blocking things off on my calendar a LOT, like to a point it feels silly, has helped. I block off travel time, email time, recovery time after social things, etc. Also – I put a clock on my desk. “Clocks are like glasses for the time-blind” is a thing that stuck with me from this year! Also also: I know I’m best in the mornings, so I block of time for creative/thinky things then and take calls in the afternoons. Or early mornings, FML.

Getting enough sleep (which I’m failing at right now!!) helps me with executive function (which means: which tasks to do and also starting them; it’s the main thing people with ADHD don’t have enough of), working memory, general emotional evenkeeledness.

Exercise – days when I have lifted heavy things and put them back down repeatedly in the morning are so much more productive than days I haven’t, unless I fuck up the sleep thing and then sometimes I fall asleep at my desk. That’s why sleep is before exercise on this list.

Self-compassion – my productivity isn’t smooth and that’s ok. It’s not a moral flaw that my brain doesn’t really have much of a “chill getting shit done” mode in between “fucking around” and “SUPERHUMAN INCIDENT RESPONDER ADRENAL CRISIS MODE”. It’s just how my brain works. I’m working hard on building that middle mode – it’s like a muscle! But after a couple decades of white knuckling it through the other modes, it’s gonna take some time to shed maladaptive habits and build more sustainable ones.

There’s no point being cruel to myself when I get a bit stuck in “fucking around” mode and get dribs and drabs of work done as I alternate between work email reddit twitter a cute dog video someone sent me personal email DMs work Slack personal Slack phone messages work email etc etc. Harshness doesn’t get me any closer to chill getting shit done mode.

Kristin Neff’s work and book is a good place to start if that last bit resonated with you.

Drugs

I take 2mg Intunive XR (guanfacine) every night at bedtime, and 5mg Adderall XR on workdays. Intunive – originally a blood pressure drug that some genius figured out helps folks with ADHD – stops my brain from yelling “YOU’RE A FAILURE AND A DISAPPOINTMENT TO EVERYONE YOU LOVE” constantly. This is known as “rejection-sensitive dysphoria” or RSD, and it is the trauma response many people get from a lifetime of ADHD getting in the way of being able to consistently get stuff done (and then getting yelled at for being a failure, losing jobs, etc.) Adderall does what everyone knows Adderall does: lets me focus on stupid mundane shit. I find that it doesn’t help me as much with bigger creative things – it doesn’t harm, but it really shines on stuff like getting expenses filed. I take a low dose of it – too much makes me anxious.

Where I’m at

I still feel like I’m at maybe 60% of where my self-image says I should be productivity-wise, but it was like 30% before so it’s a huge improvement. ~Not living up to my potential~ is the millstone around the necks of just about everyone with ADHD (see earlier explanation of RSD), though, so I try to be gentle with myself when I stare at a wall for 4 hours in an evening because I can’t focus, and then have to stay up til 3AM to get that deliverable out. And then I’m super wired, so I write most of a blog post.

Other resources

* Disclosure: book links give me a kickback 😇

Startup: The Musical

Starting in December 2015, a colleague and I at my former employer, Slack, wrote most of a musical about startup life. The Google Doc is 44 pages long. Much of it is WAY too inside baseball about our time there to be fit to print, but with the recent public offering I wanted to at least acknowledge its existence publicly and share with you my own lyrical magnum opus: Cryin’ in the Nap Room (to the tune of the 1973 Brownsville Station classic, “Smokin’ in the Boys Room“).

Cryin’ in the Nap Room
To the tune of “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”

Did you ever seem to have one of those days
When everyone seemed to be on your case
From your CTO all the way down to your best girlfriend
Well that used to happen to me all the time
But I found a way to get out of it

Sittin’ in the open plan thinkin’ it’s a drag
Listening to the agile coach rap just ain’t my bag
When two bells ring you know it’s my cue
Gonna curl up with a blanket and do what i gotta do

[Chorus]
Cryin’ in the nap room
Cryin’ in the nap room
Bossman don’t you fill me up with your rules
Everybody knows that cryin’ ain’t allowed in

Checkin’ out the halls makin’ sure the coast is clear
Lookin’ in the gcal, nah, there ain’t nobody here
My buddies Mike, Matt and Mark
To get caught would surely be the death of us all

[Chorus]

Put me to work in the support queue
Tweetin’ on the corp account, and I got bored
Boss was lookin’ for me all around
Two hours later you know where I was found

[Chorus]

Cryin’ in the nap room
Cryin’ in the nap room

[Chorus]

One more time

[Chorus]


There were other songs – oh boy were there others. Here’s a selection:

Learning Objective-C
To the tune of “Defying Gravity”

The Interview
Setting: Whiteboard Interview
To the tune of “Greased Lightning”

Asking for a raise
Setting: Coffeeshop, with friends trying to recruit eachother to eachothers startups, by explaining perks
To the tune of “Pure Imagination”

Hooking up the AV
About hooking up AV for a meeting
To the tune of “You give love a Bad Name”

Go your own way
I Have an Idea / Leaving the Startup
To the tune of “Go your own way”

Acquire You
To the tune of Coldplay’s “Fix You”

Blame racists, not immigrants, for the Bay Area’s housing crisis

A couple of weeks ago some jerk who used to work for ICE wrote a hideous op-ed for the SF Chronicle about how immigrants are to blame for the Bay Area’s housing crisis. I won’t give it any clicks, but if you want to read it, here it is on archive.org. I wrote a letter to the editor but they didn’t publish it, so here it is instead:

As an immigrant, tech worker, and now startup founder and job creator, I felt a strong need to respond to Lou Di Leonardo’s recent op ed blaming people like me for the Bay Area’s housing crisis. Though let’s be real, he’s not blaming white Canadians in his piece, which is rife with dog-whistle references to immigrants of color.

The causes of our city’s housing crisis are complex and rooted in the United States’s history of housing-related racism – zoning laws that restrict dense multi-family housing, redlining and the resulting exclusion of Black people from benefiting from programs like the GI bill, and more recently in SF, rampant NIMBYism preventing affordable housing from being built. None of these should be blamed on immigrants. We are here creating jobs and contributing to the country’s economic well-being; the housing crisis is both a homegrown and a worldwide problem, and restricting immigration is not going to help solve it. What will help solve the crisis is upzoning neighborhoods to allow multi-family housing and then building lots of it. People need places to live, wherever they are from.

If the Bay Area housing crisis makes you angry, consider donating to CaRLA fund important pro-housing litigation.

Why I’m matching donations to Empower Work

In April 2018, I founded Tall Poppy, a company focused on fighting online harassment by working with employers to protect employees. Since then, I’ve worked to understand the web of organizations whose missions touch the work we do. I wanted to introduce you to one of the most exciting organizations I’ve gotten to know in the field: Empower Work.

When I met Empower Work founder Jaime-Alexis this spring, I wasn’t surprised by her research. Across over 200+ survey responses and more than 200 in-depth interviews, data confirmed that while workplace challenges were nearly universal — and extremely difficult — accessible resources to navigate them don’t exist. (Check out some of her research to delve into the backstory.)

Empower Work is a creative new approach to providing support at critical work moments. Anyone in the U.S. can connect with a trained peer counselor via text or web chat. When you’re questioning what you may be facing (is this normal in a workplace?), how you might want to handle it, and whether there might be other resources, Empower Work is there.

They’ve moved from research to pilot to supporting people across 42 states in under a year – pretty amazing. Their service intentionally has no barrier to entry – cost or otherwise. When you’re worried you may be fired in 15 min, or you’ve just been bullied in a meeting and aren’t sure where to turn, or you need to make a decision about an offer by end of day, they’re there.

They partner with professional and affinity groups across the country to provide support in particular for less-resourced or less-represented communities – from Year Up to Tech Ladies. Their work has been featured in TechCrunch, Quartz, Fast Company and more. We must change how we support people in workplaces, and it’s great to see them get recognition that this is the case.

I believe in their mission and their work, which is why I’m personally matching all donations between now and December 21st, up to $2,000. They’ve got a big goal to raise $25,000 by December 31st. I hope you’ll chip in what you can to help them scale up to serve tens of thousands of working people in 2019.

Donate here: www.empowerwork.org/donate

Cross-posted to the Empower Work blog.

The smoke cleared

shipping container cranes are hidden by smoke in the distance beyond the bridge's railing
The port of Oakland, seen from the Bay Bridge (cropped, original on instagram)

It’s been two weeks since the smoke from the fire finally cleared and San Francisco was drenched in rain. I’d never experienced air pollution like it – the 2017 fires were bad, but this year’s smoke settled over the city like an unwelcome houseguest.

What I didn’t expect was that even all this time later, I’m just starting to come out of the fog of the smoke myself. It hit me harder than I expected – the combination of being unable to go outside during the day right as the clocks changed left me feeling like “oh, it’s bedtime” right as soon as the sun set… at 5PM.

I did all the right things – I got an air purifier, minimized time outside and consistently wore a mask when I did, and ultimately left town for a couple days when the smoke was at its worst. I was fortunate to be able to afford to do all the “right” things – and I was still a mess, and it still hit me harder than I even realized when I was in the thick of it, and took much longer to recover from.

This probably could have just been a couple of tweets but I wanted to write it out to remind myself of how I felt if the fires (and smoke) hit again next year – both for myself as a reminder of how bad it was, and for others, too. Bay Area friends, know that if you’ve been feeling like shit this fall, you’re not alone and you’re not weird. It’s been rough, even as a generally pretty physically healthy person (albeit with mild asthma – a visit I had to the pulmonologist today reminded me to write this post). I’ve been thinking, too, of this smart twitter thread about disability, denial, and the smoke:

I am deeply lucky to only have had to deal with the smoke’s effects on my lungs and my brain. Nearly 100 people lost their lives, more are still missing, and thousands of people are now homeless – climate refugees in California, a state in perpetual housing crisis. My post-election worry that the federal government would bungle aid to natural disasters in California proved somewhat true – enough to make me feel justified about having checked off some of the Wirecutter’s disaster preparedness list a while back. Raking the leaves isn’t going to save us from climate change. But at least for now, for those currently still dealing with the aftermath, you can make tax-deductible donations to fire relief efforts via the North Valley Community Foundation here.

Fight workplace harassment by supporting BetterBrave

As part of launching my new company Tall Poppy, I’ve been getting to know other organizations who are doing anti-harassment and anti-abuse work – from Empower Work’s high-impact SMS-based counselling on tough workplace issues, to Anxiety Gaming’s work on mental health in the gamer community, to Citizen Lab’s interactive online security guide, Security Planner.

Over the past year, I’ve had the good fortune to get to know the founders of BetterBrave. I edited their Guide for Allies and have otherwise been supporting their work where I could. BetterBrave provides essential tools to people facing workplace harassment. They have produced up-to-date, plain-language legal guides – including detailed information about the sometimes very short timeframes targets have to report harassment. They also offer referrals to attorneys, therapists, and other experts to people facing workplace harassment.

BetterBrave cofounders Tammy (left) and Grace (right)

Tammy and Grace, the cofounders of BetterBrave, conducted over a hundred hours of interviews in developing the guides on the site. Their guides have even been signal-boosted by whistleblower Susan Fowler:

This August, BetterBrave is hoping to raise $25,000 to support their efforts over the next year. While I’m running pretty lean these days, this work is incredibly important to me so I am making a matching challenge: I will match up to $1,000 in donations to BetterBrave made before August 31st. You can donate at this link, or tweet your donation receipts to me!

Donations are tax deductible as BetterBrave is fiscally sponsored by the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, EIN 94-3136771. And don’t forget to get your employer to match your donation if that’s a thing they offer – just note in the match form that the donation is designated for BetterBrave.

Some advice for survivors and those writing about them

This post no longer updated as of February 2018. I’ve put an updated and reorganized version of this post on a dedicated page accessible at hypatia.ca/safety – please link to that going forward.

wheatpasted street art. on the left, text in all caps stating "your heart is a weapon the size of your fist keep loving keep fighting". on the right a white drawing of a hand holding a heart on a black background.
cropped and rotated, cc-by-sa https://www.flickr.com/photos/anthony_lui/4505667452

It seems we’re about due for another round of Shitty Infosec Dude Gets Outed As A Predator. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll link to it when stories appear. In this case, I’m referring to Morgan Marquis-Boire. Having been through this myself last year, I want to stand in solidarity with other survivors, as well as to ask journalists to not be fucking assholes.

Some things I learned as a survivor coming forward:

  • Coming forward is a HUGE step towards protecting other people. If you’ve done so willingly, thank you for your profound courage. We talk a lot in infosec about whistleblowers, but you should know that you are a goddamn whistleblower too. If your story has been told without your consent, I know that that’s a wretched retraumatizing experience and I am so sorry – but please do know that it’s not without impact and WILL keep other people safe in the future.
  • Lock your online stuff down as best as you can. Here’s an extensive guide I wrote much of which covers security stuff as well as physical threats like SWATting, and here’s a short one that covers the computery essentials. The even shorter version: use a password manager to set up unique passwords on key accounts, and enable two-factor auth on your email/Facebook/Twitter.
  • Carefully vet the reporters you talk to. I have personally worked with and trust the security practices and sensitivity to survivors of Sarah Jeong, Selena LarsonKate CongerCyrus Farivar, and Jessica Guynn – journalists who are covering this, feel free to reach out and if I trust you and think it’s appropriate I will add you here. There is at least one male journalist sniffing around about this who I have personally seen mistreat women. Approach with caution. Another good tactic here is to ask if they’ve previously covered sexual assault and/or sexism in tech and ask for press clippings of previous coverage.
  • If you’re talking to the press, email interviews are a great hack. You get the time to consider what to say and make sure that it won’t open you up to litigation, you can just decline to answer some of the questions (because cripes, the questions people will ask you…). Working over email also lets you run your responses by a trusted and hopefully less-traumatized friend to make sure they’re unambiguous and don’t reveal more than you intend.
  • Some useful language re: the press. Know the difference between these terms, and get the reporter you’re talking to to agree to the one you prefer before you say anything:
    • On the record: can be published, can be attributed to you by name
    • Off the record: can’t be published, can’t be attributed to you by name
    • On background: can be quoted or paraphrased and used as a story detail without direct attribution but with a vague organizational affiliation, eg. “a person in the White House who was not authorized to speak to the press” – this is the usual “anonymous source” mode
    • On deep background, not for attribution: can be quoted or paraphrased and used as a story detail without any attribution
      • When you want to say something on either “background” and “deep background,” it’s useful to give a clear definition of what you mean, just so you’re both on the same page. The definitions given above are commonly used. If you want, copy/paste those exact sentences into the email with the reporter so you’re unmistakably clear about your boundaries.
    • You can ask for anonymity. You can ask for press time to be delayed. You can negotiate anything as long as you do it before you give the quote. If you have conditions, make sure your agreement is hashed out in advance. Journalists are not bound to conditions imposed after the fact.
    • If the reporter is working for a magazine, sometimes they will ask you for a phone number so that a fact-checker can call you. Don’t be freaked out: this is common practice and doesn’t mean you’re going to be de-anonymized. Incidentally: the fact-checker is not obligated to read back to you verbatim what’s going to be in the piece, but you will get a sense of what’s going to end up in the piece based the questions they do ask.
      • Again, if this freaks you out, negotiate a different process before you give the quote, such as doing the fact-checking over email.
    • You can do things like “anything below this line is on the record” or “anything in italics is off the record” – just get an agreement in writing with the journalist as to the shared format
    • The rules around on the record / off the record / not for attribution / anonymity and so on are built to give journalists flexibility in dealing with sources who have power, like the PR divisions of major corporations. If a journalist pushes the outer bound of ethics really far with a victim, that has entirely different consequences than doing that to a company. Keep in mind that corporations and government sources negotiate these kinds of terms with journalists all the time, and very aggressively: there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be in your toolkit too.
  • It is up to you whether this is a good time or not to be open to hearing from other victims. Last summer, I noted in my post that I wasn’t ready to listen to other survivors’ stories, and directed folks to appropriate counselling resources. Almost everyone respected this, for which I was grateful. It gave me time and space to process going public without being retraumatized by trying to help others process their own experiences. I have since spoken with many other survivors (of the same assailant and others) and it has been a very important part of my healing process, but it was important to me to take the time to just process the media drama with close and trusted friends, and my therapist, first.
  • Therapy is great and has been an essential part of being resilient in the face of garbage fires like you’re going through. If you’re employed, your work may have an EAP that will get you a therapist with minimal fuss. If it’s not covered by your insurance Captain Awkward has a guide to locating low-cost mental health services in the US and Canada, and a newer post on other free and low-cost mental health resources.
  • I was fortunate to have access to good pro bono legal advice and some familiarity of my own with the laws around defamation. You probably want to find a lawyer to talk to (it’s worth paying money for if you can’t find someone to talk to you for free). Local domestic violence shelters and rape crisis hotlines may be able to help here with referrals. Remember that lawyers tend to be conservative due to the nature of their work; “this could get you sued” is not the same as “this WILL get you sued”. Sometimes the risk is worth it. The other thing to look are the “anti-SLAPP” laws in your jurisdiction – some of them have language that specifically deals with the right to speak out about one’s own experiences with DV or sexual assault.

Now I’m not actually an expert on how reporters should treat survivors of sexual violence, so I’ll mainly link to some excellent exisiting guides. Please comment or ping me if you have resources I should add. But what I will note is a few things I learned from my experience last year:

  • If you’re sleeping with the perpetrator, don’t report on this story. The disgrace to the profession of journalism I’m subtweeting here knows who she is.
  • Don’t name victim’s employers unless it’s actually relevant to the reporting. William Turton did this to me last year. He never reached out to me for comment about my report of harassment, just went straight to naming my employer in his article. Gross.
  • I’m going to write more here soon including some of the more egregious Bad Questions I got asked but wanted to get this posted for survivors first.

Finally, some resources for horrified bystanders: