Everything your heart desires, as long as it desires stationery.

On Being a Business Owner With ADHD

I think I first realized I had ADHD close to the beginning of the Pandy.

A few people I follow on Instagram were talking about their recent diagnoses and one in particular talked about her experience in more detail saying she slept badly and always had nightmares. On top of everything else that is a common marker for ADHD; the fidgeting, the hyper-focus, the never-ending, ongoing Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in my head, I realized I also have nightmares all the time. I never have nice dreams or anything remotely amusing. Always upsetting to downright scary.

After that, I started to look for more info about ADHD, which in case you don't know, is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. From what I understand, ADD has been more or less removed from diagnosis as everyone who may have been previously diagnosed with ADD is hyperactive but it might be outwardly hyperactive or hyperactive "inside". (This is my own assessment of how I understand ADHD. If you need more detail, google it.)

I found more and more things about my personality were related to ADHD; things I really hated and made me feel bad about myself, like my impulsiveness. Not cute-impulsive like "Hey I know it's midnight but let's go to Taco Bell!" more like this one time I was at a concert with a friend and as we were walking out, she said how she liked one of the foam-core cutouts for the band so I picked it up and walked out with it. There was no one around and it was right inside the door. Did I mention the band was Christian? So I kind of stole from a church? I literally had no thoughts. She said "Oh look that's really cool" and I IMMEDIATELY swiped it.

Most everything I found out actually made me feel a lot better about a lot of really dumb shit I have done (like the above) or said because it's not my fault, my brain is just an asshole sometimes. But some things are still scary or made me really sad and feel like I'm out in the wild with leaf-covered pits everywhere.

I have always been bad with money. A lot of people with ADHD also have Dyscalculia which is like Dyslexia but with numbers. When I first opened Calliope I remember I had carefully calculated everything I bought for inventory except somewhere along the line I had ordered over $1000 worth of planners and didn't have the money for it because I had somehow fucked up my totals. I felt so stupid and so ashamed. For a long time I was constantly messing up my finances and no amount of tools or programs could really help me because I was too overwhelmed to learn how to use them and I thought that would mess me up even more. To this day I am still terrified I will recklessly get myself into enormous debt without noticing.

I forget everything. Sometimes my thoughts move so fast I forget to write down a thing and then forget the thing. I can remember a friend's birthday a thousand times but the DAY will come and I'll forget to say happy birthday, which breaks my heart because I LOVE birthdays and see it as a HUGE slight if someone forgets mine. When I forget things it's like letting go of a balloon and when I forget, sometimes I FEEL myself forgetting and I am desperately trying to get the thought back but I watch the balloon float away. It's just floating away and there's nothing I can do.

I also can't focus when something is too monotonous or boring. When I was running the show alone, I would have to pack sometimes up to 100 orders by myself and I could only do a few before I'd wander off and look at my phone or something. I'm in total awe of the people who work for me who can just rip through order packing and get like 40 packages out the door in a day.

Ready for the rub? Cuz here comes hyper-focus.

My more recent revelation and probably the most dangerous of all is that I realize I hyper-focus when I'm doing my buying. Hyper-focus is exactly what it sounds like: someone with ADHD can go into a weird trance-like state where we can completely focus on something for hours and maybe forget to eat and not go to the bathroom right away. And of course I never hyper-focus on important stuff like packing orders. But I do it when get on my buying sites and start adding to cart and I don't even know what I'm putting in there sometimes. I just add, add, add.

I realized this was happening when I started getting shipments from a tradeshow and I was entering things into my website and I could not remember getting this thing or why I ordered 18 of this one thing or not enough of this other thing. Paired with impulse-control problems and financial blindness...can you see how this might be a very bad thing? I'm just glad I realized what was happening.

I wish I could tell you this ended with some kind of suggestion on how to help or a tool I use to keep organized but, alas.

My main tool is hiring other people to do the things I can't. I decided today I can't do an analog planner which kills me. I can't commit to writing things down or forget too fast, so I have to use my outlook calendar so I can set alarms. I know there are helpful meds out there but I am too afraid to try. (Please don't email me and try to convince me otherwise)

That's where I am. Still learning and figuring out what I can do and not do and I wanted to put these thoughts out in case there was anyone else who might need them. It was the hyper-focus buying that really freaked me out and I hadn't heard of anyone else having this experience and speaking up about it so I am talking about my experience in case it resonates with any other business owner out there. If that's you, hi! You're not alone.

And if you have your sad-pants on for me right now, it's ok you can take them off. I have a very supportive family and staff. I manage. And the flip side of all this madness is that I get some cool ideas because my brain works differently than everyone else's. I am also a pretty fearless risk-taker which I realize can be bad (LOL) but it made me completely confident in Calliope and never once gave giving up a thought. And look where that got me!

I don't know how to end this except to say I hope this gives you some kind of understanding of me. Maybe someone you know who has ADHD or this sounds like your child? It's not "just pay attention" or "try harder." In elementary school I was physically placed at a desk away from my whole class facing a wall so I would "just pay attention." I'm 41 years old. I "try" so hard it hurts and when I still can't do it, I cry, feeling stupid and thinking there's something wrong with me.

Maybe this sounds like you? I follow a couple IG accounts that help me feel less alone and sometimes share with my husband so he can understand me better.
I like @the_mini_adhd_coach and @truly_tish_adhd and @adhd_couple
I'm also really glad neurodivergence is being more openly talked about and not shamed or erased.

Thanks for reading ok love you bye.