July 7, 2022
4
Min read

“I got diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. It changed the way I work.”

Written By
Steve Howe
With thanks To
Josh Feldberg | Digital Lead at an international climate foundation

Josh always knew his brain worked differently to most other people. 

His career so far has been impressive to say the least: political advisor, entrepreneur, climate change campaigner. But as someone who manages big projects across multiple time zones, it’s often assumed that his organisation and communication skills are flawless.

In reality, it’s complicated:

“My short-term memory can be really bad. I’ll ask something, people respond, and I’ll forget I even asked about it.”  

Josh can review documents 15-20 times and still miss glaring errors. Or send emails with half a sentence missing. Or insert dates into a project plan that make no sense. 

Colleagues and clients will point these things out to Josh with the best of intentions. But it can still make him feel awful: 

“People sometimes think you aren’t taking your work seriously. But it’s quite the opposite, because you care deeply and feel like you’ve failed. And that affects your self-esteem and drives anxiety.”  

This cycle was something he lived with until 2020, when a friend got tested for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—and prompted him to do the same.

A massive effort

Josh went to an all-boys state school in central London. It wasn’t the most calm or nurturing environment, to put it lightly:

“There were kids whose parents were literally on crack or in prison. I wasn’t ignored, but I definitely wasn’t a priority.”  

School started at 8:30am with three back-to-back classes before any sort of break. It wasn’t designed for children like Josh who struggled to find focus. In class, he lacked stimulation—so he’d ruminate and fall into bouts of functional depression.

With the support of his parents, Josh got the grades he needed to attend university. He dropped out twice because of various mental health issues, but persevered because he enjoyed his chosen degree—Politics and Latin American History.  

The work, however, was a real slog. Other students completed their theses in three months at most, but Josh needed double that time. While they downed pints and played pool at the Student Union, he was tethered to his desk. Every time he’d write something, his brain would shoot off in a different direction and leave him mentally paralysed: 

“Uni work was a massive effort. I’d just sit in bed, get exhausted, then take naps. My brain got overwhelmed—and that fuelled my anxiety that I should've been revising. I relied heavily on coffee.”

<quote-author>Josh Feldberg<quote-author><quote-company>Digital Lead at an international climate foundation<quote-company>

Despite the challenges, he pulled through and graduated with First Class Honours—the highest grade in his cohort. The world of employment awaited, where his undiagnosed ADHD would turn out to be a blessing—and a curse.

There is no box 

One of Josh’s first jobs was an internship at a digital marketing consultancy. At the time, no one paid much attention to social media. But Josh was compelled to write Tweets about sustainability impact reports. It wasn’t his role, but it got him noticed—and the job offers started flooding in.  

Josh has worked on political leadership campaigns, social justice causes, and the UK government’s fake news enquiry. All this bouncing around would make most people feel dizzy. For Josh, it’s in his nature:

“One of the biggest symptoms of ADHD is impulsivity. In my case, boredom settles in quickly—I need constant stimulation.” 

Josh says a lot of people with ADHD end up as consultants or entrepreneurs. You can be a keeper of your own time, and nobody’s there to enforce more conventional lines of thought: 

“People say ‘think outside the box’, but if you’ve got ADHD there is no box. You come up with solutions for things in a non-linear way.” 

<quote-author>Josh Feldberg<quote-author><quote-company>Digital Lead at an international climate foundation<quote-company>


That’s how Josh ended up accidentally co-founding a startup. His mum, who owned and rented out a property in London, was being squeezed for expensive agency fees. Josh knew there must be a way to cut out the agencies and, with a friend—who also turned out to have ADHD—set about fixing the problem. 

They needed seed funding. While many would recoil at the idea, Josh—with his impulsivity—had no qualms asking contacts for cash.  

“It was a combination of two people with ADHD having what seemed like a bonkers idea and saying: ‘let’s do it’. It was a startup off the back of a mental health issue.”

They all just laughed 

Now Josh works for an international climate change foundation, where his team encourages fact-based discourse around the climate crisis. It was here, in 2020, that he finally got diagnosed with ADHD through private healthcare—the wait time for public health was three years.   

His friends and family’s reaction? 

“When I told people, they all just laughed and said: ‘Well, yeah. I could’ve told you that 15 or 20 years ago.”

Josh was prescribed medication, which made a significant impact on his life. A similar composition to the recreational drug speed, it calms him down and brings focus: 

“The other day I got up at 6am, took the medication, and within a couple of hours wrote a 2000-word report—something I’ve never historically been able to do.” 

He also started seeing a specialist psychologist, who helped him understand how his brain works. Josh’s ADHD brain is associated with weaker functioning of the prefrontal cortex—the bit that regulates attention, impulsivity, and emotions. Which is why Josh does things like order loads of stuff from Amazon, only to return it all two days later. 

This new knowledge helped him at work. Take Slack, for example—the messaging app used by his company. Unregulated, Slack’s notifications light up a laptop like a short-circuiting Christmas tree:

“I just get lost in a black hole, going through and answering questions and trying to be helpful rather than doing whatever it is that’s my actual priority.”

Now, Josh mutes the channels to dodge the black hole. 

Josh has also found that simply telling people he has ADHD means they’re better equipped to support him. His manager adapted his role to provide more autonomy. And his team know when to give him space, because—unsurprisingly—a brain that goes a million miles an hour can be really exhausting:

“My friend describes ADHD as like being in a wind turbine, trying to desperately grab post-it notes that have all your thoughts written on them.”

<quote-author>Josh Feldberg<quote-author><quote-company>Digital Lead at an international climate foundation<quote-company>

Josh doesn’t feel comfortable telling everybody about his diagnosis, through fear of appearing like he’s asking for a “free pass”. People external to his organisation don’t know. But that means there’s a lack of understanding:

“Inevitably, any job requires a level of organisation. When working with external partners, I might not stick rigidly to the process—that throws them off and may lead to a breakdown of trust.”

It’s a world he’s still trying to navigate. 

Society catches up

Josh believes more should be done to support people with ADHD at work. Neurodiversity, he says, isn’t spoken about as much as other forms of diversity. Without training, it’s something that can be easily overlooked within an organisation. 

And education benefits everyone. If you know a colleague has ADHD—a recognised disability in the UK, US, and EU—you’re in a better position to adapt: 

“It’s an extreme example, but you wouldn’t write down some notes and ask a blind person to read them. Certain things I can control and improve, but there are certain things I’ll never be good at.”  

But Josh is encouraged by signs that society is catching up—these days there are way more incentives for companies to adapt. In the UK, employers can now apply for grants to set up workplace adjustments for people with disabilities. 

Josh’s biggest piece of advice for people who suspect they have ADHD?

“Get tested. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent.”

Josh recommends ADDitude magazine and r/ADHD for those seeking information on ADHD. You can find Josh on LinkedIn.

Oliva therapist portrait photo

5 tips for managing ADHD

by Oliva therapist

Inmaculada Rodríguez Ángel

1

Become an ADHD expert

Sometimes it's hard to accept an ADHD diagnosis. But keeping an open mind and learning about ADHD from reliable sources can help a lot. As they say, "information is power". The more you learn, the better you’ll manage.
2

Open up to family & friends

Emotional support from loved ones is essential in managing ADHD. Making the people around you aware of where you struggle can help them understand you better—and this will improve your relationships. Family members will have more realistic expectations, so you won’t have to feel like you’ve disappointed them.
3

Structure your day

One of the big challenges of ADHD is not being able to focus on the present task because your attention is dispersed. So create an agenda with time slots for your daily activities, then cross them out when you complete them. Managing your time this way will give you a feeling of safety and help you focus on the present.
4

Learn to prioritise

You won’t always complete all the things you set out to do—and that’s OK. Learning to prioritize can help you avoid overloading yourself. Once you’ve planned your day with a list of tasks, sort them in order of priority. You could even give each a score from 1 to 10. Then choose the two or three most important tasks, and leave the others for the next day. Be patient with yourself—it’s all about practice.
5

Leave space to relax

Along with therapy and medication, breathing, relaxation, and meditation techniques can be effective when dealing with ADHD. These kinds of tools will help you focus more on the present, reduce anxiety, and improve your ability to manage emotions in times of crisis. They can also help keep the impulsivity that comes with ADHD in check.
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April 22, 2022
4
Min read

“I got diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. It changed the way I work.”

Written By
Steve Howe
With thanks To
Josh Feldberg | Digital Lead at an international climate foundation

Josh always knew his brain worked differently to most other people. 

His career so far has been impressive to say the least: political advisor, entrepreneur, climate change campaigner. But as someone who manages big projects across multiple time zones, it’s often assumed that his organisation and communication skills are flawless.

In reality, it’s complicated:

“My short-term memory can be really bad. I’ll ask something, people respond, and I’ll forget I even asked about it.”  

Josh can review documents 15-20 times and still miss glaring errors. Or send emails with half a sentence missing. Or insert dates into a project plan that make no sense. 

Colleagues and clients will point these things out to Josh with the best of intentions. But it can still make him feel awful: 

“People sometimes think you aren’t taking your work seriously. But it’s quite the opposite, because you care deeply and feel like you’ve failed. And that affects your self-esteem and drives anxiety.”  

This cycle was something he lived with until 2020, when a friend got tested for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—and prompted him to do the same.

A massive effort

Josh went to an all-boys state school in central London. It wasn’t the most calm or nurturing environment, to put it lightly:

“There were kids whose parents were literally on crack or in prison. I wasn’t ignored, but I definitely wasn’t a priority.”  

School started at 8:30am with three back-to-back classes before any sort of break. It wasn’t designed for children like Josh who struggled to find focus. In class, he lacked stimulation—so he’d ruminate and fall into bouts of functional depression.

With the support of his parents, Josh got the grades he needed to attend university. He dropped out twice because of various mental health issues, but persevered because he enjoyed his chosen degree—Politics and Latin American History.  

The work, however, was a real slog. Other students completed their theses in three months at most, but Josh needed double that time. While they downed pints and played pool at the Student Union, he was tethered to his desk. Every time he’d write something, his brain would shoot off in a different direction and leave him mentally paralysed: 

Quote author photograph
“Uni work was a massive effort. I’d just sit in bed, get exhausted, then take naps. My brain got overwhelmed—and that fuelled my anxiety that I should've been revising. I relied heavily on coffee.”

<quote-author>Josh Feldberg<quote-author><quote-company>Digital Lead at an international climate foundation<quote-company>

Despite the challenges, he pulled through and graduated with First Class Honours—the highest grade in his cohort. The world of employment awaited, where his undiagnosed ADHD would turn out to be a blessing—and a curse.

There is no box 

One of Josh’s first jobs was an internship at a digital marketing consultancy. At the time, no one paid much attention to social media. But Josh was compelled to write Tweets about sustainability impact reports. It wasn’t his role, but it got him noticed—and the job offers started flooding in.  

Josh has worked on political leadership campaigns, social justice causes, and the UK government’s fake news enquiry. All this bouncing around would make most people feel dizzy. For Josh, it’s in his nature:

“One of the biggest symptoms of ADHD is impulsivity. In my case, boredom settles in quickly—I need constant stimulation.” 

Josh says a lot of people with ADHD end up as consultants or entrepreneurs. You can be a keeper of your own time, and nobody’s there to enforce more conventional lines of thought: 

“People say ‘think outside the box’, but if you’ve got ADHD there is no box. You come up with solutions for things in a non-linear way.” 

<quote-author>Josh Feldberg<quote-author><quote-company>Digital Lead at an international climate foundation<quote-company>


That’s how Josh ended up accidentally co-founding a startup. His mum, who owned and rented out a property in London, was being squeezed for expensive agency fees. Josh knew there must be a way to cut out the agencies and, with a friend—who also turned out to have ADHD—set about fixing the problem. 

They needed seed funding. While many would recoil at the idea, Josh—with his impulsivity—had no qualms asking contacts for cash.  

“It was a combination of two people with ADHD having what seemed like a bonkers idea and saying: ‘let’s do it’. It was a startup off the back of a mental health issue.”

They all just laughed 

Now Josh works for an international climate change foundation, where his team encourages fact-based discourse around the climate crisis. It was here, in 2020, that he finally got diagnosed with ADHD through private healthcare—the wait time for public health was three years.   

His friends and family’s reaction? 

“When I told people, they all just laughed and said: ‘Well, yeah. I could’ve told you that 15 or 20 years ago.”

Josh was prescribed medication, which made a significant impact on his life. A similar composition to the recreational drug speed, it calms him down and brings focus: 

“The other day I got up at 6am, took the medication, and within a couple of hours wrote a 2000-word report—something I’ve never historically been able to do.” 

He also started seeing a specialist psychologist, who helped him understand how his brain works. Josh’s ADHD brain is associated with weaker functioning of the prefrontal cortex—the bit that regulates attention, impulsivity, and emotions. Which is why Josh does things like order loads of stuff from Amazon, only to return it all two days later. 

This new knowledge helped him at work. Take Slack, for example—the messaging app used by his company. Unregulated, Slack’s notifications light up a laptop like a short-circuiting Christmas tree:

“I just get lost in a black hole, going through and answering questions and trying to be helpful rather than doing whatever it is that’s my actual priority.”

Now, Josh mutes the channels to dodge the black hole. 

Josh has also found that simply telling people he has ADHD means they’re better equipped to support him. His manager adapted his role to provide more autonomy. And his team know when to give him space, because—unsurprisingly—a brain that goes a million miles an hour can be really exhausting:

quote author photograph
“My friend describes ADHD as like being in a wind turbine, trying to desperately grab post-it notes that have all your thoughts written on them.”

<quote-author>Josh Feldberg<quote-author><quote-company>Digital Lead at an international climate foundation<quote-company>

Josh doesn’t feel comfortable telling everybody about his diagnosis, through fear of appearing like he’s asking for a “free pass”. People external to his organisation don’t know. But that means there’s a lack of understanding:

“Inevitably, any job requires a level of organisation. When working with external partners, I might not stick rigidly to the process—that throws them off and may lead to a breakdown of trust.”

It’s a world he’s still trying to navigate. 

Society catches up

Josh believes more should be done to support people with ADHD at work. Neurodiversity, he says, isn’t spoken about as much as other forms of diversity. Without training, it’s something that can be easily overlooked within an organisation. 

And education benefits everyone. If you know a colleague has ADHD—a recognised disability in the UK, US, and EU—you’re in a better position to adapt: 

“It’s an extreme example, but you wouldn’t write down some notes and ask a blind person to read them. Certain things I can control and improve, but there are certain things I’ll never be good at.”  

But Josh is encouraged by signs that society is catching up—these days there are way more incentives for companies to adapt. In the UK, employers can now apply for grants to set up workplace adjustments for people with disabilities. 

Josh’s biggest piece of advice for people who suspect they have ADHD?

“Get tested. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent.”

Josh recommends ADDitude magazine and r/ADHD for those seeking information on ADHD. You can find Josh on LinkedIn.

Oliva therapist photograph

5 tips for managing ADHD

by Oliva therapist

Inmaculada Rodríguez Ángel

1
Become an ADHD expert

Sometimes it's hard to accept an ADHD diagnosis. But keeping an open mind and learning about ADHD from reliable sources can help a lot. As they say, "information is power". The more you learn, the better you’ll manage.

2
Open up to family & friends

Emotional support from loved ones is essential in managing ADHD. Making the people around you aware of where you struggle can help them understand you better—and this will improve your relationships. Family members will have more realistic expectations, so you won’t have to feel like you’ve disappointed them.

3
Structure your day

One of the big challenges of ADHD is not being able to focus on the present task because your attention is dispersed. So create an agenda with time slots for your daily activities, then cross them out when you complete them. Managing your time this way will give you a feeling of safety and help you focus on the present.

4
Learn to prioritise

You won’t always complete all the things you set out to do—and that’s OK. Learning to prioritize can help you avoid overloading yourself. Once you’ve planned your day with a list of tasks, sort them in order of priority. You could even give each a score from 1 to 10. Then choose the two or three most important tasks, and leave the others for the next day. Be patient with yourself—it’s all about practice.

5
Leave space to relax

Along with therapy and medication, breathing, relaxation, and meditation techniques can be effective when dealing with ADHD. These kinds of tools will help you focus more on the present, reduce anxiety, and improve your ability to manage emotions in times of crisis. They can also help keep the impulsivity that comes with ADHD in check.

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