Work Hard and Catch Up: Patterns in a Neurodivergent Career

Work Hard and Catch Up: Patterns in a Neurodivergent Career4 min read

I applied for a job that offered to pay a certain rate. They replied back offering me a different position at a different rate. A lower rate.

They found me to be impressive (good attitude, skilled writer), but under-qualified for the position, which seems fair. They wanted to work with me, to help me grow my skills, and grow into a position with them. They were being kind, and also trying to solve a problem on their end. That’s fair and completely understandable.

But it’s also part of a pattern with me.

Below the Minimum

The last job I worked tried to hire me on at a dollar below the minimum wage. When I pointed this out they laughed and said that they hadn’t paid someone minimum wage for so long that they didn’t know what it was anymore.

I remember thinking, “If that’s true, why was I changing that?” I felt the creeping tendrils of that everlasting status of: Disappointment, edging in.

Trauma Fawning

To compensate, I decided to prove I was tough enough to tow the line like everyone else. I could work hard and catch up. Later, I’d come to understand that this was my fawning response to this social pressure to be up to the task, which I never seem to be.

Money is a pretty accurate indicator that this dynamic is starting. People meet me and cut their rates. They tell me what I’ll be paid and it’s always less than they’ll pay others. Often, my pay gets cut in some form after I start as well. People break their contracts with me constantly.

I once had a client cut both my hours and my pay in half after I’d been a major contributor to their site for seven months, only to have another client cut my hours in half within days.

When I asked why, the second client said that I was doing well, but that they couldn’t keep paying the contracted rate. The first person never responded.

Double Pressure, Half the Pay

Even earlier in my career, I found myself working for an online paper that withheld $300 from my check after I hadn’t met my quota. It was a 25,000-word weekly quota that I had always maintained I could never meet.

I was pressured into a managing editor position that I insisted I wasn’t qualified for and had been working 60 hour weeks writing as fast as I could, and attending staff meetings, editing meetings, training meetings, and editing work.

I had tried very hard to decline that position and was begged to take it to “help them out.”

True to Form

“We’re happy to let you grow with us,” they said. Then they cut my pay.

In my defense, this specific organization was scamming a lot of people.

Not every person who’s done this is scamming me, though. Several of them really wanted to work with me and give me a chance.

But I won’t measure up.

I seem to find myself in a place where I am both over- and under-whelming in my job performance. I don’t understand why, or how to have different outcomes, but I know that I’m tired of burning out, losing everything, and taking the hits to my well-being, my stability, and my self-image.

Which Came First

I think that part of this dynamic has to do with being autistic and having PTSD from years of abuse. I’m a pushover. My autopilot is always eager to take over and render me pathologically agreeable, enthusiastic to my detriment.

When I’m masking in public, my attention goes to controlling the way people feel about me. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to outrun being disappointing. I try to hide that I have executive dysfunction and that I struggle with ADHD. Telling people usually doesn’t help as much as hiding it.

Behind as a Core Trait

Cracks show, though. I think that being behind is a thing that I am. Does that make sense? So, whether you’re scamming me or trying to help me grow into what you need, I’m screwed because I’m always behind.

People also don’t seem to hear me when I say, “No.”

It is a specific PTSD trigger to have to assert myself because it often results in me losing everything: the job, the income, the relationships, the stability, the sense of my own capability.

I can’t be held to an expectation I don’t already meet. I can’t have my “no” taken away. It drives me off a cliff every time.

False Starts and Breaking Patterns

All these false starts make me feel like a loser. I want different patterns, and I’m taking responsibility for it by setting boundaries with myself. This is my accountability to myself and it is nothing personal to anyone else.

I have no idea what it will mean for me or my future, either. I don’t really have a sense of what the future could be like; it’s been a big part of my eternal stagnation. All I can do is my work in this moment and trust that little steps build to new patterns.

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By: ladysnessa On: In: Autism, Careers, Neurodivergents With: 0 Comments

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