I’m very sane about how crazy I am.
I’m neuro-atypical, which means some parts of my brain work don’t work like they should. There’s something wrong with the areas that control focus and attention, as well as the neurotransmitters that run between them (or so says Google when I look up how ADD works). I also have a form of sensory processing disorder affectionately known as “misophonia” among our little community of people who want to smack you in the face for breathing wrong. My amygdala – that’s the area of the brain responsible for the processing of emotions – overreacts to certain sounds and can send me into a full-blown panic attack before I even become aware that’s happened
Of course, I can only speculate as to what’s going on inside my brain. I haven’t cracked open my skull to see how things work in there, and an fMRI is expensive.
Despite that, most of my jobs to date have been desk jobs. Not all of them were pleasant, and at least one had me at risk of committing noisy-co-worker-icide, along with the other kind of -icide, the One We Don’t Talk About™. In the spring of 2016, when I found myself burgled and jobless on the same day (which also happened to be April 1st – har, har, Universe…), the last thing I wanted was yet another office job that involved endless meetings and corporate-mandated “fun”.
It’s been long enough that I can admit I was wrong. I just hadn’t found the right type of corporate yet.
Through a combination of grit, Red Bull and a wee bit of luck luck, I ended up working at a cloud-based SaaS company that lets me bring my whole self to work, blundering brain and all. Once I ditched the training wheels and dove deep into the fun, varied and mildly terrifying work that is technical writing for other corporate clients, I quickly realized that my neurological make-up was perfect for this kind of work… if I could quiet my brain enough to be able to do it.
Enter – Elder Scrolls: Legends.
I’ve always used various concentration aids, going all the way back to the middle school, when I used to study while pacing around the room and listening to glam metal on full blast. The first game I used to help me work was X-Com: Terror from the Deep, much to the horror of my parents, who found me playing TFD hours before my baccalaureate exam. In early 2017, I was looking for something I could play while working that wasn’t a p2w browser game. That’s how I came across Elder Scrolls: Legends.
ESL is a digital collectible card game. You might be familiar with the CCG archetype if you’ve played Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh!, or if – God help you – you ever touched the fiesta of RNG f*ckery that is Hearthstone. Having played somewhere around 500 hours of Skyrim on Steam alone (and probably twice as much on non-Steam, heavily modded installs), I decided to give ESL a shot.
It was love at first sight.
ESL wins over other digital CCGs because a- it’s rooted in the Elder Scrolls lore (as much as a card game can be), and b- it’s simple enough to be fun, but complex enough to be engaging.
In other words, it’s the perfect brain-sponge for the mental noise I have to live with. I can play it on auto-pilot while juggling two or more tasks on my other screens. Multitasking might get a bad rap, but for me, this is how I can work at my best. It works so well, in fact, that I got bumped up to senior-level a couple months back, so there’s something to be said for allowing neuro-diverse employees to work their way.
For the longest time, though, I didn’t want to “come out” as anything but neurotypical to my manager or to HR, because previous experiences had left me with a sour taste (I’m firmly convinced my “coming out” to a manager at my previous workplace contributed to the boot he kindly planted in my arse). There are a lot of myths surrounding mental health issues in general, and misophonia in particular is only just entering mainstream awareness*. In my experience, it’s rare enough to find anyone willing to listen – let alone someone whose main concern is, ostensibly, that you do the work you’re paid to do.
I needn’t have worried, though. My current employer deserves all the kudos for handling this the right way. The only reason I’m not naming them so they can get even more kudos is because I don’t want to have to clear this with our legal department, who are nice but very busy folks.
Artwork: Nuare Studio
Note: While I did consult with an occupational therapist for parts of this article, it’s still based on my own personal experience and should be taken as such. I’m neither a doctor nor a mental health professional. If you’re struggling with ADD, misophonia, or any other mental health-related issue, please talk to a professional.