Desperate Monkey Reaching out for life raft

Hello WSO community, I've never posted on online forums for advice but don't have anyone to turn to about my predicament and truly in dire need of  help.  A bit about me... I've kept my mental illness (bipolar 1, ADHD, and mixture of learning disabilities) a secret my whole life and found workarounds to excel in academics and internships  until this point. I have never been able to process new information, read, learn, multi task, and concentrate in public spaces which makes working and learning on a trading floor a never ending nightmare. 

All through my life in school, I failed to process any new knowledge in the classroom and would spend weekends and holidays getting ahead before falling behind in class. I outworked all my piers and scarified much of my childhood to graduate valedictorian of my class, taking 10 APs . Prior to college, my family had a team of 5 tutors that also helped me play catchup every week. Got into top 20 university from nontarget city and applied to 200+ financial institutions and luckily received an internship offer in S&T at prominent MM.  Working remotely in a calm quiet environment from home during the pandemic, I was able to hide my learning disability and outwork my piers in competitive internship by loading up on Adderall and working 110 hours each week for 2 months. Ultimately I received a return offer to a full time S&T rotational program . I would write everything down in training calls and review and review until I had it down pat next time I spoke with senior coworkers.  Now I am in the office on the trading floor as an analyst and find myself in a coma every day after work from the constant  pings from the terminal, flashing tv screens, a convoluted mixture of shouts, pranks and antics, and serious client pitches around me. By the end of the day, I have no energy to learn and review all the topics i misunderstood. The solution i found in college and my virtual internship, boosting up on stimulants, worked in a stable environment, but on the trading floor ... causes sensory overload and makes me incredibly anxious.

In this environment I constantly make careless mistakes and unable to comprehend complex detailed information. Everyday I am booking trades incorrectly, constantly making careless errors in assignments, and burdening my coworkers with repetitive questions unable to grasp simple concepts. Concepts that would take other analysts 10 minutes to comprehend has taken me weeks in this environment. I feel like i'm within a terrible inside joke.  I keep up a good attitude, stay optimistic, and don't get discouraged. When people ask me how I am doing, I continue to give my desk glowing reviews and they continue to do the same for me as well but not sure how much longer this game of fake it until you make it can go on. Unable to add value to my team with very low ROI ,my self confidence has diminished to a pulp. 

I have kept my  mental illness secret from friends colleagues and HR , but unsure if I can keep secret any longer. I'm on the verge of collapse and afraid of an episode emerging from the stress. If I share what I'm going through with HR or colleagues, I run the risk of being ostracized from piers and discriminated against potentially shuffled to back office or on chopping block to be fired until I give them a suitable reason. I've thought about trying to make a move internally to IB bc environment may be more conducive being quiet and structured in a less triggering of an atmosphere but seems to be a hard to pitch considering I'm not excelling at my current role and considered an exit opportunity. I've thought of all routes I could take but am stuck indecisive. What should I do? Should I share my reality but not mental health? or both? non at all and rough it out? I feel like everyone notices that I'm struggling but won't be real with me. 

How do you manage mental illness in the office space and still excel at a high level? Do you have any stories of friends or family that have navigated through similar circumstances? 

 Plz help. Any mental health resources & advice greatly appreciated. I am desperate 

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Comments (14)

Nov 9, 2021 - 5:17pm
rabbit, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Your first step needs to be seeking professional help. It's hard enough to manage something like ADHD by yourself in a high stress environment. A professional will arm you with the appropriate tools, whether its therapy or medication, to manage what you have. 

I took years to seek help for my ADHD and man it changed my life.

Also why is there a phone number in your post?

Most Helpful
  • Analyst 2 in PE - LBOs
Nov 9, 2021 - 5:40pm

Hey man, sorry to hear your story. I also suffer ADHD, so I can relate, but I can't imagine how worse it gets when you add bipolar + not being able to learn in public. It seems that you are going through a very difficult time... In an ideal world, you would tell HR about it and it would be helpful, but I don't think that it would be the case IRL, and more in this industry.

Given that you are already working c.100h/week, there is nothing more you can do in that sense. I think that your best bet would be to try to work from home regularly. In a normal situation, it would put you at disadvantage vs your peers, but given that the alternative is disastrous for you, I think that that's your best bet. If HR/your team allows it, you have the potential to do very well. 

In case they don't allow you to WFH, I think that plan B should be to tell HR about your issue, and tell them that the only way for you to do well is to WFH. Then they could either be understanding and helpful or not, but I think that it is worth to try, given your situation. If they are not helpful, I think that you should look for a different role ASAP. Finance overall is not the best environment for people with those disabilities, but there are jobs that suit better than others. I think that IB would be a better alternative to S&T, given that it is very intense but less fast paces.

However, I think that ER would be better for you. You get to do more research on your own, and less interacting with other people vs S&T or IB. I think that that would be ideal for you. The same applies for an Analyst position at an HF.  

Nov 10, 2021 - 10:59am
Legion42, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey brother, 

I would seek out a doctor and get diagnosed with anxiety or some other condition. Then you will be protected by HIPAA. These banks / hedge funds / PE would dare not to mess with HIPAA as legal action could be very costly. 

Nov 10, 2021 - 8:03pm
topbuckethardess, what's your opinion? Comment below:

i genuinely feel bad for you but at the same time i'm wheezing at your descriptions of everything

who told you it was a good idea to work in the adult equivalent of a frat house (s&t) when theres stuff like am, er, pwm corpfin/dev, fp&a or even something in tech like product management or swe, or even a quant in buyside. 

a trading floor is probably the most frat-like environment in the professional world (not just finance), so its pretty funny that fate brought you there (or maybe you just accepted the highest paying offer, in which case its not as funny)

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  • Trader in S&T - FI
Dec 5, 2021 - 8:11am

Hey man, take your phone number off this. Assuming other ppl scroll this forum that you know/work with… there is a decent chance they can recognize your number…

Regarding your predicament… Probably try to get a different job. S&T is not going to change and it seems a bit incompatible. If you're going to tough it out… it sounds like you are in a rotational program so DO NOT DO SALES OR TRADING AT A FLOW DESK FOR YOUR NEXT ROTATION. DO SOMETHING IN RESEARCH, INTERNAL STRATEGY or PROJECT/STRUCTURED BASED WORK. Sales and trading is not going to change, and  it sounds like you will not be able to have long term success in those roles.

Dec 5, 2021 - 11:39am
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

First of all, remove the phone number from your post. You shouldn't be posting that. And you're only gonna get prank calls man.

Second of all, what was the impetus to choose a career where the environment is such a nightmare for you? Don't you think it would be better to transition to a job that allows you to work from home a lot? Like a start up or tech job? There are so many remote only jobs these days.

Third, you can try to listen to all these other poster and get a diagnosis and then tell HR and try to be "protected", but that's not a long term solution. In trading you gotta be on the floor man. And just because you can't be fired cause of HIPPA, what kind of work environment is that where you're protected from getting fired but your team feels alienated from you.

You may be infatuated with trading or finance, but you also have to consider if the work environment is conducive to your reality.

What Purdue a career where the typical work environment doesn't mesh well with your mental illness? Why not pursue a career where you can work alone at home? Just doesn't seem like a smart choice you've made.

Dec 6, 2021 - 5:24pm
Subprimed, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey man, I can relate to your situation quite alot and this would be my advice:

  1. Talk to a therapist (will give you the tools to focus and/or manage your emotions etc)
  2. Get ADHD medication (if you don't have it already, helps a f-load)
  3.  If you're into it, try to transfer to a research position within your firm (the enviorment will be more suitable for someone like you)
  4. Take a couple of minutes to mediate whenever you can
  5. Workout
  6. Sleep
  7. Eat as healthy as you can

Most of the points above have worked for me.

Dec 15, 2021 - 1:22pm
Basil Hayden, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is great advice. Very ADHD, diagnosed in elementary but told the Dr. to shove it. Came to terms with the fact that my brain works different in high school & have been prescribed ADHD meds since. It works WONDERS, and has allowed to me focus on a high stress, long hours career in LevFin. I don't take the meds on the weekend and the lady thinks I'm on crack… an endless motor.

  • Analyst 1 in S&T - FI
Dec 7, 2021 - 6:15am

Hey US BB ST analyst here

I can't relate to your experiences but I must imagine it's not ideal to have people slamming phones next to you. Have you thought about moving to a desk with more illiquid flow? I don't know what asset or product you're in but let's say if you're in cash equities/vanilla swaps / anything where you have mins to quote prices - is it possible for you to try other trading/sales such as CLO, QIS, central risk, exotics, structured credit? Illiquid trading desks tend to be more technical but you sound like you'd be good with studying something more academic as long as you're given time and space. These more exotic desks might be a really good fit as from my experience on QIS I'm often reading equations nd figuring things out (don't have my book yet but from observation other traders have sometimes 1/2 weeks to price something and that's not abnormal)

maybe you can also consider going into a structuring role? So not joining a flow rates structuing thing but again exotics or even things like real estate financing, securitisation, ABS (depending on how your bank is structured)

Lastly if all fails can you see yourself being a good sales? Like electronic trading platforms? Those aren't traditional market roles with less obvious exits etc but nonetheless make enough money for you to not worry about it

Sep 9, 2022 - 1:01am
PreppyBanana, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hey! Could you tell me a little about QIS? I'm recruiting with a QIS team for a FT analyst role and I'd love to learn more, I haven't found any good explanatory sources online.

  • PM in HF - Other
Dec 8, 2021 - 1:50pm

Trade floors are full of people with adhd/dyslexia/bipolar etc…Anxiety/depression list goes on.

Wont lie trader here and my adhd would not let me even read your long post in total. Seems people are pointing to its causing you to be overly stressed in real life. Question is do you enjoy the job? Does it fit you? If so understand most personalities that attract to trading aint normal folk so you fit just fine in. Cause I think your team does not think your performance is lacking.

Sep 9, 2022 - 11:05am
Pirouline, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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