View Full Version : Explosive Essay & Study Method


simmyymmis
04-19-15, 08:05 PM
I'm a 35 yr adult with ADD-i (unmedicated). In order to get myself to study, and especially to write an essay, I typically need to spend about half-a-day building up frustration and anger against myself and my pathetic inability to focus or concentrate and procrastinate into a massive explosion of fury that often involves bashing, harming and injuring myself, crying, and generally having a bit of a cathartic meltdown.

The meltdown usually lasts about an hour, though the build-up to explosion can extend for up to 3-4+ hours. I often compare it to the experience of having food poisoning - the slow steady build up, the cramps that approach and recede for a while in waves, and the dread of the coming horiffic feeling you know you're soon going to have to endure.

Anyway after that, my mind is usually pretty calm and peaceful, and I can focus on what I have to do pretty easily and get the work started. This single outburst is usually enough for me to get from start to finish with a fairly small project (say 4,000 word essay), partly because after the explosion I can work very very fast and get a large amount done. It's then a lot easier getting back to the task in following days once I've got that much out of the way.

I'm curious to know if anyone else manages to get themself to study in this way? And I'm also wondering if they've found another way subsequent to this method?

I'm asking because I have a serious heart condition now, and I can no longer afford to cause such an elevation to my blood pressure as it may kill me, but I have some big projects I need to do. And also because I really really hate having to go through the process, it's really soul destroying and I dread it so much.

Thanks!

sarahsweets
04-20-15, 04:20 AM
Have you considered mental health help? Those mind of feelings can't be good for you.

simmyymmis
04-20-15, 09:13 AM
I've had to use this method since I was 16, so nearly 20 years now. I don't think there's any reason to seek mental health support for it, I'm fine as long as I don't have to actually write an essay or complete a project lol.

As a means on controlling the ADHD I figured other people may have ended up developing a similar approach - I figure that the explosive rage mimics the effect of extremely elevated norepinephrine in the brain and ultimately improves my executive functioning.

Bear in mind that I live in the UK and am highly intelligent and not exaggeratedly hyperactive so there was/is virtually no support for people of my generation for ADHD, so I had to develop my own means of getting things done without meds.

I've spoken to my GP before about getting diagnosed and while he thinks it pretty obvious I probably have ADHD-I, even with a diagnosis I cannot be given stimulant medications due to the heart issue and also the general resistance to accepting or treating ADHD in the UK.

kilted_scotsman
04-20-15, 10:12 AM
I have a serious heart condition now, and I can no longer afford to cause such an elevation to my blood pressure as it may kill me

I cannot be given stimulant medications due to the heart issue

I don't think there's any reason to seek mental health support

The issue is that you have devised a coping strategy that has been physically harmful in the long term. Now the heart condition has manifested you have to find another way.

I have been diagnosed ADHD(combined type) and I have a stress related heart condition that I believe is mostly due to living with undiagnosed ADHD for decades. I am contra-indicated for stimulant meds.

Therefore I had to find other ways of being..... the most important part of this readjustment has been the support of good psychotherapists. The first one was ADHD aware... He used CBT to look at the maladaptive cause->effect coping strategy I had been using in particular situations.

Unfortunately he retired and I had to find a new therapist who has supported me in my search for different ways of responding to stressful situations. It has been a long journey and has involved many unusual experiences and events that can euphemistically be called "learning moments"... they often were not pleasant at the time, but they gave obvious clues to my maladaptive coping strategies.

A therapist is not someone who gives you the solution.... they are someone who supports you along the path of finding your own solution. They are particularly useful if you're in an impasse situation....as you seem to be.

In my view some form of therapist support would be useful.... and I don't mean conventional NHS based 6-8 week CBT.... I mean proper long term support.... if you've been doing this for 20+ years it may take a while to unlearn the behaviour and find how to achieve without self harming methods of extreme stimulation. Psychotherapy does include things like mindfulness and metacognitive work.... it's awareness training.. working out what suits you in particular situations.

Private psychotherapy may seem expensive.... but if the alternative is death..... well I'm be willing to pay 40/week to stay alive. Good therapists are hard to come by.... if you go private you've the opportunity to shop around till you find a good fit.

Off handedly discarding a potentially valuable option is, in itself, a sign that some form of psychotherapeutic intervention is likely to be beneficial.

kilted

Pilgrim
04-20-15, 10:48 AM
Just something you might find interesting.
I friend of mine, who is highly intelligent, is a practicing medical specialist, and one of my best friends. Had a motivating system like yours. He wouldn't self harm but everything else you describe.
He ended up doing very well. Psychologically not so well.
If it gets to the point where your physical health is going down hill. I'm sure there's other tools you can use.

simmyymmis
04-20-15, 02:37 PM
The issue is that you have devised a coping strategy that has been physically harmful in the long term. Now the heart condition has manifested you have to find another way.

I have been diagnosed ADHD(combined type) and I have a stress related heart condition that I believe is mostly due to living with undiagnosed ADHD for decades. I am contra-indicated for stimulant meds.

Therefore I had to find other ways of being..... the most important part of this readjustment has been the support of good psychotherapists. The first one was ADHD aware... He used CBT to look at the maladaptive cause->effect coping strategy I had been using in particular situations.

Unfortunately he retired and I had to find a new therapist who has supported me in my search for different ways of responding to stressful situations. It has been a long journey and has involved many unusual experiences and events that can euphemistically be called "learning moments"... they often were not pleasant at the time, but they gave obvious clues to my maladaptive coping strategies.

A therapist is not someone who gives you the solution.... they are someone who supports you along the path of finding your own solution. They are particularly useful if you're in an impasse situation....as you seem to be.

In my view some form of therapist support would be useful.... and I don't mean conventional NHS based 6-8 week CBT.... I mean proper long term support.... if you've been doing this for 20+ years it may take a while to unlearn the behaviour and find how to achieve without self harming methods of extreme stimulation. Psychotherapy does include things like mindfulness and metacognitive work.... it's awareness training.. working out what suits you in particular situations.

Private psychotherapy may seem expensive.... but if the alternative is death..... well I'm be willing to pay 40/week to stay alive. Good therapists are hard to come by.... if you go private you've the opportunity to shop around till you find a good fit.

Off handedly discarding a potentially valuable option is, in itself, a sign that some form of psychotherapeutic intervention is likely to be beneficial.

kilted

I do see your point. I had CBT for several years some years ago, but at the time I was struggling with severe depression and the focus was more on attending to my poor self-esteem and lack of self-worth.

I think had I known how much my feelings of being a worthless unachieving person were due to ADHD that might have helped, but neither I nor my therapist were that insightful at the time.

One option that has been presented to me elsewhere was mindfulness meditation. In a way, it would seem to offer a solution, in the sense that a focused peaceful mind is what I was effectively achieving as a result of the violent catharsis.

Getting to the point of meditating has always proved extremely challenging though, as I tend to panic and stress at the thought/attempt. I suppose finding a way to pursue this is something a good therapist might be able to facilitate me towards.

Poe's Imp
04-20-15, 06:17 PM
This way of writing essays is not too dissimilar to mine (the old me really) though until reading of it today I hadn't quite realised the similarity.
I don't know if this will be helpful because studying to me is a bit like breathing. I'm sure on some level I became like this as I found normal social life not stimulating enough but if studying is actually a complete chore then what I say might not be helpful at all.
Anyway let's assume that you enjoy reading some things and don't find all reading difficult. Faced with an essay I knew I had to write but didn't particularly wish to, I would ease my way in by reading/studying something I really liked. It couldn't be light reading. It had to be challenging in some way but above all stimulating. This helped to orientate my concentration and develop the right kind of attention necessary even to think about work. This only helped if I was on a tight deadline but was experiencing the frustration of procrastination. To see the essay to be written as this big monster you have to tackle can be dispiriting but if you allow your mind to ease into it by other means helps me to get started because eventually I get impatient knowing I have work to do and I get down to it more purposefully.
My longer term strategy was to set deadlines a week before the project was due. I began to realise how pointless much of my study was, frequently going down interesting cul-de-sacs rather than focussing on the actual question. Writing up earlier helped deal with some of these issues but it has to be said that I only managed this successfully half the time.
The only piece of advice in this area that was helpful to me and which came from some one else was to begin writing your ideas for essays much earlier in the study process. This tends to be more efficient as writing itself always produces unexpected ideas and insights that possibly would not have occurred at all or occurred much too late to be successfully assimilated into the argument of the essay. Often the new ideas turn up later in other reading and this can give confidence that you're on the right track.
Having a heart condition and continuing with your 'system' can't be good even in the short term. It would be interesting to know why you have to write essays at all and on what subject...some disciplines seem inherently more frustrating than others.
Personally I wouldn't bother with sitting-down meditation...mindfulness might be better achieved by trying to be present-centred just going for a walk or people-watching sitting at a cafe.
Is any of this helpful?

simmyymmis
04-20-15, 06:48 PM
I don't know if this will be helpful because studying to me is a bit like breathing. I'm sure on some level I became like this as I found normal social life not stimulating enough but if studying is actually a complete chore then what I say might not be helpful at all.


I love to study; 90% of my life is spent reading about everything I can. Almost everything interests me fairly equally, so I never run out of interesting things to discover. However as soon as it requires a written assessment or project, I actively avoid the subject.


I would ease my way in by reading/studying something I really liked. [i]f you allow your mind to ease into it by other means helps me to get started.
This is an interesting idea but for me it forms part of my procrastination - involving myself deeply in whatever alternative subject takes my fancy today is a great strategy I have to avoid tackling the super-stressful project I don't want to face.


My longer term strategy was to set deadlines a week before the project was due. I began to realise how pointless much of my study was, frequently going down interesting cul-de-sacs rather than focussing on the actual question. Writing up earlier helped deal with some of these issues but it has to be said that I only managed this successfully half the time.
The only piece of advice in this area that was helpful to me and which came from some one else was to begin writing your ideas for essays much earlier in the study process. This tends to be more efficient as writing itself always produces unexpected ideas and insights that possibly would not have occurred at all or occurred much too late to be successfully assimilated into the argument of the essay. Often the new ideas turn up later in other reading and this can give confidence that you're on the right track.
I would dearly love to start working earlier, I think that's been my ambition for more than 25 years. Every project, essay or exam I've ever had has been crushed into an incredibly short space of time around the day of submission, and suffered as a result. As stupid as it sounds I simply wouldn't know how to start something early, I completely avoid it, in the way I would avoid putting my hand on a hot stove. It's an automatic, subconscious and deeply ingrained emotional response. Even thinking about it causes a certain degree of panic.


Having a heart condition and continuing with your 'system' can't be good even in the short term.
No it's horrific and soul-destroying. I think it's the reason I've become so panicky at the thought of doing any work or essays at all (or even basic chores nowadays, since things are becoming worse as I age). I frequently think about ending my life simply because the way I am now is no way to live a life, and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone.


It would be interesting to know why you have to write essays at all and on what subject...some disciplines seem inherently more frustrating than others.
I've mostly done social sciences and humanities subjects, although I also studied degrees in medicine, pharmacology, interior design and economics (none of which I finished lol). I do it because I'm determined to finish my Master's - I've spent 5 years doing a 1-year course, which is now 75% complete except for a few essays and the thesis. I feel that if I give in, I will give up on my life completely. The pervasive sense of my entire life as a complete failure of a human being would be reinforced if I can't get this thing done.


Personally I wouldn't bother with sitting-down meditation...mindfulness might be better achieved by trying to be present-centred just going for a walk or people-watching sitting at a cafe.

Is any of this helpful?Yes, very helpful in fact. It's quite grounding to read about other people's experiences and ideas. I feel so isolated with this and have such difficulty conveying to the NT people around me what I go through that it only adds to the frustration. I think you're probably on the right track for me regarding the mindfulness... some form of centering myself and my mind is clearly called for, and it may not be achieved by just sitting on a comfortable seat and doing the usual. Sadly most of the time I procrastinate trying to meditate so it's a bit of a vicious circle, but I must break it.

Poe's Imp
04-20-15, 07:20 PM
That's a lot of different subjects and you sound like me in terms of range of interests...this omni-potentiality I've read about that can be a problem for ADHDers. Again you sound like me in terms of not finishing things..I must have started over 10 OU courses and not finished a single one...what didn't help was trying to study with the OU at the same time as doing a normal college-based degree (college in the American sense). I'm also the only person I know who has tried to do degrees at two different universities at the same time. This didn't work out either...
Now as for the pervasive sense of failure, there is really no way past this but you can't continue to feel this way and still study at a high level. What impossible level of perfection are you holding yourself to? If everyone else seems more proficient (perhaps)...is there no way to accept your ADHD as THE factor disabling your performance which none of your peers has? Is there no-one at your uni to reach out to? You could advertise for a study-buddy and state why. Having someone to bounce ideas off might help with getting started if they also understand why you really need the help.
I really feel for you about the darker feelings. I get down quite a lot but somehow manage to accept that my old ambitions simply aren't going to happen. How isolated are you? Presently I am quite isolated but have managed to forgive myself for a lot of self-perceived failings and don't find socialising as difficult as I did for quite a while. Perhaps you have quite a wide social circle and so maybe you are making yourself suffer by comparison with your group.
Lastly...and this is something I'm trying to do more and more...I love to study but I know in my heart much of it is far too loosely focussed. I am trying to develop the writing side much, much more so that the balance between studying and writing changes fundamentally. If writing then becomes almost as natural as picking up a book on a quiet weekend morning then I am thinking the issues connected with writing up projects will get easier.

Poe's Imp
04-20-15, 08:15 PM
Forgot to ask...what Master's are you doing and what's your thesis topic?

simmyymmis
04-21-15, 07:27 PM
That's a lot of different subjects and you sound like me in terms of range of interests...this omni-potentiality I've read about that can be a problem for ADHDers. Again you sound like me in terms of not finishing things..I must have started over 10 OU courses and not finished a single one...what didn't help was trying to study with the OU at the same time as doing a normal college-based degree (college in the American sense). I'm also the only person I know who has tried to do degrees at two different universities at the same time. This didn't work out either...
Now as for the pervasive sense of failure, there is really no way past this but you can't continue to feel this way and still study at a high level. What impossible level of perfection are you holding yourself to? If everyone else seems more proficient (perhaps)...is there no way to accept your ADHD as THE factor disabling your performance which none of your peers has? Is there no-one at your uni to reach out to? You could advertise for a study-buddy and state why. Having someone to bounce ideas off might help with getting started if they also understand why you really need the help.
I really feel for you about the darker feelings. I get down quite a lot but somehow manage to accept that my old ambitions simply aren't going to happen. How isolated are you? Presently I am quite isolated but have managed to forgive myself for a lot of self-perceived failings and don't find socialising as difficult as I did for quite a while. Perhaps you have quite a wide social circle and so maybe you are making yourself suffer by comparison with your group.
Lastly...and this is something I'm trying to do more and more...I love to study but I know in my heart much of it is far too loosely focussed. I am trying to develop the writing side much, much more so that the balance between studying and writing changes fundamentally. If writing then becomes almost as natural as picking up a book on a quiet weekend morning then I am thinking the issues connected with writing up projects will get easier.

My Master's is in Geography.

Yes two degrees at once does sound a bit excessive! ;-)

I reckon you're right that managing expectations would help a lot. Being bright and capable, having to accept that you'll function far below your ability is pretty tough to accept, but I suppose it's all about accepting the limitations imposed generally by ADHD.

I don't have much of an active social circle as I would find that too difficult to manage. I'm comorbid with Asperger's anyway, so that feeds into being a bit of a loner. Comparison for me is simply about recognising that I can already technically do many things others do, but because I lack the ability (patience?) to take the long slow cumbersome process that NTs take to advance themselves and get their certificates (sheets of paper), I'll never get anywhere and always feel frustrated.

I actually write loads, just not the thing I'm supposed to be writing. So yesterday for example, I wrote a short essay on Frances Oldham Kelsey. It took me about an hour to churn out 2000 words and source it properly. I could never do that for a formal essay. For me this is just more procrastination.