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Old 02-07-12, 12:16 AM
CLane88 CLane88 is offline

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My ADHD Story- Looking for Advice

I'm posting here to hopefully elicit some advice--any would be enormously helpful--regarding the issues that have dictated the course my life has taken since middle school (if not earlier). The post will be long, but I want to give a good impression of what I've been facing, partly to allow for educated responses, and partly, I expect, to get this off my chest. I hope too that someone out there might be able to see themselves in some way in my post. In my personal experience, it can be an immense relief to realize others are facing the same issues. Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to read through.

I'm a 23 year old male, and have been out of school for about two years. I graduated early from a top 50 university with honors and a high GPA. Since then, my lack of executive function, my inability to focus on any prolonged task and my crippling social anxiety have finally caught up with me. I have done nothing in the past two years.

You see, even though I graduated as a seemingly good student, I was the farthest thing from one. In middle school and high school, I got by never doing homework at home. A lot of homework I copied, the rest I did in school during classes. The same went for studying--it would only happen at the 11th hour the evening before the test, if not at school the next day. This was all compounded by the fact that I would rarely if ever pay attention in class. I would zone out almost immediately into one fantasy or the other, elaborate day dreams that would suck me up into an altogether different world. If not daydreaming, my focus was on whatever online video game I was pouring my after-school attention into.

This might seem like a recipe for failure, but, and this probably has hurt me in the long run, I got by, and I got by easily. I was able to earn all A's and B's until the end of the high school. I didn't study for the SATs, but did well enough to get into, if not an Ivy League school, a solid university. I was a good, but not great, student. The incredibly disappointing thing, though, is I really cared about doing well. I love academics, I love gaining knowledge, and I'm insanely competitive. I couldn't bring myself to study though, to work. And all that wasted potential eats at me--knowing what I accomplished with no effort, I know what I was capable of if I had applied myself. And this wasn't lost on my 18 year old self--I was ready for college and a fresh start.

College, however, was no better. I started out on a roll--4.0 GPA, participating in my classes, taking notes. I was happy, fulfilled, finally able to speak to my mother with a semblance of pride about my academic accomplishments. That lasted 1 semester. Then I decided to not do my reading one night. The next night, the task at hand was already overwhelming. I didn't read the book, deciding instead to rely on notes from class. The cycle had begun and before long, I was only doing the first few readings every semester. As soon as I ruined my fresh start, it would all collapse. Eventually, I stopped going to any class that didn't take attendance. I would always regret it, but in the moment, I could not bring myself to focus my attention on these, as I saw them, optional tasks.

Further, as a double liberal arts major, my grades were all essays and tests. In high school, I'd at least write my essays the night before. I took that to the next level in high school. I'd wait until the last possible minute to do anything. That would usually entail leaving off the essay hour by hour until I was forced to do it two or three hours before class. I'd always get it done though. I'd be printing it with class having started 2 minutes prior, not even enough time to proofread it once, but I would finish. And the essays wouldn't be bad -- B's at worst, usually Aís early in my college career, B's once the procrastination became worse and the classes harder. On tests, I'd have the same method. I'd study maybe an hour or two before, usually relying on Wikipedia and common sense--not having the time to actually read the relevant texts. And again, B's and A's. Just like in high school though, I wasn't living up to my potential. My teachers didn't know me as I didn't come to class. And my performance was only good, not great. My dreams of working in academia slowly died as the prospects became bleak. The nail in the coffin was my failure to write a senior thesis. Optional at my school, but necessary for highest honors, the task was too overwhelming, and with no required deadlines, I never committed my focus to it. I left college with good grades, but not excellent grades, and no possible recommendations. I didnít feel even a drop of pride in my accomplishments at graduation.

Since graduation, Iíve waffled on my career choice. In school, I wanted to work in academia. When that became impossible, I rationalized that I never wanted it, and instead wanted to pursue screenwriting. Eventually, after about a year of inaction on that front, I rationalized that I had again made a mistake, and now wanted to be a writer. The logic behind these decisions has been sound, but a part of me wonders whether itís all been a way to cope with my lack of success. It's been two years now, and I haven't been able to get myself to write more than a page. And that's not to say I've sat down and tried, but failed to get anything down. I've failed, in two years, to sit down to write for any prolonged period of time. The rest of my life fares no better. When I get on schedule, I run, eat healthy, keep the house clean, and accomplish all those every-day tasks grownups are supposed to do. It's during these 'fresh starts' that I get closest to accomplishing something, but the strain they take to maintain is usually too much. Inevitably, no matter my confidence, I end up slipping up. Then everything unravels and I'm frozen in time for another few weeks until I claw myself back out of the hole for another two days. For awhile, I could tell myself that I would get it together, but when you see yourself in the same cycle for two years, you start to worry you'll never break out. I know that I can go back to school and be a teacher, a lawyeróenvironments where there are again deadlines, and I don't have to do my absolute best to succeed. I always got by in school. But I actually want to fulfill my potential and follow my dreams, and it seems increasingly unlikely that I'll do that.

Though I expected this post to be long, I did let it get away from me. So Iíll try to wrap up the rest of my issues succinctly. I have severe social anxiety. I do not know what to say to people. My mind, usually so active, just goes blank in these situations. There seems to be some disconnect between me and others, as if weíre almost not of the same race. My partner is the only exception I know to this (as are two or three friends who have since disappeared from my life). I can speak at length about a topic that interests me, if itís brought up. For instance, video games were the core of my social interaction in high school. If Iím forced to make small talk though, to banter, to tell stories, I freeze. When I do respond, those responses are short, to the point. If I go on at length, if I make eye contact, I stop thinking of what Iím talking aboutóunable to control it, my mind instead dwells on the fact that everyone is looking at me, that what Iím saying is being processed and judged. It eventually seems like I lose my train of thought. Even when someone is speaking to me, I feel itís a task in itself to look like Iím paying attention, to make eye contact, to nod my head, etc. I do pay attention, but my mind is usually on a tangent relating to what they are talking about, or thinking about social situation at handósometimes, I think, giving my eyes a glazed over look (which in school caused some teachers to pick me out more than others).

To add to this, I tend to over-think and stress about every possible social interaction. Saying hello to people in my apartment complex is a huge stress. Iíll intentionally walk my dog for an extra 15 minutes until they go back inside. In college, I would avoid certain areas where I knew I might run into people. When I visit home, I fear leaving the house and running into anyone. Iíve alienated EVERY close friend I ever made (excepting my partner, who is as socially anxious as me). I never call; I just wait for others to call me. The stress of calling anyone is so great that Iíll pace the room for hours before doing so. I also procrastinate responding until the awkwardness of doing so makes me unable to. Eventually, my friends probably figure Iím trying to brush them off, and am some *** who doesnít care.

I donít speak to my sister, or to my dad. They donít call me, and I certainly donít call them. I wouldnít know what to say and every moment of small talk, every awkward silence, would be incredibly stressful. I tell myself that Iíll be able to do so once I get on track with my career, since Iíll have something to talk about. But with that date being delayed continuously, the situation only gets worse. I do speak to my momóshe takes the initiative to call me, something that seems necessary to a relationship in my life, as it creates a deadline for me to call back, and one I canít ignore indefinitely. All of these familial relationships are made worse by my failure to progress at all in my career goals. Iím frankly embarrassed that Iíve done nothing and find myself avoiding conversation in fear that it will focus on my work. Iím ashamed to say Iíve done nothing, but at the same time canít bring myself to lie, as then Iím painting a picture of failure, when in reality, I havenít even tried. So I attempt not to talk about it.

Outside of close relationships, Iím no better. I leave off getting my haircut from anxiety of having to speak to and direct the barber. In college, when I applied for jobs in person, I would pace outside the stores, often for hours, eventually sometimes just going home and accomplishing nothing. I work a job online, partly for the convenience, and partly so I donít have to deal with real people. Iím not a social retardóI can handle professional situations and come off well, but the stress of doing so is so great, that I just avoid them altogether.

Aside from all this, I have some other issues that make me consider I might have undiagnosed ADD. I have a very short attention span when reading, unless I become incredibly engaged in a book and am able to lose myself in it. Otherwise, I often go on thought tangents in the middle of paragraphs, or simply zone out, having to read and reread the same passage repeatedly. I can be very fidgetyóI almost always like to be doing something with my hands, whether Iím thinking about it or not. In high school, this would mean chewing pens, and later, twirling them. Around the house, that often means picking up random objects and carrying them to different parts of the house without realizing-- even ripping up important papers on occasion. If Iím in a conversation, and not in a formal setting (school, work, dinner, etc), I will pace around endlessly as I talk. Sometimes, Iíll even start just jogging around the room. I run, when I get myself to do soóitís probably my main time to let my mind fall into in-depth fantasies. I can be very absent minded and clumsy, something that has gotten me yelled at many times by both my mom and my current partner. Iíll do things too fast as they see it, and without focusing on what Iím doing, often make silly mistakes. On that note, this, besides my inability to do homework or pay attention, was my downfall in math and science. I eventually had to take tests twice as I would almost always make stupid, small mistakes. Iím extremely disorganized as well. In school, that meant a backpack with everything just thrown inside. Living independently, it means a very messy house, with dishes and laundry piling up almost immediately after having taken care of them (since each Ďcleaning sessioní is a bit event in itself) and things thrown around carelessly. Iíve also found it incredibly difficult to maintain focus on my work, whether itís my current work or past office work. If no one is looking, Iíll get into my fantasies, browse the web, and do anything to avoid working at that moment. I do my best to avoid challenging situations within these jobs. All the jobs Iíve held Iíve been overqualified for, and can rarely get myself to hyper focus unless I have convinced myself of the necessity to do my best and be a perfect worker. That will usually last for a day or twoÖ

Iíve become scared that I wonít be able to break this cycle. That Iíll eventually have to settle for something I donít particularly want in life. I know what the problems are, Iíve even though at length about how these problems originated. It doesnít make addressing them any easier. And every failure to do so weighs a little heavier. Iíve considered the possibility I have ADHD in the past, and told myself I could work through it without outside help. I think I was wrong. So now Iím in a tough situation. Researching this condition in the past day has been a relief. I see so many people are going through the same things I have.

But I still find myself paralyzed. Iím pooróI have barely enough to pay the bills and buy food. I have insurance, but it surely doesnít cover visits to therapists or the medication, which I fear might be unaffordable. Also, ADHD has also become such an opportunity for relief that if the diagnosis is rejected, I fear the decent back into the hopeless spiral. Finally, my partner, who exhibits similar symptoms, embraces them, enjoying living in the present and doing only what she desires. I fear her reaction, knowing that she will consider this an indictment on her way of living, wondering whether things will change or she will look down at me for needing drugs (she once tried anti-depressants, and hated the way they changed her).

I suppose this is a cry for help, directed at complete strangers. What course of action would you recommend? Do I have to see a primary physician, and can he/she even do anything without sending me to a specialist? Are there specialists I can go directly to? Are costs manageable (living in the United States)? Am I delusional, and just lack a work ethic and social skills? Will doctors think that? I feel Iíve tried everything on my own, from strict schedules, to ultimatums, to in-depth soul-searching. Iíve been resistant to help from the outside for a long time, but if thereís any possibility of things improving, and of this not being entirely my fault, Iíll take it.
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Old 02-07-12, 11:54 AM
plank80 plank80 is offline
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Re: My ADHD Story- Looking for Advice

Sorry I tried reading it but that's some block of text, far too much to handle. Can you not shorten it a bit?
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Old 02-07-12, 02:21 PM
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Re: My ADHD Story- Looking for Advice

Actually, I'd just print this out and bring it to a psychiatrist. Whether or not ADD happens to be one of your issues, you seem to be in need of professional help to get you out of the rut you're in.
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Old 02-07-12, 04:25 PM
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Re: My ADHD Story- Looking for Advice

Wow, this sounds so much like my early self!!!

I couldn't agree more with Amtram, print this out, take it to a specialist in ADHD, far too many will look at your achievements (and they are impressive by the way don't knock yourself) and then deny adhd is possible. How people get to a destination is not as important as arriving at one!!!

There is help out there, and please do whatever you have to to get it!
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Old 02-10-12, 02:16 AM
desafinado desafinado is offline

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Re: My ADHD Story- Looking for Advice

you sound eerily like me. i was actually seeing a psychiatrist for unrelenting anxiety/sleep issues, when out of the blue he gave me a brochure on "adult adhd and you." i am so thankful he decided to think out of the box, because being treated for what was actually at the root of the problem, rather than the most obvious symptoms, has completely turned my life around for the better.

When that became impossible, I rationalized that I never wanted it
i totally feel this. i've always felt incredibly unreliable. even if i have an interest in something, i never know if i'll be able to sustain the mental energy to actually accomplish anything with it. i chose a career and degree based on what was easy for me to do most days (and once i started working, barely some days), but not on what my mind actually could be capable of. i had a lot of bad feelings tied up in feeling inadequate, like i wasn't living up to my potential. now that i'm treating the problem, it's amazing what a world has opened up to me.

i've lurked on these forums for a long time, never was compelled to write, but i can relate so closely to the things you've written about that i couldn't let it go by. i hope you'll take the advice of the other people who've written here, and maybe some comfort in knowing that there are others who have felt the same, and more importantly, lived to tell the tale as a happier, healthier person.

here's my advice: first off, you are NOT delusional, and you DON'T lack a work ethic and social skills. mental well-being is so, so, so much more complicated than that, & if a doctor would be so cavalier with YOUR life as to say something like that, so invalidating of YOUR experience, they are not worth your time and business.

i agree that no matter where you start, you should definitely print out exactly what you've written here. i'd start by talking to your primary physician for a reference, if you feel comfortable with them. tell them you've been dealing with some things for a while, and you'd need advice and/or a reference to someone who can help. give them the printout to read. if you'd rather go directly to a specialist, i'm sure you can find information online. there are doctors that work on a sliding scale if your insurance doesn't cover it.

add meds in particular, but also some antidepressants and whatnot, have been around for a long time, so they are generally covered by insurance and there are almost always generics available. when i lost my insurance i had to switch from adderall xr to ir, which was annoying at most but not a huge deal. don't be afraid to speak up: i was dead broke for awhile, so i asked my pdoc for advice. since they charge you per pill, not per milligram, now he writes the rx for a larger pill dose (i.e. one 30mg instead of 3 10mg) and then i just break them up during the day.

ADHD has also become such an opportunity for relief that if the diagnosis is rejected, I fear the decent back into the hopeless spiral.
sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the language of diagnoses, but the bottom line is you are unhappy & it doesn't need to be this way. you deserve to feel better, and a good doctor will help you do that, no matter what that ends up meaning.

but please, and i really mean this, do NOT give up on yourself if you have a bad experience with a doctor. some people are just not a good fit, and you might have to persist until you find someone you mesh with. i know this because i've been there myself. i've had doctors that literally laughed in my face (seriously, she said it would make me feel better) and the experience left me confused and invalidated and second guessing my own needs. that's why i like the idea of printing this out - you've committed your experience to words. even if someone questions it, just keep coming back to the main point, that you are having difficulty with some things and you want to fix them. period.

my treatment has combined medication and talk/behavior therapy. based on what you've said about social anxiety issues (to which i can absolutely relate, particularly re: walking your dog for 15 extra minutes...i could have written that, in spirit, as i don't have a dog) i would STRONGLY recommend the latter to you. meds have certainly helped me with the minute-to-minute details of daily life, but due to a lifetime of issues there are overarching behaviors i've developed that can't be fixed with a pill. i know that cost can seem prohibitive, but please remember that this is about your life. based on your post, you're clearly bright and articulate and desire something more in your life than what you have now. if money (cost of treatment, insurance, etc) is the only thing standing in your way between living the life you have, and the life you want, then there are absolutely ways to work around it. i'm not saying the journey isn't tough sometimes, but it's worth it like nothing else. best of luck
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