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Old 10-09-18, 10:53 AM
amymya amymya is offline
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Angry just utterly exasperated (32 y/o ADHD academic)

hiya!

I'm writing as a new member and new to thinking about ADHD. Partly I'm writing this particular message out of utter frustration! just for context, I'm a research academic with a fairly high profile job, which from the outside therefore looks very successful etc etc. This is probably one of the reasons I never originally thought about ADHD - compared with the more "male" typifying symptoms, I've always been quite driven, successful from the outside perspective, sort of simultaneously having a lot of severe issues with the school and academic system, but somehow pulled through, as I'm also a high performer in other ways or in urgent situations when adrenalin drives me - and (perhaps ironically) am now a lecturer in a university, which might seem about as far from ADHD as you can get.

But honestly, I am exhausted with how difficult it has all been, and how sh*t I appear to be at my job & what a struggle I find it compared to my consistent sense of "other/better people" in this career (literally every single other person as far as I can tell) who consistently seem to just be able to do what is required - write articles, read books, handle teaching admin, sit in the library for hours. And also what a hypocrite I feel like being in this line of work and having to administrate students and others about requirements and deadlines when I am an utter mess.

I partly have some questions about career fit, and what career paths women with ADHD (particularly highly driven) end up in, & whether there always has to be this immensely difficult self-torturing balance between brilliance and difficulty in particular careers which you are both cut out for and not cut out for, if you see what I mean, and therefore constantly have to keep putting yourself in impossible situations & just getting by at the cost of extreme stress. In my case the reason I am in academia is because I genuinely AM really good at certain aspects in a way that I can see others involved aren't necessarily - mostly, wild innovative collaborative or cross disciplinary ideas and projects; mad public engagement; inspiring as a lecturer; impassioned, and so on. I can genuinely see why people employ me & I genuinely do race around doing good stuff that can be useful or valued (particularly if it's cross disciplinary or a bit off piste ), so I can see that I am genuinely making contributions. But those superficial strengths are also what have kept me in employment by the skin of my teeth in a system which in other ways I don't suit and find very painful - I am guilty ALL THE TIME; I have severe problems with anxiety & am overwhelmed by deadlines or teaching admin to the extent that during my degrees I was almost consistently hospitalised over ever major deadline due to the physical stress of last minute stuff; I haven't improved on that as a lecturer and I've had severe physical reactions to those disasters throughout my career (which has been my entire life). Even when I feel inspired about work, it's in a way which is overwhelming to an extent which makes me dizzy & a bit nauseous to hold all the directions in my mind, and unable to do it; if that makes sense. Sitting down to read a book is very difficult & makes me restless and agitated - even though I am a literature academic so that is my literal job. I occasionally talk on the radio and things like that, but am always utterly embarrassed to admit that I can't even listen to the radio as I can't pay attention to it. I can give lectures but I can barely listen to them. I'm pretty good at seminars & symposiums and situations where it's my job to keep the conversation jumping along all over the place. I try to go to the library to work from time to time, but I can't sit still, and in any case, I have no capacity to get any real work done that way. I get along and can pull through because one of the things I AM good at is suddenly proposing a flurry of new ideas, funding bids, collaborations, etc. so that part of my CV is ok, but what is much more invisible is the ongoing ridiculousness of not being able to do the more basic, necessary and straightforward tasks of my role, and particularly finishing them, when there is NO GOOD REASON to not be able to just get on and do them. And I'm just very sick of being frustrated at myself not managing to finish basic things - it's not as if I'm having fun or going out - I'm just, day in day out (and most nights) trying to force myself through something and getting fuzzy headed.

I can't seem to complete any writing in the way I am supposed to (though am constantly writing new proposals and ideas) and am consistently in trouble for this - and I find the structure of admin tasks of teaching very difficult (actually I have been taken to court several times for failure to pay bills on time, and obviously I wouldn't share that info with my colleagues but it seems a related thing!).

I basically am tired of everything being an utter, anxiety inducing chaos. When I stepped up my lecturing I got diagnosed with a stress induced heart condition (at the same time as being an excellent lecturer when the lectures are actually happening, so from the outside it looks good!). I'm currently trying to fudge some catch up work for a meeting tomorrow with head of department, but as usual, as soon as I try and focus on what should be perfectly normal and achievable tasks, I'm dizzy and so physically exhausted and in a fug of brain not working, and sort of headachey. I think sometimes when I have a glass of wine I find it a bit easier to sit down and focus and crash through a bit of stuff in a way rather than zapping off some other things, but that in no way is helping my long term health and focus.

I work alone very often but sometimes when I work with colleagues or in libraries, they comment on aspects of my approach which seem odd (I have a way of fiddling my pen 100% of the time else I can't pay attention to what I'm reading, I make a lot of noise when reading, and essentially spend the whole time jumping up and down from my seat doing unnecessary things like moving books around; occasionally people have literally heard me growling at myself etc etc, which probably looks pretty funny).
On the other hand, every once in a while I get truly inspired and can write something in one mad session of several days without eating, drinking or changing my clothes - which by the way is the only thing that managed to get me through finishing my PhD. However this just isn't a reliable or sustainable way to approach a career - at least it isn't any more, as I'm sick of making life so difficult for myself & feeling as if I'm always covering up to try and be more like literally everyone else in my field or line of work. I feel so childish and behind everyone else in certain ways & also I'm consistently sabotaging my own quality of life - I work less well than other people, but am also constantly trying to work, so other people also seem better at relaxing or having fun, in a way.

Possibly related and possibly not related is I've been incredibly lucky with having a brilliant project for a few years (coming to an end now) and given how hard and competitive it is to get academic stuff at the moment, I am so tired of how much I've wasted and sabotaged my opportunities to a degree which is becoming irrecoverable. To be fair, I was also in a very abusive relationship in the middle of the work project which demanded a lot & the recovery had a big impact on my work life, but I want to stop making excuses for myself.

Not really sure what I'm asking for here except maybe immediate short term tips on how I can get myself to just plod through some stuff before tomorrow because right now I am utterly exasperated with myself. After that, I'm just so tired of this bind (which must happen to everybody on this forum?) of being both good at something and awful at it at the same time. I mean. I JUST WANT TO GET ON WITH IT. How hard should that be.

thanks,
Mya

Last edited by amymya; 10-09-18 at 11:05 AM.. Reason: added a sentence of context about work situation
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Old 10-09-18, 12:14 PM
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Re: just utterly exasperated (32 y/o ADHD academic)

Quote:
Originally Posted by amymya View Post
hiya!

I'm writing as a new member and new to thinking about ADHD. Partly I'm writing this particular message out of utter frustration! just for context, I'm a research academic with a fairly high profile job, which from the outside therefore looks very successful etc etc. This is probably one of the reasons I never originally thought about ADHD - compared with the more "male" typifying symptoms, I've always been quite driven, successful from the outside perspective, sort of simultaneously having a lot of severe issues with the school and academic system, but somehow pulled through, as I'm also a high performer in other ways or in urgent situations when adrenalin drives me - and (perhaps ironically) am now a lecturer in a university, which might seem about as far from ADHD as you can get.
Welcome! Good to see you jump right in. Do not get caught up wondering about what "typical" adhd symptoms are and are not and which ones you do or do not have. Focus on impairments. Adhd is more nuanced than what is written down on a piece of paper and hopefully research will catch up to this. Being successful and does not preclude you from having adhd. Being good at things that you think adhd would make you not good at is not a way to look at it. Plenty of successful, high IQ people have adhd with severe impairments and plenty of less successful people have it but are less severely impaired. I wish they invented a better scale to grade adhd but it is under-researched in adults imo.


Quote:
But honestly, I am exhausted with how difficult it has all been, and how sh*t I appear to be at my job & what a struggle I find it compared to my consistent sense of "other/better people" in this career (literally every single other person as far as I can tell) who consistently seem to just be able to do what is required - write articles, read books, handle teaching admin, sit in the library for hours. And also what a hypocrite I feel like being in this line of work and having to administrate students and others about requirements and deadlines when I am an utter mess.
Stop that guilt now. IMO guilt, shame and regret are the most toxic and least useful emotions to focus on. What good do they serve? I bet the people that you think have it together have their own list of things they think they suck at.

Quote:
I partly have some questions about career fit, and what career paths women with ADHD (particularly highly driven) end up in, & whether there always has to be this immensely difficult self-torturing balance between brilliance and difficulty in particular careers which you are both cut out for and not cut out for, if you see what I mean, and therefore constantly have to keep putting yourself in impossible situations & just getting by at the cost of extreme stress.
In my case... I sucked at university my freshman year and part of my sophomore year. I got married when I was 20, had a baby when I was 21 and went back to finish school when I was about 22. When I went back to school I made dean's list and did excellent. I graduated with a BA in English Lit and a minor in theater. I worked sh*t jobs the whole time because we were poor and I needed something that could work around school and a baby. Had my second child and worked up until she was 2 and stopped. For a variety of reasons. Mainly due to untreated bipolar II and adhd. I have been in permanent disability this whole time and I want to be a high school English teacher now that I have those mental health things more in check. I just enrolled in a pre-teaching course for my program and I am terrified. I feel behind already and this is my first shot at online learning and I feel like I suck at it. So the long answer is there is no typical job for women with adhd just like there are no typical jobs for women without adhd.

Quote:
In my case the reason I am in academia is because I genuinely AM really good at certain aspects in a way that I can see others involved aren't necessarily - mostly, wild innovative collaborative or cross disciplinary ideas and projects; mad public engagement; inspiring as a lecturer; impassioned, and so on. I can genuinely see why people employ me & I genuinely do race around doing good stuff that can be useful or valued (particularly if it's cross disciplinary or a bit off piste ), so I can see that I am genuinely making contributions. But those superficial strengths are also what have kept me in employment by the skin of my teeth in a system which in other ways I don't suit and find very painful - I am guilty ALL THE TIME; I have severe problems with anxiety & am overwhelmed by deadlines or teaching admin to the extent that during my degrees I was almost consistently hospitalised over ever major deadline due to the physical stress of last minute stuff; I haven't improved on that as a lecturer and I've had severe physical reactions to those disasters throughout my career (which has been my entire life). Even when I feel inspired about work, it's in a way which is overwhelming to an extent which makes me dizzy & a bit nauseous to hold all the directions in my mind, and unable to do it; if that makes sense. Sitting down to read a book is very difficult & makes me restless and agitated - even though I am a literature academic so that is my literal job. I occasionally talk on the radio and things like that, but am always utterly embarrassed to admit that I can't even listen to the radio as I can't pay attention to it. I can give lectures but I can barely listen to them. I'm pretty good at seminars & symposiums and situations where it's my job to keep the conversation jumping along all over the place. I try to go to the library to work from time to time, but I can't sit still, and in any case, I have no capacity to get any real work done that way. I get along and can pull through because one of the things I AM good at is suddenly proposing a flurry of new ideas, funding bids, collaborations, etc. so that part of my CV is ok, but what is much more invisible is the ongoing ridiculousness of not being able to do the more basic, necessary and straightforward tasks of my role, and particularly finishing them, when there is NO GOOD REASON to not be able to just get on and do them.
When it comes to a diagnosis what you want is a reason and treatment for your problems which may or may not be adhd and may or may not be something else OR may or may not be both adhd and something else. Some of what you mention reminds me of other mental health conditions that are often comorbid with adhd. The extreme anxiety could be a legit anxiety disorder and some of the ups and downs could be some other mental health disorder. And the things you mention that pertain to adhd also sounds like a possibility. My point is to not get hung up on just adhd- that most of us have other issues that need treatment as well. And people with adhd are great under pressure. I feel like I live by skin of your teeth. The worse the deadline, the more I suffer and the faster and better I work. I hate every moment of it but some of my best stuff has happened when the world felt like it was crashing down all around me. And there may be no good reason to not get going on something but since when do good or bad reasons really dictate out behavior? Since when does it matter if there are good or bad reasons? just sayin'.

Quote:
I can't seem to complete any writing in the way I am supposed to (though am constantly writing new proposals and ideas) and am consistently in trouble for this - and I find the structure of admin tasks of teaching very difficult (actually I have been taken to court several times for failure to pay bills on time, and obviously I wouldn't share that info with my colleagues but it seems a related thing!).
I feel you on the bill thing. In my case it has to do with not ever quite having enough and avoidance anxiety which is something I made up in my head to explain why when I know I desperately have to do something I seem to avoid it more. Even when I finally do it, and realize it wasnt so bad, its a battle to just start. The more overwhelming something is, they harder it is to start it.

Quote:
I basically am tired of everything being an utter, anxiety inducing chaos. When I stepped up my lecturing I got diagnosed with a stress induced heart condition (at the same time as being an excellent lecturer when the lectures are actually happening, so from the outside it looks good!). I'm currently trying to fudge some catch up work for a meeting tomorrow with head of department, but as usual, as soon as I try and focus on what should be perfectly normal and achievable tasks, I'm dizzy and so physically exhausted and in a fug of brain not working, and sort of headachey. I think sometimes when I have a glass of wine I find it a bit easier to sit down and focus and crash through a bit of stuff in a way rather than zapping off some other things, but that in no way is helping my long term health and focus.
I cant stress enough how important it is to get the anxiety under control and if you want my opinion, I think you may need some kind of medication. Having a heart condition that cause dizziness due to stress is not normal and I think it urgently requires medical intervention.

Quote:
I work alone very often but sometimes when I work with colleagues or in libraries, they comment on aspects of my approach which seem odd (I have a way of fiddling my pen 100% of the time else I can't pay attention to what I'm reading, I make a lot of noise when reading, and essentially spend the whole time jumping up and down from my seat doing unnecessary things like moving books around; occasionally people have literally heard me growling at myself etc etc, which probably looks pretty funny).
On the other hand, every once in a while I get truly inspired and can write something in one mad session of several days without eating, drinking or changing my clothes - which by the way is the only thing that managed to get me through finishing my PhD. However this just isn't a reliable or sustainable way to approach a career - at least it isn't any more, as I'm sick of making life so difficult for myself & feeling as if I'm always covering up to try and be more like literally everyone else in my field or line of work. I feel so childish and behind everyone else in certain ways & also I'm consistently sabotaging my own quality of life - I work less well than other people, but am also constantly trying to work, so other people also seem better at relaxing or having fun, in a way.
Not to harp on it but even if you have adhd (which I think is totally feasible) you must get the anxiety fixed. Not only is it terrible for you, it hampers your ability to do good work, even if it seems like the under pressure work is awesome. It would still be better to turn out the same level of awesome without all the stress and anxiety. I hate self sabotage, and I do it too,. I hope I am not doing it with this class. I am an alcoholic in recovery and half the reason I couldnt stop drinking was the fear of stopping so I would come up with some lame excuse or just the "ah f**k its" and mess it up. Not quite on purpose like" I am going to ruin my life today" but passively aggressively screw myself over.

Quote:
Possibly related and possibly not related is I've been incredibly lucky with having a brilliant project for a few years (coming to an end now) and given how hard and competitive it is to get academic stuff at the moment, I am so tired of how much I've wasted and sabotaged my opportunities to a degree which is becoming irrecoverable. To be fair, I was also in a very abusive relationship in the middle of the work project which demanded a lot & the recovery had a big impact on my work life, but I want to stop making excuses for myself.

Not really sure what I'm asking for here except maybe immediate short term tips on how I can get myself to just plod through some stuff before tomorrow because right now I am utterly exasperated with myself. After that, I'm just so tired of this bind (which must happen to everybody on this forum?) of being both good at something and awful at it at the same time. I mean. I JUST WANT TO GET ON WITH IT. How hard should that be.

thanks,
Mya
Ok mya- time to make yourself first. If everything else is already suffering than it can suffer a teeny bit more while you look for a good psychiatrist. I know in the UK its the NHS but they can be notoriously slow and not to open minded with different treatments- in some cases limiting certain medications or making you get a million referrals or wait forever for appointments. If you can go private I recommend that. I hope I didnt take over your thread or talk too much about myself.
-sweets
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