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Women with ADD/ADHD This forum is for women to discuss issues related to being a woman with AD/HD.

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Old 10-09-18, 10:53 AM
amymya amymya is offline

Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: London
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Angry just utterly exasperated (32 y/o ADHD academic)


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.


Last edited by amymya; 10-09-18 at 11:05 AM.. Reason: added a sentence of context about work situation
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