Hello everyone! I’m a 22 yr old college student that was recently diagnosed with ADD just a few months ago. This is definitely an info dump about myself, but I’d like to have a place to express my frustration with my entire situation. I’ve never posted on a forum before, most of my internet activity consists of lurking, but I figured I could try this and see if it might be helpful to interact with others who might understand some of the struggles I’m facing. I’ll try not to post large paragraphs lol. (tw: there is a mention of suicide, so skip this one if that makes you uncomfortable!)
I was labeled a “gifted” student who got good grades in elementary and the earlier years of middle school, but started to really struggle at keeping up with everything once I turned about 14. My home life wasn’t great, my parents fought all the time and I was essentially forced to do a lot of the caring for my younger siblings; all of this on top of trying to keep up grades at the level people expected of me and keep a social life with clubs, activities, etc. Eventually, I reached a point where I wasn’t able to be as successful as I had been, and my symptoms got worse and worse as I spiraled into depression, as well as dealt with other health issues because my anxiety often manifested into physical symptoms.
I was formally diagnosed with major depressive disorder and a generalized anxiety disorder, got put into therapy and given anti-depressants, but as the years went on my symptoms didn’t lessen. At this point I wasn’t able to attend school because I would break down into instant panic attacks whenever I thought about going. So, naturally, I started avoiding it to try and make the symptoms go away (they never did - this usually only gave me a few hours of what seemed like relief before the guilt and frustration would act up and the cycle would start all over again). This caused a lot of tension between myself and my mother; she was threatened with jail time and fines if I didn’t start attending school again. As you can imagine, someone who was already trying to deal with a stressful divorce and two other children while working multiple jobs to try and support us all, she made a few decisions that (as I see now after becoming an adult and years of therapy) perhaps weren’t the best in trying to deal with the situation. However, back then I always felt like her anger toward me was justified, as I couldn’t put into words what it was that I was struggling with when asked what was wrong with me. I was always told that others had it much worse than I did so they couldn’t understand why I was ‘so depressed and anxious’, why I couldn’t focus on what needed to be done and just do it. At one point in time I was convinced I was ‘making my symptoms up’ as everyone always told me. I felt useless, like a burden that caused nothing but stress for my family and (former) friends, and I would often have random outbursts of crying and frustration, as well as moments where I would literally just shut down and not respond to anything, that drove a wedge into my relationships. My dad refused to believe there was anything wrong with me, but I rarely saw him during those years so his ‘support’ (or lack thereof), which usually just consisted of harsh discipline and scare tactics, didn’t do much for me.
As a next resort, I tried online home schooling, but I was never able to get over this hurdle that I had when it came to any sort of schoolwork; sitting down to do homework would take me hours and hours because I just couldn’t focus on the task I had to do or find the motivation to force myself to finish. Assignments that should have taken maybe an hour at most for other students would take me upwards of 3+ hours, and my anxiety over sitting down and actually doing the thing just increased as the semester went on and more and more work started to pile up. I also didn’t have to see any of my teachers or other classmates face to face, and wasn’t held accountable for it so I just - didn’t do it. I ended up being forced to attend public school again my senior year, with the ultimatum of “either you go and do your work, or you drop out and don’t receive a diploma with your class.”
I think it was the combination of a new medication that my psychiatrist put me on (a stronger dose of an antidepressant) and me reaching a point where my frustration and anger at myself was so strong that I was able to essentially just disconnect and push through the rest of my schooling through sheer force of will (I got my diploma though, one of the rare times I felt proud of myself back then). A part of me also wanted to prove that everyone that said I wouldn’t make something of myself were wrong, a last ditch attempt to show them I WAS worth something and I could do the things I needed to do to be successful and ‘normal’. Not just a lazy, spoiled person that sat at home in bed all day and did nothing worth mentioning.
I’ve always wanted to be a Veterinarian, and that means college - many years of college. I was riding that high from actually graduating high school (even though my GPA had suffered majorly) and ended up applying to a university a couple of hours away from home. I thought this was it, I was moving away and would be living on campus. I resolved that my college career would start off splendidly; I wasn’t going to revert back to my old bad habits of lazing around not doing work and spending days in bed at a time, lonely and frustrated and guilt-ridden. This would be a fresh start, armed with medication and a hopeful attitude, and my life would be better from this point onward.
Freshman year actually wasn’t terrible. I was enjoying my classes, the new environment and sense of freedom was invigorating, and I had an amazing roommate that I quickly bonded with. We went to events together, did things around town, studied together, and I was making progress and getting great grades. However, things started to go downhill during the latter half of my sophomore year when my brother tried to commit suicide.
I went home for a week to check up on him and make sure he was alright; he wasn’t, but he pretended like nothing was wrong and we were all making a big fuss over nothing. I obsessed over this and ended up internalizing a lot of negative feelings when I came back to campus, wondering why I didn’t notice it sooner, why he felt like he couldn’t confide in me, what I could of done to stop the events that led up to his decision; I felt worthless as a big sister. I was supposed to protect my siblings from any harm that might come to them, I was supposed to take care of them when they needed me. But instead, I was hours away, enjoying myself while my siblings were at home and dealt with their problems alone.
My focus and my motivation dropped significantly as all I could think about was self-loathing, and I failed all but one class that semester. My roommate had moved into her own apartment, and was so busy I rarely got to see her (I never mentioned any of my past situation to her - this had made me lose friends before and I still struggle with being open about all of this; the rejection sensitivity is real!!). I guess my brother’s attempt was a wake up call to my parents, because they apologized for their past behavior and volunteered to attend family counseling sessions to repair some of that lost trust. I could tell they were trying to be genuine and make up for what they felt they might have done in regards to our mental health, and wanted to learn. It made me happy, but at the same time I never brought it up with any of my family that I was struggling so much at school; how could I, when my brother obviously was worse off? I couldn’t take any attention from him when he clearly needed it more than I did.
My drive never really returned after that and my ability to focus in class and on my coursework nose-dived into my third year; I turned into a hermit that rarely left her dorm room (I was in a single so no roommate to complain about the mess). This was one of my lowest points, that stage where you’re not actively trying to die but don’t really care if you do either way. Without thinking, I made a spur-of-the-moment therapy appointment one night after a mental breakdown in my room; I was grasping for anything that might be able to help me get back to being ‘normal’ and functioning. I was scared to ask for help from anyone; I thought that I should have been able to handle this myself, that I shouldn’t have to burden people with my problems, especially since others certainly had it worse than I did. I was especially afraid of being a disappointment. Despite all my insecurities and doubts, I’m so glad I made that call, because this ended up being a great first start toward getting what I needed to succeed.
Many therapy sessions later I was able to get out of my room more, I talked to my psychiatrist and he added a supplementary med to help boost my mood, and I got a job working with animals (I’m still there, and I love working there even if the pay isn’t great lol). I even got into an apartment later that year. I was starting to build structure, something I desperately needed to function. However, my schoolwork was still suffering. It still took me hours to complete assignments, and writing papers was absolutely awful. I forgot a lot of things I had to do, and when I tried planners to keep track of tasks I just ended up forgetting to look at the planners as well (or just forgetting where I had put the planners in the first place). I got distracted easily, and I couldn’t study at home because the mindset I needed to work wouldn’t come to me no matter what I tried. In the rare instances I was able to sit and focus (a lot of these instances would come with an impending deadline looming), I would work for hours, knowing if I took a break or came back to it later that I just wouldn’t finish it. I always ended up exhausted afterwards, perfectionism a bad habit and adding to my distress, and it just helped reinforce that ‘coursework is bad and causes too much stress’ response in my brain. I was getting increasingly frustrated with myself again, as I had already been suspended for a semester. If I didn’t get my grades up, my financial aid would be revoked and I would have to drop out. I couldn’t understand why I was still having so much trouble with my school career, since my depression was in remission and my therapist was working with me on coping mechanisms for my anxiety.
One day I just happened to stumble upon a video on YouTube talking about ADHD and what it was (can provide link if it’s wanted). I had never even considered the fact I might have ADHD or ADD, since I was always so ‘quiet’ and ‘well-behaved’ in social situations. I was always told that people with ADHD were hyperactive, bouncing off the walls and rarely quiet (completely wrong as I later found out lol). I thought, “why not?” and clicked play. As the video continued, I found myself saying “huh, I do that” or “that seems really familiar” a lot. I did more research (probably hyperfixated on it, now that I know what that term means lol) and realized this could actually be a possibility. I made an appointment with my psychiatrist, gathered up my courage to explain what I was experiencing, and was officially diagnosed with ADD at 22 yrs old.
The relief I felt when I got the diagnosis was not what I expected, but it felt so validating. My symptoms were this bad because they weren’t being treated optimally - not because I was broken and inevitably falling into the same cycle, destined to never succeed. I was prescribed stimulants and am currently working on developing mechanisms that work with my brain, not just beating myself into finally doing what I need to do once it becomes bad enough.
As I’m sure many of you who take stimulants know, now I’m having a rough time of actually getting my medication; I’ve had to try two different meds already because insurance won’t prescribe above a certain dose (how is that supposed to help anyone?!?) and literally no pharmacy where I’m located carries the one I’m currently being prescribed (I have to have it sent to me by my grandparents). I just started this new one, and I’m hoping that it will help with my symptoms. I’m still in therapy, but I can only see her about once a month because my insurance won’t cover the full cost. Kinda sucks, but I could be without a therapist at all, so I try to think of it that way.
This semester, if I don’t pass all my classes my financial aid will be revoked, but I’m trying to not let that stress me out too much (easier said than done). The classes I’m taking now (one of them being Chem II for the 5th time, yay!) are somewhat difficult, and I feel myself losing steam now that we are halfway into the semester. However, now that I actually understand somewhat about what’s going on in my brain, I’m hoping I’ll at least be able to finish with passing grades. (if any other college students need a virtual study buddy to do homework with, hit me up - yay for accountability! lol) I feel slightly hopeful for the first time in a long time that I can actually finish my degree, and maybe make a few friends with the help of this forum.
Wow, that was a lot of information about myself! Sorry if it was somewhat boring, but thanks anyway for reading this far! It means a lot to me that I was able to take this step and just vent everything like this for the first time in a non-clinical setting to other people, even if it doesn’t turn into anything. However, I do look forward to learning from you all, and potentially helping a few too if I’m able.