I stumbled upon Jessica’s channel some time ago. My girlfriend pointed me towards ADHD after she found a list of symptoms in a book she was reading. The description fit me perfectly, which was shocking. So we did research this topic over the last weeks.
Existing diagnosis and therapies
We both, as well as doctors and psychologists/therapists I’ve talked with brushed my symptoms off and I got diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder. Besides failed attempts at CBT (in total 3 therapists) I was prescribed various forms of medication—mainly SNRIs/SSRIs and NDRIs. The only one that worked a bit were the NDRIs. This seems fitting, considering the connection between ADHD and the need for dopamine. However, the effects are small and seem to have decrease over time.
The issue lies—what I just learned—with executive function disorder. I have no concept of time and serious problems prioritizing. Especially when there is work to be done in university over a long stretch of time, such as a thesis spanning a whole semester. I am very impulsive and some days I jump from task to task, leaving all of them unfinished and most of them are meaningless in that very moment, which I only notice in retrospect. That is the biggest issue, I assume. I don’t notice it. Not in that moment and sometimes just weeks/months later. It’s not that I am justifying the action falsely to myself, I literally don’t even notice that I am drifting off. I am not actively ignoring tasks even if I put up reminders in plain sight I will just not see them. Even if I see reminders popping up I dismiss them when I am thinking of other things. I have a very vivid imagination and I can hyper-focus without a problem for a full day straight, forgetting to eat or take a break if a topic really captures my attention, but this rarely happens in a productive way.
The doubt I have right now is that primary and high school were comparably easy for me. Showing up was enough. I barely studied. My exam preparation consisted of me explaining things to others or mostly no preparation at all. I started to struggle with the first paper assignments in high school, where I was on my own. They were usually done last minute, meaning I started at 1 or 2am the night before the deadline. And I feel like I underperformed in my A-levels, where I also had to prepare on my own. I did not realize that I could have done more, because I literally do not know how and even if so, I wouldn’t have noticed.
In contrast to school, I struggle at university since day one. The fact that our university is not one with small classes and close contact to professors exacerbates this. You are mostly on your own in lecture halls with hundreds of students even in the exercise classes. I joined study groups initially, but got overwhelmed by how often they met. I failed at committing, made other plans and came up with excuses, which seemed entirely rational for me.
My theory and doubts
I think I got through school with such ease, because school provided a rigid structure with no wiggle-room, despite potentially having adult ADHD or maybe even a predisposition to it through my entire childhood. I was quite dutiful when it came to school presence. I mostly was on time, almost never missed classes and I was able to pay attention where it mattered, despite day-dreaming a lot.
I was always able to focus on school work if I’m in a class or lecture. That does not mean that my mind is not racing and other things are being thought about in parallel. Usually I’m pondering about side-projects and ideas.
I also got tested for ADHD two years ago. It was a computer based test with some “IQ test” style tasks, while distractors (mostly auditive) were imposed. Also my working memory was tested in some other tests (name a list of occupations, sports, fruits) and highlight certain characters in a wall of text. Or do simple calculations or remember and recall sequences of numbers read to me.
The problem I have with this test: Things like this challenge me like a game does and I can get into the zone, because intrinsically I want to do well at them. Also I know that the test is time-wise limited to an hour or so and there are no real distractions in the room.
There is also the aspect of social pressure by being observed. I can perform under stress and pressure to maintain the facade of competence. That is basically my whole life, but it is very exhausting for me.
However, all this makes me question to even have ADHD.
Has anybody else experienced this and got diagnosed? Having zero trouble in school, but then in university and at work when the rigid framework does no longer exist, the stakes and difficulty were raised?
How to cope with it?
Thanks a lot in advance