So I’m starting school in a couple days and it’s been hard. I’m not ready physically, mentally, or emotionally. On top of that, I’m painfully aware of how different I am from my peers and how I’ll always be…they’ve accepted me but I still feel isolated. I’m struggling with time blindness and social burn out and it sucks. I’ve also been dealing with a pretty crappy stim and I hate it!!! I hate feeling like my brain is hyperfocused on only moving one way, I hate feeling like I’m weird, and I hate that I can’t explain it to anyone!!! I love my neurodiversity I really do but it’s been hard. How do y’all deal with feeling like this and still stay proud?? Any advice ( or encouragement ) would be greatly appreciated…
I’m in a similar situation as yourself and as are or were many folks on this forum, including @scot who went through similar journeys when he was getting through school: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ueN3CWpRvM
To your concerns:
Sounds like quite the challenge — Why not see it as a quest?
Sounds like you’re dealing with adversities — Why not approach the semester from a spirit of defiance against them?
Thus, you could head into your semester from the perspective of a Hero’s Quest as follows:
A Compass To Keep Your Way: Keep a planner (daily / weekly / monthly) and or journal to provide as much direction and focus as possible during times of intensity and confusion in your quest (i.e. distraction, due dates, exam days, stuck on a topic). You could view Jessica’s ‘BuJo’ (bullet journal) videos for more info, else models such as David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ of which I use a version.
A Staff To Keep You Focused: Bring fidget gear and snacks to help keep you mind focused and body nourished while gathering intelligence about the current and future parts of your journey (i.e. listening to in-class lectures, studying your textbooks, slide decks, and other reference material).
An Almanac To Aid Your Wisdom: Utilize YouTube videos and relevant books/e-books from your school’s library to gain alternate context on and information about the course topics. (i.e. don’t just study the course textbook and lecture notes - arm yourself with as much extra info as possible!)
A Campsite To Plot A Way Forward: Find a place (or several) with as little distraction as possible from which to set up camp where you can refine your knowledge and plan next steps, especially when lost or struggling (i.e. find one or more places to study, complete assignments, prepare for exams, and recover from a low grade)
A Fellowship Of Other Adventurers: Find classmates to study with, and if allowed, to work on assignments with. Try to build a system of peer-to-peer learning where you can contribute as much help as you get out via respective strengths and weaknesses within the group (i.e. find or build study groups if possible that are collaborative i.e. mutually beneficial)
The Assistance of The King and Lords: Don’t be a stranger passing through their realm. Build a relationship and become a Knight! Attend the office hours of your instructor and teaching assistant(s) as often as possible! Ask them questions or for clarifications that imply that you’ve studied the material, i.e. not “how do I do problem 3” but “this is my current idea on what problem 3 is asking, and how I could solve it”. This also helps them get to know you by face and name, notice you working hard, and in way that shows that you’ve taken the effort to learn and work with the material on your own before reaching out. (i.e. attend office hours regularly to get extra help after making a best first effort, and rather than being an unknown stranger - your instructors and TA’s may respect and support you as a known and hard working regular)
Finally: Note that I have mentioned no magical artifacts of assistance in this list, because there are none (of which at least I have yet found in my adventure). Nor do I discuss staying “proud” within some greater population, as life experience continues to show that such comparisons matter little versus maintaining one’s own consistent direction and forward progress, at whatever pace they can make day-to-day. Or to put it more bluntly and quote the wisdom of a manager of mine from back in my grocery stocker days: “Worry about yourself and what you can contribute”. If there are reliable sources of "magic" in life that anyone can wield to their advantage - it is the powers of Persistence, Perseverance, Eagerness, Earnestness, Honesty, Humility, Vision, and Ambition". Let them be your sword, shied, armor, and compass in life.
This is the guidance I could offer you @ConfusedbutADHDandLD from my experience as you continue your quest. All of these items are real tools actively used in my inventory which have gotten me this far through an undergraduate and now graduate degree program — given all the lovely annoyances and challenges that come with an ADHD mind in an often ADHD-adverse academic system.
Adapt and Adopt as you so desire.
[And let this be a remembrance for my future self next time I’m working through challenging times]
Thank you so much for such a wonderful reply!!!
I love the idea of thinking like it’s a quest, it makes a not-so-fun problem, bearable. I’ll try to keep these things in mind as school starts ( bc I’ll definitely need them )
And thanks for reminding me i shouldn’t be worrying about whether I’m proud or not, just what I can do. I really needed it
Thanks for the shoutout man and great advice!
let us know how the first/second week goes.
Ok I will
I’d encourage you to not rule out the possibility that some of your classmates also have ADHD (diagnosed or not) or have other traits or experiences that would allow them to relate to it. My circle of friends didn’t form around that topic, but years later it seems that is also one of the things we have in common (some adult ADHD diagnoses, a range of mental health challenges, and some people who are just really empathetic and good at understanding others)
I have plenty of times I feel isolated, and sometimes that’s because of the reactions I’m getting from people, but sometimes it’s coming from the things I’m saying to myself, and those are different situations
I’ve definitely gotten stuck in my own head before. How do you take a step back and see that it isn’t what your friends are saying, but you?
My friend group is relatively large in comparison to our class ( in my class everyone are friends…somehow??) and while there’s a few people with learning disabilties or mental health issues, ADHD is surprisingly few and far between. Even my fellow Brains see it in such a different way it’s inposssible to talk with them. It’s really cool when I go to a new place and meet someone else like me, but less fun when I end up explaining how ADHD isn’t just a low attention span and “yes I do that too” or something. I don’t mind explaining, I’m happy too! But it’s hard…like I’m the only one who’s brain works like this even among Brains when I know it’s not true!!!
EDIT: I didn’t mean to type this much, got kinda into it
I have a mental exercise I do where I think of it like a piece of academic research. I try to determine what is factually true compared to how I am feeling. What data points do I have about a topic? How can I assess the quality and accuracy of those data points? The human brain has a negative bias. At one point this was useful for survival, but I think that in the current world it can often be more of a problem than a benefit. People often give a lot of weight to negative interactions and very little to the positive ones. I try to mentally track interactions with people, and sometimes get input from mutual friends.
Ahh ok. I’ve never put it like that!! Thinking of it like data points sounds like it would help you be more objective
I often invite the perspective that many behaviors of ADHD brains are not as much abnormal as they are amplifications of typical behaviors; and that conversely: neurotypical brains also deal with issues ranging from executive function to distraction and inattentiveness to task completion. Furthermore, there are factors common to each kind of brain which affect them similarly and differently: such as being busy and/or stressed, having poor discipline, lacking knowledge of management skills, etc.
This can be evident from both the neurological causes of ADHD, and correspondingly: Jessica’s classic “ADHD brains are race cars” analogy whose main idea is that our minds are, while very powerful, consequently also very hard to operate as a result of the added ‘mental horsepower’. For example: that fidgeting in class is for us —versus— neurotypicals what a flight control system is for a powerful fighter jet —versus— a small commercial jet.
Both can fly. Both use jet fuel. Both land on runways. Both use radar and radio to communicate. Both function and can even appear similar. However: only one of them can break the sound barrier while doing barrel rolls while tracking 10 enemy aircraft at the same with advanced sensor systems; and this one requires pilots with much more experience, training, and ability to operate these challenging yet extraordinary machines. And nonetheless - the pilots of each plane need to know and work with their respective aircraft in the different and similar ways those aircraft operate.
So @ConfusedbutADHDandLD, You’re a high powered sports car among commuter sedans on the road. This might mean more frustration, difficulty, and care when operating on main street downtown or on the highway during rush hour — but as long as you’re keeping within the common speed limit and driving ok, your fellow motorists will either not notice your special features among the other cars on the road; else admire the ROAR of your engine and slick tail-fins . As to operating at your full potential: do that wherever you can find a race track (i.e. your own time and projects) while getting your racing license (i.e. building skillsets beneficial for ADHD minds).
Keep Forward — Plus Ultra!
I love this analogy!! Especially the parts about the pilot
And I agree, we have to learn how to work with our Brains. They aren’t the same as others, so we can’t do it like others ( and that’s not a bad thing )
Your response was really encouraging so thank you for taking the time to write to all!!!
I feel like I haven’t adequately expressed how grateful I am for all the support y’all have given me, it’s been invaluable. I know this is super cheesy but thanks from the bottom of my heart everyone!!!
I survived the first week of school!!!
At first it felt like everything was piling up on me. I had health issues, commitments I couldn’t do ( or wasn’t even aware of ) and the homework was awful. I’ve been thinking back on this 1st week and despite feeling impossible I’m still here. I sucked at a lot of stuff ( mostly chemistry ) but I also succeeded! I have my hunting license, passed my CLEP test with flying colors, and kept on top of my homework. I’m still trying to figure stuff it, however now I know I can actually do it thanks so much for all the help y’all have given me, couldn’t have done it without this wonderful tribe!
@ConfusedbutADHDandLD Glad to see efforts were made in every sector with gains/success achieved in some. As advised: such is the “realistic ideal”. How went weeks 2 and 3?
Also, “don’t get tricked by the honeymoon”, which means don’t become too overconfident in the first week or two of the semester — there’s a war ahead of us until the dust settles on final grades at semester’s end. Alongside your optimism, maintain your ‘Command and Control’ of the mission out there in the battlefield, and use the clear skies to get as much a head start as possible!
I myself have already been fighting several simultaneous battles towards getting an early command of my Computer Networks course; for which there exists an unusually large learning curve in terms of a ton of introduction, background, and technical information to be understood ASAP. The battles include:
[Sub-Operation ‘(Tom) Bombadil’] Studying, note-taking and otherwise getting familiar with the mountain of material as I have not taken the undergraduate version of the course; alongside
[Sub-Operation ‘Ayleid Ruins’] Reading, note-taking, and response reports on 2+ technical papers per week (of which themselves are full of detailed information and concepts); alongside
[Sub-Operation ‘Secunda’] Getting familiar with the specification and code for the first of two complex programming projects while applying what I’ve studied towards it; alongside
[Sub-Operation ‘Mirkwood’] Refreshing my skills in the required programming language (i.e. ‘C’) alongside network-based programming to complete the project.
Working through the overwhelm and anxiety of this war and ‘wall of awful’ as best I can, and will likewise update periodically with updates. Until then, let’s:
Keep Forward, Plus Ultra!
Weeks 2 and 3 were kinda a blur. There was a lot of late nights and interrupted schedules. But, I’m learning that when school feels like a lot, I’m getting mixed up with due dates and whatnot. I’m kinda getting a feel for each subject and the teacher so that definitely helps. I was ( pleasantly ) surprised by one teacher who was incredibly accommodating and understanding!
Thanks for the reminder, it’s easy to see all sunshine and roses when the real world gets hard.
Good luck with your battles and I hope everything goes well!