Shell’s ADD / ADHD Story

Hi. My name is Shell, I’m 24, and I’m just now realizing that I have AD/HD.

I’ve seen lots of online resources about people diagnosed AD/HD that are instead, or also, gifted. But what happens to a child identified as gifted, whose AD/HD goes unaddressed? IMHO, you get a girl like me. I was IQ tested at age 7 due to intelligent teachers and active parents who saw my boredom and thought first of ability instead of impairment.

They oohed and aahed at the “genius level” score I got. Most of my teachers, every year after that, were told that “this is a TAG kid” and they mostly worked with me instead of punishing me when I acted up. The main thing they ever accused me of was immaturity, and that was explained away by the fact that I was a year and a half younger than most other kids in my class (I skipped a grade).

I was skipped because I failed the first 6 weeks of 2nd grade. My teachers decided that the reason I failed was because I was bored with my work and had far more fun doing everyone else’s, so they put me in 3rd grade, with a smaller class and more interesting work. If they’d assumed instead that I failed due to an “inability to pay attention”, who knows what would have happened.

The rest of my schooling, up through high school, was sometimes chaotic, usually lonely, and very, very easy. There were opportunities to skip me again, but Mom never took them; she wanted to keep me with my age group. I did the majority of my homework in class, crammed major projects last-minute, and nearly always got A’s. I didn’t have much of a social life, but I surely did enjoy my honor badge in junior high and that name-plaque on the 4.0 board in High School.

I found a scholarship-recommendation letter a few months ago in which my pre-calculus math teacher said that I “never seemed to be paying attention” but “always knew the answers”. I’d say that pretty much sums up my high school experience. I graduated Valedictorian.

Of course, with grades like that, and my high SAT score, I went to college. All those scholarships! I couldn’t just *not*. Freshman year wasn’t much more complicated than high school; classes were easy, friendships sparse, and I had plenty of books and the Internet to amuse me.

Then, sophomore year, I met a large group of friends who all seemed to have some disorder or other — at least 5 of them were diagnosed AD/HD, with or without hyperactivity; one was bipolar; and one had major depression. Even the so-called “normal” members were highly eccentric. I fit right in, the first time I’d ever felt a complete sense of belonging anywhere, and instantly had a social life.

That was the beginning of my scholastic decline. I couldn’t give both social and education lives my best effort, and it showed. My transcript, from that point on, shows several withdrawals, a wide range of interests half-begun, several B’s, a few C’s, and even an F. I graduated after 5 years with two vastly different degrees (Computer Science and Writing/Lit) and a 3.54 GPA.

People praised me for that, but it WASN’T my best, and I was so, so exhausted. It had taken so much effort to keep my grades up, and combined with my social life I frequently got less than 5 hours of sleep per night. Emotional, physical, and mental burn-out threatened. I decided grad school would kill me and entered the job market.

Of course, the market started going downhill about the time I graduated and I couldn’t get a job doing anything I was interested in. I’m on my 2nd job now, as “administrative assistant.” I’m supposed to anticipate all my supervisor’s needs and basically create my own job out of thin air with no guidelines. I’m totally at sea. It’s been six months, and I know she’s unsatisfied with my performance, and of course I’m unsatisfied by my performance!

Also, this last winter, I spent a few months living at home with Mom again. Ouch. She started going into lists of all the problems I had that I should have grown out of since I moved out, and the more I heard, the more I recognized things my AD/HD friends had talked about. I’d put my college eccentricities down to being in college, basically, and being unmotivated — I’d never seriously considered any other cause before.

It was little things, like my earring carousel — I bought it at a garage sale for about $4 when I was 12, so I could sort my earrings by color. Mom saw it when I moved back in and joked with me that she never thought I’d use it when I bought it, since I “never liked to do anything that required effort.” Or chronically forgetting the chores. Or tuning out mid-conversation all the time.

Other things? I locked my keys in my car at least a dozen times in high school before developing a coping mechanism. I have to drive somewhere at least 4 times with explicit instructions before I remember the route without them. I’m chronically late going places, I can’t wake up properly without caffeine, I’m an avid novel reader but have serious problems with dry texts (frustrating!!), I’m afraid of cooking (too many times of mixing up instructions), and I can’t sit still.

The list goes on. And on. And on. I have lots of funny anecdotes, but the truth is, I’m sick and tired of making 5+ mistakes a day, at least one of which is serious.

I’m tired of walking around with at least one minor wound at all times because I clipped my shoulder on the door or brushed my hand against the stove burner when it was hot or accidentally jabbed myself with something sharp.

I’m tired of my mother’s lectures about not living up to my potential. I’m tired of having to explain to my boss that a job that should have been done in 30 minutes took me two hours, or why the phone calls I was supposed to make yesterday didn’t get made, or why I haven’t finished that major project yet, or why I was 10 minutes late to work 3 days last week.

I’m tired of scaring myself to death while driving. I’ve only had one ticket, thank God, and the one major accident I was in was ruled the other person’s fault, but it could be so much worse. My current rental managers have warned me that if I break the speed limit in the complex one more time, I’ll be kicked out … and the thing is, I *don’t* remember ever breaking it.

I’m soooo bored with my life … and at the same time, I come home so mentally exhausted by a day at work, I’d much rather surf the net or play a computer game or read than go out and do something.

So, for the last several months, I’ve been making notes on all this as things occurred to me. (I copy-pasted a lot of this from those notes). I found a box at home with old educational records in it, including report cards; most of the ones from grade school have comments like, “Draws instead of paying attention in class”, and had marks for Needs Improvement in categories like “Pays attention when others are talking” and “Makes good use of unstructured time”.

And interestingly enough, according to recent studies, there even seems to be a genetic basis for my suspicions. Namely, the fact that my mom’s parents and her sister were alcoholics, and my mom herself has been on maintenance doses of Prozac since I was very little to combat chronic depression.

So, after all this thinking and comparing of old “proof”, I’m pretty certain that I have AD/HD. Lots of things are beginning to make sense. But knowing isn’t quite enough to kick the problems and anxiety that have been with me for so many years.

I’ve made an appointment to see a psychiatrist who diagnoses AD/HD. We’ll see where I go from there. It has to get better than this.