Karen’s Story

I’m 29 and got diagnosed last year. After years of feeling like a failure and wondering why people who were nowhere near as smart as I was were getting degrees and great jobs and houses and cars, while I waffled along still living like I did at the age of 18, I ran across an article on msn about how females with ADD tend to miss getting diagnosed because our symptoms aren’t as obvious as those of males. I read it and was amazed: it described me and my life! I looked into it and practically had to FORCE my doctor to give me a referral to a psychiatrist who could diagnose me. Then I had to wait four months for the meeting with the psychiatrists.

So once I was diagnosed, I had to go through a series of medications before finding one that worked. I was struggling through my fourth year of a part-time BA at the time, and ended up failing all my courses because I just didn’t drop out on time and then I kept telling myself I’d finish the work, and I didn’t. So far I am learning that I either don’t have very severe ADD, or I cope well, because my meds dose isn’t too high. I’m on imipromine. That was after trying about four other types of drugs that made me feel stoned and nauseous. The first day I tried imipromine, it felt like doors were opening all over my mind, things were clear, my thoughts weren’t so scattered, and I felt alive.

The hard thing is dealing with what I feel is my wasted past and knowing that my future won’t be what I wanted it to be.The other thing is that my friends and family don’t even really believe me and don’t pay much attention to it as a part of my life. They barely apologised for being so hard on me and critical of me in the past. Most of them have not mentioned it since I first told them. People are so used to criticising me that they don’t like the fact that there is now a reason for my weird inability to live life like the rest of the world. Everyone has just switched to saying that I am making excuses, and it hurts like hell. You can’t even expect a therapist to understand unless the therapist has ADD, which they usually don’t. I’m charismatic and can look and sound more than capable, so people either get mad at me or are confused when I can’t cope with little things.

What I will do in life is still uncertain. I’ve been late for everything since the age of 10. I think the only reason I was on time prior to that was because my organised mom ran my life until grade 5. I lose track of time easily and have no concept of how long things take. I daydream nonstop, and my place is a mess even though I feel like I am always cleaning. I don’t finish sentences, and I’m always sucking up information like a vacuum but to no tangible end.

I have a natural musical ability and took conservatory piano for 14 years. I also play flute and sing. I did two years of music school in university but got A’s in some classes but D’s and F’s in others. I couldn’t organise my time because it was so different from high school. I was late for classes and so embarrassed to even go in late that I’d just skip class entirely. Finally, after I realised that I don’t fit in and noone was going to encourage me, I dropped out.

My father is manic depressive and spent my whole life yelling at me and our family and causing serious fights, so I have a lot of issues stemming from that as well. I used to think I was manic depressive as well, and even went on antidepressants for four months when I was 21. Needless to say, it was a horrible experience, and I resent the fact that nobody cared about me except for me. I’m the one who pretty much self-diagnosed.

I jumped from job to job for years. I got fired twice, and my bosses have always gotten after me for being late no matter how hard I worked. After I dropped out of music, I tried an arts program, and then a graphic design program. I lied about my academic past (covering up my failures, that is) to get into an arts program at a different university in a degree and am 3/4 done. I managed to find two jobs where my bosses actually put up with my time management deficiencies and appreciated the work I did. One was at an art gallery working a night bartending/serving job, and the most recent has been with the Salvation Army, working with disabled adults. I’ve managed to keep my job at Salvation Army for over three years now, but I want to finish my degree at some point and maybe be a teacher. I wish I could just pick one thing and become an expert in it, but I get bored too easily. I also worry that I’ll never be able to meet someone who will love me the way I am. All of my ex-boyfriends called me lazy or fucked up, spoiled or selfish at some point.

I’ve been able to live on my own for 8 years, but usually things go awry. Sometimes my mom will come and help me clean up my place. My parents paid down my credit card a couple of times because I didn’t pay it regularly. My bills are always overdue and the companies are always sending notices threatening to cut off service. I eat at weird hours and stay up until four a.m. reading. I have a day planner that is my entire life, and an addiction to sticky notes that helps me get through the day.

I honestly hope that I will find someone to love someday who will help me with small things so I can realise my dreams. Until then, I’m trying to get into better habits, and looking at new ways to live my life that are compatible with having ADD.