I Should Call My Blog: ADD & ADHD Money

If you’ve been reading my blog for longer than two minutes you probably can guess (or have read) that I have ADHD. I don’t entirely believe in ADD or ADHD (I think its caused by anxiety, which I happen to believe is the cause of most mental disorders) but for whatever it’s worth, I have all the symptoms. I’m distracted, disorganized, have never followed a routine for longer than maybe two days at a time, and am pretty sure my intellectual potential far surpasses any of my output.

Every year, especially around this time, I tell myself — this year I will get organized. This year I will figure out what to do with my life. This year I’ll wake up early, go to the gym, get to work at a reasonable time every morning, work hard from 9-6:30, take an actual lunch break (not work through lunch), come home, clean, do laundry, COOK DINNER, read a book, go to sleep around 10, wake up and do it all again…
And every year, I know it’s not really going to happen. Not without some serious outside help that I’ve yet to find. I don’t know why I’m so unable to keep to routine. I don’t understand how most people do easily (or seemingly easily.) For me, it takes so much focus and energy to accomplish anything once, let alone multiple times on repeat into the foreseeable future.
I still feel like a child, albeit one who understands the world overall fairly well, but I’m still a kid in my mind, wanting to run off on a whim, commit to nothing, yet still have the security of being taken care of, and living a life where risk is just s synonym for trying something new without the fear of any serious kind of failure.
Here’s why I’m depressed — I am afraid of everything. I’m afraid of trying and failing but I’m even more afraid of trying and succeeding. What’s success? It always seemed like some sort of end to me. End of childhood. End of my 20s. End of growing up and instead being grown. At least failing you have somewhere up to go. I think too much. Constantly. My mind is filled with worry. I check my budget compulsively. Not routinely. Routine is alien to my very existence.
I oft wonder if some ADHD drug would help me focus… but every psych wants to treat my depression and anxiety before treating ADD. So I get drugged up on SSRI’s and give up on them because they put me to sleep, they don’t help me focus, they don’t make me able to handle routine, they just make me feel out of it, like a zombie who is unable to cry, who isn’t happy or sad. That’s not getting me anywhere.
Whenever I consider actually applying to grad school there feels like a huge brick wall up in front of my face that I can’t get passed. First is figuring out what I want to do with my life (I want to do everything and I want to do absolutely nothing), then there’s actually having faith in my ability to do graduate-level work (I struggle with writing, math, reading, well… focusing, and just about everything that is required of academia) so then I think “what am I thinking? I can’t do graduate work. I barely got through undergrad and somehow took enough classes to squeak by with a 3.2 from an average (ie non-impressive) liberal arts school. I don’t necessarily want a PhD, an MA or MFA is more likely, as my graduate study should probably be largely about learning and applying skills, not solely research. But I worry about the level of other students who would go to any of these programs – they’d undoubtedly be smarter and more capable of focus than I am. They’d already know a lot more about whatever field I decide to study. I’d never be able to prepare enough to feel competitive in any graduate program worth attending. Then there’s the pressure of applying — I was lucky in undergrad, I applied to 5 schools, and even with a miserable high school GPA I was accepted to 4 out of the 5, mostly based on my artwork. But now… I don’t know who would want me. I’m average at best and not sure what I could contribute to any program. Then there’s my average GRE scores (not getting into any of the Ivy-level schools I like to daydream about) and my fear of asking anyone to write me a letter of recommendation. And beyond all that there’s the cost of grad school which I can’t even comprehend. Right now I’ve at least gotten myself comfortable with saving… if I can stick to my budget, I’ll save $20k next year. But grad school looks like it will cost me $50k per year. For 3 years. After putting so much effort into getting accepted I then would have to take out HUGE loans that I’d pay back for practically the rest of my life.
Or I could… not go to grad school. I could find a job that I’m good at. But what IS that job? I get bored so easily. I fall for every job at the beginning and then after a year I’m ready to move on. It’s like this with every other aspect of my life as well, but even more so with work because it feels like it’s my entire life. I hate feeling infinitely trapped as an indentured servant of capitalism. But that’s life. Can’t I just accept it and move on? Why can’t I just… focus?
  • Abigail

    Well, not sure what you mean by "believing" in ADD/ADHD. I guess I had a similar outlook for awhile. (Frankly, til I met Tim.) I think the common problem is for people to completely misunderstand ADD. I know I did. I thought it meant he was forgetful and distracted. And that was it. Then I started reading and there are so many ways it affects a person's personality. Of course, not everyone has severe ADD. Some cases are more mild. Not all have to be controlled with medicine, though many people find it useful. If you haven't read him yet, I very highly suggest Thom Hartmann's books on ADD. He has a MUCH nicer view of the whole condition. He basically compares it to left-handedness. It used to be viewed as a sign of evil or some sort of disease. Now it's just a fact that your brain is wired different. Same with ADD. He started writing about it when his son was diagnosed. He wasn't going to sit around and watch his son be told he had a disease, that his brain was somehow wrong. He also talks about utilizing the strengths that come with ADD, rather than just focusing on what this society deems as weaknesses. It's positive without being too touchy-feely. It doesn't tell people that they can abandon Western medicine or anything, but it does suggest alternatives/things to do in conjunction with the option of medication. I really enjoyed it, and it gave me a lot more ideas about where Tim was coming from. As for the anxiety issue, Tim has a lot of anxiety too. Or perhaps it is somewhere between anxiety and nervous energy. And it may be that the reasons your doctors kept trying antidepressants out on you was because those can also ameliorate some ADD symptoms. So they may have been hoping for double duty. That said, if those things make you sleepy, find a doctor who will LISTEN to you. Seriously. Oh, and Hartmann has a whole book called ADD Success Stories that is just about finding the kind of job that is right for you when you have ADD. There are tons of careers that are great for ADDers. Things like marketing/advertising because there are lots of fast-paced campaigns, creativity is imperative, and you can change tasks with relative regularity.Anyway, look for Hartmann's books. A lot of libraries have them. If you can't find them there (check city and county), Amazon had some very cheap copies. That's where I got the copies we have.

  • Anna

    I have a similar problem to yours with the jobs with all my classes: at first, they're sooo exciting, and when the finals come, I hate them. Fortunately, I have a job that I've been feeling good at for a year and a half already (python developer) that will last me for a few more years. I am very grateful for that. I hope you find your dream job too.

  • More Style Than Cash

    This sounds so familiar because I went through something so similar in my twenties. What I didn't know at the time was I had a lot of food allergies and I was not eating healthily and this was contributing to my "spacy" feeling and being unable to concentrate. I never ate lunch because it always made me feel sick. I can not tell you how much my life changed once I found out what I could and couldn't eat and what I should and shouldn't eat. Have you ever tried writing out a list of 100 things that you love (movies, cherry ice cream etc.), 100 things that you love to do that don't cost any money (walking in the rain, playing with your cat) and 100 things that you love to work at (baking, organizing your sock drawer) to find out what direction you could move in? It might take months to write out the three list but you will find out so much about yourself.

  • Julie

    I don't have any kind of ADD or ADHD; I just have a lack of motivation. It's also hard for me to get into a routine, but I've found that it's impossible if I try to do an entire list at once, like you detailed. Ultimately, I want to work reasonable hours, go to the gym 5-7 days a week, cook dinner 5-7 days a week and study for 3 hours every day. I can't transition to doing none of that to everything in one day, so I'm gradually adding in each item. This month, I'm getting in the habit of going to the gym. Next month, I'll start studying after going to the gym. I work a lot better if I break things down into less impossible feeling goals. Now I just have to change one minor thing every day instead of overhauling my life all at once.Good luck!