Tuesday, 16 April 2013

One Account of Mid Life Adult Diagnosis of ADHD

From a near friend of ours who agreed to contribute their recollections and experiences of having lived with ADHD as a "mild to moderate" affliction without knowing that was the cause of many problems through life:

"Several friends who were medical students, had said to me in the late 80s that I had hypo-mania  I took it as a bit of teasing me for being talkative, distractable and being a bit variable in what I achieved. 
As a small child and adolescent I had been a little tempestuousness. To my friends above, I did admit to having issues which seemed to be "reactive depressions": my father dying when before I became a teenager; the usual teenage crises of identity, friendship and the opposite sex; feeling depressed and under-stimulated in my crucial fifth year at "high school". 

In this year I had a lot of what I recently described in two ways: " Glue Brain" where I experience drowsiness and a lack of thought, and socially related to this "rabbit in the headlights" during confrontation or some ordinary conversations for example. 

I sought help a few times, and the first serious advice I got was the best for me: 'go out and do exercise- an hour a day at least on average! Get your aggression out. ' from my exercise mad GP. I got on my bike so to speak and took it literally, often 14 hours a week in the summer. In many ways a good exercise but not ideal for my "quarter back" underlying physique! Cycling was then a pretty antisocial, individualistic sport with a cliquey coaching structure. Mountain biking was originally far more sociable, with a lot of "innovators / early adopters" taking part.

Physical exercise then can abate negative feelings and give a focus which seems to be kind of meditative for ADHD then, although I just presumed I was suffering from a reactive-depression with some emotional disturbance underlying that from my father's death.

I finished high school on a very high point, retrieving character in a couple of borderline passes and a fail from the year before to A grade, and doing the preparation exams at 1st year uni' sort of level.

First year uni went well two: In fact I loved it and found it easy to make new friends, although some prove to be problematic (arrogant, egocentric types who I mistook for being interesting and stimulating!) I liked the structured lectures but the tell tale signs of ADHD overload were there, of all things Ironically enough with the 1630 - 1730 lectures which I rarely attended. I read the texts and missed out on a lot of stimulation and learnign, because I just was too fatigued and lacked motivation to turn up. I failed the course twice and had to spend a final summer studying, before entrance to the honours programme in molecular biology with genetics.

Second year too had a good deal of structure and was well taught and the text books were excellent.

Here I did not pick up on a few tell tale signs of being a little "sandwich too many for the picnic" I was hyper-sociable, and quite superficial in being interested in politics and philosophy. Also I had no girl friend, just casual sex or dates with kind of inappropriate types upon reflection. I found also that shy people irritated and bored me instantly.  

The key here was that University 1 & 2nd year had enough structure to train me in, while enough freedom to allow me to study in my own time. However I did notice that i would sometimes struggle to take in as much detail as my compatriots.

3rd year was poorly structured with a set of more research oriented scientists lecturing us, generally in badly structured lectures, with badly structure, long lab sessions often using only "placebo" reagents and biologicals. I had a difficult time socially in some ways again, poaching my best friends ex who I was in love with, on the opportunity over the summer they split up.  As a first love she was pretty much Ideal, but she dumped me for unknown reasons because we were still clearly very close when we had a parting drink and later when we met again. I took it very hard and as a lecturer asshole I had said "it does not surprise me you when you say you are having personal problems" Clearly there was many things in my demeanor which other people didn't like my behaviour. 

So that year I really showed ADHD : I made bad decisions socially, I was inattentive and responded badly to the expectation of a high level of self  discipline and open learning with lectures as a stimulus rather than a structure. Also the converse was that lab work became much longer and more tedious. I suffered a good deal of "glue brain" but socially I was active and more mature.

I worked a summer as a research assistant and lacked a good deal of motivation, going off between experiments or on quiet days to cycle or work in the bike shop I had normally just a Saturday job in.

Somehow in final year I found a huge burst of enthusiasm and positiveness. I found my own structure: i started reading what I was interested in and finding in particular review papers and then following back the key papers in the references. My mind could run a little "ADHD" free with hindsight. Often reading became skim reading with then a focus on rather short take out, or I used a lot of time to understand the concepts and language. 

I found then the lecture programme to be super stimulating and ran with the best of them, and got a great character as a dedicated student, eventually gaining my goal of a higher second honours BSc. 

Lab work though suffered: I was really just a lower second on this but I was let off because my write up of the work was okay, my supervisor was recognised as being a bit duff,  and book based thesis was really conceptually difficult. 

So Uni showed the positive and negative sides of ADHD. On the up side, often overlooked, ADHD can contribute to a wide and quite detailed intake of information seemingly, and spurn creative thought as is well known in performers and some great minds allegedly "suffering". On the down side the "glue brain" periods.

So in fact ADHD was perhaps neutral on my education: or put another way my intelligence and drive as a late adolescent /early adult, compensated very much for the disease. This is a theme i will speak of later.

However later in life the same cannot be said :

I struggled to redefine my direction in a way which was appropriate and I did not follow a path which was most productive : to continue as a paid scientist somewhere. I wanted to teach english abroad in Prague. I was a typical young adult dreamer with wander lust but from a poor family. I wanted also to work on the commercial side of Biotech but really just expected that to happen without any interactivity and information seeking or network building from my side. I wandered into  sales which I sort of thrived in relatively speaking, and then back to education at business school.

Around this time I was quite rebellious and socially crass. I had a wide range of new and old acquaintances. I had a steady, if a little immature, girl friend and we moved in together. I had been a little distractable and used the sales job to my own ends to travel and take my bike with me and often hiking or cycling trips were combined with far flung and basically uneconomic sales visits. I found it hard to study sometimes and take in economics, consumer behaviour, business strategy and so on. My grades were down on my bachelors through laziness and not being able to absorb and reformulate information in essays.

In more creative essays where I was able to draw on experience from business myself and group work got top character oddly enough, but on absorbing often rather dry or long winded texts i floundered and in writing good English I also floundered around more than before.

Having finished things went well, but i remember feeling naive and mis-used in my first consultancy internship more or less, and then naive in the labour market. 

I had a tour on Lustral and another antidepressant and a week of up time on few snorts of pharma grade coke . 

The thing about my "reactive depressions" were really that I tackled events badly or did not act very proactively and could not find pragmatic and expansive ways of approaching problems and finding solutions in life and love. I would be down a while, worry a lot, go the the GP or psychologist in the worst times, but then suddenly forget it all and have an upswing and get quite hyper.

So it went until 1996 when I had a tough time controlling my temperament with a girl friend who was a bit of a bad choice yet again! Flirty and cuddly with other boy friends I felt shunned and got really aggressive. I seemed not to be able to control my aggression. I knew I had a bit of a screw loose when the failure of the relationship completely set my mind into an obsessional spin of driving past her house a couple of times each day with no purpose in mind, just a magnetic need, and not sleeping.

I had then an autumn of "glue brain" trying to get into the internet business by re-training on a practical course at a non academic uni computer services dept. This went ok, but I had little self-structuring.

Finally I got my real break through in career: but to cut a long story short:

a) I had difficulty with authority and seemed a bit spoiled or reticent for many years with the more domineering type of boss.
b) I failed to really make the mark in action oriented decision making
c) I did some tasks well, but others where low motivation or high stress were involved I floundered in
d) I showed a lot of social angst and lack of self confidence in sales pitches and conflict situations
e) basically overall I would say I lacked personality and thought pattern tools aka ASSERTIVENESS

In personal life I found it difficult to either hold on to a girl I really liked, or alternatively to stop a dead-end relationship in it's tracks so I did not hurt someone I did not really love. Friendships began to annoy me: I still had a tendency to gang around with quite arrogant types who I looked for some leadership from or involvement but I just ended up getting frustrated with both friends and women!

So this went on, and it went on again, only amplified by emigrating and starting a family.

Eventually I was back in the internet business and a job as an analyst I just could not handle the summarisation required, and could not be assertive with the  very arrogant employees I had to work with. I lost the job and it started the whole thinking "THIS CANNOT GO ON; THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME AND IT AFFECTS MY CONCENTRATION AND GIVES ME SOCIAL ANGST "

I made some changes myself, deciding on a new more structured career and taking a low risk way into it through a government sponsored trainee-ship. I moved out of the family house in a new job and visited weekends, holidays and some weeknights. In the midst of these practical actions to kind of reduce stress I was then diagnosed as having strong symptoms / problems associated to ADHD.  "

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