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Goodbye Jesus

To Those Who Suffer From Chronic Inattention


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This post is mostly about Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder and my experience with it, but it is also a reprise of my last botched attempt at a testimonial. Allow me to share my story, and if you see even a part of your own life here, I would recommend seeking help from a medical professional as soon as possible. If you have difficulty reading all the way through (very understandable,) do yourself a favor and skip to the bottom, below the second 'page break.' Mods, I was unsure where to post this, if it needs to be moved, so be it.




I have always disliked school, even in kindergarten I had a hard time paying attention and wanting to follow directions. But my dislike had nothing to do with intelligence, I have always done extremely well on tests, and my reading and writing abilities always earned high praise and good marks. The problem was focusing long enough to write more than a few paragraphs. There were exceptions, for example, when I was extremely interested in a subject, the words spilled onto the paper effortlessly, and when the assignment was extremely important, I could wait until the final hour and depend on an adrenaline rush to complete the paper. Even in my nearly comatose state the work was often better than my peers'. Of course, this wasn't a guarantee that I would actually remember to bring my assignments to class. I've thrown out many finished papers that I found in the disorganized mess I find myself in. Even after determined efforts to organize and schedule, it's never worked out for more than a few days.


My reading habits were similar to my writing habits. If I had an interest, I could read a novel or the better part of an unassigned textbook within a few hours, remembering the key points and most of the details. In fact, this would often get me into trouble at school, when we would be reading in class, I would often read the entire book before we got even a part of the way through. I couldn't force myself to read along with the rest of the group, the story would compel me to keep reading.


Homework, especially in subjects I didn't care for, was until recently nearly impossible. Growing up I relied on my parents to sit with me to keep me from getting distracted. Nearly anything would suffice. A crack in the ceiling, a bird out the window, a noise in another room. Even if I took drastic steps to remove myself from an obviously distracting environment, it was as if I had made no effort at all. I could stare at a blank wall for hours, thinking of nothing of any real importance.


Often during chores or when I would work on my family's farm, I would waste time doing nothing. I would stop working and just daydream. Because I usually had no supervision and because I could work quickly and efficiently in spurts, it was possible to get away with it most of the time. I knew that it would be hard for me to find anyplace else that would allow me to work this way, so I couldn't see myself working any other place. My family always encouraged me when I mentioned this, and it became a sort of echo chamber. Most of my them had come to the same conclusion at some point in their life, regardless of their incredible talent in other fields. (Yes, I believe that most of my family also has the same condition.)


My inability to pay attention has also affected my social life. It was all too easy for me to stop paying attention to people I was conversing or corresponding with. If I'm not around someone regularly it's as though they had dropped off the side of the earth, at least in my mind. I've lost many friends, and missed many opportunities for romantic engagement over the years because of this tendency. Other things which influenced my social ineptitude were impulsivity, being overly candid, and a gnawing sense that I would eventually disappoint anyone I got close to.


Despite my lack of desire for continuing my education, my parents and grandfather very strongly encouraged me to at least give it a try. Getting in was easy, I chose a non-impacted school, and an unpopular major. My grades hadn't been anything to write home about, but I scored extremely well on the standardized tests (or at least, the only one that I remembered to attend.)


At first, I couldn't have been happier. 'You mean I get to choose which courses I take, and I can work at my own pace?!' It gave me a whole new perspective, and I excelled for a while. By carefully choosing subjects that I cared about, I managed to achieve a very respectable GPA. But I quickly became bored, and started reading about things outside my major. I learned a great deal about a wide variety of subjects, but floundered in my classes. It didn't take me long to discover the incredible information storehouse of the internet (it wasn't something I had easy access to growing up,) and it started soaking up my life. I researched everything I could think of, and perhaps inevitably, it led to my de-conversion, and love of this site. I also found out about attention deficit disorder, but didn't realize at the time how seriously it was affecting my life. I tried bringing it up to some people, but I usually just heard platitudes related to trying harder.


I took my de-conversion hard, and couldn't stop thinking about it and it's long term ramifications. Severe depression followed, and my grades went into a free-fall, which caused me to reach new depths of sadness. I felt trapped, and I lacked the mental fortitude to pull myself out of it. In short, I had given up.


Before I get too far ahead, I should mention another symptom of ADD; self-medication. As a kid, the only drug available to me was caffeine, which I could use to calm myself down. If I were tense, or thought I was about to explode, a coke would relax my nerves. When I left for college, I discovered alcohol and marijuana. I had a bad habit of drinking, sometimes combined with smoking, until I passed out, or at least till I couldn't feel my toes anymore. It wasn't an everyday, or even weekly, thing, but because it happened every-time I drank, and because it was an uncontrollable urge, it was definitely dangerous to my health. Combine that with my desire to kill myself and you're talking about a recipe for disaster. I've only been able to see this clearly in hindsight.


The first time I sought help, it didn't go well. The freshly minted diploma above the university psychologist's desk didn't help matters. I came asking about ADD, but the kid couldn't see past my drinking and depression. He couldn't see what was underneath it, even though I tried to explain it. I didn't know as much as I do now, so it was difficult for me to present a clear and concise case. I stumbled over words, and mumbled a few things I had read off a website, but couldn't offer much else.


I dragged myself through the paces for nearly a year before I posted on this website with a few of my problems. Thanks to the encouragement of one of the members of this board, I went back to the psychologist to get help, this time armed with knowledge. I bought an academically oriented book on the subject and blew this newly assigned psychologist out of the tub. Not that she needed to be, she was much better than the last one. Her belief in my story gave me confidence to bring it up with my parents, who deal with many of the same problems I do. My mother in particular. She read the same book, we discussed it, and went together to get medication from our physician. It was a very rewarding experience.


It opened up a line of communication that we had never enjoyed before. I listened to her struggles, and she listed to mine. We discussed our lack of control over our thoughts, our social problems, and quite a bit else. When I took the medicine for the first time, it was like I had put on my first pair of glasses all over again. I remember taking my glasses on and off over and over, because it was so hard to believe that I had been missing out on so much my whole life. It just didn't seem real. Within an hour of taking the medicine, the world dramatically snapped into focus for me.


My attitude was different. I was able to shrug off minor annoyances, I could study my most boring school work, I could control what I was paying attention to, and most of all, I felt the tension that had been building up in my body and mind over my whole life melt away. Before the first day was up, my feelings of inadequacy vanished, as did my debilitating depression.


I also tried not taking it for a day, and it all came back. It's not a cure, it just treats the symptoms.


I don't know what my life will be like from now on. I don't know how much of my experience is due to the medication, or to some placebo effect, but it doesn't really matter. My perspective has changed dramatically, and hopefully my life will follow suit.




I sincerely hope that this helps someone. If a reader recognizes these traits in themselves, especially chronic inattention and life-long absentmindedness, they shouldn't be afraid to speak up. There is no reason not to get help immediately. Don't worry about misdiagnosing yourself either, from what I've experienced and read, most medical and mental health professionals are naturally skeptical, and will try to correctly diagnose you. Also, if you do have problems, don't just give up like I did. Find someone knowledgeable, or become knowledgeable yourself.


Don't worry too much about the expense, either. The syndrome is expensive *not* to treat. The amount I anticipate saving on alcohol and caffeinated beverages alone will pay for the medication many times over. Impulsive and extraneous purchases will most likely be less of a problem as well. If you're employed, the increase in productivity will probably be noticed. If you're not employed, it may be easier to get and hold down a job. If you're a student, scholarship money might be easier to get.


For clarity, it should be stated that the medication, even combined with counseling, isn't magic. There some potentially dangerous side-effects, and only about 85 percent of sufferers respond positively to it. And if it does work, it won't automatically solve your problems and turn you into a zombified, hard-working genius. It just makes it easier to become one. :P


A humble and heartfelt thank-you to everyone here who helped me through all of this. Unfortunately, there really are too many for me to remember right now. I plan on sticking around, and I may be back with more problems someday, but with any luck, not the same ones.



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