You’re So Vain (Part 3)


Yup, yet another self-absorbed blog post. 🙂

It’s funny the way you can’t escape genetics. Both my mother and my aunt were complete hypochondriacs. If they had a brief headache, they would think it was a brain tumour. Unlike them, I’m not terribly concerned about dying of some dreadful disease, but I do spend an inordinate amount of time online trying to come up with a diagnosis for my mental health issues.

So far, I think I’ve come up with borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, purely obsessional obsessive compulsive disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (and, no, this last one is not the same as OCD. It’s an entirely different thing). I don’t believe that I’m bipolar or that I have OCD, but if you google enough you can convince yourself of anything. Sadly, the diagnoses that seem the most accurate are borderline personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Combine those two, and I think you get “Rigid, emotionally unstable mega-bitch disorder”. Um, seems pretty accurate.

When I was visiting my friend last week, she told me that she had been recently diagnosed with having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This came as quite a surprise because my friend has two Master’s degrees, is just about to finish off her PhD at a very prestigious university, and somehow has also found the time to teach herself how to play multiple instruments and music production. She does so many things, and seems highly efficient and organized. She said she ended up getting that diagnosis because she had gone to the doctor when she realized that she had trouble remembering things. She would read a book, and almost immediately forget what was in it. She was concerned that she had early onset Alzheimer’s. Now I know that forgetfulness is one of the symptoms of ADHD, but I honestly cannot see anything else about my friend that suggests she has this disorder. She is one of the most successful people I know, and I know for a fact that she has never had to struggle academically. True, she has lots of energy, and has her fingers in lots of pies, but, well, so what? So do a lot of people.

I was kinda irritated that she just accepted the diagnosis of ADHD so breezily, almost as an explanation of why she is so brilliant, and so much more of a “go-getter” than the average person. You might be wondering why I was so irritated by this because, I mean, who cares what diagnosis a friend gets, right? Well, several years ago, I also explored the possibility of having ADHD because I was desperately trying to find an explanation for why a smart, well-educated person like myself could be such a fucked-up underachiever. Yes, a fucked-up underachiever, not a highly efficient PhD candidate. I have a complete inability to prioritize important tasks, or to understand how much time I will need for a task; if you looked up “procrastination” in the dictionary, there would be a picture of me because the only way I can get things done is to wait until the last minute when fear forces me to; if a task bores me it is literally painful (and I truly do mean painful – I feel like my brain is dying) to concentrate on it, and I will check my email every five minutes to distract myself from the awfulness of it; on the other hand, if something appeals to me creatively and emotionally (like writing this blog post, for example) I could spend ten hours doing it, forgetting to eat or take a break.

All of the above things I’ve mentioned are some lesser-known symptoms of ADHD that really resonated with me when I read about them years ago. A lot of the more common symptoms made sense to me, too. Despite this, I dismissed the idea of getting tested for it because I am somewhat suspicious of this diagnosis. It seems like every Tom, Dick and Harry has ADHD these days. As much as I desperately want to believe that there is a valid medical reason for my problems, I am concerned that this is just a cop-out. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with me. Is it possible that my issues are just character flaws? I really don’t want them to be, but maybe they are. They do say that one of the main characteristics of ADHD is carelessness, and sloppy work, but this is not the case for me at all. I have an almost obsessive and debilitating attention to detail. Can you have ADHD if this is the case?

I grew up in a household where I was only validated through my external achievements. Maybe my perfectionism, procrastination and inability to get myself organized are just a reaction to that? I’ve been trained to want to excel in everything I do, but another part of me thinks “Fuck you, mother! I will not obey you!”, so could I be sabotaging myself on purpose?! But if that is the case, why the fuck can’t I seem to help myself? I don’t want to self-sabotage, and I’ve read self-help book after self-help book about how to overcome perfectionism and procrastination, and I know all the tips and tricks. But nothing ever works. I just keep on setting unrealistic goals, and failing, and hating myself, setting unrealistic goals, failing and hating myself ad nauseum.

The only thing I know for sure is that my perfectionism and procrastination are ruining my life, and I don’t know how to change. You might think I’m being overly-dramatic here, but I’m not. I think I’m a really talented, smart person, but I have no idea how to channel any of my creative talents. I work in a dead-end cubicle job, and I want more than that from my life. I want a job that challenges me and interests me.

So, what do you think? Does it sound like I have ADHD, or am I just deluding myself because maybe I’m just a loser and can’t accept that fact?

I would like to go get tested, but part of me thinks “Oh, for God’s sake! Pull yourself together, woman! And stop being such a hypochondriac!”. If I am just a weak, flawed personality who cannot get it together enough to make a change in her life, then how pathetic to try to get a ADHD diagnosis to make myself feel better.


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10 thoughts on “You’re So Vain (Part 3)

  1. xul May 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm Reply

    I don’t think you’re ADHD. I think that is just the diagnosis du jour(just my armchair shrink opinion 😉 ). I think we creative types are just wired differently. And being raised by a critical mother doesn’t help, especially if she is of the Cluster B PD sort. Lots of “fleas” to get rid of.

    • petrichoric May 11, 2013 at 8:35 pm Reply

      Yeah, I probably don’t have ADD or, if I do, it’s probably a mild case. And, yeah, my mother did contribute to a lot of my issues, I think, but, really, at my age, I can’t blame her anymore. It’s my responsibility to fix myself out.

  2. arekino May 4, 2013 at 3:36 pm Reply

    If you want to know whether or not you have ADHD then why not ask your psychiatrist?

    Even if you were a loser, what would be the point of accepting it?

    • petrichoric May 11, 2013 at 8:33 pm Reply

      Hi, Arekino. Oh, my psychiatrist doesn’t seem to keen to affix a label to my “issues”. This could be because she thinks I have “Borderline Personality Disorder” (which is a pretty stigmatizing diagnosis, so some psychiatrists/therapists prefer not to specifically label you with that) or maybe she wants to wait until she knows me better.

      You wrote: “Even if you were a loser, what would be the point of accepting it?” I guess I have this terrible need to analyze myself and figure myself out 100%. I don’t want to be a loser (well, who does?) but I’m afraid that I might be, and I don’t want to be in self-denial, so I prefer to analyze every little last dark crevice of my life to find “the ultimate truth”.

  3. Pandora Viltis May 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm Reply

    I think it sounds like ADHD is a potential diagnosis. Your friend — I really question her diagnosis based on your description. Just because she forgets what she just read?

    On the other hand, your description of being pained by having to do something that bores you is a big red flag. When I was in grad school, I would read and re-read passages of a book on finance and couldn’t make it through without bawling. And I don’t cry. I ended up dropping out of school for six months, miserable and not knowing why I couldn’t focus. When I finally went back, I half-assed my way through the program and graduated by the skin of my teeth. I don’t lack willpower. I lack the ability to power through things that bore me. But give me something that interests me, I’m like a dog with a bone.

    Hang in there. You don’t have to be diagnosed a textbook one thing — you were hit by a bad childhood that influences how you react to everything. You could have other mental issues that would exist independent of your upbringing — but it’s all filtered through how you feel about yourself. It might not be ADHD, it could be mild ADHD compounded by self-esteem issues.

    But there is nothing wrong with exploring explanations for why you feel/behave as you do. If you never examined that, then I’d think there was a problem. For example, my mother complained perpetually of having a headache, but never sought a doctor to figure out why. I think she just liked bitching about a headache and the sympathy it garnered.

    • petrichoric May 11, 2013 at 8:29 pm Reply

      For some reason, I do want to have a textbook diagnosis. I’m not sure why; maybe with all the uncertainty in my life, I just want some certainty. Maybe that just proves I have OCPD, haha – because, let’s face it, nothing in life is ever certain, or black or white, but I want it to be.

      I am exactly like you in that I absolutely cannot get myself to do something that bores me. But, yes, I can focus for hours on end if I’m interested in the subject, to the point where I won’t eat or go to the bathroom.

  4. momasteblog May 5, 2013 at 11:26 am Reply

    Anxiety can also cause inattention, irritability, inflexibility, and memory issues. The good news is that anxiety is a whole lot easier to treat than BPD or some of the other stuff you mentioned. Finding a therapist or a psychiatrist skilled in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might be helpful to you. Good luck!

    • petrichoric May 11, 2013 at 8:26 pm Reply

      Hello there! Thank you for your comments! I would really like to find a therapist who could help me overcome my crippling perfectionism, as it seems like this is the biggest issue in my life right now. I have tried so many therapists, and done so many therapies over the years, and nothing seems to help. I’m starting to lose hope. 😦

  5. bipolaronfire May 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm Reply

    Just go get another opinion. You don’t have to agree with it – but go get a professional opinion.

    • petrichoric May 11, 2013 at 8:24 pm Reply

      I like my psychiatrist, but she doesn’t seem to want to give me a firm diagnosis. This is good, in a way, as I don’t think it’s good to label people immediately, but I think it would help me to have a clearer idea of what is wrong with me. Maybe she just doesn’t know. In any case, I don’ think I have ADD anymore. 🙂

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