On Mental Health


I’ve done a lot of reading on Inattentive ADHD and it all relates to these specifically defined symptoms below. Since I’ll be talking to my psychiatrist about this today, I wanted to list out these “standard” symptoms and kinda talk (write) through how they each manifest in my life – both in my childhood and my adulthood. Because I think the key has been that I was terrified of my Dad as a child, and that grew into be terrified of “getting in trouble” by anyone, and so I think I learned to hide/mask a lot of the symptoms without realizing that’s what I was doing.

Seeming unable to pay close attention or regularly making careless mistakes in tasks

It’s hard to pull out specifics from my childhood but I was prone to being called an “airhead” because I made a lot of “dumb mistakes.” I may not remember exactly what I did, but I definitely remember the responses from my Dad. The angry and frustrated responses. I know the general feeling I had of making dumb mistakes all the time, even if I didn’t remember the details. When Dad wasn’t yelling at me for being a dumbshit, he was apologizing for getting frustrated with me and I very clearly remember him saying, “Kim, I think you just always have too many things going on in your head and so the stuff that feels minor just gets forgotten.)

I have more specific examples of this happening in my adulthood. If there’s too many things in one moment that require my attention. For example, at the library, if someone lines up behind a patron checking out DVDs…I get a little frazzled/distracted thinking about what the next person is going to need and I’ll forget to unlock the DVD boxes. This has happened more than I care to admit.

Having difficulties staying focused on tasks or activities

This is one of the examples I have of being terrified of getting bad grades in school so learning to cope. I would do things like study for tests by re-writing my notes because just staring at papers, I got too easily distracted. I doodled during lectures because that helped me focus on the lecture (I was very happy to learn this works for a lot of people). I struggle with more with “projects” where there’s an end goal but 100 different paths to get there. I do better with “tasks” which are short and specific which is why I’ve learned to be a list maker who breaks things down into tasks so I can stay focused on the project. BUT…I’m not great at this. I have a laundry list of times I’ve been “disciplined” in jobs for failures that relate to me losing focus on big tasks/projects.

Appearing not to listen when spoken to

I don’t do this any worse than the average person. But again – I think I did do this a lot in my youth. I have no recollection of hearing/listening to anyone…basically into my 30s. When I learned to conquer my social anxieties in my 30s and get out more I really tried to learn how to listen better. BUT, I do that in a very “make a list” kind of way. I listen specifically for follow-up questions. It’s like…listening is a very overwhelming/unbound task. But if I can find a smaller task (like thinking about a follow-up question) to anchor myself to it helps. And then asking that question is really effective in keeping the conversation going but not refocusing it on me, which I know I was bad about in my youth.

Seeming unable to complete tasks or duties as instructed

Give me a list of small specific tasks and I’m okay. “Build an email list from our clients.” Done. No problem. “Come up with an emailing marketing plan.” I’ll wander around in my mental abyss endlessly. I really struggle with instruction that is more “unbound” so to speak. I’ve been told before that I don’t seem “interested” in projects, but really it’s that I just can not stay focused on completing them. If there’s no clear path to stay on, I wander around all the unrelated paths my mind takes me and the next thing I know I’m googling, “How do you pronounce Pokémon?” instead of coming up with a marketing plan.

See also: A lot of half-ass projects in my house.

Having trouble organizing tasks and managing time

This is another thing that I would struggle on the outside a lot more if I didn’t rely so much on my bullet journal, texting myself, and using Alexa. I have to be VERY PROACTIVE or else I procrastinate terribly and forget things. But these are all skills I developed to avoid making bad grades as a kid or to avoid upsetting people depending on me. They don’t come naturally and before I discovered the bullet journal method which was ONE place for me to organize EVERYTHING….I struggled a lot more.

Avoiding or disliking tasks that require extended periods of thinking

This is where “Projects” really doom me. I’m much better at “Tasks.” I also tended to procrastinate big projects in school until the last minute and then half-ass them because this idea of a semester-long project was just too much for my brain. I had an independent study my last semester and I came up with a project idea the first week and then didn’t work on it until the 72 hours before it was due and I barely scraped by with a “C”. I got good grades in K-12 because getting bad grades was not an option because I was terrified of my Dad. But once I got to college and I could just lie to him about my grades? I got great grades on the stuff that held my interest and poor to average on everything else.

Regularly losing items needed for daily life

If my psychiatrist asks for examples of this, I promise you my Dad my come back from the dead to release some frustration. I lost everything as a child. And the funny thing is that it made Dad so angry that I learned to lie about most of what I lost and so he didn’t even know the half of it. I had my own spot in my high school lost and found for my purse.

I have learned coping skills but my kids can still tell you that at LEAST once a week we’re all looking for my keys or my phone. I’m better than I was as a kid but I’m still terrible. And the list of major things I’ve lost in my life is embarrassing. Once I lost a professors research because I put it on top of my car and drove off.

Being easily distracted

This has come up in a lot of professional settings. If I don’t have specific tasks I’m supposed to be doing, if it’s a general “guide” of goals to reach I have a hard time. My current job is very good for me because there are specific tasks required constantly, and very rare big projects that get lost in, but sometime I still have them and I get lost in them and honestly…fearing doing poorly in this job is what is motivating me to finally talk to my psychiatrist about this. I’ve been able to cope enough in life that I don’t feel like I’ve done any lasting damage, but I really want to excel at this job and so if there’s anything that can help me focus I want in.

I’m also really bad about that weird distracted journey that happens in my house sometimes where I pick up a sock on the floor to put in the hamper and on the way to the bedroom I notice the bathroom fan is on and when I go turn it off I put the sock down on the counter and pick up the coffee cup someone left in there and then go put the coffee cup up, leaving the sock on the bathroom counter, and then I notice the dog needs to go out so I set the coffee cup down on the table and…well…you see? I’ll start on one small task that doesn’t require a lot of focus and my brain will jump around and things end up in VERY WEIRD PLACES around my house.

Forgetting to perform daily tasks and go to appointments

This happens a lot, but it would happen a lot more if I didn’t keep my bullet journal going. But I still missed a vet appointment a few weeks ago, and missed an appointment with my Mom’s lawyer a few months ago. And someone in my family will ask me to do “X” but they all know if they haven’t seen me write it down, or heard me tell Alexa or Siri, then they’ll need to remind me again. I always say that it’s not that I “forget” as much as I never made a point to “remember” because – unless it’s a routine my brain/body has learned – I have to do an extra thing to help me remember. I have an alarm set with Alexa every day to remind me to wake up Wes at a certain time. I have an alarm set on Saturdays to remind me to log into work because I usually work alone on Saturdays and for some reason that means I always forget to log in. (Note: I still forget to log in a lot. I’m so worried my boss is going to lose it on me one day when I tell her, “um…you have to fix my time card…again.”)

I also failed a couple classes in college because I didn’t attend because I would get distracted by something else. My college had an attendance policy and so I could have an A in a class but fail because of absences. So if it was a class that didn’t hold my attention or wasn’t “required” and maybe if it was at a time of day not suitable for my brain, I just missed the classes without really thinking about it. I would get perfect grades in classes I cared about, and then fail others for not attending.

ALSO: All three of my kids have learned independence about some things earlier than other kids. Especially things around school paperwork. They also know to remind me several times. Sometimes I get embarrassed by it, but I’ve also just come to accept it takes a team to help me because I’m so scattered.


I feel like a lot of this is repetitive and falls under the heading “SCATTERED” but I do feel like if I hadn’t been so scared of my Dad’s anger as a kid, to the point of lying/hiding stuff and learning to train my brain in other areas, someone would have noticed all of the shit I lost or all of the times I lost focus talking to friends or missed assignments or failed test. I don’t know if I would have found ways to “cope” with school at such a young age if I wasn’t so scared of bad grades. I think I would have struggled a lot more and someone would have noticed a lot time ago.

I’ll let you know how this goes!

1 thought on “Symptoms.”

  1. I have a theory that ADHD comes from deeply rooted unconscious anxiety resulting from trauma. Our brains forget things as part of an unconscious defense mechanism – diverting attention away from things that cause anxiety. Focusing on homework may arouse anxieties of failure, getting yelled at, shame and guilt, etc… Focusing on taking medicines on time may arouse anxieties related to the guilt and shame of not taking care of myself, being afraid that my loved ones will be mad at me for not taking care of myself, fear that I let someone down for not taking my medicines on time, etc… so the brain “diverts” attention away to avoid these negative feelings. These anxieties are so deeply ingrained from early childhood that we don’t know that’s why we’re so unfocused, distracted, and scattered.

    I know there’s research on the neurochemistry of dopamine deficiencies in ADHD brains, but it’s existence is not mutually exclusive to the trauma theory. Traumatized brains *are* different from non-traumatized brains, and environmental influence has epigenetic consequences, so even the gene / inheritance theory of ADHD doesn’t disprove the trauma theory. They may go hand-in-hand.

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