Reply To: I always feel incompetent no matter what I do

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Believe me, I know exactly how you feel. I’m 50 years old and have more-or-less diagnosed myself after reading about adult ADHD (I can’t afford a real diagnosis, and the one time my family doc got me an appointment with a psychiatrist, she had me fill out a two-sided questionnaire and just went with those results). I’ve had at least 20 different jobs in my life, and have now been unemployed for two years.

I always found “survival” jobs really hard. They may not require special training but do ask for a wide range of neurotypical skills. I also have dyslexia and dyscalculia (a big problem with doing calculations), so I almost always fall short somewhere along the required duties (being a cashier was a nightmare). So I tend to suck at jobs that pay very little and in which I’m not treated well.

I completed a bachelor of arts and then trained for working in film and television. I threw myself into doing the work obsessively, because I was terrified of getting fired from yet another career field. I rocketed to success very quickly, and then had a big fall; I couldn’t maintain the energy to be “perfect”. My self-esteem took a huge hit, and I’ve bounced around taking odd jobs here and there. It’s a viciously competitive market, and it attracts some pretty nasty characters, so that didn’t help. Also, industry changes have meant traditional jobs are evaporating as TV stations and newspapers lay off and shut down.

So I’m almost in a worse place than I was in my 20s! That’s embarrassing. A few years ago my husband left me, complaining that I wasn’t a reliable earner and thus he was wanting a more “normal” wife (I didn’t even know I had ADHD then, I just knew something seemed broken within me). I was devastated and completely heartbroken. I hate to admit it, but I never got over it. I feel like an epic failure. I didn’t have kids because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle all the millions of expectations mothers have to deal with; I couldn’t see the point in doing something so hard that was also doomed to failure.

At the same time, people think I’m doing great; I am impeccably groomed (almost obsessively), I’m funny and charming and I seem incredibly insightful. I just can’t show how much I’m struggling; years of negative and corrective responses to previous pleas for help have made me terrified. I faked it, I made it, and now I’ve failed. It’s incredibly depressing, and I feel like I’m out of answers.

Sigh… I do keep trying, though. I apply for jobs every week. I have some film proposals that might be eligible for funding. I work out regularly. And I keep a very busy social life, because having fun make a huge difference. After my diagnosis, I also joined an ADHD Adult support group, and it’s incredibly helpful. It’s a bizarre feeling to have people describe going through the exact same challenges I face; I feel as if they are reading my mind.

All is not lost; however, getting out of bed every morning is pretty damn hard.