Reply To: Academically-Inclined Folks w/ADHD?


A little background. I’m 48, and I started ADHD treatment in August. Ten milligrams of Adderall XR daily.

My first couple years of high school were uninspired. I was into drugs, alcohol and parties, and my grades were unspectacular. But then the reality of college loomed, so I knuckled down, got my grades up, participated in a lot of extracurricular activities and was accepted into one of the top U.S. universities. Is it possible to have hyperfocus for two years? Because once I got scared about college I really was able to execute, the way I always do when I’m working on deadline. Except this was a long-term deadline.

The college I attended is very challenging. I loved it. I realize in retrospect that having a clear set of tasks to work on suited me, as did taking a whole new set of classes every quarter. Good for the ADHD brain. I studied all the time and did well. True, I struggled with procrastination as I worked on assignments. Still, I graduated with honors.

Then I wandered. After the structure of college I couldn’t figure out what to do with my English degree. I worked for several years at an IT consulting firm and really enjoyed learning about that stuff. But that’s where I first encountered crushing procrastination in a professional context. After a few years I was assigned a big project I really didn’t understand, and rather than admit I was struggling and ask for help, I procrastinated. For a long time. I don’t know why no one noticed. I quit before I faced any consequences.

That’s when I went back to school. I decided I wanted to be a professor, so I started grad school at my alma mater. I loved being back on campus, back in the structured environment of graduate coursework. But procrastination had become a real problem. I routinely took incompletes and didn’t follow through. One failed project in particular I cringe to recall. Additionally, at this point my alcohol use was getting out of control. Not having finished my master’s thesis, I left that graduate program and started another one. I was in real denial about my ability to finish a thesis while starting a whole new round of coursework. Real denial.

After a couple of semesters in my new program, I crashed out, mainly due to alcoholism. I got sober not long after and eventually finished the thesis from the earlier program and got that degree. I went on to a career in journalism, where the short deadlines and endless variety suited me — though I still struggled with procrastination. I started learning about adult ADHD over the last year or so, and bells started ringing. Now I am being treated. I’m still sober, 19 years this year.

In short, the structured nature of academic work suited me, but eventually my procrastination did me in. I always thought I was good at school, so it was humbling and scary when I realized I was in real trouble.

As part of being diagnosed with ADHD I scored quite high on an IQ test, and in school I think that capacity helped me compensate for my ADHD. And as with you, original poster, my writing skills carried me a long way. But with my academic career as with many things, I wonder what might have been if I had been diagnosed and treated earlier.