Reply To: 28 M Corporate Attorney – Just Diagnosed

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I want to sincerely thank you for your response. Reading your post, I am having one of those “oh, you do that too” moments that you described having at the CHADD meeting. Specifically, what you say about wanting to impress others as being a large external motivator to prove the bastards wrong and how it sometimes causes conflict in your personal relationships where you providing that evidence for approval to your significant other takes the form of a creative activity like cooking or writing, whereas she just wants you to clean up your crap (a line I have heard so many times in my life) really hits home. A summary of my response is set forth in the second to last paragraph for convenience.

I personally love cooking and was an english and philosophy major in college. I specifically went into law to harness those same mechanics and strengths of writing and analysis–albeit at the expense of creativity. I have also struggled, however, with creating for myself as opposed to in response to some external stimulus; e.g., a deadline, a grade, advancement, approval, etc. Perhaps that is another reason I went into law–the structure provided by practice and the form to essentially force performance. When I was being evaluated for ADHD, I remember telling my psychiatrist that I feel like I have so many ideas, which if even a fraction came to fruition, then there would at least be some benefit or purpose to them. Instead my experience has been like being on a train with each idea materializing on the horizon, one after the other, and only there so long as the train hasn’t travelled to far. I told her, there has to be more to life than this. I think my anger, internal conflict and even the guilt I expressed yesterday arise, at least in part, from failing to create for myself. Sitting down to write that post yesterday (and my response here today) marks the first and second times I have added my thoughts to a forum of discussion in any substantial way (i.e., more than just an upvote or paragraph response on reddit). Whatever neurological firing that takes thoughts from the mind to the physical world finally occurred on my own terms.

Finally, the point you make regarding self evaluation through the lens of external conduct not internal actualization may also have been, in part, responsible for the guilt I was feeling yesterday. I feel so many times that there is an internal standard that I should be meeting–the ideas are there, the resources are available–and then there are the tangible outcomes which number far and fewer in-between. This perhaps explains my attraction to legal practice: it takes ideas and makes them reality through the use of language and analysis. The ability to add a concrete effect to a conflict between parties or to effect their desire for a mutual exchange under certain terms and conditions gives me many of the things that you mention in your post: (1) an external stimulus (a deadline, client satisfaction, business development for the firm) that drives the need for bringing to fruition the ideas and intent of the parties to the agreement; (2) an external sense of validation because something is actually completed, as opposed to merely conceptualized; and (3) approval upon the closing–the parties are happy, the deal has been made, and the train continues its march as a new transaction materializes in the horizon.

I suppose my take aways from above could be distilled as follows: (1) I am not alone, and neither are you. A psychiatric diagnoses that was, at least for me, in part, terrifying and, in part, relieving, has led us to a forum for thought and expression where there are so many like us and where we can learn from and benefit one another. This, in and of itself, is good. (2) External validation can be very rewarding, but it is not an end all be all. As persons with ADHD, there will always be more ideas than concrete action. Acceptance of that fact provides some relief to the internal standard of judgment which, at least for me, feels to have been locked into a disapproving state for some time. And (3) identifying these issues internally, recognizing and accepting them, and taking time to process the diagnosis and to reconsider my means of self evaluation can help me, through the dissipation of disapproval, learn to love myself.

From one person to another who is never content just sitting still, thank you for writing something so personal and relatable that it led me to do exactly just that–to sit down and read your post three times over before I could even contemplate a response.

Much appreciated,