University problems – stuck!

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    • #130109

      Hello everyone!

      I am 20 years old, male and was recently (officially) diagnosed with ADD with quite severe attention disorder and impulsiveness. I also suffer from anxiety disorder and subsequently, somatisation disorder. Currently taking paroxetine for about a year, but my psychiatrist is about to switch the drugs soon.

      My problem is, that it seems that nothing ever works out for me. First, a little bit of background story.
      My childhood dream was to be a doctor, so I was an A student in primary school (different in Europe, it has 9 grades) with lots and lots (and i mean a lot) of help from my parents. But, it was not without problems. I rarely did my homework as I just was not able to focus for a long period of time and it took me (and my parents) up to 4 hours to do a simple task. But, fortunately I was quite intelligent so it was not that hard. Therefore, I was able to get into one of the toughest and one of the most elite gymnasiums (preparatory high school) in the country. The first year was “okay”, but in second year, my grades dropped significantly – I was on the verge of failing the year. Today I know that at that time, I had some sort of depression that lasted for almost a year, but was never treated. After that, I had a lot to catch up in third and fourth years of gymnasium, but I somehow managed to be a B student despite having major struggle with Spanish as I basically lost year two. At school leaving exam (matura), which is an exam that is used by the faculties to decide whether to accept you or not, I did not do well enough to be accepted to med school. It was not “bad”, but not good either. I was 18 at the time.

      After that, I decided to take a gap year and then to retake the matura. Soon after, my anxiety and somatisation disorder kicked in, so I was at the ER and in hospitals daily for about 2-3 months. After I lost a few months, I got my Cambridge C2 certificate (not sure how), and I also took an official IQ test – I scored 137, which is not bad. But, when I was preparing for matura for about 8 months, I realised that I actually did not learn anything, despite studying for whole days straight. Analysing that, I actually only studied for about 1-2 hours, as I apparently could not have stayed focused. Therefore, I decided not to retake the school leaving exam, but to apply for another med school, this time in Italy, which uses admission test called IMAT to decide whether to accept you or not, and it was much more suitable for me, as the test is composed of logics, biology, chemistry and general knowledge. That being said, I was preparing for the test for 3 months, but the focus and attention problem persisted. The result (I got it yesterday): I was in top 10% or so, but only about 5% of the candidates are actually accepted.

      Now, the problem is, that my parents want me to go to law school (even if for one year only), but I really do not see myself in that field. Actually, I do not see myself anywhere else than in medicine, but am not sure whether I am actually capable of achieving a score good enough, and also, I worry that it is too late to start studying at 21? I would also like to mention that I am really good in biology and chemistry, but it seems that I am having a hard time memorising the small stuff, and also, that after a few questions I barely read the whole question, as I lose the attention and get distracted.

      Furthermore, organising numbers, multiplying, dividing and subtracting (even small) numbers without calculator is a real struggle for me, I am so slow at it, and I mistaken a lot.

      I hope all of this makes any sense (I know it is kinda long and confused), and I’d really appreciate it should you give me any advice on how to get more organised and how to overcome that attention disorder, as it is really hard for me to focus, even on things I really love, like biology and chemistry. Would certain medications help me? Is it stupid for me to try again? Should I just give up and study something I really do not like and possibly be miserable for the rest of my life? I feel like I am stuck.

    • #130534
      Anni @ ADDitude

      You mentioned an anti-depressant, but no medication for your ADHD symptoms (focus/inattention being the primary one, it appears). I would recommend that you talk with your psychiatrist about your options at that upcoming appointment you mentioned. ADHD is not a matter of will power or desire to change; it is a matter of neurological chemistry. You cannot control this chemistry, so please don’t beat yourself up about the challenges you face and please don’t give up on your dream!

      Here is our channel all about medication so you can get familiar with some of your options ahead of time:

      Good luck!

    • #131360


      I understand so much of what you are saying, as I was in a similar position 5 years ago. I was 22, while I was an A student during primary school, by the end of secondary school I had become average, I think now looking back I was depressed and I have always had low self esteem, my frustrations over simple stuff that I continiously got wrong (like getting lost, missing aeroplanes etc etc), nevertheless I got into a prestigious university for law. But, I struggled A LOT, I spent my days in the library as much as everyone else but I couldn’t pass or achieve higher grades, despite all the effort I put in.

      I had to repeat my second year, during that third year, someone close to me thought I should get tested for ADD/ADHD and I am a classic case of ADD. What followed was therapy with a phsychologist and updates with my dr. During these 4 months (the last of the school year), my physchologist told me repeteadly to face the fact that if I failed again (I was only allowed to repeat one year in my uni, if you repeat a second, they kick you out) and the possibilty of transferring. But I am very stubborn and refused to believe in that possibility, even though deep inside it terrified me as an option.

      What helped me through it, other than CBT, was a “studying” coach, I only needed him for those 4 last months of the year, I stuck to a schedule, to a plan, that I learned to readjust if needed without worrying, and I did it! I am now pursuing a master in laws in london.

      To sum up, it is not stupid to try again, if medicine is your passion, pursue it, age does NOT MATTER, we are led to BELIEVE it does and that we should have done X, Y or Z at a particular age, but this is a lie. You will be much happier if you study what you know what to do. You can choose, however, to study something related with medicine, like biology or even dentistry. But trust me, do not go to study law because your parents tell you to, too many people do it and it is a waste of time. Go to the prospectus of each degree and look at the classes in each course.

      If you have doubts on what to study, I encourage you to contact a second year student in your fields of interest, ask them what their day to day is, ask if they regret studying their degree and why.

    • #139745

      I don’t know if this will help at this point, but I would point out that a lot of has worked for you. You were admitted once, you do have very strong grades, you do have parents who are coaching you and supporting you through your education. Top 10% is excellent, regardless of whether it yields admission. Zoom out a bit and look at the big picture because I get the sense that you are hard on yourself for not fitting into a mold. But ADHD people don’t fit a mold and they may need to be strategic about getting what they want.

      21 is not too late to study medicine at all. In North America, candidates must complete a degree before they can apply to medical school, so people don’t go into medicine until they are 22 or older. I know people in Europe who completed Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees before applying to medical school. There’s a benefit there in terms of maturity and in terms of general knowledge about the world. You’ll know yourself much better and that will help make you a better doctor. As long as you are doing something that builds towards your goal, I think you’ll be ok.

      Studying a year of law isn’t a bad idea either. Doctors do have legal responsibilities, so you’ll definitely benefit from having a legal foundation to apply when you are actually a doctor. I think virtually any subject could be useful when you’re a doctor, particularly if you choose a subspeciality.

      Don’t give up. You sound like a highly intelligent person, with a barrier to overcome, but with an IQ like that, I am confident that you will.

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