The Primarily Inattentive Child

I wanted to give you a sense of how a child with Primarily Inattentive ADHD might appear at school.

 Do you see that kid  in the corner of the room.   She is in 5th grade and is lost in her own thoughts.  She knows better than to look out the window.  She is staring straight ahead.  She has not heard a word the teacher has said.  She is thinking about why her teenage cousin is so obscessed with that boy with the funny hair.

Now everyone has reached for their math books.  Now all the math books are on the desks.  Now everyone is writing.  Where is my math book?  What page are they on?  Where is my pencil? She wonders.  She finally finds her book and her pencil and manages to sneak a look at the desk in front of her to find the correct page but the lesson is over.  The teacher is talking about homework.  She is confused and way behind.

She puts the math book away and is now thinking about the house she has built with her sister in the backyard.  It is made out of hedge and branches and has a real door.  The door will fall down if it is not reinforced somehow, she thinks.  The class has moved on to Science.  They are repeating something that has a nice ring to it, kind of like a song, "Inertia is the ability to stay still, if still, and if moving to keep on moving, in the same direction, unless acted on by a force".  She sings it a couple of times and  memorizes it.

It is time to go outside.  She slowly gets up.  She never plays with anyone at recess so there is no point in hurrying.  It is not that she is disliked.  No one really even knows that she is there.  She goes to sit in the beautiful tree on the playground and thinks some more about the house that she is building.  It will need furniture but  her sister will insist on decorating it herself because she complains the girl is too messy.

Her sister comes by with a friend, they are playing Red Rover and are looking for more people.  The friend asks her to play Red Rover, the girl's sister tells her friend that her sister never wants to play anything at school.  They move on.  She would have liked to play Red Rover and now they are gone.  She did not think fast enough.  She wishes that the school day was over but it is only lunch time. There is nothing at school that is interesting to her.  There is nothing there that she cares about.  School is a big waste of time and everyone there thinks that she is dumb.  She hates school.

She would like to just stay home.  She likes to  play quietly in her head and no one bothers her too much.  Her mother likes that she plays quietly.  Her sisters can be loud and difficult. She has learned to fix broken appliances for money and she babysits.  She has amassed a bank account of over $320.00.    She is the only kid around with any money to speak of.  Her sisters beg her for loans.  At home she is not stupid or slow, she is respected.

Her teachers meet with her mother.  She is very well behaved, the teachers say, but she is not keeping up, she will have to repeat the 5th grade.  Her mother tells them that she will keep up and that she will pass 5th grade.  The mother tells the teachers to give the girl another chance.  The mother insists that the girl is smart.  They send the girl, and her mother, to a Psychologist.  The Psychologist does all the tests.  The mother is right.

The mother speaks to her daughter.  The mother tells her to pass 5th grade.  The mother has had this discussion with her daughter every year since first grade.  The girl is obedient.  She knows that she has to pay enough attention to pass the grade.  She is lucky, somehow she has figured out what enough is.

"What is inertia ??"  The teacher asks  her on the day of the final exam. "Inertia is the ability to stay still if still and if moving to keep on moving, in the same direction, unless acted on by a force", the girl chants.  The teacher's mouth drops.  An angel is watching me,  the girl thinks.  The girl knows that she has learned nothing in an entire year of school.   It doesn't matter, she is on her way to the 6th grade.

47 comments:

  1. You captured that perfectly.

    -Marianne

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  2. Thank you for this glimpse into my son's mind. He's just been diagnosed ADHD-PI. He is 9 years old. We meet with his DR today to discuss medications. I am interested in see if it will work based on your experience with your eldest. We will see. Do you know anything about the Brain Balance Achievement Centers?

    - Margaret

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  3. Oh my God. Except for the fact that I did okay in school (due to the fact that my parents helped me with EVERYTHING) and I did follow a group of kids around at recess sometimes, and I am NOT good with technology, this pretty much describes me circa 5th grade!

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  4. I am in tears right now. This has been like looking into a chapter of my own book. It's hard to understand that anyone else has felt as I have.

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  5. Wow, you captured this so well. Learning to stare straight ahead was so important! And I certainly remember just looking up and realizing that I missed five minutes of instructions. Thank you for writing.

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  6. ATTENTION RESEARCHERS:I had all that going on as a kid. I also had quite low blood pressure and cold hands and feet. You might want to see if theres a correlation of SCT and low BP. I also grew up and got fat. Then my bp went up as a result, and I wasnt near as tired and sluggish although I still am most definately prodominate ADD. Also I used Didrex as a diet aide 20 years ago just for a few months. It worked wonders for ADD. It was awsome. I could clean and organize and concentrate. Why does the FDA not use this. ONE pill worked all day. I see on the internet some Dr.s use it for ADD without hyperactivity (why without, it works for the sluggishness) and narcolepsy but I dont know where or I would go there and try to get a perscription. RESEARCH THIS DRUG. It is the answer for SCT.

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  7. AGAIN RESEARCH THIS. OR MAKE A NATURAL DUPLICATE OF IT OF IT IF YOU CAN. THIS IS THE ANSWER FOR THIS KID IN THE PICTURE. FOR ME, THERE WAS NOTHING BETTER. DIDREX AKA BENZPHENTAMINE

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  8. Thanks for your comments!! I did research this quite a bit and them my inattentive self forgot to post about my research. My deepest apology!!

    The problem with Didrex is that it considered extremely addictive. This is why it is not used routinely for anything any more. It works really well for both weight loss and ADHD but there are a certain subset of people who then cannot get off it without MAJOR withdrawal problems.

    Thanks again for the heads up on this and I hope this answers the question. Tess

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  9. Thank you Tessermom. It was very exciting to get a response on this. Everyday was a gift when I used that drug. I only used it for a month and I never had a desire to take more than one in a day.I have questions. I see they have another alternative to Didrex on the internet. They say it is a natural alternative called Motabo (or metabo). Is this some pill company that bought the right to use the Didrex name in their ad? Is there a non addictive way to make this drug? Is there a correlation to low low blood preassure and neurotransmitters? My SCT has changed to just ADD after I got fat and my BP went up. Now here is a question that I couldnt find anywhere on the internet. What are the neurotransmitters doing in a hyper ADDer that they are not doing in a hypo inattentive type. Thankyou. It was great to get a response from a professional on this. ADD SUCKS...AND I want to spend the last 30 years of my life without the horrible stuff. Constant daydreaming, a filthy house, underachievment, oppresion, shame, lonliness and nothing happening for me..........That describes it. Also when I was 15, I acted like 10. When I was 30, I acted like 18. Is super slow maturity a factor in ADD? Thanks for any answers.

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  10. Metabo contains guarana seed extract, bee pollen, Korean ginseng root, ginger root, lecithin, sarsaparilla root extract, golden seal aerial part, nettle leaf, gotu kola aerial part, and gymnema sylvestre. The gotu kola, ginseng, lecithin, and guarana have all been used for ADHD with some success.

    Didrex does not contain any of these natural herbs and is a pure amphetamine that when given to test subjects along with 4 other amphetamines is preferred by all subjects. Everyone really liked how the felt on Didrex, which unfortunately, is what gives it a high abuse potential and this is why it is not recommended for long term use.

    The question of hyperactivity vs hypoactivity has to do with the arousal centers in the brain. In ADD and ADHD the pre-frontal cortex is somehow wired in a way that the control of our arousal state is not quite right. No one is sure is this is related to the neurotransmitters (doapamine, etc) of if this is related to other factors such as hormones, brain anantomy, etc.

    Exercise is a great way to change your level of arousal and if you are not out walking at least 20 minutes a day, you need to be. It will help your blood pressure as well.

    One of the 'gifts' of ADHD is that we do not act our age. Russell Barkley, a well respected authority on ADHD, reports that people with ADHD are 30 percent to 50 percent less mature than people without ADHD. This is a huge problem when you are 10 but less of a problem when you are 45. At 45 it is actually (or can be anyway) a good thing.

    Thanks for your comment and good luck!! Tess

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  11. I've been into a quest trying to figure out the reasons I always felt so different from people around me my whole life. I started studying all kind of esoteric knowledge trying to understand the reasons behind my actions(or inactions) and only in in the last month things got clearer. I'm 28 yo and just now got diagnosed ADHD Primarily inattentive. Although I'm male, the description in your text is a great description of my childhood. I have hopes that learning about my condition will enable me to rightly cope with it's. The tricks I developed (even without being fully aware of it) to cope with it doesnt work on work place nor my MB, or even my marriage. Your initiative in this blog is a blessing. Thank you very much!

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  12. Wow ! Exactly my 13 yr old. I am a Mom with a biological 13 yr old son that fits this description perfectly. I also have an adopted 10 yr old son who has been diagnosed ADHD.
    But it has been so much harder to get help for my 13 yr old. I have noticed these things in him but have had the hardest time getting anyone to see it. I couldn't even get the school to test/evaluate him because he shows no sign of any problems and has passing grades. I am so scared that he is going to fall through the cracks in school because he is not a behavior problem and academically barely makes it by. He does do alot of his work at home because, he says, I can explain it to him in a way that he understands that the teacher can't. I am afraid of him becoming and underachiever or not trying because "it's just too hard". He is not competative and he is too nervous to be social. I want him to find something that he can totally enjoy. But I am afraid he won't even be able to dive in. Yes, he has developed tricks to overcome his "fortgetfulness" like trading out his gym clothes for school during the middle of the week because he can't remember from Friday to Monday. What he does love is his XBOX which baffles us because he can remember things from that game forwards and backwards. He has even mastered some of the games. I am interested to learn some of the behavior therapy tricks to help him get by. I am not a fan of medication although my 10 yr old is on Strattera. But I would like to try other things before going straight to meds as I did with my 10 yr old. Thanks for helping. Now I know I am not just a overreacting, protective, crazy Mom.

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  13. Who broke into my brain and stole those memories from me? Wow. I had forgotten about all of it and that brought it back for me like it was yesterday. I am 40 years old and just now realizing that this is what I have. How much time have a wasted not knowing? How much more could I have accomplished with the right diagnosis? I guess it's better late than never . . .

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  14. Sherry,

    Absolutely!! It is always better late than never.
    Thanks for reading!!

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  15. Oh geez. Well before I knew I had "ADHD" I told people that I suffered from inertia. So...interesting twist, for me anyway, that the child in this piece happens to know something about inertia :)

    I would tell people "I suffer from inertia...once I start I can't stop, once I stop I can't start.". Perhaps if I'd said this to the right therapist or teacher all those years a lightbulb might have gone off in someone's head, lol...

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  16. Yea, I always thought it was ironic that the one science fact that saved me was the 'inertia' fact.

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  17. That is me and my son. Thank you for all your blogs!

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  19. I too related enormously to this. I survived OK academically until uni - I think partly because I switched schools a lot - the novelty would give my attention a boost ... and then I would slip slowly back into my daydreams. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you! This explains my work pattern too & helps.

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  20. Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it.

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  21. This made me cry..this was me as a child to a T. I was just diagnosed at the age of 34 with ADD PI. I knew all the tricks (stare straight ahead, nod during pauses in a converstaion to make it look like you were listening - meanwhile my mind is trying to listen to everything else). These tactics do not work in the workplace or in r'ships tho..I wonder what my life wouldve been like if I had been treated earlier. Thank you so much for sharing. It is never to late to hear that I was not alone in this, that much I know.

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  22. Yes,it is comforting even years later to know that we were not alone. Thanks for commenting!

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  23. Chills and tears are what I have now from your story. It describes my 9 year old boy perfectly, sadly. I'm new to the whole thought of him having adhd-I and this poem, feels like a poem of sorts:), is comforting in a way. Thanks for sharing!

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  24. Oh, @ anonymous who posted Feb 19, 2011, I wish I knew who you were. You sound just like me. I am 35 and haven't officially been diagnosed, just because I can't get it together to go seek help, but I have no doubt I had and still have adhd-I. I've wondered recently too how my life might have been different had I been diagnosed early on. Which decisions would have been different, though of course, this is pointless to think about, it still is impossible not to think about now, you know? Right now my dh and ds have things they have to be treated for and since I'm 'fine' and functional and feeling happy enough I haven't taken the time for me to go seek help. I'm kind of scared honestly, but the day will come, I'm sure.

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  25. Wow, most of that could be my 11yo David. David does well in school, but it takes a great effort on my part to make sure he keeps up with the work, and I wonder how long I can continue to help him. He can read a story and be able to tell you all sorts of random facts he learned in the story, but he will have missed some e major elements that alert you to the fact that he didn't really understand what he read. But your whole playground scene sounds like a scene right out of his life, down to the sibling who has all but given up on him. If given the option, he prefers to be alone in his own world, although he is fortunate to have a twin with whom he interacts very well and who understands him, maybe better than I do. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  26. Thanks for your comments and insight. My son is like that as well. It helps to have been the girl in the story as I have a sense of what life is like for my son but it is much harder to watch the Primarily Inattentive child as they navigate childhood than it is to be that child.

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  27. okay..this is certainly an epiphany for me! I posted about my daughter and and now glued to this webstie. I am realizing that I most likely suffer from this too. My entire life I would be lose things, be disorganized, use the nodding tricks during conversations...I can go on and on. It was so bad that in High school I was labeled "airhead". I actually destroyed all of my yearbooks as a young woman. I was afraid that if I ever had children, they would see how I was viewed.

    I did go on to be successful, but it took a huge hit on my self esteem. Even as a teacher/trainer, I would lose my book in the middle of my presentations! In grad school my professor couldn't understand how I could be so disorganized and stil present a good lesson.

    So thank you, the apple does not fall too far from the tree. I should understand my daughter more, because I have lived it!

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  28. You are so right. The apple rarely falls far from the tree!

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  29. When I was 8 my mom found $200 in my dresser that I had saved for years. Very good representation.

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  30. You perfectly captured my elementary school years... amazing!

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  31. my sweet 9yo daughter is descibed to a T in this ! We tried biofeedback 30 sessions, feingold diet, exercise, fish oil, and now we are doing the cognitave training (PACE) and interactive metronome. She also is dyslexic. She has had a terrible response to Focalin and Vyvanse. Her school work improves but at the loss of her personality and she is irritable. We are still searching for the right thing for her. Donna

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  32. Thanks for writing in! Let us know how the PACE training goes. I have not heard good or bad about PACE and I would love to know more.

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  33. Thanks for this page, it described my daughter's journey thru the School system. I tried to get psychologist help within the School systems which was unsuccessful, simply because Schools did not have the support in place. By the time I met with a private psychologist she was 15 years old, the sessions were very informative. At that point, she was given the options to try prescribed medications but she refuses to take medications. Last year when she turned 18 years old she decided to quit School half way thru Grade 12 and travel to do more interesting things.

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  34. Thanks for your comments. School can be really hard for some inattentive kids and leaving it for a while (or forever) is sometimes the best plan.

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  35. this is so sad. It is heart breaking that my son has to go through this. I only wish our society had a better way to reach our children and include them.

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  37. I am 30 years old, I did not do well in school, unless it was art or writing. I remember sitting in classes and trying to make myself stay focused. I would hear a small piece of what the teacher had to say and then I would be off somewhere else in my mind. This happened all the time. It got worse as I got in my teenage years. My mom would get so angry with me because I barely passed math, science, social studies and others. I would try so hard to, I would try to concentrate and it would be so difficult. I felt dumb, I couldn't understand why everyone else got it and I didn't. I was never diagnosed but at 30 I have a very hard time concentrating, I forget important things, I even forget directions to certain places that I have gone to numerous times. I've learned to take lots of notes, make reminders all around the house and pep talk myself to focus on important tasks. Is it Add? I'm not sure but I this story sounds familiar to my own as a child.

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  38. Hi Tess,

    My wife and I have a daughter named Olivia. As of 3/15/14, she will be 5 years of age. She will be starting kindergarden in the fall and I think it would be helpful for some tips.

    My wife and I have noticed Olivia's cognitative skills lacking since age 3.5-4; however, have been getting much better since we switched daycare schools. Since age 3.5-4, Olivia has got much better with language comprehension, speaking and memory thanks to speech/ocupational therapy. Eventhough she has become better since 3.5-4 years of age, she is still lacking compared to other peers in her preschool class. We believe there is a ADD or ADHD issue. We have taken Olivia to a Neurologist and another Pediatric Language Specialist. Both of which seeing issues; however, it seems there recommendation is more or less what we are already doing with her speech therapy/pychologist/social worker professionals at school. We will be talking more with our Pediatrician in a couple of weeks about these issues.

    Olivia has been one to shy away from the other peers and be "off in her own little world" most of the day; however, this is getting much better (one day last week when I picked her up from school Olivia actually turned to all the other boys and girls running around and said, "Hi Daddy, these are all my friends!", which I thought was some major progress....as I teared up a little). When Olivia is asked a question, it usually will be a one or two-word answer; however, sometimes it will be a longer explainatory answer. This has been getting better; however, she does like to talk as if she is reinacting a cartoon show/movie she just recently watched (or wants to watch). Sometimes it may be an answer that I cannot understand. All in all, Olivia has advanced quite a bit in the last year and two or three months; however, my wife and I still can't help but think she has ADD or ADHD (we are ruling out Autism at this point since 1. no other professionals is comfortable labeling her as such and 2. She doesn't show all the symptoms of a mildly autistic child, other than the fixation on a specific item(s) for a few hours which most 4-5 year olds still do). All of her motor skills are quite good. She loves music, singing and dancing. She is very easily excited and sometimes hard to calm down but will calm down within a reasonable amount of time (reasonable for us concidering we are in our mid-30's pushing 40 and our patience isn't as it used to be, lol).

    1. We are not sure about medication at such an early age; however we know we may have to use it so she will be able to focus at school.....OR is this just an "age thing and every kid develops differently thing"? Knowing that it is only kindergarden also; however, we feel that we need to jump on this as soon as we can so she doesn't get caught any more behind than she may already be eventually facing.

    2. I have heard and read that ADD or ADHD is mostly genetic; however, I have noticed studies on lead and flouride of all things in our drinking water that could also be a cause to this??

    3. AND MOST IMPORTANT: Do you happen to know any helpful tips for my wife and I to try to think like she thinks, how to re-phase our questions so she can understand better, so she can actually respond with an appropriate answer (which is getting better), how to keep her attention on something, should I always ingage with her when she appears to have her "off in her own little world" face/blank stare look, if I do ingage, what is the best thing to do or say to let her know I am trying to understand her?

    Your thoughts and anything else that comes to mind would be terrific!

    Thank you so much in advance

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  39. Wow. This passage was beautifully written and depicts my struggle from first grade all the way to high school. Everything that happened around me was just white noise. I've come a long way...I had to work around my weaknesses and developed the processes to succeed. Now at the age of 24, a year after earning my doctorate in pharmacy, I would like to give hope to those affected by this disorder. I was never medicated until two years ago...and while I think it has helped me greatly, I don't think I would be here in my position if I had started medications earlier. Medications, while good at patching the problem, does not allow a person to develop a work-around to their weakness.

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  40. So happy to have found your site today. This describes my 12 year old son except for the fact that he is VERY social. He has lots of friends, and loves to play with others. He is somewhat immature however compared to his friends albeit he is about 9 months younger than most with a July 31st birthday he entered kindergarten as the youngest in his class. Most of his friends have stopped playing pretend, but he still loves to. I have struggled with Bi-polar most of my life, but now at 47 was recently diagnosed with inattentive ADD and am on Adderall. It has changed my life! Now I am realizing how much my son is like me. He despises school, is unbelievably unorganized, doesn't hear what the teacher says. He was always being separated from the class, his desk put up front next to the teachers desk. He's not disruptive, just cannot pay attention. Even his pencil is a distraction! He comes home every day and has almost no recollection of what he did in school or any idea of what homework he should do. It's very frustrating for both of us. Now I see more clearly what it is, and will be taking him to see a Dr. next month when his insurance kicks in. Thank you for making this site and offering help for a very overlooked problem in our children!!
    My only question, the diagnosis still fits even though he is very social, yes?
    Thank you!

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  41. Debra Boyd, My 12 year old son sounds identical. Only he is a little bit on the shy side, but still has a good group of friends. My only thing is I am against the medication... I am off to see Pediatrician soon and don't want to be pushed into him taking meds. Does anyone have any advice??

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  42. so thankful for this site. im a 27 year old female who struggles with very very low esteem. growing up I hated school. i loved to learn but just could not drum up the will to engage in any of my classes besides English and art. i have the math skills of a grade four yr old and i never did my homework and if i did it would be half-assed and always late. i have tried to go to collage 4 times and have yet to finish a single semester for fear of failing or not being as good as the others in my classes, i always withdraw within a month or two. family and friends say im lazy and self absorbed. i am always losing things like my phone or esmoke or keys, sometimes within minutes of putting them down. my house is always so cluttered and messy and i just cannot find the energy and the drive to keep it clean. i hate crowds and meeting new people because im shy and my nerves cant take it.im paranoid that the people around me are judging me, of them finding out what a loser i am. i hate going out into the public and am always waiting for my friends and family to give up on me. i love reading, because i can escape in them and not worry about being judged or rejected. books and what you get from them are subjective, you simply cannot read a book "wrong". i cannot finish any tasks i set for myself and im so fearful of people,and being found lacking in anyway. im ashamed of myself and my fears,ashamed about how dis-organized i am, and the fact that i have never accomplished anything worthwhile in all of my 27 years, as well as well as my utter lack of desire to go out into the world and make friends. i suffer from extreme anxiety and depression and bulimia. i feel like i have no control in my life and how it unfolds. im always allowing my fears of abandonment and rejection to isolate myself from everyone and having to try new things. it feels incredible knowing it isn't just a lacking in myself and im not a horrible lazy person doomed to a life of chaos and fear.so thank you for this website and all of the insightful comments and information i have found here, it has given me hope and and the belief that i don't have to be this way, and that i can think and look to the future, i can have hope and believe in a future that includes achievement and accomplishments.

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