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Hi there. I'm a 24 year old undergraduate student. I've struggled with OCD and ADHD since childhood, but ~two years ago new symptoms appeared and the severity spiked, all very suddenly, and I've been basically non-functional since. Looking for other students to talk to for support. It's been difficult for me to find anyone who can relate to what I'm going through, especially near my age. I am currently in my 7th (yes, 7th) year of undergrad. I received one degree, but I am going for something completely different now. However, I'm struggling, and I don't know if I should keep trying, take a break, give up, or what. I used to be an exceptional student. I had not gotten anything less than a 4.0 in a class after my freshman year. I struggled with OCD an ADHD then too, but not like this. I was able to manage my classes, social life, etc. Until ~2 years ago. Everything suddenly went down hill. I cannot organize my life let alone my classes. I spend more time alone in my room pulling out my hair, blinking my eyes, trying to figure out what's wrong with me (all of these I had never had problems with before), than I do studying, socializing, or enjoying myself. In the past year, I've failed two classes and gotten a 2.0 or 2.5 in the rest. I had never even come close to failing a class before all this happened... I don't go to class. I don't read the book. I try to learn all the material the day before the exam. And then I get mad at myself for failing. I've wasted so much money and time and seriously fucked up my GPA. But I love what I'm studying. And I know that I could succeed if I could put in the time. I want nothing more than to make this happen. So each semester I tell myself that I will be better this time. I won't procrastinate. I won't give into my OCD. I will follow the studying schedules I make. I will wake up to my alarm and I will go to class. I will wake up from this nightmare. I will be "me" again. I can picture myself doing these things. I know the "me" two years ago would be able to do it. But I continue to fail. I continue to sleep through class. I continue to pull out my hair, squeeze my face, blink my eyes, hold my breath. I had every intention of doing it right this time. But I keep finding myself trying to learn the entire unit the night before the exam, yet again. I ask myself, where did that time go? What did I do instead? And honestly, I don't know the answer to that. I have been doing nothing else. Just sleeping, pulling, checking, etc. Nothing worthwhile. So I ask myself if I should keep trying. I'm signed up for fall classes. And I'm again able to picture myself doing it right this time. It seems like it will be so easy to wake up tomorrow and return to the old me. But I can't afford to waste another semester of student loans. So my mind is telling to drop out. I can't continue while I am ill. But what happens when I drop out? Probably nothing. I'll probably continue my terrible new lifestyle of nothingness, except now I won't be adding to my pile of debt, or moving in any direction whatsoever. If I drop out, I will have nothing motivating me. I'll just be stuck in this funk of nothingness. I want my life back. This is not me, it never was. How can my memory of myself be so vivid and real, so within my reach, yet so impossible to grasp? I do continue to have hope, and I refuse to give up. I changed so dramatically and suddenly once before, so maybe I am capable of changing again, to who I used to be. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that I have somehow managed to hide nearly all of this from my friends and the rest of the world. Nobody has a clue that I've changed or that I'm struggling. I couldn't expect anyone to understand. I would much rather tell someone who might at least remotely get it. I do have doctors I see, and supportive family and friends I could turn to. So I am ok and I am safe. But I do hope that I can find someone who I can relate to.
As all the other 12th graders are busy applying to colleges and writing essays about all the wonderful things they have done in high school, we are trying to solve this medical crisis called PANDAS (PANS). We think DS has been dealing with this for years with ADHD and Anxiety and only last spring has had obvious PANS symptoms-severe OCD and tics. He has been on two courses of abx and is now on a probiotic which seems to be helping. Problem is the executive function and ADHD are still very much there. He can do no independent work. None. He has barely made it through HS and has required lots of scaffolding and doesn't even take care of his basic hygiene needs. His GPA is abysmal and SAT are mediocre, but he is a very bright and curious kid-an intellectual and can discuss anything, has a great long term memory, but, again, zero Exec Function skills. He has isolated himself, has no friends and only wants to be online. Family members are pressuring us to send him off to college. At this point only a local community college would accept him with his record/scores. Even if he does get into a college, it doesn't seem like the right time to send him off. I think because PANS has neuropsychiatric symptoms it is not taken as seriously. They say he needs a change of scenery to become independent. But would you do that to a kid who is battling some physical illness? Are there schools (in NY or nearby NYC) that can work with a kid who is in a PANDAS flare and know how to deal with it? Maybe a postgraduate boarding school program for special needs? Anyone know of any? I've been told to look for a educational consultant. Can someone recommend one in NYC who gets Pandas? I know this depends on the kid and where they are in their treatment/recovery, but I would love some advice. Friends who don't know say I am having a problem letting him go. Little do they know that I would love nothing more than to have a kid who could live independently! But even those who know are pressuring us. I worry the stress from heading off to college will trigger the worst kind of flare and he will be sent home defeated. We are going ahead and applying to some local schools. My plan is to apply to these and then if he is miraculously better next fall, allow him to live in a dorm and take classes. Another option would be a gap year, but what kind of gap year program would be able to handle a Pandas kid? Any advice is greatly appreciated.
I've been conversing with a few other families off-line over the last couple of months as we prepared our DS for the transition from high school to college, and I thought I'd drop a note here in the event some others are staring down the barrel of college decision-making. I also wanted to make sure and thank a few of you who tread this ground before us -- most especially Emmalily -- and gave us some great advice! Thanks! So, for quick background, DS was likely "a PANDA" by the age of 3, but we didn't know, nor did we get any help with medical interventions, until he was 12 -- almost 13 -- and headed into 7th grade. He became so badly debilitated, however, that he went from fully functional if quirky to completely non-functional within the space of about 3 months. Finally, after almost two years of abx, lots of therapy, continued supplements, and tough love, DS returned to functional and managed to close out his senior year in high school summa cum laude. He continues to battle a degree of OCD and anxiety, particularly when under stress and/or transitioning to a new, unknown situation, but for the most part you wouldn't know he was any different from most bright, healthy kids. In our college search, thanks to some great advice by knowledgeable folks like Emmalily, we knew we wanted to find a college that: 1) offered a low average student-to-teacher ratio; 2) was within a reasonable drive from home; and 3) had a disability office that was readily accessible and pro-active, as well as, of course, offering the programs that DS wanted to study. One very valuable tool we also made use of was a chance for DS to participate in a short (3-week) summer program on a college campus the summer between his high school junior and senior years. It gave him the experience of living on a campus, keeping his own schedule, living and dining among peers, getting himself to class, etc., and we think that it had an invaluable positive impact on his confidence and coping when it came time to actually leave home for the real thing. We found his "dream school" about 1 hour away from our home with the curriculum he wanted (computer engineering). It's a smaller school with a lower student-teacher ratio (9:1) and a readily navigable campus. DS attended two, short, on-campus "readiness" events -- a scholarship weekend for interviewing for a variety of scholarships and a summer orientation session -- that once again added to his confidence that he could manage living on campus. We made advance contact with the Director of the Disability Office for the school and provided her a copy of DS's IEP as an example of the sorts of accommodations (extended time on assessments, etc.) that had contributed to his success in high school; she was very accessible and communicative and assured us that his accommodations could be met on campus via the Americans with Disabilities Act and that she would notify DS's professors. She also offered a "mentorship" program whereby DS would be "matched up" with an upper classman on campus to help him get in the swing of things. DS has had two brief subsequent one-on-one meetings with her since he's been on campus, mostly to fill her in on his classes and professors, to reconfirm which accommodations, if any, he feels he needs given the nature of the material and the teaching styles, etc. and to introduce him to his mentor. In short, she's been great -- available, but not intrusive. So, DS has been on campus since mid-August, and he's doing great! That's not to say there haven't been ups and downs . . . moments when he called me to say he didn't like this (the dorm showers) or felt uncomfortable with that (some social activities designed by his RA) . . . but he's figuring it all out. He likes his classes -- actually loves some of them -- and, knock on wood, is keeping up. He's making some friends and making peace with the parts of college/dorm life that he'd prefer weren't parts of the picture. In other words, he's adapting. Thanks again to all of you who've helped us on this journey, and here's wishing all of you happy and safe transitions as your kids continue to grow! Nancy