August 1, 2008

My story so far ...

I wrote this blog post in ADHD World, a social network for those affected by ADD or ADHD.
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This is the first time that I am writing a blog. But I am not tense like I always used to be in situations like this. Maybe it is because of the medication I have been taking for the last 10 months. But I think the main reason is that I feel connected to everyone here. I was 31 when I was diagnosed with adult ADD. As a child, student and adult who grew up with untreated ADD I have a lot of experiences which left painful memories. They could have finished off any hope I had of leading a worthwhile life. But I survived, because of the hope given to me by 5 very special people in my life.

As a kid, I was dreamy, slow and clumsy. I could do well in exams but couldn’t even add two numbers without the help of something to write. I could not talk to strangers or on the phone. Many people reminded me that I need to change to do well in life. Apparently, without quick thinking, fluency in speech and the ability to mix with anyone and everyone, my bookish knowledge could not take me too far.

I stayed with my maternal grandparents till I was 3. My grandmother studied only till 8th grade. She was the most gentle and noble person I know.


Till she was in this world she treated me like a prince and had high hopes for me in spite of whatever others thought. She was the first person who gave me hope. Second was my mother who taught me at home when I was struggling in my primary school. She had herself left her college degree half way but always told me that I would do well. I did not participate much in classroom activities which upset most of my teachers. But I managed to do well in exams. I became a loner with few friends and had a low self esteem. When I was 10, we had a new class teacher, Mrs. Kanak Bhatia who taught us Hindi.


She was the only teacher, who said I was just fine the way I was. She knew that I found it hard to read aloud but she was never upset because of it. She used to tell jokes in our class and asked the kids to do the same. I actually managed to gather enough courage to stand in front of the class and tell a joke. Though not many laughed, I still felt nice. I was not athletic but she persuaded me to participate in the running race on our annual sports day. To my surprise I came first. She then ran to me and hugged me in front of everyone. That happened 22 years ago but I still remember every emotion I felt at that moment. For the first time I actually achieved something which someone wanted me to. Mrs. Bhatia taught me only for one year but gave me a lifetime of education. She was the third person who gave me hope.

In the following years I was still advised and shouted at by people wanting me to change socially. Every time I tried to change and got frustrated, I thought of the race that I won and it made me feel better. I developed hobbies which were independent of people. My father was a doctor in the air force and I grew up in the vicinity of air bases. I was fascinated with aircraft. In the evenings I used to go to the library and saw any book which had photos of aircraft. At home I started listening to shortwave radio. I got hooked to keeping track of news events as they happened by listening to BBC, VOA and Radio Australia. I studied with the radio on. It never affected my studies or marks, in fact to my surprise I felt that I could concentrate better when it was on. I studied alone at home, since the syllabus was now beyond my mother. I had to labour on each topic, reading it many times over but managed to stay ahead of what was going on in the class. That was essential since I could comprehend what was going on only if I knew about the topic beforehand. Some of my teachers were upset because of that. They thought of my behavior as one-upmanship. I felt bad but could not help it.

Then at 15, I thought of preparing for the entrance exam for Indian Institute of Technology or IIT. I had done my entire schooling in a government run school system which has modest facilities. It was rare for students from this school to get into IIT. Those who got in, almost always prepared specifically for the entrance exam at private schools or tuitions. We had none of these available at the place where we stayed. Many people doubted my chances of getting into IIT including me but my mother was always behind me. I continued my 2 year preparation with 3 good textbooks on physics, chemistry and mathematics and a postal correspondence course for the entrance exam. I used to spend many hours alone at my study table without even getting up. I did not see TV even on a single day during those 2 years. I started bunking school frequently as I was able to do more when I was alone. Finally I gave the entrance exam which is known for its originality and the need to use multiple, sometimes unrelated concepts to solve each question. One was not hard pressed for time since the format of the exam gave lots of it and did not test the speed of candidates. To my surprise I cleared the exam and got a rank of 1095. It was one of the happiest moments in my life. It belongs to my mother who always believed in me. I entered aerospace engineering at IIT Madras. It felt like a dream come true as I was obsessed with aircraft right from my childhood.

During the next 4 years, my excitement constantly waned as I struggled in all courses. There were too many of them in each semester and I could not cope with the pace of the lectures. I tried to read ahead but the textbooks with only equations or texts and very few pictures made me dizzy. At the end of 4 years, I was exhausted, barely managed to pass in most of the courses and was at the bottom of the class. Most of my batchmates went to the US for their masters or doctorate studies. I didn’t want to even think of any more studies. I was one of the few from my batch who took up a job immediately after bachelor’s degree. I joined Daewoo, a Korean automobile company, as a trainee. They sent me to Korea for 18 months of on the job training in car body design. When everyone around was going West, I headed East!! The first thing we were taught was how a worker puts together what the designers come up with. We actually worked in the assembly lines for a few weeks. Then we worked on computers to design parts in 3D. I liked it and was again excited about life. I also traveled a lot in Korea and tried to understand their culture. I loved the experience and came back to India refreshed. It was a welcome change after the harrowing time at IIT. But soon the Asian financial crisis hit our company hard. All the ambitious plans of designing new models in India were shelved and my job was reduced to finding cost reduction measures. After 3 years at Daewoo I could not take it anymore and joined EDAG a German automobile design company which planned to open a branch in India in future. I was sent to work at their office in Wolfsburg in Germany. It was the first time I was in the middle of a western society which was unnerving for me. Everything was perfect and free of errors. I was not sure if I could fit in. I worked with a tense face and kept to myself. An elderly lady who was a co-worker by the name Renate called me to her table and asked me to cheer up and talk more. She spoke with me everyday.


She was a proud grandmother and made me feel comfortable in the office. I started enjoying my work. I made quite a few friends there and tried to speak in German with them. After a few months my manager sent a word that he wants to see me in his room. I was sure that I had made some error. I went to his room with fear and to my surprise he said that he was happy with my work and wanted to convey it to the future managing director of the Indian branch. That happened only because of Renate and she is the fourth person who gave me hope when I was not sure of myself. I spent about 2 years in Germany during which I worked hard and traveled harder. I ended up seeing many cities in Europe on a shoestring budget. I returned to India and worked for 2 more years at the Indian branch. Then I got married.


I had been a designer for 7 years and planned to stay as a designer. But my salary was not growing. Finally I quit and joined Tata Technologies, an Indian company which paid more and sent me on contract to Malaysia and then to the US. I traveled a lot in both the countries with my wife. After 2 years, the HR head unilaterally started going back on promised emoluments to employees who were sent to the US. When anyone argued, she would say that we should be grateful that we were sent to the US and not ask for more. Everyone compromised but I fought with her, complained about HR to the top management, resigned and returned to India in 2006 to find a new job. My new employer in India, EDAG, for whom I had worked before, took me as a team leader. That was the first time I was responsible for others. My role didn’t allow me to work on any parts myself. I had to guide the team and check their work. With my experience I was expected to be good in that role but from the beginning I felt uncomfortable. I got easily confused as there were a lot of things to be taken care of simultaneously. There were a lot of deadlines and I started missing them as I could not prioritize them. Within months I lost all control of my work and that affected my personal life. My life started falling apart and soon I was a wreck. My mind was refusing to cooperate. I was tense, anxious and fearful of the future. My parents were worried and my employer was impatient. I was going through hell and taking my wife along with me. But she stuck with me and never lost hope. I was taken to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with depression. I was put on anti-depressants which calmed me just a bit but my troubles at work stayed the same. I went into a deep introspective state and was desperate to find an explanation for what was happening. I started searching the internet for mental conditions to which I could relate. After a lot of search I finally stumbled upon ADD and its symptoms seemed to explain my entire life. I showed it to my wife and she agreed with me. I was not very sure but my wife insisted that we take our findings to my psychiatrist, Dr. Neville Misquitta. She was the fifth person who never lost hope for me.

Dr. Misquitta took my inputs, did his evaluation and gave me the diagnosis of Adult ADHD. This happened in Sept 2007 and since then my life has changed for the better in so many ways. I had an explanation for the things in my life which always puzzled me. With terms like Hyperfocus, Novelty-seeking and Stimulus-dependent, annoying question marks in my head straightened out to become exclamations. My prescribed medication, a generic variant of Strattera also helped a lot. Within a month of starting it there were positive changes. My mind was more resolute and resilient. I could take decisions without fear or self doubt. I got two books, ‘You mean I’m not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy’ and ‘ADD: A Different Perception’ and learned a lot from them. I took the help of a PDA to organize my life. I joined Brahma Kumaris a spiritual organisation which teaches self transformation through meditation and positive thinking. I realized that my role as a team leader was what triggered the crippling symptoms. I decided to get back to be as a designer. Even if it pays less, it is a role that I handled before. I quit my job and contacted Mr. Harjeet Singh, my former managing director in EDAG who had recently started the Indian branch of another German company called RLE International. He was kind enough to take me back. I wanted to work in India but he asked me to directly join the German office and work there. Now my work permit is being processed and I will have to relocate to Germany with my wife as soon as it is ready.

Many challenges and uncertainties lie ahead of me. I am still a slow worker. Will I be able to cope with ever increasing demands for efficiency and productivity? With ADHD as a pre-existing condition, will it be covered in my insurance in Germany?

This is where I stand now…still I am hopeful and peaceful and wish the same for everyone.

My apologies for this extremely long blog. I ended up pouring out my entire life. It seems like a disjointed, never ending Indian drama :-)

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2 comments:

  1. Ramakant, your story is so inspiring. I was recently diagnosed myself and just processing all of it. It is interesting how all of my past experiences suddenly make sense.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment Corinne. I am very sorry for this late response. In your blog I read posts about your experiences related to ADD. We have so much in common even though we lived on opposite sides of the globe. It really is a small world. I also read some blog posts of your noble project. You are so inspiring...sharing and spreading happiness, virtues and courage. Happy Mother's Day to you ! Wishing your family and you all the happiness in the world.

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