How to stop getting schooled by school?
January 30, 2012 8:46 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop being so freaking miserable in school? I hate school so much, and I have no idea how to stop being so depressed about it all the time.

I cant focus in classes, im failing EVERYTHING due to missing assignments, but when i sit down to do them, I get distracted SUPER easily, and if im in a distraction-less environment, i find something. I could KNOW i need to do something that is worth 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 points, and i would sit down to do it, and spend an hour playing with the air... I just feel like a square peg in a round hole... Im so miserable, when I'm FORCED to do something, all i wanna do is break down and lose my mind. I dread school everyday, and hate looking forward to it when im off, or out. When im doing something fun, like playing skyrim, i cant get over how i need to do an assignment, or study for a test, and i just CANNOT force myself to do it, making skyrim (or whatever) unenjoyable. And say i quit skyrim, and pull out my books, and open it to the page, then i sit there and stare blankly at the page, and start getting ANGRY at myself for not being able to read it. I dont know what to do, ive tried it all. I just want to be happy, cause i have a solid friend-base, and a great family, and we are all at a loss... Help?!?
posted by sizzil34 to Education (38 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Question the first and foremost: Have you seen a doctor/therapist/professional of any kind?
posted by mie at 8:50 PM on January 30, 2012

Response by poster: Yeah, I went to the doctor, and she said i might have ADHD, but we never did any follow ups because we lost our insurance, so its still a mystery.
posted by sizzil34 at 8:52 PM on January 30, 2012

What grade are you in? If you're in high school, or even in college, this is exactly what school counselors are for, especially in college where you likely have access to not only career counselors but also regular counselors too. It absolutely does not sound like you're having a functional, rewarding school experience, and that must be outrageously frustrating.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:55 PM on January 30, 2012

Response by poster: Its awful, and Im in the 10th grade
posted by sizzil34 at 8:56 PM on January 30, 2012

It might be possible to get a psychoeducational assessment through your school - have you/your parents spoken with a guidance counsellor or principal?
posted by purlgurly at 8:57 PM on January 30, 2012

Alright, let's talk resources. I probably don't need to tell you this, 'cause I'm sure you already know, but 10th grade is a really important year in terms of grades/test scores for college acceptance, BUT it is not the end of the world to be having problems right now because they can get fixed.

I have a couple of questions about a few things.

1. Does your school have a dedicated nurse on site?
2. What about a counselor, career or otherwise?
3. Do you have any teachers you feel particularly close to who you might be able to talk to about this?
4. Have you been disengaged only recently or is this a long-term thing? (Like have you always felt this way about school?)
5. What is it about Skyrim that you like?
6. Would you be willing to give a general location? Some of us may be able to pinpoint community resources for you to take advantage of.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:02 PM on January 30, 2012

Response by poster: 1)yes
3)lord no
4)past 2/3 years
5)Just a get away from everything, a different world with no worries, or chemistry tests.
6)Denver, Colorado
posted by sizzil34 at 9:04 PM on January 30, 2012

Nnngh, loss of insurance is hard, trust me I know. Can you find some kind of low-cost clinic, maybe? It sounds like ADHD is a definite possibility (IANAD) and it'd suck for you to be beating yourself up over something beyond your control.

Aside from that... I am actually in a similar position regarding something that must be done and which is both physically and emotionally difficult - not distraction, just pure aversion to doing the thing - and I'm trying to handle it by breaking down this MASSIVE project into small, manageable, definite steps. That way, any time anything gets done, it's another item off the checklist - and makes the rest of the thing look smaller and easier to handle. A little bit. Maybe. I don't know if that's at all helpful to you - I'm not sure it'll be all that helpful to me - but it's a thought.

Another thought - to which your parents may be understandably resistant, if you're already having school issues - is possibly "home-schooling" or "self-schooling" for a little bit, not as a reprieve from education but as a way of breaking the cycle of pressure and failure. Note that you would have to "sell" this to your parents and possibly educators by proving your ability to do independent study of some kind, in some form - which might be a whole lot more doable for you than conventional study, or might make things even worse. But it might be an idea worth exploring.
posted by mie at 9:12 PM on January 30, 2012

Okay, what about dropping in to both the school nurse and the counselor you're assigned to and asking to be seen during lunch in the next few days and saying something like this:

I am miserable at school right now and I think it's because I cannot concentrate on anything and I'm worried that it's ruining my chances of graduating. I'm stressed all the time about schoolwork and tests and I don't feel like I'm getting the support I need. Right now my family doesn't have the insurance to send me to a doctor to get checked out for ADHD. Can you help me find some resources so I can focus in school again? I am really, really overwhelmed and miserable.

Obviously if that sounds weird change it up a bit.

I mean, what's your goal here? Do you want to like school, or do you want out?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:13 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just want to not be depressed, and resenting school 24/7. I just wanna be happy, and be everything everyone wants me to be.
posted by sizzil34 at 9:16 PM on January 30, 2012

But who do you want you to be?
posted by mie at 9:17 PM on January 30, 2012

Response by poster: My goal in life is to be happy all the time, no worries, no stress, nothing but happiness, and i wanna just enjoy every second of life.
posted by sizzil34 at 9:20 PM on January 30, 2012

You sound like you're under some pressure from other people/your family. Right now I think you probably don't need to put yourself under more pressure by worrying about living up to other people's expectations. Of course your parents, etc would like you to succeed, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't want you to be miserable trying to live up to their expectations.

I hate to break it to you, but no-one is happy all the time. If you were, you wouldn't even feel happy because it would seem so normal and boring. Just try to aim for content with some really happy bits now and then!
posted by Piroska at 9:22 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Good goal. Hard to get to. But not as hard as most people imagine.

What are the things that give you joy? What's the thing that you'd wait in line for overnight, or travel 1000 miles by bus to see? What's your ruling passion?

If you can find that (or those), you can work toward doing them. And as you're working toward them, you can find ways to relate the crap stuff you have to do to the cool stuff you're going to do once you're done.

It's not an immediate solution, but then again, tenth grade: there are no immediate solution. But tenth grade is an EXCELLENT time to start working toward a life of joy instead of drudgery.
posted by mie at 9:23 PM on January 30, 2012

Here's the secret. Fix one thing at a time. For example, focus only on 8PM to 9PM. Be like a murderous bastard and try like mad to do homework every day 8PM to 9PM. Then Skyrim away! You are allowed to do homework at other times, but Sunday through Thursday, you MUST, NO MATTER WHAT do homework from 8-9. You are not allowed to trade hours or substitute other times or anything. Only 8-9 is required.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:25 PM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

That's cool, a lot of people have that same desire. :) I think that you are a great candidate for some individualized attention right now, so the sooner you can get resources, the better.

My advice is threefold:

1. See the school nurse and tell her about how you're depressed and can't focus. Impress upon her that you're really in need of free local health services so you can be screened again for ADHD in hopes of getting to the bottom of all of this.
2. Next, see your school counselor. Reiterate that you're miserable, depressed, and can't focus. Explain that you're looking for support. Ask for referrals to both academic tutoring and therapy.
3. Start checking in with a therapist. It's great to want to be happy -- but happiness is never just given to us. We gotta work for it, we gotta earn it. Even you. ;) Talking with someone about what it is you're interested in can really help.

And like others are saying, take it one step at a time. This week, focus your energy on talking to the school nurse. Next week, make it that counselor. Finally, get to academic tutoring and therapy/counseling.

You can do it. You may think you can't because you're used to being too all over the place and that's really tough. You CAN do it.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:27 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

'nthing what people have already posted. Talk to a counselor - they have the resources available to help you with your problems. You are not alone!

On a side note:
I was like you (not going to school, not doing homework) and almost flunked out of 9th grade because of it. I ended up getting my GED. It wasn't because I was stupid or lazy (I am well read and self-taught in a lot of subjects); I just felt out of place/uncomfortable in a high school environment. Getting my GED allowed me to go to college early and I got to choose the subjects I was interested in. I did really well in college - I never felt like I missed out academic-wise and in fact I felt smarter than some of my classmates who graduated high school on time.

It might not be the best option for you, but it was for me at least.
posted by littlesq at 9:27 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, and this is going to sound weird no matter how I phrase it, so bear with me here...

How much responsibility do you have in your life right now? Do you parents set pretty good boundaries for you in terms of the ways you contribute to your household and how you give back to the family? Do you do chores and help out? What about getting a part-time job to start practicing being in a structured, deadline driven environment?

I would honestly like to tell you that you're totally going to achieve your goal of living a super happy life with absolutely no worries and no cares, but honestly dude, that's a pretty selfish life, and I don't think you're that kind of guy. Getting stuff done is actually really rewarding, so kudos to you for taking this step.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:30 PM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

and nth'ing littlesq: I sucked at grade school, middle school, high school - higher-level VERY specialized classes, I aced. High school math, I couldn't stand - when the same math was the basis of electronics theory, whole different story. (And now I can't remember a bloody thing, which is a story unto itself, and not relevant to the discussion.)
posted by mie at 9:33 PM on January 30, 2012

"Square peg in a round hole" seems to sum it up pretty well for you here.

I was diagnosed with ADD and was very disaffected by the time I even entered high school. I remember those days, sitting down, having my mind wander and becoming endlessly frustrated with not being able to control it.

What you're experiencing is very real, but not completely unheard of.

I would urge you to first talk to your counselor and the school nurse. It is a crap shoot, sure, but despite what your past experiences might have been, a lot of the adults in your school really do care and want to help you.

It's possible your school district offers vocational or dual enrollment programs. If they do, I would check them out, even if it doesn't immediately interest you. I did grunt work for a welder after high school and found that working with my hands was a very calming activity because I could let my mind wander while still being productive.

A little googling led me here:
posted by triceryclops at 9:33 PM on January 30, 2012

I would honestly like to tell you that you're totally going to achieve your goal of living a super happy life with absolutely no worries and no cares, but honestly dude, that's a pretty selfish life, and I don't think you're that kind of guy.

no, no, no, common misconception. the trick to a super-happy life isn't "doing nothing". it's doing what you love, with knowledge and care and passion. =)

Really, I cannot emphasize that enough; if I have achieved any wisdom in my years, it is that one fact. Otherwise, I agree with everybody else in the thread as far as solid options for you to investigate - and none of them are in any way mutually exclusive with this, so it's all good.
posted by mie at 9:39 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your question reminds me of this comment. If you can empathise with that, then your original ADHD diagnosis may be correct - other posters have given some good advice about following that up. At the very least, hopefully it helps to know that you're not alone, and that others have gone through similar situations and arrived at a happier place.
posted by twirlypen at 10:26 PM on January 30, 2012

Delete more things from your environment; you're not in a distraction-free environment yet. Remove all the stimulus, distraction, "fun things", everything. Bring it down to you, the floor, the blank walls, and a book. But don't look at the book either. Put it aside too, for later. Just focus on your breath and your presence. Set an egg timer for 15 minutes. Meditate. Clear your head only. If you have any thought aside from your breath, don't chastise yourself, just let it go and return to your breath.

After 15 a minute block of sitting, you can read the book a bit, or make some notes. But if you notice you're getting anxious again, or your mind's drifting from the material, close the book and go back to just sitting and monitoring your breath. You need to cultivate stillness before you can direct yourself.
posted by ead at 10:48 PM on January 30, 2012

you need to get hooked up with a proper doctor, right away. if you've got a mental disorder you're just not going to be able to overcome it with better habits or new ways of thinking. if you had bad eyes, the answer would be glasses, not squinting harder. bug the shit out of the staff at your school until you get hooked up.
posted by facetious at 11:00 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

nthing everyone said about getting support from your school nurse and counsellor. please do that as quickly as possible.

here's what you can do about focussing in the meantime. if what ead said about bringing it down to blank walls and a book is too draining to do all of the time (and i suggest you commit yourself to doing that at least half of your homework time because training stillness is important), go out to a noisy place and do your work there. not construction-site level noisy, just background chatter. don't bring your phone or anything electronic with you. drink lots of coffee while you do your work. studies have shown that people with adhd focus better with noise around them and that caffeine has a paradoxical calming effect.

and absolutely break big tasks up into small.
posted by michelle lightning at 1:31 AM on January 31, 2012

if you had bad eyes, the answer would be glasses, not squinting harder.

Quoted for truth. I think that it's your responsibility as an almost-adult to find an adult who will listen. School nurse, school social worker, teacher, parent--whoever. Your job is to say, "I need help," and keep saying it until you connect with someone who hears you and can connect you with appropriate resources (maybe medication, maybe therapy, maybe tutoring, maybe a different educational program).

Frankly, that would be the answer if you were 40, too--saying what you need and seeking it out. The difference is that, up to now, it hasn't been up to you to ask for help: adults are just supposed to know what you need and provide for you. Since that isn't happening here, you need to be an advocate for yourself.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:36 AM on January 31, 2012

When I was in 10th grade, I felt pretty similar to how you feel. The thing is, high school is a terrible place for many people. It's certainly possible that you have ADHD, but believe me, you don't HAVE to have ADHD to hate high school. So, while you do need to address your issues, your feelings are quite normal.

I agree that it would be prudent to talk to a school counselor, or the school nurse. I KNOW that sounds like a huge pain, but please give it a try. My mom was a school counselor for about 30 years, and had several counselor friends. They were all very motivated to help their students in any way they could. Throughout my mom's career, she managed to find substantial help and accommodations for plenty of uninsured ADHD kids. It's worth a try. And if you have more than one counselor at your school, you could shuffle around them until you find the one you're most compatible with.
posted by Coatlicue at 5:01 AM on January 31, 2012

This is textbook ADHD, and I had the exact same problems, so I feel for you. You're not alone. Make an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist that specialized in it. You can take medication which can help, but the main thing you're going to need to do is develop systems to cope with it, so you're not depending on remembering to do things to get them done.

ADHD can be both a blessing and a curse. You're going to need to learn to use the good parts of it while not suffering as much from the bad parts of it.
posted by empath at 5:40 AM on January 31, 2012

Also, aside from going to see a doctor, I've always found the combination of caffeine and electronic music helps me focus, because the music absorbs the music absorbs the distractable part part of my mind without stopping me from working. Put on a dubstep mix cd with some headphones, turn the lights off, and set in front of the computer and get to work.
posted by empath at 5:43 AM on January 31, 2012

It frankly annoys me to see so many people answering with easy diagnoses of ADD or ADHD and basically trying to find some way of getting you the happy pills.

You may or may not have one of those disorders. Quite frankly, much of what you describe can just as easily be diagnosed as "being young" or even "being human". Regardless of one's mental state, it is very, very hard to concentrate on a boring task. Hey, why do you think I'm writing this right now, rather than doing my work?

You know what is a real problem? This:

Do you have any teachers you feel particularly close to who you might be able to talk to about this? lord no

I don't know your teachers. When I was your age I had good teachers and crappy teachers, teachers who cared about their pupils and others who just couldn't give a damn. But always remember: They are human. They also once were bored schoolkids themselves, and usually, if they decided to become teachers is because they actually wanted to help other schoolkids.

Some (many) may have become jaded and bitter in the meantime, but I'd be surprised if there wasn't at least one among them who would like to see you happy and who would be helpful and even thrilled if you engaged him or her as a fellow person, rather than as the Enemy at the Blackboard.

So, my advice: try to find that teacher, and try also to find a subject, any subject, that tickles your fancy. I'm sorry to speak as the class nerd I once was, but for many, history, or literature or foreign languages or maths, or even chemistry, can become "a get away from everything, a different world with no worries". And it will be more useful, and more enlightening, than "Skyrim"...
posted by Skeptic at 5:59 AM on January 31, 2012

And it will be more useful, and more enlightening, than "Skyrim"...

I'm not 100% sure about that. Skyrim is an astounding piece of work, and you can get a lot of value out of it, if you engage with it intelligently. English and History class can help you get more out of Skyrim, and Skyrim can help you get more out of English and History class. I don't think you should think of History class as 'learning' and Skyrim as 'play', because you can learn and have fun doing both of them, and they reinforce each other.

sizzil34, did you know that Skyrim is heavily based on Norse and Anglo-Saxon myths and history? -- try reading Beowulf while you aren't playing Skyrim)

Also, you haven't really said what your problem is in school -- are you passing tests and just not doing homework? If you're having problems with math, check out the Khan Academy videos. They're very quick and explain things much better than most text books or teachers.

I can't tell you how to force yourself to do homework, but I can tell you this, it gets a lot better in college, and you can pick your own classes. You just have to survive the tedious bullshit they make you do in high school for the next 2 1/2 years.
posted by empath at 6:16 AM on January 31, 2012

In addition to the possible ADHD, it sounds like you're a bit depressed and stressed out. 

There are a number of low cost/sliding scale mental health clinics where you are. You could definitely find someone to talk to there, and they might know who could help you if they decide medication might work.

In addition, you may qualify for low cost health care through Medicaid or Colorado Child Health Plan Plus.

Good luck. 
posted by elsietheeel at 6:25 AM on January 31, 2012

DEFINITELY seek help from your school counselor or nurse to get tested for ADHD. It could also be anxiety, depression, or a mix of these that are making you feel this way.

But I also think that skeptic might have a point: a LOT of teenagers feel this way about sound like a pretty normal 10th grader to me. Have you taken a look at some of the procrastination threads (one; there are a lot more)? You might find them helpful while you're waiting for ADHD, anxiety, and/or depression evals to go through.
posted by smirkette at 6:48 AM on January 31, 2012

I don't know if anyone linked to this thread, either.

A lot of people shared similar problems and how they coped with it (And as you can see it's a fairly fraught topic for a lot of people).
posted by empath at 7:17 AM on January 31, 2012

Also Mental Health Center of Denver has an Access Center that can point you to community resources that you might not otherwise know about.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:22 AM on January 31, 2012

Many (maybe all?) states provide free insurance for children whose parents cannot afford to insure them privately. You should really look into it-- chances are, there is at least one program that will provide medical care and therapy for you till you're 18, and possibly older than that. Maybe start by calling the Medicaid office in your are and seeing if there is any help there for you.
posted by devymetal at 11:42 AM on January 31, 2012

Reading through your post, it sounds like you're alienated and bored. I absolute love Skeptic's advice on finding a subject you love. For me, I latched onto history. Once I had an idea of what I wanted to do in life, I was able to get the motivation to push through the subjects that I had zero interest in.

If you feel like the classes you're taking in no way interest you, keep in mind that the subject you find does not necessarily have to be one your school offers. When you say "I just feel like a square peg in a round hole", it says to me that your school is not offering you anything that fits your interests. I would suggest taking a CC class in ANYTHING- Mandarin Chinese, flight instruction, medieval history, etc. Once you've succeeded in proving to yourself that you can learn, all of these subjects your required to take will become auxiliary to your interests, and thus much more bearable.

The advice about getting tested for ADHD could be very helpful, but here's the caveat: Depending on your state/district, once you're diagnosed with a learning disability, you risk placement into the IEP program. I don't know your school, but my public school [in New York] demonstrated terrible treatment toward IEP students. For instance, students with minor LD's were placed in the same learning environment with those with severe intellectual disabilities and received the same level of instruction. Students enrolled in that program also did not receive a traditional NYS diploma, but rather an IEP diploma. The worst part is that a student [nor the student's parents] cannot just request for the student to be placed back into the "regular" academic track. It's a momentous battle and, even then, there's no guarantee that your district will allow it. If you still want to go the diagnosis route, your school counselor SHOULD be able to test you for a learning disability, or at the very least, provide you with free testing. In most states, it's mandatory that schools provide testing for any sort of "intellectual disability". Again, I would research your district policy toward IEP students before you allow yourself to be tested by the school.
posted by oxfordcomma at 2:59 PM on January 31, 2012

I have good news and bad news for you.
The bad news is that you may not be able to do anything about your situation other than your best to ride it out until you graduate.
My story is that I hated school passionately from seventh grade on. The schools where I grew up simply fucking sucked and I recognized that I would not learn in that environment under those methods. My epiphany was that was to get a part time job from sophomore year on, concentrate on that and have money for my own things like a car. I ditched classes to work and barely had a good enoungh GPA to graduate but I rode it out and made it into the real world.
To this day I ruminate on what a foul fucked up experience high school was. I'm now a stay at home father for the foreseeable future until the kids are old enough to start school themselves. When my father suggested that at that point I could "go back to school" I had a visceral, immediate reaction of deep hatred at the notion (I'm 43 years old!!! I hated it that much!). If you're like me, you don't learn through schooling. However it's up to you to ride it out and discover for yourself how you DO learn. I so totally feel for you and wish you the best. Don't let anybody tell you there's anything wrong with you. We all (millions and millions) are expected and required to go through the same educational experience. It's to be expected that the experience is not going to mesh with everybody.
posted by No Shmoobles at 4:50 PM on January 31, 2012

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