I feel lost/unintelligent sometimes.
July 19, 2008 8:41 PM   Subscribe

I feel lost/unintelligent a lot of the time.

So I'm reading a sci-fi book (Woken Furies by Richard Morgan), and I'm about 3/4's of the way through when I realize I haven't been paying a great detail of attention to the book at all. Gradually as I read on I start to forget the characters at the beginning of the book that would be very helpful to remember for the plot towards the end of the book. I suddenly felt very dumb and depressed.

This is happening to me a lot lately it seems (feeling dumb and depressed that is). My history is too long to go into detail, if anyone wants to spare a quick glance at my post history you can piece my life together. Anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness, feelings of being unintelligent, etc. You know the deal.

The book is a microcosm of my life it seems. Like, I can't explain it. I feel like sometimes I'm making progress with my life. I'm 22 and by all standards, I've been given a good life. I didn't say I've lived what I would consider a great life so far, but I've been given all the opportunities to excel and it seems like... well... I haven't. There are times where I just feel overwhelmingly inferior to everyone.

Part of this inferiority resutls from not being 100% certain if I've had ADD for years now or if it's been a declined mental state typically associated with depression masquerading as someone with ADD. Yet, I feel like I can't concentrate on a lot of things that require intelligent thought. I feel like if someone's telling me something like for a set of instructions that I'm just mindlessly mumbling "uh huh, yeah, oh ok i see" and you know what? I don't see. I don't understand what the hell people are saying to me half the time because it seems like I physically can't retain it. I feel like certain gears in my head capable of intelligent thought just don't fucking work and it's frustrating. I feel like I can't even do simple things like read a book because heaven forbid they have a plot and I'm too dumb to follow a plot with more than 1 character. I've tried ADD medication but it seems that ADD medications don't bond too well with my anxiety as naturally all ADD medications are stimulants. Stimulants for a person with anxiety/depression = bad. (or for me they do). So I've been taken off them.

Where am I going with this? the hell if I know. I just want to feel intelligent. I want to feel happier because I'm intelligent. I've never been a bad student, but I've always felt stupid and I can't explain why. You might say well for someone that claims he feels like he's mentally on the level of 5 year olds at the age of 22 and writes out his problems so well, I don't see why you feel this way. Well, that's just it. That's the only thing I feel confident in doing. Describing my damn problems in long, drawn-out paragraphs.

For what it's worth I'm on Lexapro right now and I do see a psychologist (not psychiatrist, I'm kinda doing the general practioner for medicine and the psychologist for the talk stuff). Yet, these feelings of being stupid and incapable of following anything higher than what a 5th grader is capable of... seem to always stay with me. I guess to sum up my master's thesis above, I feel like I'm literally someone that's been dealt a faulty brain incapable of helping me become someone successful in this world. Does that make sense to anyone? Please say someone can make sense of this post. Lord knows I can't :(.

posted by isoman2kx to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot to add that I am taking steps to try and get my self-esteem to where I'd like it to be. I've just recently started trying to make new friends with meetup.com and yoga classes these days, but it seems like my hopeless feelings of unintelligence ruin that progress someitmes.
posted by isoman2kx at 8:43 PM on July 19, 2008

Well, that's just it. That's the only thing I feel confident in doing. Describing my damn problems in long, drawn-out paragraphs.

Why don't you become a novelist? Lots of people like reading books about hopeless depressed characters.
posted by delmoi at 9:00 PM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ohhhh, do I ever know how you feel. I can tell you what I figured out, with the help of the right medications and a lot of therapy: Don't get hung up on the ADD diagnosis; that is, it is possible to have attention problems but not have ADD. In my case, the root problem is anxiety and the constant rumination/obsession leads to lack of focus, which leads to 'not getting it', which leads to feelings of stupidity/worthlessness, and so on. My suggestion to you is to find a good licensed psychologist with a PhD who is willing to help you get deep into what's going on and untangle your feelings so you can find out what your thought patterns are.

Both medication and therapy can be difficult to get right, so be prepared to switch doctors/therapists if necessary and keep on them if what they're doing isn't working.

I'd be happy to talk with you further if you want to contact me privately. I wish you the best.
posted by mattholomew at 9:25 PM on July 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm no expert or anything but just just joined the site and hopefully I can help, maybe I can challenge your limiting beliefs. If I can't then maybe you're just too intelligent for me and I had no idea what a microcosm was. lol.

You probably think and analyse too much. Welcome to my world!
You work with computers or something?

Anyway, ask yourself...

What's my definition of intelligence? No lookin' at the dictionary either, just what comes to mind.

What do I associate intelligence with?
Why do I want to be intelligent?
Am I comparing myself with others? Is this useful?
What if I just "go with the flow" and said screw intelligence?

Man I have stopped reading books which do not engage me. Some which my role-models say I should read but I don't feel like I'm understanding what's going on. (It's Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged if you care to know)

I like simple books which don't require tons of thought and words I don't even understand.

I think it's all psychological and if you've created certain beliefs, you can find out why they're not serving you and update it.

Some of what you said made me laugh, probably laughter recognition like where you say "yeah, yeah" while someones' talking and you have no idea what they're on about. This happens to me sometimes. Maybe you're thinking too much about how others' perceive you than just acting on your own intentions.

You might have fear of success (successful in being intelligent)... I've just being working on this strangely and realised that I subconsciously linked intelligence with clever boring people and dumbness with cool people who just seemed to "get it".

We're the same on many levels and different on other levels.
My friend Tyler always says this... "realise you're not cut from a different cloth than others".
posted by Tha-Flash at 9:37 PM on July 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have you ever been assessed (by a qualified phd. psychologist or psychiatrist) for learning disorder/disability? It is expensive but some of it usually is covered by insurance. And can be very enlightening. I have no idea if it applies to you. But some anxiety and difficulty in following what's going on around you can have its roots in actual learning issues, and not just psychological dysfunction correctable with medication. On the other hand if you suffer from depression and lexapro isn't cutting it, a different anti-depressant could be helpful. You might talk to your psych. provider and see if a learning disability assessment might be called for. Or use your own judgement. You can perhaps look back on your school experience, particularly post-puberty, and see if the difficulties you are experiencing had their inception back then. That's when some become most obvious. Just a thought...I'd have to know a lot more about you...and have a doctorate...to have anything more than a thought to offer. ; ) I DO have a daughter, as well as a couple of relatives, though, for whom a learning disability assessment explained many things that we had until then chalked up to their weaknesses, stubbornness, personality deficits, I'm ashamed to say.
posted by mumstheword at 9:50 PM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Listen, man, I am what people consider to be "successful." I have "excelled." And yet, I sit here, and I feel the same way as you. I watch movies and get depressed that I'm not as strong or as intelligent or as quick as the characters. I read entire pages of books without even knowing what I just read, then berate myself for being an idiot.

I just watched Wallstreet, so I'm all contemplative and emotional and shit right now, but the message that stands out from that movie is that Success and Money and all that jazz, they really don't mean jack at the end of the day. When the party ends and everyone's cleaning up, no one really cares how many times you pinned the tail on the donkey. People remember you for the love you gave and the good you did. So go out there, tell everyone you love that you love them, help an old lady with her grocery bags, and find a place for yourself in this world where you can create some good, ADD and all.
posted by zhivota at 9:52 PM on July 19, 2008 [6 favorites]

try homeopathy. find a trained homeopath.
posted by healthyliving at 10:04 PM on July 19, 2008

When I feel this way I think ' all this, this life is worth exactly what you put into it.' Crap in crap out. Good in, good out. Intelligence and smarts be damned. Life is exactly all that it is.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 10:29 PM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

90% of these type of questions will end up with comments recommending CBT. Not because it's a miracle cure, but because it has a good track record on short-circuiting the ruminations that start from a small point and spiral into death, doom and destruction. Which is, although I'm no professional, what I see going on with you -- you're ruminating hard on feeling unintelligent. Ask your psychologist if s/he has any experience with CBT and if you might benefit from working it into your therapy, perhaps as homework.

Tha-Flash's "what is intelligence?" question is a good place to start looking at this, especially when it comes to what it would mean to you if you said "screw it" to intelligence.
posted by subbes at 10:32 PM on July 19, 2008

Have you been assessed for a sleep disorder? You might have mild but consistent sleep apnoea which is messing with your attention span, or something like that.

I also have a really awful working memory. I find it almost impossible to concentrate on anything for any length of time. Any work meeting longer than 30 minutes, I start falling asleep. Any list of instructions with more than two instructions in it, I forget most of them and do the ones I remember in the wrong order. The way I've found to deal with this is to write everything down. If I'm at a meeting, I take notes even of the unimportant stuff because I find it engages my brain in a way different to just listening. If I'm reading something important, I take notes as I read. This stops me falling asleep, and also stops me forgetting everything eight seconds after I've heard or read it - not just because I have it written down, but the effort seems to make me remember.

Also, homeopathy. Yeah. I'd want to explore all other possible avenues, except maybe Scientology, before I tried that.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 10:35 PM on July 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

So that you could potentially focus a bit more on the real problem, I wanted to mention that a very large percentage of the people at my company have ADD (large technology company).

It seems that people who are very bright, analyze specific problems with an obsession, etc, also tend to have OCD, ADD, etc. This hasn't stopped them from being at the top of their field.

Anyway, just wanted to point out that ADD by itself can be overcome, and certainly won't stop you from accomplishing what you'd like to do with your life.

Of course there are more issues at work here (such as depression), but it's a start.
posted by ceberon at 11:28 PM on July 19, 2008

Check your MeFi Mail.
posted by thack3r at 11:43 PM on July 19, 2008

I think you are depressed, and I think cognitive therapy could help you. Your post shows several areas of self-demeaning cognitive "errors" that you could learn to correct. A good place to start is Dr. David Burns's Feeling Good website and books, which have been recommended many times on AskMe.

For instance, you say that you lost track of some of the early material in a book you were reading. But then you jump to the conclusion that this means you are "lost" or "unintelligent". That's an error that is hurting your own feelings. It is simply not true and happens to anyone who reads books regularly -- maybe the early part didn't engage you, maybe you put it down between readings too long, maybe you just have some other things distracting or stressing you. It certainly isn't an indicator of unintelligence.

I don't understand what the hell people are saying to me half the time because it seems like I physically can't retain it.

This is an indicator of a learning disability. Not everyone processes information the same way and it's very common for even otherwise intelligent people to have problems turning oral information into learned material. My dad and my brother, for instance, both had major problems with this in school. My dad, who learned to keep really good notes, achieved a graduate degree from one of the top universities in the U.S.

It's also a symptom of stress or anxiety and could go away if you take care of yourself better.

Yet, these feelings of being stupid and incapable of following anything higher than what a 5th grader is capable of... seem to always stay with me.

This tells me that your current therapy is not addressing these feelings of inferiority, commonly associated with depression. Yet they could be, easily, especially in a cognitive-based program.
posted by dhartung at 11:44 PM on July 19, 2008

There can be a big disconnect between your self-perception as being unintelligent, and the external perception people have of you. You needn't be highly intelligent, or educated, to be very, very valuable to many people, if you can learn to listen actively, ask good questions, and give them time to answer.

I once started work in an engineering group where a certain draftsman was invited to nearly every engineering meeting or social function, despite her not being an engineer. She was copied on correspondence, was included in design review activities and treated with a respect no other draftsman in the place was accorded. I naturally asked someone what was her "deal," and I was told "Oh, she knows how to ask great questions." I learned that she intuitively specialized in being the group's informal sounding board, and that as a result of being that, had gained the respect of all her colleagues, well beyond that which she could have expected as a matter of her job description. But moreover, she had facilitated the process of her group so effectively, that they couldn't imagine not running any important idea past her.

It wasn't what she knew, or what she thought that made her a star, it was her ability to help others elucidate what they thought, and resolve differences in opinion constructively, that made her valuable.
posted by paulsc at 2:28 AM on July 20, 2008 [4 favorites]

Depression can make you stupid. When I'm untreated, I can't think, can't remember stuff, can't make decisions. I feel like my brain is stuffed with cotton.

Unless your GP is very good with depression, you'll be much better off seeing a psychiatrist. They are specialists, and they know the meds a lot better. Print out what you wrote and take it with you to your next appointment.

Good luck. Depression is hell, but you can beat it.
posted by happyturtle at 3:01 AM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

About the book thing, i used to find that too. My level of reading, and the amount of information absorbed was almost superficial. However it's changed now because i deliberately pay fuller attention to each sentence, the way the sentences are structured and punctuation. I find, although it's more tiring I am able to grasp and understand more on the first read through and have a greater appreciation for the text. Remembering the names and other bits of information, come as a result of the greater attention spent once you have a good grasp of the plot and characters.

This has been so helpful just for general reading of fiction which i enjoy and allows me a greater appreciation, and also textbooks for learning where i have an almost workable knowledge of the material after a couple of reads through.

I'd avoid homeopathy, although a nice glass of water tends to help increase concentration levels.
posted by ashaw at 6:23 AM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Happy Birthday, Tyler. I looked at your profile to try to get a better sense of who you were, and I saw that your birthday was yesterday, the same day you submitted this question. I suppose it must not have seemed very happy, so please think of it as wish and a gift for you, and a hope for your future.

I see a lot of similar questions from you, ("i.e., Why am I boring?"). I don't think you're boring, nor stupid, but you do need help sorting things out, getting on track, and learning to value and love the goodness within you.

It's great that you're getting therapy, and that you have access to medication. There's some great suggestions here about CBT and other therapies or exercises. Talk about these with your therapist, and ask if some of these might help you. I also agree that with all of this happening, you ought to consult a psychiatrist to adjust your meds

About the book thing, well, I've never considered myself dumb, but if I get into a complex and lengthy story I always find myself muttering, "Wait a minute, who was that? Where did he come from...?" Sometimes I even do this with newspaper stories where they identify someone like the Secretary Joe Schmoe of the Department of Obfuscation and then, after ten paragraphs about other people, refer to him as "Schmoe." It's not a sign of unintelligence, although it does reflect something about your self-esteem that you blame yourself for it.

You can work on it. It can get better.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:58 AM on July 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

my mom had similar symptoms and she had a vitamin B-12 deficiency. you might try taking a supplement and seeing if that helps. i don't normally buy into taking vitamins for what seem like psychological conditions, but it's made a huge difference for her.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:31 AM on July 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Tyler Travis .

I'm so sorry. That's my fault, not yours.
posted by Robert Angelo at 9:08 AM on July 20, 2008

This clearly isn't an issue of intelligence but of focus. So practice focusing on things, don't blame ADD or depression - try meditation, or get a hobby that will force you to focus (anything from sculpture to billiards), and put in the effort to improve yourself. The good news is that your problem is fixable, so treat it that way.
posted by lubujackson at 9:47 AM on July 20, 2008

Response by poster: Mumstheword,

I wondered about that. I just asked my mom if I ever was since I was on Ritalin throughout my junior high and high school years before going off of it (didn't think I needed it anymore) a few years back. She said she sat down with my pediatrician (not a psychiatrist/psychologist it seems) and told him what my teachers were saying and how I was behaving and that they just came to that after a lot of discussion. I obviously couldn't tell you what specifically they said, if they ran any psychological tests and what not since my long-term memory is fuzzy. (This is where Envoy recall in the book I was reading would help :D)

Yet, I think I will definitely take you up on that suggestion when I meet with my psychologist next week. She's a campus psychologist that I see at my school, but perhaps she can recommend a PhD qualified psychologist/psychiatrist that could help me with an actual learning assessment.

As I was referencing in my post, I just feel like sometimes things don't click still. Whether that's officially ADD, then maybe it is. Yet, I'd like to just hear it from someone who's qualified to actually say that "Yes, Travis, I am fairly confident in assessing you have a learning disorder".
posted by isoman2kx at 12:42 PM on July 20, 2008

Response by poster: And thank you to everyone that has replied so far. I really didn't know what to expect with answers to my question. You guys are awesome in interpreting rambling, difficult messages. :)

I've replied to some of you here and some of you privately. I'm going to reply now to everyone that sent me a private message as well. Thank you all, really. Very helpful replies.
posted by isoman2kx at 12:55 PM on July 20, 2008

I know exactly how you feel, and from your description (if you have what I have/had) it's due to depression/anxiety. You could certainly have ADD as well and this is worth getting checked out, but I've had the exact same symptoms because of depression and anxiety. In addition to the excellent advice posted above, I strongly recommend seeing an actual psychiatrist at least once. Clearly the lexapro is not working (unless you just started), and the psychiatrist will probably give you some other choices. It's my understanding that all SSRIs are not equal, and a trained psychiatrist may be able to find one that's a better "fit" based on your medical history, etc. Best of luck.
posted by btkuhn at 6:35 PM on July 20, 2008

I went through the same thing when i was your age. I am now 36. I think it
is depression and anxiety. I felt i was one of the dumbest person at age 22. But
i am now very successful in my career. (computers).

I still suffer from depression and anxiety.

Some tips i would suggest:-

1) Exercise every day.

2) Pick good, close friends.

3) Check this website. It has lot of self help material in one central place
to manage with anxiety and depression.

http://www.helpguide.org/ (It is a non-profit)

The site above directs you to australian website which has lot of workbooks,
which you can use to practice cognitive behaviour therapy.


4) See if spirituality interests you.

5) You can try different medications with supervision from a good doctor, and then slowly withdraw from them.

I think nothing is wrong with you. I am very sure. I went through this so many
times in my life.
posted by tom123 at 10:09 PM on July 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Sometimes "mental" problems are actually easily treatable physical illnesses or nutritional deficiencies. Check all that first if you haven't already -- get some blood tests to make sure you don't have iron deficiency anemia or something like that. About 5 years ago I was in really bad shape wondering WTF was wrong with my brain, why couldn't I do math anymore, why did I feel like crap all the time, etc., and it turned out that I just needed a cheap iron supplement!
posted by Jacqueline at 2:57 AM on July 21, 2008

Get your thyroid checked.
posted by starbaby at 10:21 AM on July 21, 2008

« Older Really, is custom framing that expensive?   |   Sunglass brand question Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.