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Finding Peace: An ADHD Medication Story

I have ADHD. Because of a PCP switch last summer, I had to go unmedicated for months and have been on the struggle bus because of it. Recently, I was able to get my prescription filled (thanks to my wonderful partner, who takes on the burden of making phone calls when my brain doesn't function). At long last, I was able to take my ADHD medication. The hornet's nest is, at last, a tolerable buzz.


For so long, I was undiagnosed because I excelled in school and was well-behaved. A lot of that had to do with how regimented my life was. School, after-school activities, and going to my dad’s on Friday. It controlled the chaos. In hindsight, it didn’t really control anything. I hyper-fixated, cried a lot, experienced fits of rage, and had deep sensory issues. But because I wasn’t socially awkward, everything was fine.


a pile of nondescript white pills pouring out of an orange prescription bottle

Now that I’m older, my life continues to be very regimented. My Google Calendar is, as you may guess, immaculate. When the pandemic hit, though, everything went out the window. Schedule? Who is she? I fell into a deep depression and found work impossible. I felt that way for a year. At some point, I saw a post about undiagnosed ADHD in women and wondered, "Hm, could this be me?" 


Of course, I didn't want to have ADHD because that would mean that I was neuro-divergent and that my whole life had been more of a struggle than it should have been. However, getting a diagnosis was a vindication. The medication changed things and helped me claw my way back to myself.


Having grown used to a quiet brain, being without my medication has been a reminder of how hard life used to be. For two weeks, I would stare at my computer screen and do nothing. Well, not nothing. I would have a movie and music playing in the background while I also tried to play Baldur's Gate. I was desperate to turn down the noise in my head, and this didn’t make me feel better.


But here I am with 10mg of methylphenidate, feeling so much better. I read for several hours today in silence. Silence! I can’t tell you the last time I did anything in silence. It gave me such peace. Why did I resist medication for so long? Why did I tell myself that medication was a weakness? 


Well, that’s probably because I was raised as a DARE kid and was petrified that my brain would become reliant on a substance. My brain should function as normal, thank you very much. It didn’t help that growing up, I heard a lot of “Only lazy people need stimulants to get their homework done” and “All you need to succeed is focus.”


A woman's hand idling on top of a notebook with a pencil between her fingers

White-knuckling life has only gotten me so far. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to prioritize my peace. Sometimes, there are days when I don’t feel the need to take my pill (or I forget it), though I’m trying to remind myself that my brain has a dopamine deficiency and it would be better to feed it every day. But maybe, deep down, I’m just fearful that there will come another day when I’m just…out of pills and out of luck. It’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. 


I’ve decided to be upfront about my ADHD with every doctor. When I went to the new PCP, the first thing on my list was to talk about my medication. To my surprise, my doctor asked if there was anything I wanted to change about my prescription. A different medication? A different dosage? I told her the story about being put on an anti-depressant that made me want to kill myself.


“I’m not depressed,” I said when she asked me about my self-reported mental health check-in (the numbers were alarming from a clinician’s perspective). “I took that survey before my refill came in. It’s almost like anxiety and depression are a result of unmedicated ADHD.” We share a little chuckle, though I’m unsure if the doctor is laughing with or at me. Either way, she has no problem refilling my prescription going forward, though she thinks it’s probably time for me to go back to therapy.


And that? That’s fair. 


bam

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