The medical treatment for ADHD is interesting, and there is a lot of negative media floating around the internet about it. In essence, doctors give constantly over-stimulated people (ADHD-ers) a stimulant. Funny right? I imagine it went something like this: “Let’s just give em’ a little dose of speed every morning… that should do the trick!”.
And technically, this isn’t wrong. ADHD drugs like Concerta (what I’m taking) are prescription stimulants which are chemically similar to cocaine and amphetamines, and can be highly addictive if abused. But for most people who take it in the prescribed form (don’t crush the pill, take it once in the morning), it can help mitigate some negative symptoms of ADHD and make life easier. In essence, this is how it works: the stimulant stimulates the parts of your brain that process incoming stimuli from your senses so that you can focus. Makes sense, right?
Since getting this diagnosis, starting medication, and making lifestyle changes, I have a routine for the first time in three years. Something as simple as saying “Monday is for exercising, Wednesday is for cat litter and vacuuming, Saturday is for market and laundry, Sunday is for putting away laundry and meal prep” literally took me three years to come up with. It’s not because I’m stupid or incapable- it’s because my brain doesn’t have the chemical signals it needs for me to be able to process information effectively. As a result I was always overwhelmed with everyday things that others seem to do with ease.
I was first on 18 mg/day, and that went well enough so my family doctor bumped it up to 36 mg/day. This left me feeling nauseated, over-caffeinated (like if you have two Redbulls and nothing to eat), and anxious. I got a tattoo about four days after starting the increased dose, and that evening, my heart rate went crazy and I admitted myself to the ER. Since then, my therapist and doctor both believe this isolated event had nothing to do with the meds, but was rather caused by an anxiety attack or adrenaline from the tattoo experience.
I’m on 27 mg/day now, and am finding significant benefits with very little side effects. For the first time, my car has been consistently clean! I can start and finish cleaning a room. I have more patience with myself to complete tasks. The only downside would be in the evening, around 8:00pm after the medication is out of my system, I sometimes have a hard time putting together eloquent sentences and fumble with words. The trade-off is worth it though. The medications certainly don’t fix everything (I threw a temper tantrum at my broken snowblower on Valentine’s Day and nearly broke my shed door), but I am excited to move forward and learn about lifestyle changes and other ways to manage the disorder.
***And a warning to all of those people who think that mental illness can be cured with a pair of running shoes and a nature trail: ***
I used to live in a field station on a marsh surrounded by nothing but wind, sky, grass, and critters. I’ve worked on remote islands in eastern Nova Scotia, marveled at misty old growth forests in Prince Edward Island, and so much more. As a wildlife biologist, I’ve spent THOUSANDS of hours outside- I have had more than my fair share of the “nature”. It didn’t fix me, and never will. It does, however, contribute to my overall sense of well being because I love feeling connected to my environment. Please feel free to swiftly kick anyone who tells you otherwise in the shins.