Eureka! ADHD Meds Gave Me a Whole New Life
“I thought my ADHD was under control, but after trying Adderall to battle my afternoon sleepiness, I realized how much I was missing.”
The drugs weren’t really for my ADHD. For months, I’d crashed hard every day between 4 and 7 p.m. Every afternoon, every day, the yawns started, then the weak legs, then the trouble keeping my eyes open and the snappishness. The world sucked, basically, because I was not asleep. My husband would walk in at 4 p.m., a full day of teaching under his belt, and I’d all but throw our three sons at him and retreat to yoga pants and sleep. He was stressed. I was stressed, because I was missing a significant portion of my day: time to play, time to hang out, time to clean, time to be a family. Guilt ruled my life.
My psychiatrist couldn’t find a cause. None of my (many) meds seemed to cause the afternoon narcolepsy. I was anemic, but not too anemic. My thyroid worked. My adrenals functioned. I was simply freaking tired. “You can’t live like this,” my psychiatrist said, and, shortly before Christmas, the good doctor scrawled me a script for Adderall. “And anyway, you have ADHD, so we’re killing two birds with one stone.”
I’d popped some Ritalin in college, always before big tests, but I’d never used a stimulant in any sustained clinical manner. The bright pink pills looked like Hello Kitty meds. I was told to take them in the afternoon, to stave off the “sleepies.”
After taking Adderall, I didn’t hit my bed at 4 p.m. The drugs did far more than keep me awake. I felt normal. Instead of lazing on the couch, I wrote. I offered to help with dinner, and I threw in some laundry. I wasn’t frenetic, a tooth-grinding maniac. I got stuff done, the way neurotypical people do.
I also lost The Fear. Everyone with ADHD knows The Fear: You have something to do, you don’t want to do it, and you can’t bring yourself to do it. So you try to ignore it. You’ll do it tomorrow or the next tomorrow. It’s always in the back of your head, and the longer you wait, the more The Fear mounts. The thing itself, while easy and mundane, becomes an insurmountable obstacle whose mere remembrance hurls you toward a panic attack. You begin to doubt your ability to do the thing, despite its simplicity. Your stomach drops at the thought of it. That’s The Fear.
It went away. I wasn’t paralyzed by laundry to do, e-mails to send, or dishes to wash. I accepted my own personal fears, realized I could get them done-if not now-and went on with my afternoon. I didn’t freak out. Those things I’d built up into terrors had again become just things.
Adderall also made me more social. Before, when my phone rang, I’d think, “Oh no, I can’t deal right now.” I started picking it up and speaking to my friends. When we had guests over, I no longer manufactured excuses to hide in the back bedroom. I sat on the couch and talked to them instead. I didn’t sound stupid. I didn’t seem weird. I was a normal person, even a charming one, having a normal conversation. I dropped witty comments and didn’t second-guess them. I felt like I did when I was in college, when I could last claim to be a happy extrovert.
Most of all, I was nicer to my kids. Before, my stress spilled over into my parenting, in not-so-nice ways. I’d shout. A misplaced shoe would make me snap and snark. Normal three- and six-year-old ADHD behavior, challenging on the best of days, became a nightmare. I degenerated into screaming at kids to get off my bed, to stop jumping on the couch, to cease their high-pitched shrieking. Their normal messes enraged me: I would have to clean them up, and immediately, because once the house got out of hand we were living in squalor. I lived a tightly wound existence, and my kids suffered for it.
Not anymore. Adderall found me having fun conversations with my kids: What would we have to change so an octopus could live on land? Missing shoes and messes still annoyed me, but I responded far differently than I had before taking Adderall. In a gross understatement, my sons said I was nicer. My husband agreed that I coped with the kids better now that I had ADHD-specific medication.
I went back to my psychiatrist, and she upped my dose to twice a day. Now I get to enjoy all the psychological benefits of Adderall all day, not just after 3 p.m. My husband has said that since he’s seen how well I’ve done on it, he wants to get checked again to see if medication might be right for him.
I used to be against medication. I used to think I had it all together, that my ADHD was under control. I didn’t realize what a scattered mess I had become until I took the medication challenge. It hasn’t been perfect, of course. I’m still always late, and I forget important meetings (play dates and plumbers). I have some acne. But Adderall has made it significantly easier to function, especially socially, especially with my kids. Now that I’m not asleep all the time, I can actually enjoy them. I couldn’t ask for more.