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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.”

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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.

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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.

[How Do We Know the Treatment Is Working?]

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.

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  1. Elizabeth,

    Thanks for the great article! Reading it felt so assuring for me. I have had a rollercoaster ride of trying to find out what medication will help my add symptoms the best. I don’t like being on medicine but after I took a year off of medicine I have realized that I do need a little help. I have had add since childhood but back when I was in elementary school, hs and college there were not any known medicines out there and frankly add wasn’t talked about much so I just dealt with the challenges that were presented with me. Then having kids really made things harder. There was so much more to juggle. 4 years ago after some impulsive behavior scared me a little I decided to get some support with medicine. Long story short I ended up taking vyvanse for my add and zoloft for my anxiety. ( vyvanse alone made me abrasive at times and a little over reactive .. esp at the end of the day ) The zoloft seemed soften the edges BUT I didn’t feel like myself and that made me really anxious. So last month I saw a new psychiatrist and she suggested ritalin. I tried ritalin for a month and I would wake up every night at 2 or 3am and stay awake for 2 hours which made me miss my early morning runs. not good. It wasn’t a good fit. I followed up with my Dr this week and since my history with vyvanse alone wasn’t great she thought I should try adderall. For some reason I am a little nervous about adderall with its reputation of being so addictive and other negative news it gets. But I won’t know until I try. SO I am starting with 5mg in the morning that I can increase to 10mg in 3 days. Today was the first day. I am not sure how I feel but I am keeping an open mind and hoping it helps me. If it doesn’t or if I get any side effects that are too hard to manage then I will try a non stimulant add medicine. There is so much negative talk online about adderall that I don’t even want to read any of it. SO I googled “positive effects of taking adderall and came across your article and also found this website. Thank you for the positive energy and for sharing your experience. I am going into this with an open heart and open mind. It gives great comfort to me that someone else ( you- another mom with add too) found that adderall changed your life for the better . I hope it does the same for me. And if Adderall doesn’t I am hopeful I will find a medicine that does. Keep the positive energy flowing ! I will touch base again after this week and let you know how things go. Thanks again! Adreana

  2. Adderall has also changed my life as I was diagnosed at age 54 with ADHD inattentive type and general anxiety disorder. Since taking Adderall I have reduced citalopram by half the dose daily and could not function without my daily dosage of Adderall. I used to
    Nap for hours a day on the weekend, but rarely nap now.

  3. I was so relieved when I came across your blog today. I feel as though I could’ve written it myself word for word, as I too have experienced much of what you’ve written about. When I was in my early 20’s I was in a committed relationship with the father of my young daughter. It seemed as though all of the females I was surrounded by led very successful & fulfilling lives. My sister was a successful nurse who graduated top of her class & worked two jobs, my sister in law was a “Supermom” who was always on the go, & my aunt was a successful businesswoman & mother. Then, there was me– the tired, fatigued, “lazy” me. Guilt consumed me as well. Medical tests ruled out anything concrete, so my psychiatrist gave me a prescription for Adderall. That was almost 20 years ago– and my family has looked “down” at me ever since for taking it. Then today I came across a very negative & shameful post about Adderall (which obviously was directed at me) that my aunt had posted on Facebook. I was so hurt & upset after seeing it, & that is what led me to your blog. As Adreana commented above, I too became discouraged after seeing nothing but negative talk about it online. Article after article left me wondering– maybe my family had been justified all these years in their feelings towards me? Maybe they were right to shame me. But your experiences & subsequent blog has made me believing in myself again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! 🙂

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