Back in the Adderall Saddle Again: Dealing with Adult ADHD

I've been blasted for my support of ADD meds. I was unfriended by someone on the facebook for it. I've had marathon discussions (debates) with dear friends on the subject. I've been accused of breaking my child, taking away his personality and my favorite, of being a drug pusher.

I can take it.

My one child who has been diagnosed with ADHD began medication in first grade. This was after preschool teachers and a kindergarten teacher and then, finally, his first grade teacher brought up the possibility that he had ADHD. I ignored them at first. Blew it off. Chalked his behavior up to skipped naps (as if he'd taken one since he was 2), too much sugary cereal and the fact that he was "just a kid acting like a kid".

But, we had him seen by a doctor. We filled out questionnaires, his teacher filled them out, I read every book on the subject. We (I say "we" because I was married back then and it was a mutual decision) decided to give the meds a try.

And they worked. Like a boss.

The kid who was constantly being reprimanded for not being able to keep his hands to himself, for blurting out whatever was on his mind, for not being able to focus longer than a minute on anything that didn't immediately grab his interest, for being "that kid" in the classroom...he changed.

He was able to sit for longer periods of time. He stopped hitting kids. He stopped interrupting his teachers and his parents and his friends. He picked up a Harry Potter book and began reading it. AND FINISHED IT. His handwriting improved drastically, we discovered he was good at math because, for the first time ever, he sat down and was able to focus on the worksheets in front of him.

It was a miracle, for him. And for us, as parents. And I'm sure for his teacher (who cried with me at his next conference, by the way...God I loved her! Hats off to you, Mrs. Hall)

But this isn't about my son and Adderall and ADHD. It's about me, and Adderall and my ADHD.

You see, while he was being diagnosed, I was too. It hit me late one night, as I was reading my ADD bible, "Driven to Distraction". I elbowed my sleeping husband and said "Holy shit. I HAVE IT TOO!". Reading the symptoms list was like reading something titled "All About Jenny!". My life flashed before my eyes like an old timey slideshow. All the punishments in school, the frustrated parents, the lost or unfinished homework. The messy rooms and the tardiness and the inability to see a project from start to finish...all of it.

I sought out a doctor who dealt with adult ADHD and had a diagnosis, and a prescription, within the week.

In our family, we joke that Adderall brings out the gardener in us. The first time my son took the meds, he grabbed a rake and methodically raked the entire front yard. Me? I transplanted about 30 hostas. There's an adjustment time with ADD meds, not long but it does take a couple of days for your body (and brain) to get used to it. To get used to the quiet inside your mind, get used to that initial rush you feel when the drugs hit your brain and the fog starts dissipating, the whirring blades of thought begin to calm down. I think by doing something physically repetitive, we were allowing our brains time to become familiar with the feeling of not being on fast forward.

But more than the landscaping, what the drug did in my brain was life changing. For the first time, ever, my thoughts slowed down. I didn't feel the unstoppable urge to interrupt friends as they were talking. I could start a project, and finish it. And I didn't start 20 more in the middle of it, either.

I found patience where before, I'd had none. I listened to my kids instead of jumping ahead and trying to guess what was next.

I yelled less. I no longer said the sometimes-biting things that used to pop out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying.

My house was tidier. The laundry got done. Meals were planned and not the panicky, rushed last-minute affairs they'd been. I didn't need an entire pot of coffee in the mornings (for those of us with ADD, the caffeine actually slows things down). I didn't need those two glasses of wine at night to help muffle the noise.

My time belonged to me again. I didn't lose chunks of it here and there, shaking myself out of a fugue and wondering, "Where the hell did that last hour go?". 

For the first time in my life, I could think clearly. I could have a thought, an actual thought! And not have to search for it in a pick-up-sticks jumble of words and sentences and feelings in my brain.

I mourned my "lost" childhood and education. After seeing how it had helped my son, and feeling how it had helped me as an adult, I couldn't help but think about what a difference it may have made for me, all those years ago. Would math have been easier? Would my grades have reflected my intelligence instead of my attention span? Would I have been kept in the Gifted and Talented program instead of being told "Oops. We made a mistake! Sorry. Back to the average pool you go, grasshopper."

Would I have finished college?

I'll never know. I do think it would have made my life better, that's for sure. You see, ADD doesn't travel alone. It usually brings some friends to the party, the most common ones are anxiety, depression and low self esteem.

It's kind of like the chicken/egg thing: which came first? Did the ADD and all the social/personal ramifications of having it cause the others, or are they all just another random gift from our genetic makeup? Certainly years of being told by parents and teachers and friends that there's something "not right" with you, of always being the kid scolded and punished, of finding yourself frustrated at your inability to just finish that goddamned book or paper or job does a number on you.

Those other maladies hit me, too. They intensified after my husband left. He walked out, and took his sweet healthcare benefits with him. I found out that the cost of Adderall without insurance was almost as much as a mortgage payment (I kid you not...at one point it was over $400 for a month's worth sans insurance). 

I quickly realized that keeping my scattered thoughts in straight and orderly lines took a backseat to keeping my kids fed. And thus ended my love affair with Adderall.

Until now.

I've put up a good front. I've pretended to have my shit together. And for a while, it worked. Oh, don't get me wrong. It still takes an act of God for me to finish reading a book. Piles of stuff still sit, unattended but thought about on a regular basis (usually in the form of, 'ooh I need to go through that one of these days!'). But I manage to get to work, go grocery shopping, get the bills paid and keep the kids fed, clothed and warm. I'm functioning.

But I've been unraveling. Like a wayward thread being pulled ever-so-slowly, my life and my poor old flaky brain have been coming undone. It's starting to become a hindrance. For a long time I was able to live with the 8 lane highway coursing through my cerebrum 24/7. I self-medicated again, with the pot of coffee in the morning and the cocktails on Fridays and Saturdays (and sometimes Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

Now it's become too much. I have a lot on the line. Finding a new job while still working 40 hours a week at the one I'm going to lose, trying to finish my book, dealing with the ups and downs that go hand in hand with raising four kids on my own. Everything, all of this life stuff, it's taking a toll. My ADD is rearing its ugly head and so are the others: the self doubt, the depression, the anxiety (oh my sweet lord, the anxiety).

So I'm doing what I should have done a long time ago. What I should have done the minute I got my new job with the fabulous benefits.

I'm going back on Adderall. I made the call this afternoon, and I see the doctor early next week. And I'm positively giddy about it.

Now, before I settle into bed and start to read the same paragraph over and over in the book I'm currently trying to read (The Bloggess/Jenny Lawson's book "Let's Pretend This Never Happened"), I want to stress this:

I'm not a big fan of pharmaceuticals. I studied each vaccination my babies got, and objected to a couple of them because I didn't like what I'd read. I frown upon antibiotics unless they are absolutely the last resort. My kids are all taller than me and could probably flip me over like a cheese omelet but they still know that they need to check with me before dipping into our ibuprofen/cold and flu meds stash. I'm not a pill popper! In fact, I probably fall more on the anti-medication side of things.

But I think that sometimes, they work. Sometimes they fix what needs to be fixed. I am nearsighted, therefore I wear corrective lenses. I'm wired wrong in my head, therefore I need to take something to help reconnect things. Is this the perfect solution? The best one? The right one? Maybe. Maybe not.

It is, however, the perfect, best and right one for me.

I'm looking forward to the quiet.


  1. You know, Amalah just posted about this same subject, and it makes me really want to try such a drug for myself... If only I weren't planning to be pregnant or breastfeeding for the next indefinite amount of years... sigh. Enjoy it extra for me!

    1. Thanks Bethany! I have never heard of Amalah..until now. Read the few most recent posts and I'll have to read more. Thanks for the tip. And also, keep the thoughts about Adderall in the back of your mind. I too was pregnant and breastfeeding for what felt like for-freaking-ever (and guess what, I miss it something fierce)..it does end someday and when it does you will be able to work on YOU. Until then, good luck w/ the baby making/feeding, mama.

      Thank you so much for reading.

  2. I could have written this. I have actually, it's still sitting in my queue, in fact. I was diagnosed last year and it was like an entire new world. My struggle is in the gifts that Adderall XR.gives me, there is a little of the "Michelle" it takes away. The constant interruptions, the hyperfocus, and the bouncing from thing to thing I don't miss. The creativity ADHD sparks, I miss.

    AND yes, so much yes, to the childhood what could have been mourning.

    1. Ugh. Michelle, that's my one and only worry about getting back on it (aside from the dry mouth, which used to drive me insane). In the old days, when I first started on Adderall, I wasn't writing much. That wonderful creativity is THE coolest thing about having ADHD, for sure.

      I'm sure you are familiar with that awesome rush of ideas and topics and subjects that flood your mind 24/7 when you have the ADHD. Trying to grab one of them, and work with it, has always been like trying to catch a slippery fish. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the ideas and that beautiful creativity will still be there. Maybe it will be less slippery, too? I hope so.

      Thanks so much for sharing, and please, get that post out there. I would love to hear more about your experiences with this.

      Thank you for reading!

  3. Good for you, Jenny -- trust yourself, and trust what your body and mind need. You're wise enough at this point to know. Maybe I'm a wee biased, because my youngest daughter, now 22, was diagnosed with ADD in 5th grade. I know this particular "learning disability" (in quotes for me since so many intellectual and artistic greats past and present have been thought to have it) is said to be over-diagnosed, but in my daughter's case the genetic line of it is incredibly easy to trace. Her dad has it, his mom has it, and back further as well. (My oldest daughter, with not a trace of ADD, has a different bio dad, so it's like we have a little "scientific control" right there in the family.)

    After my daughter started Adderall the changes were pretty impressive. She was on it until the last year of middle school, and then we eased her off. By that point she was a dedicated reader and story writer. I believed it helped because her diagnosis was correct, and the genetic component so very obvious, but I also understand if parents are frustrated when their kid is simply more energetic than others, or more demonstrative, and they get a lazy diagnosis. That doesn't help anyone.

    Most of all, though, I just want to give you props for doing all the right things in the face of adversity. You just never give up, *nor* do you stagnate. You're always looking for ways to *improve*, no matter what life throws at you. Damn you're an inspiration. Now go out there and get that garden growing, sister! :)

    1. Oh Salish! Seeing your name here is like running into an old friend at the grocery store. Insert awkward hug HERE.

      I love that you had your own scientific control with the kids, that's actually very cool. I keep looking at my other kids and wondering if I've missed any signs.

      Your daughter's story is wonderful, and it's how I thought my child's experience would pan out. Although he stayed on the Adderall throughout grade school and jr high, due to some other drama he went off of it in high school. Now in college he's decided to go back on it (gee I'm being so ambiguous here, huh??).

      What you said here: "I believed it helped because her diagnosis was correct, and the genetic component so very obvious". YES. At the time of my kid's diagnosis, I questioned both the actual diagnosis AND the medication. Our pediatrician said something I'll never forget: "Try it. If it works, he has it. If it doesn't, he doesn't and we have another issue on our hands." It worked :)

      In my line of work I see it all the time. Not only the kid who is bouncing off the walls, but the quiet ones who, when you say their name, look at you as though they were worlds away. Which they have been, duh. IN THEIR HEADS. I have a very soft spot in my heart for those little ones and make sure they get a fair shake in my classroom.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I am always, always happy to "see" you ♥

    2. ... "and then we eased her off. By that point she was a dedicated reader and story writer."

      As you know, Jenny, it doesn't have to be forever. My stepdaughter was diagnosed with ADHD, was on Adderall for five years and then weaned herself off. And with no drugs whatsoever she went through dental hygiene school and is now taking pre-med courses, with stellar grades the whole time. Everyone is different, of course. As a dedicated pill-avoider like you, I wouldn't hesitate to get past a rough patch with one, especially knowing I could get off of it later.

    3. Hi again, Jenny -- just wanted to let you know I'm also your ever-faithful fan Shannon over on FB -- I recently posted regarding that Super-Weepy vid about Jessica Long from the Olympics. Did you ever actually find it online? (I'm gettin' all weepy again just *thinking* about it. Kryptonite, I tell ya!)

    4. Of course I know you, lady! I just haven't seen "Salish" in a while, ha! And no, I haven't seen it. I started watching that link you posted on the fb page but of course I got distracted (hmm...I should look into that, huh?) and didn't finish. I need to find it!!

      I went to see my son's girlfriend perform in her school's production of Fiddler on the Roof last night...and yup. There I was, wiping away tears as the cast did their curtain call. GAH.

    5. And Becky, THANK YOU. I read your comment while my roomful of preschoolers were snoring away at naptime. And I felt as though a good friend just gave me her blessings and a hug. Thank you for pointing out that this may be what I need to get through this "rough patch" :)

  4. Let's get this one thing straight ... you are NOT wired WRONG in the head. You are wired differently. We all are! You are simply wired for something different than what you think society expects of you. Embrace you! HUGS!

    1. Hugs right back at you, my friend. Damn this straight-thinkin' society, huh? Square pegs indeed.

  5. If the diagnosis is correct, drugs work. The trouble is that ADHD went through a period of being a fashionable diagnosis and therefore was over diagnosed. I think that's now settled somewhat.
    I used to work as a doctor and I saw parents and children who had been struggling and, like you, modifying diets until the child could hardly eat anything at all. They'd start medication and come back a totally different family. Life became easier and better.
    Doctors generally don't prescribe drugs to kids as if they're giving them candy--we take it very seriously. You weigh up the benefits versus the risks, and in the case of ADHD, it's worth it for the child.

    1. Shoot. I meant for the comment below this to be a reply to you, Louise! Blogspot strikes again....

  6. Thanks for this, Louise. I think that's why there is so much skepticism and controversy regarding ADD, kids and medication. Just a few years back, it seemed like every other kid was being treated for it. Good to hear that it's settling...what a shame if a child's true issues were not being addressed.

    And yes. If the diagnosis is correct, it's SO WORTH IT.

    Thank you for reading and for chiming in.

    1. You know, I don't think that's the reason there's so much skepticism. I think the skepticism is because the public largely remains "brain phobic." They don't like thinking that the brain is an organ, and that their thoughts and actions might not always be 100 percent in their control.

      ADHD is a complex condition, and understanding it takes a mind willing and able to tolerate complexity and science, especially when it comes to the medications.

  7. And I'll bet your report cards said things like "doesn't work up to potential". My husband and one of my daughters have ADD. It is a challenge for them to finish anything (all the half finished projects around our house will attest to that).

    I also happen to be a psychiatric social worker. I have coincidentally spent more than a few hours on the phone this week with insurance companies to fight for some individuals to get coverage for ADD medications. They seem to believe that while children can be diagnosed and treated, adults miraculously get cured.......

    1. Absolutely! I remember my mom YELLING at me, saying, "But you're so smart! Why don't you just apply yourself! What's wrong with you??".

      What a shame about the insurance companies not being willing to approve the meds. I hope you are able to convince most of them to do it? That's really unfortunate.

      Thanks for reading, Donna.

    2. Thdnks for having the courage to tell it like it is.

  8. This is such a powerful and well-written post. I hope a day comes when the meds are also covered or at least partially by insurance or whatever 'plan' people can manage to carry. I'm proud of you Ms. Jenny.

    1. Thank you Gail. Fingers crossed that they're covered on my current insurance.

  9. I could have written this myself too. My daughter was dx'd in 6th grade, I believe it comes out later in life in girls.. I am sitting there reading the material.. going OMG this is me, this is what's wrong with me. I still morn the "what if's".. I know for sure I would have finished college, had I known. Being the investigative mom that I am. I did question the drug being given to my baby. The Dr said to me, what you said, think of it like getting your first pair of glasses.. you are like, omg the world bright, clear.. how can you say no to that? She has chosen not to continue with her ADD meds.. makes things difficult for those around her, when you know it was much easier when she was on them. I choose to keep going with mine. Due to Ins, I get the generic for about 140.00 a month until we hit our ded., then I get the good ones for free.
    I can tell you this, my family and friends notice when I haven't taken them, things like running a red light happen.. because my mind is off on a 100 other things. I don't like taking meds daily or having them processed thru my liver.. but I don't like running red lights either.

    1. We think alike, Kel :)

      You know which kid of mine I'm talking about here, and he also went off of them, per his choice, off and on over the past few years. Now that he's taking a massive course load he's thinking about going back on them. I hope he does.

      And yes, the red light thing. I've missed exits, and even worse, sometimes, just for a second, I'll even forget where the hell I'm going. This happens when I'm pretty much at the end of my rope, as far as stress goes.

  10. Dear Hausfrau -- what a beautifully detailed and vivid account of life with and without medication for ADHD.

    It is so very easy to criticize with one doesn't have a clue.

    I guess you know that the brand medications usually offer some kind of patient assistance program. You can visit their websites and find a customer support number. It involves a bit of paperwork on the front end, but if you qualify it makes things a lot easier in the long run.


    1. Thank you so much, Gina! I had no clue about the patient assistance program...I will have my current insurance until August but just in case things get dicey again I'll be sure to look into that :)

      Thanks again for your kind words, and for taking the time to chime in.

  11. I love pharmaceuticals. I'd shove 'em down my gullet by the fistfuls if I could.


    But seriously. I do love what my pharmaceuticals do for me. Without Synthroid I would be asleep on the couch right now holding fistfuls of hair and no will to live. Without Lexapro I wouldn't be 50,000 words into my first book. My thyroid doesn't make the hormone I need to run my body. My brain doesn't produce the chemical I need to run my mind. So, pharmaceuticals are a life savor for me.

    So don't feel bad about taking medications your mind and body need. If have lost friends over pharmaceuticals you need better friends. Though I imagine you've kept the good ones and have weeded out the bad ones.



  12. ::Would I have been kept in the Gifted and Talented program instead of being told "Oops. We made a mistake! Sorry. Back to the average pool you go, grasshopper.":: LOL! That happened to me too... three times! I spent 5th grade in Gifted, 6th grade in regular classes, half of 7th in regular and half of 7th in GIfted, 8th in regular, freshman year in gifted, and the rest of my high school years in remedial classes and special ed. If meds can help a kid NOT go through all of that, its a great thing! My doctor put me on Wellbutrin for my ADHD, but I don't think it works that well.

  13. Good for you for doing what you need to do to care for yourself. I'm not a fan of drugs either but sometimes it is what it is. I have dealt with depression for years and was dx'd with anxiety in recent years. I have been on meds but usually stop taking them when I'm in a good place. Well a couple of weeks ago, I realized I was NOT in a good place (constant tears, barely getting out of bed, not eating, etc.). I made an appt to see my doc and practically begged for some meds to take! Sometimes we just have to do what we have to do. Take care!

  14. You keep doing what is right for you and your family. Your honesty is always so admirable, Jenny. I know it helps others!

  15. My sister has ADHD, and another one has ADD. Both were diagnosed as adults. I might not be the biggest fan of immediately reaching for meds at the first sign of high energy in a two year old, but that doesn't mean that the medication is bad or should never be used. It really, really helps.

  16. You've got to do what is best for you! Glad you've contacted your doctor to go back on the medication. I honestly sometimes wonder if I have adult ADD, as well.

  17. Wow. After reading this and two recent conferences with my sons' teachers (9 and 11) where they again suggest I talk to their doctors about the focus issues. I am making Dr appointments for them today! My dad and brother have both been diagnosed with ADD and I've often wondered about myself. Alot of what you describe rings very true. My ins doesn't kick in until next month for me and when it does, I am going to go to the dr too. I have to find out because I don't want my kids to look back and think "I would have finished college if I had known"! Thanks for sharing.


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