DRUGS? WHAT? REALLY?
One day I left the psychiatrist's office with a prescription for ADHD medication in hand. I felt dirty. I felt like I was doing something bad. I felt like there was something messed up with me.
But I also felt a sense of wonder. I wondered what would happen, and how, if at all, these drugs would impact me. So there were a number of thoughts, good and bad, positive and negative.
The first treatment I tried was Adderall.
I picked up the plastic container full of blue pills around 2:00 in the afternoon. I took two (20 mg) right away.
Something happened, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I noticed a number of things, and they were mostly focus related. I was at work, engaged in a task that required complete attention. In a way that I cannot describe, I was able to focus completely on the task at hand. There was no urge to walk around, call home, buy a drink, check email or surf the web. None. I was just working.
Another thing happened that I didn't expect, and it had to do with frustration tolerance, which I will go into later.
That was the good about Adderall. Here's the bad: I think I reacted too strongly to it. I entered a state of hyper-focus, and this isn't what I'm after. Oh sure, it's good to be hyper focused at things, I suppose, but going through life in drug-induced states of hyper focus is basically drug abuse. I'm not going for that.
Another problem: It made my heart race. As a runner I'm a fit person. My resting heart rate is typically 47-53 beats per minute. While on Adderall my resting heart rate jumped to over 60 beats per minute. I didn't like this feeling one bit.
(As a side note, I've always been a heavy caffeine drinker, which is probably related to my focus problems. That said, I didn't curb my caffeine intake on Adderall, and this likely exacerbated by reaction to it.)
Another thing about Adderall was it's impact on my appetite. I had none… I could skip breakfast and lunch and still not be hungry at dinner time. Okay, so some think this is an advantage, but let's face it, it really isn't a good thing to be without any sense of food craving. God gave us this sense so we would know when our bodies needed nutrition.
Adderall also interfered with my sleep… Big time. I was wired.
So yes, Adderall worked. It worked too well. It was too blunt, and I didn't appreciate that feeling. I mean, it was good to enter into some kind of state where I became hyper-focused on cleaning the entire house (this really did happen), but I don't consider this to be the point of taking ADHD medication. The psychiatrist discussed this before I even took it, acknowledging that it is abused for a number of reasons, and wanting to follow up on the reaction.
I'm glad he gave warning.
So I told my psychiatrist of the experience, good and bad. We both agreed that the bad outweighed the good.
He had my try Strattera. While I don't doubt that Strattera is probably a drug that works for many, I found it to be horrible. There were a number of strange side affects, most of which, physical in nature, I really don't feel like sharing. The side affects were bad and the intended usage was non existent. No impact on this thing called ADHD whatsoever.
After being concerned about the abuse potential and negative health impact of Adderall and disgusted by Strattera, I thought I would at least try the last recommendation: Concerta.
Could this be the perfect treatment?
Concerta seems to help me come around with my focus issues. The impact isn't blunt like Adderall, but it is present. I don't enter into any strange states of hyper-focus, my heart doesn't race and, as far as I can tell, there are no physical side affects. None.
My frustration tolerance is better, as is my ability to focus on tasks. Adderall had a strange affect, where it made me seem to want to work. While that seems good at first, it doesn't seem healthy. With Concerta I'm not converted into some kind of work-a-holic, rather, I'm just able to focus a little on my work.
It still takes my own effort and my own motivation, but I'm just not as easily distracted. I can focus on a conversation from beginning to end, staying in it the entire time. I don't doodle during meetings. I don't zone out at work. I don't check my email ever 5 minutes. I don't surf the web all day.
Let me be clear: I'd like to do these things. The desire is there, sure, but the distractions seem to be less of a driving force. It feels right. I feel a little more like I am present at work and in meetings and with my family rather than simply "viewing it through a TV," ready to change the channel at any moment. Does that make sense?
Now I realize, I'm not explaining any of this very well. It's so hard to explain something that is really only experience is subtle ways.
AM I POPPING 'NICE' PILLS?
It all leads to some inevitable questions, doesn't it?
Last week we put up our Christmas tree. I always hate doing this. We have a 12 foot artificial tree, and it's always a pain in the neck to find all the branches and match up all the letters. Every year I get frustrated as I attempt to quickly throw the tree together.
Without fail, there always seems to be a few branches I can't find. As I go looking for the branches I grow more and more frustrated. Agitated, I become less likely to organize in any productive way, so I just simply get mad… And it spirals, until I yell at my wife.
Putting the Christmas tree together should be fun. I want it to be fun. Why is it never fun?
This year was different.
I got the huge box up from the basement and dumped out the contents. My daughter, the 3-year-old, loved it, as she "helped" daddy by scattering the branches everywhere. As the tree grew my daughter decided to "help" even more, by tucking the branches she found inside the parts of the tree I had already constructed. This led to many, many missing branches as I neared the top of the tree.
Normally this would have frustrated me to no end, and I would have yelled and ruined the day for everyone. Not so this year.