As it’s ADHD awareness month, in this week’s episode, I share my experience of being on ADHD meds, a year on. The ups, the downs and the tips I’d give anyone who is about to go on them.
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Hello, just before we dig into the episode, just a warning that we had a slight hitch with some of the audio. So, there’s sort of three or four words throughout the whole episode that just, there’s a technical hitch on the way the audio comes through. It’s not like a loud noise or anything like that. It just sounds a little bit distorted. So, I just wanted to pre-warn you before we jump into the episode, but you should still be able to get the context and everything that I’m saying. It’s just like half a second, a millisecond, slight sound quirk. So, I just want to jump in and pre-warn you before the episode started.
Hello everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Freelancer’s Teabreak. This one is one that is specifically for ADHDers or in the process of getting diagnosed, etc, etc. If that’s not you, that’s absolutely fine, you can skip this episode and go have a listen to the others. Although if you have somebody that is on meds or thinking of going on ADHD meds, you might wanna have a listen, this might help you support them.
I am now a year and a bit on from ADHD meds, being on them. And I wanted to share kind of an honest take on my experience of that, because I know there’s a lot of people who are very worried about going on them, a lot of people who aren’t sure and I just wanted to share my experience, in case it is useful. I’m not someone that thinks everybody should go on them. I’m not someone who thinks that no one should go on them. I think you should find the right toolkit for you. For me, they have been life changing, genuinely life changing. And I’m going to share a bit more about that.
So, some of the things that I’ve learned after a year on meds. Now it probably took me, I want to say like eight or nine months, to find the right fit for me. I found that about six months that the meds I needed to change them a little bit. So, just to give you an overview, I am on something called Xaggitn XL. There’s lots of different kinds. And I believe it’s like similar to Concerta, which is another common one. At the time of recording, we are actually in a kind of an issue with all the meds, in that they are running out of stocks basically and struggling to get them. But I just wanted to share which one I’m on just in case that helps. I have only ever been on Xaggitn, it does work quite well for me. It was actually the adjustment of the dose that I have changed up a bit. So, I started having smaller doses and then that increased. And then I found that the larger dose was making me too anxious. So, I’ve kind of found a nice middle ground of a smaller sort of a medium dose in the morning and then a medium dose at lunch. That seems to work well for me, keeps me going until about I want to say like 5 or 6pm. And it’s quite hard to describe how it works. And for me, the hard mode analogy is the best one that fits for how I feel about it. So, the analogy is essentially, that you’re working on a ‘hard mode’ and everybody else who is neurotypical is working on ‘easy mode’. That’s not to say their life is easy, by the way, but the way their brain is working is on easy mode. And they’re able to do all these things and they’re like, ‘Why do you keep dying in the game? Why? Why do you keep dying, this is easy’. And then you discover when you go on meds that you’ve been in ‘hard mode’ all along and now you’re, I wouldn’t say in ‘easy mode’ but it becomes a little bit easier. There’s less resistance. My very first experience was trying it and sitting on the sofa about four to five minutes in and I suddenly thought, oh, there’s a sound that has stopped in the house. And I was trying to work out if like the fridge whirring had stopped or the dishwasher. And then I realised it was my brain. And it’s not that my brain had stopped. But all of the noise that I hadn’t even been aware of. I didn’t think my brain was that busy before. But as soon as that stopped, I kind of realised and I’ve never had since like such an extreme realisation of it because it’s become my new normal now. But it was an awareness that suddenly there wasn’t a constant negative narration in my head, which meant that things like, if I’m sitting on the sofa and thinking, I need to go up and empty the dishwasher, which is my nemesis and always the example I give, I no longer have this constant narrative in my head of someone going, ‘you have to get up, I can’t get up. Oh, you’re so lazy. You’re so stupid. Why can’t you just do it, everybody else can do it’. And it was that constant narrative. And that would root me to the sofa. And I couldn’t get up and couldn’t get over it because it was just so overwhelming. And now it’s like that voice has shrunk. And now I can go ‘okay, we don’t want to do the dishwasher, it’s still not something I want to do and I probably won’t do it till this afternoon, but I will get it done. And I can talk to myself in a much kinder way than I could before I was on the meds.
And I think actually diagnosis did that as well. It allowed me to say to myself, stop judging yourself against neurotypical standards. So, it’s kind of a part of that, it allows me to have some kind of dopamine levels that mean that I’m not constantly trying to find a way to motivate myself. When you have ADHD you are interest driven, not important driven. So, it doesn’t matter how important something is, it’s very, very hard to motivate yourself if you don’t want to do it. So, with the meds, I find it easier to do the things that I don’t necessarily want to always do. I’m not gonna say it’s easy, but it is easier. The focus is definitely better. I’m still going to get distracted by a squirrel outside the window, it’s still going to happen. But I can get back into the work and focus a little bit better. And I think actually, a big part of it was the energy. And it’s less that it gives me energy and more, that my brain was so hyperactive beforehand, that it constantly drained me. And when it became quieter, I wasn’t so drained, and I therefore have more energy to do things. So, I think the energy has been more than anything. Because that’s the reason I never looked into ADHD before. Because I was constantly exhausted, I’d have to have a nap every single day to get through the day. I felt always tired and now I don’t. And that is incredible. I thought I had like a chronic health condition because I just didn’t have the energy to do anything. And now I do. And it’s not like, I’ve had a Red Bull and I can get everything done. It’s that my head is not constantly full of things.
So, a few things I want to do is also share a few lessons. So drinking water is a massive, massive part of the success of having meds. So it’s actually easier to drink water when I’m on meds, I just don’t forget it as much, it is easier. I also really, really found that if I have protein with my meds in the morning, and at lunch, they work much better. And just generally having a more protein-based diet since having ADHD has been really helpful. One of the kind of side effects I get of the ADHD meds is I’ve realised how often I was completely driven by having sugar. And I would always go to chocolate or whatever, and need that to get through me through the day. And now I find once the meds were off later on in the day, I suddenly realised that I have an urge to eat sugar. But I try and have a decent meal, like a protein-based meal around five or six, and then I don’t have those urges as much. So yes, it does, part of me because I’m a bigger person, does think I wonder if things would have been different had I been on ADHD meds before then. But it doesn’t matter. Here we are. So, I just wanted to mention there about the water and the protein because it really does make a difference.
One thing that I learnt and actually I don’t feel like I was told a lot by the people who were taking the meds, is don’t mix them with cold and flu meds. So essentially, whenever I get a bad cold and I need to take cold or flu meds, I’m gonna have to decide between taking the meds for the brain or taking the meds for the body. Because if you take them both together, it tends to give, well, for me, it gives my heart a bit of a, it feels very anxious and like my heart’s racing, and it’s something to do with decongestants and ADHD meds. So that is something to consider, especially as we’re going into flu season and cold season.
And I also wanted to touch on what it doesn’t do. Because a lot of people I see are worried about going on ADHD meds because they think it’s going to change them as a person for the worse. And again, this is just my personal experience. There have been little side effects, like when my meds were off, there is some irritability. When I wasn’t quite on the right dose, there was some anxiety. But as a person, it hasn’t changed who I am. In fact, if anything, it’s allowed me to be more the parts of me that I like. Because I’m not having this constant internal argument with myself, and constantly feeling so low and self-esteem and things like that, I’m able to do more of the things that I want to be doing. And I’m able to embrace more of the fun, playful things that I want to do. One of the things ADHDers often have is a kind of a childlike appreciation of fun and things like that, and being bit silly. And I’ve been able to do that a bit more. So, I don’t feel like it’s changed me. I’m sure people around me would say it means that all you do is talk about ADHD. And there is an element of that. But I think has given me more confidence. I think it has made my self-esteem better. And I’m more likely to go for things that would have scared me before, not out of impulsivity or anything but probably from that confidence and that self-esteem and things like that. I will say I’m not suddenly I think in my head, I sort of hoped that I would suddenly become super organised and tidy and I’m not. I just now I have more accessibility to the toolkit that helps me do some of these things.
So, because my brain isn’t constantly rooting me to the sofa, I can do a little bit more. But you still have to be conscious of what you’re gonna be doing. So because I have better focus now, or more control of my focus, that tends to make me work more, rather than do any of the house tidying or cleaning. So that is something I’m working on. If you have listened to on the previous episodes, you will hear that I’m working with my friend Susie, who is a decluttering coach. So, we are working on that side of things. Because ADHD means I’m impulsive. I buy lots of things. Don’t take me to Poundland, because I will go mad and buy all the things in there. And I’m still not great with processes and workflows and things like that. But I’m now able to either get the help that I need with those, or ask for the help or find other ways of doing things and reframing things to be more motivated to do them. So, it haven’t fixed those areas. I’m not suddenly like Mrs. Hench, or, like, suddenly, really healthy and Mrs. Hench, I guess. But I feel like it has allowed me, a bit like with when people take antidepressants, sometimes it allows them then to implement some of the things that give them better support for their mental health. So better habits and things like that. That’s what I feel like it’s done.
So yeah, I just wanted to share that because I think there are quite a few things there, especially things like people worrying about that it will change them or it will numb them. And that is why we need to try different things and see what works. And that people will think it’ll be the magical fix that will fix everything. It won’t. But it means that you have easier access to the things that can improve your life.
So yeah, I hope that was helpful. I’m sharing this because it’s ADHD Awareness Month. And I know lots of people will say, oh, well, we don’t need awareness of ADHD. I am still having conversations almost every week, easily. Every week, I’m having conversations with a new person who’s going, Oh my God, I think I might have ADHD or Oh my God, like, that’s me. I’ve always struggled with those things and I just thought I was stupid, lazy, all these words that we have. This is why we need awareness of it. Particularly for women who often have the inattentive type who have gone, they’ve never been diagnosed, they’ve never been picked up at school. And now perhaps they’re having families or working later on in life, or even the menopause, which makes it worse. I talk about it because of those people. I talk a bit about it because I want other people to feel more normal. Not, normal isn’t the right word. But I want them to feel less alone. That’s the word I’m going for. I don’t want them to feel alone anymore. I think normal is the word that I came up with there because I have had sessions with people recently where they’ve come away and said, I feel normal for the first time because I’ve had this conversation and other people feel like this. I guess that’s what I’m going to go with.
Anyway, ramble over. I hope you found that useful. But do drop me a message on Instagram. I’m on there as Emma Cossey. You can find the links in the bio. I’m more than happy to chat about these sort of things. I’m quite transparent about it. That is an ADHD trait I think, not always being able to filter things. But hopefully in this case, it’s useful. Right, have a lovely week, everybody and I hope you find a way to support your needs, whether it’s ADHD or just being neurotypical and struggling with things and then find a way to fully support your own mental health and the way that you want to work.