Dealing With Adult ADHD

I have only been medicated for four months now. I’m on Adderall, low dosage. I have to take it twice a day because it only lasts for up to five hours. “Up to” being a key word, as I was told that some people may only get three or four hours at best out of it. I didn’t notice any difference for the first few days, but I did toward the end of that week. It was incredible for me.

Have you ever talked to someone who has had some sort of physical ailment for years? Stomach pains, persistent headaches, back pains, etc. If they are lucky enough to one day have that pain removed, I’m sure they’ll tell you something to the effect of “I didn’t know what it felt like to not have the pain”. They became so used to it, it just felt part of their usual physical makeup that they didn’t know they could feel any other way. That’s what it felt like for me, I didn’t know what it was like to not feel distracted all the time.

I didn’t think I had ADHD until about six months ago. Before then I always assumed I was just a slacker, that I lacked the mental fortitude that others had. I was just lazy, and it was all my fault. Times when things went south at work, the reason I couldn’t stay at a job for more than 18 months, any time I failed or struggled with a task, I was just being lazy. I just wasn’t trying hard enough, enough though I felt like I was trying my hardest to remain focused. Imagine you are standing at a window and you are tasked with looking though the window and making sense of what you see. One problem you face is the glass is dirty and riddled with cracks. Not just a few smudges, it looks like the glass was made from half sand and half dirt. You can see some stuff, but you really have to strain to see. Some days it seems like no matter what you do you just can’t make sense of anything on the other side. People are getting frustrated that you can’t just tell them what’s on the other side. Someone else walks up to the same window, squints a little, then exclaims “Oh! That’s so easy” and they have it all figured out. That only frustrates you, person after person comes up to show you just how easy it is. Why can’t you do it too?

Enter the medicine, and suddenly the glass is clean and whole. You may not immediately make sense of what you see, but you can finally see clearly. That’s what it feels like. Things that I had tried to learn before, concepts I struggled with for over a month, were now clicking in just an afternoon. Now, instead of feeling guilty over not being able to be as good as others I struggle with feelings of not being able to cut it on my own. Now I require pills to just think properly on a consistent basis.

Before you judge that I am lazy, let me tell you why I hate feeling as though others expect the pills work 24 hours a day. They don’t, they are a very low dosage. Part of a person’s brain is like a store. That store is the section for creativity, productivity, motivation, and mental stamina for writing code. Some people have a store that is open 24 hours and offers high-end products, others may not be as high quality but they are still open late. My brain? It’s run by monkeys, and not the cute and smart kind. The pills chase away the monkeys and make sure the store is open running from 8 AM to 5 PM, but after that I’m out of luck. There are some days where I can do some work in the evening, but most days my mental store just isn’t open. No matter how badly I want it to be, it just isn’t there for me. Sometimes people expect me to be able to work late. My doctor told me to not take a pill after 7 PM and I only get two pills per day. So what window of time do I sacrifice to the non-productive monkeys? The pills aren’t an on/off situation. They don’t start immediately and just suddenly quit at the end of the five hours. They work gradually, so I really only get two to three hours at my “peak”.

Most days that I don’t take my pill, it is mentally exhausting to just try to not completely waste time. I will open up my editor, stare at my screen, read my open tickets, and I just don’t have the mental energy to write a single line. No matter what I do to try to mentally prepare or motivate myself, nothing works. Those days are the worst. My better days, I still miss things that I should have caught. Things that I shouldn’t have even written, and usually I don’t when I have my pills.

I am broken. If I had a heart problem, no one would mind at all if I took pills for that. If I had a bad leg, no one would think I was being lazy to use a cane. But take a pill because my brain isn’t working like normal? Suddenly, it’s a stigma. It is just as bad with depression or other mental roadblocks. So when I see people admit that they have a problem, I think they are being strong. I stand with them, because I have a problem too. I’m trying to figure my way around, and I’m doing the best I can.

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