I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 28. I'm now 32. It was February 11, 2005. I had gone in looking for the diagnosis, but I definitely wasn't prepared for it to be confirmed! I came home with mixed feelings. Did the diagnosis change who I was? Did it matter? What should I do next?
Well, I went to my GP with my papers and all; since I'd been diagnosed by a psychologist, I needed the GP to prescribe my medication. He stonewalled me (wanted to refer me to a psychiatrist, said, "You've waited this long, you can wait a little longer"), even though the medication I was looking at was Concerta, which is notoriously difficult to abuse!
I changed doctors.
I was put on 36mg Concerta, once a day, to start. It worked pretty well at first, but the rebound was bad and it stopped working well after a while.
So we moved up to 54mg Concerta once a day. That was an experience and a half! I had been told at my assessment that I was using anxiety to compensate for my ADHD symptoms and if I went on much longer without getting help, I would probably develop a full-on anxiety disorder. Well, 54mg Concerta gave me a week-long anxiety attack! Needless to say, I went back to the 36mg dose in short order.
I tried using just natural remedies like 5HTP that summer. I realized it wasn't working the day I managed to talk for a full 45 minutes, non-stop, about two or three different topics while driving my brother home from church. Oops! I called my psychologist, and she suggested I ask the doctor about Dexedrine, because it is often better for people with anxiety.
I was put on 10mg, twice a day, and it was amazing! No rebound, and an instantaneous effect! I had no appetite for three weeks, which wasn't ideal as I tend to forget to eat when I DO get hungry, but aside from that, I loved it. (I also lost about ten pounds, which was a great bonus.)
I stayed on that dose for about six months, then went to talk to my doctor about the problems I was having with getting myself to go to bed. People experienced with having ADHD know that there's this thing called inertia that makes it so we can't change activities. Well, that was happening really badly for a while. The only problem was, the doctor decided that the Dexedrine must be keeping me up, and he switched my medication! (What would have been better was giving me a 5mg dose for after work, to keep the medication in my system until bed time.)
So I was taking 36mg Strattera, once a day. It was okay, but really didn't help me at all. I actually found myself having a difficult time understanding things I read (not good for a consummate reader whose reading comprehension has always been above-average) and making really weird typos (such as typing 'the' as 'eht' and other really weird mistakes that happened both between hands and within the same hand, and I often spelled words completely backwards that were longer than 'the'). Still, I stuck with it for six months.
The day after my 30 birthday, I went to the psychologist again and talked to her about the Strattera. She started to write a note to my doctor about getting me back on Dexedrine with extra 5mg doses, but then decided to have me do a quick assessment for depression. I scored very close to the point where I would have been involuntarily committed due to the severity of my depression.
So, off to the doctor I went, note in hand. Except the note said I needed an antidepressant and no more Strattera. I had to wean off the Strattera, and then I started taking 150mg Wellbutrin, once a day.
Wellbutrin was HELL for me. I spent a week working half-days because I had to be at work for some of the time, but I felt hungry and nauseous ALL THE TIME, and I only felt semi-okay if I was lying flat on my back. The doctor took me off the Wellbutrin pretty quickly and put me on Cipralex instead (it's the Canadian version of Lexapro).
I took Cipralex from October 2006 until May 2008, and was on Dexedrine again for most of 2007. In May I weaned myself off the Cipralex, and I have been med-free ever since. I currently take St John's Wort to help keep my mood stable and check my anxiety.
While I was dealing with all the medication changes, I was also in counseling. I had started it before I got assessed, and was doing a Women's Self-Esteem group at the time. That was very helpful. I stopped counseling in the spring or summer of 2006, I forget which.
So, what do I do now?
I have had a Palm Z22 since the fall of 2005. I use it to keep track of my schedule and my to-do list. I set alarms to remind me to do some things - the alarm serves as a trigger to change activities. I also set an alarm for appointments that goes off an hour and a half before I need to be somewhere, because it takes me about an hour to get out of the house, so that gives me half an hour to get where I'm going.
I have methods for doing things - routines that keep me on track. The structure of my routines helps me manage my ADHD symptoms. The only problem with that is that when my routines get disrupted, I get really flustered and anxious, and then I can end up immobilized.
I used the medication, when I was taking it, to help me focus while I learned the skills I needed in order to manage my time and my life in a more effective manner. Things aren't perfect, but they are much better now than they were when I was trying to get by using anxiety to compensate for my problems.
I'm not anti-medication, either. If I decided I needed more focus, I would go back on Dexedrine without a worry. But I know that I don't need it, so I don't bother. I think that if you can use medication the way I did, to help you focus while you learn the skills you need, and then you are able to stop using it, that's great! I am also very aware, however, that a lot of people simply aren't able to stop taking the medication. It's different for everyone, and we all need to do what makes the most sense for us.