Adult ADHD

ADHD: The choice to say no to medication.

On the one hand, I want to respect the right of each individual to select their own mental health/ADHD treatment, and make their own choices. I think that’s very important. I do also understand that medication isn’t necessarily a hole-in-one for everyone who tries it, even though it is the most effective treatment for the most people with ADHD. And of course, medication can come with side-effects, which can be more or less tolerable, depending on the person and the side-effect. Treatment of any kind isn’t guaranteed to work.

That said for the most part (there are, of course, exceptions), the people I know with ADHD, who don’t take medication, have pretty stressful lives. And it’s easy not to notice the impact your choices may have on other people, when you are struggling to keep up with yourself.

Some of the folks I refer to have been diagnosed, and by professionals whose opinions I feel are as sound could be expected in the weird world of psychology and psychiatry. Some of the folks I refer to aren’t diagnosed, but I’m taking what I feel is a pretty good guess that their notable, obvious impulsivity and lack of boundaries suggest possible ADHD involvement. Some of them are self-described as “probably” having ADHD.

But of course – I’m not speaking science here, I’m speaking anecdote. I’m a blogger, not a researcher. I’m speaking opinion – because I’m not actually arrogant enough to think that my generalizations are more than they are. But at this point, when I hear people say things like “oh yeah, I used to take medication for that!” or “I don’t need meds because alcohol helps me relax” or “I stopped eating gluten and it cured my ADHD” or “ADHD doesn’t exist, they’re just oppressing the children!” or “My ex-wife said she thought I might have ADHD, but I totally don’t!” or any number of other completely mind-blowing denial statements that I’ve heard…my reaction doesn’t have to be scientific. When I’m on the receiving end of inappropriate, invasive, toxic behavior choices from folks who say things like this, and who CLEARLY have no clue about their behavior (and that their behavior should be embarrassing enough for them to just stop doing it)…when I am on the receiving end of an addict’s ridiculous behavior and I know that they have knowingly rejected mental health treatment…when I am receiving repeated harassment from a fellow volunteer on a community project who is repeatedly insulting to other people (including myself) on the project and yet rarely follows through on their own portion…when you show up at my place of business drunk…when you try to blame your actions on others, because you apparently cannot own the responsibility…when you make stuff up to fill in the holes…when you refuse to read any actual information about the mental health issues you may be experiencing…I am SO DONE.

I really am.

Y’all can choose “natural remedies” and explain away the science that indicates what will actually help most of us. You can exercise instead of going to therapy. Go nuts with supplements and yoga, please. It’s certainly not going to make the situation worse. Meditation, fabulous, personally, I can’t stand it, but some people loooove it and get some benefit from it. Choose nothing, if that’s what appeals to you. But I also have the freedom and the right to choose to remove you from my life. Permanently. With no regrets. If I happen to decide that what you are doing to me is toxic. I might tell you why – but it’s more likely that I’ll just disappear, because I’m tired of your exhausting, bullshit behavior. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t deserve it. I don’t have to put up with it.

I know that until I tried medication, specifically, I literally did not have the capacity to understand the concept of focus, and everything that can mean. I did not know what it was like to be able to shut insistent impulses off. I did not know what it might be like to experience peace. I also didn’t understand how eccentric some of my behavior might appear.

I did tell my therapist years ago that even if I never took another dose of medication, I was grateful for having tried it, because it opened up whole concepts to me that I had no ability to access otherwise. Of course, I continue to take medication…because I’ve tried life with it, and I’ve tried life without it. I’m kind of an asshole when I don’t take it, frankly. And…apparently I’m not alone, judging from some of the behaviors I’ve been on the receiving end of, recently.

If you’re going to choose a treatment program of some kind that doesn’t involve medication, you’d better have a really supernatural ability to adhere to that program. Results, indeed, may vary. Different meds may impact different people. But if you choose to live in total denial, I don’t have to have anything to do with you. Good luck. Life is hard enough without a wagon full of self-centered jackholes. I need to lighten my load.

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6 thoughts on “ADHD: The choice to say no to medication.

  1. Katy, I don’t know what I would do if you didn’t exist. Sometimes I feel as though I’m going mad, and then a notification shows up that you blogged, and probably because we both float around in this ADHD universe, what you say always seems to be something I have been thinking about. My question for you after reading this, do you think you have strong reaction to others with mental health struggles because you’re trying so hard to be proactive and educated about yours? Sometimes I put an expectation on myself to be more understanding of someone with obvious wiring issues, but I think I have less tolerance than most. My husband can dismiss someone as “cooky” and go on with his life, and I find myself with stronger reactions to untreated mental health adults. I thought it was because I work with ADHD kids, and I won’t work with some deserving kids because of the conflict that comes with their parents, but reading this post validates to me that it has more to do with my tolerance for that drama, then how they will affect their kids ability to be successful with my program.

    • If I didn’t already respond to this with a thank you, I certainly meant to – thank you for reading :) I think you are right, I think that I resent what I perceive to be the lack of effort of others, because I work very hard to do what I perceive to be “the right thing”. Of course, there’s a little arrogance embedded in that whole mindset, because who am I to know what’s right for another person. It is frustrating to work to try to stay on an even keel though, and have to rebuff the inappropriate behavior of others.

  2. I always feel really conflicted reading things like this. I am unmedicated–I was on stimulant meds for 2 periods, one when I was a child, one when I was a teenager (I’m 26 now). Both times I tried multiple medications and experienced intolerable side effects with all of them. Since I was diagnosed early in life, I’ve had years of cognitive-behavioral therapy & organizational coaching (including as an adult), and I think I’ve benefited from them a lot. I would never try to navigate life without attempting to apply the strategies I’ve learned, but of course my success in applying them is spotty. Actually one of the most relieving things about becoming familiar with the ADHD blogosphere for me has been to see that even people who are medicated still struggle with their symptoms and to implement their coping strategies. I try to be very conscious of how my stuff affects others. I think I’m not too much of a trainwreck because I’m supporting myself financially with no complaints from my employers and I have a happy, stable relationship & friendships, but things could certainly be a lot better. I have toyed with the idea of trying meds again since there are more & better options than 10 years ago (and since I’m now a fully-matured adult and could probs tolerate them better). But I work with children and it would absolutely not be workable for me to experience the same mood/emotional side effects that I had previously while I’m responsible for them. These decisions are hard.

    • Yes…I understand what you are saying, and I really debating even posting this post. But then I reminded myself that I am always blogging from a personal perspective. I went back to make one edit that was a little more allowing of the fact that indeed, people like you exist. There are folks who can mostly function without medication, and indeed, we who take medication also struggle (I’m struggling myself, at the moment…again..arrrgh…lol). I seem to have an overabundance of a certain type of untreated soul in my life right now. Lost people who are resistant to the possibility that treatment of any kind could help them, resistant to the idea that ANY treatment, really, could help them…and who refuse to accept responsibility for the fact that their behavior is abusive to others at worst, and stressful for others to deal with, at best. If you are already able to write the response that you wrote to my post (which I appreciate), you’re not part of the problem. As you say yourself, you may want to examine if your strategies are working for you (like I have to again, right now) and figure it out from there. I’ve got some really obnoxious characters in my atmosphere right now. I really do feel for them…and I see that they struggle…and I love and care about them very much…but I can’t bear the weight and the injury of their wreckage any more. That’s the place that this post came from – and I certainly meant no offense, or absolutes.

      • No offense taken! It seemed clear that you were talking about maybe some people who you know specifically & people who categorically don’t take responsibility for their shit. I was just sort of musing about how the question of whether to try meds again–which I was reminded of by this post–is a tough one for me . . . maybe in a personal fashion that would’ve been more appropriate for a blog of my own than for yours. :) Sorry you’re dealing with difficult characters & thanks as always for writing.

  3. Actually it’s not correct to say that I’m totally unmedicated; I’m on Wellbutrin, which is an antidepressant (which I also need) and also is supposed to have some effect on ADHD symptoms–less than stimulant meds, though.

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