So I’m watching this documentary about college students taking ADHD pills to get through college. My mind is blown. I have read articles about this, but I guess I didn’t understand how prevalent it really is. The way that these students are talking about this is crazy. It’s so interesting to hear these students describe how it feels to take Adderall, Ritalin, or Vyvanse. It does not feel like that to me.
These people are taking it for this weird warmth and crazy focus. They talked about setting up their books, gum, music, medicine at a library desk and then they would study for 12 straight hours with no breaks. That made me laugh. They talk about surges of energy and feeling more alive than they ever had and seeing everything around them.
My brain just gets quiet. There’s no euphoria like these people describe. I literally just calm down. Sometimes I fall asleep after I take my afternoon dose even. My heart does not race at all, even at this high dose I am on. When I first started taking it, I was really worried about my heart, although there was no medical reason to be. The NP had warned me that my heart rate could go up and I might feel heart palpitations. I kept track of my heart rate often those first few weeks and there was no difference at all. These people abusing it aren’t even thinking about their heart and how they might hurt themselves. It’s just about pressure to be the best at everything, which is just a really sad commentary on life in this country.
This documentary is talking about how adults are the majority of the population prescribed Adderall. How strange. I feel like they are talking about adults under 30. I don’t know anyone else personally that’s my age and taking anything for ADHD. I know tons of people self medicating with caffeine. I used to use Red Bull blue to get by. It was not 100% effective, but it got me through MANY staff meetings in the military that I couldn’t otherwise tolerate.
As a teenager, I adopted my parents’ mentality that ADD/ADHD wasn’t real; that it was just kids being kids, specifically boys being boys. It seemed like it was mostly boys getting diagnosed. But I knew I had been struggling in school for as long as I could remember. If it was something I wanted to do, I could do it forever. But I remember certain things in second grade, like this terrible math thing my teacher loved called pocket charts. The math problems were on cards that were tucked into little pockets that hid the answers. During reading group time, you did seat work when you weren’t in your reading group. That’s when we had to do the pocket charts. I remember sharpening my pencil as much as I could get away with at the big sharpener, running around my desk secretly, and playing with my tiny pencil sharpener and erasers. I think I did finish most of my work, but I remember rushing through it and fighting this feeling of irritation on the inside. At recess, I ran nonstop. I just spent the entire time running. At home, I was hyper. I lived outside, on my bike, jumping off my bike every time I needed to get off of it. I was always in trouble because I talked too much, I was too energetic, and I could not sit still. It was the worst at my grandmother’s. I would slouch in a living room chair. Sigh loudly. Say “Mooooooooooooommmmm” as quietly as possible, which wasn’t all that quiet. My hyperactivity was in direct conflict with my grandmother’s belief that children should be seen and not heard. I got spanked often in the back room for upsetting my grandmother. Hell, I got spanked often period.
My parents led and still lead a very rigid, structured life. They go to bed at the same time every night, eat the same lunch every single day, and have a rotation of the same dinners that they make consistently. This rigid lifestyle was actually helpful for me as I didn’t have to manage myself at all. But it hurt me at the same time. I could not regulate myself at all once I wasn’t in their home. In college, I was a mess. I lost important papers, like the class syllabi for every single class. I couldn’t sit still to read and often chose to watch movies or walk around campus instead. I managed to play sports and pass my classes, but the classes that were the hardest for me, I sometimes just didn’t go. I only went to bed at a reasonable time because my roommate did. I studied when she studied, unless I left the room before she got back in the evenings. And then I just didn’t study. I went into college premed, but the classes I needed to do well in for med school were the ones I was skipping and getting Cs in. I felt so stupid because I had done better in high school. Duh, of course. My parents were in control of my every movement. On my own, I had no idea how to manage myself.
As a young adult after college, I struggled to find a decent job because I didn’t think I could handle a real job or grad school. So I worked jobs that didn’t even require a college degree. I was eating M&Ms for dinner most nights. Thinking back to my early 20s makes me cringe. I thought I was such an adult, but I wasn’t. I really, really wasn’t. I was essentially a 10 year old in an adult body.
This documentary is really weird to me. This dude was taking like 100 mg of Adderall A DAY. HOLY SHIT. That sounds so scary to me. How can anyone even get that much? The process I go through just to get what I need is annoying. I can only get 30 days worth of Adderall IR at a time. The NP sends three prescriptions over through an electronic system and then I have to call the pharmacy every month to get those filed prescriptions. Only the first month is dispensed right away. Now, I have missed doses and gotten ahead that way, but I don’t pick up the next bottle until I need it. There’s no way I will ever abuse this medication because the health risks for me are just too much. I just want to be able to minimally function, not experience euphoria or feel hyped up. I cannot even imagine how much I would need to feel euphoric.
Real ADHD has been hard for me to accept and learn to live with. I didn’t want to have anything “wrong” with me. I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t perfect and couldn’t handle life at least as well as everyone else. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, even though I now can find things I like about having ADHD. The hard parts always seem to loom over the handful of good things I have figured out about my ADHD.