The Best Thing Anyone Ever Said About ADHD Medication

By Rick Green

I’ve stopped and started taking ADHD medication four times.

The first time I started was nearly 15 years ago.

The fourth time I started medication was yesterday.

Over the next month, I’ll tell the story of each start & stop. Each time I started was for a different reason. Each time I stopped was for a different reason.

But today, I want to talk about why I stopped taking medication the second time, and why I started again. Because it was the only time I succumbed to pressure and other people’s opinions.

She Wasn’t A Fan

Rick Green and Ava Green, TotallyADD, producers, co-foundersIn this case, it was the only opinion that really mattered to me. My wife’s opinion.

Ava and I had worked together for 15 years on The Red Green Show. In 2007 we married. The caterer told us that in all his years of handling weddings, he had never seen such a happy couple.

At that point I was no longer taking medication. Why had I stopped?

After all, this little pill, this dopamine booster, actually worked for me.

It was much better than my old ADHD medication: 6 cans of cola per day, and the adrenaline rush of taking on a thousand things at once.

On medication, I could stick with things that I didn’t want to do. Interruptions were less frustrating. I could focus on what was important. Prioritize. My memory was better. I didn’t have to read things 5 times. And it even helped with my motor mouthing and interrupting.

But Ava wasn’t a fan of me taking medication. You should understand that Ava was vegetarian, sometimes vegan, heavily into yoga, and rarely, if ever took medication. Ava wasn’t pushy about her lifestyle. She was simply into healthy living.

Whereas I… [Awkward clearing of throat.] Hey, potato chips are made from a vegetable!

So while Ava didn’t come right out and say it, I knew she was not pleased that I was taking Ritalin every morning. “Do you still need to take that?” Ironically, she had no strong opinion about the thyroid pill I took every morning as well.

It’s Cheating

At this point, our documentary ADD & Loving It?! was just one idea out of 30, that I was developing. So this was before we’d interviewed 75 ADHD experts for TotallyADD.com. This was before we knew that ADHD medication had 1st been used in 1937, and that the long-term effects are pretty well understood.

There was still this feeling that taking medication was kind of cheating. After all, everyone feels overwhelmed at times. And I was worried that it might have some long-term effect on my liver, brain, heart, or, well, who knows what?!

Ava’s vague concerns became my vague concerns. Plus everything was going well.

So… I stopped. Cold.

That’s the beauty of stimulant medication. I didn’t have any severe withdrawal symptoms. Perhaps a slight headache for a day. Far less than the ones I’ve had whenever I’ve stopped drinking coffee.

And then we started making ADD & Loving It?! It was exciting. Mind expanding. We realized early on that this was going to change lives. Including our own.

Patrick McKenna, ADHD documentary, ADD & Loving It?!, best ADHD videoThe film follows comedian Patrick McKenna, and his fabulous wife Janis, as he went through the diagnostic process. Along the way, Patrick and I were fortunate to meet and interview some amazing ADHD experts.

Near the end of filming, I spent an entire afternoon interviewing Patrick and Janis. They talked about everything they had gone through, what they were learning, and what the future might bring.

My final question to Patrick was, “How do you feel about medication now that you’ve heard from all of these experts?”.  Patrick admitted that in the past, he had bought into the myths he’d heard from other people who had no idea themselves.

Opinion vs. Reality

Now that he had the facts, now that we had interviewed so many experts, now that he and Janis had done a great deal of reading, Patrick said that he was looking forward to trying medication.

He said he was looking forward to experiencing that calm that other people talk about, but that he had never known. I smiled and nodded. Been there done that. ‘Good answer,’ I thought.

Rick Green, Patrick McKenna, ADHD documentary, ADD & Loving It?!But for Ava, his answer was like a bolt of lightning. A revelation.

Patrick had never experienced the kind of calm that she had regular access to? And not just calm that comes from growing up on a farm, or doing yoga, but staying calm while waiting in line, listening to a conversation, or doing a boring chore.

That night, after reminding me of what Patrick had said about ‘experiencing calm,’ Ava said, ‘I realize that I have no idea what it’s like for you. I cannot imagine what that must be like to not experience being calm. If you need to take medication, if it helps you, then you should take it.’

‘But Ava, you’re against medication on principle.’

She took my hand and said, ‘My opinion does not trump your experience of life.’

Wow!

Tears welled up in my eyes. She wasn’t saying, ‘I understand.’

She was saying, ‘I will never understand. But I do respect your choice.’

I started taking medication again. And life got simpler.

‘My opinion does not trump your experience of life.’

Imagine if everyone in your life who has a very strong, or negative opinion about ADHD medication, and that may actually be everyone in your life, said to you, ‘My opinion does not trump your experience of life. Do what’s right for you. I don’t want you to suffer for no good reason.’

What do you think of that?

 

 

8 Replies to “The Best Thing Anyone Ever Said About ADHD Medication”

  1. I had much the same experience as Ava. I was driving my son, who had had shoulder surgeries and was on painkillers for the long trip home. We were on a two day trip and were having various car ttroubles. He calmly leaned back in his passenger seat and said, “oh, Mom, is this how other people feel most of the tme?” It kind of broke my heart.

  2. I love the honesty between the two of you and with your readers. Acceptance of differences in functioning and out experiences in life make for a much better world. Thank you for this gift. I look forward to reading future posts about being on and off meds. Both my son and I go back and forth listening to our internal voices and those around us who have opinions about ADHD and medication. Always good to hear from another tribe member to balance the skeptics who have no idea….

  3. I was diagnosed with ADD about 8 years ago at 50. So far I have tried every medication going, and every time something new comes out, I try it. Up to this point, I unfortunately have had no results – no changes, no calm. I assume I am one of the fairly small percentage for whom ADHD meds don’t work. I find this frustrating, but accept it, because I can’t change it.

    But oh I long to know what that feeling of “calm” is. To have a quiet brain, to sit down to a task and complete it (not over 18 hours in a fit of hyperfocus!). But mostly, just to feel what it’s like to be “normal” (and I say that tongue-in-cheek).

    At least having a diagnosis helps me understand why I am how I am, why I do (or don’t do) what I do. It helps me find ways to manage it, because I understand it.

    My ex-husband was also diagnosed around the same time (we were still together then). He is not a fan of medication, and wouldn’t give ADHD meds a fair run. Some days he didn’t think he even had ADHD (which I knew he REALLY did!), some days he thought he might have it, but didn’t think he should have to have medication to “fix” it. I found it very frustrating that he could potentially find some relief, or clarity, or help with procrastination, but wouldn’t try.

    I look forward to more on your “On again” journey with ADHD meds. 🙂

  4. I think you’ve got a keeper there, Rick. “My opinion does not trump your experience of life” is filled with everything you need: most importantly it’s a completely unselfish statement.

    I wish those who have a *need* to burden us with the force of their opinion – on medication, on even the existence of ADHD itself – would take a few moments and consider that those of us who have it actually have an experience from which to draw.

    I’ve ceased trying to defend or explain ADHD to anyone. it’s a fruitless exercise if we are only going to talk in generalities or abstract thought. Until you’ve been through some of the horrors that we have faced, while all the time thinking “this is just normal; and I must be stupid or something because I’m the only one who seems to have a problem dealing with it”, that other guy will have no empathetic perception of it.

    Eva’s revelation about Patrick’s hope for calm, is so rare and wonderful.

    Maybe that’s it. Maybe we need to stop talking about statistics and other arguable abstracts. Maybe we need to find better ways to relate our experiences in terms non-ADHDers can appreciate. I’ve got a few under my belt but am still looking (probably in vain) for the perfect descriptor.

  5. Thanks @wolfshades.She is indeed a keeper.
    I keep thinking I should stop trying to defend or explain ADHD to anyone, but of course that’s what is behind this website, and every video and blog and posting I’ve done for the past 7 years. The thing I’ve learned, and I talk about this in greater detail in one of my favourite videos, ‘Facing The World’ is that arguing and overwhelming people with facts, facts, facts, doesn’t change minds.
    Follow national politics for 3 minutes to see what I mean.

    And @twitsme, it is not a tiny minority who do not find any benefit from medication. The current thinking is that it’s between 70 and 80% of us who do find they work. And that leaves 20 to 30% who don’t get a benefit. And some of those involve people having a negative reaction because they are also taking medication for other ongoing disorders such as Epilepsy or BiPolar. You’ll find a much deeper discussion on this, including 18 adults sharing their ‘medication stories’ in our new video series. (I’m so proud of it. Every doctor who has seen it loves it. Some are now recommending patients see if before they even begin to discuss medication.

  6. kristinaw’s comment reminded me of when I had a colonoscopy they gave me something which got rid of all the voices – for the first (and only) time – ever. I guess if I ever go back I’ll be the only one they ever had excited about having a telescope shoved up his ass.

  7. I love your wife’s attitude, Rick. Wolfshades is right.
    My husband wasn’t thrilled about me trying medication but he did the reading and research (which was good because that is just not something I do, thank you! LOL.
    The best part? He was more excited and confident that it was okay than I was. Not sure who benefitted the most from me trying medication, him or me? LOL.

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