Nov 18, 2011

Managing with Meds

Today I'm thankful for medicine.

That sounds weird, right? I don't mean it in a unhealthy, pill-popping kind of way, but more in a it's-amazing-how-medicine-can-help-our-bodies-function-kind-of-way.

I've talked a little bit about what Adult ADHD is, how Ben and I have found a few things that work for us, but there's also a big component of this journey I've been hesitant to talk about. Medication - specifically, medication that's associated with ADHD.* Partially because I'm still learning and I don't want to misspeak about what a medicine can do, but also because there are a lot of stereotypes about medicine for people with ADHD.

Anytime I mention the words ADD or ADHD to someone and the word medicine is thrown around, the first word out of someone's mouth is Ritalin. Ritalin (technically methylphenidate), is used to treat a number of things - ADHD, narcolepsy, sometimes even depression. It increases activity to the central nervous system, and can help keep your attention focused. It's a controlled substance, so it has to be used cautiously and of course prescribed by a doctor, but if used correctly it can help. However, it's not the only medicine that can be used in conjunction with ADHD - just the most commonly known.

Ben took Ritalin for years and saw the benefits of it. He doesn't take it anymore - not because it stopped working, but because he found something that worked better for him. I won't get into the names of what exactly he takes, but through trial and error, he's found that a controlled substance (to help focus his attention) and an anti-depressant (to narrow his field of emotions), works best for him.

I say trial and error, because it took a long time, and a lot of doctor's visits for him to feel like he's at his best. This was a huge adjustment for me - I didn't know a lot about different types of pills (and trust me, I still don't), and I didn't understand that Ben needed me to talk to him about things he would do - to help him observe his behavior on certain medications.

If I ever had a health problem that needed medicine, I took the medicine and it was solved. But Adult ADHD is not a "quick fix." I've learned Ben needs to see how his body reacts to medicine, and how his behavior impacts others (through feedback from me), so he could talk about it with his doctor.

It's interesting, because for as much as an impact as Adult ADHD has on Ben, it has an (albeit smaller), impact on me as well. I had to train myself to pick up on little things, like how he reacted to information. There was a medicine we thought was great at one point, but then realized he was having extreme emotional reactions - his highs were really high, and his lows were really low. When we discovered it wasn't working for him he discussed it with his doctor and she lessened the dosage.

There are plenty of ways to work with Adult ADHD that's not medicine based - herbs, a regimented schedule, exercise, diet, etc. These can be combined with medicine or done on their own. You have to find what works for you.

I would never begrudge anyone their coping strategies - I'm not claiming to have the answers to anything. But for us? Medicine works. And for that I'm thankful.

If you have ADD or ADHD have you found medicine to be helpful? Why or why not? What are you thankful for today?

*I asked Ben if I could blog about this - his response was "of course, I don't care!" but I wanted to make sure I did this justice - because it's not just part of his story now, it's part of mine too. Anything I express in this post is my opinion, and should not be taken for medical fact. (If you think you might have ADD or ADHD consult a physician - i.e. not me!)


Brittany said...

It sounds like my youngest brother is on a very similar regimen to Ben's (with the controlled substance/anti-depressant.) Our family had many crazy years while we tried to find the thing that worked best for him! He's more stable now as an adult, but as a kid he was a completely different person when he didn't take his medicine, just out of control. Medicine has definitely been really helpful.

Today I am thankful for Florence and the Machine's new CD. Random :)

Sarah said...

Becky, I appreciate your honesty in this post. I think there is a lot of stigma about medications for a variety of things, which is too bad because medications can really be one of the many tools in the toolkit to help people feel better. I'm thankful for my mom. After becoming a mom, I see all the sacrifices she took on for me and my sister :)

EmbellishedbyEmily said...

You know what I think about ADD and ADHD?

I feel like the people who are able to sit and focus for an entire day are the strange ones.

Think about it. Organized all-day school has only been around for 100 years or so. Office jobs? 200ish years. Humans have been around for millions of years. Humans (especially human children) are not SUPPOSED to sit still and listen intently. They're supposed to be out working, plowing, growing/hunting their food. Building homes, playing, etc. It's no wonder so many people in developed nations have this gripping condition.

If Ben's ADHD makes him feel out of control or sad, etc., then he should OF COURSE do whatever it takes to make him feel better. However, I DO hope he doesn't ever feel abnormal or messed up or hopeless for being a different kind of person. He's just trying to fit into a society that isn't necessarily built for him :)

Does that make sense? It's hard to say things through typing. And Lord knows I've been on my share of meds, so I am EVERSOTHANKFUL for medicine as well. And I'm thankful for days off. I will be in Kentucky for 10 days for Thanksgiving :)

We must MUST get together soon...

Amber said...

I REALLY like the above comment! What an interesting point!

I'm glad that you guys figured out something that works for you. That's what's most important. I've never been on any kind of medicine like that but I certainly don't question it's value in some people's lives.

Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields said...

Oooh, I like Emily's comment too. I struggle with the idea of medicine. I think some children and adults do need it, but I think that too many people jump right to it.

But, with that being said...

Over the summer I finally started anti anxiety medication and it took me almost FOUR years to make the decision. I just thought I could do it on my own. I found out I couldn't.

I think medication is a very personal decision that should not be made lightly. Unfortunately, many times it is. Especially with children. :(

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I do not struggle w/ ADHD, but my brother did and he was on meds in high school and it was very helpful for him!

Agnes said...

Depending on drugs to treat a condition could lead to dependency and that is something that we should prevent from happening. I have read a lot about how a healthy diet and lifestyle can help those with ADHD. If you just read more about it you will be amazed how efforts alone can do the job.

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