It’s been one HECK of a journey.
Now, at 31, I’ve been on ADD (attention deficit disorder) medication since I was 12 (almost 20 years), and it wasn’t until last year that I ever even thought about going off of them.
As a kid (age 12 and under), I couldn’t focus and struggled with frustration, and was unengaged and so behind. At the time (1999) the best solution for a kid who couldn’t focus was (and in many ways still is) to prescribe amphetamines. So, that’s what was recommended to me, and I started the drugs and just like that, I was able to study and excel In so many ways that I hadn’t been able to (ever). Success after success started coming my way, and for the first time it felt easy.
Fast forward nearly 20 years, anxiety was at an all time high (I wasn’t an anxious kid- high strung maybe, but never anxious), but I was working at a pace that I could keep up with, and client after client and opportunity after opportunity just kept rolling in, so I absolutely wasn’t going to change anything…
Or so I thought…
In June of 2018 I was diagnosed with my first melanoma (had many excisions and irregular/atypical moles and surgeries prior to), and truly, it shook me to my core. So I knew I had to make SOME change- I just wasn’t sure which.
At the time, I had spent SO much time feeling stressed, unhappy and terribly anxious, and couldn’t seem to get out of my own way, so Paul (my wonderful boyfriend) suggested I try backing off the Adderall.
My reply: “FUCK NO” …. Lol, but at the same time I had also been getting more immersed in holistic healing and had read the MANY articles, books, on how damaging this medication can be for the nervous system, and how frequently infection/imbalance can rear its ugly head as anxiety, depression or something of the sort.
So against the suggestion of my doctor (who is a terrific doc- I can’t blame him for this), I started to wean off the medication. My therapist at the time also said to me that I should consider going REALLY SLOWLY down on the meds- something that’s not often well advised or encouraged. I heard her in the back of my mind, and so with an immense amount of fear for weight gain, lack of focus, and loss of “me,” I started the process, inching down similar to how it would be done coming off a psychotropic drug (anti-depressant etc).
For me, the first few notches down felt easy, and happy. I felt like myself again- happier, less anxious, more readily able to enjoy the PRESENT… something I hadn’t felt like I could do for some time (note- that this was over a 6 month time span that I cut the meds in half). Things were good and I went slow and it felt good. It wasn’t until I got into reducing my meds to the last few doses that things got REAL.
A few years ago I wrote a post about my experience getting off birth control- and had before felt TOTALLY exhausted, stressed, and out of balance- but like many traumatic events, I had blocked them out. Looking back, one day I remember thinking to myself “shit, I’ve been here before” – though it didn’t feel exactly the same, it felt SO similar- exhausted, depressed, period out of whack, INSOMNIA, crazy anxiety, anger, and a REALLY angry body.
My body was SO angry (those of you who follow along on Instagram saw my conversations about it). I’ve always had MANY food intolerances and sensitivities, but holy shit- this was unreal. So in the midst of it all I decided I was going to turn over every single rock I could to help my body through this, and went to my terrific functional immunology doc, who agreed that there was something up (and frankly probably had always been) with my immune system, and that we needed to look deeper.
She also suggested that I start a thyroid support – compounded thyroid hormone to help me off the meds (and seriously I’m thankful EVERY DAY she did this for me- these meds can ZAP your adrenal and thyroid function so it’s normal to sort of bottom out when coming off of them). You see, so many docs take thyroid labs that are totally incomplete and don’t paint a full picture, and if a regular doc had been looking at my thyroid labs they too would have said I was “perfect” or “fine” but I felt like SHIT and had all symptoms of under active thyroid (and fair enough!), not to mention that the lab values were really not ideal (although “fine” and maybe “perfect” in some docs eyes). So we started the thyroid, which made my body a little more angry in the start (when you make the thyroid more active after it hasn’t been, sometimes we end up with more sensitivity because our body is actually processing vs standing still.
So let’s fast-forward a little- sluggish thyroid, poor toxin processing, and many years of attention deficit meds and I was a freaking mess. But somehow dragging myself through my days and performing the best I could, but I could do little more than collapse before/during/at the end of the day. I was sharing with you guys a bit on Instagram but I wasn’t being totally truthful of how it really felt- no sex drive, feelings of hopelessness, exhaustion, insomnia, and serious fears of how I would ever make it to the other side. In short, miserable- but with time, and healing things slowly started to shift and feel more mamageable.
Truly, it seemed that suddenly my body was more receptive and capable of healing, and just like that things started to feel easier (most days)- like sleep, exercise and more (but I also got more intensified with hormone and gut health- more on this later- let’s keep this simple for this post).
Through the process I’ve left many things behind, but have gained many things:
#1. My inner voice is BACK! Through the fog of ADD meds, I completely lost my abilty to listen to myself, hear what I REALLY wanted to do and what I didn’t- because my crazy anxiety always got in the way and I silenced myself most of the time.
#2. I’m prioritizing totally differently… aka there’s a life outside of work! And it’s OK (and in fact really important) to have BOTH!
#3. My body is my temple- and I love this thing more than I ever have. I was totally freaked out along the way that I wouldn’t be “myself” again- that I wouldn’t look like me, feel like me. But it’s feeling better than ever. And I love parts of me that I never loved so much before.
#4. My brain works BETTER off the meds… LOL! One of the first few things I noted was that my brain feels the SAME if not better pretty quickly getting off the meds (now there are days but more often than not).
#5. Supplements and high dose vitamins/minerals have gotten me through this. Seriously, almost entirely (yeah yeah food first, but I’d NEVER be where I am without them- screw all you naysayers).
#6. KNOWLEDGE! Through my research-and experience, it turns out that inflammation from food/environmental allergens can be a major driver of ADD/ADHD—so parents/docs PLEASE test your kids and patients for EVERYTHING (especially if they’re a kid like me who had terrible asthma as a child) before assigning the daily dose of ADD meds. Since coming off these meds I never realized how angry my body was, to what I “thought” was good for me- turns out I have an anaphylaxis to all nuts and most tree nuts (this is NOT new but somehow the meds speeded my body along so swiftly that I couldn’t feel this)- and am absolutely allergic to citrus as well- two I never knew about. I am hopeful the citrus will improve, but the nuts actually cause my body extreme inflammation and honestly I’ve been feeding them to myself all my life—and have had many times when I felt tight chest- which now is intensified, but my poor body under the surface was suffering so much.
That aside, there are SO many key nutrients that your body/brain can benefit from if you have ADD to try FIRST – see Dr. James Greenblatt’s book Finally Focused – it was a game changer for me.
Here’s my message to you if you’re considering getting off meds/struggling or in the process to get off of them.
BE PATIENT. Your body WILL come back to being “yours” and the more intensely you take care of it, the fast it’ll happen. This is an area of my practice I’m expanding, because there is SO MUCH we can do to support this body through the process, and I have received so many messages with questions (support and love too!).
Know this, your body CAN heal, but be relentless in your journey and don’t give up.