ADHD meds: why they’re not silver bullets

29 Jul

I’ve heard a lot of ADHD people say, “I thought meds would be a silver bullet”. They are generally disappointed, because they aren’t. Because I never had this expectation I never had the disappointment. Instead, I was just wildly excited about how much they did help. But I can certainly see where they’re coming from. Life is so hard because our Executive Functions don’t do so well, but here’s a pill to make them work better. Well, all problems solved, right?

When living with un-medicated ADHD the only way to survive is to come up with strategies to get through life. Generally these strategies include things like solving your difficulty in self-activating by waiting until external motivations force you to get moving (eg. procrastinating until that assignment is due tomorrow), and dealing with stress about your out of control debt by not looking at the bills (which you forgot where you put anyway).

We have to make strategies so we can survive, even if the quality of life is way below par.

Once we fight through getting diagnosed and finding a good balance of the right medication, suddenly our brain seems to be more on our side and we want to believe the strategies are then unnecessary. But a reason there’s no silver bullet is that we still have to learn about our how our medicated brain works and find new strategies, or adapt old strategies, to get us through the day. There’s no magic pill to get the dishes done, get clean clothes in the drawer, and get us to work on time, and odds are you do not do these things habitually if you’ve just gone on ADHD meds.

If we don’t find new strategies, and we’re still using the strategy of, ‘I’ll find out what clothes are clean when I go to get dressed in the morning,’ we may end up waiting for the washer and drier to finish before we can get out the door and we’ll still be late to work even if we did take our meds.

New strategy: I’ll do a load of washing each day and then I’ll know I always have clean clothes. Or, I’ll pick out my outfit before bed so I don’t spend an hour agonising over the decision in the morning. Ok, better. But then, where are my car keys, why is my cell phone on the pantry shelf (it just took 15 minutes to find it there, I may have been contemplating whether or not I had time for breakfast) and I can’t drive my car anyway its registration is a month overdue. And now I’m still an hour or so late for work depending on the bus schedule and whether or not I had to search the house four times over to scrape together a bus fare.

Come on, I’m on meds now. Isn’t life meant to be easier?

The ease of life is dependent on your strategies to get through a day. If your strategies aren’t working you’ll know, because you’ll be pulling your grey hairs out in frustration and trolling the wrinkle cream section at the pharmacy while you wait for that prescription to be filled (unless it’s still in your pocket because you got distracted on your way in).

Just because when you picked your clothes out the night before you were still late to work, don’t throw out the new strategy assuming it’s useless. By itself it’s good. But you actually have to come up with a dozen or more strategies to get to work on time, in clean, ironed, clothes, with everything you need, and having eaten breakfast.

The problem is that strategies, or not using strategies and just going on the fly, become habit. But this also where the potential for a better life hides. All you have to do is create new strategies that unlock your full potential, and stick with them until they’re habit.

Good luck!

In essence it is that easy. In reality, it’s so hard to do, especially as an adult. We’re so set in our ways, and we really like to stick with what we think works, or used to work.

Strategies take time to work out, and time to let go of. And depending on what kind of meds you’re on, you may need to keep old strategies handy for when they wear off. There’s no easy answer, and changing is hard work.

However, there are some awesome resources online to help. Flylady has her routines to help unorganised women; has various classes and teleseminars available; ADD Bootcamp is designed to get you organised; and there’s a plethora of forums and ADHD pages out there with so much advice.

It’s totally worth the fight, and while after 1 week you may not notice a difference, give it 6 or 12 you’ll start to notice with good strategies life does get easier.
Keep smiling 😀

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Posted by on 29/07/2012 in Mental Health


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