I was diagnosed with ADHD when I just turned 21. Hearing the diagnosis was a wash of relief. For the first time in my life, I didn’t blame myself for my lack of focus and impulsiveness.
My psychologist watched my reaction with a warm smile. “Asmaa, I highly recommend that you start taking Adderall. It will help you so much with focusing in school.” I complied and went straight to my family physician to get a prescription.
After the first month of taking the pills, I was over the moon. I was able to balance school, work, and friendships with ease. I found myself crying a few times just thinking about how amazing it felt to get work done immediately.
But in my second visit with my doctor, her face was unreadable when she read my current weight. “Asmaa, you lost 10 pounds in one month. This is concerning.” I told her that it was okay, that I just needed more time to get adjusted to the medication. She gave me a hard look but accepted my reasoning. “I just don’t want you losing any more weight.” So, she gave me a refill, and I went on my merry way.
Another two months pass, and I started to get dizzy spells. I ignored them, and pop another 8-hour release pill to focus for the day. Nibbling on a bagel and washing it with coffee, I promised to myself that I’ll buy nutritious food later.
I come back to my mandatory check-up with my doctor, and it’s winter. I wore my heaviest boots and shoved a lot of heavy items into my pockets. I had a bad feeling that I lost weight, so I came prepared.
The nurse led me to the weighing machine, and her eyes darted to my boots. “How heavy are they?” she asked.
“Not heavy at all,” I said.
After a few seconds, I got ready to step on the scale, before she said, “No. I want you to take them off.”
I kick them off and step on the scale. She takes in a sharp breath after seeing my weight and jots it down. It takes all my willpower not to drop my head as I see my doctor.
She asks numerous questions about my weight, how much I eat, etc. and I answer them with white lies. When she asks if I ever experienced dizziness, I say no.
Graduation arrives, and once the celebration finished, my body shuts down. I slept for days, laying off the pills. And for once, I noticed the dark circles under my eyes and my hollow cheeks.
The dark side of Adderall, Retinol, & Concerta
These pills, as much as they benefit me, have a lot of side effects that are detrimental to my health.
While these pills help me focus at school, work, and social settings, they also make it excruciatingly difficult to eat.
Because I wasn’t eating, the pills did more harm than good. It doesn’t matter whether I have ADHD or not — no one can focus on an empty stomach. My stomach was almost always empty, which meant that even while taking ADHD medication, I still wasn’t able to focus.
These side effects really forced me to take a step back and reevaluate my priorities.
Why Changing My Environment Was the Solution
After college, I had a lot more time to myself. I took my time to get ready, dress up, and eat. I didn’t have to spend hours listening to a professor’s lecture, or a group of friends’ debate on their ideal guy.
In a strange way, having alone time lowered my ADHD symptoms. Because I didn’t have to spend most of my day paying attention to the world around me, I could get daily tasks done without any problems. In other words, the solution all along was to change my environment.
Instead of changing myself, I changed my surroundings
Trying to change the way my brain functioned did nothing but bring me insomnia, stress, and (almost) an eating disorder.
Although I still have ADHD symptoms, by making it a point to spend less time in spaces that needed my constant attention, I reduced these symptoms dramatically.
I lean towards introversion, sitting quietly and reading a book, or spending hours putting on makeup. I’ve learned that just because it’s possible to be a social butterfly, doesn’t mean it’s good for my mental health.
And, not being available 24/7 makes others think that your time is valuable, which strangely, makes them respect you more.
This is not to shame those who take ADHD medication
Again, this post isn’t to shame anyone who takes ADHD medication to focus at school, work, or home. This is just my experience taking the medication, and the reasons above are why I don’t take them.