Without any exaggeration I can say whole-heartedly that ADHD medication has transformed my life. 30mg of Elvanse (lisdexamphetamine) to be precise. I will never forget that first morning and the feeling of calm and clearheadedness that I experienced; a feeling I don’t remember having before, in the 45 years leading up to it. I instantly felt happy, elated and most importantly – focused.
For as long as I can remember, my head has been a place of noise, chaos, thoughts and ideas. Ideas, that more often than not, went unacted on. But now – I could focus on them individually and choose which one to act upon. It wasn’t too difficult to choose what to start with, as I stood in the kitchen unable to find a clean mug. Like many ADHDers, housework was a sporadic affair – the place would get so bad I could no longer stand it and would then go full on hyperdrive and tidy the entire house, until eventually over the course of a few months, it would build back up to the same chaotic level. No matter how many times I told myself that this time I would stay on top of things, it never actually happened, which had me filled with shame, guilt and self-loathing.
With the advent of Elvanse my house, although not always immaculate, has stayed in a state where I wouldn’t actually die of shame if someone turned up at my door unexpectedly. Years ago I had to tell my mother-in-law that she couldn’t just stop by unannounced anymore, as it was causing me far too much stress. I needed at least 48hrs notice. My children always used to ask “who is coming?” when I started tidying. My inlaws have sat in the dining room eating off paper plates, whilst I hysterically say “It’s just like we are having a party” – a teetering pile of dirty dishes towering behind me.
In addition to maintaining a fairly tidy house, I have also signed up to start training as an ADHD coach; had an article published; appeared on a podcast; become part of a study into ADHD, Women & Depression; rebranded Procrastination Station; shared my ADHD story on two websites; been included in meetings with the ADHD Foundation and other ADHD advocates; been a guest observer at an All Party Political Group for ADHD meeting, and completely redesigned this website – a project that is still in progress.
All of this on top of still being a full-time, home educating mum. A year ago, I just would not have believed that this was possible.
I have been incredibly fortunate that the first type and dose of medication worked for me. It can take a bit more time, as it has done for other members of Procrastination Station. But generally, ADHD medication is successful for over 80% of the people who try it. Pretty good odds! There are also a few different types available in the UK, both stimulants and non-stimulant and fast-acting and slow-release.
As far as side-effects go, I have learned that as long as I stay hydrated and remember to eat well and often and make the effort to wind down before bed, I am fine. In fact it is actually pretty easy to start taking for granted the amazing benefits that Elvanse has bestowed upon me – the effect is so gentle. I don’t feel medicated. I don’t feel any different and I’m not aware of my brain acting differently, I can just function now.
The only issue that I do experience is a drop in effectiveness of my meds in the week leading up to my period. I became very interested in what was causing this and ended up writing an article about it for FLEX YOUR ADHD. It boils down to the fact that estrogen produces dopamine so when our estrogen levels are low we have even less dopamine than normal. Suggestions for dealing with this include taking the contraception pill without a stop-week, taking SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressents for mood regulation and taking an increase in ADHD medication during this time.
I already take Citalopram (an SSRI) and I wasn’t keen on the other two options so I looked into alternatives and in my research, chanced upon Shannon Stone – a nomadic Master Herbalist in the US who specialises in the holistic treatment of ADHD. Shannon herself has ADHD, as do her four children. As far as she is aware, she is actually the only Master Herbalist who specialises in ADHD. Fortunately for me and all her other world-wide clients, Shannon does online consultations. She can then help you source and prepare the treatments, or ship herbs to you from the US.
I met via Zoom with Shannon a few days ago and after a very enjoyable hour-long chat, she has recommended Wild Yam cream to help with estrogen levels, and Wild Lettuce and Skullcap tinctures to help with my life-long sleep issues. I started taking melatonin (2mg Circadin) after watching Sandra Kooij’s webinar on ADHD and Sleep and it has greatly reduced the length of time it takes me to fall asleep. However, I still wake up persistently throughout the night. Shannon has recommended trying 1mg of one of these tinctures when I wake up. She seems confident that this will help me get back to sleep quickly. In addition to these, she also recommended Velvet Bean (Mucuna pruriens). Velvet Bean is also known as the Dopa Bean, as it has been shown to increase dopamine levels. Shannon actually uses it for herself in place of prescription ADHD medication – which I find fascinating. I’m initially going to start using it during the time leading up to and including menstruation and see how it goes. I will post an update in a months time with my progress. I am particularly excited about the potential benefits of Velvet Bean…