Stop Shaming Me For My ADHD Meds

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Nehru Sulejmanovski/EyeEm/Getty

I take the highest possible FDA-permitted dose of a methamphetamine-based medication called Mydayis. It’s basically slow-release, hardcore Adderall. I started it after my psychiatrist found me piggybacking Vyvanse, another Adderall derivative, with straight Adderall pills after the Vyvanse dropped me on my ass at 2 p.m. every day. I became bitchy, sluggish, and exhausted. I forgot things. I yelled at my kids. I’d get scattered, spacey. So we started on Mydayis.

My medication regime raises plenty of eyebrows. “Doesn’t that make you drop weight?” one woman had incredible lack of tact to ask me. She eyed me up and down, as if trying to see if it worked or not. Yeah, maybe it makes you lose weight. At first. But then your appetite comes back.

Some are slightly more subtle, but no less rude. “I’ve heard it helps you lose weight,” other women have said tentatively, then waited for me to respond. As if I was going to confess that no, I didn’t actually have ADHD; I was scamming my doctor for weight-loss meds.

Which is some privileged shit, because while I may have been diagnosed late in life, I have a serious case of ADHD. I was the girl in the back of the class making her unicorn erasers talk to each other during math class. I skated by until graduate school, when I discovered you couldn’t actually skim Heidegger’s Being in Time and still expect to pass. Half the time in class, I’d raise my hand and say something completely unrelated to the discussion, then retreat back into my own world. I didn’t have many friends because I had trouble reading social cues, a common problem of children with ADHD (and adults: I have the same issues today). This led to plenty of teenage angst and depression.

Once I had kids, my issues got serious fast. Try to pack a diaper bag when you can’t remember everything that needs to be inside (like actual diapers). Try to remember the last time you fed your kid. Try to keep your house clean, your car clean, and remember all of your appointments, when you couldn’t manage to do the same things sans kids. I could maintain a baseline level of functioning, nothing more. I couldn’t have hobbies. I spent too much at Target because I went nearly every day: I was always forgetting something I needed to buy, every single time.

My ADHD diagnosis was both a relief and a blessing. I knew what was wrong with me. I wasn’t spacey or lazy or morally deficient. I wasn’t neurotypical. The medication my doctor gave me made it possible to organize my house and my life. I could have a career. I could have hobbies. I didn’t always feel like I was spinning out of control.

So the comments really, really piss me off.

“ADHD isn’t real,” I’ve heard. “People just need to get outside more.” Listen, I spend plenty of time outside. I garden. I eat healthy food. I take walks. I hike. Saying I need to ditch my meds and go for a stroll is the kind of crap that comes from people who have never tried to negotiate a world made for neurotypical people as a non-neurotypical woman. Things from social cues to cleaning my car elude me.

Then there are the “Oh, I think everyone has a little bit of ADHD; do you think I need meds?” questions. What, am I your fucking doctor now? And no, we don’t all have “a little bit of ADHD.” You either have ADHD or you don’t have ADHD. As someone with a fairly severe case of the condition, I’m deeply offended at insinuations that someone might need the type of high-power meds I require just because they forget their keys some days.

I also run into the Concerned Cathys. “Don’t you worry about what that does to your heart in the long term?” they’ll say. Bitch, I worry more about remembering to feed my kids lunch, keeping tabs on library books, and preventing the laundry from overtaking me. Moreover, heart issues aren’t even a side effect of the medication I take. And you don’t actually give a fuck about my heart in the first place. You’re just looking for an excuse to be judgmental about my meds. Don’t project your bullshit.

Other people wrinkle their brows. “Uh, isn’t ADHD a kid thing?” they’ll say. “If you just adjust your diet and take supplements and cut out red food dye …”

If this is you, just stop talking now.

You’re lucky you’ve never dealt with the condition. Kids with ADHD often grow up to be adults with ADHD. And as the mother of three sons with ADHD (it’s genetic; my husband has it too), all the diets in the world won’t save them. Red food dye does seem to affect their behavior, so we avoid it. But the healthiest food in the world will not replace their Focalin, a stimulant prescribed by their doctor.

I used to think this stuff when I was a teenager. There was a punk song in particular I remember listening to by Ten Foot Pole, in which a mom takes Ritalin:

All the other moms take them

I think it’s not just mine I don’t know if she’s smarter now But at least she’s feeling fine.

We saw it as a joke. A weight-loss drug. A con-job on the doctors: a way to speed (heh) up your metabolism and get more done. You could clean your whole house if you popped some Adderall. Ritalin was the new mother’s little helper. They make a joke on one of my favorite shows: “Adderall. Make you write like Tolstoy.” Why quit now that you have kids and a mound of laundry staring at you? Clearly, you just con some doc into slipping you what Mick Jagger calls “a little yellow pill.”

I grew out of that thinking. Many women have not. And when they side-eye me for my drug regimen, I know it’s a symptom of privilege and stupidity and a lack of compassion. They’ve never dealt with my condition. They’ve never tried to understand it. And they don’t care to. They don’t want to learn about what it’s actually like to live with — and yes, sometimes suffer from — ADHD. They want to judge me because I get the good drugs.

Newsflash, folks. They aren’t the “good drugs.” They’re the necessary ones. They aren’t a weight loss pill or mother’s little helper. They don’t make me write like Tolstoy. They keep my life together.

You wouldn’t question my doctor’s insulin prescription. Don’t question her judgment over my ADHD meds.

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