How My ADD Made Me Afraid of Antidepressants
Written by: Kira
When you’re 8 years old, you don’t worry about much. Probably just what your parents are going to pack you for lunch, which friends are going to be in your class come the new school year, or what cartoons you’ll watch on Saturday morning. You don’t have to worry because your parents do all the worrying for you.
My parents were no exception. They wanted me to succeed in school and they worried about it constantly. I did well in my first few years of grade school. However, as the school work got tougher, my grades began to slip. My worrying parents were determined to get to the root of the issues and after a series of parent-teacher conferences and doctors’ appointments, they had found their answer: Attention Deficit Disorder.
I couldn’t focus because of something going on in my brain. They never told me what is was called or said that my brain was sick. They didn’t want me to feel isolated. They did, however, want me to get better so I could succeed in school again.
The pediatrician prescribed to me Concerta, a stimulant which would help me focus in class and calm down my hyperactivity. I was reluctant at first because the pills were large and I was worried I’d choke if I tried to swallow them. My mom reassured me countless times that it would help me succeed in school. I wanted to succeed in school so my parents wouldn’t worry so much, so I dutifully took the pills every day.
"Taking ADD medication is a lot like wearing glasses. The first time you wear glasses, the world goes from being out of focus and blurry to being sharper, brighter, and clear."
Taking ADD medication is a lot like wearing glasses. The first time you wear glasses, the world goes from being out of focus and blurry to being sharper, brighter, and clear. Everything related to school became easier. I was a better listener, a harder worker, and I no longer acted up in class. I didn’t mind taking the medication during the school days. I liked how it made me feel- I liked being focused.
On the weekends, though, I asked if I could not take the medication. My only problem with it at the time was that it made me less ‘fun’. My parents agreed to let me go off my medication on the weekends and summers. It was a good compromise. There was a ‘school’ version of myself and a ‘fun’ version of myself and I didn’t mind the duality.
And then, when I was 12 years old, puberty hit. Seemingly suddenly, the same medication that had been helping me for years developed some nasty side effects. I hardly ate my lunch. I didn’t talk at all in school. I got frequent stomachaches and headaches. My school days were also longer, which meant that my medication would wear off before the day was done. By my last class of the day I was a completely different person;I had the poor conduct grade to prove it.
The worst part was I just didn’t at all feel like myself under the influence of the drug and people noticed. My friends were few and far between. I started ‘forgetting’ to take my medication but then school work became much harder and I couldn’t concentrate in class. So my mom and I went to the pediatrician. The doctor questioned the specific drug I was taking. It was a stimulant and it was causing all these side effects.
She switched me to a non-stimulant instead. The side effects lessened but were still there. Eventually I told my mother I didn’t want to be on medication anymore. I was frightened that I couldn’t focus on my own but it wasn’t worth the cost to me.
So the next school year, I stopped taking ADD medication. It was hard at first to figure out how to cope without it. I had to work harder, take better notes in class and study outside of school, but I had more friends. People thought I was funny and fun to be around. I felt more like myself.
"I don’t want to lose my personality again. I’ve worked hard to become who I am today. I don’t want to see that person fade away."
I never went back to ADD medication. Even though now that I’m in college I struggle not to zone out during a long rambling lecture, it isn’t worth the risk. It doesn’t matter to me that I could try a different kind of medication. I don’t want to lose my personality again. I’ve worked hard to become who I am today. I don’t want to see that person fade away.
Now, I struggle daily with anxiety and depression. It’s gotten to the point where I need treatment. I’m in therapy and my psychologist is excellent, but I’ve only just begun and the road is going to be long and hard.
Part of me wants to take the easy way out- find a psychiatrist who will prescribe to me an antidepressant. Most of me, however, refuses. It is a silly fear. Antidepressants aren’t even the same type of drugs as ADD medication. But I think about the person I was at twelve years old, sitting at lunch table alone pushing food around on a plate with a plastic fork. I didn’t care about anything or anybody.
Today I am filled with compassion. I’m compassionate for people, which is why I’m pursuing a career in social work. The person on medication wouldn’t want to be where I’m heading.
So I’ve decided that therapy is going to have to be enough. It’s scary but I have faith that it will be enough. After all, sometimes it’s about the journey and not the destination.