I make a least two trips a month to CVS for my prescriptions. This past month, I sat listening to Peta Kelly’s book, Earth is Hiring as I waited for my order. This section of the book was on the need to be “human as fuck.”
“Human AF isn't just about being authentic,” said Peta. “Human AF is being honest about where we are being hypocritical, where we're saying one thing and practicing another, where we're still really struggling ourselves in an area we claim to have nailed.”
As I paid for my drugs and walked back to work, I made a mental list of the hypocrisies in my life: 1) I get furious at my parents for not taking care of their house but find it nearly impossible to do my own dishes each night after dinner. 2) I'm constantly wondering why there aren't enough hours in the day, yet I somehow find time to watch 14 seasons of Supernatural in two months.
Then I thought of an example that’s been on my mind for a little while: I have this podcast and am somewhat a part of the wellness community, and yet I take a cocktail of prescription drugs. (To go through the whole cocktail and its history will take more than one blog post.)
For now, in an effort to be human AF, I’ll confess: I have a wellness podcast and I take Adderall.
I have, what I would consider to be a typical 21st-century relationship with prescription drugs. This relationship makes me feel, at times, both proud and ashamed. I feel proud of the strength it takes to ask for help. When I see other people around me struggling mentally or emotionally, I see myself in them and I am proud that I found something that works for me.
But the more I learn about natural remedies, listen to wellness gurus, and listen to podcasts like ours about self-improvement, I feel ashamed. I feel like an uneducated sheep who’s just following whatever “the man” tells me to do. I feel like a drug addict who can’t quit the hard stuff. Or worse yet, I feel like the person I am without prescription drugs won’t be good enough.
Last week, I listened to “The Adderall Episode” of the That’s So Retrograde podcast as part of my investigation into podcasts that are similar to The Gals Get Zen. (There are some great ones out there!) I had tried to listen to this particular episode before but kept putting it off. I didn’t want to feel bad about myself for taking Adderall, so I chose not to listen. But, as Hollie likes to remind me, what you avoid is sometimes what you need the most, so I finally gave it another shot.
The episode featured Vanessa Fitzgerald, a wellness and nutrition coach who had recently made the decision to go off Adderall. Vanessa had been taking it since she was a teenager and described herself on the drug as “a full-blown drug addict.” In May of this year, she documented her detox from Adderall and recounted the experience on the podcast with hosts Elizabeth and Stephanie, who had also made the decision to avoid the drug.
Vanessa and the ladies talked about being ashamed of taking Adderall. As adults, they’d felt the need to hide it from their parents and had gone to great lengths to get the prescription but keep it a secret.
They talked about the side effects they felt: lack of emotions, irritability, and difficulty forming and keeping relationships. It first hit home for me when Vanessa described the effect on her motor skills—she found herself spontaneously dropping things for no reason. I do that…all the time, most notably with knives in the kitchen.
Then they described another habit that was right from my playbook: set an alarm each morning; get up; take an Adderall; go back to bed; snooze until your second next alarm, by which time the drugs will have kicked in. I had done that exact thing. When things were really tough at work and I couldn’t seem to get enough done in a day, I’d done that to wake up early.
The more I listened, the more I felt my own guilt and shame.
I started taking Adderall two years ago when I move back to Richmond. I went to a new doctor and explained the issues I was having. I was dealing with my depression and anxiety, but I still felt consumed by debilitating worry. I felt overwhelmed by the thought of the smallest task. I was having trouble sleeping for the first time in my life.
I didn’t go to the doctor in hopes of getting Adderall. I didn’t ask for it, and I didn’t manipulate any tests to get it.
When my doctor suggested I might need Adderall, I was surprised. I’d always thought it was for hyperactive children and law school students who needed to cram. But my doctor explained that women can exhibit ADHD differently than men, and this often manifests in excessive worry or stress that keeps you from completing tasks. He explained the good things about Adderall: people have been taking it for more than 60 years, the side effects are well known, and if you use it as prescribed, you won’t develop a dependency over time.
Two years later, I’ve embarked on this journey for self-improvement and wellness, and it has introduced me to a new community of people who don’t really trust doctors. I’ve listened to testimonials from women who turned to natural remedies instead of heeding their doctor’s advice on everything from acne to allergies to menstruation to mental health.
I understand that we should listen to what our own bodies tell us. And after working at a health insurance provider, I know that we’re supposed to be more involved in our personal health than ever before. But I trust doctors. They went to school for something for eight more years than I did; I should be about to trust them, right?
So why am I so affected by a podcast with three women who are just as qualified to talk about prescription drugs as I am? Why do I feel bad about taking Adderall, after listening to them talk about all the ways they think it messed them up? Why do I feel guilty?
I want to be honest, but it’s hard to be honest when I don’t really know how I feel.
I do know that since I’ve started taking Adderall, I’ve felt alive and ready to take on the world. I’ve accomplished more in the past two years than I have in the past ten. I feel strong and confident and fearless. I think that I’m better a better partner to my husband because I’m more honest and open than I ever have been. I feel like I’ve just discovered who I really am.
And yet, I also feel conflicted. I feel like I’m cheating the system. I feel like I’m doing something I’m not supposed to be and when people find out the truth, they’ll see me for the fraud that I am.
So, I guess I don’t have a good answer at this point. I’m not ready to stop taking Adderall, but I don’t exactly feel at peace about it. For now, I like the way it helps me. I like the new talents and interests I’ve discovered when I’m not overwhelmed thinking about all of the things I should be doing.
The Gals Get Zen is about our quest to find peace and fulfillment. We’re not there yet—not even close—but we’re trying. I want to grow and improve, but I don’t want to throw away everything I’ve done before. I want to be open to new ideas, but I’m not ready to discount medical advice.
I am, slowly, opening my heart and mind to opinions different from my own. Maybe one day that means I’ll give up some of my more traditional coping methods, but not yet.
I have a podcast where I try out new wellness trends. I take Adderall and I’m pretty much okay with it. I’m trying my best to be human AF.