Ruminations over Medications, i.e. Me on Meds for ADHD


Last week I finally broke down and did it. I went to see my doctor to get help. This issue had been bothering me to varying degrees all my life, but now I figured it was time to do something about it. And while I desired my doctor’s remedy, I was afraid of it, too.

During all of my adult life I have always poked fun at myself over my ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I can also look back on my childhood and youth years to see I had it then, but because my grades and achievements never seemed to suffer too terribly for it, my condition suffered a deficit of proper attention. (Bad pun intended!) So, I learned to cope with it by working around it. I also surmised that my inability to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes, to leave tasks unfinished, to be ever driven by distraction, or to struggle to keep myself focused for extended periods of time was just an immutable part of my personality. I have always strained for ways to keep centered in a conversation when lots of other sensory distractions are around me. I had learned to tolerate the curse of my insufferably bad short-term memory and disdain for organization.

So, I figured that the whole ADD thing is a quirk to deal with, for better or worse. Sometimes it could be a pain, yes. I also saw it as a benefit to my ministry. It has allowed me to shift gears very quickly (a ministry must!) and to handle sudden changes, even very difficult ones, with agility.

But now that I’m married again, the father of three children, and have numerous, heavy responsibilities as a pastor of a large congregation and a leader in other arenas, the stresses of trying to cope with my condition finally caught up with me. I thank God my ADD didn’t result in losing either my family or my career. However, I did feel like I was losing my grip on my effectiveness and my sanity, bit by bit!

Then one day, it just hit me. I came home after being away for a few days and sat on our family room floor holding Jacob who was being fussy. The TV was on. Blairlee was sitting on the couch talking on the phone. Kathryn was in an adjacent room singing along to music. The dog was barking at something. All of that combined stimuli felt like sharp claws digging into a chalk board. I couldn’t think or focus on anything. Later that evening, Blairlee and I were talking about the usual family stuff– coordinating our schedules, things coming up with Kathryn’s school work, Jacob’s appointments, etc., etc. A few hours later, I couldn’t remember half of the things we had just discussed!

This had been an ongoing pattern that wasn’t getting any better. Finally, I decided that for the first time in my nearly 36 years, it was time to take full ownership of this ADD thing and get some professional help.

So, I called my doctor and asked to be diagnosed and possibly, if necessary… [gulp]… get medication.

The next day, Blairlee, a Maryland state licensed clinical professional counselor, pulled out her DSM-IV, which is a large book that catalogs mental disorders. (I’m sure she was highly anticipating being able to use that book on me one day!) Keeping in mind that neither she nor I am qualified to give psychological assessments, we nevertheless discovered that my behavior and thinking patterns fit almost hand in glove within the diagnosis called ADHD, Inattentive Type. It was as if somebody personally studied my behavioral patterns and created this disorder to describe me.

Several days later, sitting in my doctor’s examination room, I described for her my symptoms, and she heard enough to agree that yes, I’ve got ADHD, Inattentive Type.  Then she prescribed Adderall XR, a drug commonly used to treat ADHD. Ironically, my daughter Kathryn, who has my same condition, took that drug for about a year and it worked wonders on her.

Now here’s the funny part: part of me felt truly relieved to finally have some help with this ADHD, for my sake and for those around me. But another part of me deeply dreaded the prospect of living on a medication like this.

It’s not that I have a problem taking medicines. I mean, I take Tylenol for headaches and other over-the-counter drugs for short-term issues. I take antibiotic prescriptions for the occasional sinus or bronchial infections.

Yet there’s part of me that despises the notion of having to take a medication on a long-term or even lifetime basis in order to function properly. It’s like I’m hinging my mental health on a chemical concoction.

Seven years ago, I had to take antidepressants for the only depression I’ve ever suffered, and while I was glad the medication got me to function again, there was something about having to take those pills that I hated. They drove my blood pressure up requiring a medication for hypertension. If I missed a dose of my antidepressant, my life became hell for those few hours until I was able to take it again. Coming off of them was sheer torture.

So, perhaps my fear is now somewhat based on that experience. It’s irrational, of course. I’ll admit that.

And yes, I know that millions of people live everyday taking necessary medications in order to function or even to survive! They take them, do just fine, and whine a lot less than I do about it. And yes, I feel blessed to have gotten this far having had only one other major experience of taking medication long-term.

Maybe my deep reservations are rooted in anxious fears. What if this medicine doesn’t work? What if I’m expecting it to do more than it’s capable of? What if it creates other side effects? What if I somehow get hooked on it? If it doesn’t work or creates too many other problems, are there other remedies that would work? On and on these anxious questions flow. The night before I began taking the medicine, I didn’t sleep well because I was so nervous about having to start it.

Well, I should know in a month’s time whether or not the Adderall will do the trick and also to see what other kinds of helps are out there to help contain the ADHD I have. So far, I have noticed some definite differences and improvements, and that’s been encouraging.

All in all, this is yet another way that Jesus is teaching me to live life one day at a time, not worrying about things that are outside of my control. And hey, if this remedy will help me be more effective in his service, then all the better!

I’m also grateful for having the means and access to excellent medical care and medicine. At the same time,  I’ve been increasingly mindful of those who don’t and have conditions far worse than mine that beg for treatment. Their plight far outweighs my own rumination over medication.

So, periodically, I’ll keep you updated on how things go and what I learn. In the mean time, follow doctors orders, especially the Great Physician’s. As always, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings!

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22 Comments

Filed under Christian thought, Reflections

22 responses to “Ruminations over Medications, i.e. Me on Meds for ADHD

  1. hang in there chris…my wife has adhd and jokes about it and refuses to take medication…and it can be trying…i hope it works out like it’s supposed to for you, i’m sure it will…mark

    • Thank you, Mark! I hope the meds will help me be a little less trying, especially for my wife and church staff. They’ve been especially tolerant! :-) But then again, we all put up with the shortcomings of those we love.

      Chris

  2. Holly

    Chris, I know exactly how you feel. I finally broke down and got medicine (Straterra). I didn’t tell anyone for years. I had to stop taking the medication when I found out that I was pregnant. The difference is pretty obvious but I think that I may staff off of the meds for a while. I feel more like myself. I forget what I’m doing and I get sidetracked every 10 minutes, but I have that bubbly joy that the meds take away. It’s a tough call…. I just wanted to say that you don’t have to think that you’ll be on them for a lifetime. Once the kids are a little bigger you may not need them as much.

    • Hi Holly- Thank you for that, and thank you for sharing about your struggles, too. I remember feeling very relieved and just full of life again after coming off my antidepressants. I really hope and pray I never have to take those again, even as helpful as they were in getting me to be functional again. We’ll see about the meds I’m on now, how helpful they are and what other side effects they may create.

      Congratulations again on the birth of your new baby!

      Chris

  3. Joanne Snow

    Dear Pastor,
    God bless you and your family. You are very brave, thank you for sharing. Give my love to Jacob and Blairlee.
    Hope to see everyone on Sunday.

  4. mark

    Chris….thanks for having the courage to show that Christians are real

  5. Wendee

    I’ve started to think that I’m just becoming autistic as I get older. I cannot stand it when there is too much noise, competing or otherwise. Or too many people around. Then again, maybe I’m just a grumpy old goat!

    Rachael took Adderall for awhile before & after we moved. Then we lost our insurance and any reasonably-close doctors that could treat her, because I don’t want it to ONLY be medication. She’s got the same diagnosis, because she’s not hyperactive.

    Hang in there! Every single one of us has at least ONE issue to deal with. :)

    • Thanks, Wendee… Yes, I’m finding out that there are a lot of us ADHD types out there, including a number of adults, who like me, never got diagnosed as a child. I hope you and your kids hang in there, too! I join you in being the parent of one child with ADHD, and I’m convinced my other two have it to some degree, too.

      Chris

  6. Chris,

    I’m very proud of you. I firmly believe is better living through better chemistry. As a regular of “medication for life”, I realize it is a difficult decision, but one that is so worth it. Praise be to God that we live in such a time as this.

    • Thank you, Bill… Coming from you, brother, I really appreciate that! I’m with you that better chemistry can go a long way towards better living. I wonder if we could go so far as to call it a means of grace… Maybe??

      Chris

  7. Rebecca Vardiman

    Chris, isn’t it silly–I tend to put my peers on pedestals just like our church folk can do, then realize they’re just a human as I am! I’ve always thought highly of you and your minstry and your openness only affirms that.
    Blessings!

    • Thank you so much, Rebecca… Yeah, we’re all very human with our own quirks and shortcomings! And yes, I also used to put my peers on pedestals, too… until I started serving on BOOM. :-) (Just kidding!!)

      Chris

  8. Edmund Metheny

    Chris,

    Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, to use the hackneyed phrase.

    I understand your dilemma. I have been on and off anti-depressants several times. Currently I am on. One of the hardest things I ever did was make the decision to be diagnosed, and pop that first pill in my mouth.

    I spent months afterwards worrying that the drug was somehow going to change me – make me a different person. And it did.

    It made me a person who didn’t suffer as acutely from depression.

    Will you be a different person because you get your ADD treated? Yes, you will. If the drug works as it is supposed to, you will become a person who does not suffer as acutely from ADD. And if you suffer severely enough that you need to be medicated for it, then that will be a significant change for you.

    But remember – it’s a GOOD change. Its a change you are making willingly, to become more the person you want to be. That’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.

  9. My husband has the exact same issues. He has difficulty holding a job (he is a Manager in Pharmaceutical QC lab due to problems with focusing, etc.) I knew when I first met him he had ADD. However, he doesn’t self report well (denial perhaps) and has ended up with diagnosis’ such as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and Anxiety (both of which are common secondary issues for people with ADD). He is concerned about taking medications too. In 2008 he was unemployed for almost a year, and his stress level took a terrible toll on our marriage. He took a job in Albuquerque, NM so we moved from NC to NM. He is now on a 90 day correction plan (if he doesn’t improve enough he will be out of a job again). I work part time due to taking care of a child with special needs and numerous health problems. I am going to have my husband read your post. Would you be interested in having a phone conversation with him?

  10. Ray

    Chris – I take Fluphenazine daily it helps me deal with my Tourettes Syndrome. I often feel some of what you write about brother. Thanks for being real. I will keep you in my prayers.

  11. dreadpiratescetis

    Yar! This be quite a personal and brave post! I have always pondered whether all Pastors are ADHD or that the job demands that they become so. There are always a million things going on in a congregation and the Pastor is expected to at the very least know about them and at the most attend every single one.

    That is why I stopped and decided to take a job overseas. Parish life is not for the faint of heart. Even me parrot concurs!

  12. Tom

    Chris,
    I enjoyed reading about your son, he has a good father.
    I am new to this Facebook and blogs, so if I may some mistakes, forgive me.
    I am very interested in your ADHD and how you were diagnosed…. testing and by who and where. I too sometimes believe I could have ADHD or dyslexia.

    Can you direct me to where I might get help to be tested?
    And it does scare me to again put myself on medication. I too took paxcil for many years and about 9-months ago I gradually cut back on the dosage and I have been completing without medication for months now and feeling better. But the ADHD can you help?

    • Hey Tom- Thanks for your comments, and you’re doing just fine with the Facebook/blog thing. Just keep at it! :-) As for the ADHD, your doctor could probably diagnose you or could refer you to a psychiatrist, and there’s no real testing for that per se. They would look to see if your behavior matches the diagnosis for ADHD, and if it does, prescribe you some meds. Dyslexia is something very different, I think, and there may be more testing involved to diagnose that. But bottom line, if you suspect that you’re experiencing any of this, start with your doctor and from there, do what you have to do. In the end, it will be well worth it!

      Talk to you soon!

      Chris

  13. Wow Chris, may God Bless you. Just published aricle on 7 spiritual principles for transcending suffering. http://wp.me/p8N6Q-jc
    Hope you stop by and are blessed by it.

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