Ah yes, the never ending debate of medicating, over-medicating, under-medicating and misdiagnosing ADD/ADHD. For me, I'd have to say it was just right. I was on Concerta for a couple of years and benefited from being on it. However, the phrase "pills don't teach skills" is one of the most accurate and impactful statements I have heard during my period of work in dealing with ADD.
It took a while for me to understand and truly grasp the impact of this statement. I read it, I heard it from two doctors and my ADD coach. It is what inspired my blog and book Pills Don't Teach Skills.
Taking medication, that was the easy part. I did very well with that, the pill went in my mouth and down it went with a quick sip of water. No advanced skills or training required. Joking aside, that was just the beginning and the medication allowed my brain to be ready to learn and retain new skills. This is a simplified description of what occurred.
Once I started my Concerta, I began the hardest part of my learning. I became consumed by coaching, books, internet research, practicing new skills and dedicating myself to beating ADD. I opened up to as many possible ways to beat ADD as I could wrap my arms around. Unfortunately, many people will resist looking inward. I had to come up with the courage to look at myself on the inside, and improve how I reacted outside.
The benefits of medication cannot be argued, in my case. They were an important part of the puzzle in winning my battle against ADD. There also comes a certain point in time for some people - not necessarily all people, but in my case - to stop taking medication. The medication had done its job for me. (Let's be clear, I'm not a doctor and I'm not really in the mood for a lawsuit, so please seek professional medical advice regarding any decisions you make pertaining to the use of medication. My kids do call me Doctor Goofy sometimes, after I administer the tickle claw to induce a deep felt belly laugh, but that doesn't really qualify me as a medical doctor.)
As noted by Dr. Gabor Mate, a real doctor, when I originally started Concerta, there was and is no way to know how long I would be required to be on medication. There are people who have been on medication for years and years, some for a short period of time and some who will never be able to leave medication alone. For me and fortunately, I experienced success with medication and the time came for me to reevaluate its use. One of the experiences I went through on Concerta was an incredible awakening of self. As I progressed with learning and personal growth, it was very clear in my circumstance that the medication was an effective and useful tool in winning this challenge. During this process I always had that underlying thought of getting off the medication one day. When that day would be, I had no idea, but the idea was there. When I started the medication and continued with the personal work, I noticed there was a big difference in how I processed a situation, thought and reacted. The medication gave me that extra split second I needed to react properly.
As time passed, this split second in my thought process and reaction started to become second-nature. The events that would normally have frustrated me started to become events that I would deal with correctly. I was winning the battle and that felt great After a visit with my doctor, we determined that I would try to start the process of slowly weaning myself off of the medication. I had decided to start investigating this based on some occurrences that drew me to the conclusion that I just may have progressed past the benefits of medication. I may have arrived at that place where it was now up to me to be who and what I was capable of being.
The weaning off medication started and I found that in general, it was a successful process. My weaning off process was slow and drawn out over a period of time. I took one pill every other day during this process. Initially I noticed on the days when I took a pill, I seemed a little more together and benefited from the medication. On the days when I would not take a pill, I saw that I would be somewhat challenged at times with the issues that challenged me in the past. However, these issues that challenged me previously did not challenge me to the point of frustration and confusion that they once did. These issues challenged me to react, think, perceive and generally deal with them in new ways that I had learned. My brain and its capabilities had caught up to the benefits of the medication, in simple terms.
After coming off Concerta completely, I started experiencing a period of second guessing myself. By not taking medication any more, I realized I was now on my own. It was time to think, feel and react to everything on my own. We are all human and to error is human. Everyone will make mistakes and perhaps wish they could do something over again, differently.
I was experiencing everything in life that you could imagine and on occasion I found myself wondering, if I reacted a certain way, was it because I was simply human and made mistakes everyone makes or was it because I had ADD? I soon realized that I was human and that I could not beat myself up emotionally or psychologically every time I reacted, thought or spoke. I needed to take a step back and realize that I had accomplished a tremendous amount in the time I had been working on myself. As long as I continued to be aware of the fact that I was challenged by ADD and continued to work on myself, I was being the best person I could.
After an extended period of time of being off the medication, I had gained confidence in my ability to think, react and communicate naturally on my own. The challenge I faced now was not unlike a golfer trying to maintain his game and skills or a business executive growing by staying on top of the latest market trends. I needed to solidify my skills, build on them and continue to learn and grow as a person. I could not stand still just because I had achieved success. I believe everyone should think this way, whether they have ADD or not. It can only make you a better person. Unfortunately, my golf game still needs a lot of work!