I gave birth to my daughter, Tigerlily, about 15 months ago. In preparation for my pregnancy (and under my doctor’s care), I took myself off Concerta (which I was taking to help manage ADHD) about a year before getting pregnant. Since giving birth, I’ve had a number of readers inquire about my experience and ask just how I managed to manage my ADHD without medication! I’ve written about this topic before, but I think that now might be a good time to tell an updated version of my story.
First and foremost, my daughter (seen over there on the left) was well worth any difficulty I had being off medication, being pregnant, and going through an incredibly difficult labor. Doctors agree that the psychostimulants used to treat ADHD should not be used by pregnant and nursing mothers. The science just isn’t there to say it’s harmless so, for me, there was no question that I would be stopping the meds.
And let me just say that it’s absolutely possible to live successfully without medication. (See Rob Hanly’s posts.) Lots of people do it. However, there are also lots of people who would never want to be without medication, because the help that it provides is just priceless. I fall somewhere in the middle.
I was diagnosed with ADHD in my mid-20s. I resisted medication at first before eventually “caving in” and trying it. It took quite a long time for me to find the medication that worked well for me but, once I did, the difference was astounding. Life became much easier. I was able to focus and block out distractions for longer periods of time, I had an easier time transitioning from task to task, and I was able to slow down long enough to plan my day, among other things.
However, there’s a popular saying among ADHD coaches like myself: “Pills don’t build skills.” Medication is not a magic bullet that will change everything. In my case, and in many other cases, medication acted like a set of training wheels on a bicycle. My medication gave me the added support that I needed when I was first learning about my ADHD and building my ADHD management skills.
In addition to taking medication at the time, I was in therapy to better understand myself and to increase my personal awareness. After being in therapy for many years, I sought out support groups to learn all that I could about my ADHD. I also did a lot of research and read a ton of books. When I found out about ADHD coaching, I decided to work with a coach. And when I felt like I really had my stuff together, I began training to become a coach myself.
I worked hard to build my ADHD management skills, and I’ve been supporting other adults in doing the same for about 10 years now. So it really wasn’t such a big deal when I stopped taking ADHD medication. I rely on the “5 Essential Skills for Managing Adult ADD” that I discuss in my book, Odd One Out: The Maverick’s Guide to Adult ADD. Practicing those skills on a daily basis is one of my highest priorities.
Sure, some days were harder than others. But that’s just the way it goes with pregnancy, anyway. Some days you feel great and get a lot done. Other days you just need to sleep as much as you possibly can, and not worry about being productive. During every trimester of pregnancy, you really need to take it easy on yourself and greatly lower the expectation of what you can comfortably accomplish in a day.
After pregnancy, I breast fed my daughter for about a year. And for the first nine months of that, all was pretty good. The flow of happy hormones through my body had me in a great mood most of the time. And even if new motherhood was tough and a lot of things weren’t getting done, it was okay, because those hormones kept me feeling relatively stress-free.
By the end of that year, though, I was really ready to get back to my “normal life.” Don’t get me wrong, I have loved being a mother from the very first minute. But there did come a time when I was longing for structure that was set largely by me, and not by an infant’s hunger schedule. But by the time I found myself in that place, I also found myself without all those happy hormones to keep my stress-free. I knew that I would need to go back on the meds. And I was totally fine with that.
As Dr. Theresa Cerulli said in last year’s AD/HD Medication Matters Summit, “it’s not all or nothing with ADHD psychostimulants. You can be on them when you need them, and off them when you don’t.” Now happens to be one of those times when I need them. I have a new life, a new schedule, new routines, and new structure. And until I adjust to all that, I have no problem using Concerta as a set of training wheels, once again.
But whether I do or don’t take medication to help manage my ADHD, one thing always remains the same: pills really don’t build skills. No matter where I am in my life, the ADHD management skills that I’ve worked hard to build play a crucial role in my success, and my happiness.
Do you take medication for your AD/HD? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments!
And if you’re not quite at a point in your life where you’re ready to go without medication, or if you’re just beginning to think about taking AD/HD medication, then you may be interested in joining us for the AD/HD Medication Matters Online Summit.
The AD/HD Medication Matters Summit is a live, online event that is designed to help you cut through the confusion and get the facts about AD/HD and medication. We ran this event last year and we were so pleasantly surprised when the event was attended by four times the amount of people we expected!
Prominent neuropsychiatrist Theresa Cerulli, MD will be joining me in this online summit May 15 & 16 to teach you everything you need to know about AD/HD and medications. Learn more here. And don’t forget to register by April 30 to save 39% off the registration fee and pay just $77 to attend!