This feels like a “coming clean” kind of thing. And in a way, I suppose that it is. It wasn’t until recently that I spoke this out loud into existence and it’s something I carried a lot of shame around. But, it’s the things we often feel most shameful about that tend to be the most universal. I’m not sharing this to absolve me from anything. And I’m definitely not sharing it for shock-value. I’m sharing it because I wish I had known that other people struggle with this. I especially wished I had someone share this kind of story with me while I was in the thick of it. But that’s the thing, no one I knew ever really talked about this, so I just kept quiet.
My sophomore year of college a close friend shared some of her Concerta (a member of the adderall family) prescription with me. She swore it would help me with studying for finals. Trusting her, and not seeing anything wrong with it, I obliged to her offer. As fate would have it this was also the time I had started down the path towards anorexia and an exercise addiction. I was exercising an excessive amount, counting calories, trying to eat as little as possible, and obsessively weighing myself.
My eating disorder quickly learned the appetite suppressing powers of stimulants. After they literally silenced my urge to eat multiple meals – I was hooked. Additionally stimulants like concerta, adderall, and vyvanse gave me boundless energy. So I had the ability to essentially not eat while still having the energy to exercise. My eating disorder felt like it had struck gold.
As my weight slowly declined, I started to notice a decline in my ability to focus and concentrate for extended periods of time. I gradually started to believe that I actually did have ADD/ADHD. Looking back, I see now that this was most likely a result of my low body weight and lack of body fat to sustain normal hormone levels and proper brain function. So It wasn’t long before I got a prescription of my own and ultimately chose vyvanse for its “smooth extended release” effect.
Steadily over a period of about 2ish years, I increased my dosage from 40mg to 60mg. I was addicted, I literally had to take it every single day. During that two year span I graduated college and got married. I was 22. My husband and I got married on a Saturday and two days later, on Monday morning, we set out in a U-Haul with everything we owned to drive 1,000 miles south from NH to SC. We moved to an apartment complex in North Charleston, SC. I had no idea that the next four months would be some of the darkest times in my life.
During this time we only had one car. My husband would go to work all day while I struggled to not collapse into the dark hole that I could feel growing inside of me. Vyvanse, leftover bottles I had of concerta and adderall – these are what “got me through” from the time my husband left for work in the morning, until he came home at night.
I didn’t want to feel the discomfort of my reality. I was in a place where I knew no one. I had no way of going anywhere. I felt trapped. I felt purposeless. I felt like I lived in a weird twisted tropical paradise. I got to a really dark place while we lived there.
Taking the pills sped up time. They distracted me from the monotony and gravity of my situation. I felt like I used them to get through the day. Of course, I didn’t tell my husband about this at the time. I felt like I was crazy, like I was a drug addict. It scared me how dependent I was on these prescriptions. These pills to me became like the ring to Gollum. I even thought about forging a script one time, but decided that was a bad idea and made a doctors appointment to get new scripts written.
I remember always feeling very anxious about “running out”. Because these medications are controlled substances, pharmacies are not permitted to fill more than one single 30-day script at a time. So to ensure you don’t go a day without a pill: on day 30 you take your last pill, but you also have to drop-off and pick-up your next month’s script that same day. This is how my mind thought about it anyway. But there were days when “day 30” was a Sunday, and I forgot to pick up the script in time, and the pharmacy closed. There were some days I didn’t have a pill to take, they were rare, but they happened.
On the days when this happened I felt like I had zero energy. I wasn’t interested in doing anything. I felt like I was dizzily trying to wade through water. I felt like a melted puddle. Like everything had been slowed down to an uncomfortably slow speed. I didn’t recognize feeling this way before taking vyvanse. It felt kind of scary to think that I needed to take this medication to literally just feel “normal”.
I have been taking vyvanse for nearly 10 years. I ignored how anxious it made me feel because I thought I needed it to suppress my appetite and give me the energy and focus I needed to exercise. I also ignored how dependent I felt on it, because I didn’t know how I would function without it.
Flashforward to now: I am very proud to share that I have chosen to “get off” of Vyvanse. After being on a 70mg dose for the past several years (which is the highest dose they make), I realized I don’t want to live this way anymore. After discussing this with my doctor, I am on a plan that gradually reduces my dosage each month. I chose to do this because I finally came to terms with the fact that taking this drug for the rest of my life isn’t what I want. It’s not sustainable for me. I personally don’t want to rely on a pill to be able to enjoy life. It’s not how I want to exist here in this world. I want my body and brain to create its own energy without external chemicals. I want to be able to experience the slowness and be present with what I’m feeling again (even if it is uncomfortable).