Amp It Up

After the hell I went through getting off Effexor (something I’ve complained about on this blog multiple times), you’d think I’d be resistant to starting any new prescription medications, wouldn’t you? But you’d be wrong.

I’m celebrating four and a half weeks off that nightmarish so-called anti-depressant and at the same time, ten days on… amphetamines. Can you believe it? I guess I can’t entirely believe it myself.

Each morning, as I take that triangular blue pill, I ask myself, Is this wise? Am I setting myself up for another difficult road? I guess I am also wondering, is this cheating?

If you’ve read my blog for very long, you’ll know that over the last few years, I have spent way too much time in bed. I’ve carried around a heaviness, a backback full of chronic exhaustion and apathy. I’ve berated myself for saying, “I can’t get up,” even though there is no discernible physical impediment to getting up and getting moving. I’ve felt sad and guilty about not accomplishing things I’ve said I wanted to do. I’ve felt embarrassed about falling behind on my work.

And when I was not blaming my own terrible laziness for the situation, I blamed depression, and as my depression slowly lifted, I blamed Effexor. But over the past month, it has been frustrating to find that even without the Effexor, it’s been hard to get up and engage with life the way I want to. Most days, even if I was awake by seven or eight in the morning, I didn’t start doing anything meaningful before the middle of the day. I might crawl out of bed and feed the dogs. I’d have a cup of tea and perhaps something to eat. Then I’d crawl back in bed, scroll through the New York Times online, maybe play a few games on my phone. I might read a blog or listen to a meditation. At some point, I would doze off to sleep again.

Even on days when I had something on my calendar that required me to get out of bed–a Zoom call with a client, an early doctor appointment–I’d fall back into bed as soon as I’d slogged through whatever was scheduled. My head was foggy, and I couldn’t seem to move through the mist.

Of course, both E (therapist) and Tabitha (psychiatric nurse practitioner) have heard me describe this phenomenon for years now. E has mostly encouraged me not to beat myself up, to accept that maybe my body needs more rest. Tabitha has offered a variety of herbal supplements and played around with the time of day I take medications, but nothing has made much difference.

But when I felt much better off Effexor and yet still continued to snooze and hide from the mornings, Tabitha suggested, “What about Adderall? It can be very helpful with brain fog, and it is used off-label for depression.”

Another drug? Okay, whatever, I’ll try it and see what I think; I didn’t really think about it very deeply. (I think I pay less focused attention during online medical meetings, somehow.) Only after I filled the prescription did it dawn on me that Adderall is an amphetamine, with all the inherent side effects and potential for addiction. I wasn’t at all sure this was a great idea.

And yet at the same time, the promise of more energy, focus and motivation was so, so seductive.

(I mean, seriously, the last time I remember having good energy and focus on a regular basis was probably 2012. Eight years is a long time to feel like a slug.)

So I tried it, just a small dose. It’s given me headaches many days and GI distress every day. But who cares about that?!? Because I feel better. I don’t feel crazy better, or manic, or jittery. Instead, I just feel like my old self, an old self I distantly remember. I feel more alive.

Just to give you a sense of how different this can look, here’s my day today: I get up at 7:30, drink my tea and write in my journal. I go for a 40-minute walk with my neighbor. I come home, feed the dogs, start a load of laundry and make myself a bacon-and-zucchini omelette, zucchini courtesy of my backyard garden. I clean up the kitchen, then head back out to the garden to transplant a few more lettuce and herb starts and to cut back the old raspberry canes; I also water my many potted plants. I call my insurance company about problems with my billing (this is the kind of thing I postpone for months when I’m carrying that backpack full of lethargy). I answer business emails. I dry, fold and put away the laundry.

These are all such little things really. But being able to do them all, before noon, without a nap, is a shocking luxury.

I am so excited about these changes–and I am also wary. I know that the effectiveness of Adderall tends to wear off over time, and people often up their doses to get the same effect. I read that some people become depressed coming off Adderall. I do not want to set myself up for any of that. But I also don’t want to go back to bed. I suppose that means I will need to use some of my newly-discovered energy to conduct some research and make a plan that feels safe, feasible and supportive.

CREDIT: Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash

9 comments

  1. Congrats on getting off the Effexor! I know that was a hard road.

    Glad the Adderall is helping. I was on it for a time to deal with side-effects of another med, and it helped me at the time. I remember also feeling grateful for having some energy again, especially in the morning. I don’t think coming off of it caused me any problems, though coming off Effexor certainly did.

    Your day sounds nice. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ellen! Thank you–I am so relieved to be free of that damn Effexor! It took 41 months, and a lot of that time I felt miserable. It is so great not to be tormented with tingling and restlessness and sleeplessness and muscle spasms and brain fog. I feel incredibly lucky.

      Thanks, too, for sharing your experience. It’s reassuring to know that you didn’t find Adderall gave you a lot of problems. Do you remember why you stopped taking it though?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I really can’t remember, sorry. This was a decade ago. I know I didn’t tolerate any of the ADs well. Likely I stopped the AD with the side effect that the adderall was counteracting so didn’t need it anymore. Good luck with it….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The one time I took amphetamines for a bad sinus infection I found my MS subsided and I could not only get the kids to school on time, but could play with them first and then walk them there! I was really going for it for 5 beautiful long days, and then collapsed in a heap of MS relapse. I really paid for it! But I also loved it at the time and felt, in my case, it was a price worth paying for. Obviously I realise the dose, length and reason for taking amphetamines is different for you, but it made me think of that experience and just wanted to say I can understand the difficult position this poses for you.

    Like

    • So everything you wrote was a big surprise to me. Amphetamines for a sinus infection? I wouldn’t have guessed that would be a use of them. Your five days sound great, blissful for a person usually without much energy. Was the collapse then just because you did more than your body really could?

      I continue to have a lot of ambivalence about this medication. The sweetness of having energy is… I’m searching for the word… delightful? Thrilling? Definitely unfamiliar. I’m also alert to the potential for disaster. I guess I’m hoping that by writing about it and talking about it to a couple friends and to my ytherapist, I won’t be able to hide any problems that start to come up, or that people will call it to my attention.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah it’s actually not entirely accurate, I should have explained better. It was actually Pseudoephedrine, a derivative of the amphetamine class drug.
        I am certain the collapse would be because I was over exerting, but I could only over-exert because I was taking the drug. Before that it was impossible for me to do so much, which is why your post rang true for me but just under different circumstances. But I’m sure your situation is different because you don’t have a brain full of lesions to complicate things! I hope whatever you choose to do really works well for you, it sounds great to be able to have such a better quality of life like that.

        Like

  3. I took Concerta (sustained-release Ritalin) for a year or two. It really helped. Anxiety makes it hard to focus. Focus feels good. I think it’s the anti-depressant of introverts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The “anti-depressant of introverts” is an interesting phrase. Did you fine it made you more sociable in addition to more focused? If it helped, what made you stop taking it?

      Like

      • No, the downside was I was so focused at times I didn’t always remember to make time for other people.

        I stopped because I was alright and it’s not that great to have extra chemicals in your body.

        Like

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