I have been on meds for 3 years now I think, but recently, I have gone off meds, just because and it opened my eyes to how much my meds actually help with things. Here’s how unmedicated ADHD feels.
The unruly toddler or the busy squirrel (or both)
Both analogies help in explaining my kind of ADHD. Without my meds I have to keep the toddler in check or they will eat anything they find in the fridge in the weirdest combinations I can think off, even if they will cause me bowel problems (as I have IBS) later. I don’t have the energy or the focus to cook but I have the focus and energy to do other things for short bursts of time. Forget any important task that needs to be done, as it will not get done, except when I expect company, then it gets done in a flash, only surface level.
Forget about cooking. Cooking is not something that I can do unmedicated as it needs way too many steps if I want to do it properly, so when I’m unmedicated, the most I can manage is heat something up and eat it in the way it came out of the oven, so nothing with too many steps, or it will not get cooked. Vegetables that need to be mixed or that have an expiration date will crawl out of the fridge eventually as they will be forgotten after a couple of days. The trash will be taken out… when the garbage can is overflowing and my pyramid-tetris stacking isn’t working anymore, or somebody comes over to visit (and even that is not a guarantee).
Forget about showering, if it takes too many steps. Drying my long hair before prevented me from showering. So I got the idea at 1 am (the best ADHD ideas happen at night), to cut my own hair. First I thought of doing only the pony tail, but eventually I cut off everything. Now showers only take 5 minutes and it’s hassle free to get dry afterwards, so I am contemplating to keep it this short, so showers don’t take that long. If I want long hair again, wigs are always an option.
Reading and other pleasurables?
Forget about these as well. It’s not because we enjoy something that we can spend time on those when we want, and it’s not only the nasty stuff we don’t have time for. Most of my time was spent doomscrolling on twitter or watching reels on instagram. Although I love reading and under my meds could finish a book in 2-3 days if I really wanted to, this didn’t happen at all during my no-meds period. Nothing got done. No gaming, no reading, nothing. If it took too many steps (and one loading screen is too many steps, as I have a habit of stopping the game and starting another one when the loading takes too long and if that loading takes too long as well to switch over… until I get bored of the process or notice what is happening and I quit gaming).
Grocery shopping is a hell. Remember the toddler analogy I used above… Normally they have a parent attached to them, now it’s me who has to do both roles. Unmedicated I have a tendency to go for yummy not necessarily healthy foods and most of the foods are ADHD favourites as they are quick to heat and even quicker to eat. Have I mentioned that everything happens fast?
Executive functioning and neurotransmitters: the good the bad and the ugly
I hear you saying already that all ADHD’ers are just giant toddlers. In a sense, yeah. In another way, absolutely not. Our executive functioning is below our level that we could have it if our brain decided to function correctly and take up the dopamine and other neurotransmitters it needs to function properly. In an ADHD brain this isn’t the case, so we are below our functioning on the executive functioning sense, but that same “toddler” brain can be a boon in any creative setting. Give an ADHD’er any subject and they will brainstorm quicker than you can write it out. Our natural sense of wonder is a boon. Need creative ideas on any subject? Ask us. Ask any adhd’er. It doesn’t mean we behave like small children and with discipline we can do the things a normal adult can do, try us… see how far it gets you. It just means our brain doesn’t function properly. Our brains are different and take up neurotransmitters different and without medication, without our chemical crutches, we aren’t able in any way to function on a level of a neurotypical and if we try for a set amount of time, we will burnout and might never recover.
Want to see my kind of ADHD’er/autistic combo in action? Either you come walk next to me and follow me in life (creepy! don’t do this) or you can watch Elementary, the sherlock show. He has a lot of overlap in how I am in day to day life, all the weird hobbies, creative solutions, not being able to wait to explain his theories, the weird sleep schedule… to a tee. I was so glad when I saw this portrayal, and would have loved if they said he was adhd/autistic as he clearly is.