pkr

Stuck in the middle

11 posts in this topic

For as long as I can remember, I've suffered with anxiety, OCD and certainly ADD. Like some other posters, I've relied on that last minute rush to get things done, and it's fortunately never failed me. So while ADD never affected my school or career, anxiety/panic/depersonalization attacks, and OCD have been crippling. I've tried everything to feel better, from nutrient therapy to EMDR to acupuncture to medication to Neurofeedback. Absolutely everything. I'd get varying degrees of relief here and there, but nothing ever stuck, and they all had their drawbacks. My anxiety also comes with the added bonus of air hunger, which if you've ever had it, you know how unbearable that can be. I'd also started having regular panic attacks while driving with my kids in the car, so I'd been beyond desperate to find a cure.

One day, my brother gave me an adderall, and suddenly I could breathe! No more air hunger, no more panic attacks. Period! It was as if the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders, and I cannot express how liberating it was. As the euphoria wore off, the benefits remained, and I was convinced I'd found the holy grail. I could sense that my 'perception' of the world was different in a rather unexplicable way, but it was a small price to pay to be able to breathe.

Then my three year old son got sick. He had a terrible flu that lasted several days, followed by another infection, and when all was said and done, he was a different kid. My formerly happy, enthusiastic, energetic kid was gone. This kid was mean, miserable, developed tics, had no energy, and refused to eat practically anything, and I went out of my mind trying to figure it out. No doctor could explain what had happened, and I was basically told I was crazy by everyone. And I was! I was a crazed maniac trying to figure out what had happened to my son. (Un)fortunately, I have a job that allows me several uninterrupted hours of internet time, and suddenly I found myself in an abyss of medical information. I did nothing else for two years, but read about weird medical conditions that scared the me to death. Ultimately, I discovered the Feingold Diet, and through a lengthy process of elimination, found out he'd developed food intolerances after that illness that were causing his tics and craziness. I cut them out, and thankfully, his is fine now.

But I am NOT! I think I did permanent brain damage by reading about all of these rare and scary things for so long...and with such vigor, that I could have graduated with a degree in medicine and nutrition. And then my OCD kicked in with it so I now have to carefully weigh everything I do with my kids...did they get enough calcium, did they get too much, is milk okay, this nutrient prevents absorption of this, so I can't give those together, this product has this additive, which vaccines, how should far apart do I spread them, etc. It's NONSTOP in my mind,and I realize that it is completely abnormal and unhealthy. I'd also, during that time, become so absorbed with my one son, that I was very irritable with my other two kids. I couldn't stand anything taking away from my 'research'! All in all, I've been taking it for four years.

Eventually I realized that I can't go on like that, so I decided to quit. At first it was okay. I was feeling totally sluggish, more mentally than physically, but I was staying the course. 6 days in, though, I had a massive panic attack in the car. And then the air hunger came back. So I'm picking up right where I left off, and now I'm so mentally drained on top of it! I realize there's a recovery period, but can someone give me a more specific description of the mental/intelligence issues post-adderall? Is anyone worse off than before they started? I'm specifically worried about memory issues. I feel like I'm experiencing things, but nothing is sticking. I have a hard time remembering what I did the night before or what happened on a show, and I almost feel like all of this medical reading crowded other information in my brain. I'm sure that sounds crazy, but I'm hoping someone can relate, because there are general memories I can't seem to pull out at all...of things that I should remember. Has anyone else had that experience? And from a general intelligence standpoint, I've completely lost it. I used to be a fairly good writer, and my thoughts are so garbled now, I can't write intelligently at all. OH! And I've lost that last minute rush I used to rely on to get things done. I know it's only been a couple of weeks, but it's really making me nervous.

I would appreciate anyone's thoughts, and I SO appreciate this website!!

P

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Hey PKR,

I found myself really foggy initially, especially with writing. It was hard for me to get words out on a page. And thoughts weren't coming to me as quickly. I remember I'd go to a store and look around and everything just felt really blurry and out of focus.

Two books I recommend are:

1. The Brain that Changes Itself

2. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

They made me understand how the brain is plastic and how even after years of heavy stimulant abuse, I could get my brain to repair itself, not just through letting time pass, but actively exercising mental muscle. I spent lots and lots of time reading books. I read so many books in my year of recovery - I really feel it paid off.

I definitely believe I'm sharper now.

Anyway, I guess sometimes it has to get worse before it can get better.

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Hi,

It will take you a long time to feel like the mental fog has lifted. It is totally normal to feel like crap for the first few months, in my experiences. I also experience air hunger from time to time, but for me, stimulants like Adderall or caffeine exacerbate it, so we are different in that respect. Do you drink a lot of coffee? If I drink too much coffee I get air hunger, more so than when I took Adderall, so I am careful with my caffeine intake. I also recommend yoga. Since I've been doing yoga several times per week, my breathing and my mental clarity is much improved. It takes a while of consistent practice to feel the changes, but if you stick with it, it will greatly help your anxiety, and it is a long term solution, unlike taking pills. If you can't afford to go to a studio, you can always get a couple DVDs and do it at home. I like the Wai Lana yoga DVDs (Wai Lana is the name of the instructor).

As for freaking out about messing up your brain, remember that the brain is malleable and stop scouring the Internet for anecdotes or pseudoscience suggesting otherwise! Don't psych yourself out. The brain's plasticity has been well established in neuroscience for several decades now. A book I would highly recommend reading is "My Stroke of Insight" by Jill Bolte Taylor. http://www.amazon.com/My-Stroke-Insight-Scientists-Personal/dp/B004HEXSLI . It's written by a brain scientist who suffered a massive stroke in her 30s and made a complete recovery. She had to relearn everything, from walking to eating and even had to relearn what the purpose of everyday objects were. For example, she had to learn that a 'fork' was an eating untensil and you use it to get food from your plate to your mouth. She describes how she had to remake every tiny little connection in her brain, and that the reason she was able to make a full recovery (surprising her doctors) was because, as a neuroscientist, she believed in the plasticity of the brain. I really hope you read this book - I promise it will humble, enlighten and inspire you. Good luck!

Cassie

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I agree with you newboy. I think it takes some time for both the dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters to begin replenishing themselves in normal levels again.

And even when they start getting back to normal, i don't think they are supposed to feel as "abundant" as they were like when on adderall. I think it takes an adjustment to the new normal of neurotransmitters and acceptance that you won't feel as pumped up as when you were on adderall..But also understanding you won't feel as bad as when you first stop and are underproducing neurotransmitters. If that makes any sense...

I was abusing much longer and intensely than you were. So I don't think your climb will be nearly as steep as mine. It took me a while to start being able to feel the adrenaline rush again. And even then, it would never be at the same levels as when I was abusing. Not even close. When I was abusing my adrenaline/norepinephrine levels were sky high, dangerously and destructive sky high. To the point where I was having panic attacks every day over nothing and feeling some kind of anxiety disorder. I think my ability to produce norepinephrine has gradually come back, but its just not going to be at the same levels as before. I am working on "acceptance" of these new levels. And just realizing its not ever going to be the way as it was before. Nor should it. Nor would I want it to - (after all, I no longer suffer from constant anxiety nor have panic attacks all the time).

I was on 250+mg. No one in their right mind could ever feel like they had 250mg of adrenaline coursing through their veins on a day to day basis in their natural state without the help of an artificial substance. So for me, its been about accepting my new levels of norepinephrine (and dopamine) production as how it will be and how it should be.

So basically here's what I think... Stimulants work to create an artificial surplus of both dopamine and norepinephrine between the brain synapses.The brain adapts to this artificial surplus and learns that it doesn't have to keep producing the chemicals that make you feel good. These chemicals or neurotransmitters keep appearing without the brain having to do any work. When a person first quits stimulants, physiologically we have to regain normal levels of dopamine and norepinephrine production on our own again, but psychologically, we have to get used to performing optimally with lower levels of norepinephrine and dopamine than before when we were on stimulants. We also have to let go of the mental attachment to that jazzed up feeling we felt on stimulants. And we have to eventually let go of that long "relationship" we built up with stimulants during our time on it as part of our daily lives. We have to get rid of our reliance on it as a crutch in our lives not feeling helpless without it. Among probably many other things (Another thing is personally, on a psychological level, I have also felt like I have gone through some kind of grieving process with different stages).

Do you agree? Does anyone agree?

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yeaah..I completely understand what you're talking about. It's really, really, really....really frustrating. You just have to continue to wait it out, not take stimulants and trust in your brain's ability to change itself...

I also started taking it for GPA reasons to my huge regret...I do have trouble though remembering how it is I felt before adderall, because it was so long ago. I found myself racking my brains a lot, trying to remember, so I would have some standard to measure of when I would be feeling better.. Most of the time I knew it must have been a lot better than how I was feeling at the moment.

As each month goes by it always gets better...I remember clearly how I started noticing my first changes around the five month mark. I was so happy that I could begin to feel better. I even wrote down the date. It just kind of happened one day out of the blue all of a sudden. Since then, I've never gone backward, only forward. And I feel I've come a long way since then.

I really miss the time in my life when adderall just never factored into the equation.

Just know that nothing is permanent.

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First of all, thank you all for replying, and Cassie, thank you for reminding me about neuroplasticity. That definitely gives me hope. I've actually read quite a bit about neuroplasticity in the past, and part of me wonders if I go full throttle reverse (i.e. adderall, but force myself only to read about happy, positive things!) if that might get rid of some of my fears that I think I've deeply engrained in myself. :)

I'm very sorry to say, though, that I've had a setback. I quit completely early February, and I had a March 22 goal of feeling myself again. We were going to Costa Rica, which I'd been trying to get to for years, and I truly thought that being there would get me over any hump I had left. I was very upset, though, that I was still having that 'experiencing, but not feeling' sensation', so I gave in and took it three days in. I don't necessarily regret that, because it was a spectacular trip, and I'd be really unhappy to have not taken it all in. And, I realize now that I was far too optimistic in the length of my recovery time. However, I have to work a night shift every three months, which the next stint happened to coincide with my return from Costa Rica, so it was all too easy to convince myself that I 'need it' to survive the night shift.

Now I'm not sure how to handle this. I want to be DONE with these things. I had glimpses of normalcy...food smelling good, empathy, which had somehow fallen by the wayside, I'd realized, not feeling rushed all the time, not having an impending sense of doom as it wears off. Good things that I desperately want back. So there's good motivation there, despite the air hunger and panic attack tradeoff. But I feel like if I even say 'I wonder if a step-down method would be better for me' that I'm pussing out and justifying the fact that I started again. And if I tell myself I'm going to try again after this three month shift is up, it feels like an excuse. I have stuck to 5-15mg a day, down from 30, and I have absolutely no desire to go back up. I've also not taken it until close to work, so my home time is adderall free, for what that's worth. Has anyone quit cold turkey, failed and then succeeded at a stepdown?

Again, thank you all, and I hope you're doing well!

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8 hours ago, Emmz12 said:

What is air hunger???

what an epic dig lol, but was a good read, i can definitely relate.

its the feeling of not getting enough air, like in a panic attack when you start breathing really fast.

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Yeah its like you cannot get a satisfying deep breath.  Happens to me sometimes, usually when I'm overthinking my breathing.  Since I've started meditating I can usually calm myself down a lot quicker than in the past.

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