I've experienced so many dramatic changes in my life over the past couple of years that it is challenging for even me to wrap my head around everything. Hopefully by sharing my story I can hear from others who have had similar experiences to my own. Here we go...
I started seeing a therapist back in 2014 to try and work on my relationships with people, most importantly, my relationship with my wife. During that time the therapist told me that a lot of the things that were impacting my relationships sounded like symptoms of ADHD. My therapist referred me to a psychiatrist and in the fall of 2014 I started my roller coaster ride with Adderall. The beginning part of this journey is pretty textbook so I'll try to keep it short. I felt amazing at first. My work productivity skyrocketed. I was communicating better and things were awesome. Then they were less awesome. So naturally, I started taking more Adderall to try and get back to the way things used to be. At my peak I was taking 20 mg twice a day but some days I would take it 3 times a day (60 mg total). I had a feeling I shouldn't take that much but I had work to do and deadlines to meet so I just did it. Big mistake in retrospect.
About 2 years ago (late 2016) I started experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. I thought it was just life. I have a demanding job. My wife and I had our first child in January of 2015 and he had significant health problems for the first year of his life. Multiple surgeries, doctor visits, etc. He's basically fine now but things were not easy for quite a while. Initially we thought it might have just been seasonal depression since things seemed to get better during the summer months. In 2017 though the depression and anxiety never really let up. That winter 2017/18 was brutal. I started seeing another therapist and was desperately trying as many remedies as I could find to feel better. Supplements, light therapy, exercise, more sleep, hydration, and on and on. Things got better but still were not great.
One year ago in April 2018 my wife told me she was interested in trying a new diet called keto. I didn't know anything about it but I wanted to be supportive so I agreed to do it with her. After the first week I felt pretty great. I noticed that my focus was getting better and so were my feelings of depression and anxiety. My wife and I decided to stick to the diet as a lifestyle and not just a diet. Throughout that year I had a lot of ups and downs. It was getting to the point though where I could have some really REALLY bad days. Unable to get out of bed and face the world days. This worried me (and my family). A couple months ago I decided to try an elimination diet to see if there were certain foods impacting my ADHD/depression/anxiety. I reduced my diet to beef, eggs, salt, and water. Surprisingly, things got better. I started to think that maybe I didn't need the Adderall in the same way I used to. After doing some research I decided to cut my dose by 10% to start tapering down. That 10% reduction was enough to start causing withdrawal symptoms. Rather than fight through them over the course of several weeks I decided to just quit cold turkey.
The withdrawals intensified greatly. I was pretty much useless at work and at home. Thankfully I was in a bit of a lull at work where my complete lack of production was able to go by relatively unnoticed. I was miserable. All my ADHD/depression/anxiety symptoms intensified to the point where I was seriously considering going on antidepressants. After 13 agonizing days the major withdrawal symptoms finally started to ease up and that brings me to where I'm at today and why I'm sharing this.
I had no idea how addictive ADHD medication is and my psychiatrist did not give me any warning when he initially prescribed the Adderall to me. I also had no idea that other people taking Adderall and other stimulants also began to develop symptoms of depression and anxiety. It didn't even dawn on me that they might be related until I discovered this community this week. Now that the main withdrawal symptoms have eased up I am able to piece it together a little more clearly.
I think that there is an un-diagnosed history of depression in my family on my dad's side. I think that taking Adderall, especially at the dose I was taking, magnified my own symptoms. I do believe that my drastic dietary change is what ultimately helped me realize all of this and get through the worst of the withdrawals. Eating a low carbohydrate diet, and specifically a zero carb / "carnivore" diet has been shown to help with cravings and addiction. During my withdrawal I was never worried that I would break and start taking the pills again. I was just miserable beyond belief. The diet also has been known to help with mood and sleep and a lot of people are trying it and finding it helps with all sorts of ailments. I can't speak to the science behind it but I can say this. If you're struggling to overcome your addiction to stimulants you should seriously look into a low carb or zero carb diet.
I'm not going to say that I'm completely out of the woods. I'm still having a lot of trouble with focus and I'm still not anywhere near capable of being able to work productively for a full day but I will say this. Today was the first day in a long time where I woke up feeling happy. I smiled to myself in the mirror today and I think it was the first time I had a genuine smile on my face in months. I never would have imagined a pill prescribed to me by a doctor could have such horrible effects on me but they did. I'm thankful to be on my journey to putting that part of my life behind me. I lost about 2 years of my life though. Two years of spending time with my wife and 2 children that I will never be able to go back and enjoy. That sucks. But I'm determined to make up for that lost time and live an even better life from here on forward.
Hopefully somebody else out there finds this helpful.