Ritalin–One Week, and I feel AWESOME.

Are you ready for my commercial for anyone who has the inattentive subtype of ADHD (ADD)?

Glass of water and pills
So, after a week of consistently using Ritalin, I am happy to say that I am pretty much in love with those tiny white pills. I call them my magic pills, in fact. Never before in my life have I felt more like a regular, normal person doing what regular, normal people do. It is amazing. Cases in point:
I decided to fill out a job application for some teaching positions. Anybody who has done this knows that school district applications are perhaps the most tedious type of job applications in the world. You are asked to fill in millions of vague blanks describing “skills” that will probably never be considered, and making statements of purpose for the district that will never be read, and then uploading resume, cover letter, letters of rec, about 4,000 test scores, and a trillion other things.
The non medicated me would have done the following: after starting the application, I would have gotten to a point where I had to get up and go get some item, or look up an address in my email account, or look for a filed document, taking my attention away from the task at hand. This transitional step would jettison me from the process, and my brain would seek distraction to re-stimulate itself. I would then have to drag myself away from whatever distraction I had encountered (if and when I ever realized I had been previously working on something) and start the process of trying to concentrate again over. This would happen over and over and over and over and over and over thus making what would normally be about a three hour process into a several day, excruciating event.
Instead: I started the application. And I continued. And when I needed to get something, I got it and came back and… kept going. And it wasn’t like I had to make myself keep going. I just… did. It was the most amazing feeling. I took the application from step A to step Z and didn’t stop once, and got it done. And then I pressed “submit” and about had a heart attack because I realized that I have been missing out on being able to do that kind of thing my entire life, and all it took was swallowing my pride, and swallowing a little pill that said Ritalin, to make a truly marked difference in my ability to function.
One of my predictions is kind of coming true. I feel a little sad that I didn’t do this (or know to do this) many many years ago.
Anyway, another case in point:
Today we decided that we are going to take a trip to see my in-laws in California. We’ll be leaving tomorrow. This spontaneous decision occurred because Lolly (my wife) was given the go-ahead to travel yesterday while at a check up for her pregnancy. Until now there have been enough complications with the pregnancy that she’s been on modified bed-rest, so travel was a no no. But now, we’re a go.
Normally in preparation for leaving tomorrow, I would putter around all day trying to “work hard” to get us ready to go. I’d start various tasks, get distracted and finish none of them, then get overwhelmed by all that needed to be done, and find myself playing the violin, or surfing the internet, or any of a number of activities that tend to be my fallbacks. Lolly would then have to overcompensate, do way more than me, and feel frustrated. And I would feel like crap, and berate myself for being so “lazy.”
Instead: I started off the day cleaning the entire kitchen (which involved different tasks whose transitions would have tripped me up in the past like going from sweeping to mopping to counters). And this was deep cleaning. Cleaning like I’ve never cleaned before. And I didn’t get distracted once. I’m talking hands-and-knees, scraping junk off the kids’ booster seat kind of cleaning. It was awesome and so refreshing to be able to do. Then, instead of getting distracted by some shiny object or interesting show or scatterbrained something or other while transitioning to a new important task, I immediately went on to organize the books that our daughters would be bringing on the trip, and then got their movies ready, and then got the DVD players strapped into the car, and then wrote thank you cards for graduation gifts, and then got my paperwork sent to my professor documenting my alternative internship hours, and I actually addressed all the envelopes and sealed them (which type of minutiae would normally have spun me into some fit of distraction) and then I made the girls lunch, found their blanket, ate a picnic with them out on the lawn, cleaned up after us, came in, played with them, read them books and then put them down for nap/quiet time.
Um, this is UNHEARD OF!!!!!!!! Seriously, even as I type it out, I can’t believe that was my morning. It was unbelievable to be able to do that. Un freaking believable. I feel like a normal person! I feel like I can do things! I feel excited to see what else I can do! I feel… like I’ve wasted 30 years of my life? But also like I have decades more to go where I can function in a normal way, and it invigorates the crap out of me. (Don’t picture that too literally.)
Obviously, I’m still processing. I’m still getting the hang of deconstructing patters of distraction that have been my standard for years and years. Things aren’t going to be seamless. I am in a transition. I’m going to have to learn new skills and new habits. But I have a lot of hope for the future. Hope for finishing projects started long ago. I am amazed at how well this is working. I feel like a different person. I kind of feel like the type of productive person I’ve always strived to be. The type of person I’ve known I am deep down, and that I just didn’t have the brain chemistry to be.
It’s a very cool feeling.


  1. Congratulations! And think about how many skills you have already by learning to cope with the ADHD! You have had a lot on your plate with family, work, school etc., managed to get it all done and now you have those insights for a new life! I wish you all the best!

  2. Oh cow – Josh … I cannot imagine incredibly talented you, being even more productive!! Watch out world!! Now your novel can get done and published … And you can critique my manuscript … Hee, hee!! Seriously – you sound liberated!!!

  3. This is fantastic Josh. What an amazing sense of freedom you describe. I'm really thrilled for you! In a big way. So sorry to miss your graduation party. And so wonderful to hear you feeling about yourself the way so many of us have felt about you for SO LONG…Good for you!! Go you!!! Have a great trip and keep posting so we get these wonderful little insights into the life that you create!!!!!!

  4. Tina forwarded this to me…as a sister in this disorder, I applaud you for being open, vocal and transparent through this process which can feel very lonely and difficult. I would love to hear more and follow your posts if you don't mind. It is unremarkable the utter dark fog that one lives in when not on meds…and is heartbreaking to look back on years that seem very misunderstood. I look forward to hearing this journey as you encounter new ways of doing things or come across challenges as well. Thanks for sharing…good luck to you!
    –Amanda Hataway Smith

  5. Hello. Brand new commenter here. I discovered your blog, like so many lately, via your Club Unicorn post. And, as much as I was so touched by that post and by your wonderful story, as a 33 year old stay at home mom of four young girls, I found myself wandering through your ADHD posts today. I, too, have ADHD (no idea what sub-type) as does my husband and all of our children. (My baby is 14 months and undiagnosed, but at this point I know keenly what I am looking at, even if no doctor would dare touch the issue for a few more years.) I was diagnosed at 18 after nearly flunking out of my first semester at BYU. I started ritalin and it helped. But, I didn't like the idea of needing a pill to be "normal". I was on and off ritalin for a few years. On my mission, my mission pres sent me to a counselor (for what he suspected was depression) and I was put back on ritalin. He told me that once I got home I could do as I wanted, but while I was serving under him, he wanted me to stay on it. True to my promise, the last time I ever took any ritalin was the day I flew home. That was a decade ago. I now have a husband and four kids, and a much more hectic life than I ever imagined. I have reached the point where I feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities with my family. What you've described is what I live everyday, but with the added challenge of having a husband who is even more ADD than I am, and therefore doesn't work well to counterbalance my chaos. I fall far short of my expectations with housework, and much more importantly, with my kids. As I told my doctor recently, I feel like I am short-changing them and just unable to jump the hurdles that stand in my way. The time has come. I no longer feel trapped or weakened by my need to medicate in order to function at the level I feel I should be able to. I just this week started on Adderall. I can feel the difference, but it's not doing what I need to do. I am giving a full month, like my doctor told me to, before I decided if either the dose is too small or perhaps adderall just isn't the answer I need. Given that you have personal experience with this, as well as professional training, can you perhaps point me in the right direction to help figure out the difference between the available medications and how they work and/or may work for me? I post this, while fully aware that your blog is overrun (rightly so) by your latest posts and the important discussion going on there. But, if at some point in the future, you get a chance to respond to me, I would really appreciate any insight you might have to share. Thank you, and a special thanks to you and your wife for being the beautiful examples of love and faith and devotion you are. (Also, sorry for not formatting this properly, with paragraphs and all that good stuff. I typed it out intending to go back and edit in those changes and now that is too overwhelming, so it is what it is.)

  6. I agree with the above post. I am also curious about any side affects that you have had. Your post honestly sounds like a dream come true for someone who has struggled with education, employment, relationships, & even simple daily tasks & just wants to be normal. Not even extraordinary, just normal. But I am terrified that the pills will change my personality, cause awful side affects, or depression. & that once I'm on them, even if they do cause those things, I will deal with it because of the freedom it will give me. It's a terrifying decision to make. Any thoughts on this or more on your experience, as it's been a while now since the post?

    Most grateful! Thank-you!!

  7. Fantastic. I felt like I was reading the story of my life, which is quite similar to yours. Being focused is great… I'm so grateful and happy after my treatment. It's great to read similar stories 🙂

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