When I was 20 I was diagnosed with ADHD. For about the last six months, I’ve been taking Ritalin. Ritalin is a stimulant that lasts for about 3-5 hours (usually closer to 5 for me). It’s amazing and wonderful but can also be tricky to get used to. Adult ADHD diagnoses are getting more and more common. So if you’re a newbie, here are 13 tips and things that I’ve learned from taking Ritalin.
1. Ritalin and coffee should NOT be mixed. Ever.
The first time I did this I was ready to run a marathon, and I hate running. Since then, I’ve done it accidentally a couple of times and it’s awful. I’ve described it as being able to “feel my neurons firing” and “seeing soundwaves.” 10 out of 10 would not recommend.
2. You need to stay hydrated
I almost stopped taking it because by mid-afternoon I would have these horrible headaches. One of my nursing major friends (who also has ADHD), asked if I was drinking enough water. Whoops, guess who hadn’t been drinking anything all day? Drink water, drink lots of water.
3. And don’t forget to eat
Ritalin can make you so focused that you forget to eat (also contributing to headaches). I’ve gotten a lot better with this (#alwayshungry), but this is a really common problem with people who have ADHD. Set alarms for yourself if you have to, and always carry snacks.
4. You need to take it somewhat consistently
This picture is from when I first started taking Ritalin, I missed one day and I felt so jittery. Now I’m more used to it, and can go a few days without taking it and not feel any side effects. Taking Ritalin on a somewhat regular schedule makes your body more acclimated to it, and reduces potential negative side effects.
5. Some days it works better than others
I don’t know if it’s what you eat, or how much sleep you got, or the weather. But sometimes, Ritalin will work better for you than others. Sometimes it wears off and I feel fine, sometimes I crash and I’m instantly brain dead. Monitor how you’re feeling throughout the day to see how it’s working.
6. Don’t take it too late in the day
It’s similar to drinking coffee late at night. If you take Ritalin too late in the day, you will stay up and will not be able to relax. Even if your body is tired, your brain is ready to go go go. I know for me I shouldn’t take it after 7pm unless I plan on doing homework for a very long time.
7. The right dosage takes some time to figure out
Even though your psychiatrist will give you a ballpark amount, you ultimately have to figure out how much you’re going to take. Besides that, you have to figure out when to take it (and when it will wear off), how many times you’ll take it, and when you’ll be eating. It’ll take some trial and error (you’ll probably be grumpy) and tweaking, especially when your schedule changes.
8. It is hard to remember to take it
I joke that I need a pill to remind me to take my pill. It’s kind of funny, I forget to take the pill that helps me not forget things. Set alarms, leave a Post It on your door handle. Lately my favorite thing to do is wrap my keys around the bottle (bonus points, because it reminds me to grab my keys).
9. I can still function without Ritalin…
I went 20 years without Ritalin, I can still get things done on my own. Sometimes it’s important to remind myself that I’m a functional human being without Ritalin, and I shouldn’t be 100% dependent on it to complete tasks.
10. …But taking it makes things easier…
When I first started taking it, my parents asked what Ritalin actually did. I explained that it helped me focus, and basically made me complete tasks in a timely manner. I would walk into my building and say “I need to do my math homework” and I can walk to my room and start doing my homework. Without Ritalin, I’ll still get the homework done. But I’ll get on my phone, and then do a few problems, and then get distracted. Ritalin cuts out a lot of the crap and makes my life more efficient.
11. …But even then it doesn’t make things perfect
Ritalin isn't a magic super drug that makes me get everything done. I will get distracted, forget small things, and space out. The drug helps me out, but I still have to work to get things done.
12. "This is why I take Ritalin" becomes the catch-all phrase
I'm a person who perpetually does stupid things. Ever looked for your phone while you were talking on said phone? That's me constantly, trying to process everything at once and failing miserably. It's extremely frustrating, but humor makes life a little easier. "And this everyone, is why I need to take Ritalin" is said on the daily, to remind myself that it's not my fault that I can walk into a room six times and continuously forget why I went in there.
13. ADHD is a part of me
Having ADHD is not a walk in a park. I'm spacey and flaky, perpetually in a distracted state of confusion. But ADHD gives me my passion, my wittiness, and my creativity. As much as it makes my life difficult, it also makes it a heck of a lot more fun.
14. NEVER MIX RITALIN AND COFFEE
Don’t do it.