My ADHD is still valid even though I am not taking medication

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“You don’t have this diagnosis because you can survive without medication.”



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A woman looking down

When I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety About 10 years ago, I immediately started taking medication. It has been a long and difficult road, filled with horrible side effects, different doses, different cocktails and pill mixes, terrifying withdrawal and a roller coaster of physical and mental impact. In the end, I ended up deciding not to pursue further drug trials after some truly traumatic experiences.

A few years ago when I was finally diagnosed ADHD, I was again faced with the question of medication. I decided to try medication because my doctor seemed to think it was the only option. Again, I really struggled with the side effects – I was focusing on the wrong things, completely lost my appetite, lost my sleep, and struggled with nervousness. The doctor suggested changing the medication, but I just didn’t have it in me. I thought I would be somehow managed my symptoms before being diagnosed for so long, I could probably try other strategies to cope and live with my ADHD. I immediately noticed that with ADHD, people questioned the validity of my diagnosis because I chose not to take medication. People, including healthcare professionals, have come to the conclusion that because I wasn’t on medication, I couldn’t ADHD.

The assumption people make is that if I don’t take medication, I shouldn’t have ADHD or it shouldn’t be that bad. Believe me, it’s still so bad – the negative effects of the drugs were just worse and didn’t seem to be worth it. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t struggle with ADHD, yet I still survive without medication. Just because I’m surviving doesn’t mean I’m not struggling. Medication shouldn’t be the determinant if someone’s health is struggling, in my case ADHD, is right.

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There are a ton of reasons people may not take medication, and none of them are because they really don’t have ADHD. Medicines are expensive and inaccessible for many people, and this could be one of the reasons people do not take medicines for their health. ADHD. Another reason could be that side effects or interactions with other drugs make it difficult to find a good option. I also found that when taking medication I faced a ton of reviews and judgments from the pharmacy I went to. It was like they thought I was selling drugs on the street or something like that because they were stimulants. I hated the way they looked at me and the way they asked their questions as I dreaded going to the pharmacy to get medicine. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a factor in my decision to quit ADHD medication.

Medication is a tool – it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, and my choice not to take medication shouldn’t say anything about the severity of my condition. ADHD is. I do my best to cope in other ways, whether that’s by finding workarounds and routines, getting plenty of sleep and limiting sugar, or allowing myself the grace to live in my neurodivergent way. I’m not saying people don’t need meds – a lot of people do and that’s absolutely okay (if I’m being honest I probably need meds too). But someone ADHD status is not determined by their medication status, and to suggest otherwise is unfair to people like me who are really struggling but often have our issues overlooked or invalidated because we are not taking medication.

I should have the autonomy and the right to determine which treatment is best for me, and I should not have to justify my struggles because of the choices I have made. It’s so frustrating to have people who don’t believe that I have ADHD only because I don’t take meds – they don’t know what I’m dealing with on a daily basis, they don’t understand how much I’m still struggling and it’s not fair to feel like I have to prove how point it is serious.

Many people think that not needing medication means that something is not “that bad” or that a person is being diagnosed because they can get by without pharmaceuticals. If I have a stomach ache or headache and don’t take over-the-counter medications for it, that doesn’t mean the pain doesn’t exist. It’s the same with ADHD and prescription drugs. My ADHD exists and is real with or without medication.

While I’m not against drugs and may come back to it in the future, my hope for now is that people learn to respect the fact that you don’t need drugs to justify your struggle. Medication does not make your condition any more valid or real. Your diagnosis exists completely independent of your treatment plan. If you’re uncomfortable with the treatment options presented by your doctor or outside observers, speak up. You are the expert in how you feel, and this should be respected without invalidating your experiences. If you find it hard to think that your experiences were not “that bad” because you can get by without drugs, I see you and I am with you.

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