Content Warning: This post discusses substances that are not legal in all jurisdictions. The use of ketamine is legal where I live, and I only use it under the care of medical professionals and with the help of a trained guide. I do not condone or recommend the use of any substances which are illegal where you live, or the use of ketamine or any other psychedelics without the guidance of a medical professional and guide or therapist.
I’d like to preface this post by saying that I have nothing against medications, nor do I have any negative views against anyone who takes medications for any reason. I’ve personally had mostly negative experiences with prescription psych medications, and the purpose of this post is only to talk about my experiences and my own path forward. This should not be taken as medical advice. Everyone reacts to various medications and substances differently, and you should talk with your doctor before starting or stopping any medication.
But First, Some History
Note: If you don’t want to read all the history and details of how I ended up with the conclusion of being on the autism spectrum and having ADHD, you can skip ahead to the section titled “The ADHD Medication Situation and How it Relates to My Druidic Path”. I won’t judge you. Trust me, I get it…
I was diagnosed with ADHD at age forty, but my history with psych meds goes back about twenty-six years to when I was about fourteen and starting to enter my rebellious teen years. At that age, I desperately wanted to fit in and impress my peers. I was definitely an outcast and didn’t understand why I didn’t fit in. I don’t think I was a bad kid, I was just very bad at saying no to anyone in my age group because I wanted them to like me and I wanted to impress them. You know, teen stuff.
This eagerness to go along with peer pressure eventually led to me running away. From my perspective, I wasn’t running away from home, I was only spending the night with some people who I wasn’t supposed to be staying with, and I lied to my mom about where I was. In my mind it should have been no big deal. But of course, this being the real world and not the idealized world inside my teenage head, it resulted in the police becoming involved and a search for me ensued throughout my small town. I came back home the next day, but this triggered my mother to seek out psychological help for me. From her perspective, I was acting out, which must have meant that I was mentally disturbed. But from my perspective, I was just doing what I needed to do in order to survive the social pressures of adolescence.
My initial diagnosis was depression, so I was prescribed an antidepressant. When that gave me sleep paralysis, I was switched to a different antidepressant. When the new one gave me paranoia and hallucinations, I was switched to yet another. Throughout these medication changes, I continued to see my psychologist. This was the early nineties, and around that time, new research was starting to come out that showed that bipolar disorder could occur in children. My psychologist had been studying the subject and decided that it described me, so I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at around age sixteen and prescribed lithium along with the antidepressant. Then somewhere along the line I got an additional diagnosis of anxiety and had anti-anxiety meds added to my chemical cocktail.
The Path to the Right Diagnosis
Fast forward around eighteen years and many medication changes later, and I was a woman in her early thirties who was starting to question her bipolar diagnosis. From everything I had read on the subject, it just didn’t match up with my experience at all. So once I was able to get health insurance, I decided to start tapering off of all my medications under the guidance of my physician and a therapist. It took about two years to get completely off of everything and it was an incredibly difficult process. It took about another two years before all the withdrawal symptoms went away. I went through another few years of figuring out who I was without the medications. That can be a difficult task when you’ve been on these medications since before your brain had finished developing. I also had to learn how to regulate my emotions and often felt like I had “teenage brain” all over again.
My search for the right diagnosis first led me to Autism Spectrum Disorder, which I had never even considered before because most of the info about that is based on how it presents in males (those assigned male at birth), and the stereotypes found in the media. I wasn’t able to get a formal diagnosis of ASD because I have a husband and a job, so I don’t need help and therefore don’t qualify for a diagnosis because it “doesn’t negatively impact my life enough”. I agree that I don’t need supports and I wasn’t seeking that, but I wanted to get that confirmation so that I could feel comfortable “coming out” as someone on the spectrum. I still don’t feel comfortable telling most people in my life without that formal diagnosis, even though I know that self-diagnosis is widely accepted in the neurodiverse community and even in some circles of the psychological community. I know that there are people who, due to the above-mentioned stereotypes, will not believe me.
I also got an assessment for ADHD at the same time as my ASD assessment. I was told that I could not have ADHD because I did not have certain symptoms as a child, and because I was able to complete a “very boring” game. Apparently they had never heard of hyperfocus and forcing yourself to complete something because you don’t want to disappoint anyone. Did they expect me to get up and storm out of the room in the middle of the test? I’m not a child. All the tests in that assessment felt like they were geared toward children. After doing more research on ADHD in women, I discovered that those symptoms listed that I didn’t have as a child, are all symptoms that mainly present in boys. When I learned of how ADHD presents in girls and women, it became very clear that’s what I have. I ended up asking my doctor for a referral to a neuropsychiatrist because I was definitely struggling with ADHD symptoms even though I didn’t have a formal diagnosis. I got the referral, and the neuropsych agreed that I have ADHD (and it’s now on my medical chart so I call that a diagnosis), so we began looking at treatment options.
The ADHD Medication Situation and How it Relates to My Druidic Path
My neuropsych first started me on a non-stimulant medication while we waited for me to get medically cleared for stimulant trial. I also didn’t want to start with stimulants and wanted to see if a different type of medication would help me. My reasons for this were that I am very sensitive to caffeine (not all people with ADHD are coffee fiends!) so I was worried stimulants would have a similar effect on me. And I had heard horror stories about how difficult it can be to continuously get the prescriptions because it’s a controlled substance here in the US. The first medication we tried helped greatly with some symptoms, but the bad side effects far outweighed the benefits. We tried two other non-stimulant medications that both ended up about the same as the first, just different side effects.
I was finally cleared for stimulant trial shortly after I discovered Druidry and had begun my studies with OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids). Meditation is a big part of Druidry and my bardic grade studies, and I was doing relatively well with that in my first few weeks of the course. I had always struggled with meditation because of my wandering brain, but this course gives me a focus so that my brain has somewhere to go.
I started my stimulant medication trial, and the first day was amazing! I had motivation, energy, and focus, which were three things that I couldn’t achieve all together with the other medications. I was finally starting to get optimistic about my future! But as the week progressed, the side effects started showing up. I was getting heart palpitations every day, whereas before, I only got them maybe once a month or so. My blood pressure also went up and I was having more anxiety. One day during that week, I attempted to do a meditation exercise and ended up having a panic attack. The total opposite of what meditation is supposed to do.
At that point, I felt like my path had split in two, and I could only follow one of them. One path was to continue to take stimulant medications for the benefits and deal with the side effects, but at the same time, feel like I’m not able to fully pursue Druidry. And the other path was to struggle with my ADHD without medications, but being able to fully pursue Druidry, and hopefully Druidry could help me deal with the ADHD. I ultimately decided to stop taking the stimulant, not only because it was interfering with my spiritual path, but because I was afraid it would exacerbate my heart issues.
So, What’s Next?
I have been researching psychedelics for a while and seeing from various studies and the experiences of others with ADHD that it can be very beneficial. I discovered that Ketamine therapy is legal here in California and I found a provider for at-home Ketamine treatments. I feel that this will work well with Druidry as it will enhance, rather than hinder my meditation practices. I’ve only done one treatment so far, but I think this will definitely be a good thing to help me with the struggles along my path.
Once I’ve gotten a few more treatments under my belt, I’ll make another post about my experiences with that.
Yours Under the Blue Oaks,