ADHD Medication update- my personal experience of Methylphenidate

Ello, I have written this blog several times and then had to rewrite it and then not published it, then rewritten it...etc. This is all partly because being on medication is new for me and it took a while to get to a stabilised dose; I didn't want to give misinformation when I hadn't maybe got a handle on the whole process and I genuinely struggle to externalise physical/mental processes... so yes for all those reasons and more it has taken this long.

If you're the kind of person who wonders why people talk about personal stuff on the internet then I'm not sure why you're here but just a disclaimer than I am not advocating medication for ADHD or not- I am merely here to talk about my personal experience with taking medication to potentially help manage the symptoms of ADHD for me. When I was looking for information on "but how do ADHD meds make you FEEL?" I just couldn't find much, just sort of generic stuff like "it helps". So I wanted to try to write about how exactly it helps me, or not... no spoilers. 

I think I started medication in June earlier this year and perhaps was praying for miracle cure- it wasn't, fyi. It took a while to titrate to my current dose which just means taking small incremental doses until you reach an optimum level which means that the drug effect is helping your symptoms and having limited or no side effects. This process is essential to make sure you do not have an adverse reaction- although obviously as ADHD'ers we want it all to be better !now!

I am now on stable dose of 54mg of slow release methylphenidate (currently concerta xl) which means I take one dose in the morning and that's it. The drug capsule releases some straight away and then in two more doses throughout the day, supposed to last 12 hours although if you look into it's more like 10 and there is always part of the drug which is not passed on.  I think in the US it perhaps more common to take 3 doses of fast acting (ritalin?) but the former type of dosage is more common in the UK, I believe. Not a doctor though so apols for possible misinformation.  The NHS has a maximum standard dose of 54mg for this type of treatment for adult ADHD- I came through a private diagnosis (common here) and which be hopefully switching to shared care this week. This means that the NHS will administrate my prescription and I will continue to be seen by my private psychiatrist every 6 months for any changes/ reactions- partly because the NHS/GP's do not have the resources/ expertise to help in this way- which is why you have to be on a stable dose for 3 months before they will accept shared care. I will write about this aspect when I know a bit more- I have concerns about being switched to generic forms of the drug as opposed to the one I am on but it is what it is and we will see what happens.

Ok, so, how does taking this drug help me with my ADHD symptoms? Well I suppose we should talk about some of my symptoms because everyone is different. 

I can actually give you a very relevant example as to how the medication works for me because this morning I forgot to take my medication- very common in ADHD'ers but normally I don't forget (because I have a routine). The fact that I couldn't remember was actually a symptom of my normal self (ie me with ADHD fully present and medicated) eg:

foggy headed

unsure about anything

trying to work but unable to concentrate

starting to stare off into the distance


wanting to go to sleep even though I've only be awake for 1.5 hours.

I was trying hard to remember if I had taken my medication because obviously it would terrible to double dose on a long acting drug but knew I had enough experience to know that when I take the drug I have an increasing sense of alertness and ability... not a decreasing one so, just quickly told my husband and checked in (just incase) but basically yes took my medication and errr was able to write this blog!

If you've read anything I've written before you'll know I was only recently diagnosed in May this year. This means I've lived a whole life with "symptoms" I just regarded as my own "crapness" and therefore it is an ongoing process to extricate what is ADHD/autism and what isn't.  That said my symptoms range from:

Falling asleep often throughout the day

Drifting off into... somewhere

Feeling "tired" when doing boring things

Wanting to achieve something but feeling unable to do it

Feeling rejection strongly

Feeling frustrated with myself 

Committing to things I then can't fulfil

Rebelling against myself/authority

Not understanding why I have potential but lack application 

People pleasing

Feeling unable to explain things happening in my body and mind

Lack of personal agency

Forgetting things immediately 

Having to add alarms, things to calendars, reminders to get things done, even for every day repeated tasks

Putting things back in the same place every day to eliminate anxiety/ time spent looking for things 

Feeling unable to switch tasks/brainspaces - for example when I am in  "leaving the house mode" I cannot speak to anyone because it disrupts my normal pattern of thought and places 

Only able to operate one mode contextually- I once got the bus home and happened to see my daughter with her friends on the bus too- about to get off at our stop and 1) It almost took me a while to recognise her (unexpected/out of context) and 2) it took me a sec to be able to shift into "parent/social mode" and just say hello- it was genuinely  struggle for me to adjust. Which all sounds very horrifying but I'm just trying to be honest here. This is possibly a more autistic trait. 

Feeling like I'm getting in my own way but being unable to change

Only able to operate under extreme pressure 

Needing a nap every day 

Feeling that I'm being pushed over the edge very easily- one noise, one look, anyone wanting something "more" from me, even a just a hello/goodbye is enough sometimes. 

Feeling sensorily overwhelmed easily- not the same as above, I have some sensory sensitivities which mean I have to manage my exposure to things (touch/ light/ smell/sound) because sometimes they fill me up too much and I feel assaulted. I know this sounds sort of awful, especially in the context of a family where all those things are part of every day life but that is what life is like for me- for example this might mean I can cope long enough to make dinner for my family but I may not be able to sit through a dinner with them to eat it. The sensory overwhelm is like a physical force that demands I reduce my inputs asap- I often sit in a dark room alone when this happens and my family are pretty understanding.

Time blindness- logically I understand time is set and chronological. But actually in my brain I work on ADHD time which has 2 modes:  "NOW!" or "not now". Not now means it might as well be a myth, it's never happening. NOW means I can see the amount of time I have, it is not much and it means I will get this done because I can see how long the road is and where I'm trying to get to. It's very common for ADHD'ers brains to work this way. 

Not knowing what time I have- preferring other people to make plans so I can see clearly if that's a yes or no- when people ask me to pick a time/ place to meet it is excruciating for me to try to work out when/where/how I'm available. In this way I prefer other obligations/people to squeeze my time/ tell me what time I have because trying to work it out for myself feels like trying to solve a very difficult problem every time. 

Magical thinking- this relates to a psychological term (I think) about how you maybe prefer to hope for the best and think things will magically work out rather than working through the details and understanding what it will take to reach your goal/s. This sums up my approach to task management- I want to reach the goal and I may even work out what I need to do but how I get there ends up in a fuzzy no persons land of doo-dee-doo-dee-doo-dah basically magical thinking- there is no exact plan- I only have the big picture.

Conversely to the above, often being bale to take in all the details in a room/ situation involving people without even knowing it- you know that person is feeling nervous, that one is a bit sad, that person needs attention etc, all in nanoseconds. This is the kind of stuff that leads to overwhelm before anything has even happened- you know things that other people don't pick up on and it can make it hard to even want to interact with people because of all the (what I call) "people mess".

Guilt at not being able to use what you've got effectively 

Eye contact is physically hard to do

Spreading myself too thin, in ever repeating cycles of: take on too much- overwhelm- repeat

Taking on more than is possible because you don't know what it possible- technically everything is possible! this stems from multiple issues: time blindness/ task management issues, poor planning, inability to prioritise, poor execution, poor self awareness etc. fun!


Blimey, that'll do. You get the picture. How does medication help?


I can stay awake

Brain feels more connected, not mushy and slow

I am able to do things I want to do

I can see a path through more clearly

I'm less easily distracted

It regulates my sleep/wake pattern

I don't feel as much of a sense of dread over obligations

I feel more capable


When I am not on medication it is not uncommon for me continually fall asleep, forget everything I thought was important the day before and wonder what the point of my existence is. It doesn't help with timeblindess/organisation/planning but it does make me more able to use my brain power- I don't stare at the wall wondering what I am/ was supposed to be doing, I am more likely to "do something". Accountability, planning, time and task management skills are all things that you either need to try to develop or outsource to make sure the "something" you are doing is actually useful to you. 

So, if you feel sort of confused every day and tired and it might help you just access that bit of your brain connection that is normally missing (unless under extreme pressure). I occasionally don't take my medication, sometimes because I have been worried about running out and maybe wanted to not feel "on" that day. But actually I've realised it's kind of terrible when I don't take it and wanting to avoid life is partly a coping mechanism I developed for dealing with undiagnosed ADHD/ASD.

When I don't take the medication, me and my brain fall into an incapable slump, the familiar "oh I'm really bad at stuff" and life feels unbelievably hard- the disconnect between half remembered you that can do great things and the fact that you've just watched 3 films in a row (again) is hard to reconcile with feeling like a fully functioning human being. It is impossible to feel capable when you cannot even fully show up in your own life. My life does not feel quite so hard on medication, I'm able to show up more for myself, stay awake and ALL of that, my friends is a win. You are not on an even playing field when you have ADHD so anything you can do to nudge an ability to access your capabilities towards where other people are starting from is a good thing in my book.

To take medication or not is a totally personal choice but it has definitely made my life a bit better so I will keep on taking it as long as it feels necessary. Do your own research and try what you think is best for you. 

*If you suffer form noise sensitivities I recommend listening to brown noise, which is a bit warmer and less harsh than white noise (less high frequencies) I use it to block out the noise of my husband working from home (sorry husband!). 

brown noise:

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