Phone call. It’s Melissa.

“Hi,” she says. “Can I come see you today? I can get a flight out of Austin at 5pm.”

Of course I say yes. I assume she is breaking up with her boyfriend because she’s pretty much agoraphobic except for going to the stable to ride her horse or going to the office for her job. Both of which require only sporadic household departures.

“No. Everything is great,” she says. She explains that she has decided to try Adderall. She popped one pill at 9am. At 9:30 she felt a tightening in her stomach and a rush in the front of her head. At 9:50 she called me.

I am upset that she discovers all the good things before I do. When I was 27, why was I not finding fun pharmaceuticals to improve my wellbeing?

1. Judge your pharmaceutical choices by deciding if you attract good people when you are on the medication.

The update from Melissa – besides that she is finding the perfect drug regimen for herself – is that she has a boyfriend.

Actually she moved in with him. Here she is painting his bedroom.

But I don’t want you to think I’ve been holding out on reporting this. I wrote the Melissa-has-a-boyfriend post but by the time I was ready to finish it, they were practically married and the post seemed outdated.

Not that I actually wrote that post. But I thought about it. I thought about it every time some guy would send me an email asking if Melissa is single. I should turn my blog into a dating site because Melissa has had a lot of offers. And I keep thinking I need to write a post about how she has a boyfriend, but then I think, what if the boyfriend doesn’t work out? I don’t want to kill her chances for finding someone through my blog.

She’s 27, and every time she’s at my house and I’m coaching someone on the phone about figuring out how to get married and have kids when they are already 33, Melissa gets panicky and thinks she has to find a husband. And of course I am no help, because I’m a big believer in having all your kids before you’re 35.

So the guy’s name is Steven. And let me just say that among the guys I’ve hated who Melissa has dated, Steven is a diamond. Just a really great guy. And this is saying a lot because when Melissa doesn’t have a boyfriend, I get all her attention, which is really nice. I have the most to lose when Melissa has a good guy in her life. But really, Steven is good.

Here’s why:

First,  it was actually an uphill battle for Melissa to be attracted to a guy who is not fucked up. Steven had to push really hard for second and third dates. At one point, Melissa told me that she thinks she likes his dog, Hannah, better than him.

He has trained Hannah in that perfect, this-dog-does-anything way. And, on top of that, she cuddles, which was great for Melissa, before she found Adderall. The great thing about Steven is that it turns out that he knew this about Melissa, and he kept it to himself as he won her over.

Also, Steven has a really cool job. He programs video games. This means that my kids love him. They want to record themselves playing Mario on the Wii and put it online. Steven watches this type of  video on YouTube all the time, and he has great knowledge about how to set up the recording, so he is a hero to my sons. This is important, because I think my sons might have thought that they were going to marry Melissa.

Another thing I like about Steven is he said he did not want to be on the blog. This is a sign of a sane person. I can go through the list of men who I dated while I had my blog, and there is a direct correlation between how much they loved being on my blog and how much they loved being crazy. This is also a problem, though. Melissa says, “Steven is going to last. So you can’t do anything bad to him on the blog.” This, of course, is a veiled reference to Cullen. Who Melissa is not allowed to mention because Steven is sick of hearing about her ex boyfriends, but it’s my blog, so I can mention them. This is a problem I’m familiar with. The Farmer hates being on my blog. And somehow we navigate through that.

2. If you medicate to stop behaviors and feelings that undermine you, then you’ll find a new ability to make changes throughout all aspects of your life.

So Melissa is here, on the farm, on Adderall and I have to say, I’m impressed with it. (Though I’ve been enthralled with the possibilities of Addrall for a while.)

Melissa has been on anxiety medicine for a few years. When I first met her, she was on nothing. And she was nuts. She was sort of earning a lot of money but completely unattached to the world, sort of floating through jobs, collecting huge paychecks for her eidetic memory which is generally useless but still always intoxicating to potential employers. She was a ball of anxiety.  I met her when she was asking me for career advice and I told her to take a long vacation. Like a year. That was my advice.

So you have watched her scale back her life—that’s the story of Melissa on this blog. But as she scaled back her life and medicated herself for anxiety, she ended up spending a lot of time in bed. Asleep.

Not that this didn’t stop me from doing what she did. When my therapist told me that my anxiety was getting in the way of me ever being close to someone, he pointed to the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. He said it carefully. Probably because it might be the most socially unacceptable diagnosis you can have. But he is not the only person to have suggested it.

There is almost always a childhood trauma that causes this mental disorder. And in my case, that is surely the case. So it is not like there’s anything I can do now, except make myself better. So I looked at how much less anxiety Melissa had after the medication, and I got myself some.

Let me just say that after having a diagnosis of Asperger’s and a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, it’s pretty easy to get any medication I want.

So I have been on Zoloft, for anxiety, and it’s been putting me to sleep. And I feel like Melissa. Except that I am not childless, living with a game programmer who adores me no matter what I’m doing. I’m living with two kids and a husband who need me to wake up every day and make the day happen.

So for my family, it’s better for me to be constantly sleepy, but even-keeled and reasonable than to be anxious and insecure and screaming. Which, frankly, is me when I am not on anxiety medicine.

So when Melissa showed up with the Adderall, first I told her she is too bouncy for me.

She said, “No I’m not. I’m my regular self. But without the anxiety.”

3. Don’t be scared of side effects; often they’re a really nice surprise.

She asked me to make her chocolate chip cookie dough. That’s what she eats when she’s here.  Out of the bowl. I make her eat it in the kitchen so the kids don’t see.

While I am mixing butter and eggs, she says, “I think I should be an editor. Can you help me get an editor job?”

And she said, “I think I know how to get a company funded.”

I said, “Do you have an idea?”

She said, “No. But you always have ideas. And I know this guy who really likes me and he wants to fund something I’m doing and he likes Lego so much and you are going to the Lego buildoff with your kids and we should get him tickets, too.”

I said, “I am trying the Adderall tomorrow.  I’m sick of sleeping.”

And here we are. Both on Adderall. It’s so great. And it suppresses appetite. Neither of us could believe more people don’t use Adderall to get thin. And then Melissa googled and found that it is prescribed for obesity.

Melissa says I should not tell you how great Adderall is because there’s a shortage. There’s a great article in New York magazine about how Adderall is going for $11 a pill.

I tell Melissa there is not a shortage in Darlington, WI. We can get ten bottles here. Wait, maybe this will be our new business.

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  1. pfj
    pfj says:

    Penelope, you have the most breathtakingly uneducated way of thinking about how ‘wonderful’ pills can be.

    If you would ever take the time to learn some biochemistry, and then apply that to nutrition, you would discover that you could be healthy.

    Actual healthy people experience a lot of those good things that you believe can come only from various pills.

    And you might eat real food instead of “only power bars.”. (Do you eat ANY of the apparently-marvelous fresh-from-the-field produce and meat that you talk about? Or is it all just talk?)

    • D
      D says:

      This is so bogus. Would you ever say this to a diabetic? “Stop taking insulin and eat naturally.” Or a someone with schizophrenia? An epileptic? Evolution only optimized us to the point that we can reproduce, not to be happy and live to 70 and beyond.

      • Lillian
        Lillian says:

        If America had better disease PREVENTION programs that teach people the long-term effects of eating fatty foods, taking harmful prescription drugs and so on…there would be far less societal dependence on these things. Taking Zoloft has long-term harmful effects for the user that may never be able to be reversed. Also, YES nutrition DOES cure a myriad of health conditions such as, anxiety and diabetes. People are just too ignorant or stupid to do simple research online instead of logging on the twitter and Facebook. Websites such as: among others gives you countless articles on how to correct nearly any health issue.

        • D
          D says:

          Ah yes, let’s convince 300 million people to change habits they’ve picked up over a lifetime. Habits that, despite your alarm, nonetheless allow people to live longer now than ever in recorded history.

      • Passingby
        Passingby says:

        @ D – that would apply for medication prescribed after a proper diagnosis.
        Would you say the same to somebody who blame being overweight to a hormonal problem, and start taking hormones or something?

        • D
          D says:

          Of course I’d wait for a diagnosis. You can’t get a prescription medication without one. It just irks me when people think you can throw out all medication and live naturally.

          I’m in extremely good shape — 10% body fat, exercise a lot etc — and eat well. Nonetheless I was tired all the time until I started taking medication prescribed by my doctor.

          • B
            B says:


            Just curious, as I’ve got a similar situation in being fit but tired all the time, what meds did they put you on? Did they work?

  2. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    Steven doesn’t want to be on your blog, yet here he is, both name and photo. I really don’t get why you do that.

    You’ll probably say it’s because you can’t bring yourself to keep secrets, and not blogging about Steven would have been a secret. But you already detail how you haven’t been blogging about Steven, so that doesn’t hold up.

    Couldn’t you have at least given him a pseudonym? For the purposes of this story, it does not matter that his name is Steven. And the photo of the two of them? Nice photo, but also not necessary.

    This is a really basic thing about respect for other people.

    • Jordan
      Jordan says:

      Wow. Ditto KatyNonymous. Where IS the integrity, respect for another’s boundaries and wishes, respect for Melissa’s love and relationship with this man…etc., etc. No…Penelope is someone who believes she has the right to say and do anything she chooses regardless of the impact on someone else. Finally done subscribing. What a relief.

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      Of course, I talked about this with Melissa, and of course, she talked about this with Steven.


        • poppygirl
          poppygirl says:

          but, ummm…i don’t get that you talked with Steven. You know, the actual guy that Melissa is involed with. And in light of your use of multiple medcations with and without medical supervision, this might be where i unsubscribe….too much crazy behavior for me (a medical professional)..
          SO glad you are not my patient!

  3. Mark K
    Mark K says:

    The beauty of our system is that you are an adult and you can try different approaches to life until you find what works for you. I’m happy when you are happy. And I have the utmost respect for your freedom. I love your blogs.

    But I’d like to point out two things.

    Wikipedia for Adderal:

    “Adderall is a brand name of amphetamine salts-based medication used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy,[1] legal only in the United States and Canada. It is a brand-name psychostimulant medication composed of racemic amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, racemic amphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharide, and dextroamphetamine sulfate, which are all amphetamine salts”

    moe at

    One can expect an impressive boost to productivity and well-being when taking amphetamine. That is old news. What reaction would you expect to your post if you substituted “amphetamine” for “adderal” above?

    I see your point about the importance of focus – in your link. Something akin to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow can be achieved through stimulants. No one is taking my coffee away trust me! It’s more that this is going to be too much of a good thing for many people. There are costs associated with wringing yourself dry all the time. You noted those costs in the 2009 article you linked to.

    Second point. This post seems uncharacteristic for your career blog. I see that you have posted on adderal as a possible career aid in the past, so it’s not unprecedented. Look, you get to make the rules. I’m not arguing what you should do.

    Just that for a long time you have followed a certain practice, observed rules and boundaries. And now, you’re (arguably) outside those. Maybe you have outgrown the rules, they are yours to change. Maybe I am way out in left field. But maybe you’re a little buzzed?

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      I’m not sure where you were thinking that I have followed rules, but in general, I have been very good at learning the rules and then breaking them.

      That said, I think I’m pretty late to the game with pharmaceuticals. I’m from Gen-X. We didn’t use pharmaceuticals. Gen Y is the pharmaceutical generation. They are great at it. I’m just following the rules they’ve made through heavy experimentation. Also, for the most part, you can get prescriptions for this stuff, so most people are not breaking rules with Adderral.


      • Mark K
        Mark K says:

        Alright, I’ll bite. The old stuffy rule I was talking about is:

        On your career blog you generally write about career things.

        You always do it in a personal way, and that is why you are so successful. Writers can learn a lot from watching how you blend the topic with an intense personal authenticity that makes your writing so compelling.

        I mostly read your homeschooling blog, and your style there is even more personal. Like I said, maybe I misunderstand your career blog, but it just seems like this post was pretty far from your core career topics. I am not an authority on this–you are. My intent is only to suggest you consider the possibility.

        Why that matters is stimulants, like any drug really, can be helpful. They are far from all bad. But they can also change you in ways you had not anticipated, or don’t realize right away.

        Stimulants in particular can result in playing fast and loose, and taking risks you might not have, had you considered things more fully–the way a mind running at normal speed is more likely to do. That change in risk profile can end up costing you a lot more than a hangover.

        No matter how much experimentation others have done with drugs (even if you call them “pharmaceuticals”) when you take them, you are still experimenting on yourself. It would be prudent to pay attention to the data you get during the experiment.

        • Mark K
          Mark K says:

          Although now, belatedly browsing the 211 posts in the topic of self-management, this post is not so uncharacteristic after all. Posts like “what is it like to have sex with a person with aspergers?” mean to me there is a lot of latitude to go where the feeling takes you.

          I can understand why my initial point was unclear.

  4. n_e
    n_e says:

    I am getting off Adderall after being on it for over a year. I must say the benefits were quite appealing at first, hence the duration I was on it. The side effects began to take a toll on me both physically and emotionally. I managed to keep the medicated part of my life a social secret, because quite frankly, not everyone understands the need for medication. That said, now that I am off the meds I feel like I need to educate everyone who is on it to refrain from jumping on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, I can’t speak for other people nor be responsible for their own needs of self-medicating. However, I must say this: Adderall is NOT all it’s cracked out to be. Give or take a few years and perhaps this will come to light in your world.

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      Great comment. Thank you. It is now two days after I wrote this post, and I will say that both Melissa and I felt sort of hung over after taking Adderral. Melissa didn’t mind the feeling nearly as much as I did.


      • n_e
        n_e says:

        Feeling hung over isn’t the least of your worries.

        Reasons why I gave it up: premature greying, sudden onset of wrinkles due to depletion of collagen and dehydration (I noticed smile lines and forehead wrinkles despite the ample amount of sunscreen I wear daily, even in the dead of winter), constant grinding of my teeth so much my dentist gave me a mouth guard at night, crashing every weekend since they’re my off days, not to mention mood swings and depression (which I’ve battled with in the past and with much success were able to ween off the antidepressants completely). But the most important reason of all: chest pains! DULL ACHY CHEST PAINS. Apparently this is common when you’re ‘coming down’ at the end of the day.

        The good side effects are of course ability to concentrate, be superwoman, take on the world, insert other super hero traits here. But no matter what, the chest pains is the biggest red flag for me. I was prescribed 10 mg and was only taking half the dosage per day.

        Also, it won’t do much for weight loss. You will lose some weight due to malnutrition, but what you’re losing is muscle mass, and your body will adjust by storing fat, so all that muscle you lost will be found in the form of flab.

        If none of the above reason causes you to hop off this Adderall bandwagon, perhaps this will: Putting your body into fight or flight mode with Adderall will cause you to AGE FASTER.

        If you must take it, just make sure you consistently drink lots of fluids and supplement your with power bars or the like, since you won’t have much of an appetite, as well as vitamins to accommodate for that collagen depletion.

        • Another Andrea
          Another Andrea says:

          I’m gathering that maybe Adderall is not for everyday use, but maybe just “special” occassions? Use it like them college kids do the night before an exam?

          • karelys.
            karelys. says:

            I am right with you. I have not tried meds for the purpose of improving my productivity. But sometimes I think “am I thoughing this out unnecesarily?”

            Sometimes, if used right, meds can make up for a decifiency.

            As for the side effects mentioned above (wrinkles, pain, hung over feeling) some people may prefer the side effects than the crazy feeling of being off it.

            I know I did for a while when I was going through an awful dark time. I’d rather feel zombied out by meds than thinking about killing myself all the time.

  5. D
    D says:

    +100 for Zoloft. It’s worked wonders for me.

    I tried Adderall for a couple weeks but it felt like I was high on caffeine, and coming off it for the weekend pretty much made me stay in bed all day.

    Also, last year I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue — which is actually a pretty controversial diagnosis because some don’t think it’s real. But the doctor put me on a bunch of vitamins and supplements and HOLY COW did it work! I have so much energy now. But it’s not the manic kind I associate with stimulants. I just don’t get tired as much and have that extra bounce in my step.

    I’m taking about a half-dozen vitamins, but the doctor thinks DHEA and Rhodiola Rosea have had the most impact.

      • D
        D says:

        Here ya go:

        DHEA 15mg in the morning, 10mg at dinner (built up up to that over a few weeks)
        Rhoiola rosea 100mg in the morning
        Vitamin C 2000mg twice a day
        Vitamin E 400iu twice a day
        Zinc picolinate 15mg twice a day
        Copper 1mg twice a day
        Vitamin B5 40mg
        Vitamin B6 200mg
        Vitamin B12 10000mcg

        I’ve been on it for about 6 months. Recently I stopped taking the Copper, Zinc & Vitamins B, C & E. The doctor says he thinks the greatest impact was from the DHEA and rhodiola rosea.

        He says there’s no harm in staying on this stuff long term, but it can add up to a fair amount of money.

        Also, I took a saliva test for adrenal fatigue before starting this regimen.

  6. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I would consider taking Adderall to get thin. Actually my brother was on it for awhile when he was younger and my mom and I talked about taking some. Of course we didn’t do it. Maybe we should have. I wonder if there is some still hanging around my parents’ house? No, probably not– my mom would have taken it by now.

    Sometimes I think I should be on something. I find my biggest thing is inertia… if I am on a roll I can keep going, but if I stop even for one day then that is it. I don’t want to do anything. I want to sleep and feel sorry for myself and eat. I think it is really good that my boyfriend bought me an Australian shepherd. I can’t stop because she won’t let me. So we go for 10 mile runs instead. But whatever people say about “runner’s high” I don’t think it can possibly be as good as drugs.

  7. Kusandra
    Kusandra says:

    Penelope — BEWARE Side Effects. They don’t happen immediately. Some people must beware of the side effects. I had undiagnosed bipolar and was given prozac (for help dealing with a major life trauma) which caused me to disassociate, then Effexor which made me psychotic. I was a person with a history of depression and unobserved mania but by no means on the mentally out of touch spectrum until the drugs. I ended up on a merry go round of anti-seizure, anti-anxiety and years of living below my potential. Eventually, I felt a bit more normal, got pregnant and against medical advice ceased all drugs. My son is now 4 years old. Despite bouts of poverty, marital troubles and stress, I have had not further troubles requiring drugs. That being said, god I wish there was a pill as you described that could make me a better and motivated me. Too dangerous to try.

  8. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I briefly dated a guy who was a recovering Adderall addict. He was prescribed them in High School and kept taking them throughout college. Super nice guy, but his brain was fried from those drugs (and then later from the one’s that he had to take as part of his “sobriety”). He couldn’t even hold a coherent, focused conversation without his mind wondering way off course. I also know people who take them recreationally who aren’t much better. With my limited exposure, I have learned to stay away from people on Adderall. They’ve got issues.

  9. Juliette
    Juliette says:

    Being diagnosed with ADHD changed my life, and in so many wonderful ways. Focus being one of them. I now pay my bills. All of them. Every month! I take Concerta. Side effect: I have little desire to eat, especially when emotionally stressed. I just try to snack “on time” because I really don’t get hungry. Side effect: Teeth grinding. Now, I just take less and let a little bit of the crazy creep in daily. That works out because there’s more overlap of creative and crazy than people credit. But my creative can’t make its way solo through all the crazy of my ADHD. It is hard to get, though not because of a shortage. My dosage is so high, the pharmacist has to enter his license number three times to fill it.

  10. Beth
    Beth says:

    Thank you for posting this Penelope! I can relate 100% but would probably never be brave enough to share it with the world. Despite what critics are posting, this lives up to the subtitle of the blog– the intersection of life and work. Anxiety meds and aderall will greatly impact both, and I think an open conversation about how people are actually using them is a great.

  11. Jim C.
    Jim C. says:

    It seems we have to re-learn this lesson every second generation — the lesson that taking drugs to fix your mind is a very bad idea.
    Before World War One a large percentage of middle-class American women were drug addicts. Cocaine (some in the form of the old-formula Coca Cola) and opiates were the main drugs of choice. Women who got “the vapors” and needed smelling salts were just suffering withdrawal.
    It happened again, with both sexes this time, during the 1960’s and 70’s. This time it was a whole cocktail of drugs, from marijuana and LSD through cocaine and heroin to PCP, crack cocaine, and meth.
    Now it’s happening again, and a lot of it is prescription drugs this time — Xanax, Zoloft, Adderall, and other drugs, along with coke, meth, and other illegal drugs.
    Take a lesson from Whitney Houston; stay off the shit. Practice prayer, yoga, or some other non-chemical means of finding peace.

  12. Cath
    Cath says:

    I’m wondering if you got paid by the pharmaceutical company? Not sure on this so called expert advice for Generation Y….what happened to at least initially recommending a natural, healthy path..even to an expert therapist as pills are not the first solution and unfortunately too many women are on pills which are readily prescribed out there! and cause terrible side effects…is anyone promoting these?..and getting paid

    • Brian
      Brian says:

      Thanks for sharing that link, Jennifer. It was insightful, and the Whitney Houston article was even more so.

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      That was a great link. I sort of wish I wrote that article. Just seeing the opening photo, with all the pill bottles, I just knew from that photo that I’d like the article.

      I hate when there are not black-and-white answers to issues floating around in my head. It’s always uncomfortable to me. But I admit that I have no idea what is a good use for Adderall. It seems more complicated than I had imagined.


  13. Anne-Sophie
    Anne-Sophie says:

    I have been on and off antidepressants for a few years now due to depression and my eating disorder and I won’t be alive had I not started listening to doctors.
    However, I will never understand the ease with which Americans get drugs and pills. Where’s the responsibility?

    • O
      O says:

      This comment is an endorsement for a pharmacy prescription of VITAMIN D, for those who struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mood issues. READ IT!

      I feel compelled to share another thought. I struggled with crippling anxiety and depression for ten years. I couldn’t even think clearly and had resigned myself to “never being able to be happy.” Like Penelope, I am very intelligent and often have multiple racing thoughts that connect in interesting and weird ways. I like thinking that way, and I was wary of antidepressants for other reasons, and so I didn’t take them.

      Anyway, I went to a doctor who specializes in women’s hormones and got my blood tested. She found I had extremely low levels of Vitamin D in my system. (Like, less than half of what a normal person should have.)

      Anyone guy buy Vitamin D in a drugstore over the counter, but I got on a higher dosage pharmaceutical prescription of 50,000 mg a week and it has changed my life. I know it isn’t a placebo effect either, because I wasn’t expecting it to. I thought she had just prescribed me with it for general health reasons, and then, one day, two weeks after taking it, I woke up and realized that the horrible, evil, dark cloud was gone.

      I later asked my friend, who is in med school, and he said nonchalantly that Vitamin D is linked to mood issues.

      It has revolutionized my life and has been nothing short of miraculous. I wanted to share this story because I feel I could help others.

      I was able to address my horrible depression and anxiety while also keeping it natural. I was always wary of the chemical side effects of antidepressants and anxiety medicines….

  14. O
    O says:

    Melissa looks so young, cute, and happy! Good for her! I hope they get married. I relate to Melissa because I am her same age and also cute and want to get married. Last year I ended a six-year-long stint of f*cked up men, and now I’m looking for the show stopper/ “diamond” guy (aka, Melissa’s Steven.) I feel like if it can happen for her it can happen for me too. No where the hell IS he? I can’t WAIT any longer!

    • Katherine
      Katherine says:

      Absolutely agree! When I couldn’t work 25 years ago because I was so depressed, I went to my doctor. He wanted to put me on anti-depressants. I resisted because I didn’t want to be “like my mom who’s been taking pills all her life.” His response: if you had diabetes, would you not take insulin? That made it click for me. I have a chemical imbalance. Period. Anti-depressants, with therapy, saved my life.

  15. O
    O says:

    This comment is an endorsement for a pharmacy prescription of VITAMIN D, for those who struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mood issues. READ IT!

    I feel compelled to share another thought. I struggled with crippling anxiety and depression for ten years. I couldn’t even think clearly and had resigned myself to “never being able to be happy.” Like Penelope, I am very intelligent and often have multiple racing thoughts that connect in interesting and weird ways. I like thinking that way, and I was wary of antidepressants for other reasons, and so I didn’t take them.

    Anyway, I went to a doctor who specializes in women’s hormones and got my blood tested. She found I had extremely low levels of Vitamin D in my system. (Like, less than half of what a normal person should have.)

    Anyone can buy Vitamin D in a drugstore over the counter, but I got on a higher dosage pharmaceutical prescription of 50,000 mg a week and it has changed my life. I know it isn’t a placebo effect either, because I wasn’t expecting it to. I thought she had just prescribed me with it for general health reasons, and then, one day, two weeks after taking it, I woke up and realized that the horrible, evil, dark cloud was gone.

    I later asked my friend, who is in med school, and he said nonchalantly that Vitamin D is linked to mood issues.

    It has revolutionized my life and has been nothing short of miraculous. I wanted to share this story because I feel I could help others.

    I was able to address my horrible depression and anxiety while also keeping it natural. I was always wary of the chemical side effects of antidepressants and anxiety medicines….

  16. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    How lucky for us to be living in a century where mental health afflictions can be discussed about so freely. It’s great that we are moving past the social stigma attached to mental well-being issues.

    It’s only those who suffer from it that truly understand what a challenge it is; for those of us on the outside we can only chide about side-effects and addictions. Medications is now perhaps the natural path- if it lets people live more fulfilling lives then who are we to point fingers.

  17. James M
    James M says:

    I was on Adderall from my Sophomore year in High School until I was 27. I had significant ADD and lived in a family where everyone had ADD and so it was tough to ever get any peace and quiet (or learn how to structure my life in that way). For instance, we had a television in our kitchen, living room and all of the bedrooms and they were always on.

    Adderall was a blessing at that point in my life. My grades rose instantly about 15-18 percentage points as I would actually start to do my HW and study. It continued into college where I got a Mathematics and Comp Sci major. Anyone who saw me as a Freshman in HS would not have believed that. And it helped me through the gruntwork of starting a photography business in my early 20s. I would not have been able to do these things without the drug.

    However, the best thing that it ever did, was show me what being concentrated was like and to help me figure out ways on my own to stay concentrated. Adderall is great for helping you focus and it’s lifechanging for many people, as it was for me during my developmental period.

    That being said, Adderall should not be taken lightly. With the exception of a small percentage of people, I don’t think it’s a drug that should be taken throughout the course of a person’s life, especially in large doses. I became emotional, moody and stressed (and I’m one of the most relaxed people you’ll ever meet). It would keep me up half the night and then I would need it even more to offset the sleep. Lack of adequate sleep is much more of a factor towards a person’s ADD symptoms than anything else. If you’re not sleeping because of Adderall then you’re just offsetting the drug’s benefits. I would need it because I wasn’t sleeping but then it would cause me to not sleep. I am also pretty sure that it affected my long term health negatively.

    I’m off it completely now, and while I have my moments, I think I am more concentrated than most people. This is not because I am cured but because I now know what being focused is like and I am able to take steps to put myself in the best position to be this way. I sleep regularly and get enough sleep, I eat regularly and healthy, I have many tricks to keep myself focused such as keeping daily task lists and blocking every distracting site on my work computer (and I work at home with no boss so I need these tricks desperately).

    On this note, adderall is great for adolescents with ADD problems, but targeted behavioral therapy could easily fix the ADD problem for a majority of these children (not the severe ones of course). We can’t just give these kids these pills and let them on their way. We need to teach them about being focused and productivity and the factors that are important for this. It’s amazing that they don’t have high school or even junior high classes based entirely on the issue of productivity.

    If I had been taught these skills so much earlier in my life instead of needing to seek them out on my own post-college my early life would have taken a much different course.

  18. TR
    TR says:

    Maybe I have been reading to many link bait depressing stories on the internet lately, but it is nice to read about someone’s life who is headed in a good direction

  19. Davers6
    Davers6 says:

    No wonder this blog has seemed so wacky, bipolar, and very often childishly narcissistic for the past year – I’m about the only one here who’s not on drugs. One stiff belt of scotch in the evening is about the extent of my “medications” (OK, some vitamins too). Scary to think that “the new normal” has actually become “the new ABNORMAL but highly medicated”.

    • Andi
      Andi says:

      How nice for you — hooray for Davers not being fucked up like the rest of us! Good on you — now explain why you’re here again?

  20. Jasmine
    Jasmine says:

    Just a slightly off-topic comment here about how much I liked seeing Penelope’s responses in the comment section of this post! Interaction between readers/author can be the best part of a blog.

  21. JML
    JML says:

    Sometimes I feel torn regarding diagnoses, especially for something like BPD. Part of me thinks it’s good to know “what’s wrong” but another part of me wonders if it’s also an excuse to continue with bad behaviour.

    I was diagnosed with BPD in my early twenties. Once I had the diagnosis, I wore it like a badge of honor. My life was such a mess and I took no responsibility for it. I had BPD! I was on a cocktail of pharmaceuticals in addition to all the recreational drugs I was doing. And I behaved poorly (some may argue that meds + drugs meant that I wasn’t taking the meds properly – I don’t disagree). Then I changed my situation. I left the city, my psychiatrist and all the drugs. And now I’m ok. Not to say that the demons don’t still pester me, but things are even.

    I don’t know where I stand on the pharmaceutical debate. I think people should do what works for them and makes them feel ok (I really like point 1 of this post) But from my experience, I can’t shake the feeling that the diagnosis is an enabler.

  22. Leeann
    Leeann says:

    If you’re not planning to bake the cookies, leave the eggs out. It won’t change the taste that much, and eating raw eggs is never a good idea.

  23. Erin
    Erin says:

    I think pills are great as long as you keep two things in mind. First, you have to take them as the doctor directs or they won’t work properly. Second, you have to understand that, in most cases, the pills don’t actually fix you. The pills just clear your head up enough that *you* can fix yourself. Being on an antidepressant has been great for me, but mostly because I found a good therapist and worked my tail off to get myself back on track. Best of luck Penelope!

  24. FunkGirl
    FunkGirl says:

    I mean I’m all for adderall improving productivity and I agree that most of my fellow Gen Y-ers would agree it works in most senses of “improvement.” That said, the improvement it brought me in my early 20’s as an irresponsible PBS docu reporter and bartender brought on a 20 pound weight loss and an obsession with the statement, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” type of productivity. Now a mere seven years later I can understand the benefits of pharmaceuticals in moderation – ie – adderall extremes when in dire deadline straights and coffee and green tea the rest of the time. Lets get real people – no one can wow their boss working 60 hour weeks and still have time to come up with some brilliance on their own. Time management with some pharmaceuticals thrown in just feels like a realist way of life.

  25. awiz8
    awiz8 says:

    I guess I’m really dense, because I don’t see any benefit or upside of taking any kind of medication that’s supposed to be prescribed, just because you feel you like what it does, from what you’ve read.

    Sometimes, the side effects are not expected and can be deadly, like in some of the recent cases of things like Avandia, Fen-fen and others that have actually killed people or crippled them for life. Not such a nice surprise.

    I know DuPont’s slogan was “Better Things for Better Living…Through Chemistry.” , but I don’t think indiscriminate use of powerful drugs without some consultation of medical experts was what they had in mind.

    I’ll be waiting for the Farmer or Melissa to post that Penelope is in the hospital with severe damage to kidneys and liver, or that the drugs either killed her or caused her to do something that kills her.

    • Sandy
      Sandy says:

      It does not make sense to make a blanket statement that medications are bad because they are “prescribed”. While Big Pharma may not always have our best interests at heart, there are prescribed medications that help people. My cousin with BPD could not function or hold down a job without her Rx meds.

      And so-called natural supplements and ingredients have plenty of side effects too. Google any one of them if you don’t believe me. Mind you, some are good and helpful too. But being “natural” does not mean it is safe, just as being prescribed does not mean it is not safe. Case in point – arsenic is a completely natural substance and used for medicinal purposes since the 18th century and still today. Too much will kill you, though. Silver is also a natural antiseptic. Too much and you will turn blue.

  26. A
    A says:

    There are alternatives to Zoloft if it makes you sleepy–lots do better on Lexapro, some even feel better on Celexa, for example. I’ve seen many report Zoloft making them tired but feeling better with a switch. It’s most important to tell your doc about the fatigue.

    • Andi
      Andi says:

      That’s true — I am on Lexapro & love it. Not to mention how happy I am that it’s going “generic” next month so I will no longer have to cough up a co-pay Rx fee! :)

      However, do beware — a close friend of mine recently tried Lexapro at her doctor’s behest & ended up in the hospital the same night due to a minor heart attack.

      As with any medication, read up on it thoroughly & watch carefully for signs of problems. The best advice my doctor gave me was to let me family know whenever I tried something new so they could be a more objective witness to any changes in my behavior.

  27. James Maher
    James Maher says:

    I think our biggest problem is that doctors have no clue what the best course of action for a patient is. They see these kids on health insurance that barely pays for a 30 minute session. It’s impossible to understand a kid’s or even an Adult’s ADD problem that quickly and figure out if meds are the solution or if there are other routes. I also think that the parents need to be involved and talking to the psychiatrist as well – they shouldn’t just send the kid into the session. Pretending you have ADD to a doctor is the easiest thing in the world. You say you have trouble reading books, you’re extremely disorganized, you can’t get the energy to do certain things, you post on blogs when you’re supposed to be doing other work.

    If I were a doctor and a college student came to me asking for adderall I would be afraid to prescribe it. Adderall is speed. You need to talk to the kid, see their report cards, assess their reading and writing. I’m pretty sure if you read a freshman in college’s last history term paper you can better assess whether or not that kid has ADD.

    Granted, my parents were psychiatrists and this was right at the very beginning of the ADD diagnosis phase, but when I was 14 and doing pretty bad in school they sent me to someone who tested my writing, reading, math, logic, IQ and even organizational skills. I think I still have the 10 page report somewhere. And while I have no real knowledge on this, I’m assuming that most health insurers woouldn’t pay for something like this these days anyway.

  28. awiz8
    awiz8 says:

    “We can get ten bottles here. Wait, maybe this will be our new business.”

    One other side effect you forgot about: That heavy knock on the door and the booming voice announcing “DEA! Open up! We have a search warrant!” Caught with 10 bottles of Adderall without a prescription? Can you say, “Felony possession of prescrption drugs with intent to distribute?” I bet your lawyer could say that, just before you get sentenced to 10-15 years in a federal penitentary.

  29. Heroine Worshiper
    Heroine Worshiper says:

    This 1 is destined to be a classic. It’s not overcoming a disability with drugs but improving your life with drugs that nails it.

    Why don’t you tell it to single women over 30.

    Most single women over 30 are in pretty bad shape. They depend on medication just to stay alive, because their bodies really don’t want to live. They don’t want to be on medication. They have to spend a lot of time fighting for the government entitlements keeping them alive. The drugs are physically disabling.

  30. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    Well, you nailed it again. I have had friends who had cried to me… “why do I need a pill to function.” And I say, “SO WHAT!” If it makes you work better and be your best self, “WHO CARES.” That is my gut instinct and you validated it. Thanks for having the perspective that no one else wants to publish. Love this post. This is why I read this blog.

    • Gretchen
      Gretchen says:

      I don’ t want to be uncompassionate…conversely, I want to encourage going deeper—don’t any of these women think that pilling up just masks issues they need to tackle/resolve? When, exactly, did “functioning” become so difficult? I think people have unrealistic expectations of what their lives should be and much soul searching/introspection is in order. The world may be a harsh cut-throat place (or not). You can choose which realms you want to operate in and surround yourself with different people/vibes to make it better.

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        this bothers me because this sort of perspective (which is widely spread) makes people who do need a pill to work at a normal pace feel defective. I’ve been on that spot.

        The world can be a cut throat place or not. It’s true. But sometimes, if you want to keep what you have you must run at that pace. For example, if you want to stay home with your kids, homeschool them, etc. and have anxiety issues but somehow you must drum up money to allow you to stay home then you may need the pill.

        I wonder what other options someone like Penelope, or myself have….

        Maybe choosing an “easy job” which that kind of job only drives you insane.

        Would you tell someone that needs a crutch that they have a thwarted perspective? that they can “choose” to live a life where there is no need for crutches/cane/wheel chair? what kind of life would that be?

        do you need lots of money to have a good quality life without any of those things?

        • CtReporter
          CtReporter says:

          People need to simplify their lives and stop wanting and trying to do so much. Simplify, make better choices, and we wouldn’t need meds to cope and function daily.

          • Andi
            Andi says:

            Wow, you have all the answers to everyone’s problems. Good thing we have you here hidden in the comments to lead us all down the correct path. Since you seem to know me so well, why don’t you also explain why the cure for cancer isn’t solved. I’m sure you have the formula up your sleeve, smarty.

        • Gretchen
          Gretchen says:

          well, see sometimes we have to balance what we “want” with what we can actually realistically do…I would argue that someone with these particular “disabilities” (using your analogy to the wheelchair/crutches, etc.) is not suited to homeschool, just as someone who can’t walk isn’t suited to be, say, a firefighter, even as much as they really, really *want* to…part of maturity and part of living an emotionally and mentally sustainable life is knowing one’s limits

  31. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    Not to be “judgy”…but, you’re a mom, “homeschooling” (therefore, “on” as far as being responsible for your kids for a huge swatch of time) and you’re playing around with (abusing) prescription drugs like some college kid? Seems sad/odd/bad to me.

    This shouldn’t be filed under “self-management” but “self-destruction”…

    And I am not some staunchly Nancy Reagan/anti drug person or above having a beer with dinner or a toke on the weekend, but these RX drugs are alot stronger than those things. Gee, are you gonna cook up some meth next?

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      Gretchen, first of all, this is a “judgy” comment. So you should just admit that you’re being judgmental. That said, if I minded people being judgmental about me, then I wouldn’t write a blog.

      You make a really good point about how hard it is to figure out a pharmaceutical regimen when you have kids. The day I tried Adderral the Farmer had the kids. But I had to schedule it days in advance, and even then, the next day I had a headache all day and I still had to take care of the kids.

      So I want to make the point that the best time to try this stuff out is before you have kids. Get a handle on who you are and what you would like to change about yourself and what works for you and what doesn’t — all before you have kids. It’s easier.

      Unfortunately, though, it’s impossible. I mean, of course we still encounter problems after we have kids, and we have to deal with them somehow. Pretending the problems are not there because we are supposed to be perfect adults taking care of perfect kids: useless.


      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        Right. The “judgy” was mildly sarcastic because the big thing on the web with parenting and meds is you’re not supposed to “judge” but any thinking person is going to judge. Glad the farmer had the kids, but playing around with your friend’s drugs isn’t the way to go about it. Go to the doc and work that out. You seriously made it sound like some kind of wacky playtime, not like you were looking for a therapy.

        • Lydia
          Lydia says:

          Judgy but accurate. Adderall, and most other drugs, aren’t something to be touted. If they work for you, great; you will see in the long-term, not after a couple of days or even weeks. They don’t work the same for all other people, and giving this information on a well-read blog like it’s pure fact (“Drugs – this particular drug – is good for you”) is irresponsible to its readers. Of course, I also think pharmaceutical ads targeted at the depressed and hopeless are irresponsible, so that’s where I’m coming from.

    • Andi
      Andi says:

      Oh geez, I love your opening statement. “I don’t want to be judgy”… but I’m gonna do it anyway. LOL! I just wrote a whole rant on people who say “Don’t take this personally, but…” which is basically the same thing. Why can’t people just grow a pair & say what the mean? As in, “Penelope, I am about to get judgmental on your ass.”

  32. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I agree pharmaceuticals should be available on a periodic or maintenance basis depending on the condition of the patient. They can definitely make it possible for the patient to live a better life when used judiciously and responsibly. I believe the best scenarios are realized when the drug only needs to be used long enough for the patient to seek and realize the long-term benefits of psychological therapy.
    Unfortunately, there are some conditions that require a lifetime regimen of meds to function at some personal or socially acceptable level. However, it’s not a sentence or reason not to continually seek a more acceptable option. Side effects from long term usage of some of these meds are dangerous. It is all the more reason to search for and find a competent doctor whom you can trust and work with for your own customized diagnosis and solution.
    So, while pharmaceuticals do have their place, friends can be equally or more important. It’s demonstrated here in this post by the friendship of Penelope and Melissa. They learn, inspire, and give hope to each other in different ways. They share the diagnosis of AS but their childhoods and experiences are much different. I could argue their friendship connection is doing more for each of them than pharmaceuticals. However, this is the thing, the combination of both is doing more than either one separately.

  33. CtReporter
    CtReporter says:

    I wish I didn’t know so much about the effects of pharmaceuticals. I can’t have fun with them the way you do.

    I work in the legal field, and I know what even taking over-the-counter meds can lead to. The public knows so little it’s astounding.

    What I’ve seen with my own eyes is horrific and beyond comprehension, yet doctors still prescribe meds. If you get a side effect…they just prescribe another med for the side effect.

    Before you know it, you’ve got Parkinsons or Alzheimers or Sjogren’s or MS or unexplained numbness and loss of mobility or some kind of strange movement disorder that you can’t explain.

    If you want to age well and be healthy for most of your life, avoid whatever drugs possible…including alcohol.

    We all lose our minds at some point. We don’t need to speed the process along.

  34. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    It’s interesting how rapidly the comments are piling up on this post, while the Maximizing post was so much more interesting to me, and worthy of discussion. I was disappointed that post did not rack up more comments/discussion.

    The pharmaceutical debate seems so passe. I took Zoloft for years, and have no been off for a couple of years. I did not come away with a strong opinion about prescription drug use the way so many people who have gone through that experience seem to.

    Take them if you need them, don’t when you don’t need them.

  35. ed
    ed says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I found the sentence “The scary thing about the Philips example is that Adderall also helped him resist the impulse to keep playing losing hands out of boredom.”

    Do you know if there have been any studies on how addrall affects fidelity? Are people less likely to cheat if they are on Addrall? If it keeps you from checking your email, maybe it keeps you from checking out other people, too

  36. Isabella Rossa
    Isabella Rossa says:

    Thank you, Mark W.

    If anyone is interested in a permanent fix, get thee to a homeopath.
    The remedies are the most effective substances in the universe.

  37. Angela
    Angela says:

    Hi, I noticed that I get anxiety from multivatins. I took them and had blood rushing to my face, heart palpitation and anxiety attack. Doctor thought it was stress and the fact that I lost my job. I have been suffering from anxiety for 6 years or all my life. I only found out about the condition 2 years ago. I never saw psychiatrist or been on medication apart from hypnotherapy. I know I have problems but do not know exactly what. I think I am fine when things are going well at work, but when they don’t, I get fears, anxiety, get bullied, more interaction and interpersonal problems. I lost my job due anxiety attack after conflict with boss. I blacked out and could not do my job one day.. I could not focus. I could not meet deadlines. I was slow at work. My ex colleague told me to get some medication, but told him that I can not even handle multivitamins! He has ADD and takes stuff to cope as well as lunch time work out and morning swimming!

  38. Angela
    Angela says:

    Well I forgot to mention that my boss also probably suffers from anxiety and only copes with her Chinese herbs. She seemed unstable like many of my traders who were upset after we lost 2 billion. I now took an easy job where people are relaxed and my first week I everyone had trips to Spain, Italy, Carribean and rest of UK trips. People were seeing after hours events like London Pre-Olympic events, Opera and musicals. My previous bank nobody went home till 9 or 10pm and midnight stints were normal for some. I will really appreciate if anyone could help me. I want to get to the bottom of what is wrong with me this year and address my health issues! I live in London. I could be having Aspergers or bipolar.

  39. Bev Klein
    Bev Klein says:

    I am definitely not a fan of prescription medications as I believe for every good effect there is a side effect. Some side effects may be bad, others livable. I do believe most of us take too many medications and should look at our lifestyles instead. By the same token if your body no longer makes a vital chemical then you have to replace it chemically. Moderation in everything and common sense should prevail.
    Have a look at our article on acne and drugs on to get an idea of some drugs that are known to have harmful side effects for many years after their use, but are still being prescribed today. It is mind blowing.

    • Angela
      Angela says:

      Bev, this is awful. I was on re-accutante 12 years ago after severe acne and that is when my problems started. I am definately joining any class action law suits. I feel robbed of 10 years of my life! I know some anxiety is good and it is probably what made me successful and driven, but I just want to have years of happiness I missed out! and the worst thing is not knowing what is wrong with you as doctors say you are Fine!

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