A few months ago I shared about my experience of trying ADHD medication and the difference it made, and how it convinced me I should get diagnosed and treated.

The experience led me to start the process of getting a formal ADHD diagnosis, in order to access treatment. I soon realised that it is another lengthy, hard, and time consuming process. 

I spoke to my GP, who after making me answer the questionnaire, confirmed that it was very likely I had ADHD (I scored 22 out of 24, but already knew this), but that the waiting list for NHS diagnosis (let alone treatment) would be 18 months to 2 years. I requested a right to choose referral with Psychiatry UK, which should reduce the wait down to a few months. I also investigated going private, but the psychiatrists I was recommended also had months long waiting lists.

Most of my time and energy are currently being used battling the education and health systems to get support for one of my children, who is also neurodivergent. I tried to get the ball rolling for myself, but gave up because I just didn’t have the time or energy to do it. I had to chase my GP surgery weekly for 6 weeks, just for the right to choose referral forms to be filled in (and this is despite being present in person at my local surgery on a weekly basis or more due to my child’s situation).

My family circumstances and my ADHD compounded by perimenopause (it can make ADHD and anxiety worse; and it certainly did for me), meant that my mental health suffered. I was feeling stressed, anxious and overwhelmed, at a level that made managing everyday life impossible. I was falling apart and begging for anything that would help. Because it was the only thing that my GP was was able to offer without having to wait for months, and I was desperate, I accepted a prescription for SSRI antidepressants. Having researched what seemed to be most helpful for ADHD people, I asked for Paroxetine.

I started taking Paroxetine mid September. It didn’t seem to help my mood, and I hated how it made me feel. I felt numb, disconnected from myself, joyless. When I went to my weekly 5rhythms dance session, something I used to always look forward to, I couldn’t connect to the dance, or to myself, and ended up spending a large amount of the session sitting on the floor, feeling unhappy, and wanting to go home. To make things worse, within a week of taking the antidepressant, I discovered that I was no longer able to have an orgasm.

From my scientific career and having attended conferences that talked about SSRIs and sexual health, I remembered that those side effects were common for this type of drugs. The impact on sex life are rarely explained to patients prior to prescription (informed consent anyone?), yet it is a common reason why people stop taking them. In a review paper, I found the following data  “SSRIs may cause sexual dysfunction in 40% to 65% of individuals, these side effects may exacerbate depression and create a barrier to medication adherence”. No kidding!

I was not hugely bothered about the lack of sexuality per se, because my mental health was so dire that if the drugs had made me feel better I would have put up with that. The straw that broke the antidepressant’s back was the fact that this was another example of how this drug was making me disconnected from life itself. I wanted to be able to cope better with life’s ups and downs. The SSRIs not only didn’t achieve that, it made me feel like a narrowed down version of myself.

Interestingly, when I had taken the plant based version of SSRIs, St John’s Wort, for several months when I suffered from depression in 2019, I had never experienced this numbing and disconnection feeling, and it had helped me climb up from the bottom of the pit I was in at the time. 

My experience taking SSRIs felt both numbing and sharp, like a knife, cutting me from myself. Since taking St John’s wort had felt supportive in the past, I had an insight that this is because synthetic drugs are extremely narrow in their target, only hitting one process in the brain, whereas plant medicines contain many different substances, which act in synergy. As a spiritual and energy sensitive person, I also felt that synthetic drugs are disconnected from the web of life, because of the way they are produced in the lab, separated from their source of origin, whereas plant medicines are more connected, because the plant carries its own energy and the connection to the energy of the earth.

I spent some time meditating on the different medicines, writing them down, putting them on my altar, to see how they suited me. Having considered switching to St John’s wort, however, from trying the ADHD meds, I also knew I would need something different if it was to support my symptoms. I had wondered about microdosing with a plant medicine for some time because several of my friends were doing it and reported amazing effects on mood and wellbeing. In fact that medicine sat in my house for 6 months but I felt scared to try it. It really is quite fascinating to me that I had to experience what pharmaceutical drugs felts like to free me of my fear.

The week I considered trying, the universe sent me very clear signals, because for a few days, everywhere I went I ended up speaking someone new who told me how life changing it had been for them. I sat at a diner party next to a psychotherapist  who wanted to blend psychotherapy and this kind of medicine. I went to a survival skills workshop in the woods, the teacher had some interesting tattoo and they turned out to be replica of this plant medicine carvings found in Algeria, which he had done after an experience with the medicine cured him of PTSD. A friend of mine shared that she was embarking on a 18 months long training as a microdosing coach, it just went on and on for days until I finally said : OK universe, I think I got the message.

I stopped the SSRIs after about a month, tapering them off slowly, then I started this new medicine journey, supported by a couple of experienced friends. One of them even came to my house to hold me through my first dose of the medicine, and it felt very safe. I am a month into this new experience, and my life has been transformed. I plan to write another post telling this story when I am ready.

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