a glob of nerdishness

March 31, 2010

Taking Pills

written by natevw @ 1:19 pm

My name is Nathan and I have ADD.

I know it’s vogue to glorify our overloaded lives and our craving for instant happiness with a generic “Whee, I’m so ADD!” It’s a fair enough analogy, but that’s not what I mean. There’s also a tendency to romanticize the effects of real ADHD. My disorder has its moments, but contributed greatly to my depression through college and my frustration at work since:

  • ADHD is killing precious time because what I need to be doing is boring.
  • ADHD is wasting extra time because what I am doing is too exciting to just finish.
  • ADHD is rambling on and on instead of listening to others.
  • ADHD is buying into lust for possessions that shouldn’t own me.
  • ADHD is brainstorming a thousand ideas when I should be sleeping.
  • ADHD is chasing an emotional high with no regard to its consequences.
  • ADHD is staying consumed by unfinished projects while my family yearns for my missing attention.

ADHD is trying to overcome all that, while being undermined by all that, while the past grows ever larger and the future arrives ever faster. After trying “on my own” for way too long, I read Reaching for a New Potential. It’s a well-written book about adult ADHD, and convinced me of its thesis: “It is the combination of treating the disability specifically and strengthening the non-disabled parts generally that helps us succeed.”

By “treating the disability specifically”, the author means: medication. As a kid, I took ritalin every school day. I was still hyper, but could channel my creativity and close my mouth often enough to make most teachers proud. After 8th grade I stopped taking the pills; my high school provided enough challenge, emotion and structure to compensate. I began to look at medication as something like cheating. You know, the New Yorker published this article about how stimulants are being exploited as study drugs, neuroenhancers used to get ahead in the rat race.

The fact is, ritalin and a few of the other medication options are stimulants. They can be used like caffeine, they can be abused like cocaine. But decades of proper prescription have shown that ritalin can provide an additional, special effect against ADHD. I’ve come to accept that — along with needing glasses to see clearly, and lactase supplements to digest dairy products — I need pills to respond properly to extrinsic motivation.

And if a meandering fifteen page exposé of “study drugs” implies that pills make my accomplishments phony? Well, Easter weekend tells just how God swallowed up all my broken failures and phony triumphs and gave the final success to Jesus. If taking Ritalin is a constant reminder to claim his accomplishments and not my own, so be it.

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