Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Mind on Drugs

A few years ago, I lived in this rickety old house broken into apartments right around the corner from the Museum of Fine Arts in Rochester. One day I was sitting on the front porch and this crazy old woman who lived upstairs came out and started talking to me. She asked what I was doing. I said grading papers. She asked if I was a teacher. I said yeah. After a while, I thought it’d only be polite to ask what she did as well. She gave her psychiatric history, described her heroin addiction, her schizophrenia, her son who robbed banks while she waited in the car, and her experiences with Buddhism. “I reached enlightenment in 1977,” she said, “but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Having your mind empty can be painful.” I suspected she might be mistaking the effects of anti-psychotic medication for nirvana, but who am I to say?

Truth be told, there was actually this one time when.........
..................................................I saw God................
...................................really................................
...it was at this Allman Brothers gig.................
......in Telluride...................................................
......waaaaay up in the fuckin’ Rocky Mountains.............
......it was like sooooooooooooo fucking amaaaazing...........
.......................................but I’m not gonna tell that story here.

One thing I’ll say about the yoga thing, though, is that it definitely can supply a cool, clear, and reasonably consistent buzz. At times, in fact, I’ve wondered if it might be just another addictive behavior. But, as a good friend said, for those with a tendency to self-medicate, being addicted to something healthy is a good thing.

In an earlier post I went on a bit of a rant about the tendency to prescribe drugs like Ritalin and Adderall to what would appear to be the growing legion of kids affected by ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). In the past, I’ve been called on this kind of remark, and told about people who were unable to read a page or sit down for half an hour before they were put on these drugs, and now they can. Am I saying they should be denied the medication that’s improved their lives? No, I’m not. I am, however, suggesting that such cases are a small subsection of the rapidly exploding total, and that, in many cases, the problem might be the educational system, not the kids. Allow me to provide a bit of autobiography. They tried to get me on Ritalin twice when I was growing up, as a way of dealing with my apparent inability to pay attention in math class (or for that matter, any class that failed to grab my interest, i.e. almost all of them). I refused and, fortunately, my parents didn’t push the matter. Was my poor attention span a problem? Yes. In fact, my grades were lousy throughout grade school, and I probably would've been held back more than once except that the teachers seemed to agree that I could’ve passed if I’d tried, and that forcing me to repeat would only make things worse for everybody involved. In the later years of high school, I did a bit better and, having taken a year off and written a personal essay describing my trials and tribulations and heroic overcoming of the same, I made it to college. It wasn’t until graduate school, though, that I really began to excel. I won’t say that I floated through two Master’s degrees and a PhD without a care, but I didn’t seem to have any more trouble than anybody else. Lectures rarely held my attention and, as always, I had to have music playing to study but, as courses were all discussion based, and the vast majority of work was self-directed, that wasn’t much of a problem. All in all, it was a whole hell of a lot easier than grade school. Do I sound like a learning-disabled person? Or might it be that I was struggling with an educational system which itself has a severe disability in terms of understanding that some minds work differently than others and allowing those minds room to flower? Alas, from what I hear, things have only gotten worse since I left high school, and any hope for change has been positively knee-capped by “No Child Left Behind.” Can there be any doubt that, as reliance on standardized testing continues to grow, the attention deficit epidemic and resulting drugging of America's youth will as well?

7 comments:

froginnorthgeorgia.com said...

I'm enjoying your blog.

My brother was one of those kids who wasn't put on ritalin. The only thing wrong with him is his attitude. And that could always be adjusted by playing outside instead of sitting in a classroom for hours on end.

I hate yoga. It is exactly the opposite of ballet. I just can't get that. ;)

Rani said...

I had the same experience with education. I was a dreamer, and woke up in the last year in school when I got one of the best grades. That shut people up who had grumbled about absenteeism, lacklustre results etc. er...I'm still studying but hope to finish one day!

Me-Me King said...

I, too, saw god at an Allman Brothers concert (1969, Jackson, MS). It was Duane Allman, the god of slide guitar.

Rajesh said...

Yoga is a way of life. It could be started right from childhood.
BPO work from home

Liz said...

Hey there, DJ! Interesting story. Too bad school was an uphill battle for you. Good to hear you've "grown out of it" as some might say. Any chance you want to "guest author" that story on my ADHD blog? Let me know.

Liz aka Busy Lizzy :-)

Jeanine said...

Interesting post. That's great that you excelled in graduate school and beyond. You are right that not everyone learns the same way or finds the same educational techniques helpful.

Gale said...

You are my son. I will share this with him. Also, there are a number of children misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD who actually have autism and would do better with other types of drugs if necessary...because their autism symptoms come from a different place and need. also yoga for the classroom was a presentation at the Autism Society of America's National Conference one year. It was beautiful.