Wednesday, November 23, 2016

It Sucks Being a Squirrel: I am Not Evil, A Brief Story About ADHD

"Remember that what you have is a neurological condition. It is genetically transmitted. It is caused by biology, by how your brain is wired. It is NOT a disease of the will, nor a moral failing, nor some kind of neurosis. It is not caused by a weakness in character, nor by a failure to mature. Its cure is not to be found in the power of the will, nor in punishment, nor in sacrifice, nor in pain." - Edward M. Hallowell, MD and John J. Ratey, MD, "Answers to Distraction - Revised Edition"

I grew up in the 1970s, from seven to seventeen, when there was no such thing as ADHD. Back then, my erratic behavior was attributed to a lack of will or self control. There were no services available to help parents cope with a child that had a 'hidden' disability. The norm was to spank kids into compliance, or worse, silence. This created any number of untold problems for me, but it is not my purpose to whine about how my life sucked growing up. I have another issue to address, so please, be patient while I deliver the backstory.

When I was 17, I discovered Meth. It affected me in an interesting way; in that, it cleared my brain of all the fog that had long since made it impossible for me to think clearly.  For the first time in my life, I could think about one thing at a time, and because of this development, I could not see the downside of meth. I could not possibly understand why everyone was saying that it was a bad thing. It made me feel so good. I found out why, when I took work with a carnival. This is where I began abusing the drug. I shot up for the first time in my life, and that brought me more mental clarity than ever before. The sensation induced by this method of use was instantaneous; and though, I got the obvious clarity the first time, it only took a second injection to see the bad side of meth. Coming down was a nightmare. I suffered from suicidal depression, and I could feel the lack of nutrients in my body because, while on Meth, eating is not necessarily a priority. One can imagine that it would be similar to how someone starved by circumstance would feel, be it homelessness or what else.

It was all I could do to NOT seek an end to that feeling. I had decided at that time to NOT ever do Meth again because the only thing that could restore the mental clarity that it provided was further abuse, which can do serious neurological damage to the brain. Fast forward to the day that I was diagnosed with ADHD. The doctor prescribed me Adderall. Before going to the doctor, I did some research on the available medicines for my condition, if that was what the doctor was to confirm I was dealing with. The information available on Adderall was not promising. I was reluctant to try it because the reported side effects were similar to those of Meth, but I ignored the gut feeling that told me that it would affect me the same as Meth had. I tried it, in case I was wrong, but quickly found out that I wasn't. It made me feel exactly as I did when I abused Meth. The first pill was the last.

Now, on to my point. Society condemns Meth users while promoting drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, when doctors know that these drugs do much the same thing to the human body and mind as Meth. I keep arguing that each Meth case HAS to be scrutinized individually, not lumped together as someone taken over by evil. A great many Meth addicts have undiagnosed neurological conditions, or were unable to get the medicines that they needed when they were diagnosed. Either way, they are not doing the drug because they are evil. They are self medicating in an effort to manage their condition, a result of the negative stigma that comes with going to a psychiatrist, or what some call the 'shrink.' This stigma was especially strong when I was growing up. If ADHD had been better understood when I was young, perhaps my meth addiction would have raised a red flag of some sort and led someone to suggest, or insist, that I see a psychiatrist. Heck, the condition may have possibly even been detected before I found meth.

By the way, just in case there are some that are confused by the Squirrel moniker, the squirrel is the official Mascot of ADHD'rs all over the world. We are easily distracted, we are many; we are the meek who shall inherit the Earth!

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