I want to talk about the years of my childhood being told I just wasn’t trying hard enough. That I would be fine if I didn’t talk so much. That I just didn’t have a work ethic. That if I just focused a bit more, I would be able to get good marks like the other kids in the class.
I want to talk about the years of highschool, where being semi-adults more capable of engaging with reason didn’t even help the stigma. Where the accusations actually got a bit more serious, because the stakes were higher. Of refusing to take it because I was scared of being called a cheater. Of telling my doctor I didn’t care, I wouldn’t take it. Of being told I procrastinate because I am lazy.
I want to talk about university, where the stakes got raised again. Where people would sulk under their breaths about how “we’d all be doing well if we were doing that”. I want to talk about people buying it without a prescription and making it seem like even less like a legitimate disorder and more like a luxury.
I want to talk about Ritalin.
I could write a thesis about how it affects people in terms of anxiety, or social interaction, or many of the other reasons why it is prescribed, but today I’m going to focus on its academic value, and the idea that it counts as “cheating” to take it.
Far too often, people take examples of children who were able to fight their way through the educational system, reduce the use of Ritalin, or other drugs of the sort, to redundant status and call it a way to suppress a child’s individuality.
“See! She didn’t take Ritalin and she made it through. Ritalin is just an easy way out!”
Denying a child medical attention because of speculation doesn’t necessarily “teach them to cope”, but sometimes it only furthers their inability to do so thereafter.
While I may have made it through the system without it, up until university, where I stopped feeling ashamed and allowed doctors to prescribe it to me, those formative years of being called the class clown and talking more than listening are part of the reason I still can’t do my times tables and why there rarely goes a paragraph I write without a spelling error popping up. Yes, I was able to get through it and wouldn’t say I’m particularly stunted by it, but most people don’t make it through and most people are stunted by it. I suppose it could be likened to how some people are able to sleep perfectly without sleeping pills – and that’s fantastic for them – but it doesn’t help the people who can’t sleep. Just because people have gone without taking medication for attention deficit and the likes, doesn’t mean that ignoring a clear problem is the best way of dealing with it.
I want to ask why people call it “cheating” to take Ritalin. Is it cheating to wear glasses? Are people who have genetically blurry vision told that if they just tried a little harder, they’d be able to see better?
What most people who don’t take Ritalin don’t understand about Ritalin is usually everything. But more specifically, they don’t understand that Ritalin doesn’t have some magic level of “smart” that it takes you to. Let’s make it really simple, and say that the average brain is able to to let you concentrate on level 4. Then, there are people who can only concentrate on level 2. Please note that these examples are for sake of explanation and not to be quoted as actual statistics. Ritalin will take both of those people to level 5. Does that make sense? It doesn’t have a set amount of “help” in each tablet – those who need it benefit more from it. For instance, someone who does not suffer from depression will not become excessively happy after taking an anti-depressant, while someone suffering from depression will be regulated.
Maybe it’s just too early to understand. There was a time – with a few ignorant souls still preaching it – when people were told they just needed to cheer up and smile more, as if that even skims the surface of the complexity of depression. Maybe, and hopefully, there will come a time where people will refer back to the time when people accused those suffering from attention deficit disorders of just being lazy or stupid, and they’ll think “thank goodness we came to our senses”.
I realise I’m being very unscientific about the matter and I’m doing so for two reasons. One, because I haven’t studied the topic to the extent that I could even begin to offer a medically sound discussion. Two, because we should be able to understand the topic without needing to make it a matter of statistics. It’s a social issue as much as it is a scientific one. We need to be able to discuss and understand these issues without bombarding people with figures.
Listen, I’m also not claiming that Ritalin is the only possible way to treat or deal with attention deficit. I’m sure that there are, and will be many other ways to do so as we learn more about the disorders. The only way that’s ever going to happen, though, is when people start acknowledging it for the disorder that it is, and not reducing it to an excuse for kids who don’t want to do their homework. Usually, and ironically, people aren’t concerned about these negative effects as much as they’re concerned about the positive ones. Either way, we need to acknowledge that it’s currently one of the only options for people suffering from attention deficit and to simply leave them to fend for themselves is unnecessary and archaic.
So, unless you’ve done specific research before bashing it, I don’t want to hear your misinformed opinions of how unfair it is that I am now able to absorb information that you might be lucky enough to do naturally. And please – please – don’t trivialise the disorder to the point where you are taking it without a prescription. That’s one of the many places the problem starts.