Julia Page, ’11
I appreciated your decision to publish an anonymous article about the stigma attached to having a diagnosis of, and taking medication prescribed for, ADHD. Like the author of that piece, I have ADHD and have been taking Concerta off and on, in various dosages, since I was in high school. I like my meds. They aren’t wonder drugs or insidious agents of behavioral control– when I take my pills, I keep my strange, occasionally disagreeable personality and am neither appreciably smarter nor able to pull an all-nighter without being loopy, exhausted, and haggard-looking the following day. They just make it easier for me to block out irrelevant external stimuli and keep my mind from wandering. They also ameliorate the severe mood swings to which I’m prone without them; medicated, I still have feelings, and sometimes very intense ones, but I rarely make suicidal threats or plans (for example). They don’t solve all my problems, psychological or scholastic, but they undeniably do good things for my brain, and it’s not like I haven’t tried other treatments– meditation, “willpower,” behavioral therapy, not eating sweets. My point, I guess, is that I probably have better reasons for taking a regular dose of methylphenidate than all y’all in the smoking huts have for burning through two or twenty cigarettes a day, and if I’m not going to judge you for your habit (and I’m not, you’re adults, you’re capable of making informed decisions and it’s no one else’s job to police your health or the chemicals you choose to put into your bodies), then you’ve got no right or business looking down your noses at me for mine.
Am I saying that everybody with ADHD (or any other “condition”) must or should be medicated? NO, and I think a lot of the suspicion and dismissiveness around this topic comes from a very valid discomfort with the establishment-touted ideas that brain differences are necessarily bad and that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to a varied set of brain differences that affect a wide range of individuals, and that are still not well understood even by neurologists. I’m only saying that medication works well *for me personally*, that my decision to take it isn’t a lark or a clever plot to get an unfair advantage over other students or the result of thoughtless gullibility, that what I do with my body is my own damn beeswax, and that, like the anonymous “ADD Agnostic,” I don’t deserve to ever be patronized, belittled, harassed, or made to feel guilty for any of it. Mind disabilities, and the things we do or don’t do to manage them, shouldn’t have to be a big deal or an embarrassing secret.