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It’s easier going fast. Even now, as I write this, I’m on 36 mg of Ritalin, drinking my second coffee of the day. Black with one shot of espresso. Usually I order a cold brew, but Starbucks was all out. When I pointed at the cashier and called him a sinner as a joke, he did not laugh.
I love the chemical aid. The charge of energy that keeps me alert – eyes open, mind going. Heart pumping. Dreams running. The quickening of the keys beneath my fingertips, an ethereal rainstorm pouring down a world of thought fueled by Speed – bolts of energy. But the question that always haunts me is if I truly need the stimulants. If I ever did.
In America’s fast-paced, career-driven, competitive and creative society, one must always be sharp. On point. Ready to go-go-go! Maybe it’s more up in New England, something in the college-saturated water. But we all feel it to some degree, as humans. The pull towards ease. Towards what’s convenient. Towards going fast. And as I grow older, nearing thirty, I find myself loving efficiency more and more. I find myself wanting to take the shortcut.
Drugs are good for this. My old man has ADD, always had it along with dyslexia, which led him to drop out of high school and join the Marines. My brother was given Ritalin probably too early on, and – due to its less glamorous side effects – quit the drug. He became a C student, a gifted hockey player, a lone-wolf skateboarder, and now plays video games competitively. His eyes wide-open staring at the screen into the wee hours of the morning. So the learning disability is in my genes, I guess, but I never remember taking an official test at the doctor.
About a year ago, my husband took me to the Boston Museum of Science as a celebration for completing my MFA program. We sat down at a station with a bulky screen that lit up with a test telling you not to get distracted by random objects that would pop up. Cats! Purple cats! Trees! Storms! Street signs! Ghosts! Ghosts? Gorillas! I oohed and awed, my score plummeted, the screen buzzed, and my husband walked away laughing his face off.
Online there are quizzes you can take to measure if you have ADD. According to one site, if you score a 34 & Up, it’s likely you have adult ADHD. I score above 40 every time. But the part that doesn’t make sense is that if I’m on the medication, shouldn’t I be scoring better on these tests? If I have ADD, shouldn’t I go slower on the meds? The validity of my diagnosis has always been questionable. What came first – I wonder – the problem or the panacea?
I began taking Adderall illegally in high school and quickly became addicted to amphetamines. I got A’s before taking the drugs and I got A’s after. In college, I’d take my smart pills alongside my successful peers. Pop shortcuts on huge projects off the palm of my hand.
Then one day, during my sophomore year of college, I quit all drugs cold turkey. Butts. Pot. Pills. Even my anxiety meds. I started seeing tiny blue demons on the vacuum cleaner at work. I also wasn’t able to read books very well, my English grades starting to slip. My doctor decided to put me on Ritalin as a safe, happy-medium between my addiction and deficiencies. And to keep the demons at bay.
Nearly ten years later, I still take the drug. And even though I’m thankful for the help it provides – for the time it saves – I wonder now what life would have been like if I never got on the stimulants. How different things would be. I wonder why I was always so afraid of going slow – why I’m still afraid.
I think it’s the hardship. The humdrum of life. The stuff silence says. The limitations one feels when losing help. The challenges life brings when one slows down enough to face them.
And when that naked day comes, I’ll write about it. But for now, I don’t mind going slow.