Essay / Ray Gilles

PILLS

drugs in sports_0001

“So, have you noticed a positive effect?”

The words hang in the air, demanding attention, filling the small doctor’s office like a thick smoke, swirling around and demolishing any sense of calm.  With one short question, this is no longer routine checkup, this is a self-evaluation of the past couple months of my life.  I now have to examine every action, every homework assignment, every little moment of seemingly no consequence at the time, and decide whether that was how I would normally act, or a result of the most recent prescription the doctors have given my anxious mother in an attempt to get me back on track.  I don’t understand how someone can ask such a question so casually.

Perhaps she doesn’t realize what she’s asking.  But to me at least, asking a confused, heavily medicated 18-year-old boy to self-evaluate the current state of their brain psychology is something that should carry quite a bit of weight.  And yet here she is, staring at me with hopeful eyes, wanting an easy, quick, positive answer.  She wants this to be painless.  She wants to have been right about me, to have known just what pill will fix me, make me stop feeling like such a fuck-up all the time.  Of course, she gets paid either way, so she can deal with a negative response as well.  Not so with my mother.  Her gaze is very different.  There’s the same hopefulness the doctor carries, but underneath it is weariness, a longing for resolution.  She wants the long medical process to be over, so she can know her son is going to be okay before shipping him off to college.

And still the question lingers.

I know that the drugs I am on are strong.  From my in-school drug education and from a few popular television programs, I know that anything ending in “-amphetamine” is not to be fucked around with.  This is stuff that could seriously change how my brain functions and how I act.  But it’s not like you take these pills and suddenly you’re a new man.  It’s only in retrospect, months down the line that you realize you’ve been acting differently.  Basically, all this amounts to is that this medical field is extremely fucked up.  There’s no simple test for ADHD, and no simple way to tell if the drugs are working.  So as a result, the entire medical field weighs far too heavily on opinion, conjecture and just plain guessing.  And this is the field that is prescribing me medical-grade meth.  Not just medical-grade meth, but medical-grade meth that I can barely feel the effect of until months down the line.  So I’m supposed to sit back while these pills change the chemical balance in my brain, hope and pray for a positive outcome, and occasionally go see the doctor to see how the process is coming along.

And now I have to say whether or not it’s helping.  Well, what can I possibly say here?  The nurse practitioner doesn’t want a 10-minute rant about why her chosen field is bullshit, and my mom doesn’t want to think this whole process has been a waste.  They both stare at me as I struggle to gather my thoughts.  It’s too much.  These seemingly innocent questions are too big and force me to reconsider too many things at once.  I’m not an expert.  I don’t know the science.  I’m just a confused kid, trying to get by despite being constantly unsure about everything.  I don’t want to be a disappointment, but I can’t give these people the answer they’re looking for.  So I sit up, fix my hair, and give the most honest answer I can manage.  It satisfies no one, but it’ll have to do for now.

“I don’t know.”

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