There is a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Hobbes finds Calvin at his desk beginning a homework assignment ahead of time. Hobbes invites Calvin to come play outside in the freshly falling snow. Calvin doesn't hear him and says: "What? Oh, sorry I wasn't listening. Look, I really have to finish this." The last panel of the strip shows Calvin diligently working on his paper with Hobbes sitting next to him, only he has reverted back to his lifeless stuffed animal form.
I was prescribed Ritalin at age 14. I stopped taking it by age 16. It changed me. It made me un Calvin like. It took away what made me me and replaced it with a chemical. ADHD is over-diagnosed. It is a miracle word for parents with children who don't get the best grades or who disrupt classes, it is a miracle word for the pharmaceutical industry who makes millions of dollars every year from products like Ritalin going to children who hardly need it, and it is a miracle term for some of us diagnosed with it who can make a pretty dollar turning it around as speed on college campuses.
I don't regret taking myself off the medication, nor do I regret my time spent on it. What makes me angry though, is that I was never offered the choice. It was the decision of my parents, my teachers, the doctors; I was just a body without a voice. Since I stopped taking the ritalin I've met a handful of other people my age who were prescribed similar drugs for similar mental imbalances. Some of them still took their medicine, others didn't, all of us were angry at our diagnoses and our diagnosers.
It's a tricky subject no doubt, diagnosing mental imbalances in children. How is it even possible to gauge the mind as it is still developing? And after that how is it even possible to prescribe for that before the mind is finished developing? Pills alter brain chemicals and can leave longterm change. How can that decision be made for a child? Who knows what his best interests are at such a young age? As I said I know some people my age still on mental balancing medication, for them it works. For them they can't stop taking their mood stabilizers without endangering themselves and they, more than anyone else, is aware of that. So they remain on them. But that was their decision. How can anyone but the owner of the brain make that decision?
At the time I was under the whole "I'm young, they know best" deal. And I thank the pills because they proved to me that "no, when it comes to my mind and body, I know best." But looking back on that time period now, with the speculation of experience and the experience of my friends, I don't know where to stand on the issue. What are the ethical dillemmas of prescribing for mental imbalances, or even diagnosing them? Are the rules any different for kids? They must be, but there must also be a way to invite the child into the discussion in a way I never was.
How do you as parents deal with this? And how do we as the diagnosed respond?