Tagged and Drugged

When I was a child my favorite stories were Treasure Island, Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and, above all, Oliver Twist – the story of a young boy who is abandoned, neglected, abused and exploited, only to be redeemed in the end, having beaten the odds and overcome the greater forces of evil.  Although the movie was released as a musical – one particular genre most nine-year-old boys do not endure well, Dickens’ story captured my interest, nonetheless.

I was a rambunctious child, difficult to focus and forever reaching and grabbing, exploring – fearlessly. Some may remember me as impulsive, opinionated, abrasive and stubborn.  I was scrappy. I think I can be accurately described that way, even now. I might also be the embodiment of mulishness, independence and, at times, deliberate carelessness.  I may also be termed loyal, loving, generous, sensitive and perceptive of how my behavior impacts others.

I am hopeful, over my lifetime, to grow and evolve even more  – at my own pace.

I don’t like to be shoved along.

I am grateful that my inner child hasn’t abandoned me. With some tweaks, adjustments, modifications and fine-tuning, I continue to live by the idea that forgiveness is more easily sought than permission. My eccentric, oddball penchant for risk-taking and my devil-may-care attitude has become the logo of my adult life.  My unusual nature, however, has not been immune to criticism and fault-finding.

Of course, it would have been much safer for me to stay to the right, speak only when spoken to and, generally, follow the leader.  Instead, I spent much of my early school years sitting behind the piano, learning to read and write with my nose in the corner or secluded from others, usually behind some screen or wall – making the task of learning in school that much harder.  In sixth grade, I sat in a special row of desks suitably named “Murderer’s Row.” I did, obviously, learn to read and write. I also learned geography, history and mathematics, all the while enduring some form of punishment.  I especially learned how to adapt, not only my special way of learning, but how to live with bullying and criticism from adults.  I learned to succeed, regardless of the obstructions I faced.

I learned to fight back.

My adult life has been more of the same.  There has, of course, been a generous balance of rewarding, satisfying experiences, in spite of my curious character. I recently came upon an understanding, a denouement, that I would have benefited from much earlier in my life:  If you take a path that is counter to the path others expect of you, you can expect a lifetime of push back. I share this knowledge with all of those curious children I meet in therapy – children who are confronted with a choice between adapting their unique character to the expectations of society or pressing on as they become – like I did.

Oliver Twist, much like we curious people, had a lot to say about adaptability.

I am grateful that attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had not become a staple (bill-paying) diagnosis when I was a child. In the late ‘60s and 70s, I would have been immediately captured like some wild animal, tagged and drugged, measured and observed, aligned and altered.

The gusto at which our culture has embraced the nut-headed idea that toxic chemicals can be casually introduced into the developing brains of children is numbing.  Although there is not a single shred of evidence that there is any such thing as ADHD, parents eagerly listen to learned doctors and nurses who can fit any behavior around a predetermined diagnosis. Armed with a diagnosis, parents willingly feed their children drugs to treat their sickness, hoping against hope that their children will suddenly, miraculously become less of a burden on their already over-burdened lives. 

Essentially, we are treating children for their caregiver’s mental health issues.

Parents have low frustration tolerance and their children are diagnosed and treated for it.  Parents have limited patience and limited time and their children are diagnosed and treated for it.  Teachers are weighed down by curious children in the classroom and those children are diagnosed and treated for it.

The fact is we cannot feed drugs to children simply because we are too tired to work harder. Above all, we cannot use a medical model to understand a social issue. Caregivers, however, are desperate for quick and easy CURES for their children’s illnesses.  The trillion-dollar drug industry is only too willing to oblige. By ascribing a diagnosis and prescribing medications for it, the illusion that the child’s behavior is not a behavior at all, but is, instead, a disease is reasonably established. Caregivers can comfortably avoid responsibility for managing their children’s unique and unusual character by attributing it to sickness and treating the sickness with medication rather than improving their skill at parenting a curious child.

Ultimately the curious child begins to view h/erself as sick.

The scheme is all very clear to me.

Although I am not convinced that psychotropic medications are appropriate for anyone, especially children, without conjoint mental health treatment, the practice of prescribing them for pedestrian emotional issues continues. If you’re having a bad day, take this pill.  If you’re sad, take another pill. If you’re anxious, worried or feeling a little ennui, have a pill. On second thought, have two pills now and keep three for later. It is not surprising that all persons licensed to prescribe psychotropic medications are medical professionals.  Psychologists, clinical social workers and clinical counselors – those who actually understand and treat mental health issues, are not permitted to prescribe, resulting in the unbalanced hierarchy and professional elitism we have in this industry of mental healthcare, today.

Children cannot be expected to learn from their experiences if they are being psychotropically medicated during their formative years.  Children cannot build their skills at meeting the challenges of adult life and overcoming adversity when they are psychotropically medicated during their formative years.  Children cannot learn to take responsibility for their choices and their behavior if they are psychotropically medicated during their formative years. Most importantly, children cannot learn to celebrate their curiousness and the uniqueness of their character if they think their curiosity is a sign of sickness.

As a society, we have never really been willing to accept the diversity of individual character.  We seem to want people to fit into some particular mold. That’s where sitting behind the piano and in Murderer’s Row used to come in handy for my caregivers. At least I wasn’t being chemically altered. Children depend on adults for reasoning and rational thought to make decisions for them – decisions that are in their best interest. Children cannot distinguish their caregiver’s ill-informed intentions from their harmful consequences.

So we take advantage of our positions as adults and teach children they are sick and medicate the curiosity right out of them.

We are losing generations of artists, musicians, leaders, advocates and social activists, replacing them with people who stay to the right, speak when spoken to and, generally, follow the leader.  Not to imply that everyone doesn’t play some special role in the world we live in.  Some of us are designed to play different roles, and we are all necessary. If we upset the balance of nature by endorsing only one kind of person, one brand of personality and temperament over another, we are sure, over time, to regret that decision.

I am grateful that I got out of all of this nut-headedness alive; and I continue to celebrate Oliver Twist and the magnificent grasp he held on Hope.


7 responses

  1. I think this is something that cannot be said enough. It is so mainstream to treat kids with medication that occasionally I hear of parents being threatened with abuse charges for choosing not to drug their kids.

    I’d be curious to know of a good and valid source of information on the argument against it to refer parents to who are dealing with this or with the decision on whether or not to medicate their kid/s. We need more voices speaking up about the good reasons not to do it so parents will have information and alternative choices.

    Thanx again for the good read,

    • Hello RoseCityRemona: I’m not sure if my responses are reaching my readers. Can you let me know if you are getting my responses; that way I will know that the time I invest in the response if being received. Hope to hear back from you.

  2. Pingback: Tagged and Drugged | eitheory.com

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