Someone said something to me recently that touched me deeply and left me feeling a little helpless. It was a young woman who was contemplating a visit to a therapist. She was concerned that the therapist would prescribe something for her, and while she recognized the need for some sort of change in her life, she wasn’t sure that she wanted medication to be a part of it. She was concerned that in trying to “fix” what was wrong with her, she would lose who she was – that the drugs would somehow change her into someone else.
I often hear that same concern voiced by parents trying to decide whether or not to put their ADD child on medication. I understand the worry; my husband and I went through the same kind of thought process when we put our son on medication for his Attention Deficit Disorder. What we discovered was that the essence of who our son was didn’t change; what changed instead was his ability to function on a day to day basis.
If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that I don’t see ADD or ADHD as being either a deficit or a disorder, but merely a different kind of brain function. I believe that people with ADD are highly intelligent, creative, and resourceful people who don’t need to be “fixed”. This, for me, makes it very hard to justify the use of medication as a treatment option, even though I recognize it’s effectiveness.
Is medication for ADD ultimately about fixing what’s wrong with you? If you wear glasses to see, aren’t the glasses fixing what’s wrong? And if you take insulin for diabetes, isn’t that doing the same thing?
I guess what it boils down to is semantics – word games. We can say the ADD medication, or the glasses, or the insulin is fixing what’s wrong, or we can say they are helping us where we need help. The real issue here I suppose is that on one hand, we’re talking about physical help (the glasses or the insulin), and on the other hand, we’re talking about mental help (the ADD meds).
And that’s the real heart of the matter: it’s OK to need help for a physical problem, but not a mental one. Even today, as educated and enlightened as we are, mental health issues still carry a stigma; that politically incorrect word – crazy – still hovers on the edge.
I think that particular word was the real reason my young friend was worried. Maybe it’s OK to need help, as long as it’s not too much help. Maybe medication to her is too much help, too close to that dangerous, politically incorrect word.
People with ADD aren’t crazy, and they aren’t damaged either. They just need a little help sometimes to function more effectively in their lives – and it doesn’t require a personality change to do it.