Note to doctors everywhere: it is not a good idea to experiment on children.
When I was seventeen my mom took off, back into the arms of her crazyabusive parents. Divorce papers
were filed. The court mandated that my brother, my sister, and I go into Counseling. Now I was glad
my parents were finally getting divorced. It was about time. They hadn't slept in the same room for months,
and whenever the whole family was home, we were divided into the Kid Faction anxiously playing Nintendo
in the basement, and the Yelling Grownups upstairs in the kitchen.
During Court Mandated Counseling the lady Sylvia asked to talk to me alone, after my bro and sis had left
the room. She noticed that the whole time she was trying to talk to the three of us kids about the breakdown
of our family unit, I was doodling elaborate curliques on a piece of computer paper with the pen she'd given
me. The pen was blue and had "PROZAC" written in yellow letters up the barrel; it was some kind of freebie.
I kept that pen for years afterward. It ended up being traded for a sci-fi book at a punk show in downtown
San Jose. There was this old guy hanging out with a big box of books and for some reason I had this Prozac pen
with me. He thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen. So now it's his and I have a book entitled
Space on my Hands.
Sylvia told me she thought I had Attention Deficit Disorder. So I got tested and diagnosed. Boom, I now
had a built-in reason for why I was attending both the Gifted Class and the Special Ed room on alternate days.
I now knew why I was unable to shut up or sit still. It was humbling and refreshing. Sylvia referred me
to this idiot doctor, though.
"I want to try something new on you. It's a medication called Risperdal."
"Don't they usually give kids like me Ritalin?" I inquired.
"Yes but I'm curious about whether this stuff might help you."
What could I say to that? I got a prescription for Risperdal. Reading the little drug information sheet
in the car, I became upset.
This drug is used to treat emotional disturbances, such as schizophrenia.
What the hell? I wasn't emotionally disturbed. I certainly wasn't schizophrenic. I was just a little hyper.
What were they giving me this drug for? I worried about taking the first dose, but I took it because I was
told to take it. My dad got me one of those plastic pill splitter things so I could cut the dose in half.
Half a dose was all I ever ended up taking.
The night I took the Risperdal, I awoke at 3 AM dizzy. I was lying down, yet I was still spinning like
crazy. I got up to use the bathroom, and had to hold onto the wall. The ceiling shifted crazily; I
thought I was dead.
If you've ever played the game Eternal Darkness you'll know what I mean when I say the world was tipped at an angle and everything looked slightly green and there was chaos dancing in my peripheral auditory system.
The morning was no better. I woke up with tears in my eyes, a headache, and no appetite. I went to school
and staggered from class to class. By afternoon chemistry, I was crying nonstop. I couldn't think. I was
unable to understand anything the teachers asked me; every question was answered with a teary, "I don't know!"
on my part. Finally, I had had enough. I blurted out to the whole class,
"They made me take this medication that isn't right for me!"
Even now I can't believe I was talking and acting like that in class. It was totally surreal. Nobody
sent me to the nurse's office or anything, and I didn't have the motivation to go there myself, which in
retrospect I probably should have done. I went home and called the mental health clinic to tell them that
they'd screwed up, that this medication was poison to my system.
"Oh really, you're having a bad reaction to the medication?" They sounded surprised on the phone. "Well,
don't take any more of it!
Like they needed to tell me THAT, I thought.
Right after I got off the phone with the clinic my father called. He was at the hospital; his dad, my
grandpa, had been in a terrible car accident. Grandpa's neck was broken.
All I could think about was myself, my own misery, though. Grandpa's plight seemed secondary to mine. When
the medication wore off later, it began to sink in that I'd been acting crazy all day. It began to sink in
that what had happened to my grandfather was serious, that he might not ever get better. I'd been locked
in my own head all day, where there had been nothing but fatigue and misery. Nope, Risperdal was definitely
not the medication for me. Not in a million years.
I went to the doctor's office the next week, furious. "Why did you give me that stuff?" I demanded.
"Well, I thought maybe it would help you. But apparently not. Why don't we try some Ritalin instead?"
Later on I did some reading on Risperidone and on ADHD. It turned out that Risperidone is probably NOT
something you should give to an ADHD individual; it decreases dopamine action in the brain, where an ADHD
individual benefits from an increase in dopamine activity.
I am still pissed that this doctor tried a nonstandard treatment on me before trying a traditional one. Stimulants
have been used for treating ADHD for over forty years, and in my case plain old Ritalin worked perfectly. Yet
I was put through a horrible day and night due to being experimented on by some doctor who was curious to see
what risperidone would do to a hyperactive kid. Oh well.