I went on Strattera three years ago. I was just finishing my first year at Mills and I loved the school and the tribe I formed there. However, I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I had a bad experience with a math class that left me shaken and insecure. An on-campus job I wanted didn't turn out. I limped back home to Pleasant Hill to my mom and my cats.
Mom gave me an article on Strattera, a drug used for people who have ADD. "I don't have ADD," I said. "Even if I did, it's such a hassle to get it diagnosed. You have to talk to a doctor, then you have to talk to a therapist, then you have to..."
"It also helps people with Non Verbal Learning Disorders."
I perked up at this, because I do have a non-verbal learning disorder. If anything can help with it, I'm game. "Is it a stimulant?" I asked her. I always thought about taking Ritalin but I heard it could make people hyperactive. I was drinking three to four Cokes a day and I was hyperactive enough.
"That's the deal, it's not a stimulant. Why don't you try it during the summer? If it's during the summer, you don't have to worry about it affecting your schoolwork."
This sounded interesting. I couldn't get an appointment with a therapist so I paid two hundred dollars to see a doctor near where I lived. After doing a background check, I walked out with a prescription for Strattera. I kept on thinking wow, it was that easy to get it?
Around this time, I also went to Benicia to do a housesitting job for one of my teachers. I took my laptop, clothes, and my Strattera. I wanted to finish the novel I started last year but I kept on stopping and starting, stopping and starting. There was so much drama going on that I couldn't concentrate on times.
However, I noticed a difference right away when I started taking the Strattera. Suddenly I felt calmer. I didn't feel like I had to be in a race anymore. I wrote a thousand words a day. I read on the front porch Alice Hoffman, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and Wedenlin Van Drannen's Sammy Keyes mysteries. I took the dog I was taking care of for three walks a day. Friends would come visit me and we would walk around the town.
After the housesitting job was done, I went back home. I still felt great. I walked, I wrote, and I planned for the next semester. When I went back in August I had a draft of a novel book, I saw twenty movies for a film class I was going to take (I had to drop it early in the semester, but all those movies helped when I took the class the next semester). Although I was stressed again with taking math, I also noticed my grades were skyrocketing. When the semester was over, I had increased my GPA from 3.3 to 3.6.
I continued taking Strattera my last semester and the first couple of months at my job. However, I ran out of them because my insurance ran out. It took four months for me to get insurance at the new job, and when I did get it, I just didn't want to go through the "see a doctor, then see a therapist" deal again.
In January of this year, I knew I had to go back on it; I felt scattered and sad. I was letting the littlest things get to me-when a person in a critique group said something about double clauses in my writing, I found myself not wanting to write anymore. After Electra died, I gained weight and was so sad.
I went to mental health in Kaiser. I filled out a questionnaire for ADD and surprise! I was borderline ADD! Since I didn't have it when I was a kid, I can't be considered a ADD person. However, because I am borderline, and I do have NLD (as far as I know) I can get Strattera again! The doctor wrote me another prescription; I skipped over to the Kaiser pharmacy in Walnut Creek to get the capsules, and was back on it.
I was back on track again. I finished another draft of the mystery I was working on. I started writing this blog. Everything suddenly felt clear again, that, to quote e.e. cummings, the eyes of my eyes were open.
A couple of days ago I noticed I was getting low on the Strattera. I called in the prescription and then kept taking them. I noticed I was on the last one, but I figured that I could wait a day to get it because I was busy getting writing done and I had other chores to do.
Yesterday I had my normal morning routine: I had my tea and breakfast. I sat down to write. I loved the topic I was going to write about, soap opera comic characters. I started to write. I wrote some more, then suddenly I could not concentrate. I knew this topic so well. Why couldn't I write? I made myself write more. However, I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't think.
After putting the blog up, I went to work early. I knew what it was, no Strattera. It scared me, how much my body depended on it. I grew up during the 80's when drugs were just EVIL, no matter what. I prayed for Mackenzie Phillips when she was kicked off One Day At A Time. I watched as they carried away John Belushi's body from the Chateau Marrymont. Drugs were just bad. Yet here I am, so dependent on them I can't think straight when I miss a dose.
I don't know. I really don't. I know that of course Strattera doesn't make me a writer, I write because I write. So simple yet so hard at times. I try to see Strattera as a partner with me. It sits with me and says "Okay, we're going to get this done. Let's shoot for two pages. Ready, steady, go!" Will I be on it the rest of my life? Again, I don't know.
What I do know is it does help me function better and I get more done on it. It is the difference between walking perfectly on a balancing beam or just keeping falling off until I decide not to go on it anymore. When I'm done with this blog, I'll take it again. Feel grateful that I have medical insurance so I could have Strattera in the first place. Then I keep on plugging along, I keep on keeping on. For today, I need Strattera. Maybe tomorrow I don't, but today I do.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries