Wednesday, 24 February 2010

We had to walk up hill both ways, too

I remember, back when I was in class 7N (for those disinclined to maths, that would make me 12/13).  As part of an exercise in... something, we had a grid of dots which he had to join up.  The dots we used, and the order we joined them up in, were uncovered by means of some maths.  The end result was supposed to be a polar bear.   Half-an-hour into the class, everyone was joining up the dots and making their bears.  I wasn’t.  I’d been fighting and fighting and fighting and I just couldn’t get it.  I had a round hole, and I was clutching a square peg in my hand.  I put my head on the desk, and started to cry.  It wasn’t the only time I’d cried in class 7N, just one of the first occasions that springs to mind.

The Daily Fail had an article about a new set of psychological conditions under consideration for inclusion in the ‘psychiatric bible’.  I was initially sceptical of these new conditions because--as far as I understand the medical system in America--there’s a very cosy relationship between those who decide if something is a disease or not, and those who make drugs to treat the disease.  Maybe that’s just hearsay, I’m really not in a position to judge.

Then I started thinking about Autism, ADHD, Aspger’s, and some of the things mentioned in the article like Intermittent Explosive Disorder.  None of these terms were in the public consciousness when I was at school.  You were a slow learner, or you were badly behaved.  Either way, you were expected to take responsibility for your actions.  Why this sudden rush to label all these things and throw drugs and treatments at them?

And what long-term good is sticking labels on these kids going to do, anyway...?  What if people had been aware of these sorts of things back when I was a kid as they are now?  Would I have been diagnosed with something? 

Might I, possibly, have been given the help and support I needed to function in society?  Would someone have sat me down, talked through these things with me, convinced me I wasn’t irreplaceably broken and given the tools for me to make a decent life for myself?  Would someone had done all that for me when I was 12, instead of when I was 27 and there was an awful lot more damage to undo?

So maybe the doctors aren’t just stickling medical labels on bad parenting or excusing naughty children by giving them disorders.  Maybe if a bit more of this sort of thing had been going on when I was a kid...

There’s no sense in wishing to change the past, of course.  I don’t think these conditions are necessarily labels or pigeon holes.  They’re just a way of saying, ‘ah, so that’s how your brain is working... that’s fine, this is the set of tools you need to deal with the world’.  Call it ADHD, hyperactivity or possession by witches, it don’t matter.  What matters is that someone sits down with you, tells you you’re not broken, gives you the tools you need and the support you need to learn how to use them.


Jo Thomas said...

Again, you hit the nail on the head. Ta, brother Fox :)

Foxie said...

I'm glad all my talking rings true for someone else!