Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's not my fault.

Let me be clear about this. I'm not saying that ADD doesn't exist and isn't a challenging diagnosis which requires those suffering from it to use a variety of therapies (medical, cognitive etc) to deal with it. I'm saying that the term ADD is bandied about with such disregard, and is adopted by every person who has to put in a modicum of effort that it has become cheapened.

Simply not enjoying something doesn't mean you have ADD. Simply being bored by something, or having the standard short attention span of any teenager does not mean that you can hide behind the letters ADD. Assuming that there is an excuse -- a "reason" that you have trouble waking up in the morning, and that it has nothing to do with staying up too late and not getting enough sleep is a coward's way out.

The label is a crutch -- it even becomes an a priori reason not to try. A self fulfilling prophecy. Why should I try if I am not going to have to, nor be expected to succeed because I have this condition?

And you know what gets me scared? The "symptoms" of ADD which allow people to self-diagnose are (in the versions available to the lay person) so vague and general that that a large section of them would, and even SHOULD apply to most everyone, in some sense, at some point. This empowers each of us to grab hold of the Ritalin ring and say "it isn't my fault." And that's wrong. Abdicating personal responsibility and ascribing flaws to some uncontrollable outside force might be a comfort but it is an empty one. Ignoring successes (or calling them exceptions) in order to accentuate the negative, or magnifying the short comings each of us has in order to have them fall within the bounds and definition of a "symptom" becomes a short-cut to laziness.

So do we rely on our medical establishment to diagnose and reverse the trend created by an information superhighway which puts data in the hands of every Tom, Dick and Valium, and makes each of us an expert? And would that solve everything? Or would we still have professionals who assume that we want a diagnosis because it would explain away all of our failures or would guarantee the crutches to our children so we could exploit any avenue to give our child a crutch and an advantage (if that medicine helps a kid who has it bad, imagine how much better it will make my kid who just has a touch of the ADD). So the person can spin his life's challenges any way he wants...the professional can give whatever label will make the patient happy...and the medicine flows because it is the quick fix which gives the instant gratification. No longer will we have to grow up and say "I need to change and will have to work at it" or say "sometimes, I am not going to be great at everything but I still have to push myself to be as good as I can." This newfangled "twinkie defense" is a built in wall to keep such evils as self-knowledge and integrity out.

Now again - I'm not saying that no one has issues with attention that transcend the normal, or that no one has conditions which need remediation. But the explosion of diagnoses is not because our medical establishment is getting better or that more people have access to quality health care. We are all just becoming more savvy, and giving in to a new form of peer pressure: the pressure to be dysfunctional instead of either just being mediocre or being truly differently able.

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