Building a House of Cards in a Storm

January 17, 2008
Many times I feel as if I am trying to build a house of cards in a storm. Throughout my life the
cards have taken the form of assignments, projects, chores, extracurricular activities, and even my own
leisure. I was “driven to distraction”, as ADD afflicted author Edward Hallowell would say.
Living with a something my psychiatrist called a disorder was disconcerting at first. At the start
of my Adderall prescription in the third grade, being on such a dose made me feel handicapped, as if I were
somehow less well bred than everyone else. Time and time again I tried to find to avoid taking it. The
medicine was not even a temporary cure, much less a cure in proper form. I was able to focus at school,
and played obedient to my parents at home. But this was at the cost of migraines, loss of appetite, spans of
extreme anxiety and sleeplessness*. My grades were adequate, but the length to which I had to go to get
them was overwhelming. I had few friends, and socialized rarely with others outside of my family.

Living in a pro-college environment, I knew how important my junior year in high school would
be. Unfortunately, during the summer after the tenth grade, contractors began to drown down the walls of
our house and my parents told me that our house would be remodeled. Two honors classes in the “weak”
subjects I had decided to concentrate on left me with tough work requiring extra focus. Yet every day, I
came home with my Adderall wearing down and much schoolwork to complete. With construction workers
drilling and pounding all around me my “disorder” did not agree at all. It seemed impossible to work
effectively; I would take that orange pill only to sit in my half demolished room in great strain, committing
three times as much effort for every task I completed, which forced me to retake my medication in the
evening. The usual migraines, loss of appetite, and anxiety wore me thin and weary. I looked to my
parents for comfort, but they had inexplicably turned their attention to the remodeling project and away
from my brother and me.

With the usual source of social comfort gone, I was prompted to look for it in others. I joined a
leadership group, and took a more active role as a student. I swallowed my anxiety and began asking
teachers for assistance, helping fellow students, and conversing with friends. In the evenings at home I
would endure the cold and dust in my three-walled room, and took my medication as prescribed. After its
effects wore away into the night, I tried to shut out distractions as best I could without it.

I began to realize how important relationships outside the family are. Building affinities with
teachers in order to get the most out of learning, and finding friends with which to associate and have
conversations, became the focus, and milestone, of my junior year. There became a true purpose to live: to
be able to understand others who were different from me, and to work together with them and make my life
as enjoyable as I made theirs. I ended the school year having not only received exceptional grades, but also
to a great extent having begun an entirely new life outside of home.

I cannot deny that my parents have given much effort in helping my younger brother and I succeed
in our lives. I am grateful that they could provide me with the Adderall, which started my success in school.
But more that this I treasure the character that I brought out within myself, which allowed me to be
“delivered away from distraction”. In a way the remodeling phase of our house served as an event that
eventually remodeled my own life, expanding its scope, offering more opportunities, and penetrating the
restrictive layer that I had hidden behind during my childhood. Now, as I have stepped out of this layer, I
begin my exploration of the boundless world surrounding it, a world of happiness and progress.

*For me, the biggest side-effects of Adderall

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