In Alice’s world there was a pill to make you smaller and another to make you taller. In the world we live, however, we have pills that cover us for virtually everything – even racism. My pharmacology group recently presented an article on how blood pressure medication reduced racial prejudice by 66%. (An aside: perhaps more people should be on this medication.)
I, however, recently found a pill to get me through the next few hours of studying for my OSCE II exam. I put the pill on my tongue and wrestled my way out of guilt’s tight grip, attempting to prepare myself for one of the many exams I’ll have to face in the weeks to come.
Motivation and concentration, once something you had to be born with, work for or cognitive-behaviour-yourself into, can now be swallowed, with a sip of water. It’s products like these that give me a quick face slap whenever I doubt that there may be a problem a corporation can’t solve. Billions of dollars are dedicated to setting right the physiological and ecological wrongs of evolution, nature and society. Without problems, then, there are no corporations. Luckily, we have marketers, whose sole purpose is to make us see the problems we are not yet aware of (vaginal discharge, abdominal fat, flat hair, lack of designer purses, boredom… should I go on?). But, I digress…
As a society we buy into the idea (literally buy into) that normal physiological and psychological phenomena are indeed problems dangling like fishing hooks, waiting for a solution to catch, to pull us out of the misery of being alive.
We patients act as passive players, waiting for the solution to our predicaments to land in a drug store near us. With Wikipedia print-outs in hand, we approach our medical doctors, convincing them why we are incomplete without their magic potions, which we’re sure will lift us away from the discomforts of our own physiology. It’s not the system: it’s our natural selves, born flawed, and the only solution comes in a compressed, time-release capsule. We must swallow it daily in order to achieve normalcy. “Normal”, of course, has yet to be defined. Sometimes it’s not such an easy thing to swallow.
Last Sunday there was a solution to my lack of motivation. It wasn’t that I was overly stressed and in desperate need of good friends, an espresso, a good book and a nature walk. It had nothing to do with the fact that my passion tank is running on empty. And, of course, the last thing that my lack of concentration had to do with was the painful, easily repressed truth that perhaps this course of study and definitely this educational style is not really my thing. The root causes are irrelevant, because a solution exists. This solution came packaged in an orange canister in the form of a little green pill, 18 mg, the label suggesting, as in Alice’s case, “Eat Me”.
5 hours later, I’m immersed in my work, other anxieties, doubts and creativities having long flown the coup of my mind. The pill designed to keep them at bay works beautifully. The drug companies have manufactured mindfulness! What the yoguis, 3000 years ago, have spent lifetimes of meditation, retreat from society and intensive spiritual study to achieve now comes in pill form and can be obtained with a sip of water and a swallow.
Is ADHD simply a problem in need of solution? I sometimes wonder if it’s not the mind saying (rather, screaming) “You’re not interested in this! This isn’t for you! Your passions lie elsewhere!” Perhaps an overactive mind simply needs to be channeled in order to achieve something great. If not, at least there’s a pill to make the voice of reason shut the heck up. Thank goodness for that.
As Alice fell down the rabbit hole, so I fall into the dark depths of OSCE II review – all 50 pages of it. My super-focused brain kneads out the subtleties between the differentials that can cause constipation. I wonder, vaguely, if this isn’t in fact where my true interests lie. Constipation sucks, for sure. But is my life meant to be spent, finger up rectum, trying desperately to rule out colorectal cancer? A life spent this way is a noble one, no doubt, but I wonder if it’s for me. To put it differently: I am grateful for every bridge I’ve ever had to cross, but I feel little drive to study civil engineering. (I’ll try not to burn any, though).
I wonder how many truly talented people spend their lives in a cubical cell, their artistic genius chained to a desk. I also wonder how many of us have simply been unable to allow ourselves to be poured into the factory-formed mold that emerges after years of formal education. One hopes that we live in a world where are best talents are recognized and celebrated, where the very core of our humanity is embraced, nourished and cherished until adulthood and then set free. Are art and music not worth as much as marketing campaigns and sales figures? Is a walk in a forest no different from a walk through a shopping mall? Is real learning truly experienced while staring at a computer screen in solitary confinement? I wonder if our society truly takes advantage of the gifts of humanity.
Probably not. But at least there’s a pill for that.