Monday, July 04, 2005

Resurrecting The Ritalin Years

"Only to the extent that we expose ourselves to annihilation do we discover that which is indestructable in us" Pema Chodron said. It took me until my early thirties to realize she wasn't advocating doing so with expensive vodka and weed. What weren't indestructable were my stomach and self-esteem. The back, too, from years of waiting tables, bartending, and laying crumpled in bed with a belly full of Grey Goose.

I was given the name 'Tifanie' by the people who adopted me because it wasn't enough to pick a name that sounded prissy as hell, it also had to carry a spelling that would afford me years of ridicule and mispronunciation. During elementary school I went by nicknames, usually something shortened: T.J., Tif. For a whole summer I called myself Vette, after a beloved tee shirt with the car's nickname written in loopy rainbow cursive. The nickname stuck until I started getting teased for wearing the shirt to day camp every single day, clean or not.

I was an intellegent, impatient, loudmouthed little shit from kindergarten to middle school, despite pharmeceutical intervention. Ritalin was an afternoon regimen for me all through the elementary years. I was on the highest recommended dose, which doesn't suprise me now, knowing how my mother adored medicene. At the time, I didn't really know what they were for, just that every day before I got my ass kicked at recess, I was to march straight to the office to receive my medication: a small, bluish-white tab, pressed into my hand by the office secretary. I don't remember feeling any different; I was still bored, wiggly, weary from endless taunting, and focused solely on foiling the teacher and winning a roomful of snickers.

I was recognized as a 'gifted student' at some point or other, which amounted only to batteries of tests, getting yanked out of class to participate in accelerated reading programs, and the expectation that I would set some sort of example. The child psychologist I saw wanted my mother to skip me from the second to the fourth grade. I only got the news as a side note, driving back home from his office, along with her decision that it was a bad idea because I would "be at odds with my peers." Considering that the most interaction I'd had lately with my "peers" was sitting in the grass while a group of kids threw grass clods and insults at me, I was supremely pissed off at her. So instead of bragging rights and higher learning, it was pills and spankings for me, for a good long while.


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