Leon

Leon Eisenberg
The man who changed my life. The man who made my life. The man who cut, replaced, sewed, and shaped my life into what it is now.

It’s not really so bad anymore. I’ve learned to deal, and to understand myself and my “quirks”. I call them that now. A “Tic” is such a juvenile name to give to something that is so far from the likeness of a miniature mint candy. At least a quirk gives some sense of uniqueness.

I can only find humor in the word Tics by lending it’s name to the actual pills I was prescribed. If you didn’t know any better, they looked just like candy! Little blue ovals of what could convincingly be compressed powdered sugar. How appropriate it was that it was pushed onto the youth of the nation.

And bless the hearts of the parents. They didnt have a clue. They weren’t doctors, or scientists, or psychologists, or therapists. They were parents. Run-of-the-mill people. People that I suspect had very little understanding of how to raise a child in the safest, most nourishing way. In a lot of ways, especially in my experience, the parents of my generation were just children who had children. True, they had a lot more experience than us kids, but they didn’t know what to do with kids except what their parents showed them. And a lot of the parents of those parents used physical discipline. You know, hitting their kids.

Our parents didn’t want to continue that tradition with us, but some of them slipped.

My parents had smacked their children a few times here and there, but in hindsight it was mostly for very good reasons. I remember one time when I was having trouble with my math homework, a subject that haunted me for most of my early grade school years.

My mother had been checking over my homework, as she would every night. Though, this time I’d had a far more difficult time with the complex multiplication and division of fractions.

I remember her trying her hardest to explain in the easiest way for me to understand it, but I was a troubled child when it came to math. That, and an all-around slow learner. I eventually got so upset and distraught, that in a fit of pre-pubescent frustion I told my mother “I’m never going to get this, I’m just stupid!”

A moment or two went by, and my mother’s face changed from a look of concern to one of anger in about one half of a moment. I knew I’d messed up.

She began hitting me with my math notebook! Smacking me on the top of my head, and arms as I tried to protect myself. I ran upstairs crying with a reactionary feeling of “what did I do?! Why did she hit me?!” And then smartened up and realised that there are things that you cannot say about yourself, if you plan to succeed.

I think that lesson helped me far more than any tiny, blue, tic-tac shaped pill ever did.

But here’s what that tiny blue pill DID do to me.

For starters, it made me feel like an outcast. I’d never felt so different from my classmates before. But now, I had to be called down to the nurse’s office twice a day so I could take a pill. This was elementary school, in the mid-late nineties, and discretion be damned! No one thought a child could feel shame or embarrassment until high school! The people from the nurse’s office would have to interrupt class with a pointed, direct call over the loudspeaker and tell the whole class that one of the students was needed in the imfirmary.

And it’s not like the kids wouldn’t be curious. Of course, after six or seven times of this they began asking questions.

“Why do you go there every day?”

“Are you sick?”

“Is your mom here to drop something off? Momma’s boy.”

“You need to take medicine? Why? What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing” I’d reply. “I’m just…..stupid.”

And that would sometimes get a laugh or two, and break my own tension, but boy was I glad that my mother wasn’t around to hear my excuse. But, would she really blame me for making it? I don’t know.

It gave me a schedule. Marked on its calendar were the times I was to think about myself, and why I had a problem. A problem the doctors told me I had. A problem with my head. I could never figure out why I still felt so normal except in the times I was to be reminded that I had a defect in my brain.

And then the side effects kicked in.

I was still taking the pills up into my late junior high school years. I remember one day sitting in my grade 7 English class and my teacher was speaking about poetry. I was watching her as she gave the lesson. I would hear the words come out of her mouth, and they almost sounded like the air around them had grown thick, and the medium in which they travelled was slowing them down. If I could see it in action, I’d imagine a bullet being fired into a brick of ballistic gel in slow motion.

It made me pay attention, for sure. But the fact that her words were still  hitting my ears faster than I could see her mouth moving alarmed me. I learned some time later that my pills were meant to allow me to focus. I’d say they did their job, considering I was focused on my hallucinations. How could I not pay attention? I was a young, junior high school kid who had never done any drugs or drank alcohol in his short life. How was I supposed to brace myself for my very first hallucination without any warning.

I’d never been told by my doctors about any of the side effects. I was just told to take them because they’d fix me. My parents had no clue of what to do, so of course they’d listen to the qualified medical head-doctors.

I’m sure they were told the side effects, but maybe not all of them. Because through all of the hallucinations, I began to develop the involuntary need to make small, vocal noises and jerky movements with my body. I say involuntary, but really it was more a mix of that and a burning desire. A desire that I knew not why I’d had.

My body told me to perform my quirks whenever I was excited. Or happy. Or sad, or upset, or nervous. Basically whenever I felt stimulated, the opportunity arose for me to embarrass myself with a small click of my teeth, a vocal scraping of air through my throat, or even quick, rapid-fire movements of my shoulders. And my body would oblige happily. Leaving my emotions to take the brunt of the hit.

My friends would think I was about to throw up at numerous occassions, when actually I was just trying to stifle my quirks while in public. I would try to keep my vocal track as closed as possible as my body tried it’s hardest to force out a loud noise to quell my insanity. It was as if I was trying to hold an unruly prisoner in its cage as it rattled the bars unmercifully, as it spat ugly derogatories in my direction. I was a prison guard for my own cell.

These god damned pills were driving me crazy, and all this time I was told they were supposed to be making me feel better. Was it a crazy notion that I had been feeling fine the whole time before I’d ever even heard of this drug? To them, for the sake if their livelihoods I’d have to say that it was.

So through the years, much of my time was spent balancing the energy I could give to being a normal, social human being, and to keeping my frenzied prisoner locked up as best as I could. It was so tiring,

The only saving grace I had was music. I had started playing the guitar when I was nine years old, and it became my first, and only continuous love. Whenever I would listen to music as a kid I would focus on it so intently, because I was bent on figuring out its constructs. And when I finally started playing guitar and making my own music, I got to focus on my own constructs and how I would utilise them.

It was the only thing that I could focus on entirely before I “needed” the drugs, and it remained the only thing that could stop me from showing these quirks. The prisoner would be quieted, the cage would stay calm. The cell that held him became an elegant study with a fireplace and walls lined with fully stocked bookshelves. I was home.

 

 

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