Overdiagnosing Children With ADHD

I just found this map of how often children are diagnosed with ADHD on parents’ request at a very enlightening post published by feMOMhist:

The good news is that I live in a state that is doing better than many others in this country in terms of this diagnosis. We “only” have 6.1% to 7% of kids diagnosed with and medicated for not being subdued little robots all the time. Just across the border in Missouri, things seem to be worse.

Still, the sad reality of teachers not willing to do anything to get their students’ interested in learning and pushing parents to zombify little children with medication instead remains. Read feMOMhist’s post to see how this is done.

Many people have a lot of compassion towards teachers who do such things. It is hard, they say, to keep a large classroom of small kids interested and engaged in learning. I believe, however, that a teacher who solves this issue by requesting (or sometimes even insisting) that a small child be drugged in order not to create any difficulties in the classroom is a profoundly unprofessional person who should be thrown out of the teaching profession as soon as possible.  Small kids fidget when they are bored. This is not a disease or a mental disorder. The only people with a mental disorder are the ones who believe that such behaviors in children should be addressed through medication.

What’s Better, a Tampon or a Book?

There has been a veritable explosion of comments that people leave to my reviews on Amazon. Today, comments have been coming in a steady stream. Some of them are weird to the point of freakiness.

For instance, a male reader who is unhappy with a low rating I gave to a trashy novel investigated my other reviews and wrote with indignation how horrible it was that I gave such a low rating to the book while leaving a glowing review for Tampax tampons. Another male reader followed his lead, investigated the Tampax review, and also expressed his anger as to the shocking fact that a person might like a brand of tampons but dislike a book.

In case you are wondering, I did not criticize the novel in question for its low absorbency and an inconvenient applicator. So the male readers’ anger is very difficult for me to comprehend. Maybe they had some painful experiences with this brand of tampons and discovered that a book served their purposes better.

This isn’t even comparing apples to oranges. This is closer to comparing. . . well, no comparison that would be weirder than one between books and tampons actually comes to mind.


Working without an office is very frustrating. I have to lug all of my stuff on my back all day long. I have no access to a computer or a printer on campus, which makes it extremely difficult to do all of the paperwork I need to be doing every fifteen minutes. Computers at the library make it impossible to conduct research (which makes me doubt why they exist at all. I mean who heard of a library computer that is set up to prevent you from accessing your library account or interlibrary services?)

And I also discovered that my office will be the last one to get redecorated from all the offices at my department.

And I can’t get access to my grant funds because now that all the paperwork has been packed up and left in storage, nobody has any idea where anything is.

And my shoulder hurts because of these stupid vaccines that I had to get done yesterday. I also can barely lift my arm.

And the books I ordered from Spain still haven’t arrived.

And I just received an email saying that the paperwork I submitted today will have to be redone for the fourth time.

And the battery on my cell phone keeps dying at the worst possible moment.

OK, now that I have vented, I feel better.

My Intellectual Journey, Part VI

Yet again, if you expected to hear that something truly tragic ended my happiness and stunted my intellectual growth, you were mistaken. The only thing that happened was that I got accepted into a very prestigious PhD program in the US.

I had very high hopes for my doctoral studies. I imagined more learning, intellectual debates with my fellow grad students, research, and all the wonderful things that make life worth living. But what I encountered was the exact opposite of my pretty dreams. There was materialism, endless talks about whose plasma screen TV is bigger, whose wedding planner is more efficient, who knows more important people, how to snag a rich spouse, and where to buy real estate with Daddy’s or hubby’s or wife’s money.

Somebody I cared deeply about (and who cared about me even more) severed our relationship because he “needed to make connections and meet the right people” and I was “not likely to be helpful in meeting anybody who mattered.” (He has no career whatsoever today as a result of this strategy, in case you are wondering.)

I’d be leaving the university library with a stack of books in May only to be spotted by other grad students who’d ask, “Why are you taking out all these books? The semester is over, you don’t need to read any more.” So I had to start sneaking around with my books.

To me, this was the Ukraine of the nineties all over again. I had transformed my life, left everything behind, become a completely different person, gone through all kinds of hardship only to end up in a place where – yet again! – money and material possessions were all that mattered and love of books and learning was despised.

I fell apart, people. The breaking point for me was when I was taken to the house of “a real success story”, a person who used to be “a lowly grad student, just like us” but who managed to marry “like a totally gross guy she hates who is 45 years older but also a Full Professor and is like totally loaded and now she lives in this beautiful house that we can all only dream about. And the best thing is she doesn’t have to work any more” When I came home after observing the life of the real success story, I spent forty minutes vomiting into the toilet. I’d seen plenty of “success stories” of this kind back in my own country and didn’t feel that it made much sense to have traveled across the world to encounter yet another one.

Of course, it was a huge personal failing of mine that I allowed this environment to destroy me in this way. I shouldn’t have cared so much, I should have been more resilient. I had to undertake a long journey out of this place of disillusionment but this journey was psychoanalytical rather than intellectual. Thus this series ends. 🙂

Thank you for reading.

Advice to Hopeful Writers of Fiction

If you are hoping to become a successful writer of fiction, I have a couple of suggestions for you.

1. Start a blog. This will allow you to see how many people might be interested in reading your stuff for free. If you can’t get anybody interested in your writing when it’s freely available online, ask yourself how many individuals will actually want to pay to read it.

2. Don’t give anybody any money to promote you or help you make a recognizable name for yourself. The only person who can make a name for you is you. And that takes a lot of time and effort. It is also something you can’t purchase with money unless you are extremely rich.

3. Identify your goals and consider how realistic they are. If all you want is to see your book in print and share it with your friends, that can be done very easily through all the self-publishing services that exist nowadays. If, however, you hope to make a living from your writing, expect to invest years of your life and every ounce of dedication you have got. Even if your texts are brilliant, this will be a long struggle. Everybody writes and publishes nowadays. The market is over-saturated with all kinds of writing. Making any money out of it is extremely hard. Making a significant amount of money is next to impossible. Writing has to be its own reward.

Do Books Kill?

In a recent post, I shared the story of how John Fowles’s book The Collector inspired me to start reading serious literature and value learning.

This same book inspired two serial killers to abduct, rape, and murder women.

So I have a question for everybody. Let’s say the book was never published. Do you think these two men would have never become serial killers for lack of inspiration, and their victims would be unharmed by them?

Or would they still find an excuse for their murderous impulses?

If you think the latter is true, how does it make sense to claim that the Koran caused 9/11? Or that the Bible caused the Spanish conquistadors to rape, murder, and torture the indigenous people of the New World?

(This post is inspired by a recent post on religion at Jonathan’s blog. I’m displaced from my office and have to blog from my phone, so I can’t offer a link to the post. Just go to the blog at http://www.jonathanmayhew.blogspot.com and look around for Jonathan’s fascinating posts on religion. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

My Intellectual Journey, Part V

Of course, I became the best student at my department and collected every possible award and distinction at the graduation ceremony. My Senior Essay got published as an article in Anales Galdosianos, a very prestigious journal in my field. I became a graduate student at McGill, and that was when I discovered what true happiness was.

Our department offered the kind of environment that every grad student in the world dreams of encountering. We stayed there every day after classes ended to grade papers, prepare classes, debate, order pizza, drink, listen to music, and dance.

Once, our Chair, a prim and proper British lady and also the first queer woman in Canada who addressed the Supreme Court to argue that gay couples should have the right to adopt children (she won her case and adopted several children with her partner), stopped by my office.

“Clarissa, you have to know that the faculty members of our department really appreciate you being in your office at all hours,” she said.

Appreciate it? The department was the most happening place to be. I wouldn’t go home if I were paid to do so.

In terms of money, I was doing very well when I was in that MA program. The tuition was very low, I was teaching, getting two research assistanship salaries, and receiving a very generous grant from the government of Canada for my MA dissertation research. Altogether, I was making about $50,000 per year, which is not bad for an MA student.

Every day, I was learning something new. I was reading like crazy, doing really good research, and life was incredibly, unbelievably, impossibly good.

And then something happened to bring this joyful intellectual journey to a screeching, crashing, horrible stop. (I’m so enjoying these cliff-hangers, people.)

(To be continued. . .)

My Intellectual Journey, Part IV

In my search for happiness and intellectual fulfillment, I arrived in Canada and became a student at McGill University in Montreal, majoring in a mysterious subject called “Hispanic Studies.” In the process of getting there, I separated from my husband and lost everything I had earned in my hard-working years in Ukraine.

After having a very comfortable existence and being a highly appreciated and sought-after translator and language teacher with a stack of publications, invitations to international conferences on machine-translation, and an experience of working for the Parliament of Ukraine, the Russian Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Attorney General’s office, and the Supreme Court, I suddenly became a penniless immigrant in an unknown country. I was so poor that my sister and I had to take turns eating with our only fork, knife and spoon while sitting on the floor. Visiting Tim Horton’s (if you are Canadian, you know what I’m talking about) was a reckless luxury. Going to Nickel’s restaurant (ditto) was a crazy extravagance.

And I was so happy. All day and every day I experienced this overpowering, ecstatic sense of joy. I was reading books, taking fascinating classes, having intellectual discussions with other students. I kept looking at my watch in class, praying that the lecture would never end. Missing class? I would rise from the dead to be at an amazing place where important knowledge was being shared with me. I hated summer vacations because I couldn’t take classes. There was no money to pay for the summer semester, so I haunted the library and the buildings where my classes would take places next semester. I had a calendar where I crossed out the hated days of useless summer holidays.

I still remember the day when in my Hispanic Civilization class (that I now teach and consider my trademark course), we talked about the Franco dictatorship that did all it could to prevent women from working. I was walking out of the classroom when a fellow student stopped me.

“How horrible is that?” she said. “Can you imagine living in a place where women can’t work? I wouldn’t be able to deal with that!”

This was how I met Nancy, my first Canadian friend and a feminist who wasn’t ashamed of saying she was a feminist in public.

To say I was floored to meet a woman who was prepared to say that not being allowed to work might be a less than perfect situation for a woman would be an understatement. I had started learning about feminism back in Ukraine (that’s a story for a different series of posts). I kind of suspected I was a feminist but meeting somebody who was so open about it and was very eager to engage in discussions where the word “feminism” was mentioned was a novel experience to me.

(To be continued. . .)