The Pills — Non-Fiction (Final) (Published)
I always loved salty snacks, especially as a kid. Tostitos were the best for this; plain, without salsa, hating the squish of it with the frigid temperature compared to the chip. I wanted to taste the bits of salt sting on my dry lips, stuffing as many as I could into my mouth, feeling the crumbs fall onto my soft cotton pants.
I wasn’t allowed on top of the fridge. Rather — I wasn’t supposed to be up there, because a six-year-old couldn’t even reach such heights.
I could. That’s where everything was hidden from me.
I craved salt so badly. Even if my parents tried to get safety locks on everything, I still found a way through the baby gates and lock mechanisms. I was a monster with willpower and stamina than they couldn’t keep up with.
The key was to use the entire cabinet and shelving units to your benefit to make up for your height. I had longer limbs than most six-year-olds and used this to my advantage. I opened both cabinets above and below me because I would need the inner shelves. I used the bottom cabinet to boost myself up onto the counter with the toaster, bread box, and butter dish next to the fridge. I swung my leg up onto the counter. It was still sticky from my grandma making toast that morning, with flecks of bread crumbs encrusted onto my palms as I lifted myself onto the counter space. My grandma was blind and always left a mess in her wake, making my mom clean up after me and her. I could smell the burnt coffee, eggs, and sausage from my grandpa’s breakfast, always overcooking everything to get rid of any chance of getting sick, even though it always made me feel nauseated from the smell. My dad always had to remember to make sure the coffee maker was off because grandpa would make the coffee pot explode from leaving it on for days at a time.
I stood on the counter for a bit, looking down on the expansive open kitchen. I wanted to be this tall when I grew up, tall like my dad, taller than my bullies, tall enough to reach whatever height. My toes curled on the edge of the counter in anticipation for the future. I didn’t have a fear of heights or death yet — I was unstoppable.
Keeping myself steady using the cabinet shelves and the top of the fridge I turned myself around and lifted myself using the bottom of the top cabinet, careful to not step on any of the contents; mostly all baking supplies at the time. I used this leverage to reach out and pull the cabinets above the fridge open, and between all the colorful packaging of Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Lays, Ruffles; anything to keep me and my brother sedated for two seconds — the bright blue of the full Tostitos bag waited for me.
I grabbed it with my filthy palms and swung it towards me, knocking the shallow wicker basket off the top of the fridge, clattering small orange plastic pill bottles onto the floor, rattling against the tile. Panic set in and I braced against the echo of the harsh sound, waiting for one of the dogs to bark or my grandpa to come out of his room to check on me. I looked around for signs of the house hearing my crimes, but the house stayed silent and I sighed with relief.
I jumped back onto the floor and picked up the contents. Thankfully the bottles didn’t open. I still had to start my climb once again to shut all the cabinets, replace the wicker basket exactly how it was arranged. I slowly turned the labels facing precisely as they were, and the pill cutter in its place. Details like this were easy, unnoticed by amateurs. I stared at the bottles for a while, standing on the cliff of the counter again.
Blurring. It always happened like this. It still does. A wave crashes against my skull and the room spins as my focus slips away, leaving me in a fog. Static, silence, and gone.
Little half-moons always tasting like chalk, dust bunnies, and the color pink, sometimes the color orange, never the fruit. Sometimes I had to take the full moon. I stared at the disc up in the sky. Fingernail sliver, half pill, full pill, half pill, fingernail sliver. Ritalin was my only friend for most of my childhood. Probably should have told the doctor I was an anxious aggressive psychotic piece of shit before they stuck me on it for ten years at the age of three. Stimulants to counteract my brain so I could focus correctly. On what, I wondered.
Sometime later they’d give me the capsules with small orange balls in them instead, later finding out this was Adderall XR, trying to extend the release of the medicine, just making me miserable longer. I thought they looked like something from science fiction or a cartoon. They never seemed real. For a while I thought every child took medicine like this, like every child took their Flinstone vitamins. Everything was normalized. How many kids were taking pills to just be normal? How many kids had their video games and books taken away to make sure their pills were working?
The pills were only for me, my name written in bold capitalized letters, with instructions I didn’t understand. They were for my problem. I was more than a rambunctious, adventurous child; it was always more than that. I was broken, sick, had something that would never leave me, something people would never fully understand, even if it felt so simple to me.
“Take one (1) pill every morning with your cereal and a cup of milk and you won’t be a problem in school. You’ll do your homework instead of read and play video games until the pill takes away any actual joy those things brought you.”
“Take one (1) pill every morning and hopefully your rapid weight gain and loss will stop — the shaking, cravings, the stomach aches, the headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, insomnia, all of it will just stop. Hopefully.”
“Take one (1) pill and your parents won’t ask you how you’re doing because you won’t know how you’re doing.”
“Take one (1) pill and the doctors will stop asking you how you’re doing, too. Your grades are slipping so take more doses, take more and more milligrams until you stop being such a problem to your mother — she’s working so hard. Maybe you’ll stop beating your brother up from your outbursts and anger, stop taking out all the bullying you’ve endured onto him. Maybe while the pill is wearing off come home and you won’t slap him because he’s the only thing near you that doesn’t make you feel weak. Side effects may include absolute static.”
Hate yourself, hate your body, hate your brain. Stare at the walls of your room and not have the language to explain that all you want to do is scream but the sound stays in your head. Hate your parents, hate your doctor, hate your brother, hate your family because no one thought to treat you with respect and just keeps expecting a guinea pig for ADHD medication to just be quiet and happy because she hasn’t said anything otherwise.
Adderall, Ritalin, all of them “didn’t work” and I didn’t either, Mom.
Only sick people take medication, right, Mom?
Good girls don’t need medication.
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