Modafinil, You Might Be Pretty Awesome

I took my first dose of Modafinil yesterday morning with a light heart and high expectations. I hadn’t been aware of the existence of this wonder drug (whose brand name in Canada is, appropriately, Alertec, a moniker that evokes cheap over-the-counter caffeine pills) before the appointment on Tuesday that led to my doctor giving me a prescription after consulting with my neurologist and warning me that it might interact with my anticonvulsant. Comforting. Some preliminary internet research revealed that it’s normally given to narcoleptics and those suffering from “shift work sleep disorder.” And recovering cocaine addicts. Though this last use unsettled me a little, the side effects of other medications make staying awake for more than four hours at a time a little challenging, so its potential benefits—alertness, increased mental clarity, concentration, etc. etc.—were, and are, rather appealing.

So yes. I woke up, dutifully ingested my cocktail of drugs, and waited for the Modafinil to kick in. Thirty minutes later, I fell asleep at my desk. Not a fantastic start. But no matter: I consumed an energy drink and left for campus.

While walking to the subway, something shifted. It might have been the pill, it might have been the Red Bull, it was probably a combination of the two. In any case, putting one foot in front of the other was, suddenly, a genuinely entertaining pursuit. If there were a soundtrack to my life (as I sometimes imagine there is—normally Radiohead’s “Creep” and Satie’s “Trois Gymnopédies” figure prominently), the track at that particular moment would have most definitely been that annoyingly upbeat Hall & Oates songs. Though this enthusiasm soon faded, it didn’t disappear; indeed, I felt incredibly confident teaching my second lesson of the semester. I then tried to work, but discovered that directing my hyper-focus to productive things, like not reading the Washington Post, wasn’t in the cards.

I’m still hopeful that Modafinil will help facilitate the timely completion of my dissertation. I don’t love the idea of a crutch, but I’ve more or less accepted that it’s OK to find something/someone to lean on when the going gets decidedly tough. That I sat down and wrote this in fifteen minutes without my attention drifting to any of the multitude of distractions that normally impede my efficiency is a good sign. On the other hand, that I don’t care enough about the quality of my writing to read it over before posting arguably doesn’t bode well for the ultimate quality of my thesis. I’m willing, for the time being, to take what I can get.

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