A Story About a Brain…
Using Modafinil

There I was last week busy as a proverbial bee. In just over six weeks, I will be on the road again. Well, to be more precise, I will be in the air again. I’ll fly from Chicago to Istanbul, change planes and fly to Lahore to visit Sandy’s family in Pakistan. Sandy is my web administrator, but she lives in Sweden. Go figure. Then I’ll fly to Bangkok, change planes, and fly to Yangon. I’ll meet Moh Moh there, visit several good friends in Yangon and fly up to Taunggyi where I will see my family. Just getting to my family will take over an entire day in the air. However, it is well worth that time in the clouds. More importantly, I will return to the clouds when I see my three granddaughters…clouds of sheer joy.

You can imagine all the details that need to be addressed before leaving home. I needed to get someone that will care for Ginger, which I have. I’m still teaching, which chews up a great deal of time. Then there are articles that I still need to write. In addition, I still need to get a visa, which hopefully will be done within a week. Ginger had her third birthday, which was a raucous time for Ginger. She invited Kayla, who is her caretaker, to her birthday bash. I still have to clean up the yard, cut the grass, and bring in the furniture from the deck and patio. All of this is going fairly well. Additionally, I have gotten all my shots and medicine for my trip. Hey, I have done the same routine dozens of times in my half century of traveling overseas. I know the dance well.

However, out of the blue, there was a litany of problems that started last week. My sump pump, which I thought was fixed, had another problem. However, I resolved that in a couple of minutes. The next day, my furnace quit working. I called my furnace man who replaced my air conditioner last summer. I was fearful that my furnace had died. He was able to fix the furnace while Ginger wanted to play. My repair man and Ginger got along quite well when my air conditioner died and continued while he fixed my furnace.

Then, while I was writing and teaching, my email account froze up, which is my techy term for not working. I called Geek Squad, and they fixed it. It was back to normal for another couple of days, but it died again. So, I called my Geek Squad again. This time they couldn’t do what the first person had done, but the person made a temporary fix. So, I have a temporary fixed regular email, and I can still use my faculty email where I teach.

Additionally, I had gotten a new laptop to store my pictures and videos while I am on my trip. However, I couldn’t get the Wi-Fi to function. I called my Internet provider. The guy who came to resolve the problem is going to send another person tomorrow to tweak it. Hopefully, as you read this essay, my email will be up and running.

Now, pretend that you were me. You will be going away for four weeks, and you have a great deal to accomplish before your departure. Then add all the extra problems that I mentioned, which all occurred in less than a week. How would you feel emotionally? Wouldn’t you feel like you were at the end of your rope?

Last Saturday, after that chaotic week, I called a former colleague of mine. We worked together four decades ago. Every Saturday for months, she and I chat for an hour. On this call, she spent a couple of minutes telling me how things were, and then asked, “And how was your week?”

I told my friend, who also acts as my psychotherapist, that I needed her feedback. I told her the litany of problems since the last time we talked seven days before. Then I said that I wanted her thoughts about me and my Modafinil, aka my wonder drug. I told her that each time chaos rained down upon me that I was ticked off at the event, which was followed by another, etc. However, I noticed that my emotional response was to quietly begin the process of resolving the issue. While I had wished that none of those issues had occurred, there was a feeling of some sort of exuberance on my part. I wasn’t happy with the onslaught of problems, but I noticed that I was methodically dealing with each problem without getting bent out of shape.

What I wanted my former colleague to do for me was to compare how I functioned now and how I functioned forty years ago when we worked together. In the early 70s, Hurricane Agnes stalled over the Wyoming Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania. Agnes created a huge flood, which flooded all the homes in Kingston. We worked together and merged two churches, helped the new church begin anew, and enabled the community at large to address issues in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Agnes.

Additionally, I used the flood and the new church as an example for my denomination for an ecumenical program that it had created several years before. For some reason, they pulled out of that program a month before the flood occurred. This was my opportunity to get my denomination back into that program, which they essentially started. A year after the flood, I was elected to go to the annual meeting of my denomination and moved that we would return to that ecumenical goal, which they did.

I expressed to my friend that my drive to accomplish anything had not changed, but what did change was the intensity of the drive. Nonetheless, I couldn’t grasp why the chaotic week that I had just experienced didn’t seem to rattle me too much. I actually functioned quite well. I knew that Modafinil was the reason, but I couldn’t understand why. That is what I wanted my friend to resolve. When I am haunted by a question, I will push to understand it.

My friend replied that it was due to being able to focus better, which was precisely what I said to my neurologist after a month of being on my wonder drug. I have ADD. While my body isn’t always moving, my mind is. However, that hyper mental activity level got in the way of dealing with issues, since I had dozens of issues floating in my head all at the same time. My ability at staying focused, reduced the pressure of attempting to deal with 1000 things at the same moment in time.

While I have always been driven, my lack of focus due to my ADD merely added more unnecessary pressure. Modafinil allowed me to relax, focus, and either complete the task or set a time to deal with a problem. While I am not living in a state of bliss or nirvana, I can function without unnecessary pressure. Modafinil allows me to focus, which acts as a catharsis. It frees me from being distracted. I can deal far more effectively than before my wonder drug. Modafinil allows me to be more centered on one item at a time.

I thanked my friend and mentioned what Randy Pausch said in his Last Lecture, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” Modafinil allows me to deal with all the walls in my life…by focusing on one wall at a time. Man, it works.

This was my brain prior to Modafinil. I was driven, but I lacked the ability to focus well.

My mind lacked focus.

This is my brain with Modafinil.

It is focused…now.