Med Head: My Knock-down, Drag-out, Drugged-up Battle with My Brain
is a 2010 nonfiction book by American author James Patterson. It is co-written by Hal Friedman, the father of the book’s subject, Cory Friedman, who struggles with a myriad of health diagnoses including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, and an anxiety disorder. Written from the fictionalized point of view of Cory, the book chronicles his life from his first diagnosis at age four through his high school years. The book has been considered a rebuttal
against the over-medication of children, extolling other forms of intervention such as compassion and therapy.Med Head
begins around the time when Cory experiences his first “tic,” an involuntary body spasm associated with an unknown neurological condition. It comes in the form of an urge to turn his head sharply to the side while playing video games. The tic returns relentlessly until Cory is hardly ever free from the impulse and has difficulty looking straight. Cory’s first gauntlet of medical exams results in a prescription that only worsens his symptoms. He begins to involuntarily thrash, jump, and push and pull on objects; he hurts his own teeth and muscles. The tics become so constant that they impair his ability to connect with his family and friends. His classmates become too distracted to learn when he is near, and his sister actively avoids him. Cory’s teachers are less than accommodating, and his doctors are unable to give him a specific diagnosis or treatment.
From the age of four to sixteen, Cory feels overwhelmed by his many conditions and starts to believe no one will ever find a cure. He visits countless doctors, each of whom optimistically claims that they will be the one to cure him. Their medications cause more problems than they solve. Cory is afflicted with mood imbalances, fatigue, and occasional unconsciousness. He also goes through a multitude of behavioral treatments that solve nothing.
Unfortunately, Cory finds his first relief in alcohol at the age of sixteen, when he obtains a bottle of vodka. After only weeks, he becomes reliant on alcohol to regulate his mood. Since it is the only “medicine” that has worked throughout his life, he refuses to acknowledge the negative attributes of binge drinking, including alcoholism and liver interactions with his many antipsychotic and anti-seizure medicines. Cory’s parents enable his behavior by ignoring the kinds of friends he makes out of sympathy for his lack of a social life. One night, Cory gets drunk on vodka and passes out while smoking a cigarette. His couch catches fire, which almost spreads to the rest of the house. This incident finally forces Cory’s parents to step in.
Cory’s parents commit him to a mental health clinic that specializes in young adults who struggle with alcohol abuse. They quickly notice that the hospital treats its patients as if they are clinically insane patients in an asylum from an earlier, more dehumanizing stage of medical history. Cory’s other conditions make him an outcast among outcasts. They remove him from the hospital despite his doctors’ protests, sending him to a more progressive retreat deep in the mountains.
At the clinic in the wilderness, Cory’s caretakers teach him to appreciate his body and utilize his mental and physical strength to better manage his symptoms.
When Cory finally returns home from his time in treatment, his attitude toward his conditions has improved immensely. He becomes an outpatient in an innovative behavioral analysis program and learns even better methods of dealing with his tics. He finally wakes, one morning, completely symptom-free. Neither the Friedmans nor Cory’s doctors have any idea whether he simply aged out of his conditions or whether the therapies finally worked. Cory strides forward without dwelling on the possible reasons, finally considering himself free.Med Head
is a compelling story about one boy’s struggle to overcome what science cannot explain. James Patterson and Cory’s father Hal document his story with utmost sympathy for those who suffer from debilitating illnesses.