I was the parent who would never medicate my child; until I did.

Before I was a special needs mom there was a lot more black and white. I was guilty of a lot of opinions, some judgment and more ignorance than I would like to admit.  Before I was a special needs mom, there were a lot of "I would never" proclamations. And one such proclamation was "I would never medicate my child."

Of course when I would talk about this I wasn't thinking about abstaining from medication needed to treat a disease or illness. I was talking about the other medicating. The medicating that still has a stigma attached to it. The stigma that perpetuates the idea that parents who medicate their kids are lazy or don't know how to discipline their children. The stigma that has kept me from writing about this decision until now.

Part of me blames that stigma for my bias. Another part of me recognizes that my preconceived notions were based in my own lack of understanding of mental illness. Even after witnessing our son's inability to sleep, hyperactivity, compulsiveness, anxiety, mania and aggression, we were hesitant and scared to talk to the doctor about medication.

Were we closing doors for him? Were we giving up on therapy? Was there any other way? Would meds change who he was? Could they hurt him? Were we taking the easy way out? Was it healthy to continue on without medicating?

With him only sleeping three hours in a 24 hour period most days and with his anxiety so high it was literally crippling him from functioning, we knew we didn't really have a choice. As his aggression spiraled out of control and therapy was so limited, we knew it was the only way to keep everyone safe. And so we chose to medicate.

There is no magic pill. Even after choosing to medicate, he still works so very hard to overcome the challenges autism and its accompanying conditions present him. He still struggles with anxiety and compulsiveness. He still has and progresses in hours of therapy every week. Even after accessing quality therapy, he was struggling with issues therapy could not address.  We didn't give up on therapy. We didn't give up on him.

Medication did not change him; it helped him. I do not regret the choice and hope that he won't either. And looking back at his pained gaze in moments that his anxiety and senses were assaulting him; looking back at manic episodes that had his blood pressure through the roof; looking back at his absent stare due to another 28 hours of continuous wakefulness; my only regret is not helping him sooner.

He still is a very active little boy. But now he can play with his little sister and I don't fear for her safety. He still jumps and flaps and has an unmatched excitement for life. But now he can go to a new place without shutting down or melting down from fear of the unknown. 

We, as parents, would never let a deadly illness or ravaging disease go untreated in our children's little bodies. Why should mental illness be any different? We owe it to them to not brush childhood and adolescent mental illness under the rug. We owe it to them to be honest that it is real and it can be scary and overwhelming. What does it say to them when we choose to hide certain diagnoses and certain conditions? Doesn't it tell them we buy into the stigma too? We owe it to them to show the world mental illness cannot be taboo, we are not ashamed and they shouldn't be either.

Our society's inability to talk about mental illness openly is the reason we lack resources. Our choice not to talk about it is the reason more people take their own lives over asking for help. When we choose not to talk about childhood mental illness we pull a wool over society's eyes while families across our country go through hell and search for answers.

I was a parent who would never talk or write about our son's mental health issues, but now I am because it needs to be said and needs to be heard.

Comments

  1. My Kids VideosJune 5, 2016 at 8:58 AM
    Very well written. I can totally identify with everything you said. Once I was ignorant and judgmental too about this type of medication. We went through hell with our twin boys until we finally agreed to try medication. They're doing so much better now. They are not bring "drugged" as a control issue or an excuse for lazy parenting. The meds help them to be the unique personalities they are with less anxiety, fewer meltdowns and less aggressive & destructive behaviour, which is better for everyone x

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  2. Every school nurse thanks you for taking the time & compassion to share your story with parents...We say that we're a nation that wants to remove the stigma of medical conditions (like autism, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder), but there are still so many folks giving parents conflicting, unscientific, non-medically based opinions regarding treatment, including medication. "Impulsivity," "anxiety," "insomnia," "inattention" are all symptoms that deserve efficacious treatment as much as "pain," "fever," "hyperglycemia," "coughing," "anaphylaxis," and "seizures." Thank you for advocating this!

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  3. I'm right with you http://www.rainbowsaretoobeautiful.com/2016/04/medicating-my-autistic-adhd-kids.html?m=1

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  4. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so transparent and basically addressing an issue that is facing me. I felt much the way you did about medicating my son and vowed that I would never do it. Now that he is about to enter 5th grade I am heavily looking into this option for my son and feeling better about making the decision.

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