I have talked about, read about and thought alot about the topic of medications lately. It is beyond my comprehension to understand how scientests formulate medications that can target specific bacteria, specific cells that need boosting or specific chemicals that need tweeking in the body. Fascinating to me...but beyond by scientific understanding. And yet, as I sit in the hospital room and see the IV stand near Elijah's bed, with line after line of medications being administered to him to him post transplant...medications that play a critical life saving role in his treatment, I am grateful for those scientists who do.
I speak with so many families who are "opposed" to exploring the road of medications to help their children with ADHD, FASD and other mental health diagnoses. Frankly, I don't think I have met a parent who wants to have their child "on" something...I sure know that I don't! But, if concerta and his cousins were suddenly pulled off the market, I would be a ritalin bootlegger because a few of my kids would suffer without it...that I know for sure.
Parents don't want their kids on medications..what they do want is to see the behaviors that they are dealing with to subside. Not because they are lazy or not spiritual enough and don't want to have to discipline or because they want a quick fix for their child's out of control or emotional behaviors. No different than if there child were having hives every day...a parent would bring their child to the doctor and expect that the doctor could help with the symptoms. Our mind and body are separate entities in most of our minds..and we see the treatment of mental health disorders often very differently than we see our physical health.
I wish I never had to walk into a child psychiatrist's office when McKenna was young. I went kicking and screaming, afraid of the slippery slope I might be stepping onto. But, I didn't kick and scream very long, because I was so tired...so tired of dealing with behaviors that affected our family 24 hours a day. What if it was just me? Maybe I was the one who needed the help because I couldn't handle her behaviors? I had taken every class and even hired a behavior analyst at that point to help us with our parenting technique. But, the brain chemicals in McKenna's brain were just our of whack, and she needed pharmaceutical intervention. And we learned quickly that there are safe and effective medications that can help.
And so as I cried through that first appointment, Some of the tears were about the sadness I felt and some were out of pure relief that maybe we could see the child we once knew again...one who didn't scream all the time. From that day, I have rarely looked back. It was the right thing to do for our daughter..and we were so relieved to have gotten over our fears, our misconceptions and our pride as we walked through the doors of the psychiatrist's office.
I hesitate to say to you out loud that 6 of my children take medications for mental health conditions including FASD, depression, anxiety, neuroirritability and sleep disorders. I shouldn't feel hesitation but those of you looking into my world without having lived with a child with mental health disorders may make assumptions about me that are not accurate. But, I think I am over that now...because I have stopped living my life based on what other people think a long time ago. I love my kids and I have fought hard to meet their needs. I am in the world of extreme parenting and it takes extreme measures to give my kids the best chance at a productive life. And sometimes, medications are a part of that equation. And when they work, they are a gift beyond what you could imagine. A chance to see a child through their behaviors and mental health issues..
I know that there is public opinion that psychotropic medications are being overused for children who have mental health disorders. I am sure that may be true...but I know without a doubt, that my kids need the medications that are prescribed to them as much as I need my insulin. I know that...I have seen what happens when they do not have the assistance of a medication to help their brain send the right messages to their body...when they are so hyperactive that they can not be kept physically safe, when they are so impulsive that they are not safe physically, emotionally and sexually. I have seen the anxiety in a young child's eyes that is crippling and I have seen really smart children be unable to learn because there minds are racing or too stuck on something. Several of my kids would not be able to participate in community activities and a few may not even be able to live in our home because of agressive and disruptive behaviors. It's the big leagues we are talking about...not the tweak of personality flaws.
It isn't an easy road...finding the right medications the right combination, and the right doses. It is a long process of tweaking and observing symptoms and possible side effects. There are always times when I think that maybe they don't need their meds..and then they inadvertently miss just one dose, and the teacher is calling or the bus driver has written a behavior report. I do believe that even the most oppositional of children want to be successful..they don't to feel out of control, fearful or depressed. Medication does not (and should not) change who your child is, it's role should be to allow them to be who they were created to be...
So, today we are meeting a new psychiatrist. We have had the same specialist since the beginning of our medication journey until his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer...we love him dearly and miss his thorough and compassionate treatment of our kids. But, we must move on, and by recommendation of many friends, we are beginning with a new psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Reeves. It is hard to begin again, but I am also welcoming a fresh perspective..maybe she will have insight that we had not seen before in treating our kid's complex medical conditions. I wouldn't stop at just seeing our pediatrician when I needed a hematologist for my child's bone marrow disorder, and I wouldn't recommend that you do either (of course, many of you have no other option.) Find a specialist. It isn't easy. But, when you find the right one, it will be worth it. You still hold the ultimate key to your child, but the right professional can help shine the light on the lock for you...
You might just unlock a whole new world for your child...and your family.