I knew L’s pediatrician was going to recommend putting him on daily medication long before we ever sat down in her office; my squirming 4 year old scratching and pinching to escape my hold so he could spin in circles around the room. In fact, I was so certain she – or another doctor or therapist – would suggest medication that I had put off getting a set diagnosis for my out-of-control, ADHD, sensory-seeking child for longer than I should have. We worked with a behavior therapist until we ran through the allotted visits allowed by our insurance, we tried deep breathing exercises, meditation, diet changes, tips from parenting books and the internet, natural supplements – nothing worked very well or had much lasting effect.
What may strike you as odd is I completely support the use of medication in children who truly need it. In fact, I started taking a form of Ritalin in fourth grade after I was diagnosed with ADHD and continued taking it all the way through college. My mother had tried homeopathic remedies and paid for allergy testing out-of-pocket before she agreed to let me try medication. I experienced a whole new world on the meds; I could focus in school, complete homework in one sitting, my thoughts slowed down enough to be formed into complete sentences, and I started making friends (as opposed to scaring them away with my lack of impulse control and intensity). I would still struggle through the remainder of school in all of these areas, but the Ritalin helped immensely and I made it through relatively unscathed. My kid brain, however, developed a deep loathing of my medication. I hated that I was beholden to ‘pill times’ and if I was late taking a dose or (forbid!) missed one altogether, I sometimes had little control over some of my behaviors. I wasn’t immune to the looks and teasing I received from adults and children when I was ‘off my meds’ and I was resentful that it took a pill to reign me in. I hated the loss of control.
Because of this, I was set against putting my own child on medication. I wanted to help him with behavior therapy and time. I even left work full-time to give him the one-on-one instruction he needed; he was developing slowly in daycare because he was so disconnected and unfocused. However, it got to the point where we were all floundering. Looking back now to a year ago, it is hard to imagine how we all survived those days. We were living in such incredible chaos and overwhelming exhaustion. Those two states of being were not conducive to creating strong foundations for the relationship between my husband and me, or our relationship with our son. We were constantly worried for him, stressed, overwhelmed, and worn-out. We drifted so far away from all the great advice we received from therapists and other parents of special needs kids, who had BTDT, and devolved into finger-pointing on parenting choices and lots and lots of yelling. It was pretty miserable.
Cut back to the doctor’s office. We are interrupting her every 30 seconds to remove some new item L has picked up, pulling him down from chairs and cabinets, attempting to keep him from contracting a deadly disease from the bio hazard trash bin, and begging him to ‘Please, please calm down,’ ‘Sit here, sweetie,’ ‘Don’t touch that,’ et cetera, ad nauseum. My jaw is aching from clenching my teeth so tightly together to keep from screaming at him in front of his pediatrician. She confirms his diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the (still yet to be acknowledged with a diagnosis code) Sensory Processing Disorder and begins talking about therapy interventions and … medication. Immediately I can feel my eyes well up – I knew this was coming, I knew it! And, at this point, I know that we are running out of options. We are going to have to medicate our child. He’s going to resent me. How am I going to get a 4 year-old to swallow a pill? I can’t tell anyone, they’ll think I’m some Munchausen-by-proxy, over-medicating, lazy-ass mom who doesn’t know how to control her child.
I can only imagine what my face looked like at this moment. Whatever look I was giving the doctor gave her pause, “You look a little uncomfortable with the idea of medication. What are your concerns?” I shook my head, shrugging; I wasn’t really sure where to start. “I don’t know. Its medication, for a four year old … he’s not too young?” Then she posited this question that put everything immediately into perspective for me, “If I just told you that L had diabetes and needed medication to control his blood sugar, something his body could not do on its own, would you hesitate to give him what he needed?” Well, no, of course not. She then explained that L is missing chemicals in his brain that will help him regulate his emotions and actions. There are medications that can replace these chemicals and aid him in finding some balance in the chaos. She also explained that giving him focus now would allow him to succeed in the other therapies we would be starting, which would help him develop new strategies and ways to cope, which in turn would aid his brain in creating new and strong neural pathways with the behaviors we seek. I let her write out the prescription.
I can’t say I immediately embraced the meds. I talked it over with family members and trusted friends, I did my research, and I worked on making educated decisions for my son’s healthcare with him in mind, not my past fears and skewed beliefs. Almost a year later, we have gone through the adjustment period of finding the right medication and are relatively stable on a regimen that works well for him. It certainly is not a magic cure-all, but his development this year has been amazing. He is able to hold focus better, fight against his impulses, and have actual conversations with us. I’d be hard-pressed to put into words the relief I feel every time I interact with my son. Medication is just one of many tools we utilize to help L achieve somewhat equal footing with his peers and reach his full potential. And, while there is still a lot of ground to cover, I rest easy knowing that we made the right choice for our family.
Questions? Comments? Leave me a reply below. I’d love to hear about your journey.
Thanks for reading!