To Medicate or Not

When he was two he broke the toilet and emptied chocolate sauce all over our apartment. When he was in early elementary he peed in a garbage can, at school. Later elementary school consisted of visits to the principal, many meetings over how to help him achieve his best self, standing desks, balls for seats, reading breaks out in the hall, and a constant wonder if the best way to help our son was to medicate him or not. Middle school brought about new challenges with organization. He isn’t at all. Papers everywhere, papers lost, homework done but not turned in, missing assignments, struggles fitting in socially, and all of it on a larger scale. We knew medicine could be like lifting a fog from his life, but we worried about all the things parents worry about. Would the already skinny child become dangerously skinny, what about dependency on the medication when addiction is already strongly indicated with people who have ADHD, shouldn’t he learn to find ways to cope outside of and off of medicine, and what about his personality? We had concerns and he did too.

Would medicine dampen him so much that he would be unrecognizable to us? Would he be listless and tired all the time? He isn’t afraid to speak out, which is part of the problem, but can also be seen as confidence, not being afraid of adults, and brave. He thinks outside of the box in so many ways and can quickly make connections between multiple things. He does various impulsive things, but is also very cautious. When he is interested in something he becomes very interested in it. He learns all he can, reads books, articles, and makes lists. What if that curiosity were to disappear? What if the desire to delve so deeply vanished?

We didn’t just sit on our hands. He met with social workers and school psychologists, he went to therapy, we talked to the teachers and principal to find ways for helping him out throughout the school year, we put him in sports, he had routines, and none of it seemed to help. He asked for a weighted blanket, he asked to try essential oils, and we started using melatonin to help him sleep. He was always in the loop and very much a part of every conversation we ever had. He is the one dealing with this every day so he should very much have a say. He was put on medicine to help with anxiety and depression. This did help some, but it was not the solution. There were still notes home, detentions handed out, and phone calls about behavior.

Finally, we decided it was time. His grades were starting to take hit. Not because it was hard, but he just had a hard time keeping everything together. All the balls were in the air and he started letting this thing slide and then that thing, and while a B average is totally acceptable it was starting to show signs of falling below. He was at a point socially where it was just on the tip of his fingers, but he couldn’t quite get there. The teachers were all starting to notice that as he was so at ease with them now that his behavior was showing this as well. At home we noticed things getting much harder as well. We could keep the course. We are his parents and we are allowed to make that decision. For years people have been suggesting medicine and we haven’t done it. It would be nothing more to keep doing the same. However, something switched in us. We saw he could be more. We saw we could make it easier for him. We also knew that just because we try a medicine doesn’t mean that we have to stay on the medicine. To try it, to see how it works, that doesn’t mean you have to stay on it forever. It doesn’t mean that you have to take it everyday if you don’t like the side effects. It was worth a shot though. What if it was the thing that made the difference? Shouldn’t we try? I take medicine for my depression. My husband took ADHD medication while getting his Ph.D.

The day we went into the office to get the medicine my heart was racing. I was holding my breath without even meaning to. When the doctor was prescribing it he looked at my son and said, “I think you will notice a big change and things will get better.” I seriously almost cried. Get better? He was always perfect to me. He was always my son. He was always everything I could ever want, but it was hard for him. It was hard for us. The fact that it was so hard for him is what hurt. That is what made it so much more painful. In his words and actions and withdrawals and angry lashes out we could see that being him was hard. If this pill could make being him easier and not so distressing, well, what had I been nervous about?

Within just 48 hours— it was amazing. Was he still a pain in the ass sometimes? Yes. Did he still sass and fight with his brothers and complain about taking the dog out? Yes. The things that did change: his planner was filled out, rubrics made it home, teachers were writing notes that said-Great Participation! Great Leader! At soccer practice his coach commented that for the first time since he has known my son that there was actual participation and focus during practice. I got an email from a teacher stating she noticed a remarkable difference in attitude, work ethic, participation, and overall demeanor. We hadn’t yet told the school we put him on new medicine. All of this came from people who have been dealing with him all school year and had no idea he was on medicine.

Will he be perfect? No. Do I really want him to be? No. Does he notice a positive change? Yes. Does he welcome it? Yes. Yes, he will still do therapy. Yes, we will still keep an open dialogue. Yes, he still meets with people at his school. He loves his weighted blanket and likes the smells of essential oils. He gets a say. We get a say. Together we are helping him be the best he can be.


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