I medicate my kid
We’ve all heard it. Heck, I’ve even SAID it: “I would never medicate my kid.” There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding medicating kids with mental illness. Heck, there’s a lot of misinformation around mental illness in kids in general. Some people refuse to even acknowledge that it exists, or think that parents of children with ADHD are just lazy. Well, I’m here to enlighten you if you are in that camp. And if you’re a parent of a medicated child, I got you boo. Because medicating a mentally ill/ learning challenged/ behavior disordered kid is NOT a cop-out.
Medication is never the first choice
I feel like almost every person that hears my son is on ADHD medication instantly judges me. Like I decided one day that I just didn’t want to handle his intensity anymore and start throwing Ritalin at him as if it were Tic Tacs. Yeah… no.
We spent thousands of dollars in therapy, psychological testing, specialty learning aides, private schools, and emotional regulation solutions before medication even became an option for his ADHD. He did start his mood stabilizer very quickly after his Bipolar diagnosis, but that’s because he was a threat to himself without it. Ever listened to your 5-year-old explain how he wanted to kill himself? You’d be willing to try medicating your kid too if you had. But I digress.
Medicating my kid for his ADHD was the last resort. And even then, it’s not a cure-all. It’s another can of worms altogether.
Medicating my kid is not easy
I’m not talking about the decision to medicate, but the physical act of doing so. As if the emotional aspect isn’t hard enough, you have to navigate the clinical waters too. There are loads of medications out there, and many of them won’t work for your particular child. The first ADHD medication we tried was an absolute nightmare. My poor boy couldn’t function AT ALL. Turns out traditional ADHD medications won’t work for him. Medicating both Bipolar and ADHD is a delicate balance (like tightrope walking across a burning building in a hurricane, to be honest). After some trial and error we found a non-stimulant medication that provides just enough relief. The whole process felt like disarming a bomb. And we’ll need to go through it over and over because kids are always changing.
You have to consider the fact that kids are always growing, having developmental age-appropriate behavior issues, experiencing social issues, etc. So how do you know when the meds aren’t working right? Or if they need a dosage change? Or if it’s time to try something else? All of this means I have to be hyper-vigilant, note any changes, and work with his medical team (yes, there’s a TEAM) to decide if we need to make any adjustments. It. Is. HARD.
Medicating my kid doesn’t actually fix anything
I don’t know where this idea comes from that parents medicate their children so they don’t have to deal with them. We still deal with tantrums, self-esteem issues, hyperactivity, and screaming galore in this house. But it’s reigned in just a tiny bit. I see a split second pause where he decided NOT to throw the Xbox controller whereas before medication there was no pause. It’s millisecond differences. It’s the tiny crack we need to let in the therapy and interventions he needs. That’s all his medication does. It slows things down just enough for us to do our job as parents and caregivers.
Mental Illness in kids is REAL
I have heard some real gems in regards to my own children from other people. All of us have! But it’s extra fun when people dismiss my son’s mental illness as ineptitude on my part. Like we’re making it up or something. Or that I just can’t hack it as a mom. But here’s the deal, mental illness in kids is REAL and we cannot ignore it. This isn’t about how people see me, it’s about the wellbeing and safety of my kid. Kids are committing suicide, harming themselves, and getting involved with illegal substances at crazy young ages. And in a lot of cases the cure isn’t ‘better parenting.’
You know how adults can hide depression and other feelings? Believe it or not, kids can too. So when we disregard their mental health issues as ‘not a real thing’ we’re teaching them to do just that: hide it or act on it. Not to ask for help.
Think about the kid
This is the most important part of this post. Flat out. Whenever we talk about medicating children the first thing we think about is the parents. But what about the kid?! I remember talking with my therapist once about my son’s behavior when she said “Can you imagine being in his body right now? That must be so hard!” I was shook. SHOOK y’all. She was so right! My son was MISERABLE. He was acting horrible, causing all sorts of pandemonium, embarrassing me like crazy, and making me wonder how he’d ever make it in school. Absolutely none of that was his choice! It’s like asking a person with a broken bone to stop screaming in pain.
Then I shifted my thinking. He COULDN’T keep still. He COULDN’T sleep. He was seeing things, hearing things, and perceiving threats EVERYWHERE. Can you imagine living like that? And then having someone tell you to ‘just stop’? We were asking him to do the impossible. His little body was constantly in fight mode because flight mode wasn’t an option. When nothing else worked (well enough), we went forward with medicating my kid. And thank god we did, otherwise he would have had to learn to live in that world. Who knows what coping mechanisms he would have ended up choosing if we hadn’t been brave enough to medicate.
Medicating my kid is NOT a cop-out
For those of you out there who are on the fence about medicating for your child, or those of you that already do: I see you. It’s not the easy way out. No such thing exists. Every kid, and every diagnosis, is different. If a medication helps; use it. Without shame! I take a combination of medications for anxiety and depression and I’m not ashamed of it. So why should I (or he) be ashamed that he needs medication too?
For those of you that consider medication to be a cop-out: I hope I shed some light on what it’s really like. I assure you, it is not easy. It’s not a decision any parent takes lightly. Plus it’s not for the parent! It’s for the child who’s suffering! It’s a hard enough decision without other people’s opinions muddying the water. So I’m going to ask for one of my favorite things here… a little bit of Empathy. Lord knows we could all use it right now.