Monday, January 25, 2010

Psychiatric Medications and Children

It never fails to amaze me, and not in a good way, to hear a person say they are of the opinion that using psychiatric medication is "taking the easy way out".

How can you possibly be serious.

The stress, the rage, the uncontrollable feelings. The sadness, the anxiety, the constant companion of worry. Feeling not good enough. Feeling too good. Feeling as if there is a force pulling you down every moment of every day.

Knowing, every day, that you are wrong. You are off. Not good enough. Everyone else gets it. Everyone else can do it.

Fear of the dark. Fear of perpetrators. Fear of paper. Fear of germs. Fear of people. Fear of lint.

Feeling like the lights are too bright and the sounds are too loud. Like someone ruffling your hair is the equivalent of sandpaper in between your fingers. Smells and tastes are too strong. Feeling always off balance. Feeling spacey and unsure. Feeling like your head is swirling when you are lying still.

People do not make sense to you and you cannot trust them.

Nothing, no matter what you do, no matter what you think, seems to help. Maybe you can alleviate some of it for a short time with your "coping skills", but it always comes back stronger and stronger. You cannot sleep, or you cannot wake up. Food is unattractive to you or you are always uncomfortably hungry or sometimes both.

People around you think you want to be this way. They think that if you just tried harder you could be better. Just focus on the positive.

You cannot trust your own brain to give you an accurate depiction of the world around you. YOUR OWN BRAIN!

Think about that, really sit and think about it. Look at your child. Is there anyone who could use a break more? Allowing the tiny advantage of possibly balancing brain chemicals that do not do their job is not taking an easy way out of anything. Rest assured there is no magic pill that will cure your child's past, present or future. What you might be able to achieve is that extra 1/2 second to process before exploding, to think before acting, and to interpret the actions of others with accuracy instead of threat. That extra 1/2 second that everyone else has automatically.

Please think back to the people you know who have mental illness. Now go through and find all the folks who are successfully managing their mental illness without medication. Seriously. I do not mean people who live on their own using social services or family to provide their food and rent. I mean people with jobs, in positive relationships with stable living conditions and without legal issues.

Most people around us don't know that Genea takes psychiatric medication. It's on a need to know basis and most people don't. Of those who do know, about half are judgemental in a negative way. I asked one close family member the above question, how many people she knew who were able to take care of themselves and she quickly said "none". Just as I was about to crow my point to her she clarified, "I mean, I don't know anyone with mental illness". I was stunned.

"What about your brother?" I asked her. "Your brother had agoraphobia and didn't leave the house for weeks at a time. He had bipolar disorder, probably OCD and committed suicide."

"Oh", she said. "You think that's what it was?" I was silent for a moment not believing what I had just heard. "He used to wash the mail" I reminded her. "He boiled pots of water on the stove everyday and poured them out on the floor".

This is my own personal opinion about medication for psychiatric disorders. There are certainly other ways to look at the issue and everyone has their own take for their own reasons. The medication on its own is controversial. Using these medications on children is even more controversial, I know this. I also know that if my daughter had Lupus for example, no one would tell her to "suck it up". If she had Scarlet Fever, no one would tell her to change her attitude and try harder.

I welcome all opinions, whether in agreement or not. Just be respectful please.


  1. Oh I totally agree! Why should I allow my child to be violent and possibly end up in jail one day, when there is help for this. Meds have been a lifesaver for us, there is no way my kid can function outside of a residential facility without them. I am so grateful it kept my family together.

    I even take it a step further, I am sooo tired of the kids in my kid's special ed class who are abusive and violent and never learning anything, while their parents announce in a holier-than-thou attitude "oh I would never drug my child". I think they should homeschool if they persist with what really seems to me like medical neglect. Why should my kid be afraid of getting beaten up, she was even bitten!!! And these are pre-teens, not young kids. Jail seems like the destination for this kid and I just don't understand how the parents can stand by and refuse treatment and allow everyone around them to be tortured.

    Its different when you can't find meds that work, but to not even try and gloat about it and criticize others, ugh. As you can tell I am ready to burst :)

  2. I have had children on psychotropic drugs for over 18 years. It used to be the cut out, folded up newspaper articles on how America was over-medicating their children. Now it is emails with links to websites that promise you can cure your child's bipolar without drugs just by following a $200 method. Over the years, I have discovered that close friends don't send me that crap, and I don't have the time to waste on the people who do. So now I just file them in my circular file, and go on to what's in the here and now. By the way, I found it is a waste of time to try to educate someone about something they simply don't want to know.

  3. Rest assured there is no magic pill that will cure your child's past, present or future. What you might be able to achieve is that extra 1/2 second to process before exploding, to think before acting, and to interpret the actions of others with accuracy instead of threat. That extra 1/2 second that everyone else has automatically.

    This is a perfect explanation of what psychiatric medication actually does. Honestly.

    I was directed here by my partner (Ashley AKA Rolladyke) who has weathered through some epic mental ups and downs at my side over the years.

    The lack of chemical balance in my own brain hasn't been long diagnosed, and likely never would have been were it not for her urging that I see a doctor about the possibility. So many people would rather think that there's nothing that wrong with you it's, frankly sickening.

    Previous to her help in getting me to a doctor, I had no idea what was wrong with my head. It certainly didn't help that any time I was having any form of attack I would be accused by family of being "Just too sensitive" or "Moody" as if it was a simple matter of poor attitude that I was fully capable of fixing.

    Right... yes... I just need to think positive and suck it up... this will somehow make the feeling that anyone entering my room is invading and needs to be punched go away... oh and the night terrors too, right? And the humming-bird fast heart rate that springs up without reason and makes my skin feel electric? Bonus. This mind over matter stuff is pretty epic in that case.

    That brief second of mental "wait a minute now..." is so unendingly valuable in even obtaining any kind of coping skill against the assaults that come from one's own mind. I don't think I'd even have any without it.

    I'm with you on the boggling. Definitely. "The easy way out" this ain't. It's just a foot in the door of wellness.

  4. You just need to pray more. Yeah, like no one has tried that.

    We had Felpsy on meds for anxiety, however the side effect of agitation proved to be more of a bother to him than the condition. So we discontinued it after six months.

    I do believe kids in the foster system are over medicated for convenience in a lot of situations. It's not that I think that they don't need anything, but having an 8 year old on six medications is a bit much. However, without caring people who will do their jobs, it's easier just to zone them out.

    I have also seen how effective the right medication is. Life changing.

    I think anyone who says dumb things needs to be sentenced to respite care.

  5. i completely agree as a sufferer of PPD I now know there are times when you need that help

  6. I really, really didn't want my kids on meds. I thought, if I work hard enough, she won't need them. And we did work hard. We've used every service available to her. And it's all been beneficial. But during the Winter from the Depths of Hell, a therapist suggested we could be doing her a disservice by not pursuing medication. And it really hit home. We still work hard, but the medication relieves the anxiety enough for her to start developing some coping skills, and THAT is something all the other stuff could not have done.

    And myself. I have a fear of being dependent on anything. But my pms had become so debilitating- I had constant anxiety attacks and screamed at everyone. I was miserable. The children were frightened. We almost got divorce over a dispute about a cup of McDonald's coffee. If taking an anti-anxiety for ten days a month can help me enjoy my family instead of turning into a monster, then pass it here!

  7. I'm dealing with this with Hubby right now. He grew up in a don't take meds unless you're dying household. I grew up with a mom who was universally allergic at one point, has high cholesterol, panic disorders, bipolar disorder, and who knows what all else. We were military (meaning human guinea pigs) - she is on lots of meds.

    I think I'm somewhere in between. You take Tylenol if the headache just will not go away after hours of waiting, or if the fever is over 103, if the mucous is so bad you feel you're drowning, or if you have an infection...

    On the other hand I have 2 kids with major trauma and mental illnesses. They take meds for their bipolar disorder, the one with severe ADHD takes meds for it. Hubby doesn't have a lot of problems with these, but most of their issues cannot be "fixed" by medication (C-PTSD, RAD...). Some of the symptoms can be alleviated though and I'm all for medicating those too, because in my opinion you can't heal trauma through therapy if you can't sleep, focus, sit still, react normally to external stimuli (like someone saying you dropped jelly on the counter, which, in my opinion, should not trigger a screaming rage but has)... So in Hubby's opinion, I allow my kids to be over-medicated. I disagree.

    They are on lots of meds, but it took time to find good combinations that worked for their individual body chemistry. They are already taking fewer meds than they did 2 years ago. I think a lot of this was due to the fact that they could focus on internal healing when their outside world didn't feel chaotic.

    It's like surgically inserting a pin in the leg of someone with a shattered leg and giving them a crutch and cast. The cast keeps things stable while the body works on mending and healing. The crutch helps them be able to do the things they would normally be able to do if they hadn't broken the leg (like walk and go to school). The pin is necessary to give the remaining bones something to heal around.

    Some drugs are casts and crutches and will not be needed down the road. Other drugs are like the pin and the body wouldn't work without them. I will not allow my children to be drugged into zombies, and when the child is stable I will start looking at lessening or removing their meds (or amping up therapy treatment) - as long as they continue to make progress healing.

    Sorry this is so long! I'm a little passionate about the subject!

    Mary in TX

  8. AMEN!!! Those who judge do not live it. My children deserve all the help they can get to be as typical and happy as possible. In my opinion that is what being a responsible parent is about. If we refused to give our child needed medication for a different life threatening illness we would certainly be judged for that by the majority. And if someone does not believe that mental illness is life threatening I have video footage that will convince them otherwise.

    You are an awesome parent!

  9. I am on the fence. i have seen them work and I have seen them be over prescribed as well. Fudge was on R. for awhile ( just before we got him), it is contra indicated for anxiety and that was his presenting symptom... we took him off. There is something in his brain that will probably need to be regulated with drugs of some sort but I get really frustrated when things are handed out with no attention payed to the sctual child or symptoms. We talking the long and tedious route of having him properly evaluated so that the descion can be made withthe best intrest of the child in mind rather than the deisres of the school or others who work with him.
    It is a slippery slope ( to use them or not to use them and when to use them) but I think that you cannot judge any parent for their choices regarding their children until you have walked a mile in their shoes.

  10. i agree--meds can work wonders (as i saw personally in my own schizophrenic father), but can also be a cop-out (i believe) for others. i think it's a case-by-case thing. just my opinion, though!

  11. Wow. All I can say is that your kid is damn lucky to have a mom who can understand that. I don't have kids but as a scientist (and rational member of humanity) I really do not understand those parents and people who believe that all mental issues can be fixed just by the person trying really hard.

  12. I totally agree with Annie. And of course had to LOL about respite. Yup! Spot on!

  13. Never be surprised by the stupidity of others.

  14. Since it is still tea party month, I'll just add - I agree completely and you said it well. (As usual.)

  15. A very compelling argument. I whole-heartedly agree!

  16. To my mind, not giving medication to someone who is living with a very real bio-chemical illness, is akin to denying someone with diabetes insulin.

    Blogs like this are great because they help increase awareness, Thanks for sharing!

  17. You are totally right Essie. As usual.

  18. Thanks to all the commenters!!! Wow, some really good things in here!

    I think it is true that in the case of a serious illness that affects other in your child's class so your child can't learn, that is just irresponsible. I know those parents too, they are all "we don't rely on medication to tranquilize our kids". Not using the meds where appropriate limits them and reduces their success. Why would you want to do that to your kid?

    I have seen a lot of foster kids get overprescribed. They go to a new doctor all the time and get a new diagnosis. I have also seen poor parents drum up symptoms for their kids to get social security disability for them.

    It's not about how to cure the kid or turn people into zombies. At times with Genea I find myself trying to talk to her in between screams. You know, the part where she inhales for the next one, I talk really fast. That just doesn't work! The med is the "foot in the door" (thanks Tayley- cool name).

  19. So beautifully written. I am up at 4:02 AM because I can't sleep. I was having nightmares. I have been resisting my doctor's suggestion to go back on anti-depressants. You have set me straight.

    We like to think that our brain, the essence of who we are, is beyond chemistry.

  20. We didn't go with medications for a long time for our son, but a trusted doctor explained what was going on with our son in such a powerful way.

    He said, "Can you stop and learn Spanish when you house is on fire? No, of course not! You're only thinking about getting out alive. This is how your son is all the time. If you lower his anxiety even a little bit, he'll be able to learn the coping skills you are teaching him."

    Wow! What a huge difference in his ability to cope with life.

  21. The only problem I see with psychiatric medications is when the people who need them think they don't. I guess that's not really a problem with the meds, but I don't know what it is. I have a friend who takes zoloft for very good reasons. She'll be on it a few weeks, and the med makes her feel fine again, so then she thinks she doesn't need to take it anymore. Then within a few weeks, she's crying and calling off work. I just don't know how you solve a problem like that.

  22. Yep, you are spot on right. (I agree with you so you are right) I love the analogy of learning Spanish while your house is on fire. Perfect way to feel it. It was hard for me to starts meds with the kids because they could not express to me what they were feeling. I didn't know if it was me who couldn't cope or if it was them. Once the right ones were figured out I could see how this only gives them a more fair chance at learning and coping. Something was missing within their chemical make up and we needed to provide it for them. Just like depression and antidepressants. Just like diabetes and insulin. Great post!

  23. It's hard, I know it's hard. To consider how difficult it can be for adults to manage a mental health issues, with or without meds, then to think how does a kid handle all those same feelings.... Just hard.

  24. You're absolutely right. It's a rare person who will admit that someone they know, possibly someone in THEIR OWN FAMILY has mental illness.
    Take my BIL, for example. He has some sort of schizophrenia/Bipolar thing going. It started when he was a teen and it got really bad in his 20s and now he's in his late 40s and he's barely holding it together with lots of help from his mother (My MIL) and his wife (whom I husband and I suspect married him for a slice of the family money because he's way, waaaay out there).
    My BIL thinks Bruce Springsteen sends him secret messages in his song lyrics. My BIL once chased his roommate with a knife and then he tied bed sheets together and climbed out a window and ran to a phone booth and called my MIL to report that the roommate was trying to control his thoughts through devil worship.
    Everyone who spends five minutes, heck five seconds, with my BIL knows he's living in a different reality than the rest of us but my MIL insists he's just fine because (drumroll, please) HE HAS A JOB AND HE LOVES HIS CHILDREN!!!
    I had no idea that being employed and loving one's kids was a hallmark of sanity but I guess it is. I pointed out to my MIL that the BTK killer had a job and apparently loved his kids but she refused to discuss it.
    BIL refuses to seek help for the voices in his head and he won't take medication. He has trouble making eye contact and when he does he sort of flinches and he has a really heartbreaking expression of deer in the headlights-type fear/anguish in his eyes. We rarely see him because he thinks my hubby and I are plotting to "get" him. It makes me sad that my MIL refuses to see what's so obvious to everyone else and too proud to admit that a child of hers could be mentally ill.

  25. I have not posted in a while, but I follow along. WHAT A GREAT POST & COMMENTS!!

    I come from a family of many mental illnesses, some diagnosed, some not (but markedly apparent!). Also I have two special needs kids on meds and all I can say is, thank the lord for whoever created these pills to help our children! I agree that there are some issues unfortunately with no pills or solutions or cures. But for the life altering problems that exist, with HELP AVAILABLE, gee whiz, why not get help where help is available? I just wrote a friend about this recently. Maybe I'll post the letter. I've only debated due to my waivering on delivering too much information about my children. Still mulling it over.

    Thanks Essie for a great thread! Please feel free to email me about anti-psychotics. We just started a son on one this week.......

  26. Also I thoroughly love your "get your cheap on" blog post. Terrific! Love your solution to the swiffer solution bottle. Tempted to try it myself.

  27. KSN! Glad to see you back! You were one of my first visitors and commentors!

    Yeah, that's a big part of it, if the illness is life altering, that's when it is really important to do something. It is tragic to watch someone really suffer but refusing meds because of stigma, family, or whatever. What is really awful is that some people don't even realize how much better it could be for them, that they could approximate "normal", that not everyone struggles so much.

  28. I am mess in my mind. Meds help my mind straighten up so that I don't end up with lightning bolts shooting out of my fingertips and nose while I desperately need to count circles and boxes wherever I go (Damn, I wish I had the clean compulsion instead!) while avoiding all eye contact and hyperventilating every time I have to make a phone call. You have no idea how much money I have spent paying other people to make calls for me. I spent a year in college not eating because I would have had to see people to get the food. Then since I lived in the dorm, I would only go out at night and became nocturnal because I could no longer face people (I failed all my classes that semester, needless to say).

    At the same time, I HATE MEDS. I hate that I have to take them. I hate that my daughter has to take them. But it is because we are judged for it. (and I also hate going to the pharmacy with all those damn PEOPLE, ugh). Without meds, my daughter has a one-second attention span and screams nonstop from the time she wakes up to the time she goes to bed, only taking breaks to vomit on people, and take directions from the people in her head. While they certainly haven't cured her, meds have made life tolerable. For both of us. And they are absolutely necessary whether we like it or not.

  29. I think that sometimes a mental illness is a chemical imbalance, not most cases...but sometimes. I have personally witnessed a child do a 180 on niacinimide. She went from a screaming rager to a human being. The prescription meds didn't work at all, and she's been on lots. A vitamin changed her life (and her foster family's)

  30. I have OCD. I now take Zoloft. I feel like ME again. OCD took away my ability to make decisions. I was ruled by my obsessions and compulsions. and now? WAY less. I can walk out the door without worrying if i flicked the lights on and off enough times. and with the kids that I work with I have seen medications work miracles.


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