Juniper Files: The One That Almost Got Away
I used to be very judgmental of parents who put their little kids on medication for ADHD. It seemed like ADHD was a loose label for poor parenting and medication was an easy out. How hard could it be to get (and keep) a little kid on track?? I’m big enough to admit that I thought this way at one time. And I’m big enough to realize I was very, very wrong.
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When my oldest son was one, I got my first job. At a preschool. After just a couple years spent with 20+ 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, I was a bit more sympathetic to some of those parents.
Then my daughter came along……
She was noticeably symptomatic (Bipolar Disorder and ADHD) since about 18 months old. She was always so hard to please and she could throw bigger fits than Tori Spelling any other kid her age!
As she got older her behaviors continued to escalate, no matter what we did. She was always either bouncing off the walls or absolutely miserable. I did seek intervention through a behavioral counselor, but I think she may have been an idiot less than qualified.
I knew I would need more extreme intervention before she started “real” school but it wasn’t until her episode of suicidal thoughts that I took her to a psychiatrist. Putting her on medication was both the hardest and the easiest decision I ever had to make.
Our journey through the under-explored territory of medicating a bipolar child has been bumpy. It is so tricky to find just the right combination of medications. Occasionally we have a scare. For instance, one summer her liver began showing signs of stress from the Depakote. We took her off the Depakote right away. It’s been uphill since then…
In our attempt to find a suitable replacement for the Depakote we tried Straterra. It was a nightmare of Freddie vs Jason proportions. It seemed like, overall, she was doing a little better. However, (and here’s the kicker) she would have these burst of just insane impulsiveness that bordered on psychotic. She was only on this medication a few days. The following incident occurred the last day she took the medicine, she was about 9 years old at the time:
It was a Saturday afternoon and I had just finished grocery shopping with the kids. They had all behave surprisingly well, even though we were there quite a while. As we were walking down the parking lot aisle towards the car my daughter became distracted by the cart corral and decided she would run and climb over it. As I followed to hurry her along to the car she turned and looked at me. My heart fell, I knew that look. It’s the look the cat gives the mouse that says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, let the games begin!”
I spent a good 15 minutes trying to coax her over to the car. I probably offered everything from ice cream to a friggin pony. And I thought I had her. She hopped down, took a step in my direction…and bolted. I followed her across aisle after aisle with my heart in my throat. I was both stunned and terrified as she exited the parking lot and took off down the (very busy) street towards the intersection. This was one of, if not the, busiest intersections in our city.
I could not run and catch her because that would trigger her flight response (At this point she was more evasive if that makes sense). So, I continued to talk calmly to her, ask why she was walking down this road etc. At one point she turned towards the road and poised as if to take off. She would not have made it across.
I was dialing the second 1 in 9-1-1, when she suddenly turned to face me. She began to cry. She was sobbing and saying she was sorry and she didn’t mean to, on and on. I was trying to stay calm (not angry, terrified) and talk her through it.
When I asked her why she would do something so dangerous, she told me there were voices in her head. The voices were telling her to run in front of a car and die. That she needed to die. I was so heart broken. I immediately stopped that medication (with doctor approval, of course) and kept her home for several days to observe her behavior and make sure she was safe.
Making The Right Choice:
No one can tell me with 100% assurance that medication is the right choice. Or that it isn’t. Every child and every family has to make a choice that fits their own needs and circumstance. Do I still believe too many kids are medicated and that it is often used as a scapegoat for proper parenting? Absolutely. But I do not believe medication is a direct indicator of parenting skills. I hope that the process of diagnosing and treating our kids improves, we are 10 years in and still trying to find our footing…
Until next time, scribe happy and stay sassy,