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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Medicate or not medicate, this is the question.

Morgan walked at nine months old. She never crawled, just went straight to walking. At ten months I heard these letters thrown at my tiny somersaulting baby: ADHD. Can you imagine? Ten fucking months old and someone was already labeling my child. I'd have never spoken to the woman again, except it was my own mother and she was crying as she said it to me. She knew, way before I would have admitted it to myself. She saw in Morgan what she'd lived through with my brother Adam. I told myself that she was wrong and went on with my life. I mean really, kids are active right?

The girl has never stopped moving since she learned to move. By 13 months she was speaking in full sentences and she never stopped talking again. She was active and a complete whirlwind, but Logan and I we didn't really see how bad it was. Not until she was two. Two was when the tantrums started. They'd happen over nothing at all and they were fierce. Head banging on the wall, kicking and hitting and oy the screaming. She could scream for hours. Literally. At two years old, the doctors officially labeled her. She was out of control. She could go from content and sweet to a devil child in seconds. She could destroy a room in a matter of minutes. Still, she was advanced in a lot of ways; she knew her colors, letters and numbers, she was picking up Spanish from TV and beginning to recognize some words. You know that saying, when she's good she's very, very good? Well that was Morgan. On her good moments, she was a doll; sweet, caring, loving and creative. On her bad moments, the Tasmanian devil on crack. Trouble was, we never knew what we were going to get. Unpredictable to the core. You could look at her wrong and she'd melt into a puddle of tears; tell her to put her shoe on and she'd throw a two hour tantrum; she was out of control. This was the first time we considered medicating her. Really Nick wanted to this time, I didn't. I knew what the meds did to my brother (who was medicated from age four), the side effects and I just couldn't see starting her down that road so young.

We changed daycares three times, before finding one where the teachers were up to the challenge that is my daughter. She stayed there until she went to school.

We put her in play therapy, taught her breathing techniques and helped her to learn to control herself in a way. That worked in a way for a while, until she turned four. Then she gave it all up for lent. Four year olds are stubborn and think they know everything. This has always been my experience and Bailey is there right now. But normal stubborn (even normal Cancer stubborn) and Morgan stubborn are a different thing all together. She was a little over four when we re-looked at medicating her, this time at my insistence. I just couldn't deal with the tantrums. You expect tantrums out of a two year old. They end quicker, because frankly two year olds are easier to distract. At four, when she decided to give up control for lent, the tantrums became non-stop. We used to say to her, if you'd just take a breath for one second and she'd scream, I'm never breathing again. Yeah, it was fun.

But in the end, we just couldn't medicate her that time either. We'd had her tested and knew she was skipping kindergarten, so we knew she'd start full day school in the fall. Plus, it was just kinda her, you know? She is not the label, the hyperactivity, nor the tantrums; she is our Morgan. This was a part of her and as her parents, we knew that we just needed to accept it as who she is. Doing that helped us to get a better handle on it in a sense. It helped us to get to where we are today. Today there are still tantrums, but not as often. She can get control and stop herself. She no longer hits or kicks, although the door to her room does get slammed at times. She can still scream when she gets going, but it's down to about twenty minutes and then we go upstairs and help her calm down. She needs to let it out, this we have learned and then she's happy to calm down.

At school she is a dream, mostly because she is a people pleaser at heart and can keep herself in control until she gets home. Yes we get the report cards and the occasional comment, that Morgan is a joy in class, but she needs to work on sitting and working, not twirling and working. Mostly, we just hear that she is a joy. She's the kind of kid that all teachers want. Smart and studious, a natural leader, always willing to help others understand what comes easy to her. The last two years she's had awesome teachers.

At back to school night, her new teacher, the one who can't pronounce her name right, told me that we need to medicate her, that the twirling is unacceptable. See my kid twirls instead of walking; she jumps in place when asked to stand; when sitting she plays with her hair or taps her pencil constantly. We've taught her all of this; the ways to get around the energy, to do what she needs to do in school. The way to let out her energy, while still focusing on school work and the teacher. She can sit and read for hours, she just moves in small ways. Her feet and her hands are constantly moving when she sits. This is what the teacher finds unacceptable. She hasn't had to tell her to sit or to stop talking, all of which will happen eventually; she just finds the moving annoying.

We're at a loss. We don't know what to do. In our heads, we've gotten her to a place where we didn't think it necessary to medicate her. The tantrums are seldom and always at home (save for a time or two in places like Chuck E' Cheese) when she's been overstimulated all day. She's able to function perfectly at school, in sports and with other people. Yes, she talks non-stop when not in class. Yes, she fidgets constantly. But she has control of it the majority of the time. When she comes home, before doing homework or being expected to sit or do anything, she jumps on the trampoline for half an hour or so. She does this every day, whether at home or our best friends house, where she goes the days I work. It helps her to get out some energy.

She can still be unpredictable at home. Some nights she's awesome and helpful, some nights she's just a pain in the ass. She is still six years old and in general, six year olds can be helpful or a pain; Morgan is no different. There are many times where she frustrates me to no end, because she interrupts all the time. In the evenings, she has trouble focusing; she has moved onto three different next thoughts before you've finished the sentence, so she says, I know, which makes me insane to hear it all the time. We call it spinning, where her mind is going so fast that it makes us spin. That plus the attitude issues (I am considering putting parental controls on Disney for six months to see if it helps) can make our evenings a joy. I won't lie and say that Morgan is an easy kid. There isn't anything easy about her. But compared to where we were two years or four years ago, she's a completely different kid.

Some of you who read my previous blog might wonder why I never talked about this before, at least not fully. Well I guess I felt like it was my fault, because I didn't know how to deal with it the right way. Also, in a way I felt like I was protecting her by keeping it quiet. Now I feel like I need to be real, to be open, to use this space to be honest with myself. Unfortunately though, this time I'm just at a loss on some things in my life. Two years ago, I though I knew exactly who I was and exactly what and where I was going, not so much any more. This is my new journey, my new me, and I'm a bit rough around the edges and a bit unsure about myself. I feel like I'm finding myself again, so I hope you'll bear with me.

I've spent the past two days (and nights, who needs sleep) wondering if we are doing her a disservice by not trying the medication. Have we grown so used to the twirling and spinning that we're ignoring the bigger picture? Would medication make it easier for her to be her? There's no easy answers. We won't do it for a teacher, we're looking into switching her into a different class, but we are considering what the woman said. Because maybe we have blinders on and we're not helping our child at all. She has some anxiety issues (I'll post about those another time) as well and we've made an appointment to take her in to deal with those. The doctor knows Morgan well and I guess we need to leave it up to her. Because we don't know what to do. The girl already has a label on her, I don't want her to be labeled as a troubled kid as well. This is just one of those times where I don't feel equipped to make the decision. We've tried, and with great success I might add, every alternative to medication. But is it enough? Are we setting Morgan up for failure? Can she continue to do well in school and in life, if she spins through it? Is the world ready for that?

Like I said, lots of questions and no answers.

My daughter has ADHD. She twirls, spins and bounces through life. This is a part of her, but not all of her. I don't want it to define her. I want the intelligent, independent, caring, loving and giving side of her to define her. Because this side of her could change the world. I just have to figure out if the ADHD side can mingle okay or if it needs to be suppressed.


Becky said...

wow i dont know what to tell yall. have you thought about maybe a trial run at medication? to see if it really DOES change her that much? to see how it affects her in school and in regular life? i would suggest that maybe. with that said DOES seem like she has it under control. i mean she's freakin smart and doing wellin school...its not like she's distracting the class and running like crazy all around. whatever you'll be the right choice.

flybunny said...

So were you secretly living in my house when Abby was younger? I have a lot to say about this so bear with the long ass comment here...

First, the teacher broke the law by telling you that your daughter needs to be medicated. They can suggest testing but they cannot and should not EVER recommend meds. You need to let the principal know and if the prinicipal doesn't do anything go to the superintendent (if you so wish)because if she will do it to Maya she will do it to others. This is how we have a large % of kids who are on meds that don't need to be.

That being said Abby is on meds and honestly, it was one of the hardest but best decisions we have ever made for her. We finally put her on them in 1st grade (she was dx also at the age of 4) because school work was really suffering. It has taken us this long to find the right med - we are on #4 and she hasn't been on it for 2 wks to make sure it was still doing the job and holy hannah her attention span was shorter than a gnat's so I know it is a good thing.

Abby also has been diagnosed with ODD (Oppisitional Definace Disorder) and is at risk for depression/high anxiety. We tried treating the depression but the meds were more of an irritant so we stopped. Her dr has suggested bi-polar but I don't believe it for one minute BUT have put her on a mood stabilizer because her anger is often out of control and it has started causing issues with Audrey. We just started it so don't have any results yet. We chose to do try this med in hopes of being able to keep her calm and really implement some behavior modification techniques that don't currently work because any sort of redirection just pisses her off.

I will close this novel with 2 things, trust your (and Nick's) instincts on this. If it doesn't seem right it probably isn't and from what you described if it isn't impacting her school work it might not be warranted (hence my anger with her teacher) and second, get the book called The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child by Alan Kazdin. It is wonderful and contains all of the things Abby's psychologist works with her on.

OK, one more thing because apparently I have a lot to say today, please email me or call me (I will give you my number via email) because this is a hard, very very hard situation to be in and I wish I had had someone to bounce things off of when we were going through those early days.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps trying another teacher first? I mean, if her previous teachers were ok with her movement, and you can see an improvement in her attitude/temperament/control/whatever, than perhaps she just needs to be with someone more compatible? I'd hate for you to medicate her just on the basis of one opinion of one person who just met her.

My mom is a retired elementary school teacher. She taught for 26 years. One of her biggest pet peeves is all of the younger generation teachers recommending medications and handing out diagnosis to parents. THAT is not their job...their job is to teach the students that they are given and leave the raising to the parents.

My youngest brother has always been very high energy. Today he'd probably be labeled ADHD and recommended medication. However, my mom always saw to it that he had teachers that were a good fit and that understood his energy levels and could work with it.

If YOU and YOUR HUSBAND think medication is the answer, I'm all for it. You know your child better than anyone. But it's YOUR one else's.

Delusional Girl said...

First, you tell the teacher to shove it. It seems she has a problem with the movements of small children and should address those herself.

Second, (and I realise I'm a total stranger and not a doctor) have you considered removing things such as artificial everything from her diet? This works with my older brother, my middle nephew and my two god-kids, all of whom have ADD/ADHD. We've used The Taming of the Candy Monster by Vicki Lansky and had success. It's a royal pain to change a diet so completely, but it has worked for us.

Third, I'm sorry you're dealing with this. It seems this issue is largely brushed under the rug with the assumption medication is the cure. It is YOUR decision, don't let anyone try to talk you into anything you don't want.

debra said...

{hugs} I think talking to your doctor and finding a new teacher are great first steps. And I'm sure that you and Nick will come to the right conclusion.

Piece of Work said...

That's really hard, Missy. (Ha! I know you love it when I call you that) But truthfully, I don't have any advice for you. Each kid is different so my experience (which is only with my nephew, who has ADD, not ADHD) only relates to me and has no bearing on what is right for Maya. That said, my sister did put my nephew on Ritalin and it helped TREMENDOUSLY. He only takes it school days, not on the weekends. My only advice would be to talk to the sdoctors as much as you can and trust your gut. Good luck.