Today was pharmacy day. Once a week I get to play pharmacist. I haul our bucket of meds out of the cupboard and distribute a week’s worth of multicoloured pills and capsules into containers with little compartments labelled with the day of the week. We each have two weekly pill containers: one for morning meds and one for bedtime meds. I never, in all my life, imagined that doling out medication would be one of my jobs as a parent, but, things being what they are, it is a vital job.
A few years ago, when I first starting medicating my children, I received tons of feedback, none of it asked for, from my friendly GUAs. One of the loudest “anti-medication” voices was my father. He was certain I was doing the wrong thing. My dad is a semi-retired long-distance trucker and in the summer of 2007, when my kids were 9 and 7, he invited me and the kids on a road trip to Texas. The kids were very excited so I said we’d go.
Allow me to set the stage: 1 stubborn, but mostly loving 60 year-old grandfather, 1 just-as-stubborn, but weary mom and 2 kids with ADHD crammed into a space only slightly larger than 3 porta-pottys side-by-side for 7 days. This particular model truck had the type of bunk that transforms into 2 benches and a table as well as an upper bunk so there was just enough room for sleeping and sitting. The kids had that bunk transformed, arranged and set up before we hit London. They had out all their cards and books and toys, it was pretty cute.
Nearing the end of day one, as the meds were beginning to leave the kids’ systems, the ADHD kicked in. With nowhere to go to expend the excess energy they were bouncing off the walls of the bunk. My dad said to me “What is wrong with them?” I looked at him calmly and told him that their
meds had worn off. The next morning Dad was up and driving by dawn while the kids and I were still sleeping. It didn’t take too long for them to wake up and begin pushing the multitude of buttons on the bunk walls – turning the lights on and off, blaring the radio, blasting heat and then air conditioning – they were having a great time. Again, my dad turned to me and said “What is wrong with them?” This time I told him their meds hadn’t kicked in yet. That evening, while the kids energy level rose steadily, my dad looked at me and said “Their medshave worn off?” I nodded my head in affirmation. He has never again questioned my decision to medicate the children.
It is obvious when one of the kids hasn’t taken their medication. Have you ever tried to get a straight answer from someone who is spinning in circles while staring at the ceiling and giggling at a joke only he or she understands? All I’ve asked is “Did you put fruit in your lunch?” or “Did you brush your teeth?” Pretty basic information requiring straightforward responses and all I get is laughed at. Bear in mind this is an average weekday morning in the Madhouse and not a Friday night kegger. On a day last year when Alexi missed his meds his teacher called me to tell me he was eating paper, she said he told her he was hungry. I wonder, does that count as fiber intake?
My kids have been on different medications over the past few years. Rian started out on Concerta, but we switched her to Ritalin because she wasn’t eating. After some time her pediatrician recommended a switch to Biphentin, which we did. The Biphentin was more effective than the Ritalin, but she was still having difficulty in the mornings and with transitions during school hours. Once she began seeing a child psychiatrist at CPRI she was taken off the Biphentin and switched back to Concerta. This time the Concerta has had less effect on her appetite. Rian also takes Zoloft in the evening to help control the anxiety and OCD symptoms and melatonin to help her fall asleep.
Alexi has taken Ritalin in the past and now takes a daily dose of Concerta to control his ADHD symptoms. He takes Zoloft to help with his anxiety and melatonin to aid with his sleep. We all take doses of Omega-3, which is said to help with brain function.
There are many options out there for medicating children with mental health issues, including some homeopathic remedies which I will write about later in the week.
I didn’t want to medicate my children so I understand the hesitation to do so and I respect every parent’s right to make that decision for their own child. I choose to use prescribed medications because, not only do I believe it is in the best interests of my children, I also believe it is the best interest of our family. I’d like to tell you I’m supermom and have the patience of Job, but I’m not and I don’t. So, for now, until something better comes along or we are all miraculously healed of our mental health problems, I will continue to perform my weekly pharmaceutical duties. I’ll never give up hope, though, that one day I won’t have to play pharmacist anymore.